No Impact Week Day 3

I’m not sure “Slightly Less Impact Man” would have been as good a documentary title as the original, but that’s how I fared with today’s challenge. I focused on my daily commute as it seemed like the most obvious target based on my lifestyle.

In the order of Impact, I considered:

Walking and biking which are both Impossible due to freeway route and distance. I could just as likely use a teleporter, a space-ship, or submarine, none of which, incidentally, are fuel efficient.

The train, which I actually tried last month. The company I work for gives out free transit passes so I just had to try. It took about ten minutes to drive to the station and I waited for about five minutes before we left – so far so good. We then embarked on the longest ride through every possible nook and cranny of town that I could imagine a train would fit through. More than once I thought I might have gotten on the wrong train and we might be leaving the state. It took an hour and thirty minutes, and then finally a ten minute walk to my office. Total time, nearly two hours door-to-door EACH WAY. I could probably make it take even longer If I rode my bike to the train station. Alternatively if I leave on time, I can drive to work in about 30 minutes. As much as I’d love to take the train and have it be practical, like it has been when I’ve worked in cities in Europe, here at home the system is just not practical for me and I can’t add three hours a day to my commute (750 hours a year!). Maybe a couple of times a month I can take the train, or if I’m doing conference calls I can get on the train and just cruise around town all day to get some sunlight.

This realization was a little discouraging but I still have some options.

Car pool. I have three offers to car pool. Coordinating the schedules will be a challenge but we think we can all pull it off at least once a week. Commute time is cut in half and I get to hang with some cool people.

Work from home. Some companies in my industry are moving aggressively to a 100% home-office, but in my current job that doesn’t work. It does look like I can average at least one day a week at home.  All my crazy eco-food is here so I don’t have to eat out, or spend any time packing lunch. BONUS to my employer is that I generally start earlier, finish later, and work through both lunch and commute time. Just the commute time means an extra FIFTY work hours per year if I telecommute ONE DAY a week – about another full work week to get work things done so I can spend some of the weekend guilt free working on No Impact projects.

With carpooling and telecommuting I’m also reducing the daily traffic by One Car. I know each car makes a difference because of how much my commute time changes during the school year, with three community colleges between my house and my office. Getting cars off the road reduces congestion and pollution.  It also reduces dust and can improve poor air quality for those living and working near the freeway, as well as cutting down on gunk that comes off your car and moves into the sewer when it rains.

So the next question is How Much Impact Man? For this I pulled up carbon calculators from a couple of different sites and was surprised that I got a lot of different

Alternative Transportation

answers. I went to Nature Conservatory, EPA, Carbon Footprint and Carbon Fund if you want to check yourself.  Some of the sites don’t make it easy to calculate just your auto-impact, but it would be really nice if they did.

Taking the most conservative estimate it looks like I can save about two tons of CO2 if I telecommute and carpool one day per week each, a 40% reduction in my commute output.  BONUS is that I also save a couple thousand miles per year on my car, yielding hopefully fewer repairs, oil changes, and other maintenance, and I can save almost $600 a year on gas, pre-tax maybe closer to $800.

I’m also committing to walking the four flights of stairs to my office.  I’m not sure how to calculate the savings from the elevator because elevators were not included in any of the online calculators.  Since this elevator looks more like a freight elevator, is lined with plywood, and squeaks and clunks when it slowly moves up or down, I think this might be a big win too.

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  1. Wow – you really did your homework! Great links!

    I couldn’t pull this one off either – it’s definitely the hardest one for me. :(

  2. I have finally given up my childhood dream of a nuclear powered, gold plated, James Bond super-villain submarine – it’s just not gonna happen for me.

    After looking at all the options I’m happy with my 40% target. I think giving up fossil fuel powered transportation ‘overnight’ is impractical for a lot of people, so I think it should be considered a huge win if any reductions can be made at all.

    Are you able to score any carpool buddies, or share trips to the grocery store with friends or make any reductions?

  3. Great blog! Very objective analysis of the costs and benefits.

    So far my way of minimizing my footprint is by having a job closer to where I live for a change :)

    And I took the VTA *once* too, to avoid parking for a 4th of July event. It took over an hour to get to downtown SJ when it would normally take me 15 mins driving. I figure the only people who can take VTA are retired people or kids who just enjoy train rides for the sake of them.

  4. Just forget about all this and enjoy the gluttony. Your kids lives won’t be THAT much worse. And if you start breaking it to them easily they won’t EXPECT to have a good life and they’ll be pleasantly surprised when they live past 45 and have something to eat.


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