Day 6: Tweak your transit
Today's action: Finding ways to drive less (and better)
Today’s action is to look for ways to drive less. Take a few minutes to reflect and make a plan. Can you brainstorm ways to reduce the car trips you take? For example, can you walk or bike to more places, take public transportation, carpool, telecommute more, or bundle errands so that you need fewer car trips? How about committing to a day or week of hyper-conscious driving-reduction ... perhaps some of those new behaviors will become habits!
We know it’s tricky to give up the car completely; the US was designed around the automobile. But swapping in walking or biking may be easier than you think! We have a friend who started walking everywhere to get in shape, and even though he lives in suburban southern California where almost EVERYONE drives, he lost a ton of weight and lowered his personal emissions! And 1 out of every 5 car trips in the US is under a mile, which most people could walk in about 15 minutes. Can you start by swapping out those?
For the car trips you do take, even simple tricks can help you burn less fossil fuel. Don't drive aggressively and avoid idling. If you own your car, keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure, keep it tuned up, and use the right oil weight. Do what you can, because it all adds up.
And of course we have to mention: if you’re driving, be sure to share the road with bicyclists! They're doing their part for the environment!
Why this action? Carbon pollution from transportation is the biggest contributor of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (accounting for 29% of all emissions). For most Americans, the highest impact action they can take to reduce their own emissions is to go car-free. If you can do that, more power to you! As a bonus, you’ll get lots of health benefits from walking or biking, and you’ll save on gas money, too.
But we know that for most of us, it may be impossible to give up the car completely. That’s why swapping in walking or biking for the shorter trips, as well taking these smaller steps to make our car trips more fuel efficient, also help. Engine idling alone contributes an estimated 1.6% of annual US carbon dioxide emissions. Imagine if we all just stopped that!
Looking for more? Read on for more info and further transit-related actions.
Learn and reflect:
Curious about those tweaks? As The Climate Diet explains: correctly inflating tires improves mileage by 2-8%, having a tuned up car improves mileage by 4%, and using the recommended oil weight improves it another 2%. Driving like a grandma (or like Kaitlin) also helps, because aggressive accelerating and braking decrease efficiency.
If you want to bike more, brush up on your bicycle safety skills (see here).
As a driver and passenger, you can help keep bicyclists safe, too. When driving, take care to not cut off bicyclists when making right turns. When opening a car door on the street, use the “Dutch Reach” (opening the door with your far hand) to remember to look back, so that you don’t “door” a bicyclist passing by.
Even if you're not a bicyclist, support better bicycle and walking infrastructure in your city or town. Search for a local bicycling advocacy group, and add your voice! More bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure (dedicated bike paths, bridges, etc), and better traffic calming (like raised crosswalks, curb extensions, speed humps, and speed cameras) make things safer for bicyclists and pedestrians (and less stressful for drivers). Better infrastructure also makes it more likely that people who normally drive will feel more confident biking or walking instead.
Work with local schools and businesses to post anti-idling signs. Idling in front of schools can be common, but not only does that idling result in unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, it also can harm children's lungs and health. Let's keep our kids healthy!