Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Transportation as big an issue, if not more so than Power Plant

Co-authored by Angela Connolly -- Everyone who consumes fossil fuels is complicit in the destruction of our planet's ecosystem, and thus our life support systems (as well as that of millions of other species that share the planet with us). It can be difficult to acknowledge one’s own piece in the puzzle, however. Fossil fuels are at the root of industrial civilization, and the American way of life. While it's important to hold people, corporations, and governments accountable - especially when things go horribly wrong, prosecutions are rare. Nevertheless, pumping up one’s own frustration and aggression is generally not effective, unless channeled through an organized advocacy effort. It can also be harmful to your own health and well being.

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, and dozens of smaller yet similar incidents each year, you would think more folks would at least try to reduce their oil dependency. That and the dire consequences of climate change. At 71%, transportation accounts for the lion's share of oil consumption, and is second only to electricity in emissions. Yet the car remains the overwhelming choice, even for the shortest trips.

Here in Newark, we are an award winning bikeable (and walkable) city, yet a large portion of Main Street traffic is generated from adjacent communities, nearby student housing, etc. Trips that can be easily made on foot or by bike. Further disappointing is the lack of car-free or car-lite incentives that could be offered to students by the University of Delaware, as a means to reduce traffic congestion and improve quality of life. Like most - if not all American universities, this doesn't appear on their radar (certainly not in a Google search).

To summarize, the single greatest contribution folks can make is reduced driving. When it comes to replacing car trips, bicycling is a fun and easy way to go. There are other changes we can make as well. Here are 7 quick tips to ponder the next time you are brought to idle as a miles long oil train crawls its way to the Delaware City Refinery:
  • Change your vehicle use patterns; use your car a lot less or not at all. Bike, walk, and/or use public transportation.
  • If you must drive, be sure to have a fuel-efficient vehicle or car pool.
  • Aggregate your trips, so there’s 1 weekly shopping trip, for example, instead of 4 or 5.
  • Reconsider and reduce travel by air, i.e. telecommuting, Skype, etc.
  • Buy products that are produced locally, not half a world away. In the same vein, buy fruits & vegetables in season, and produced by local farmers (if possible).
  • Buy used products instead of new ones, which will reduce oil use both in production and transportation. Goodwill, Craig’s List, garage sales, to name a few. Also, watch for usable items that people place out for the trash - you would be surprised at the items that can be found on the curb! You or someone you know might be able to use these items. Just make sure that there are no tags on these items marking them for donation to organizations such as the Purple Heart or Cancer associations. Otherwise, they are up for grabs!
  • Eliminate, reduce, and/or re-use plastics, which are derived from petroleum. Reusable shopping bags are a great first step. Our oceans are filling up with plastic; plastic that harms wildlife and never biodegrades, and enters the food chain and leaches toxic chemicals. For those of you who enjoy crafting, here's a great idea to make items from "plarn", which is yarn made from plastic bags.

Shopping by bike can be fun and easy. This errand included two rolls of carpet, Hibiscus, and a 6-pack.

This article isn't to say everyone can just drop the car and switch transportation modes. Much depends on circumstances, including where we choose to live. But imagine the impact if more folks made just a small effort, perhaps commuting or running errands by bike or on foot just 1 day a week. I'm not counting on it anytime soon, though, with plummeting gas prices.

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