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My preferred tactic in battling against made-up rankings is to just not give them any ink at all, but this one had a particular logical flaw that I think illustrates a common misconception in how we think about “greenness.” The Metropolitan Regional Information System has compiled a list of the top ten “greenest” neighborhoods in the D.C. area, using a mix of public surveys on the availability of parks and playgrounds, interviews with agents, and a look at the energy efficiency attributes of properties on the market. Here’s what they came up with, in no particular order:
- Takoma Park
- Columbia Heights
- Mount Rainier
- Old Town Alexandria
- Woodley Park
What’s conspicuously missing here? The densest of urban neighborhoods: Downtown. Crestwood may have a high tree-to-person ratio, but it also has gigantic houses and many more cars per capita (and often no sidewalks, which is a different but related issue) than Penn Quarter. Of these, Columbia Heights certainly belongs, with its large apartment complexes and immense transit accessibility. But so does Foggy Bottom, with its packed-in buildings and largely car-free, dorm-dwelling student population. If we’re talking about impact on the planet, lots of people living in close quarters equal more energy savings overall than a few people living in big houses surrounded by lawns and parks.
MRIS’ effort to provide more “green” metrics is laudable enough, but what they’re talking about is a leafy lifestyle, not eco-friendliness.