Here I am at 10% of my 350 climate actions goal! Maybe walking my kid to the bus stop seems a little mundane for this milestone, but let’s explore, I actually think its pretty important.
I cant seem to google my way to statistics about the number of parents that drive their kid all the way to school or to the bus stop, but I’m guessing our suburban community is typical of a lot of communities, in that there are many people who drive their kids to school, and perhaps even more who might not drive them to school but might drive them to the bus stop. On any given morning, there’s probably 2 or 3 cars at our bus stop for the 6 to 8 kids at our stop, and one or two kids that arent there that Im guessing are usually or often driven to school. So, quick back-of-the envelop calculation tells me that if a parent drives their kid to the bus stop let’s say 4 days a week, and that drive is about a quarter mile, rolling up to the forty weeks of the school year that’s about 80 miles that person has driven to get their kid to the bus stop. Not too big a deal, right? But if I assume my neighborhood is representative and a third of parents do this, then if I think just about my city’s elementary schools and their thousand or so-ish kids across the district, that’s 330 x 70 = >26,000 miles per year. Not such a tiny number any more! Its about the equivalent of what a couple average cars drive per year, or about the carbon sequestered annually by 9 acres of forest, according to our friends at EPA’s carbon equivalency calculator. And that is for 1 city in America; let’s think about how many times we might realistically multiply that number. I think alot. A recurring theme here: our individual actions are tiny, but when we add them up, we realize they can have substantive effects.
So why do people drive their kids to the bus stop? When I googled this question, I was AMAZED by how much stuff is out there on this subject, and how varied some of the online discussions are for the reasons given why people drive their kids to the bus our school. For some its safety; for others it is poor or unduly long bus service; for others, developmental issues that have them worried their kid won’t fare well, at least right now, on a bus ride. In my neighborhood I see some very legitimate reasons why you might drive your kid to the bus; one of my neighbors doesnt have the mobility to walk her kids all the way there; sometimes its raining cats and dogs and we take pity on our poor, drenched children; and sometimes, a morning is simply a rush-and-tumble- to the door with so many things going on that adding another 5 minutes to walk seems simply undoable.
But if your reasons for not walking your kid or not letting your kid walk is just a matter of convenience or saving time, I think that’s a behavior worth evaluating. Everyone can and does have those days. But I do think that we can legitimately ask ourselves if most days need to be those days, or not, by putting in the forefront of our mind that walking just takes a little advanced preparation and a willingness to make it a priority. I have an unwritten policy for our house that driving only occurs if a) one of us is already en route to an errand that corresponds time-wise with the bus or b) the weather is just too crappy to want to stick your head in it for more than 30 seconds. Otherwise, we walk. This year I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have driven to the bus, and I am grateful for the opportunity to keep a few more pounds of carbon out of the air.