Last month, I challenged myself to lower my carbon footprint so I decided to work out my first big step: overcoming car dependency. I live in the San Juan metropolitan area, where you have everything so near that sometimes using the car is ridiculous. First of all, I tuned up my old bike and skateboard. I started going almost everywhere with them: grocery store, drugstore, university, concerts, and even on Friday nights hanging out with my friends. I used my car only to go to work, because the distance between work and my apartment is significant. But I realize that other options where available, like the bike/train program, which gave me the opportunity to use the train with my bike and cut a run of approximately 45 minutes to one of 10 minutes to work. Unfortunately, it was no easy feat. Here in Puerto Rico the infrastructure to support the use of bicycles is almost zero. Even though, there are many recreational cyclists here, there is still a lot to be learned about promoting the use of the bicycle as transportation means. While we have a local Cyclist Bill of Rights, it is not enforced all the time. Cyclists, recreational or not, are a big group, and agencies need to provide the necessary infrastructure to guarantee our safety.
We all know that cars & trucks are among the largest sources of air pollution. Vehicles emit about one-third of all volatile organic compounds and half of the nitrogen oxides and air toxics that contribute to poor air quality. They release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and known contributor to climate change.
Our Agency has taken various steps to help employees reduce their impact on the environment. EPA offers its employees a Transit Subsidy which is an excellent way to promote the use of mass transportation. Also programs like Flexiplace, Alternate Work Locations and Compressed Work Schedules give us the opportunity to limit or eliminate our commute days, thus lowering our carbon footprint.
For now, I am working towards becoming car independent. I strive to lower my carbon footprint by making this and other changes in my daily routine. While I am changing my life, I am improving my health and contributing to making Earth a better place.
About the author: Alex Rivera joined EPA in 2007. He works as an environmental engineer in the Municipal Waters Division of the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.