Can you imagine a world without cars? I surely cannot, but in reality, our dependence on them is relatively new in the grand scheme of human existence. You can find a history of the automobile here, but in a nutshell, cars available to the masses have only been around for about a century.
The first gasoline-powered automobiles were made at the turn of the 20th century, and by 1927, over 15 million Ford Model Ts were on the roads in the United States alone.
As of 2016, that number was estimated to be at 268.8 million vehicles in the United States. With 90% running on fossil fuels and emitting about 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year, automobiles are the top contributor of carbon emissions caused by humans. (Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency reports about greenhouse gas sources and based on emissions from a typical passenger vehicle).
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases naturally trap heat in the atmosphere. An increase in greenhouse gases traps more heat. Over time, this increase in average temperature has fueled the extreme weather we see in the world.
No, going car-free is not going to happen (and if it does, it is not going to happen overnight). But until cars that run on alternative fuel sources are more available to the masses, there are small steps you can take to reduce your impact.
Challenge yourself on Saturday, September 22 to see if you can go car-free for a day. World Car Free Day is an annual day with the goal of encouraging a world that is less reliant on cars.
Here are some ideas to ditch your tin can on wheels:
Biking is not only a green form of transportation, but it is also a great cardiovascular workout. I started bike commuting at least once every couple weeks and it is my favorite way to start or end the day. I also bike to run errands and meet up with family and friends.
Plan a bike tour of local area attractions such as parks, museums, breweries/cideries/wineries, etc. Or bike to your favorite coffee spot or find a local restaurant to support.
I live close enough to walk to get groceries, which is not only green and good for my heart but also great for my pocketbook as it reduces the chances of straying too far from my list (anything extra is additional weight to carry home).
When running errands, walk instead of drive if it’s less than a 30-minute walk one way.
If you have a dog, you can switch up their daily walk by going to a dog-friendly business in the Twin Cities.
My bike commute is at least 20 miles one way. I often will bike one way and take the bus the other, or take the bus part way and bike the rest.
All Metro Transit busses and trains have bike racks, so you can ride part of the way and bike the rest (there are practice racks available, too!).
Metro Transit makes it easy to plan a trip online or through a mobile app. You can look up routes and purchase tickets in advance using a credit or debit card.
Staying local makes it easier to not need a car. It’s also a great way to get to know and support your community.
If possible, work remotely.
Plan a block party in your neighborhood.
Buy from local businesses.
Ditching the car is not only better for the environment, but it’s better for your physical health, mental well-being (no traffic!), and it's a great way to start or end the day. How do you go car free in your life? Email us with your favorite approach!
About the Author
Andrea Breitung is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Three Rivers. She has been with the Park District in various roles since 2001. She graduated from the University of North Dakota with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology. When not working, she likes to go camping, hiking, geocaching, biking, and paddling, as well as spend time with her boyfriend and fur kids.