How Big is Your City’s Carbon Footprint?

This news is a few months old, but I just spotted it on Mark’s blog. It’s an analysis of the per-capita footprints of various American cities. As you can see by the cool Google Maps mashup, cities in the American west fair much, much better than those in the east.

The authors attributed the variations between cities to efficiencies generated by density and compact development, weather and access to mass transit. But that’s clearly not the whole story as evidenced by Seattle, for example, where it’s cold and mass transit is bad but emissions are relatively low. That’s because the northwest has access to emissions-free hydroelectric power.

Coal-heavy regions of the country generally look bad because the same amount of electricity has much higher emissions-intensity than electricity derived from hydroelectric or even natural gas power plants.

The greenest major city in America is, by this study’s metrics, Honolulu. I went looking for a similar analysis for Canadian cities, but didn’t find one. I did find some data on cities and towns in the UK, as well as countries (hurray, we’re greener than the Saudis!).

UPDATE: I meant to mention that I really liked the design (and, to a lesser degree, the message) of It’s totally unambiguous, which appeals.


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