I had a recent argument with a coworker (we are both engineers) that the amount of pollution (trash+water+air) generated by a person increases with the person's income (we both agreed on that) but my coworker claimed that the fact that person lives in a big city or in a small town does not affect the amount of pollution, which I don't agree.

I agree that it is hard to estimate the average pollution generated by these two different lifestyles. In big cities people are more inclined to use public transportation, will have smaller residences which in turn will require less heating (we are in France, so assume Paris), but they also consume more disposable items and the foodstock have to be transported from more distant places.

On the other hand people in big cities have higher income on average, thus they probably generate more pollution based on this, according to my coworker.

Thus, for the same income which lifestyle is more environmentally sustainable? Are there studies on this subject?

  • I doubt 'more income -> more pollution' is as simple as that, or even correct. Especially because I've also seen the opposite being discussed more than once, e.g. sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800997001778
    – stijn
    Oct 30 '17 at 11:33
  • I agree that other factors also have an effect, but I'm evening them up into the income. A great answer that was posted to me in Earth Sciences.SE showed that indeed the correlation between income and pollution is weak, but still boils down to the lifestyle (which may depend on the income). Oct 30 '17 at 11:38