September 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm
Sustainable Living Guest Blogger: Kate Ruffing
It is a part of American culture and a right of passage. It’s the way we get around: a car.
The look of the family car has changed over the years, but the the functionality hasn’t. What was once considered a luxury item is now a necessity in our lives. But maybe you have heard about the hotly debated “climate change” issue and the role of C02 emissions from our cars. And maybe now, like myself, you feel a pang of guilt every time you turn the key. But give up our cars? Are you serious?
When our family looked at our dependence on the car, we found there were some ways we could make changes without completely abandoning all four wheels. These changes have had a positive impact our wallets, waistlines and the environment. So we got started with something more on the “Dark Green” side of our Sustainable Living scale – Biking.
I was introduced to “transportation biking” while visiting friends in France. This was not the “Tour de France” type of biking I had imagined, but rather the “I need to get to the store”, “pick up the kids”, “get to work” kind of biking. Admittedly, I was inspired to look into this further first by the fact that my friend had lost over 15 pounds while consuming a diet rich with butter, cheese, chocolate and wine, and then by positive environmental impact.
I returned home ready to embrace a new transportation style, as well as my passion for chocolate croissants. The first hill I encountered reminded me that this is a workout. The second hill awakened me to the fact that this was not going to work the way I wanted. Fast forward a few weeks and I am in the local bike shop looking for something that would be a better bike to fit our family’s needs. I was introduced to the electric assist bike with all the benefits of biking, but with a little extra electric push when you need it – like when you have 30 pounds of groceries in tow.
Armed with a new bike, all the needed safety gear, and a bike trailer for hauling, I was ready for all my errands. It took a little getting used to but we now find ourselves using the bike as much as possible, but still using the cars when we have to. Since July, we have logged over 165 miles on bike, which is equal to roughly 223.1 pounds of carbon emissions, an estimated $50 in fuel and insurance costs, and the loss of 6 pounds without really trying. As an added benefit, I feel like we have become a better drivers. When you bike, your defensive driving skills are heightened, which translates to car driving. Exposing kids and teens to biking not only establishes great healthy habits, but future safe driving skills. It is also great way for teens to get to school without the embarrassment of having to ride the school bus or you having to pay the added insurance coverage.
If you are not ready, willing, or able to embrace biking as the way to reduce your impact, have no guilt as there are other solutions that can supplement your transportation lifestyle.
• Telecommuting – Check to see if your company has a “work from home” policy or talk with your manager to see if is possible one day a week. Learn more at http://www.telework.gov/
• Save/Plant Trees – Approximately 1,984 trees are needed to absorb the annual household emissions from transportation. Learn how you can help at http://www.arborday.org/
• Drive “Eco-friendly” – Driving posted speed limits, rolling to a stop and using cruise control are all ways to increase your fuel efficiency and reduce your emissions. For other tips, check out http://www.fueleconomy.gov/
• Start Carpooling – Find a group to carpool with; many resources can be found online to help connect you with other people in your area or government sponsored programs
• Use Public Transportation – Plot your course online or in your smartphone Maps application by selecting “Public Transportation”. It will show you route numbers and estimated times to get your where you want to go.
Follow Kate Ruffing’s Sustainable Living adventures and discover solutions for your family at www.KateRuffing.com