I have an admission to make. For the last year, I have driven alone to work. The round trip, around 20 miles, has been convenient - yet laden with the stress of traffic and wasted time (at least 40 minutes per day spent at a steering wheel concentrating on the road). With rising fuel costs, the amount I spend on gas has been a significant part of my monthly budget. Also I recently had an accident that is probably going to skyrocket my car insurance rates.
Now let’s pretend the world doesn’t revolve around me, and look at the deleterious effect I had on the environment. Solely examining my work commute, I emitted more than 3200lbs of carbon dioxide in a year. Along with other Americans, that contributed to the more than 5500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that we produce, on average. What’s the problem with that? CO2 is the leading greenhouse gas and accounts for about 85% of all greenhouse emissions related to human activity. The other car-emissions I emitted during my daily commute, like carbon monoxide, nitric acid vapors, particulate matter etc. may not be greenhouse gases, but contribute to lung cancer, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, immune system deficiencies etc. ..the list goes on.
As Humanists, environmental stewardship should be one of our top priorities. Though the Twin Cities may not have the best public transportation network, it is certainly expanding. Moreover, Metro Transit is actively pushing folks towards better transit options. It is giving away prizes for signing up at MyCommuterChallenge.org and pledging to use one of the alternative transportation options through June 30. You can extend the challenge beyond this date by tracking your trips with the TripTracker tool, for a chance to win $100 gift cards per month. Finding a carpool is also made easier through MetroTransit - it's obvious, four people riding in one car is better than four cars on the road. Enrolling in the Commuter Challenge also makes you eligible for the Guarenteed Ride Home program, where registered participants can request reimbursements up to four times per year or $100 in value for certain eligible trips.
Let's try to curb solo car usage from the regular, predictable trips in our lives, and move towards using buses, trains, carpools, bikes and other means of sustainable transportation available to us. The planet will thank us, and so will our wallets and our health.