BERKELEY, Calif. - Even when highly populated cities make an effort to cut back on greenhouse-gasses, the continued use of energy in suburbs may cancel out any benefit to the environment, according to a new study.
Suburbs were responsible for creating about 50 percent of all household emissions, according to a new study from University of California, Berkeley. Cars, trucks and other transportation produced most of the greenhouse-gas emissions.
"Metropolitan areas look like carbon footprint hurricanes, with dark green, low-carbon urban cores surrounded by red, high-carbon suburbs," said doctoral student Christopher Jones in a statement. "Unfortunately, while the most populous metropolitan areas tend to have the lowest carbon footprint centers, they also tend to have the most extensive high-carbon footprint suburbs."
As part of the study, researchers created an interactive map that shows the household carbon profiles of every zip code in the United States. They measured the average amount of carbon dioxide produced per person for each zip code and broke it down into categories for transportation, housing, food, goods and services.
The difference was most dramatic in places like New York, where the highly populated city was green and the surrounding suburbs were orange and red. For example, the 10002 zip code for New York City produced an average of 29 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent while the zip code 11020 of its neighboring suburb Great Neck, N.Y. produced 73.2 metric tons.
"A number of cities nationwide have developed exceptionally interesting and thoughtful sustainability plans, many of them very innovative," said lead researcher Daniel Kammen in a statement. "The challenge, however, is to reduce overall emissions. Chris and I wanted to determine analytically and present in a visually striking way the impacts and interactions of our energy, transportation, land use, shopping and other choices. Cities are not islands: they exist in a complex landscape that we need to understand better both theoretically and empirically."
Suburbs see an increase in greenhouse-emissions when people buy multiple cars and build larger houses, he said.
Researchers also produced two more maps showing the average number of miles driven and amount of natural resources used for each zip code.
This study was the first to look at the household carbon footprints of all zip codes and map it. The findings were published in the journal "Environmental Science & Technology."%3Cimg%20src%3D%22http%3A//beacon.deseretconnect.com/beacon.gif%3Fcid%3D138645%26pid%3D46%22%20/%3E