Going Green… Staying Green

kelechiTerms like eco-friendly and going green have become popular buzzwords in today’s environmentally-conscious society. In practically all aspects of our lives, the idea of living green has gained traction… and for good reasons. Eco-friendly practices allow us to take better care of our planet as well as our own health.

For example, in a study by Wilson et al. (2007), neighborhood schools had 4.5 times less emissions (of air pollutants and greenhouse gases) than citywide, more auto-dependent schools. In this same study, neighborhood schools (vs. citywide schools) had six times more children walking to school. In another study, Higgins et al. (2005) found that bicycling in lieu of driving for short trips had the potential to reduce gasoline demand up to nearly 35 percent.

In a recent study, Maizlish et al. (2012) estimate that high levels of active transportation could reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to 14.5 percent and could lead to up to 13 percent fewer premature deaths per year and 15 percent fewer years of life lost from cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A separate study, Pope et al. (2009), found that reductions in air pollution in the 1980s and 1990s (not specific to active transportation) accounted for as much as 15 percent of the overall increase in life expectancy.

It is well established now that the built environment affects people’s choice to walk, bicycle or drive (Frank et al. 2006). Therefore, investments in infrastructure that makes non-motorized, active transportation easier and safer should be encouraged. When in place, these policies and practices provide a mechanism by which eco-friendly trends can become standard practices in our everyday lives.

Two ways you can capitalize on green practices are through Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets. Whether your interest in Safe Routes to School is about health or safety, it can reduce fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools by increasing students’ access to safe routes and their willingness to walk and bicycle to school. We are also seeing the passage of Complete Streets policies in numerous states and localities across the nation, which encourage street connectivity and aim to create a comprehensive network for all transportation modes.

Buzzwords come and go, but with movements such as Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets, green buzzwords are here to stay.

To access more research studies on this topic, click here.