Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Squandered Your Carbon Footprint

"I squandered your carbon footprint yesterday," my neighbor told me.  "I drove to work."

My neighbor is actually a fairly green guy, from what I've observed.  He buys second-hand, takes mass transit to work most days and has traveled the globe extensively.  If his kids have new toys, it's because he's been to the Salvation Army or Craig's List.  While I'm quite certain he doesn't obsess about all things environmental the way Franklin and I do, he's not Part of the Problem.

What he is, however, is a father of three boys who often finds himself struggling with the reality that it takes him about twice as long to commute via mass transit as it does in his car.  And some days, it's just not an option to lose those minutes, especially considering that his two under-fives are in bed by eight.

My husband's job takes him downtown, an area easily accessible by mass transit and so congested that it would take longer to drive.  While no one loves to walk in a downpour, heatwave or cold snap, most of the time, there's little downside to making the greener choice.

As I look at jobs outside the home, something I very much hope to have shortly after Fiona's arrival, I wonder: how will I possibly go about finding something that doesn't require me to commute in a car?  And am I being responsible to actually consider that a deal-breaker in a potential job?

When our employers leave center city and investment in mass transit fails to keep up with rapidly evolving needs, it's impractical to ask families to make these sacrifices on a regular basis.

I don't mind reducing my carbon footprint so my neighbor can actually tuck his sons into bed at night.  I get that.  But I do fret that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of decent people out there, who really would be willing to switch to more sustainable forms of transportation, if only it didn't translate to such a direct sacrifice of family time.  We live in a city well-served by mass transit, but it's still daunting to make it truly functional for the majority of our residents, event those willing to give it a whirl.

This is a problem.

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