Environmental Benefits of a Car-Free Life
Driving has a multitude of negative effects on the environment, many of which the general public is unaware. Cars are wreaking havoc on our planet, and we need to drastically reduce our car use if we want a greener earth. Below we have provided more information on the real impact your car is making on the environment.
Reduce your CO2 Emissions
How large is your carbon footprint? Your direct footprint is easy to think about; for every gallon of gas your car burns, 24 pounds of CO2 are emitted.
But that’s not all your car is responsible for! Your indirect carbon footprint includes the CO2 emitted for your car’s production. Think about the CO2 emitted from extracting oil from the ground, transporting and refining your fuel, and the actual manufacturing of your car. Just by owning a car, you’ve inherited a huge carbon footprint.
Did you know that the US has only 5% of the world’s population, but emits almost half of the world’s automotive CO2? Transportation in the U.S. is the fastest growing source of U. S. greenhouse gases, with a 47% increase in total emissions since 1990.
And according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Americans consumed 140.43 billion gallons of gasoline in 2015, or about 384.74 million gallons each day.
Vehicles contain many fluids including motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, air-conditioning refrigerants, and windshield-wiper fluids. In most cases these fluids are toxic to humans and animals, and can pollute waterways if they leak from a vehicle or are disposed of incorrectly. Many vehicle fluids are exposed to heat and oxygen while an engine is running, and undergo chemical changes. These chemical changes can lead to even dirtier pollutants leaving your car. These fluids also pick up heavy metals from engine wear and tear, making them more toxic to the environment. Cutting out vehicles can help curb these pollutants.
Help Avoid Deadly Effects
If we don’t take action on climate change (such as living car-free) and the world becomes hotter by 2 degrees Celsius, it could have devastating effects across the planet. Whole communities could disappear due to rising sea levels, our weather patterns could turn extreme, and millions of people could be forced from their homes becoming climate refugees.
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Vehicles are America’s biggest air quality compromisers, producing about one-third of all U.S. air pollution. The smog, carbon monoxide, and other toxins emitted by vehicles are especially troubling because they leave tailpipes at street level, where humans breathe the polluted air directly into their lungs. New Haven had the highest hospitalization rate for asthma out of any other town (over 3,200 people hospitalized) in Connecticut in 2016, of which New Haven’s often severe congestion contributed to.
Save Time and Save the Planet
American drivers spend on average 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year – think of how many minutes of polluting that is!
Over 66 percent of total driving trips and nearly 62 percent of total miles driven are done by drivers without a passenger in the vehicle – single occupancy trips only worsen a car's environmental impact.
Americans drive nearly twice as many miles as they did in 1980, but miles of public roads have barely increased (6 percent) – which causes severely congested driving corridors.
Curb Noise Pollution
When you think about the dangers associated with driving, noise pollution may not be your first thought. But noise pollution caused by cars is in reality a ever-growing problem that plagues cities and towns across the U.S., including New Haven. According to the World Health Organization, noise pollution falls second to air pollution in the impact it has on health.
In cities with large traffic congestion (which New Haven has), noise pollution has been found to cause hearing loss, heart disease, learning problems in children, sleep disturbance, and stress. Research shows that our bodies perceive unwanted or intrusive noise as a threat or warning, triggering stress-inducing reactions from our bodies (such as the release of stress hormones, changes in heart rate and rhythm, and rise in blood cholesterol level). Researchers at the University of Michigan estimate that about one-third of Americans are exposed to harmful noise, and might be at risk of noise-related health problems.
All of these negative side effects caused by noise pollution can be curbed, and giving up your car is one easy way to help be a part of the solution. If New Haven has fewer cars on the road, there will be less noise pollution in the city, leading to an increased quality of life for resident across all neighborhoods.