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Transportation is the second-highest contributor to greenhouse gas emission. Cars rank among the highest within this category, due to the way they are manufactured and the sheer number of them.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, passenger cars emit 5.19 metric tons of carbon dioxide per 12,500 miles. In the United States, this is 94-95% of the total emissions from transportation. While cars appear to be necessary in the United States, there are several easy, green alternatives to driving that will reduce your carbon footprint.
For individuals, a carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide (from transport, food, energy consumption, manufactured goods, and more) emitted throughout a lifetime.
Scientists speculate that these gases are the cause of global warming. Limiting one’s carbon footprints can slow down catastrophic effects on the environment and delay the moment of peak oil, when oil production reaches its maximum rate and begins to decline.The EPA believes greenhouse gases are contributing to a global climate change, and causing the heat waves meteorologists predict for this summer.
To slow down climate change, it is a good idea for each person to start thinking about reducing his or her individual carbon footprint. Trains are a more energy-efficient way to travel. Compared to cars, they emit only 2% of the carbon dioxide in the United States, which makes them the lightest of all methods of transportation. Many countries are now using other methods, as opposed to power trains, that reduce their carbon footprint even further.
For example, in Japan, the Shinkansen, or ‘bullet train,’ utilizes electric or magnetic power depending on the train. Neither leaves any trace of a carbon footprint. This train is faster and more efficient than the conventional railway systems. The United States has already begun planning to implement these train systems in Florida, Texas, the Midwest (Chicago Area), the Northeast (Washington D.C.-Boston), and California. All of these train routes are expected to be completed by 2025.
For shorter trips, consider taking a bus. A bus emits 2.99 metric tons of carbon dioxide per 12,500 miles. This is already less carbon dioxide than cars, and can carry more people per trip. Bus companies themselves are making an effort to be “greener.” In California, Proterra has unveiled a hybrid-electric bus that is classified as a zero-emission vehicle.
About 15% of buses to date in California emit no greenhouse gases. Washington D.C., Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and many other cities have invested in these buses as well. New York City, a leader in investing, has even begun using these hybrids for school buses. Many people can now enjoy the comfort of a clean, quiet, efficient bus ride.
In China, a solar-powered bus called the 3D Express Coach, designed by the Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Company, will save at least 860 tons of fuel each year, or 2,640 metric tons of carbon. With China’s overpopulation and heavy dependence on public transport, these buses will soon be mass produced and available all over the country. The bus straddles the highway, above the drivers. Yet it is faster, cheaper and cleaner compared to the cars it passes over.
If none of these options are available to you, try investing in a hybrid or electric car. These cars emit about one third of the gasses conventional cars do. Electric cars, however, need to be charged. At home, with a standard plug, this charging can take up to twelve hours. At electric fueling stations, cars can charge up to 80% in about 30 minutes.
Yet these stations are in select cities, and could possibly wear down the battery. Hybrid cars also offer the advantage of using fuel for long distances, or time away from electric refueling stations. Hybrid and electric cars are getting to be more and more affordable as car companies realize the importance of reducing carbon footprints.
For example, the hybrid Honda Insight gets 42 mpg and starts at $18,500. The all-electric Nissan Leaf gets the equivalent of 106 mpg and starts at $35,200. Plus, buying a hybrid and or electric car earns tax credit in some states. Companies are making hybrid SUVs and trucks as well, like the Lexus RX Hybrid and the Chevy Silverado Hybrid.
Consider walking or bicycling as healthy alternatives to driving. These also have no carbon footprint and are easily accessible. The bottom line: no matter your situation, there is an eco-friendly alternative to driving out there for everyone.