How Does Clean Transportation Work?
Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics
This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, we’ll have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. It’s a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment — or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.
Just what is “clean transportation,” anyway?
Clean transportation encompasses a lot of things – not just electric vehicles and renewable sources of fuel. Clean transportation is a movement dedicated to cutting CO2 emissions, reducing pollution, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and making the world a more pleasant place to live in.
It should surprise no one to learn that oil is the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the US. With scientific predictions of runaway climate change surfacing in new research around the globe, it’s more important than ever to think about the impact our transportation habits have on the world around us.
But that’s not the only thing we need to worry about: whether or not you believe in global warming, we should all be able to agree that pollution has negative effects on human health, wildlife and the environment. Breathing in polluted air can cause or worsen respiratory health issues — a fact everyone should find concerning.
And with the massive environmental damage caused by the oil industry over the past few decades, it should be clear to everyone that gas just isn’t a clean or safe energy source. And don’t forget: oil is not a renewable resource. Once it’s all used up, we won’t have anything to run our cars on – unless we can find a workable alternative fuel. That’s where biodiesel, hydrogen fuel cells, electric cars and hybrid vehicles come in.
Transitional steps toward cleaner vehicles
We obviously aren’t going to be able to make the leap entirely to electric vehicles overnight – that’s why an important part of clean transportation initiatives involves improving the fuel efficiency of existing cars.
There’s also been a fair bit of controversy over biofuels. For one thing, if we’re using edible crops (or displacing edible crops from fields), what are people in developing countries going to eat? Corn-based biofuels aren’t cost-effective to produce. They pollute the environment as badly as oil, and they impact food prices. But prairie grass, which could be an incredibly effective source of biomass, doesn’t exactly have the clout of a big agricultural lobby behind it.
Biofuels are one of the most promising developments in clean transportation in recent years, despite the bitter political battles currently surrounding them.
Cleaner transportation here and now
If you want to do all you can to help the environment, you don’t need to become a climate scientist or invent the next breakthrough in clean energy to do it. There are a few practical changes you can make in your everyday life to support sustainable, green transportation:
- If you can afford it and it’s practical for your driving needs, buy a hybrid or electric vehicle. Investing in this burgeoning market will help fund the development of new, sustainable transportation technology.
- If you can’t afford a new car, try taking public transportation when available. It’s better for the environment and your wallet. As an added bonus, you won’t have to worry about traffic during rush hour – if you’re taking the bus, the driver can worry about it for you, and if you’re lucky enough to have commuter rail available, it might even be faster than driving.
- Bike, walk, and run instead of driving, especially if you’re only going a short distance. You’ll be producing zero emissions and getting in better shape – there’s really no downside.
- Contact your state and local representatives. Let them know you want them to support clean energy initiatives. Even if – perhaps especially if – they don’t agree with you.
- Get active in your local community and encourage others to use their cars less. Organize and participate in green events. Get others excited and involved.
How do your environmental values inform the transportation you use? Do you ride the bus? Bike to work? Let us know in the comments.
Photo credit: David Megginson