SmartCommute good not only for environment but also for our health

Think back to more than 30 years ago when the forward-thinking and widely acclaimed “Back to the Future” movie series kicked off its debut and made its mark to be forever remembered in the pop culture history books.

The three-part series takes viewers on a trip through the webs of time, following a high school “slacker” and his brilliant but somewhat eccentric friend, Dr. Emmett Brown, a physicist and inventor of the flux capacitor, which allows you to travel through time.

Brown aptly fastened that technology to an automobile, due to the requirement that you must be traveling at least 88 mph for it to kick in.

The time-traveling DeLorean car — with its falcon- or gull-wing, vertically opening doors — is what main protagonists Doc Brown and Marty McFly, respectively played by Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox, used to traverse different eras and alternate timelines of the past, present and future.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis with Steven Spielberg as executive director, the series featured all sorts of incredibly fantastic futuristic technology, from hover boards and flying cars to dehydrated microwavable pizzas that started the size of a cracker and expanded to a full-sized pie.

Obviously, if you take a look in your garage or at your microwave right now, we haven’t made those technological leaps yet.

But still, we are making some progress with technology. Nearly everyone these days walks around with a camera and small computer with internet access in their pockets, and we’ve got robots that can sweep our floors and manufacture our products, flying drones, Wi-Fi, voice-activated systems and a host of other things.

With that progress, we’re also beginning to realize the importance of a more sustainable and environmentally friendly mode of transportation.

We might not have a car that runs on garbage like Doc designed in “Back to the Future,” but we’re continuing to work on technology for electric vehicles and autonomous ones that will chauffeur us to and from our destinations, all the while trying to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint on the Earth.

A group of students at Northern Michigan University, many of whom probably weren’t even alive when “Back to the Future” came out, are taking the “SmartCommute” initiative to heart. Students in a communications course taught by professor Jessica Thompson spent the semester developing an environmental campaign that will encourage students, faculty and staff to engage in low-carbon commuting, which is defined as walking, biking or carpooling.

The SmartCommute effort is not only a good way to help the environment, it’s also a means of lowering the number of parking spaces needed on campus, as students noted, leaving more green space for other things.

The primary goal of the students’ campaign is to “discourage the use of single-occupancy vehicles for daily commutes,” as the survey indicated 44 percent of respondents traveled to campus that way.

Outside of NMU, many of us are likely going to and from work in the same style. Depending on where you live and work, it might be difficult to travel any other way, and carpooling might only be a limited possibility.

But for those of us who do reside close to our destinations, consider walking or biking if you’re able. Not only will it lessen your carbon footprint, but it will likely provide benefits to your health and finances by saving money on fuel and vehicle maintenance and repairs.


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