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Five myths about the suburbs

5. Suburbanites don't care about the environment.

According to the American Farmland Trust, the United States loses more than 1.4 million acres of farmland, forest and wetlands to suburban sprawl each year. Between 1982 and 2007, sprawl devoured an area the size of Illinois and New Jersey combined.

But suburbanites are becoming more ecologically aware. Some Cleveland suburbs are partnering with the city to buy solar panels. According to The Washington Post, the number of farmers markets is surging around the country - in Chicago, there are more of them in the suburbs than in the city. And suburbanites are using online carpools such as eRideShare.com to cut commuting costs. Suburban D.C. even has its own brand of ride-sharing called slugging. The practice began during the energy crisis in the 1970s to take advantage of HOV lanes, and as instability in the Middle East pushes oil prices near $100 per barrel, it's on the rise.

Many suburbs are also beating cities when it comes to recycling. Chicago, supposedly green, recycles less than 19 percent of its waste, compared with 40 percent in Arlington, Va. And a place like Community Forklift - a vast warehouse in Edmonston, Md., where used building materials are resold for a fraction of their original cost - couldn't afford to pay rent in the District.

For the eco-minded, there's even a silver lining to population growth: If the United States adds 110 million more people by 2050 as the census predicts, suburbs will have to grow denser, more walkable and more public-transit-friendly, increasing our sense of shared identity.

Everyone with a prejudice against the suburbs will have to get over it. Even me.

billywimsatt@gmail.com

William Upski Wimsatt is the author, most recently, of "Please Don't Bomb the Suburbs."

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