City Cast

Local Civics: How Do Washingtonians’ Carbon Footprints Compare?

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on May 4   |   Updated on June 27

Well, they vary drastically depending on where you live in the city.

It’s Air Quality Awareness week, and that means assessing exactly what impact you have on your natural environment. Recent studies mapped out consumption-based emissions by DMV neighborhood, and the results are illuminating.

Heat map of D.C. neighborhood carbon footprints

Mapping Washingtonians’ carbon footprint. (nytimes/Instagram)

First, a household’s emission footprint is determined by the way they travel, electricity use, food, goods, and services.

The two largest factors were:

  • Urban density – households close to dense city centers tend to drive less and live in smaller homes that are more efficient.
  • Wealth – Higher-income households usually buy more goods and travel more.

What do household emissions look like in the DMV? Like the rest of the country, emissions are lower close to the city center and get much higher in affluent suburbs like Palisades and Chevy Chase. Georgetown is also significantly higher than the rest of the city. Interestingly, while D.C. has lower-than-average emissions from housing and transportation, it is less carbon-friendly when it comes to food.

One thing to remember?

Consumption choices aren’t always in our control — like where our electricity is from, if public transit is available, and if homes are more affordable in higher-emission suburbs.

So, spur your local policymakers into action, like building more apartments in underutilized parts of the city to reduce car dependence, or creating suburban cultural hubs (like downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring) to reduce the need for travel into the city.

👣 Check out your personal carbon footprint.

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