Williston’s Carbon Footprint: Why So Big?

There’s an informative Web site offered by the University of California at Berkeley that offers, among other things, a map of the United States showing how many greenhouse gases the average household puts out in every zipcode. Here’s our area:

Williston's Carbon Footprint

You’ll notice that South Burlington and especially Burlington are greener (literally and figuratively) than we are in terms of carbon footprint, but that’s a little misleading: it turns out that cities tends to have lower carbon footprints, but they result in widespread suburbs with larger carbon footprints. Burlington depends on its suburbs, so unfortunately it’s a linked effect.

The good news here is that those of us in the suburbs have an enormous opportunity to reduce carbon footprint, and that anything we learn to do can spread to other suburbs around the world, where we see this same pattern.

It’s hard to make out from the picture above, but look at the blue and purple columns in the graph. Those represent transportation (blue) and heating (purple). Reducing car trips, reducing use of airplanes, carpooling, using mass transit, and electric cars all can combine to drive that blue bar way down. For the purple bar, we have similarly big possibilities, including insulation, weatherization, and air source heat pumps (or if you don’t have a home suitable for one of those, the next best thing would be wood or wood pellets).

As a matter of pride, let’s not be just an average suburban town: there’s a lot more to Williston than that. Let’s show people how a small town like ours on the fringe of a small city can make a big difference.

One thought on “Williston’s Carbon Footprint: Why So Big?

  1. Hi, Luc. This map is exactly what I would expect. Zoom in and look at Manhattan (lowest per capita carbon footprint in the country), Philadelphia, Denver, and even LA and you’ll see small green blobs surrounded by progressively redder areas as lower density sprawl generates high levels of driving. Most of Ohio is orange or red except for the cities. That’s because the greatest contributor to any household’s carbon footprint is going to be driving — if they do little of that, their impact is much less. If you really want to be sustainable, you don’t just cut down your own driving, you also work on building connected communities, supporting the bus system, and making residential/mixed-use areas as dense as possible to create critical mass so people can walk to interesting things and transit (like Finney Crossing in Taft Corners). Thanks for sharing this – I hope more people stop and think about it before hopping in their single-occupancy vehicles every morning. I’m adding a link to my blog that has some research I did on teens’ attitudes toward driving in Williston and surrounding towns — we are NOT doing well on that score, as the volume of cars even in the “juniors” parking lot at CVU will show.

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