Massachusetts Reduces Carbon Footprint with Car-Free Week
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 21:09
This week, Massachusetts is celebrating Car-Free Week from Sept. 17 to Sept. 23. The event encourages residents to find alternative modes of transportation and reduce their carbon footprint. The week is being celebrated in cities across the United States.
According to MassRides’ – a company that helps people plan their trips throughout Massachusetts – Car-Free Week is an extension of World Car-Free Day, which promotes finding more green friendly transportation, such as bicycling, carpooling and bus riding. Car-Free Day itself takes place on Sept. 22 this year, with cities all over the world participating. While most Smith students can either walk or take the PVTA as an alternative to driving, residents of Massachusetts with longer commutes, such as Smith faculty, may have a more difficult time reducing their carbon footprints.
To add incentives to participate in Car-Free Week, organizers are teaming up with MassRides, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and MassCommute to offer prizes and gift certificates. Participants can track their “green” trips on NuRide, a Web site which tracks green transportation, sponsored by MassDOT. Those who log their green trips are entered into contests for $50 Amazon gift cards, with a grand prize of a $150 Visa gift card.
For many people, however, car alternatives are not always available or viable options. In an article by local news center 22 WWLP, writer Elyisa Rodriguez said that Car-Free Week is a great idea, but “without subways or commuter trains in the Pioneer Valley, the bus is the extent of what’s available for public transportation.” Even with hundreds of buses and 24-member communities, it is unclear whether Car-Free Week will be an option for areas that do not have access to PVTA or commuters who come to Smith from out of state.
“People can always carpool, so it would be good if people can do that, but I don’t think you can make that big of an impact with one week of no cars,” said Ashlynn August ’15. “You’d have to change everything and do something to lessen the impact of the carbon footprint.”
“Not to mention public transportation can also be inconvenient,” she continued. “If you need to get something at the Holyoke Mall, it will take you 15 minutes to get there by car. Once I took the PVTA there, and the travel time in total wound up being two hours. And stuff like that is really time consuming, so people are always going to want their own cars to get places.”
Sponsors of the event hope to encourage car-owners to travel “car-light” throughout the year. “I think long-term, people need to be conscientious of the environment. If they’re only doing it for the carrot, I’m not sure how effective that kind of incentive really is,” said Julia Nimchuk ’15.
Although Smith organizations have not yet disclosed any information about events they have planned for Car-Free week, L. David Smith, chair of the environmental science and policy department, offered to work in conjunction with Smith groups such as CEEDS, Green Team, the Office of Sustainability and the Bike Kitchen to advertise for Car-Free Week.
More information about Car-Free Week can be found at www.commute.com/carfree/home.