In the quest to protect the planet
from climate change, one of the best remedies will be found right out
our front doors. Our neighborhoods.
Although conversations about reducing greenhouse gases often turn to
hybrid cars and other technical fixes, neighborhoods play a huge and
underappreciated role in determining our impact on our planet’s
climate. Neighborhoods either make walking, biking, and transit-use convenient
options—they either bring destinations like stores, schools,
and offices nearby—or they make it so that we need trips in cars
and trucks, often long trips, for all of our daily needs.
Because the U.S. has built mostly sprawling neighborhoods in recent decades,
the amount people drive has soared—from 4,000 miles per person
per year in 1970 to more than 8,100 today. This leaves U.S. residents
profoundly vulnerable to high oil prices and turns them into leading
contributors to climate change.
Fortunately, the traditional mixed-use neighborhoods favored by members
of the New Urbanism and Smart Growth movements are a convenient, low-carbon
alternative. These tight-knit, walkable neighborhoods not only excel
in their livability and ability to retain value, they make it easy for
people to get around with far less driving. (Read just how much driving can vary between different types of communities.) They ease both the pain we
feel at the pump and the problems we create for the planet.
The coming need for new housing—more than 50 million new units
by 2030—creates a major opportunity to address climate change
through development that serves the growing demand for livable, sustainable
With its partners and supporters, CNU is mobilizing to meet this challenge:
- It is creating resources for you to share with others to help them
understand the importance of neighborhood design and development to
our planet’s future.
- It is partnering with the United States Green Building Council and
Natural Resources Defense Council on the first national certification
system for green neighborhood development, LEED for
- It is endorsing a set of operating principles, The
Canons of Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism, to complement and bring more detail to the
vision of sustainable development in the Charter of the New Urbanism.
- CNU is committing to a goal of reducing carbon emissions through
a major reduction in driving miles, targeting a 50% reduction in per
capita VMT by 2030. Through the 2030 Communities Campaign, CNU and
its partners will help provide development models to help communities
create valuable, low-carbon development along with tools such as form-based
codes and street-design alternatives to help them break down the barriers
that encourage auto-dependent sprawl. Watch for more announcements
soon about this work.
In the News
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Design, Build Communities More Intelligently, 5/31/2008
- Washington Post, Public Transit Feels the Pinch of Gas Prices, 5/29/08
- Wired Magazine, Urban Living is Kinder to the Planet Than the Suburban Lifestyle, 5/19/2008
- National Public Radio, Life in the 'Burbs: Heavy Cost for Families, Climate, 4/1/2008
- National Public Radio, Atlanta Family Slashes Carbon Footprint, 4/1/2008
- The Wall Street Journal, Next
Car Debate: Total Miles Driven, 2/5/2008