Week 22: Car Free, Care Free
by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood, 52 Weeks of Climate Action.
Transportation as it is right now, is a pretty big problem in the carbon footprint arena. In 2018, 25% of Canada’s gHg emissions were from transportation. From 1990 to 2018, emissions from transportation rose by 53%. That doesn’t just include passenger vehicles. It includes freight as well. With the boom in online delivery this year, you know those numbers are going to be even higher for 2020. It’s clear that we need better options when it comes to transportation, especially here in rural communities, where our public transportation system leaves a whole lot to be desired. Next week, September 22nd is World Car Free Day. It’s been happening for almost 30 years, but my bet is that most of us have never even heard mention of it. So, Laurel and I decided this year we’d give it a boost, and add it to our challenges this week. Car Free Day is a global initiative. Just like Earth Hour, which asks us to turn off our lights for an hour, once a year, Car Free Day asks motorists to give up their vehicle just for one day. The point is to highlight all the benefits of going car-free, like obviously, better air quality. But there are even more benefits to leaving the car at home, and opting for other transportation methods. One of the benefits is to demonstrate what cities and towns might look like with little to no traffic. In Europe, it’s common for there to be pedestrian zones, all year round, where no cars at all are permitted. There you’ll find cafes spilling out into “roadways”, and a quieter, calmer, more conversation-conducive atmosphere. Studies have shown that neighbourhoods that are walkable also benefit economically. When people are walking or biking instead of whizzing by in a car, they see more. They stop and look at windows more. They buy more. They stop for snacks or drinks more. Take a look at our local farmers’ markets. They’re a social experiment success story. People don’t drive through the markets. They walk. Mostly, they stroll. They stop and talk to vendors. They buy things they may not have planned to pick up that day. It doesn’t have to be just once a week, in the summer. It could be a real, viable economic strategy that benefits our local businesses.
Challenge 22: Leave the car at home.
Plan ahead. Take a look at next week’s schedule. Where would you normally drive? Is there one event that you could get to without your car? Carpool (good), bus (better), Walk/bike (best). Not all of us live in communities where you can easily get places without a vehicle. I for one can’t get anywhere without a car, unless I’d like to risk my life on the shoulder of a busy roadway walking 6 km to the nearest village. We are challenged with the limited options available. Seriously tackling the climate footprint of transportation requires infrastructure investment in passenger rail, buses, and readily available charging stations for electric vehicles. It also has to be convenient, and timely. Taking two hours to get somewhere you could drive to in 15 minutes isn’t an incentive for people. It has to be not only an ethical choice, but a logical, viable choice. We need better options. Until our governments make some serious contributions, we’ll have to do the heavy lifting ourselves. But, there are strategies we can all use, regardless of where we live, in order to ditch the car more often, and especially on September 22nd. See if you can summon up some creative energy and choose a different path. You may find that you actually prefer riding your bike to work on a sunny fall day rather than driving. Maybe you can put your shiny new Zoom skills to work and meet virtually instead of in person. Maybe you can hop a ride with a friend who’s going in the same direction. If you’re having a group meeting, find out who’s willing to carpool and where they’re coming from. Add it to the invitation so people can connect. Perhaps you discover it doesn’t take as long to walk somewhere as you thought it might. As always, we’re asking you to rethink something that is a habit, and see if there’s a way you can make adjustments that are in the planet’s better interests, as well as your own. After all, walking or biking is some pretty exceptional cardio activity.
If you need an extra incentive, the Collingwood Climate Action Team is launching a contest. As an added bonus, if you write about your day - the good and the bad - and tell CCAT what could make it even better, CCAT will put your name in a draw for a $50 gift certificate from Bad Vegan.
52 Weeks gives you the thumbs up to skip the gym if you walk/bike to work on the 22nd! And, you may even get a free lunch from Bad Vegan, courtesy of CCAT. Healthy planet, healthy people. Happy car free day!
Yours in sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood 52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.