Issues > Consumption
Closer to Home
you reuse, you recycle. You avoid excess packaging, use things over
and over, and measure your trash in “weeks per bag”
rather than “bags per week.”
So what more
can you do to reduce the environmental impact of your earthly existence?
Try “living closer to home.”
to home is about transportation. We all need transportation to get
to work, to the store, to the doctor, or to visit friends. More
often than not, we drive. That’s what our culture encourages
us to do, in hundreds of subtle and not so subtle ways.
is a good thing, but it doesn’t come cheap. A Missouri energy
study found that transportation accounted for about 41 percent of
all energy used in the state in 1990.
vehicle trips are growing a lot faster than population. US population
grew 21 percent between 1969 and 1990, while vehicle miles grew
by 82 percent. Motor vehicles account for about a third of all air
pollution, and building new roads just in the Kansas City area will
cost $15 billion over the next 25 years – almost $10,000 for
each one of us.
Our travel becomes
traffic the minute we start the car: my trips, added to your trips
and everyone else’s trips, add up to traffic congestion. Our
individual trip-making decisions determine how much congestion we
cause, how much congestion we experience, and ultimately the quality
of our personal lives.
if each of our trips were only half as long, there’d be half
as much traffic and half as much congestion. Actually less than
half, because some of our trips would be so short that we’d
choose to make them on foot or by bicycle rather than by car. And
on those walking or cycling trips we’d experience each other’s
trips as encounters, opportunities to stop and get better acquainted.
We’d build community in the process of passing one another
on the sidewalk, rather than just adding to congestion and air pollution
as we pass each other in our cars on the street.
to make all your trips half as long, you say? Maybe not, but stop
and think about how far you drive. Do you drive farther than the
nearest store to get groceries? Do you drive to a park to exercise
instead of walking in your own neighborhood? Do you drive miles
to see a movie or eat out, rather than to a theater or restaurant
closer to home?
impacts are a result of our daily decisions. But those decisions
are also influenced by decisions about how our city grows. Unfortunately,
a lot of trends are running in the wrong direction: bigger “mega-marts”
ultimately mean fewer places to buy bread or toothpaste, so most
of us end up having to travel farther to buy those things. Strip
malls that aren’t pedestrian friendly also force us to drive.
Even worse, tax incentives are sometimes used to subsidize precisely
the kind of development that puts things farther away from us, on
average, and thus leads to more traffic and congestion.
we can still “vote with our trips” to reduce our own
transportation impacts. By doing things closer to home – even
if it seems to cost a little more – we can help keep shopping
and other opportunities close at hand.
to home? All things considered, it makes a lot of sense.
are some things you can do to reduce your own transportation impacts
on the environment:
- Walk or bike
instead of using a motor vehicle, at least part of the time.
- Carpool or
take public transit to work, at least part of the time.
- Choose destinations
that are closer to home, or closer to work.
- When you
have a choice of vehicles, choose the one that gets the most miles
- Use the telephone
or the internet when you can instead of the accelerator pedal.
- Next time
you move, choose to live closer to your work and your other regular
- Next time
you move, choose to live near public transit, and where there
are stores or services nearby that you can reach on foot.
- Tell your
local public officials that sidewalks and crosswalks and people-friendly
traffic signals are important to you and your family.
- Next time
you buy a car, buy the most fuel-efficient vehicle that will meet
your routine needs. If you occasionally need a larger vehicle,
- Write President
Bush and your Senators and Representative and tell them you support
raising motor vehicle fuel efficiency standards.
- Speak out
against proposed uses of tax incentives to finance projects that
aren’t pedestrian friendly.
- Ask your
Governor to support or implement state policies and programs that
reduce urban sprawl.
the wisdom – and the motives – of anyone who tells
you we need to spend more on highways but less on public transit.
- Love your
planet. Live closer to home.
your thoughtful consideration by the Sierra Club (April,