Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to school, back to work, back to busy commutes for everyone

   Summer is nearing its finale, surrendering to fall's faster pace. For many families, the Labor Day weekend is a last chance for a getaway before resuming our commuting schedules. Back-to-school shopping excursions and journeys to colleges add to the mix on our busier roadways. Arriving with this new season are new opportunities to be smarter in going about our routines.

    The best choices are those that decrease what is pumped into the atmosphere, no matter the time of year. Transportation accounts for 38 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in New York State. If we minimize the time spent driving,by taking alternate forms of transportation, such as mass transit, carpools and vanpools, and by combining trips, we lessen the number of Air Quality Action Days. These alerts signal higher ground-level ozone pollution and particulate matter levels that can affect sensitive groups, such as the elderly, children and people with certain respiratory or immune illnesses. Clean Air NY offers plenty of tips on how to cope with these alerts that are issued through its sponsor, the New York State Department of Transportation, and its 511NY traffic, transit and travel information source,

    Fall brings special hurdles for families who want to reduce their carbon footprints. As the school year begins, morning drive time traffic swells. More children are being shuttled to and from school by their parents and fewer students are walking or biking than in decades past. Extra trips for after-school activities make afternoon/evening drive times more hectic, too. With a greater awareness of how these trips add up, families and all commuters can take simple steps to subtract some of them from their routines. In areas where walking or bicycling to and from school and work are viable options, families should consider them, even if doing so every day isn't feasible. The benefit of that exercise, better health, is a perfect complement to the benefit of cleaner air.

     Another lesson to learn for students of every age is the value of eco-driving. The definition of this effective strategy comes from "Eco-driving is a way of driving that reduces fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and accident rates." How to accomplish this? Go easy on stopping and starting your vehicles; reduce idling time; remove items weighing down your trunk; keep tires properly inflated; and use the overdrive and cruise control featuers if you have them. These tips and more show a little knowledge is a powerful help to our planet.