EPA Issues Second Edition of "Our Built and Natural Environments"

The EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities Smart Growth Program recently issued the second edition of “Our Built and Natural Environments.” They use the term “Built Environment” to describe the patterns of development, transportation infrastructure, and building location and design. The report provides a review of the interactions between land use, transportation, and environmental quality by measuring and analyzing the status of and current trends in the built environment. The report also explains the current understanding of the relationship between the built environment and the quality of air, water, land resources, habitat, and human health.

As defined by the EPA, the built environment includes commercial buildings, residential houses, roads, and other non-natural developments that take the place of the natural environment. These developments disrupt the natural ecosystems and fragment habitat, and are the cause of more than 85% of all registered endangered species.

Moreover, the built environment poses indirect impacts on the natural environment and on human health by contributing to declining air and water quality and global climate change. Transportation infrastructure, for example, influences people’s mobility and travel behaviors by impacting the decisions people make about how to get around and how much to travel to meet their daily needs. The choice to drive more often and for longer periods, instead of using public transit, walking or biking, is a major contributor to climate change. Transportation is the second largest contributor to total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the EPA’s report, changing where and how we build our communities can help mitigate these impacts, improving how development affects the environment and human health. In the report, the EPA also provides evidence that certain kinds of land use and transportation strategies can reduce the environmental and human health impacts of developments.

At Earth Day Network, we believe that all of us have a role to play in saving energy, using green technology and making more sustainable travel decisions. Individuals, organizations, businesses and governments all have critical influence on reducing the negative impacts of development. To learn more about ways you can participate to protect the planet, please visit http://www.earthday.org/takeaction/campaigns.html

Written by Jiin G. Park