Where the Greenies Live

“Green” economics is a major trend these days.  There are environmentally friendly cars, houses, light bulbs, and laundry detergent–all components of a larger green lifestyles.  But as with all trends, living green is more popular in certain places than in others.  Today’s map is drawn from a study that attempts to chart areas with large numbers of people who live environmentally conscious lifestyles.

The map above is taken from “Green Market Geography: The Spatial Clustering of Hybrid Vehicle and LEED Registered Buildings” by Matthew E. Khan and Ryan K. Vaughn, both economists at UCLA.  This map–a distribution of Prius registrations in Los Angeles County, California–is just one of several maps they include in their paper to show the distribution of the green lifestyle across the state.  Here, the darker the green, the more Prius registrations there are in that zip code.  Click here or on the picture above to see a larger version of the map.

The map indicates that the residents who live along the southern California coast–undoubtedly the wealthier, more highly educated demographics–are more likely to own a Prius than those living further inland.  Despite this coastal trend, however, Khan and Vaughn speculate that there is an additional clustering effect–that green-minded individuals are drawn together into communities by other factors:

Small initial differences in exogenous spatial attributes such as proximity to the ocean can have a social multiplier effect. As environmentalists move to a nice community, green businesses such as organic restaurants would be more likely to locate near this community (Waldfogel 2007). This creates a virtuous cycle attracting even more environmentalists to move to the community. As environmentalists cluster in such communities, they vote for public goods/taxes bundles that further re-enforce this process (i.e bike lanes and recycling bins).

Khan and Vaughn developed an environmentalism scale for the state, based on the number of registered members of the California Green Party, and votes on two binding, statewide ballot initiatives focusing on environmental causes.  This analysis was the foundation of the map below:

In this map, as in the map above, the greener the zip code the more environmental friendly it is on the Khan and Vaughn scale.  Click here or on the picture above to see an enlarged version of the map.  Interestingly, whereas Prius distributions are aligned most closely with wealthier areas by the coast, the environmental ratings statewide do not hew closely to this model.  On the contrary, it seems that a green consumer lifestyle does not necessarily collolate with favorable opinions of environmentalism, including registration with the Green Party.  It turns out you can make environmental choices without owning a Prius.

The information for this post came via this excellent article in the Economist. 

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Cartographia is a blog about how we use maps to represent the world around us, and how people interpret maps today and throughout history. Please feel free to send any questions, comments, or recommendations directly to me at cartographia.blog@gmail.com.

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