Green commuting: What to consider before leaving your car at home

Green commuting: What to consider before leaving your car at home

You’ve been hearing about it for years: Leaving your car at home and instead, taking public transportation to work — or even walking or cycling — will help you reduce your carbon footprint. But what should you consider before ditching your car in favor of some other form of transportation?

How much will your change really contribute to a greener environment?

According to the Federal Transit Administration, per passenger mile, public transportation produces much lower greenhouse gas emissions than the average single-occupancy vehicle. Metros and subways produce approximately 76 percent lower emissions. Bus transit produces 33 lower emissions, while light rail systems produce 62 percent less. On top of this, public transportation also reduces the emissions that are produced as a result of congestion. 

Clearly, even without opting to cycle or walk, leaving your car at home will already make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

What are your alternatives to driving — and are they more affordable?

Depending on how far you live from your place of work, you have several options:

  • Public transportation: The commuter rail or bus, as well as subways, trolleys, and regular buses are all good alternatives to driving. Of course, the quality and dependability of public transportation differs from city to city. Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Boston have the best systems, according to Nick Wallace in his SmartAsset article titled “The Best Cities for Public Transportation.” Note that the costs vary depending on your location and how far you have to travel.

  • ZipcarsEven though car sharing means you’re still driving to work, it contributes to a healthier environment. According to the infographic “The Zipcar Impact,” each Zipcar covers the transportation needs of 40 people, and Zipcar members have already reduced total CO2 emissions by 1.5 billion pounds.
  • Bicycle: If you like riding your bike and your city provides good bike lanes, cycling to work can be a viable option. You’ll just need to invest in a good bike and a sturdy helmet. And there’s a plus: Cycling to work every day can help you stay in shape!

  • Walking: If you live close enough to your job, why not walk? Remember to wear good walking shoes or sneakers — you can always change them for something more appropriate at the office. And just like with cycling, walking a few miles a day can help you stay fit. Plus, it costs you nothing at all.

Is it “cheating” if you drive every once in a while?

Let’s face it: If it’s really bad weather or if you have an important presentation you can’t afford to be late for, then it’s fine to drive. But if you’re truly committed to making the change, then you’ll have no problems leaving the car at home the next day again. 

All things considered, opting for a greener commute will reduce your carbon footprint. Moreover, depending on the form of transportation you choose, it can be more affordable than driving — plus, it can help you stay in shape. And last, but certainly not least, when your coworkers see you’re making the change to go green, it might encourage them to do the same. And it’s that ripple effect that can ultimately make a big difference for the environment in the long run.


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