Earth Week Resolution: Help the Environment by Driving Less
Get out of the driver’s seat and travel in greener, healthier ways.
In December 1970, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported more than 89.9 billion vehicle miles traveled. By December 2011, that number inflated to unfathomable heights: more than 246.3 trillion vehicle miles traveled. But, what has this exponential increase in car usage done to the environment?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than half of the air pollution in the nation comes from vehicles, primarily automobiles. In addition to air pollution, cars have the potential to pollute the environment through the toxic fluids they contain, which can be harmful if leaked or disposed of improperly. And, besides pollution, cars emit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
So, now that we have established that automobile use can have a deleterious effect on the environment, what can we do to change that? For starters, we can try to decrease the vehicle miles we travel. In honor of Earth Day, here are six ways you can do that and their fringe benefits:
If you live within a half-mile of your destination and the weather is decent, why not walk to it instead of getting in your car?
Fringe benefit: Not only will you be helping the environment, but you will also be doing something good for your health. By walking, you will also see things you may never have seen in your car. Plus, it is a great chance to interact with others.
If you are within a mile or two to your destination and you feel it is too far to walk, you might considerer hopping on your bicycle.
Fringe benefit: Bicycling has some of the same health and social benefits as walking, but provides you a bigger travel range. Plus, it does not emit a single molecule of greenhouse gas!
Take the bus or train
A bus can carry around 50 people, give or take, depending on its size. So, taking the bus can decrease the amount of individual automobiles on the road by up to 50! Because a train can carry so many more people, it has an even larger effect. Also, there are efforts underway to eliminate or greatly decrease the emissions associated with buses and trains, with a move toward natural gas, hydro power and electric buses and trains.
Fringe benefit: Taking public transit is also is a great way to meet new people and strike up friendship just by virtue of sitting next to them on a bus or train.
Though carpooling does not have as great an effect on decreasing the negative impacts of car usage, it does help take cars off the road. Why drive to work with empty seats when you can give someone a ride and help the environment while you’re at it?
Fringe benefit: Carpooling is a great way to get to know other people at your work and in your neighborhood!
If you can negotiate a day or a few days where you can work from home instead of commuting to work, you could decrease your vehicle miles traveled significantly, especially if you live far from your workplace.
Fringe benefit: Telecommuting might also decrease your stress, as you won’t have to deal with the traffic on the way to and from work, and can be comfortable at your home office, getting some work done instead.
Live close to your work
The best way to decrease your vehicle miles traveled and your polluting potential is to live close to where you work. If you live within walking or biking distance, then you have it made. But, even if you still need to drive to work but move closer than you might have been, you will be helping yourself and the environment.
Fringe benefit: Don’t forget the money you will save on gas and wear and tear on your car if you move closer to work!
Decreasing your vehicle miles traveled is an excellent way to help the environment, and could also be a way to improve your quality of life, as demonstrated by the various fringe benefits to alternative modes of transportation! Why not add this to your Earth Week resolutions for 2013?