By: Bethany Bergin
When you hop into your car to go to work, run errands, or go on a trip, does it ever cross your mind that there might be a more environmentally responsible and sustainable way to travel? We Americans love our automobiles. We love them so much, sometimes we just drive around in them for entertainment. However, our love affair with cars doesn’t jibe very well with a sustainable living model. Cars, at least the vast majority of them, burn fossil fuel. They pollute the environment. They take up space. They make it easy to be sedentary. So, here’s the next challenge: replace some of your car travel time with walking, biking, mass transit, or carpooling. Plan your routes when you do drive to maximize your efficiency and minimize your driving time.
I am very fortunate to live within walking distance of a quaint village that has, among other things, a pharmacy, wine shop, bakery, yoga studio, delicatessen, and hair salon. Whenever possible, I break out the old jogging stroller, load up my little guy, and head down to the village to pick up a few things, mail a letter, or just see what’s shaking. I know not everyone has such a convenient hub to head off to, but you should at least check out the retail and entertainment offerings that are available in your neighborhood and within walking or biking distance. Getting a little fresh air in your lungs and possibly bumping into a neighbor for a friendly chat are added bonuses of these non-mechanical modes of travel! A lot of companies and health plans even promote walking clubs, like the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Walking Club, because walking is such a beneficial activity.
If you live in an area that is not pedestrian or bicycle friendly, there are still steps you can take to lessen your impact on the environment when you drive. You can buy a fuel efficient car. Plan your route so you do several errands on the same trip, lessening your time and miles behind the wheel. Carpool. Use public transportation. All of these measures can help lessen the environmental impact of your particular need to go to work and the drugstore and your kids’ soccer game.
Like many of the challenges I have presented in this series, this one requires a change in our way of thinking, and a new mindfulness of how we live and things we need to alter in order to live more sustainably. I hope you will accept this challenge, and put on your walking shoes or bike helmet. Oh, and while you’re out, don’t forget to pick up some locally-produced goods. You won’t feel so guilty about that delicious cupcake from your local bakery that you just snarfed if you at least get a chance to walk it off. Let me know how you do!
Bethany Bergin is a mother and a writer who loves to cook for friends and family. She and her husband cultivate an organic garden and are always in search of new ways to incorporate sustainable living practices into their lives, and to teach these principles to their children. She enjoys nature and being outdoors.