Saturday, January 26, 2013

Zero Waste Product Shout-Out: Bus Tokens

I live in Utah, where we deal with inversions, a natural bubble effect intensified by our mountains, which keep air trapped in the valleys without circulation. Because of this Utah has the strictest car emissions standards in the nation, and requires yearly tests with registration. Also because of this, when an inversion is present, it makes nighttime driving look like this:

I'm not fond of the inversion effect. It makes every day a hazy smog, and has terrible consequences for our health. I remember in physiology class in high school a guest lecturer brought in a lung from a native Utahan marathoner, and a person who had smoked for two years. Just by living in Utah and being outside frequently, the marathoner had the same amount of damage as the smoker. The one good thing about the inversion is the constant, physical reminder of our emissions. It led to the aforementioned strict vehicle standards, and played an effect in expanding the public transit system.

Because of this, today's zero waste product shout-out goes to the bus token. A humble, reusable thing, it is easy to carry extras, makes exact change unnecessary, and allows me to commute to work in an environmentally responsible way. It also saves me a ton of money by allowing my husband and I to share a car. $2.35 a ride seems expensive, until I realized that it costs around fifty to seventy-five cents a mile to purchase, register, insure, maintain, and fuel a car. (It costs much more if you consider parking, road maintenance  pollution costs, and  land value)

The Utah public transit system is much better than some areas, and a lot worse than others. It certainly doesn't have the ubiquity of the New York subway system, but it does give central and northern Utah residents a clean, reliable, and reasonably convenient way to travel. At this point, for Utah and many states, the best way to improve public transit is to get more people to use it more often. This causes more frequent stops, more and better routes to open up, and more efficient buses and trains to be used.  You may not be trapped in a valley full of air dangerous to breathe, but that doesn't mean air pollution isn't a serious problem. Take some time today to look up your local transit system, its routes, and how to ride it. Whenever possible, leave your car at home and walk or bike to the nearest bus or train station. Your health, wallet, and the planet will thank you.

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