Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Personal Carbon Reduction: Transportation Intro

Step 1 (Pun intended.)
Let's start simple on the transportation. In most cases, the simpler the machine, the lower its carbon cost. If you want to go ultra-low carbon, start with a good pair of shoes. Range and speed may be low, but you can't beat your literal footprint for lowering your carbon footprint. I do more and more walking these days and find it to be therapeutic as well carbon neutral. And it helps me to stay more connected to what is happening in my neighborhood. [If my destination is within a mile, I try to walk.]
The next step for me is a plain, old bicycle. Super-low carbon footprint, improved health, improved budget, and a wider physical range (than walking) combine to make a bike a great way to get around. You can easily buy a quality used bike for less than it costs to buy one tire for most cars. [If my destination is within three and half miles (and I am traveling alone) I try to take the bike. In truth, I love to bike.]
Next, I'll throw a curve with a gas-powered motorcycle, scooter, or moped. While most of them burn considerably less fuel than your average car, many of them also emit a lot more harmful gases than your average car. So, yes, you will burn less fuel, but you can do a lot more environmental damage by riding one. We'll talk more about gas-powered two wheelers in the near future. [I am not ready to discuss my scooter addiction, but I ride a lot less these days.]
Bike vs. Car ($$$)
So let's talk about petroleum-powered cars.
Cars (and light trucks) are often the most convenient, luxurious, and destructive way to get around, especially in a suburban setting like Lubbock. They are also very expensive - taking up at least 30% of the budget in many American homes. If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, dependence on the car is going to be one of your biggest obstacles, and cars are deeply ingrained in our national culture. Take some time and think about it. How prominent is the car in your life, your budget, and even your self image? Is it worth it? (Ouch!) [I drive my little worn-out truck a lot, and I cringe each time.]

Petroleum-Powered Buses
Buses are funny things in the eco world. As a single vehicle, a bus has a pretty ugly carbon footprint until you hit the "divide" button on the calculator. If there are 30 people riding the bus (instead of driving 30 cars) the carbon footprint looks pretty awesome. With a bus, it's all about numbers, and when you have enough riders, a bus is a pretty green machine. [I need to ride the bus a lot more. Since Lubbock buses have bike racks on the front, riding the bus is a great way to ride a bike during extreme temperature days. I can bike to work in the morning on 100 degree days and ride the bus home in the afternoon heat. The opposite works well on really cold days.]
Jet Travel
Ouch! It's truly astounding how terrible jet travel is for the well-being of the planet and the organisms that hope to continue breathing. We have to find a better way. [It's really rare for me to fly, and I am okay with that.]

Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicles
If you've read this far, you are probably wondering about the electric vehicles that show up so often on the Mesquite Hugger posts. Well, you're going to have to wait - I am saving those for another PCR installment.
 May we find our way with as little carbon spent as possible.