In the United States, we have become a car-dependent society. The result is a growing list of environmental, social and health impacts. And it means that American children often ride everywhere in automobiles even when they have the option to walk, bike or use public transportation, which is contributing to a growing epidemic of childhood obesity.
At any school in the U.S., you will witness a traffic jam each morning and afternoon. Parents lined up outside to deliver or retrieve their kids may sit for five to fifteen minutes with the engines idling. According to the Department of Energy, every five minutes of idling or driving by approximately 35 million parents' cars adds up to 1 million gallons of gas burned and about 20 million pounds of carbon dioxide emitted. This translates to 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide every morning and afternoon. In short: The national trip to and from school has an enormous carbon footprint.
What Can Schools Do About Transportation?
According to the Safe Routes to School Partnership, half of children attending school in the U.S. are dropped off in the family car. Approximately 9.9 million children (25 percent) live within one mile of school, and only half of them currently walk or bicycle. Another 6.3 million children (16 percent) live between one and two miles from school, and just 12 percent of them walk or bicycle.
The Eco-Schools program aims to raise awareness of sustainable transport solutions--transport that reduces fuel consumption, pollution and car use. Every school can change its travel footprint, with a range of positive results:
- Improved safety and traffic congestion
- Reduced carbon emissions
- Increased physical activity for children
- Improved performance in school
- Reduced costs for school transportation budgets
- Greater sense of community engagement
To put it simply: "If you can walk to school, do it; if you can't walk, bike; if you can't bike, take the bus or carpool...and if you carpool, don't idle the car in the drop-off/pick-up line."
Has your school developed a great way to tackle transportation issues? If so, why not share it with everyone on our Facebook page?