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:

  1. Not all that's leafy is green.

    Capitol Hill

  2. Takoma Park
  3. Columbia Heights
  4. Ballston
  5. Bethesda
  6. Crestwood
  7. Mount Rainier
  8. Old Town Alexandria
  9. Petworth
  10. 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.