Urban vs. Rural

Posted on July 28th, 2010 by Tonia 4 Comments

…Which is the better way to live?  Silly question, in my opinion.  In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say that one is not “better” than the other.  We need both.  There are too many different kinds of people in this world for a one-size-fits-all lifestyle or environment.  But.  But, no matter where you live- in the suburbs, or the big city, or the boonies- there are ways to be a good steward to the Earth and ways to not.  And I do believe that some environments lend themselves to good stewardship a little easier than others. 

In my experience, living in an urban suburb is probably the most difficult place to execute a green/low impact lifestyle.  The city’s downtown public transportation usually does not reach into the suburbs, so unless you work from home, your daily commute to the office is most likely about 45 minutes, twice a day, in your vehicle.  Not to mention the commute to the grocery store and your kid’s school/activities. 

On top of that, your suburban housing situation is most likely a development of some sort, named after whatever was there before the houses and lawns {Pine Grove Estates}.  And on top of that, there is the social pressure to have a beautiful green lawn, this year’s paint colors on the walls, the cutest fiesta-ware for your weekly book club BBQ, and a two-car garage full of, well, two cars and various other material “necessities”.  I know these types of pressures first hand, and they’re tough. 


Image courtesy of nytimes.com

Good stewardship in a suburban setting is possible, however.  After all, that is exactly what this blog is all about!  You may not be able to ride the train to work, but you can carpool.  Your lawn can be just as pretty if you watered it by collecting rainwater instead of with the sprinkler.  Your BBQs can be a great chance to educate your community about some of your low-impact lifestyle choices.  Your two-car garage can have a hybrid in it.  Your home can be just as pretty {prettier!} decked out with homemade decor instead of trendy made-in-China crap. 

Downtown city living comes with a whole realm of different pluses and minuses.  On the up-side, you probably have the benefit of super-awesome public trans, or you can probably ride your bike to anywhere you ever need to go.  You probably have a farmer’s market not too far from your pad, or you probably even know a couple crazy people growing gardens on their patios/roofs.

The downside it that you live in a concrete jungle, breathing smoggy air and drinking chlorinated water.  I can’t relate to this situation very easily, so maybe some of you who actually live this way can enlighten me…It just seems unnatural to have to visit a park in order to see dirt or trees or rocks.  When everything is man-made around you, don’t you lose touch with what is real, gritty, and alive?  I think I would.  But then again, maybe you appreciate nature even more when it’s something you need to purposefully seek out.  When every day is a reminder of how fragile and rare nature is, maybe you think twice before dumping chemicals down the drain or tossing a plastic bottle in the trash.

Image courtesy of ffffound.com

I grew up in the middle of nowhere, in the woods, and I can attest to the fact that many, many country folk take the woods, lakes, trees, clean air, and plentiful fresh water for granted.  They change their fishing boat oil right there on the lake shore, and inevitably spill it into the water.  They burn garbage in their backyards, or bury an old broken refrigerator in the ground to avoid the recycling fees. The list of transgressions is long.

But the list of upsides to country life is also long.  You can live off the grid if you so choose.  You can raise your own food.  You can use the natural resources all around you to support yourself.  You can separate yourself from societal pressures and the pull of material things, and build a home that is centered around what is really important.

Image courtesy of Jason Kravitz

Image courtesy of Jason Kravitz

 Perhaps I am biased…ok, I am definitely biased…because Mike and I are choosing to move from the city into the boonies, and so I see country-life as the ultimate way to live simply and live greener.  But I stand by my original statement that we are in control of how we live, no matter where we live.

What do you all think?


  1. “we are in control of how we live, no matter where we live”

    Right on!

    I think we all have to decide what works best for us and our families and then do all we can to live a sustainable life where we lay our heads down to sleep at night.

    And no matter where we decide to plant our roots, we can’t look down on others because they decided to plant roots elsewhere — or have adopted methods that are different than ours. We’re in this journey together.

    Good luck on the move! While I’ve loved the focus of this blog, I’m excited to see the new directions you may take it in the near future!

    Now, how about a subdivision in the “country”?

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  3. Great post, Tonia! Vann and I often find ourselves torn. Where do we want to live? (Nevermind the fact that we are adults, own our second home already, and have moved cross country once). We’re still figuring it out. :)

    Do we stay in the city? Ok, suburb. we don’t live in a city. Do we ‘simplify’ our life and move the country? I put that in quotes, because I don’t think it would simplify our life, more that it would just be different.

    I imagine myself in the country, with a lot of land, and beautiful, fruitful gardens, a nice compost pile, maybe an art studio. Wild flowers. little lawn that require mowing/watering. (Having lived in the boonies my entire childhood as well, I had never had to WATER the lawn.) It still seems foreign and wasteful to me.

    But, the suburbs have their appeals. And, what better way to show people how they can help, even in small ways!

    I’ll keep you posted on our progress of where we decide to live. :)

  4. I really like your last sentence, “But I stand by my original statement that we are in control of how we live, no matter where we live.”

    Sure some areas allow people to leave a smaller carbon footprint than others. But it’s of course not realistic to expect everyone to go move out to the country to do it. Right now the country is the best place to live greener, but I don’t know about more simply.

    I live in the city right now and I only own 69 world wide possessions ( if you’d like to see everything I own, feel free! http://zorbadesign.net/all-69-of-my-possessions ). I don’t think I could accomplish this and stay sane if I lived in the country.

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