In Indianapolis, 45% of ozone-causing air pollution is produced by motor vehicles, i.e. everyday people driving to and fro on the road. Only 12% can be attributed to power plants and large factories. That means for every smokestack with “Save the whales!” graffitied across the bottom, there are tenfold more dirty tailpipes scooting down the highway.
This isn’t meant to excuse industry from doing their part to clean up our air or to accuse individuals of inconsistency or lack of cognizance. Responsibility for clean air and sustainable communities falls squarely on the shoulders of everyone as a whole, and for those of us concerned and invested in protecting the environment, trying to get that whole to work together can be a frustrating endeavor. We get it. And that’s exactly what makes that 45% good news. In an environment where many of us complain about being stifled out of any real opportunity to make an impact, here’s our chance.
Whether you live in the heart of the city or at the end of a gravel lane, there are ways you can lessen the impact of your travel.
For those in the middle of Indy, walking or biking to nearby shopping and restaurants is not only a great way to lessen your air quality impact, it’s a money and time saver when it comes to finding parking in our growing city, and it’s great exercise. Extending this to your daily work commute is even more rewarding - for the environment, for your health and for your wallet. In the Why I Bike video series, Indy residents - Tom, Ronak, and Cassie - share their reasons for biking. Among them: sustainability, health, freedom, relaxation, community, and the list goes on.
For those further out or for whom walking or biking are less feasible options, a good way to start is by combining errands. Instead of going to the grocery store on Tuesday and the garden center on Wednesday, knock them both out in the same trip. Go further and join a carpool for your daily commute. Commuter Connect will match you with others in your area with similar commutes. Splitting a commute with 2 or 3 other people saves you money on gas, reduces wear and tear on your car, lessens your environmental impact, and makes you some new friends. If the timing is right for you personally, you can also invest in a more fuel-efficient or alternative fuel vehicle (learn more about alternative fuels).
And don’t forget public transit. IndyGo trekked its regular passengers across the city on more than 9.5 million trips last year, and that doesn’t even include single trip, “Open Door” riders. And with upcoming projects in the works, public transit will become ever more accessible in Indy.
The average U.S. commute in 2013 was about 25 minutes, one-way. Indiana residents clock in right around 23 minutes at an average distance of approximately 9.2 miles. (Sources: Index Mundi and Brookings Institute) Cutting out just one day per week of driving and opting to bike, walk or use public transit, reduces your individual impact on the air and could keep nearly 1,000 miles off your odometer at the end of the year.
So there it is. Start with one day per week. Start this week. Friday, May 18, is Bike to Work Day, and a perfect opportunity to give it a shot. If you don’t want to go it alone, encourage a group of your coworkers to participate together. If the trek seems too far, drive to a closer meeting point and bike from there.
Getting from point A to point B is a necessity of living and working, but that doesn’t mean we just grin and bear it when it comes to its environmental costs. Approaching transportation with the same intention you approach the food you buy or the items you recycle is vital to living a sustainable life - and building sustainable communities.
Below are resources to get you started: