The following article below is a reprint from NPR.org on April 1, 2008:

Atlanta Family Slashes Carbon Footprint

Atlanta resident Malaika Taylor used to live the typical suburban life — the kind that helps make America the world’s top contributor to climate change. But four years ago, fed up with commuting, Taylor and her 11-year old daughter, Maya, moved from the suburbs to the city.

And their “carbon footprint” shrank.

“There are some weekends when I don’t even use my car,” says Taylor.

The Taylors live in Atlantic Station, a new community in mid-town Atlanta designed to put jobs, homes and shopping all in one place, close to public transportation. Developments like Atlantic Station are springing up around the country, and proponents say they help cut car pollution, including the carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.

Atlantic Station: A Climate Change Model

On a typical morning, Taylor walks her daughter to the bus stop and then keeps going 10 minutes to her job as a property manager at an apartment complex.

“I have to admit, if it’s raining or really cold, I drive,” she says.

Her mile-long commute is unusual in Atlanta, where the federal government estimates the average resident drives 32 miles each day. Early surveys show the people who live and work in Atlantic Station drive about a third that much, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We don’t often think of a development as a way to solve environmental problems. But this is really a unique example of kind of growing your way into better environmental quality,” says Geoff Anderson, who helped steer the Atlantic Station project through the regulatory process for the EPA. Anderson now heads Smart Growth America, an environmentally friendly development advocate.

At first, the EPA supported Atlantic Station as a way to help Atlanta fight its unhealthy smog problem. Anderson says now the agency sees the community as a model of how America can fight climate change.

“The two biggest things we do from a carbon perspective are, we heat our houses or cool them, or we drive. And when you combine that, that’s going to add up to a big chunk of your personal carbon footprint,” Anderson says.

A Smaller Impact

Reducing her carbon footprint was not Taylor’s intent when she moved. She just wanted her life back.

But living in the city has cut the small family’s impact on global warming to about half the national average for a family of two.

When they lived in the suburbs, Taylor filled up her gas tank three or four times every two weeks. Now she fills up once in two weeks.

Her other energy bills shrank, too.

In the winter, her gas bill to heat her suburban house was almost $200. Now she uses electricity to heat and cool their compact, two-bedroom loft. That bill tops out around $80, about 20 percent less than the average bill for an Atlanta household.

Apartments often have lower energy costs because of shared walls and smaller spaces. Americans send more than 1 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, or about a fifth of the nation’s total emissions. If lots of Americans lived like the Taylors, then the nation’s greenhouse-gas pollution could drop by hundreds of millions of tons.

Of course, the move didn’t come without tradeoffs.

“I can’t afford to buy a house in the city. It took me four garage sales to get rid of enough stuff to fit into my apartment. I thought I purged, and it still wasn’t enough, and I had to purge again,” says Taylor.

Gaining a Life

On one recent rainy afternoon, Taylor drives to pick up Maya at the bus stop. It takes them almost no time and hardly any gas or greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s more, when it’s time to take a trip to the grocery store, it takes only two minutes to get there, and she’s is back home within 15 minutes.

“That’s hands down one of the biggest perks about living here. The convenience, convenience, convenience,” Taylor says.

It’s only 4:20 p.m. Maya has already made a big dent in her homework. And Malaika has a few hours to kill.

“Maybe I’ll work out. Maybe we’ll play a game. It makes a huge difference just in the quality of our life,” Taylor says. “We get to spend a lot more time together. I think she’s happier. I’m happier. It makes life a lot better.”

Image: Flickr

5 Responses to How an Atlanta Family Slashed its Carbon Footprint and Gained a Life

  1. [...] Transit Miami wrote an interesting post today on How an Atlanta Family Slashed its Carbon Footprint and Gained a LifeHere’s a quick excerpt The following article below is a reprint from NPR.org on April 1, 2008: Atlanta Family Slashes Carbon Footprint Atlanta resident Malaika Taylor used to live the typical suburban life — the kind that helps make America the world’s top contributor to climate change. But four years ago, fed up with commuting, Taylor and her 11-year old daughter, Maya, moved from the suburbs to the city. And their “carbon footprint” shrank. “There are some weekends when I don’t even use my car,” says Taylor. [...]

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  2. top 20 says:

    [...] to live the typical suburban life ?? the kind that helps make America the world??s top contributorhttp://www.transitmiami.com/2008/05/13/how-an-atlanta-family-slashed-its-carbon-footprint-and-gained…Travelzoo Top 20 Launches in Spain PrimeNewswire via Yahoo! Finance BARCELONA, May 12, 2008 — [...]

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  3. ed says:

    Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State energy consumptions, demographics and State energy offices.

    http://www.eredux.com/states/

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  4. AndyTheMagnificent says:

    i have also slasehd my carbon footprint here ion miami by moving into donwtown dadeland. Even though its not in the heart of the city its next to mnetrorail. I harldy ever use my car and i am the happier for it.

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  5. Warmonger says:

    When I moved from Miami to Chicago in 2000 I did the math on living without a car there (since Chicago has a pretty solid transit system despite the occasional subway fire …) versus the costs of owning one here. It was pretty stunning. In that vein, for kicks and giggles I looked up some figures on the cost of gas, parking, etc. in Atlanta. By ditching one car alone the family in the story could easily save more than $6,000 a year.

    There’s a substantial chunk of America that’s not going to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do, and those folks need to see the economics. Going car-free, or at least reducing the number of the damn things in your life, puts cash in your pocket – beyond a whole bunch of other good side-effects. Also, while it tends to cost more to live in a decent neighborhood closer in to the core, think about it – using the Atlanta figures, that’s $500 a month you could put toward rent or a mortgage by going without that car. Not a bad deal. Ours is a one-car family, and I bike or walk to work. We’re richer for it in more ways than one.

    Kudos to you, too, Andy, for proving it can be done here in Miami.

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