What YOU Can Do

Fossil fuels and their release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are one of the leading problems associated with global warming. A big portion of these fuels come from the burning of gasoline. Vehicles are responsible for releasing “4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This number can vary based on a vehicle’s fuel, fuel economy, and the number of miles driven per year”[1]. CO2 output will be reduced once we stop imputing fossil fuels into our automobiles. Identifying changes we can make individually is a way in which we can contribute to the mitigation of fossil fuels.

You might be asking yourself, but how am I going to make a difference? I am only one person! An individual can have a strong impact on not only their community, but on other individuals as well. It is possible for only one person to start a movement, therefore making others follow suit if one shows how easy it is to slowly change their ways. One should never doubt themselves and the power they hold merely because they believe they think they are alone in a movement. As long as an individual believes in their power to change, nothing can stop them from influencing others. Routine can be a powerful tool when trying to make change. For example, if I start bringing my reusable mug to class, others will see it and follow suit. Reusable mugs are taking over the market with many different styles and colors. Personalizing the way you drink, can influence others to do the same. This connects back to making a change in how we drive and use transportation. With the emergence of fuel efficient cars on the market and its affordability to the greater public, those who invest in these types of cars are starting a movement. As gas prices increase and hybrid cars along with full electric cars become more sustainable and part of a norm, others will follow suit.

There are plenty of ways that one person can change the amount of CO2 they release into the atmosphere. Although some ways are more feasible than others, individuals can take multiple actions to reduce their individual carbon footprint. The first and most obvious way in which a person can take control of how they transport themselves, is by walking. In big, crowded cities, walking sometimes is the fastest way one can get around. It avoids being on the streets, and also serves as a form of exercise. Secondly, one can purchase a bicycle. Whether someone is going to work, or to a friend’s house, when living in a suburb or a city, bikes can be a very useful way to get around. Bikes have become more popular over the years and have been more prominent in crowded cities as well. For example, the program of bike-shares has been popping up in many urban cities including New York, Philadelphia, and D.C just to name a few. The way the system works is, one is able to pick up a bike at a location, ride it wherever they need to go, then drop it off at another bike-share location for just a few dollars a mile. Some advantages to this system are that you beat traffic, reduce carbon emissions, and get to destinations faster. By using the bike-share program, you are participating in a carbon-free lifestyle.

If you are someone who needs to get to places that are not feasible by a bicycle, there are other ways in which you can still reduce your carbon footprint. Another way in which you can reduce the amount of carbon put into the atmosphere is by participating in carpooling systems or using public transportation. This works for individuals who are going to the same place at the same time together, and instead of taking multiple cars, one vehicle is taken for a big group of people. This has been a way in which individuals can reduce their emissions rate and also get to destinations faster due to highway laws put in place to encourage this type of behavior. Highways sometimes designate lanes in which a car that is carrying three or more passengers can use them to avoid stand-still traffic. The same goes for buses, where bus lanes are specifically designated for them as though to promote the usage of public transportation instead of cars.

Additionally, although the costliest method of reducing carbon emissions, but one that is definitely on the rise, is the investment in a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) or hybrid cars. As gas prices are on the rise, the popularity of ZEVs also starts to increase due to their ability to cut carbon emissions into the atmosphere and with their aesthetically pleasing designs. There are plenty of hybrid cars on the market at the moment, but ZEV are slowly becoming more popular and feasible to the average consumer. It may be a large investment at the beginning, but over time, it will definitely save a lot more money when gas prices become unbearable due to the scarcity of the resource.

Overall, all these solutions come with their share of positive and negative impacts on the life of people and the environment. Walking and biking can be feasible to a certain extent when living in a crowded city where you only need to get across a few blocks. But, it is not the greatest solution if you need to travel longer distances. On the other hand, a good thing about these solutions is that they are interchangeable and can play off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They can all be used in place of the other depending on the situation at hand. One thing all of these methods have in common is their ability to mitigate or reduce carbon emissions. That is the goal when thinking about the future and how life will look like in the upcoming years. Thinking about the future, and ways in which we can improve our society, starting with an individual action is the first step into making a difference globally.


[1] “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle.” EPA. May 10, 2018. Accessed October 24, 2018. https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle.

This is what a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane looks like on a highway.
Bikeshare program in Washington, D.C.