When it comes to Green Living, every day provides us challenges and opportunities to make changes. However, in this unsettling climate, it is sometimes hard to know how to move forward. One area with many more options is the actual act of moving forward-transportation.
Whether you are inspired enough to take the effort to plan your travels around mass-transit, energetic enough to bike to work or on the search for the most fuel efficient car, there are now many options for everyone.
According to the EPA transportation is the second largest producer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for nearly one-third of all US emissions. The largest source of those emissions results from passenger cars and light-duty trucks, including SUV’s, pickup trucks, and minivans. The results from the most recent National Household Travel Survey showed that 76 percent of household driving is to work, school and daily errands. The remaining 24 percent is for social and recreational activities. This presents many opportunities for everyone to make alternative changes in the frequency and the way we move around.
The low-hanging fruit options can be accomplished with planning, effort and very little expense. It is easy enough to choose to be more mindful and consolidate errands, or car-pool. Many of us can bike or walk to school, church, or to local stores. When I am in Japan, I walk and bike more often. This makes me more mindful of my consumption habits and I tend to buy only what is needed, as I had to lug it home. I try to practice this in Las Vegas as well. These small life-style changes not only saves on GHG emissions, but also on the pocketbook and waist-line.
Ride-sharing is an inevitable step moving forward. Despite some resistance, Las Vegas has a high demand for companies like Lyft and Uber. Tourists love the ease and price and many of the younger generation are now reconsidering car ownership. This past summer, I tried a little Lyft driving and was surprised at how many of my passengers were young workers. They use ride-sharing services as their main means of transportation. Most of my passengers in the Southeast area used Lyft or Uber to get to and from work. Environmentally speaking, that leads to less cars manufactured and contributes to a reduction in emissions. Personally, it can lead to less expenses for car payments, insurance, maintenance, and fees, and less stress.
Fuel efficient options
Most people however, live in households dependent on one car per person. In these cases, fuel efficiency is the goal. The good news is that anyone can own a hybrid that gets them 50mpg at the price of normal car that gets 30 mpg. That’s an instant 40 percent reduction in GHG emissions and 40 percent savings to your gasoline expenses.
Of course, the ideal car would be an long range, all-electric car like the Tesla. Following California’s lead, Nevada will be soon be equipped with enough charging stations to drive the length of the state. While Tesla will be releasing a limited number of the more affordable Model 3 in 2018, most Tesla’s are out of budget for many.
Charging up the range
An exciting, affordable alternative was brought to my attention, by my friend Steve Rypka, who used to write this green living column. He is one of the most conscientious environmentalist I know and fully walks the talk.
Rypka has driven a Prius for over ten years and then a fully electric Nissan Leaf for nearly five years, powered primarily by his rooftop solar panels. While the Prius provided great all-around gas mileage, it still used gas.
The Leaf did not use any gas, but the electric-only vehicle had limited range and long charge times. Over time, the battery capacity diminished, significantly reducing range. Rypka told me that every time he needed to go even just a little bit farther than the Leaf’s battery would allow, he was forced to switch to a gas-powered vehicle.
Rypka found the perfect solution in the form of a 2017 Chevrolet Volt. On a test drive with him, he excitedly explained the brilliant design of the car. The Volt combines gas-free, electric-only driving for daily trips around town, with a range-extending gas-electric hybrid system that only kicks in when the EV battery is depleted. It combines the best of both: the full electric vehicle for every day driving, with a fuel efficient gas-electric hybrid mode when for longer trips.
Rypka said, “I’ve driven about 3,000 miles in the Volt so far, 95 percent of that has been electric only, since most of my driving is local.” For more information about Steve’s experience with the Volt please visit GreenDream.biz.
As we all move forward in this new year of uncertainty, my hope for all is to become more and more contentious of our actions. We are all responsible for our choices and it is easy to get carried away focusing on the next ridiculous headline and forget about our home, planet earth.
I will be taking an extended break from writing this column as I will be in Japan for a good portion of this year working on a project about waste and consumption. I hope to return and share more awareness on ways to move forward in smart and compassionate ways.
Published on in the Las Vegas Review Journal January 21, 2017