Living in larger cities is greener


  • Larger cities are more energy efficient and electricity consumption and waste production are lower per person than smaller cities. London uses only 60% of the energy that smaller cities use for the same amount of production.
  • Larger cities are also more productive than smaller cities
  • Policies in favour of urbanization therefore have the potential to provide both economic and environmental benefits.

Urbanization is taking place to an increasing extent in both industrialized and developing countries. The ecological consequences are far-reaching. Large cities gather a large number of people in a small area and use a lot of energy, have a lot of traffic and pollution, and produce a lot of waste. Living in less urbanized areas might therefore be considered as the ultimate environmentally friendly life choice.

But this study, looking at a number of British cities, shows that larger cities are more productive and have lower electricity consumption and waste production per person than smaller cities. Large cities are thus much more energy efficient than smaller cities, as the picture below illustrates.

The study also shows that a tax policy that makes it more favourable to live in big cities could lead to both environmental and economic gains. The latter is important as discussions about sustainability often end up in a trade-off between increasing output and sustaining the environment. This study shows that, in the case of urbanization, both are possible.

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Last modified: 2021-09-20