No Impact Week, Day 3 – Tuesday: Transportation
Challenge yourself to burn calories, not fossil fuels…Posted Jan 6, 2011
This is the third in a series of eight blog articles chronicling my experience participating in the 2011 No Impact Week, a global challenge to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible over eight days, initiated by Colin Beavan’s No Impact Project.
Day 3: Transportation
For day three of my one week carbon cleanse, the challenge was to begin taking alternative transportation for the rest of the week. No driving!
When I last participated in No Impact Week, the transportation challenge was the most fulfilling, as I ended up selling my vehicle and taking public transit and riding my bike a lot more. Over the past year I have learned a lot about being car-free in a city. Although you save money and carbon emissions, there are some drawbacks—such as lack of freedom to get out of the city quickly, the inability to visit friends who live farther away, and the challenge of transporting gear around for outdoor adventures. Although frustrating at first, there are always ways to overcome these obstacles.
Here are some lessons I have learned:
Riding a bicycle in the city: Overcoming the fear of death.
This was a big one for me, as I was seriously sketched out about riding my bike in traffic. Having large metal boxes whizzing by your unprotected little body is not relaxing. You can overcome this fear by doing the following:
- Purchase a map from an outdoor/bike store and learn the bike routes. There are always safer routes to take on a bike.
- Wear reflective high visibility clothing at all times! I live on a bike route, and from my window I have witnessed three bike vs. car accidents in the last month alone! I blame the cyclist in all three accidents, as they were invisible at night, and flying through a roundabout. Always assume the car cannot see you.
- Wear a helmet. That should go without saying, but about 20 percent of cyclists I see don’t have one. From my own experience surviving an over-the-handlebars bail, I know they work. Picking embedded gravel out my the helmet kinda reinforced that.
Escaping the city: When you really do need a vehicle.
I love adventures. I live for them. The biggest pain with not having a car is not being able to get out of the city and climb a mountain easily. Here are my recommendations for how to accomplish this if you don’t own a car:
- Befriend people who have cars. Do this by joining Meetup.com groups, and talking to people in your social circle or at your gym.
- Carpool. Put the word out when you need a ride somewhere on a certain date. Chances are there is someone going that way already. Be sure to always chip in on gas.
- Join a car-sharing network. Check out Zip Car and other car co-ops. They usually have deals for weekends!
Taking transit: Learning the system.
I have to admit I used to hate public transit. It was confusing, and always seemed to run behind! After forcing myself to take transit for a year, here are some things I have learned that make it easier:
- If you have an iPhone, check out the “directions” feature of your maps app. If your city supports it, your transit info will be hooked up to that app. This means all you have to do is type in where you want to go and hit the bus icon. The app will give you the next bus leaving closest to you, and any transfer info you need. I use it every day. If you don’t have this magical app, you have to get a bus schedule and learn the routes.
- If you can’t afford a monthly or yearly pass, buy a booklet of bus tickets to save a few bucks. They usually sell these at convenience stores.
- Buses can sometimes be late, or even not come at all. Don’t be afraid to call a cab. Cabs are usually only going to run you 10 bucks or so within a city, and will generally get to you within a minute.
Besides the above tips, have a positive mindset when you are experimenting with alternative transportation. If you ever get frustrated with things, remember what it’s like to circle the block looking for parking for half an hour, then paying $4 or more an hour for that parking spot when you finally get it. Alternative transportation is usually less of a headache!
“A year after doing the No Impact Experiment the first time, I can see how it changed my life. I was reminded how important community is, and since then I have become much more active in my city and group of friends. I am happier because of it and I find myself compelled to do it again. I can’t recommend a better way to kick off the New Year.”
- Aran is a partner at Eartheasy.com.