You’re running late to meet your friend at Memorial Glade. Like, really late — you were supposed to be there 10 minutes ago and your apartment is a 15-minute walk away. A difficult choice emerges: Should you suck it up, just walk and be even later, or should you get in the car and be there in five? Though I’ve chosen to just drive and be marginally late many times, there are so many reasons to walk instead. Walking is good for your body, reduces your carbon footprint, decreases air and noise pollution and it’s pretty fun (when you’re not half-walking, half-jogging to meet your friend on time).
You’ll emit fewer greenhouse gases
When greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere from actions such as driving a car, heat is trapped in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Walking instead of driving means that you’re contributing less to climate change. Of course, when you’re walking more you also need more fuel for your body through food and water and food production can also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. However, walking is the better option. A study by the Pacific Institute traced the greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire production of different foods that would be used to replace the energy used by walking, and they found that walking resulted in significantly less emissions overall. So if your goal is to reduce your carbon footprint, you can’t lose by walking.
It’s good for your body
Walking is a great way to get outside and get a little movement in without doing a full workout. Not only does walking help prevent some diseases and conditions, but you might also build some muscle walking up these Berkeley hills. Walking can also be calming and stress relieving. Next time you’re feeling super overwhelmed, think about going for a walk outside. At the very least, if you don’t have time to work out but do have time to walk to a meeting or nearby coffee shop, you can feel like you did something active for the day.
It decreases air and noise pollution
As important as decreasing fossil fuel emissions is, walking can also have a more immediate environmental and social impact. Walking decreases air pollution compared to driving in a car, meaning means a little less smog and a little healthier air for the community that you live in. Though you may not notice this kind of air pollution on a daily basis, it can make a huge difference for people with respiratory issues or asthma and for children who are still developing. And as fun as cities are, no one really loves the sound of cars honking, skidding and revving their engines. You can help make your community a little more peaceful and quiet (especially when everyone is stuck studying and working in their homes) by walking instead of driving.
It’s free and it’s fun!
An obvious but often-ignored fact: Driving guzzles up a lot of gas money! Not only is that hurting your wallet, but it’s supporting gas companies that are perpetuating environmental degradation across the world. If you’ve been decreasing your Amazon shopping or eating less meat for environmental and ethical reasons, start thinking of driving the same way. If you don’t want to directly support gas and oil extraction and emission with your dollars, try to drive less.
Don’t underestimate the value of a great walk. Whether you’re walking around with friends or taking a solo adventure with your headphones in, walking can be a good time. You might find that you discover a new part of your community that you really like or stumble upon a hidden cafe. You might make a friend or witness a cool moment. One time I stumbled upon a random outdoor concert outside someone’s home and just stopped to listen for a while. Especially when you’ve been sitting inside for a while, a walk can help you feel a little more connected to the rest of the world.
There are many reasons to decide to walk instead of drive to your destination, even if you’re running late. Even if your decision to walk instead of drive doesn’t solve climate change (spoiler alert, it will not) it’s still a good way to make a small difference in your community and in your own life. And if walking isn’t your thing, consider biking or skateboarding. You can get outside without always getting behind the wheel.