Saving the Earth and being more green are all the rage these days—but when it comes to giving up conveniences like our plastic bags and, especially, driving our cars, it can become quite a challenge to stay motivated enough to make the necessary sacrifices.
Between driving to work, taking the kids to and from school, and trips to the grocery store, the dry cleaners or a restaurant for lunch—it’s true, leaving the car at home and walking, riding a bike or taking the bus can double the amount of time those trips take.
But, could you find the motivation to do it if there were prizes involved?
Earth Day was Sunday, and that means the Drive Less Challenge is on! Cities all across the Bay Area are competing against each other to see who can save the most miles by walking, biking or taking alternative transportation over a two-week period from April 22 through May 5.
Local cities participating in the challenge include Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Los Altos, Foster City, Burlingame, and San Carlos. Already, in just the past few years the challenge has taken place, the positive impacts on the environment are significant.
The challenge began in 2009, and was started by Adina Levin of the Menlo Park Green Ribbon Citizens’ Committee. In that first year, 120 participants in Menlo Park replaced over 5,000 car miles with alternative “green” trips, reducing local CO2 emissions by more than two tons.
In 2010, the challenge expanded, and 280 participants in four communities saved a total of 29,000 miles, which is equivalent to taking 55 cars off the road.
2011 marked a record year of growth for the challenge, with 900 participants replacing more than 9,000 solo car miles with alternative “green” trips, said participant Kathy Schrenk. Local CO2 emissions were reduced by some 45,000 pounds, Schrenk said.
How can you participate? If your city is on the list of those participating—which can be found on the Drive Less Challenge website—you can sign up either as an individual, or as a local team. Local teams can be made up of anyone, such as a group from your office, your church, your mom’s club, or even just a group of friends or family members.
Then, for each mile you travel by any method other than your car, calculate the number of miles “saved” and enter it under your name or your group’s name on the Drive Less Challenge website.
Your miles will count toward your city’s total, and also toward your individual total, making you eligible for prizes.
“The Drive Less Challenge’s unique online tool makes it a fun experience, where you can track your trips, see how you're doing compared to friends and neighbors, and see how your community is doing against others,” said Adina Levin, founder of the Drive Less Challenge and Menlo Park Environmental Quality Commissioner.
Participants can follow along and share their experiences with friends and colleagues on Facebook and on Twitter at "@driveless." Prizes are being donated by businesses in each participating city, such as gift certificates to local restaurants and shops.
The Drive Less Challenge also has a handful of generous local sponsors this year, such as , , , and .
To view the full list of participating cities in the Bay Area or to sign up for the challenge, visit www.drivelesschallenge.com.