Electric Cars aren't the only green choice

The IPCC Report is the most significant warning about the effects of global warming in the past 20 years. It paints a dire picture of what will happen if the world gets 1.5 C degree hotter than it is now; a temperature that the IPCC tells us the world is on track to hit in 2040 if warnings are not heeded.

As the nation ranked 2nd highest for emitting greenhouse gases, the report makes it clear that US lifestyle choices can play a key role in keeping the temperature from rising. In particular, US transportation (cars, trucks, planes, trains, and shipping) is tied with electricity for the largest CO2 source, making up 28% of greenhouse gas emissions.

This report, written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries who analyzed more than 6,000 scientific studies, notes that lifestyle choices could have a significant effect on the world’s temperature. The report explains four major parts of society must make rapid changes - energy generation, land use, cities, and industry.  Although the categories for change may sound broad and distant from our everyday choices, the authors of the report say that’s not the case. Dr. Debra Roberts states, “It's not about remote science; it's about where we live and work.”

What’s most interesting about her comment here is she did not suggest everyone needs to go out and purchase an electric car tomorrow (though electric cars might help). She makes an important point about how we, as Americans, tend to travel on a daily basis. According to the US Census Bureau, the average worker commutes 26.1 minutes one-way. That number adds up to over 200 hours (nearly 9 days) a year spent in the car! Considering Dr. Roberts’ comments and looking at how much the average American commutes, the question is not, “What are you driving?” A better question would be, “Why are so many Americans driving so far?”

Across the country, research shows that when school assignments force urban families to go to poor-performing schools, families that have the financial means will move out of the city and into suburbs. In the process, parents move farther from their jobs. The results? Lots of commuters making longer commutes.

Commuting culture is car culture. And these long commutes are sedentary. Parents who endure long commutes get less exercise, and they have other health issues. Even the children of long commuters suffer. Time that Mom or Dad could have been spent throwing a ball with the kids is spent in rush hour traffic.

So, how could Americans reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move away from a commuting culture? By severing the link between the schools that children are assigned to and where the family lives. Let parents choose to live near work by letting parents choose where they send their children to school. Stop making parents commute to get the schools that they want for their children.

If families are willing to stay in urban communities near their work place, it will have an enormously positive impact on families, on schools, on neighborhoods, on CO2 emissions, and on the environment.

Fighting climate change. It's about where we live and work. Let’s allow parents live closer to work.

Images via Daxis