Walk to School Day: October 3, 2012

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

“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.

The author's children on their way to school

[Top image: Pedestrian crossing. Image source: Peter Blanchard/Flickr via a Creative Commons license. Bottom image: The author’s children on their way to school. Image source: Kerry Crisley/TNC]

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  1. Love this post! Luckily, the bus stop isn’t so far away for us, so we walk everyday. But in my growing-up days, I remember that I walked to elementary, junior and senior high school and it was quite a hike! Looking back, I’m glad a bus wasn’t an option. It was a nice way to chat with friends and get some fresh air…and ruminate about any pending tests that day.

    The burning question I’m left with is – why aren’t I follow all of your blog posts? Nice job! I’m signing up right now.


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