Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with Clean Transportation
You’ve Got Clean Transportation Options!
Greenhouse gas emissions are an “invisible” problem. We can’t see the problem but many of us are feeling the impacts. Thousands of people suffer worsening health problems — asthma, COPD, and even diabetes — because of toxic pollutants from vehicle exhaust. We need clean transportation choices if we’re going to reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases contributing to changes in our climate.
Transportation is the largest source of our carbon footprint in the U.S. and in Minnesota. Fortunately, progress is being made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and often that comes with a side benefit of giving us more transit options so everyday people can reduce their carbon “wheelprint.” Just remember, every step you take to reduce emissions makes our air cleaner and keeps our families healthier.
On this page we’ll help you think about ways you can make the transition to cleaner transit options that reduce your carbon footprint. Click through to the transit resource page for organizations that help individuals, faith communities, businesses and municipalities powerdown their ride. And stay informed about transit issues in Minnesota by following Move Minnesota and the ever-entertaining blog StreetsMN.
Put Transportation Into Your Energy Descent Action Plan
You’ve got a lot of choices for reducing your carbon footprint when it comes to transportation.
Start simple. If you’ve got a car, try energy-efficient driving techniques like hypermiling. Research the most energy efficient way to travel on your vacation (see thee Get There Greener Report from the Union of Concerned Scientists).
Start to switch: According to the EPA, car trips of one mile or less add up to 10 billion miles traveled by Americans each year. What if you made a commitment to walk or bike for any trip within 1 mile from home? You’d get more exercise, you might meet your neighbors, and you will definitely cut your emissions.
“But it’s just so easy to get in the car …” If you didn’t have a car sitting in your driveway, would it be easier choose a people-powered option? In the non-snow seasons, you could try parking your car a block from home so you really have to think about using it.
TRANSIT CHOICES WILL REQUIRE COVID SENSITIVE CHOICES
Share the ride: Explore carpooling with co-workers or switching from a car to the bus or light rail. Does your business offer a vanpool? (Could they if you asked?) Metro Transit offers a carpool location service on their website.
Many people are afraid to carpool because they are worried that they might need to leave for an emergency – a sick kid, a daycare problem. Check out Metro Transit’s Guaranteed Ride Home. If you have an eligible emergency on a day you commuted by carpool, vanpool, biked, walked or took transit, Metro Transit will help you get home with a FREE and reliable ride.
Share the resource: Do you really need to own a car? If you drive less than 100 miles a week, and less than 5 days a week, why not try a car-sharing service. HourCar is a car-sharing nonprofit serving the Twin Cities area. You could also consider car-sharing with a neighbor. (See The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community for ideas about how to create a car-sharing contract).
NiceRide is the bike-sharing service that operates in Minneapolis. If your community doesn’t have a bike-sharing service, consider starting your own, or working with your municipality to recruit a business.
Ditch fossil fuels – Go electric: It’s more costly, but an electric bike or an electric (or hybrid) car will provide the carbon savings you want while still getting you where you need to go. Learn more about electric vehicles at Drive Electric Minnesota. It’s true that your car’s carbon footprint is dependent on the footprint of your energy provider, but Minnesota’s largest energy provider is becoming greener and so is your ride. (See the Union of Concerned Scientists How Clean is Your Electric Vehicle tool to see how much CO2e your electric vehicle is responsible for.) Add in a solar garden subscription or home solar installation and you’ve reduced the carbon footprint of your energy even more.
Electric bikes are a great option for seniors and people with disabilities who may need a little assistance going the distance or getting up hills. There are several shops in the Twin Cities the specialize in electric bikes.
TRANSIT OPTIONS FOR LOW INCOME PEOPLE
If you are low income, you may be living without a car, or with an undependable car. Reliable, affordable transportation options may be most important for you. On this page, Share the Ride and Share the Resource ideas may be useful strategies for occasional or work-related car needs. For low-cost car repairs, see the Lift Garage, a nonprofit providing car repair services to help people out of poverty and homelessness.
If busing works for you but rising costs are a problem, check out Metro Transit’s Transit Assistance Program (TAP). Consider asking your employer to provide discounted or free bus passes as an employee benefit.
If busing won’t get you all the way to your destination, consider a bus-bike combination. Check out the shops listed on Mpls Bike Love for locations where you may be able to find a low-cost bike.
Bring the Idea of Powering Down Transportation to Your Community
- Host a presentation about electric vehicles and invite owners to talk about their personal experience. PlugInConnect can help you find speakers or do Ride and Drive events.
- Share information about HourCar, including sign-up opportunities. The organization has a special U of M student/faculty rate of only $40.
- Advertise opportunities for group members to provide input into transit proposals for your community. Share public hearing dates, survey members about their transit needs, and share that information with elected officials.
There is a lot of greenwashing in the marketplace. Transition groups can draw on the knowledge of expert resources — like the University of Minnesota or the Union of Concerned Scientists — to help people find the facts and understand the real impact of policy changes, electric cars, biofuels, or flying.
Hands-on Skillshare Events
Skillshares provide an opportunity for people to learn new skills or to build things in a fun, social setting. Because it’s social, people are more willing to try something new. Groups can host a skillshare event for:
- Bikes: Learn how to fix and maintain a bike, build a bike cart, plan a bike trip and map routes, or prepare for winter biking
- Mass Transit: Host a Meet the Bus event like Transition ASAP did to familiarize people with how to use the bus and how to plan a trip. Be sure to talk about multi-modal transit and how they can take their bike on the bus.
Start a Challenge to Change
Behavior changes often seem impossible until you actually do it. Challenges give people a specific activity to do for a specific amount of time. After they’ve done it, participants report to each other about their experience. Did they run into problems or barriers? How might they overcome those barriers? What resources do they need? Transportation challenge activities can include:
- Carpooling for a month
- Taking the bus or light rail for a week
- Biking to work or shopping or school
- Living with one less car — see Transition St. Anthony Park’s “Drop a Car” challenge. (Did you know 18% of Minneapolis households and 14% of St. Paul households don’t own a car? The car ownership overage is 1.3 vehicles per household in Minneapolis and 1.5 in St. Paul.) Dropping a car may be harder to do in suburbs and rural areas, but group members may find ways to help each other succeed.
Partners in Action
Transition groups can help kickstart partnerships, for example:
- A sharing-economy project like a truck-sharing club. Everyone needs a truck sometime; most of us don’t need one all of the time.
- An investment project like the self-carbon-tax investment group at the Community of St. Martin. Members track their miles and then donate a certain amount of money as a carbon tax. The group invests that money in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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Transportation is a Justice Issue
Transition groups with a concern for justice can look for ways to address lack of bus or bike availability or increasingly higher costs for mass transit in poor communities. Olympia, Washington and Corvalis, Oregon tackled the affordability problem by making bus rides free. It’s covered by taxes so anyone can just get on the bus and ride!
Urban sprawl is a tremendous barrier to achieving the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Far-away communities have limited – or no – bus service, which forces everyone into a car. Additionally, these communities were built for cars. It can be a dangerous struggle for bikers and pedestrians to get where they want to go. When road work is done in your community, how can you ensure it’s done with everyone in mind, including schoolchildren and elderly walkers?