If one were to compile a list of buzzwords for the 2010s, it might look something like this:

  • Twitter
  • Mommy bloggers
  • Hipsters
  • Justin Bieber
  • Obama
  • Walkability

For renters, the most relevant term listed above is probably walkability (unless, of course, you’re apartment hunting with the Biebs). Recent sustainability and urban planning initiatives have forcefully recognized a need for walkability in our neighborhoods, and Americans largely support the change of direction. From Millennials’ massive migrations to urban cores to baby boomers’ downsizing and moving to more walkable neighborhoods, recent relocation patterns have largely favored transit-friendly, pedestrian-oriented communities.

The Importance of Walkability

First of all, walkability saves a lot of money. And we mean a lot. If you’ve lived in a non-walkable community your entire life, you probably feel that driving to the grocery store, taking the bus to school and carpooling to soccer tournaments is the norm, right? Not for those who live in walkable neighborhoods.

In fact, many recently built American towns are constructed so that a car must be used to go to the doctor’s office, take the kids to school and get to work every day. The Center for Neighborhood Technology recently reported that transportation costs have risen by 44 percent since 2000, and are now outpacing household income. The combination of rising fuel costs and automobile-centric communities is having many American families pinching their pennies and considering moving closer to work.

Walkability is also important from a sustainability standpoint. Americans who live in walkable communities significantly decrease their carbon footprints by walking to work every day. They also are more apt to take public transportation, which supports the local economy and allows more residents to give up their own cars.

How to Seek Out a Walkable Neighborhood

Now, this may all sound very grim, but there is hope on the horizon. Cities and regions all over the country have zeroed in on this uniquely American problem, and are taking steps to create pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods in cities and suburbs alike.

Walkscore.com and Walkonomics are two great resources for finding a neighborhood’s “walkability score,” but the best way to scout out a walkable neighborhood is to, well, walk around! Do a bit of online research, head to your new city and embark on a day trip “a la pied.” If you’re in a walkable neighborhood, you’ll notice a few common features: narrow streets, lots of pedestrian activity, mixed-use zones (complexes that offer both residential and commercial space), and lots of public transportation options.

Move into a walkable neighborhood and give yourself six months to get richer, happier and more in-shape. Cheers to the good life!