A Parent’s Paradox: Staying Green while Staying on Schedule

Written by Kerry Crisley on . Posted in Act, Your Climate Stories

Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for a way to get some exercise, enjoy time outside with your kids and reduce your carbon footprint, try participating in  National Walk to School Day tomorrow, Oct. 3. Today Planet Change features a post by The Nature Conservancy’s Kerry Crisley, who has been working to make walks to school part of her routine. Her post also appears on Cool Green Science.

“Woo hooooooo!”

So shouts my eight-year old, Ben, as he pedals his bright red bike down our street. He conquered his fear of the two-wheeler this past summer, and all month he’s insisted that we ride the short distance to his school rather than drive.

My six-year old Erin is close behind, pushing madly on her scooter to keep up. We greet Butterscotch – our neighbor’s sociable cat – and spot a red-tailed hawk overhead.

National Walk to School Day

Wednesday, October 3rd is National Walk to School Day, and my husband John and I will be joining in with our kids. In fact, the experience of the past few weeks has left a question lingering in my mind.

Why haven’t we done this before?

The answer – I’m embarrassed to admit – is that during my busy mornings I often make choices based on speed and convenience. Like so many others, John and I feed, dress and transport to school two young kids and then head to our own jobs. We do it all in reverse at the end of the day.

And even though I’m more aware of – and concerned about – the implications of climate change now that I have kids, it’s easy to be less vigilant about my carbon footprint while trying to keep myself and my family on schedule.

Most days I’m tempted to leave the house a little later and drive my kids to school. But with carbon being branded the new DDT, I realize that now is not the time to let my “green guard” down just because I’m busy. It’s better for me, my kids and the planet if we walk to school.

How much better? My internal devil’s advocate asks. I decide to figure it out.

It’s a half-mile mile walk to bring Ben and Erin to school. From there, I walk home. If I walk to pick them up when I’m through with work I’m clocking in at two miles a day.

With that single change over a 180-day school year, I’ll have driven 360 fewer miles, saved about $50 in gas, burned about 36,000 extra calories and emitted a fifth of a ton less carbon. For just one person making just one small change, that’s a big impact.

But just as valuable to me is that I’ll be giving my kids a morning routine that – based on their reactions so far this year – they love.

That, I hope, will be motivation to stick to a better, greener schedule. But since walking to school takes longer, how can I save some time – and carbon – at other points in the morning?

  • Frozen as a fallback: On my next trip to the grocery store, I’ll stock up on frozen meals, like Amy’s Kitchen or Kashi. That way, if it’s time to leave the house to walk the kids to school and I haven’t eaten breakfast or packed my lunch, I can grab something from the freezer. I won’t be tempted to skip the walk in order to make a sandwich.
  • Double up on errands: Every morning we pass a convenience store en route to school. On the way home, I’ll sometimes stop in to replenish our supply of milk or eggs. It adds about 60 seconds to my trip home, and then I don’t have to do it later. What can you cross off on the way to or from school? Your morning coffee run? Picking up a newspaper?
  • Put a value on the experience: Look at it another way. Is this really time “lost”? Most of us get that nature – and the time spent in it – has value. In fact, Conservancy scientists and economists are working with companies like Dow to include nature in their bottom line. And the same should go for us. My walk home gives me ten minutes of solitude and fresh air, and it’s something I’ve come to value a lot.

These are small changes, but knowing how they add up to save carbon, money and time will help quiet that devil’s advocate for good.

Kerry Crisley is Associate Director of Strategic Communications based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Photo by: Kerry Crisley/TNC (The author’s children on their way to school.)

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About Planet Change

Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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