walkable neighbourhoods are GREENER.
Whether it’s installing LED light bulbs or taking out the recycling, let’s face it: the consumer model for fighting climate change has set us up for disappointment. It’s important to remember that, while our individual consumer choices are important, they don’t hold a candle to the enormous impact of the choices we make as a city. Transitioning our neighbourhoods to walkable density is the most significant change we can make for the environment, period. No other change would come close to the emissions reductions that would result from transitioning our existing neighbourhoods to walkable communities.
Built for Sustainability
Transitioning to a walkable neighbourhood model would mean zoning for multi-unit, low- to mid-rise buildings that share insulation and heat, with built-in bike storage, and shared amenities and vehicle parking. Overall, this translates to housing with a vastly smaller ecological footprint than traditional housing units.
Transitioning our neighbourhoods to walkable density is the most significant change we can make for the environment, period.
“By strategically increasing the number of dwelling units per acre, cities not only will go a long way toward meeting their sustainability objectives, but also will be competitive, resilient, and great places to live.” -Brent Toderian & Mark Holland (The Case for Density)
If the Shoe Fits
The variety of different unit types and sizes in a walkable neighbourhood also allows residents to right-size their homes based on their specific housing needs. By developing new units around pre-existing services and infrastructure, we also avoid the sustained environmental cost of extending transportation, and city services like waste management or road maintenance, further than is needed to meet housing demand.
Think Globally, Live Locally
The zoning and density of walkable neighbourhoods is set to support a full range of stores and public services within walking distance, along with investment in sidewalks, cycling, and public transit. All in all, this means residents get to spend fewer hours behind the wheel; it also means fewer cars on the road, less traffic, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. If we want to get the next fifty years of neighbourhood development right, we need to think globally, and live locally.
A Necessary Step
Based on significant changes in global climate and habitation patterns, walkability is not simply a pleasant choice, it’s also a necessary one. Right now, urbanization is happening in a big way: by current projections, 7 out of 10 of all people will be living in cities by 2050. There has never been a more crucial time for us to get our city planning right. Our urban areas are all attracting more residents, but they simply can’t accommodate an equal number of cars. Whether considering the kind of neighbourhood we want for our families, or the world we want to leave to future generations, one thing becomes clear: it’s time for us to go walkable together.
“Increased density means more opportunities for walkable neighborhoods and car-free transit, which would cut pollution. Density means shorter commutes and less driving, leading to less congestion, fewer road fatalities, and improved health outcomes from cleaner air.”
“For the last decades the environmental movement rejected cities and focused on pastoral areas. The truth is there is nothing greener than density if you do it well... it improves everything from our climate footprint to our health, which has huge economic implications." -Brent Toderian (Sustainable Urbanism: Toward a Framework for Quality and Optimal Density?)
Calthorpe, P. (2011). Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change. Washington DC: Island Press. p17