Contradictions of City Life

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.