Walk, bike, and ride-share more. Drive less!
Most car-owners like to receive compliments about their vehicles, not criticism about how polluting and energy guzzling they are. Yet, for people living in the United States, the car represents one of the largest sources of climate threatening greenhouse gas emissions, and other severe ecological impacts (e.g. land loss and forest fragmentation caused by roads, air and water pollution, road-kill of imperiled species, etc.). This recommendation is not about giving up cars. Rather, it's about expanding your mobility options. Obviously regional planners and transportation agencies can make this easier or more difficult. But regardless of your existing local infrastructure for non-car alternatives, the first thing to examine is whether you can displace using the car some of the time.
For example, if a transit station is in close walking, biking, or driving proximity to your residence, then this mode of commuting to and from work can cut your emissions by half. Second, when you need to use a car, try to combine tasks so as to minimize extra trips. In addition to driving fewer miles, you'll cut per mile pollution since emissions are greatest at the beginning of a journey before the engine has reached optimum temperature and efficiency.
And if you plan to purchase a car, make it a fuel-efficient one. There are three models of hybrid, gas-electric vehicles now available. They get twice or more the fuel efficiency of the average new car, cut greenhouse gas emissions by half or more, and reduce urban air pollutants compared to most cars.
Also consider riding to work with colleagues who are on a similar work schedule as you – it saves energy, cuts on pollution, and allows you to regularly take a turn as a passenger instead of having to drive everyday. Car-sharing (not pooling), which is being done by more than 150,000 people in 450 cities throughout Europe, has recently become available in numerous U.S. cities. Instead of buying a car, which can amount to upwards of $9,000 per year ($25 per day) in operating and ownership costs, car-sharing enables you to quickly and easily rent a car just when you need it. This arrangement has clearly demonstrated green benefits. Each car-share vehicle displaces four to eight privately held cars, requiring less parking area and creating less road congestion.
If you live within an hour's bicycle ride to the office (~10 miles), consider joining the growing workforce of Americans who bike to work one or more days a week. From a fuel-efficiency perspective, bicycling is unrivaled: A bicyclist gets 2,500 miles per gallon based on the extra kilocalories of food required for pedaling, essentially eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants and requiring a fraction of the land to be converted to roads and parking spaces.
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