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Save the Planet: Move to the Suburbs

Blame it on downtown snobbery or suburban guilt but for a long time now the suburbs have gotten a bad rap. We've been told that big-box stores and SUVs are to blame for all the world's woes and they are the reason why we have smog days and why oil costs nearly $100 a barrel. But now there are some who are making the case that life in the suburbs is actually good for the planet.

The argument is basically that large urban centres like Toronto create a massive heat island whose effects are felt far beyond the city's political borders. And the solution to global warming and climate change is not to abolish the suburbs by forced urbanization, but to create sustainable suburbs and work on greening the ones we already have.

The heat island effect can be described in scientific terms but is best understood by this often heard weather forecast at this time of year: "5-10 centimetres of snow in Mississauga, rain downtown." The difference in weather patterns we experience downtown versus the rest of the GTA is sometimes staggering and the impact that all this densely concentrated concrete and asphalt has on our planet is undeniable.

The facts suggest that the suburbs are here to stay. Historically, most of the growth in urban areas has taken place in the suburbs and this trend is not expected to change. More and more new immigrants to the GTA are settling in the 905 region. Low-density living in suburbia offers an alternative to the problems associated with an urban heat island, but is sustainable suburb just an oxy-moron?

Maybe it's the new land transfer tax. Maybe it's the ever-increasing traffic congestion. Or maybe it's the promise of twice the square footage for half the price, but I'm starting to look at the suburbs in a whole new light.

Photo by fermata.daily from the blogTO Flickr Pool.

Andrew la Fleur is a registered real estate agent and regular contributor at blogTO.


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