Just about everyone in this country, no matter where they live, could drive a lot less, cleaning the air, getting exercise, and reducing carbon emissions in the process.
According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home and 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home—both easy walking or biking distances. And half of the working population commutes five miles or less to work.
Yet more than 82 percent of these trips of up to five miles are made by automobile. While most cars have seats for at least four or five passengers, fully 44 percent of the almost a billion personal car trips each day in the US are driven with only one seat occupied, according to the US Department of Transportation.
This worksheet will walk you through an analysis of the regular trips you are making by car, and invite you to identify opportunities to reduce your car miles traveled by ridesharing, biking, walking, or taking public transportation. Just a little planning can help you get more exercise, collaborate with neighbors, and reduce your carbon footprint.
1. Track your car miles driven for one week. Use an online map like Google.com’s GoogleMaps to calculate distances between addresses.
2. At the end of the week, cross out any unusual trips that you don’t make regularly.
3. Of the regular trips, are there any that could be combined to minimize driving?
4. Of the trips that you do drive regularly week-in and week-out, circle all of the distances that are less than three miles.
5. Consider these as possible trips for biking, walking, or taking public transit.
6. Now look at all distances that are three to six miles. Consider whether biking these distances would be feasible for you, or if there are opportunities to rideshare with colleagues or neighbors.
7. Follow the following steps to figure out how much carbon your car is creating (and how much carbon you’ll keep out of the atmosphere by walking or biking instead):
— Go to www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm to figure out how many miles your car can travel per gallon of gasoline (MPG).
— Fill in the blanks using the formula below; you can use this worksheet to figure out how much carbon your car emits each week, or estimate how much it emits per month (multiply weekly number by 4) or per year (multiply weekly number by 52).
[Divide miles driven by miles per gallon, then multiply by 19.4]
This also works for figuring out how many pounds of carbon you’re keeping out of the atmosphere by walking or biking. Let’s say you drive a car that gets 20 mpg:
First, figure out how many pounds of carbon you’re saving from not driving for one mile:
1/20 = 0.05 x 19.4 = 0.97
So, for every mile you walk or bike instead of drive, you’re keeping about one pound of carbon out of the atmosphere. You can keep this in mind as an easy way to estimate how much carbon you’ve saved every trip you take car-free.
If you want to calculate the money you’re saving, take the first part of that calculation—miles driven divided by MPG—and multiply that by the current price of a gallon of gasoline.
Although public transportation is a much more complicated calculation, using it reduces your carbon emissions by about 20 pounds every day, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
If you’d rather not deal with the math, visit www.travelmatters.org/calculator/individual/ for an online transportation carbon calculator that takes walking, biking, public transit, and driving (down to the make of your car) into account when calculating your carbon footprint for transit—and you’ll find out how many charcoal bags worth of carbon you’re sending into the atmosphere.