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Front_Range_Guy

Living Responsibly in the Suburbs

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I'm 23, make a meager income, have pretty well decided I'm going to stay in the city I live in now, and am priced out of downtown. I have an opportunity to buy a 3 bedroom tri-level house in the suburbs for what would amount to a steal, and I think I'm going to take it because it's location is convenient for me, and it's a good investment. I should be able to turn around and sell it in a few years, and come away with enough money to actually get a decent place in the city... anyway, to the point... I'm going to be living in the suburbs for the next couple of years, but I want to do as much as I can to live responsibly. I've already replaced a few light bulbs with compact fluorescents, and plan to replace all of them eventually. I can take steps to be energy efficient... sealing my home, turning off the lights and tv's if I'm not in the room, turning down the heat during the day, etc, I would never own an SUV and eventually would like to downgrade from my Sedan to something cleaner and more fuel efficient, and I can minimize my driving...

What do you think? Can you live in suburban sprawl and live responsibly? I feel like a hippacrit, I hate sprawl and want to see it come to an end, but I live in it... and financially it makes the most sense for me to stay in it for a while... anyway, anymore idea's or tips for living responsibly in the suburbs if you believe that's even possible.

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What do you think? Can you live in suburban sprawl and live responsibly? I feel like a hippacrit, I hate sprawl and want to see it come to an end, but I live in it... and financially it makes the most sense for me to stay in it for a while... anyway, anymore idea's or tips for living responsibly in the suburbs if you believe that's even possible.

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I think you can still live responsibly in the suburbs if you are willing to make some sacrifices. First off, you have to be willing to walk longer distances. In many suburbs there are plenty of places that are within a mile, you just have to be willing to walk that mile. Right now where I live (right on the border of urban/suburban) both my gym and grocery store are exactly 1 mile away. I force myself to walk (or in the case of the gym, run) that mile so I can save atleast 9 car trips per week.

It's also pretty possible to still use transit despite living in the suburbs, but like I said, you have to be willing to walk farther to reach it. The thing that's good about transit in the suburbs is that it's usually more cost-effective to use it. Suburban living=more miles to drive=more gas money, whereas in many metro areas, there is a flat fare rate for transit. Thus, paying $1.50 for a ride all the way to a city center or industrial/business park actually becomes cheaper than using gas to drive there.

I think the best way to justify all the extra walking is to count it as daily exercise. Say you typically go to the gym and walk on a treadmill, or run around your neighborhood at night, well, you can now do less of this because you have walked an extra 2 or 3 miles a day just performing your daily tasks. On weekends when I go to the gym and grocery store I usually end up walking an extra 4 miles, so I cut that out of my treadmill time at the gym.

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Colorado Springs also has a decent bike trail system - equip your bike with travel storage bags & use it for commuting, shopping & for travel into town.

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Posted by lammius

Or do you live in a vinyl-wrapped particle-board house on a cul-de-sac miles away from the nearest inconvenience store, where I think living a "sustainable" lifestyle is far more difficult?

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Well, if you're stuck in it, at least you're making plans to get out eventually. For now you can:

change ALL your bulbs to compact flourescents, wash clothes in cold water only, if you watch a lot of TV or spend a lot of time using a computer, look into LCD screens, lower your thermostat if you can stand it, light candles, recycle, shop locally whenever possible, and plant some trees, lots of trees, in your yard.

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Given this sub-forum is devoted to sustainable living, i would suggest that your plan, especially if you are buying new construction, is not good for the environment. I would read this post for the reasoning behind this. You didn't really mention the specifics of the place that you are planning to buy but if it was in a subdivision that was dying and you are fixing it up then that is a good thing. Beyond that, I think that no matter where you live you can take steps to use less energy and consume less materials.

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A little history/detail about the area...

I live in an unincorporated community of about 30,000 people called Security-Widefield. Development here began in the 1950's. At the time, Colorado Springs was a wide spot in the road 10 miles away. In a sense, Security-Widefield didn't start out as a suburb but ended up becoming one as Colorado Springs swelled from 30,000 people to 400,000 people. A large portion of the area was built in the 50's and 60's. My family (originally from the east coast) moved here in 1965 from Oklahoma. My grandfather was in the military and was stationed at Ent Air Force Base near Downtown Colorado Springs, which doesn't exist anymore... it's actually The US Olympic Training Center now. Anyway, there was little development in the 70's. My neighborhood was added in the late 80's and the community doubled in size during the 90's. In a way I feel like the older parts of Security & Widefield could be sustainable. They have the infrastructure and the history... most of the families here, including mine, have been here since the 50's or 60's. Most of my extended family lives literally 5 minutes away. Security & Widefield don't feel like suburbs so much as small towns. The older shopping centers in the area have struggled, as the post you linked to alluded to, big boxes have been abandoned for bigger boxes... however generally the abandoned buildings end up being reoccupied eventually. It's rumored the recently abandoned Albertson's Food and Drug near my house will soon be occupied by Ross Dress for Less. Once you get into the area's built after 1985 though, it's cancerous suburban sprawl. There's not a whole lot of vinyl siding down here, in all honestly as far as Colorado Springs goes... it's considered a lower income area. You live in Security-Widefield because it's "affordable." The houses are generally well kept, but they haven't had a lot of changes made to them since they were built. No vinyl added, many haven't been painted... ever. People here keep their yards groomed and their homes clean, but they can't afford to do much more. As far as it goes, I feel a lot better living here than I would in some of the suburban communities that sprung up east of Colorado Springs during the 80's and 90's, but ultimately I don't think this is a terribly sustainable or efficient area and I do want to move in to the city eventually... be it Colorado Springs, Denver, or somewhere else entirely. I want my car to be something I take out a handful of times a year, not every day... I want to be able to walk to work, to the store, to entertainment venues, and to take trains or busses if I have to leave my immediate neighborhood. I'll never have that here... but unfortunately reality plays a role too... and reality is I need to stay here and make this investment. It's my best, quickest chance of having enough money to actually afford to live the life I want (comfortably) someday. When I say comfortably, I simply mean not living paycheck to paycheck, and not living in squaller. I love density, I'm okay with grit, and I love small. A small one bedroom apartment in a highrise somewhere would be perfection for me. Perhaps in 5, 10 years it will be reality. Until then, I will do everything I can think of to be more efficient while I'm here. I think I'll start with the lightbulbs.

I guess I'm not a true tree hugger... Meh... I never claimed to be. Balancing idealogy with practicality in this world can be a real b*tch.

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