How to Save Energy
Give your car—and the Earth—a rest
by Rachael Stark
Though home to only 5% of the world's human population, the United States uses about 26% of the petroleum consumed worldwide, and a similarly disproportionate percentage of the total energy used on the planet.
People in Germany live comfortably but use, on average, about half as much energy as Americans. Japan has a higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality than the U.S., and consumes even less energy than Germany.
Americans' extra energy use is expensive, creates pollution, and adds to the burden of greenhouse gases. Much of it comes from coal plants that can cause serious air pollution and nuclear plants that can cause disastrous accidents if not operated and maintained properly.
If all this excess energy use isn't bringing America the healthiest babies or the longest lives, what does it do?
For one thing, it drives Americans round and round in cars. Between 1960 and 2004, the number of cars registered in the U.S. and the miles traveled in passenger cars more than tripled. Even with dramatic increases in fuel efficiency, the total fuel consumed by passenger cars increased by more than 70%.
Americans are probably the drivingest people on Earth. If you do only one thing to reduce pollution, decrease greenhouse gases, and improve environmental quality, it should probably be to get out of your car. Why not make Earth Day car free?
Take a Hike
Walking is an environmentally efficient mode of transportation that is also provides free exercise. On Earth Day, why not walk to school, to work, to the store, or to a friend's house? You may find you see more, meet your neighbors, and feel energized and refreshed when you arrive.
If you can't take a walk in your neighborhood safely and comfortably, can't get to work or school on foot, or don't have a store close enough to walk to, maybe you should ask why not. For advice and encouragement on making walking safer and easier, you can contact groups like America WALKs.
Or Hop a Train
Is where you're going too far to walk? Take the subway, bus, light rail, or other public transportation. Not sure how to get there by subway? The Subway Page has maps and information for subway systems in 90 cities worldwide.
Do you find your town, workplace, store, or school can't be reached by train or bus? Write and lobby your local businesses and elected officials and contact groups such as American Public Transit Association.
Earth Day is the perfect day to start some of those good habits you keep meaning to get around to. Take a walk and leave the car at home, put on a sweater and turn the heat down, or get active in your community to improve sidewalk safety and bus service. Whatever earth-friendly activity you choose, look it up, learn, and do what you can. After all, if we don't take care of the earth, where else will we live?