America Just Isn't Built To Be Good For The Planet

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There’s a reason Europe is much greener than America, says Elisabeth Rosenthal at Yale 360. We just love the conveniences we have too much!

From our big houses to our big cars, and all the trash they create, we really dig the American way of living, making it harder to be “green.” Meanwhile, in Europe, the hot water isn’t as hot for as long, fewer people are walking around with plastic bags, and the houses are much smaller. Add it all up and you get a greener lifestyle.

Here’s Rosenthal’s take on the difference between Europe and the U.S.:

It was late and raining this summer when I approached the information desk at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport to inquire about how best to get into the city centre. “The fastest is the train, but there are also busses,” the guide said.

“Are there taxis?” I inquired, trying hard to forget the reminders on the Arlanda website that trains are “the most environmentally friendly” form of transport, referring to taxis as “alternative transportation” for those “unable to take public transport.”

“Yes, I guess you could take one,” he said, dripping with disdain as he peered over the edge of the counter at my single piece of luggage.

I slunk into the cab, paid about $60 and spent the 45-minute ride feeling as guilty as if I’d built a coal-fired plant in my back yard. (Note: the cabs at Arlanda are hybrids.) Two days later, although my flight left at 7 a.m., I took the Arlanda Express. It cost half as much and took 15 minutes to the terminal.

Europe, particularly northern Europe, is far more environmentally conscious than the United States, despite Americans’ sincere and passionate resolution to be green. Per capita CO2 emissions in the U.S. were 19.78 tons according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which used 2006 data, compared to 9.6 tons in the U.K., 8.05 tons in Italy, and 6.6 tons in France.

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