Green Your Transportation is one of the most important factors that contribute to your ecological footprint. Besides electric power generation, transportation-related activities, such as car and air travel, are the leading causes of CO2 emissions.
How to Green Your Commute
Unless you live in a remote, rural area, you likely already have access to a public transportation system that you could be using to get to work.
Why Switch to Public Transportation?
Commuters who travel by public transportation rather than by car not only help reduce CO2 emissions and oil use but also tend to save time and money.
- Environment: The 14 million Americans who use public transportation to commute save roughly 1.4 billion gallons of oil each year.
- Stress: From road rage to gridlock, driving is stressful. Not having to drive may come as a welcome relief.
- Time: When you drive, you spend 100% of your commuting time driving. If you use public transit, you can sleep, read, or work during your commute.
- Money: Public transportation reduces wear and tear on your car, which lowers maintenance costs. It also cuts your gas bill dramatically.
Making the Switch to Public Transportation
Before you make the switch, consider the following:
- Routes with transfers: If you can’t get to work via public transportation alone, still try to use it for at least part of your commute. For instance, even if you have to drive to the bus station, you’ll still reap the benefits of public transportation on a portion of your commute.
- Express routes: Many commuter lines offer express routes that can cut your commuting time appreciably.
- Monthly passes: Find out whether your transportation provider offers monthly passes with reduced fares for commuters. Many employers also offer plans in which you can buy monthly passes with pretax dollars.
Alternatives to Public Transportation
Even if you have absolutely no public transportation options in your area, you have other options:
- Carpooling: If every car commuter in the United States carpooled with one other person, the total savings would be 8 billion gallons of gasoline per year. To start or join a carpool, circulate an email among your coworkers, place a free classified ad on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org), or search online to see whether your community offers a rideshare program. As an incentive to carpool, many cities also have specially designated high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes that make carpooling faster than driving solo.
- Walking or biking: Depending on how close you live to your workplace, you might be able to bike or walk, especially if you live in a bike-friendly city such as Portland, Oregon, or Boulder, Colorado. More and more cities like these are beginning to add bike routes that make it possible to avoid a driving commute. Biking or walking promotes the planet’s health and boosts your own—in many cases it’s also cheaper and faster than standard commuting methods.
How to Green Your Travel
Though flying is often the quickest way to travel, it’s not the greenest. Air travel accounts for about 10% of all transportation-related CO2 emissions in the United States—just one cross-country flight emits about a ton of CO2 per passenger. To help reduce the effects of air travel on the environment:
- Take the train: Rail travel is far more energy-efficient than air or even car travel. And with fewer security hassles, it’s often faster than taking a regional flight.
- Take the bus: If you can’t reach your destination by train, consider traveling by bus, which is more environmentally friendly than driving solo. Bus routes are more widespread than air and rail routes and can take you point-to-point to almost any U.S. destination.
It’s impractical to eliminate air travel entirely, especially if it’s work-related. But as a rule of thumb, always try to take the train or the bus instead, unless the trip is urgent or the destination is 300 or more miles away.
How to Offset the Effects of Transportation
Regardless of which methods you use to travel for work or leisure, you can buy renewable energy credits to help offset every ounce of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere as a result of your travel. Companies such as TerraPass (www.terrapass.com) focus on selling RECs for travel purposes in addition to general RECs for offsetting standard household energy-related expenses.