guest post by Kate Simms
This year’s Earth Day theme is, “The Face of Climate Change.” It reminds us that global warming isn’t some far-away hypothesis; climate change is in our backyard.
For Maine, that means shorter ice fishing, skating and snowmobile seasons, according to a study by the University of Maine.
Greenhouse gas is largely responsible for the nearly two-degree temperature increase in regional sea surface temperature surrounding Maine. Rising ocean temperatures means less sea life, melting ice caps, flooding and severe weather, among other things.
If you’re on this site, there’s a good chance you already care about doing your part. Driving a hybrid or electric vehicle is one of the simplest ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation emissions account for 27 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, making it the biggest piece of the pollution pie.
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that each gallon of gasoline you burn emits 20 pounds of CO2 into the air. This equals five to nine tons of CO2 per vehicle each year. Any car that gets more than 40 mpg is considered “green,” but there are even greener routes to take.
If you haven’t heard of car sharing, now is the time to look into it. Car sharing allows you to log in with your smart phone and pick up/drop off a car anywhere you like. Maine hosts two such companies, U-Car and Zip Car. Car-sharing services are cost effective, convenient and greener than owning your own car.
In fact, Zip Car reports that for every Zip Car on the road, there are 20 personal vehicles off the road. This not only saves gas and oil, but the average car-sharing user can save up to $500 each month on costs associated with a personally owned car. The campuses at Colby, Bowdoin and Bates offer Zip Cars, and U-Car operates out of Portland.
Scoot Around Town
Cars can be green, but a new scooter is greener and arguably cooler. Older, two-stroke model scooters produce more pollutants than many cars, but newer scooters offer a stylish, earth-friendly way to get where you’re going. According to the Washington Post, a scooter gets a whopping 85 mpg, and only emits about 0.31 pounds of CO2 into the air per gallon of gas burned. Electric scooters are an even better option for people who travel longer distances or more frequently, as they only emit about 0.14 pounds of greenhouse gas per mile.
Walk or Bike It
Are you lazier than you want to be? If the answer is yes, then you should consider biking. If the answer is no, then you probably already spend a lot of time walking or biking. Transition from driving to biking to add years to your life and help the environment.
The physical benefits of exercise are obvious, but many overlook the impact of simply being away from traffic. According to a study by “Environmental Health Perspectives,” trading a car for a bike can add more than a year to your life, while sitting in traffic takes time away from it. Another study of Barcelona, Spain’s bike-sharing program revealed that the benefits of using bikes outweigh the risks 77 to one. That’s a ratio that helps you and the earth.
Kate is an activist, grant writer and supporter of several green initiatives. She lives and writes in Maryland.
Image supplied by the author.