We hear so much about global warming, yet are often left wondering, "What can I do to help keep the earth cool?" Well, I met a family of five in Seattle that is living without a car for at least one year in order to help save the planet from global warming.
When 19-year-old Gary Durning totaled the family car, his parents made a deal with him and his two siblings. "If we didn't get a car, then we'd get cell phones, and for me that was like, 'Oh my gosh, that's so awesome,'" 12-year-old Kathryn Durning told me.
So the Durning family has stopped spewing greenhouse gases from a car and now commutes mostly by foot, bus or bike. Once in a while, they'll splurge and rent a hybrid car for $8 an hour. These are cars that neighbors can share once they buy into the "flex car" rental plan.
I asked Alan Durning if he really thinks one family can make much of a difference when it comes to global warming.
"Absolutely ... We're making a quantifiable difference because we're not burning anywhere near as many gallons of gasoline," Alan told me.
Alan figures his family is saving the planet about 4,000 pounds of pollution this year, since he says most cars emit roughly their own weight in pollution. He says it can only help what is a worsening situation in his part of the country.
Experts say the snow pack in the Cascade Mountains, which are just east of Seattle, has diminished by about 50 percent over the past 50 years. As temperatures rise, more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow. Snow sticks around longer, giving a steadier supply of water. Rain doesn't help as much.
The result: Water rationing and a drought in Washington. If global warming continues, a lack of water could, in theory, even affect Seattle's energy supply, because about 90 percent of its power comes from hydropower dams.
We've all heard about Seattle's famous rainy weather. Well, that weather has made for a lot of wet commutes for Alan on his bicycle. He estimates he rides about 40 miles a week to and from work.
His wife, Amy, walks most places. She admits she's crazy, as a mother of three children, to give up the family car. But one advantage, she says, is that the kids can no longer argue in the back seat, because there isn't one.
To run errands, the Durnings use a baby stroller, which they call their "minivan." It has carried groceries, a broken vacuum cleaner, and even their son, Peter, to the doctor.
The Durnings say one of the best parts of this whole experiment is not only is it helping the planet get in shape, but they're getting in shape too. Together, Alan and Amy say they've lost about 10 pounds. On top of that, they're saving about $200 a month by living the carless lifestyle. They call this savings "walking around money," since, after all, they're doing a lot more walking.
Here's my question for you: Do you think you could live without a car for a year?