In New York City, Ben Jervey spends a month reducing his ecological footprint, by any means necessary.
By Ben Jervey If you were considering towns in which to live the good life-which is to say, the least harmful life-you could be forgiven for leaving New York off your list. Paved in every direction, overrun by traffic, brightly lit even in the darkest hours, it seems an unlikely candidate for environmental distinction. And yet the city is a remarkably low-impact place-due largely to its energy efficiency, per capita the best in the country.New Yorkers don't drive much, and we live and work in cramped conditions that are powered, heated, and cooled with relatively little energy. New York, it turns out, has one of the smallest per capita "ecological footprints" in the country. Raising the question: if we're already among the most energy efficient of Americans, just how much might our footprints shrink?In pursuit of an answer, last spring I began a month-long experiment in extreme urban environmentalism. This was not an act of overzealous deprivation: I ate no wheat grass, I wore no hemp. As much as possible, I wanted to live my normal, happily indulgent New York life, but to do so with as minimal an impact as I could manage. Relying on locally grown foods, renewable energies, basic conservation practices, and auto-free transit, I discovered that in New York, as in a growing number of other cities in the United States, the good life is closer than you might think.