Welcome to 52 Weeks! A weekly tip, challenge or suggestion on how to reduce your carbon footprint over the year. Some are quick and easy, some build habits towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Starting on Earth Day, April 22nd, you will be emailed a weekly tip that gives you a challenge, or something to think about that week. It will also be posted on social media, local media pages, and here on our blog.
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Fall arrived yesterday at 9:30 am, but you wouldn’t know it from the weather. It has been a spectacularly warm, sunny, pleasant week. And it’s expected to continue until the weekend. It lined up perfectly with the challenges over the past few weeks - to choose alternative transportation! So, grab your coat and get your hat. Leave your worries on the doorstep. Just direct your feet … to the sunny side of the street! This week, we’re leaving the car at home!
As I’m sure you know, cars are terrible for the environment. Even before you put one drop of gas in them, the manufacturing process has a terrible environmental impact. Consider all those man-made materials - steel, glass, paint, rubber, plastic - that make up your vehicle. You haven’t even driven it yet and already its carbon footprint is pretty big. Once you hit the open road, you’re contributing significantly to air pollution and greenhouse gases. I won’t bore you with more statistics - you’ve seen the numbers. But consider what happens at the end of a car’s life. Where does it go? Back into the manufacturing process, using more energy, and creating more pollution.
Challenge 23: Find alternate transportation.
Plan to Carpool (good), Bus (better), Walk/bike (best) to one event this week and leave your vehicle at home.
Last week, we looked at places in our schedule where we might be able to change it up. Instead of automatically jumping in the car, did you manage to find places you could get to without driving? Yesterday on car-free day, did you ditch the car and find a different way to get where you needed to? Can you keep it going? Can you make it a habit?
Public transportation is not what it used to be. It’s constantly improving to make it more user friendly. Arguably, there is a lot to be desired for some of us who live rurally. Simcoe County has a public transportation app which we’ve discussed in previous challenges, so that helps figure out where your bus is, and how long your wait may be. But there are really innovative initiatives out there that could change the whole game.
Belleville has a pilot project for transportation, where you can see the bus routes in real time, and redirect a bus to where you are, instead of waiting at an established bus stop. It has increased their ridership significantly, and they are expanding the project. It basically turns their public buses into on-demand buses. It’s a smarter, more user-friendly system that has had tremendous success. The system uses the Pantomonium app, developed in Toronto, and Pantomonium wants to expand across Canada to help our national transportation grid become more user-friendly. The cost didn’t go up - your regular fare still applies. Even if you need a ride in a remote area at midnight, the app still finds you a seat on the nearest bus, and redirects it to you, letting you know in real time when it will arrive. Smart.
Rethinking transportation can be tricky, especially in communities without reliable options. But, there are ways we can shake it up a bit. If you have kids, consider the amount of time you spend driving to and from places. Can you compile your trips so you’re only driving once or twice instead of daily? Can you run more errands or plan your own appointments for the same times? Can you share the driving with another family? Can you find options closer to home that meet the same need?
If you’re part of a group that meets regularly, can you share driving or change the location so it’s easier for people to get to car-free?
There are lots of options that are eco-friendly, and a shiny new bike may be your best friend. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to use, good for the environment and good for you. You don’t need a licence, insurance, or a parking permit, and they hardly need much maintenance. All you’ll need is a helmet and a bike lock to get just about anywhere you need to go.
If you need a little more oomphf to get you where you’re going, consider an e-bike. They have the same benefits as a traditional bike, with a little extra help when you need it. They can travel at speeds between 25 and 45 kph using a rechargeable battery. You can go farther distances on your bike than perhaps you normally would consider on a regular bike, so maybe it’s an option that fits for you.
If you’re in the market for a new car, consider an electric vehicle, or a hybrid. They’ve come a long way in the past 10 years, and now you can get a good-sized EV that can travel 400-500 km on a charge. The prices are also becoming more reasonable, and without so many moving parts, repairs and maintenance are significantly cheaper. Technology has improved so you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the options that are available.
Motorcycles can also be a compromise. It’s not exactly a green choice, but we’re talking about doable changes that have an impact. If it’s a choice between driving alone in a pick up truck/SUV or on a motorcycle, you’ll be better off on a bike. On average, you can go 100kms on 2.5L of gas, compared to about 9L in a car, and 12L in an SUV. You’re still burning carbon, and you’re still polluting. But, if it’s the better option, consider it.
Then of course there’s your good ol’ feet. If you’re healthy, and you live in town, walking should be a no-brainer. As we’ve discussed, we made daily exercise another thing on our to do list instead of considering it part of how we function in our day. So, instead of hitting the gym and walking on a treadmill, or going for a run after work, maybe walk (or run) to or from work.
Get your kids to walk to school instead of taking the bus. Did you know in the 1970s, 41% of kids walked or biked to school? Now it’s 13%. And, 89% of kids in 1970 walked/biked if they lived within 2 kms of school. Now it’s 35%. Walking teaches kids to be independent, and self-sufficient. And just like for adults, it’s good for them. It gives them fresh air and exercise, builds confidence and is great for mental health too.
So, while the sun is shining and before the snow flies, leave the car in the garage and get yourself some fresh air. You’ll feel better. You’ll be healthier. You’ll have a rosy glow and a sunny disposition. Direct your feet to the sunny side of the street!
Yours in sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood
52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.