Ask Eartha: Getting around with the climate in mind

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A cyclist rides the recpath across Dillon Dam on June 5, 2019, along Dillon Reservoir.
Photo by Hugh Carey / Summit Daily archives

Dear Eartha, my goal this year is to reduce my carbon footprint by driving less, but it’s not always easy. What tips do you have?

The level of convenience that cars provide can deter us from considering other transportation options. If you have access to a personal vehicle, your brain is probably on autopilot to just grab your keys and go when heading out the door. However, there are many ways we can reduce how often we use our cars, which helps to not only reduce carbon emissions but also traffic congestion.

For those of us driving across the county after work, it’s pretty obvious that traffic congestion is increasing in our community. Between an increase of full-time residents, visitors and construction, we’re seeing more bumper-to-bumper traffic in Summit County. The more cars we can get off the road at any given time, the better traffic will flow and the more we’ll help contribute toward reducing carbon emissions.

While vehicle emissions aren’t as visible as traffic, they are something we need to reduce. Carbon dioxide, a type of greenhouse gas, comes from burning fossil fuels. When we turn on our gas vehicles we directly contribute to the carbon emissions in our community. In fact, about one-third of carbon pollution in Summit County comes from transportation. In order to meet our communitywide goal of reducing transportation emissions 25% by 2030, we need to rethink the way we get around. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for getting you out of your personal vehicle this summer.

Bus: Take in the view

What’s better than sitting back and enjoying the mountainous views (and maybe getting some work or reading done) while you get shuttled to your destination? While many of us are likely familiar with local bus options — like Summit Stage and Breck Free Ride — we might not be as inclined to consider taking the bus when traveling out of the county, but why not?

Summit County local Tom Koehler has started using Bustang for his travels across the state. He said taking the bus “gives me a break from paying attention to other drivers and creates less emissions, which is key in our battle with global warming.”

For Koehler, using the Summit Stage in conjunction with the Bustang for out-of-town travel is easy and comfortable. Bustang even allows you to store three large pieces of luggage underneath the bus, including bikes, skis and snowboards. So next time you head out of town, consider planning a bus route to your destination and enjoy the views.

Ride-share: Connect with new people

As more people get vaccinated, ride-share services are once again becoming a popular option. Using ride-share apps, you can split the cost of a trip with one or two other people who are headed in the same direction. Instead of driving all by your lonesome, you’ll share conversations with somebody new. There are a few popular options for ride-share services: Lyft, RideShare, Uber and TreadShare, a new Colorado carpooling app set to launch in October.

Carpool: Save on gas

Outside of app-based carpooling, you can also set up your own carpool schedule with neighbors and co-workers. Decide which days work best for everyone to carpool and assign driving days to each person. You might even consider asking your workplace to create a carpool incentive program. Preferred parking, reduced parking costs, or fun giveaways and awards (such as gift cards, coupon books or local swag) are all great ways to encourage carpooling in the workplace. You’ll save on the cost of gas, reduce mileage on your car, and help reduce traffic and emissions from your regular commute.

Bike or walk: Get some fresh air

Opting to bike, walk, scooter, rollerblade (or whatever human-powered mode you fancy) are the most environmentally friendly options to get you from point A to B while also benefiting your health. If you don’t live in area that’s as accessible for these modes of transportation, consider walking or biking to a bus stop or ride-share location instead of taking your car.

The weather in Summit is gorgeous right now, making it the perfect time to experiment with different transportation options. So whether you’re looking to travel in or out of town, take a moment to plan your route so you can get around without the burden of excess vehicle emissions weighing you down.

Dominique Giroux

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at