May is the official Bike to Work Month. Here in Seattle the Cascade Bike Club, in partnership with Group Health and a few other organizations, sponsor the Bike to Work Challenge. I have been riding into work as often as my legs and weather allow (it’s been especially rainy this May, thank you Global Warming!).
It seems obvious that biking to work is a great way to stay in shape, as well as reduce your carbon footprint. Half way through this month the Group Health Bike to Work Challenge participants have already racked up nearly 600,000 miles on their peddles! That’s the equivalent to saving roughly 300 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere due to car commuting!
I don’t mean to down play the importance of this challenge, but it needs to be mentioned: That’s just a drop in the bucket for CO2 emissions here in the U.S., where we release on average 6 billion metric tons of CO2 a year.  Our transportation releases 3 billion tons a year, accounting for 33% of our total greenhouse gas emissions!
China may have recently outpaced our rate of CO2 emissions per year, but we by far lead for the most total CO2 released into the atmosphere. The rise in CO2 from the pre-industrial level of approximately 277 ppm (parts per million) to 384 ppm has be largely made by the U.S., which takes responsibility for 25.2% of that increase. China comes in second with a contribution of 15.2%, followed by Russia with 6.7% and the remaining has come from the rest of the world’s 189 countries. (Check out this real-time model) The rates of CO2 emissions are increasing world wide – so things are only getting worse. (Brown, Plan B 3.0)
Plant a Tree and Ride Your Bike!
Forests are great at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. The forests in the US have the potential to offset about 15% of our emissions a year. The unsettling part is the alarming rate at which we’re cutting our forests out of the picture! Annually, deforestation rates are near 35 million acres worldwide. We have already reduced our planet’s forests by 60%. Obviously there is a need to stop cutting and start planting. However, we should also reduce (preferably eliminate) our CO2 emission as well.
Changing how you commute can make a big difference. Transportation accounts for such a large percentage of our greenhouse gas emissions that if we all rode bikes, drove electric vehicles, or took renewable-energy powered trains to work we could reduce our CO2 emission by 22%!! That’s the equivalent of adding close to 660 million acres of forest! (assuming my math is correct)
Save Your Life While You’re at it
Or at least extend your life and your years of well-being by biking to work. This actually seems like a pretty self-evident reason to bike to work (or bike anywhere). Physical activity is good for you, although if you look at the numbers it would seem like this is news to most of us. Approximately 62% of Americans are overweight (about 200 million), 32% suffer from obesity (really overweight) and 25% from cardiovascular disease (80 million Americans); alignments related to poor diet and lack of exercise. (Those numbers were found here)
Some say that only 3% of Americans are living what is considered a healthy lifestyle – getting all their needed fruits and veggies, along with 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week. It takes me about 20 to 30 minutes to bike to work each way. If I bike to work everyday and eat some local, healthy food, I’m in the top 3% of the nation for health!
Simply Change Benefits Everyone
The only thing left behind when you are gone our your children, family, friends, and the world you left them. If you live your life in a distructive way you will not care once you die, but everyone else will surely mind. The legacy we leave the world can been positively influenced by simply things like turning off lights, biking to work, support local economies, push for renewable energy and sustainable policies. Plus, it makes for a healthy life, so why not do it?