Published Feb. 2, 2023
BY SARA EYJOLFSDOTTIR
As the impact of vehicle pollution on the environment and human health becomes more apparent, some at CHS are choosing alternative methods of transportation, often trading comfort or expediency for a greener cause.
Through their production of greenhouse gasses and direct contributions to air pollution, motor vehicles pose a great threat to the environment and heavily contribute to the carbon footprint at CHS, explains science teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin.
“It starts even from the manufacturing of each car,” Maas-Baldwin explains. “Most of the cars in our parking lot are powered by fossil fuels, and combustion of gasoline releases a number of air pollutants, which lead to the phenomenon of climate change.”
This school year, 239 parking stickers were issued to CHS student drivers, making it more than 50 percent of upperclassmen who drive to school in their own vehicle every day, not including those driven by others, such as parents or other family members.
“When I see all of the cars that we have in our school parking lot, I wish that especially those that live close by would decide to walk or bike,” says senior Andrew Prescott, who chooses to walk to school every day. “Even the congestion at the end of the day in the parking lot just means more fumes are emitted.”
While some students use alternate methods of transportation out of necessity, there are quite a few hoping that their decisions will make a difference. According to National Geographic, vehicles are currently America’s biggest air quality compromisers and will only continue growing in their environmental impact.
“I don’t want to drive to school even when I’m older,” says freshman Merielle Flagg, who uses her e-bike to commute to and from school.
For students such as freshman Lila Glazier, who is unable to avoid cars altogether due to her home’s distance from the school, carpooling became the perfect choice to minimize her negative environmental impact.
“Since carpooling is both convenient and helps reduce carbon emissions, it should be used more,” says Glazier, who has carpooled to school as well as after school sports practices with senior Marina Hobson since the beginning of the year.
A number of faculty members have also chosen to make their own difference on the environment, including math teacher Andrea Smith who tries to use her electric scooter as her main mode of transportation to school.
“I wanted to take my gas-guzzling minivan off the road, which is reducing my family’s carbon footprint,” Smith says.
Maas-Baldwin explains how car emissions, beyond their production of greenhouse gasses, can also be linked to phenomena such as photochemical smog and acid rain. Increasing schoolwide consciousness about the impact that motor vehicles have on the environment is a shared goal for many.
“It’s necessary to show people that sacrificing a little bit of convenience can go a long way,” says science teacher Don Freitas as he switches out of his biking gear from his daily six-mile bike ride from Monterey.
Many of those choosing alternative transportation hope that improvements will be made in order to allow biking, walking and even scootering to CHS to become more accessible as they may not be practical for many.
“If we got more actual bike paths or were able to fix bumpy sidewalks, we would see fewer drivers,” Smith says. “I don’t even feel safe crossing the highway on my scooter most of the time, and I’m not sure I would want my kids riding their bikes to the high school every day.”
Beyond working to lower individual carbon emissions, there are other ways in which students can promote environmental consideration in Carmel and make these changes attainable for more people.
“In addition to becoming more conscious of your mode of transportation,” Maas-Baldwin says, “students could go and advocate to the City Council for more accessible paths for walking and biking which could make a huge impact for many.”