Tag: Environment

Partnership in the News: EPA report shows link between land use, public health, natural environment

The way communities plan neighborhoods has profound effects on the natural environment and public health. A new study released by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Sustainable Communities’ Smart Growth Program finds a link between environmental quality and land use and transportation strategies.

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Credit: EPA Office of Sustainable Communities

The second edition of Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions Among Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality, an update to a 2001 report of the same title, details how development can impact human and environmental health. “As the U.S. population has grown, we have developed land that serves important ecological functions at a significant cost to the environment,” the report states, going on to say, “Changing where and how we build our communities can help mitigate these impacts, improving how development affects the environment and human health.”

The report identifies hows our development patterns have negatively affected the natural environment, the report finds, “Transportation is responsible for 27 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; residential and commercial buildings contribute 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively.”

As solutions to these mounting problems, the report demonstrates the benefits of specific development strategies. The report recommends preserving ecologically valuable sites and placing a stronger emphasis on infill develop and transit oriented development. Each of these strategies reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled and, in turn, greenhouse gas emissions. The report also emphasizes the need for community design that addresses development’s potential downsides, offering investing in mixed-use development and improving street connectivity as solutions.

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Every day is Earth Day with smart growth strategies


Earth Day is a great opportunity to remember that the locations we chose for homes, office buildings, roads and other kinds of development have long-term environmental implications. Smart growth development decisions protect the quality of our air, water and land resources while ensuring that families, businesses and whole communities thrive.

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A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development

You may know LEED as a program that evaluates and certifies green buildings across the country. Now, a new guide from the Natural Resources Defense Council takes the green certification concept beyond individual buildings and applies it to the neighborhood context.

A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development is a hands-on introduction for local environmental groups, smart growth organizations, neighborhood residents and just about anyone interested in making our communities better and greener. The guide is user-friendly and accessible, to help anyone learn about environmental standards for green land development and become an advocate for implementing these standards in their own communities.

Following two short introductory sections (“How to Use This Guide” and “What is a Sustainable Neighborhood?”), the Guide identifies key concepts for neighborhood sustainability, referencing the LEED-ND credits and prerequisites that inform each. The Guide includes creative suggestions to help users get started using LEED-ND’s diverse standards in their own communities, as well as a “Sustainable Neighborhood Development Checklist.” The checklist is a sort of crib sheet for every LEED-ND credit and prerequisite, presenting them in an easy-to-use format for evaluating development proposals, assessing existing neighborhoods, and informing community planning and policy.

The Citizen’s Guide empowers you, the citizen, to provide innovative ways to improve your own community and promote greater widespread adoption of sustainable practices in more inclusive, healthy, and environmentally sound places for everyone.

Download A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development at NRDC.org.

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New report: State transportation decisions could save money and reduce carbon emissions

Download the ReportA new report released today by Smart Growth America and the Natural Resources Defense Council found that transportation policies in every state could save money and reduce carbon emissions by making smarter decisions with state funds.

In “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy,” SGA and NRDC found that current transportation policies in almost all 50 states either fail to curb carbon emission rates or, in some cases, actually increase emissions. This contradiction between state policies and broader efforts to reduce carbon emissions means not only that many states are missing opportunities to protect clean air; it means they are missing economic opportunities as well.

In a press conference this morning, former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening remarked:

Transportation makes up an enormous proportion of our national economy and our environmental impact: it must be front and center as we think about how to get the most out of our public investments. The states that rose to the top in this report, California, Maryland and New Jersey, are there because they are meeting the challenge to innovate.


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Polar bears for smarter growth

Maybe you’ve seen it: a new commerical by automaker Nissan featuring the company’s latest car, a meandering polar bear and global climate change. The car in question is the Nissan LEAF, “the first 100% electric, no gas, no tailpipe vehicle.” Nissan certainly seems to be seeking the support of the eco-conscious set here, both with the commercial and the car itself. But in a post yesterday about the LEAF, Grist writer Jonathan Hiskes astutely notes that zero-emissions or not, no car is going to be as green as public transit options.

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LEED-ND deserves our enthusiastic support

Kaid Benfield is a Smart Growth America board member and the director of NRDC’s Smart Growth program. This post originally appeared on his NRDC Switchboard Blog. Our thanks to him for letting us run it in full here. -Ed.

I make no pretense of objectivity on this one. I’ve been working on LEED for Neighborhood Development for seven long years. It’s now finished and awaiting final approval by the three founding partners – NRDC (in consultation with the Smart Growth America coalition), the US Green Building Council, and the Congress for the New Urbanism.

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Carper: “Providing people with an alternative to driving”

In regards to the news stories about people adjusting their behaviour in light of high gas prices, we’ve been wondering: What will people in metro areas do when they’ve squeezed all the efficiency they can out of their car, combined …

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Climate legislation reaches the Senate floor

[UPDATE: 12:33 p.m. Do read Andrew Revkin's post on the NYT's Dot Earth Climate blog for some other thoughts about the debate and political wrangling going on with the bill.] After many months of behind-the-scenes work, the first piece of …

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But can “we” solve it without addressing where we live?

“We” love the “we” campaign, but it has some glaring omissions Many of you may have seen the hopeful television commercials over the last week with pictures of windmills, solar panels, and all things “green.” Former Vice President Al Gore …

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Growing Cooler: “I just wanted my life back”

As we’ve highlighted this week, Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change is out in its final, sharp-looking book form. Released in a preliminary technical form last fall, the book has been revised, updated, and published as …

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