Friday, June 1, 2001
Green Corner Transportation: Don't drive yourself crazy
Responsible, environmentally friendly consumption is easier than you may thinkit does not require constant vigilance or personal discomfort. Don't worry or feel guilty about minor, unimportant decisions. Just concentrate on those areas where the benefits will be the greatest by following these simple rules:
· Give special attention to major purchases.
· Watch the weight of what you buy: large heavy items tend to have more environmental impact than small light ones.
· Buy more of those things that help the environment.
Using these rules, priority actions for consumers in the U.S. concern the areas of transportation, food, and household operations. Personal vehicle travel has the single biggest impact on the environment of all of our actions. The weight of a car itself and also the weight of the gasoline it consumes over its lifetime are an indication of its effect on the environment. The manufacture, use, and disposal of automobiles all contribute to air, water, and land pollution. This one purchasing decision affects how much fossil fuel is consumed over the next ten to fifteen years.
There are many ways to help. If you move, choose a place to live that's near work, reducing the need to drive. Combine all of your errands into one car trip, share rides with a friend, or walk, bicycle or take public transportation instead of driving. (Per-passenger mile, buses, trains and even airplanes pollute less than half as much as cars.) Think twice before purchasing another car because not having an extra vehicle will discourage you from making unnecessary car trips. Keep your old car as long as possible to keep the total number of automobiles on the road at a minimum. If you buy a car, make sure it is the right size and the most fuel-efficient (and therefore usually the least polluting) in its class. Light trucks (sport utility vehicles or SUVs), minivans, and pickup trucks) were 40 percent of all vehicles sold in 1996, and they get an average of only 20.7 mpg compared to 27.5 mpg for a passenger car, as mandated by the federal government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
What are our automotive alternatives? Consider buying a car that meets your typical needs instead of your extraordinary needs. If you plan on going camping, consider renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle or camper just for the trip instead of buying one.
For even better gas mileage, consider an "Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle" (ULEV) such as a hybrid gasoline-electric car. The Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius hybrids recharge their batteries using regenerative braking during normal driving without plugging in. The batteries provide power assist automatically when needed. The Honda Insight, a two-seat coupe with a lightweight aluminum-alloy body, gets 61 mpg/city and 70 mpg/highway. The Toyota Prius, a 5-seat sedan, gets 45/52 mpg. (The same model Toyota in Japan gets 60 mpg because its engine is tuned for economy instead of performance.) They both take regular unleaded gasoline and cost about $20,000. Contact Bob Luoma in Carlisle for first-hand information on the Honda Insight, and Ariel Phillips about the Toyota Prius. To learn about a fully electric Solectria car that goes 50 miles on a battery charge, call Clyde Kessel.
For more information on consumerism, see the Union of Concerned Scientists web site at www.ucsusa.org and the book The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists by Michael Brower and Warren Leon (1999).
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