Every day, we make decisions about how we get from point A to point B. Sometimes those decisions are pretty straightforward. For example, if I am traveling to West Virginia for work, I will either drive or take a plane. Other times, not so much. Recently, I started training for a fall triathlon. To train for the swimming leg of the event, I get in my car and drive to the pool. It dawned on me one day why am I driving to the pool when I can just hop on my bike and ride? I would not only save energy (not to mention money!), but get my cycling workout in as well.
Parents and school leaders make similar decisions every day about how students travel to and from school, be it by bus, car, bike, or foot. We may not realize it, but these choices can have a great influence on how a child perceives and navigates his or her world. In Japan, parents don’t think twice about sending their children off to school, alone, using mass transit. Those 30-60 minutes commuting to and from school enables children to not only learn how to move about their world, but to build self-confidence and a sense of independence.
Choosing alternative modes of transportation, like biking or walking, can also help young people learn how their footprint (literally!) impacts their environment. Everywhere they go, our children are surrounded by messages promoting sustainability: recycle, conserve energy, choose healthy foods. How many of these messages encourage us to make different choices regarding our transportation? To teach today’s children and future generations to live more lightly on this planet, we need to challenge both them and their families to find new ways to travel, including to and from school.
This edition of GreenNotes focuses on some of the successful programs in place that are getting schools, parents, and students to rethink their school transportation options. One of the most prominent and highly regarded programs is Safe Routes to School, a nationwide effort to promote safe walking and biking options in communities. You will learn about more about this program, as well as how it is being implemented in several different communities across the country. You will also read about a competition sponsored by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership called Fire Up Your Feet, which challenges students to get moving before, during, and after school.
Of course, walking and biking to school are not always an option for students and many still ride the big yellow bus. You may be surprised to hear that the school buses of today are not the same ones we adults grew up riding. In this newsletter, you will read about how one school district has successfully transitioned to a Biodiesel fleet, as well as how the National School Transportation Association is encouraging its members to adopt more eco-friendly practices. Last, but not least, you will learn how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus USA program is promoting cleaner bus fleets and reduced vehicle idling.
We all have the power to make shifts in our routines for the better. By making these changes consistently, we demonstrate to our children a kinder, more sustainable way to live our lives. Because, when it comes down to it, how our children get to school matters.