What It's All About
There are many ways to get around. Some methods create pollution and some do not. Walking, biking, and sailing are Earth-friendly ways to transport yourself, but you cannot always get by with these methods. How can we make the other ways more environmentally friendly?
Planes, Trains, Boats, and Automobiles
Cars, trucks, some trains, planes, and buses burn gasoline to make them go. When gasoline is burned, it releases exhaust that pollutes the air. In fact, vehicle emissions are the number-one source of air pollution. Vehicles cause land and water pollution when they leak oil, gas, brake fluid, engine coolant, and other chemicals. These vehicles also need roads to drive on and parking lots to park on. Building roads and parking lots means covering natural green spaces with concrete, which destroys natural habitats for bugs, birds, and animals. It also means using up other natural resources like gravel and oil. Noise pollution is another harmful by-product of these modes of transportation.
More than 8 million miles of roadway crisscross the United States, taking up about 17,375 square miles of land — an area about the size of Maryland and Delaware combined. Using a large local map, cut a piece of paper scaled to the map that would represent 17,000 square miles. How much of your region would it cover?
Roads are necessary for getting around, but all that driving leads to a lot of roadkill. Roadkill is the number-one way that humans kill wildlife in the United States. According to the Defenders of Wildlife, more than 1 million animals are killed on the nation's roadways every single day.
Have your students design a small postcard to tape to a dashboard to remind drivers to slow down and look for wildlife. Not only will it prevent roadkill, but slowing down also increases gas mileage, which protects the planet and saves money! Put the kids in charge of keeping a watchful eye out for wildlife on the road while they are riding in the car.
Since people now know that transportation can be hard on the environment, they've begun to come up with new ways to travel. Hybrid cars run partially on gasoline and partially on electricity. Diesel cars are being turned into biodiesel cars, which means they run on plant oil instead of fossil fuel oil. Some people run their biodiesel cars on used vegetable oil from restaurants. There are even cars that run on solar power and water. These vehicles are still test cars, but they may be what most people drive in the near future.
For shorter distances, bicycles are the most efficient form of transportation. There are many types of new bikes that help make pedal power more feasible for everyday activities like getting to work and running errands. The Xtracycle, or sport utility bike, has an extended frame so there's room to haul things safely. From surfboards to furniture to kids, the SUB can haul almost anything. Electric bikes have small engines that help propel them. They are powered by small batteries and pedaling. A Twike seats two people side-by-side and is a three-wheeled cross between an electric car and a bike. The battery powers the car and the driver can assist by pedaling, which makes the battery last even longer.
All that pedaling can make you thirsty, so make sure you carry a water bottle with you! There are many reusable eco-friendly water bottles that will keep you hydrated without generating more trash for the landfills. You can choose from aluminum and plastic bottles in all different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Have your students invent their own Earth-friendly transportation. First, brainstorm all the different ways to get around. Some ideas to get you started include roller skates, cars, buses, trains, planes, all-terrain vehicles, helicopters, hot-air balloons, and rockets. How many can you come up with? Once you have your list, have the students create their own unique mode of transportation by drawing it on a large piece of paper. They should come up with what it would look like and also how their invention would be powered.