Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Healthy Transportation on a Budget

In my continuing series for Earth Week on staying healthy on a budget, I have just a few ideas about transportation. It seems obvious that a major part of reducing chemicals in the air we breath involves reducing the exhaust we produce from our vehicles. Luckily, most of what we can do individually to reduce vehicle pollution also saves us money. There are many news articles and blogs this week talking about this, so I'm just going to throw out a few ideas that work for me.

1) Use public transportation whenever possible. Alas, the only public transit system where I live is by appointment only and extremely limited even then, so I generally only use public transportation when I'm visiting someone else's home town.

2) Ride a bicycle or walk. This is great exercise and we do have good bike paths here. It's just a little far between destinations and there's that problem with sub-zero weather in January, but don't let me stop you if this is what floats your boat.

3) Drive an energy-efficient car. I drive a 2002 Toyota Camry (which we bought used) that still gets between 30-35 miles to a gallon of gas with 180,000 miles on the engine.

4) Carpool to work, school and church activities. I work at home and MCS keeps me from going to most activities, so this isn't an issue for me, but I remember the days with teenagers who always had to be ferried from one place to another.

5) Plan your errands and shopping to use the least amount of gas. Try to consolidate your outings into a couple of trips a week instead of every day. Sometimes I have to go to the post office to send an urgent order to a customer, so I'll try to add another errand onto it. Also, if I'm going downtown (it's called the Gulch here) or to a large shopping center with several different stores, I park my car in one place and walk. Besides saving fuel and money, I figure that's my exercise for the day.

6) Don't make left turns. This is an idea I borrowed from UPS (the big brown trucks). They have a company policy of planning their deliveries so that they go in a big circle, only making right turns. They have found that they save millions of dollars a year by doing this. When you make a left turn you have to wait for oncoming traffic and inevitably sit and idle your engine (thus wasting precious fuel). I find that in our town there are times when I just have to make a left turn, but I try to avoid them as much as possible and it does make a difference.

7)Vacation close to home or in your own backyard. Find out what there is to see and do in your home state, city or neighborhood. One of our favorite activities is an afternoon at the state historical museum or Saturday morning at the farmer's market (where you can get those cheap local organic vegetables I talked about a couple of days ago).

Saving fuel (and thus keeping the air cleaner) is really a mindset more than anything. We don't have to deprive ourselves of fun activities; we just have to think and plan a little. And just think of what you can do with the money you save.

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