There’s a lot of talk these days about how St. Louisans will cope with the shutdown of Highway 40. We’re all dreading the headaches this highway project will cause. Yet I find it odd that one obvious solution to the impending commuting delays hasn’t gotten much play – to move closer to where we work.
Americans’ love affair with cars is legendary; indeed, our willingness to drive long distances to and from work has shaped the very nature of many towns and suburbs. Studies show we spend an average of more than an hour a day in our car – up to three hours for many commuters. Amazingly, those numbers continue to rise.
But even if you don’t mind spending a large chunk of your day in your car, and the money it costs to fill up the gas tank, can we as a society afford to live like this anymore, in the face of a warming planet and dwindling oil resources? Cars are second only to coal-burning power plants as the largest U.S. source of greenhouse gas pollution, and nearly half the oil we use goes to fuel our automobiles. If you’re worried about that, here’s one thing you can do: scientists say the single biggest way each of us can help the environment is to live closer to where we work, shop and play.
Of course it’s no small matter to change homes. But if you’re thinking of moving anyway, consider a move that will have you driving less. You just might avoid some of St. Louis’ upcoming commuting headaches, and do the planet a favor in the bargain.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Liz Forrestal is Executive Director for Missouri Votes Conservation, a non-profit that advocates for pro-environmental legislation in Missouri. She also participates in a number of community environmental groups, and is a board member of Audubon Missouri.