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Contradictions of City Life

2010 February 9

I have recently moved to Washington, D.C., a relatively larger and more urban setting than that of my little lake house back in the Midwest. I have never lived in such a metropolitan city before and I have become greatly overwhelmed at times by the large amounts of buildings and people and the small occurrences of green space. Although the city I am from is not fitted with gorgeous scenery or a picturesque background, I still miss the simplicity of life out on the lake.

It seems to be a contradiction to me: working for the EPA while surrounded by pavement, buildings, and almost all other signs of increasing urbanization. I like to think of myself as an environmentally conscious person, but the constant sound of cars, images of buildings, and working indoors make me think that I am a walking (or sitting) contradiction. However, I now realize that although I live in a city where being close to the natural environment is not something that can be achieved by simply walking outside; I can still make a positive, environmental difference.

Getting away from the city and moving into a rural community may seem like the logical way to reduce your carbon footprint and avoid contributing to global warming, but this is not the case. Cities allow for mass public transit such that less carbon emissions can be released per person. The close proximities of buildings to each other also encourage people to walk or ride bikes rather than driving. Living in a city also tolerates high-rise buildings that use less energy. Less energy is being used to heat and power a large building as opposed to a large number of small buildings or houses.

The actions that we can take everyday to be environmentally conscious can still be done no matter where we live. We can still recycle, turn off the lights and water when not being used, buy organic and locally grown food, take public transportation, reduce or eliminate meat from our diets, and advocate by saying something to those who are not always thinking about what is best for the environment. We may miss nature in its raw form, undisturbed by development, but this does not mean that we are unable to be environmentally aware people.

About the author: Nikki Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. Cindy C. permalink
    February 9, 2010

    The metropolitan area surrounding Phoenix, AZ saw tremendous growth and development during the past several years. This growth crossed lines and borders, in my opinion, into the land of our surrounding plant and wildlife. Yes, Phoenix residents can still enjoy beautiful mountains, rivers, and such. But this uncontrolled development led to such a severe economic bust in Phoenix and surrounding areas.

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded grants to local and state entities to implement Neighborhood Stabilization Programs (NSP).

    The Housing Authority of Maricopa County is implementing a NSP called Homes to Owners (H2O). Ironically, H2O aims to mitigate the “damage done” in the suburban and rural areas of Buckeye, El Mirage, Goodyear, and Tolleson, AZ by rehabilitating foreclosed homes into completely energy-efficient homes with green, high quality materials. Native landscaping and the latest green technology will help maintain the balance of nature.
    Not only will new homebuyers enjoy a completely remodeled and affordable home, they will save money in energy costs and help Arizona’s environment along the way.

    Everything is interconnected! Check out to read about H2O’s green principles.

  2. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 9, 2010

    Hi, Nikki
    Welcome to EPA headquarters. As you’ve highlighted in your blogpost, you don’t have to live in rural areas nor surrounded by breath-taking vistas to be an environmentalist. It all starts with each individual person and in the home–our immediate environment. Keep up the good work.

  3. armansyahardanis permalink
    February 9, 2010

    Sister Nikki…. Your contradictory thinking actually be hoped by our great grand children next time better. Your cries are their hopes…..

  4. Jackenson Durand permalink
    February 9, 2010

    Some history is sometimes finding at’s each individual, and getting a common repertory point of refraction.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    February 10, 2010

    A person can reduce their carbon footprint alot in the city. Using transit instead of the car is a huge step. So is walking or biking if you need to go only short distances. In fact, what will save transit is the Clean Air Act. We need good transit systems to make the Clean Air Act work, if we don’t have those , we can’t meet the Act’s requirements. Transit is a lifeline service for social, economic, environmental, and quality of life impacts. Transit is as important a part of the infrastructure as roads and bridges. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. Al Bannet permalink
    February 10, 2010


    The key to success for your green city agenda is a smaller and stable population. Otherwise, overcrowding will confound all human endeavors, as it is doing every day. Recycle 100%, reduce and stabilize the human population and convert to green technology and our species may survive, so I hope your efforts are successful.

  7. Barbara Hobens Feldt permalink
    February 10, 2010

    Great post. Feelings understood. But I have great news – – your feeling of “lacking green” can change by “thinking where green can go” with inspiration and some research.

    Seek out a community garden (or start one!), add window boxes, and better yet – – a few annuals to jump start a street tree bed gardening project. No street trees? Rally local official and city government to open the sidewalks up and plant them! What better pollution fighters!? There are so many public beautification projects.

    Get two books for your local library:On Guerrilla Gardening by my London friend Richard Reynolds or mine, Gardening Your City, for how-and where-to- garden ideas.

    Why are cities still reinventing wheels – – thanks to their Mayor, Chicago is #1 for me but NYC is close behind – – but all should know that the High Line and the Hudson River Park started with the simple realization that green spaces and public access our rivers are IMPORTANT and it was small community groups that formed that got it started.

  8. ondecity permalink
    September 27, 2010

    its very good method.
    but on my city doesn’t like these.

    perhaps i and my friends will be try those technique

  9. Walterj permalink
    October 10, 2010

    Dear dear Nikki if only reducing our carbon footprint was as easy as we would like it to be. But it is not, we are so intertwined within our everyday lives that any significant accomplishment toward that end is countered in such an overwhelming way by our lifestyle’s that we have become so accustomed to ie. your statement in regard to going so far as to give up meat. Perish the thought. But even I must agree with you that something needs to done collectively by the human race as a whole. Modern technology has found its foothold and has dug in for the long run. Yet we can begin with the upkeep of ourselves by not consuming mass quantity of foods.

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