By Noah Grunzweig
It can be difficult to see the environmental effects from your personal driving habits (You're just one person, right?). You can, however, feel the value of your homes raising or falling, congestion of streets, and the health (tense much?) or quality of life (want more time with your family or friends?) changes from how much time we all spent behind the wheel. Making a small change in your driving habits, such as when you use your car, can add up to less traffic in our neighborhoods, better air quality, and even safer streets. How much you drive also affects your personal health and the health of your neighborhood. Here are a few facts you may not know about traffic and its impacts, along with a few suggestions for you to help make a difference.
Did you know…
[click the arrows for more information]
Property values increase as car traffic decreases.
The average household makes 10 car trips each day. Nearly half of those are to destinations less than three miles from home.
Today, motor vehicles are responsible for nearly one half of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), more than half of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and about half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States.
Walking consumes 75 calories per mile. By walking instead of driving to the store, you can justify an extra chocolate truffle or two (or half a chocolate truffle if you want to be honest).
For every 10 minutes of commute time you regularly drive, you lose 10% of your "social capital." So does your family and neighborhood (Do you love research?).
With no change in our energy consumption and emissions habits (which includes our seemingly insignificant driving habits), as much as 80% of all biodiversity on our planet will be extinct before the end of this century.
How to cut down on car trips…
1. Shop near your home, and buy local when you can! You'll help your local economy thrive and spend less time behind the wheel. You can use the Yellow Pages (Do you remember the Yellow Pages?) or the magical Internet to locate merchants nearby. It is amazing how long you can live somewhere and then discover your new favorite store has always been just around the corner.
2. If you love to compare prices, do your comparative shopping and price checking (online or over the phone) before you get in your car. Good Guide can also help compare products based on Social and Environmental Impact, not just price.
3. Start a raised bed garden (or potted veggies!). What? Yes. Growing some of your own food will provide you with a healthy hobby, tasty and nutritious food, and save you on trip to the grocery store! Edible Landscaping is great too!
4. Plan trips in advance and consolidate errands. Bonus: Many insurance companies offer reduced rates if you drive your car less often.
5. Consolidate activities for the neighborhood kids: AKA Organize carpools for church, school, or sports team activities. What would you do with three more hours each week? If you organize a carpool with three other families, that's how much time you'll save.
6. If you can, walk or ride a bicycle to the grocery store. Consider the same for going to a movie or restaurant. The great thing about self-propelled transportation is that you improve your health, stress levels, and (if you live in a city) often make similar time. Cut down on traffic congestion and work your heart and muscles at the same time.
7. Give carpooling a shot. Even once a week, you may develop a great travel buddy while reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and freeing up your mind (and wallet) from a little more driving.
Calculate your estimated savings (and pollution) when you rideshare with another person. Powered by AlterNetRides.
8. Ride the bus. The bus is efficient, especially for busy people. With just seven passengers, the average bus exceeds the fuel efficiency of an average commuter driving alone! Plus, riding the bus gives you all of your commute time to send e-mails, read, or make phone calls (politely) all while avoiding the stress of traffic. This gives you more time and happiness to devote to other, more enjoyable activities.
9. If you ride by bicycle: Put a basket on your bike…or take a backpack or canvas bag when you ride the bus. Make it easier for you to get errands done by bike, and you'll find riding and taking public transit even more useful and enjoyable. You'll also use your car less.
10. Pair up with a neighbor and take turns driving the kids to school. Ok. This is repeated advice (#5); it is good advice, though. You'll save time and money for yourself and your family.
11. If you ride a bicycle: buy good rain gear and some great lights. You can ride your bike to school or work whenever it isn't raining, but with the right gear, you can enjoy riding any time you want. Be sure ride safely!
12. Have lunch with your co-workers: You don't have to do it every day, but do so intentionally, and ride together. Order take-out from the same restaurant. You can also organize small potlucks. Breaking bread, and travel, with your co-workers fosters a healthy working community and saves you time on the road.
13. Mix it up: If you're just starting to get away from using your car so much, use the bike racks on Metro buses or trains (if available), so you can bus one-way and bike the other. If supported, you could also consider taking your bike to work and biking just to lunch.
14. Make sure the whole family is comfortable navigating your local transit system. Being comfortable knowing how to get around is the first big hurdle for many transit users.
15. Selective delivery to your house: There are exceptions (thus selective), but packages sent through the post or local delivery systems saves cars on the road and your own drive time.
Not 16. I say not 16, because this one won't decrease your drive time. For when you cannot drive less: Choose to offset the rest of your environmental impact.
Calculate your estimated carbon emissions and choose to offset your environmental impact.
Like it. Share it. Post it. Know it. . . And Think Critically.Share on Twitter Share on Facebook