I've been blessed to live within a short walk of both the elementary school and high school my children attend. But I am always amazed at the number of families within close proximity to schools who still opt to drive the short distance to drop their kids off. Getting to school has an enormous impact on our environment as well as our health. With an estimated 1.6 million children in Canada (26 percent of children) considered overweight or obese, it's a wonder more parents don't look at making healthy transportation options a part of their daily lives. Here are a few ways to work health, cost, and environmentally friendly options into your getting to school routine:
- Get on the Walking School Bus (free): If your children's schools are close enough to walk to, leave the car in the garage. Walking is the greenest way to travel and does the least damage to the environment. Find ways to either walk with or ensure that your children join forces with other families who travel the same path to school. This arrangement can give you adult company to chat with, or you can split the task of walking with the children to school. If enough children in your area head in the same direction to school, consider setting up a walking bus in which the children all walk together with a parent at the front as the "driver" and another parent at the back for safety.
- Happy Trailers: Active cyclists or anyone looking to take up cycling should be aware of the array of two- and four-wheel options, including one of my favorites, the trail-a-bike. Geared for kids in transition to their own bike, the trail-a-bike is perfect for families who want a healthy and more sustainable way to get around. Options include either an attachment that converts a child's own bike into a trailer that follows behind the adult bike, or a custom trailer that has pedals, handlebars and a rear wheel only. Kids riding on a trailing bike need to be old enough to balance and stay on, but since they're trailing behind the adult they don't need to be able to navigate traffic on their own.
- Create a Carpool: Eco-friendly carpools are best done with a consistent group of committed parents organized into a set number of pick ups and drop offs. Ideally, the families work together to organize the largest number of children that can safely be transported in the smallest car. Carpools are easiest to manage if they involve just two or three families. Find out which days work best (or worst) for the carpool drivers. Create a schedule that works for everyone and a system for notifying other members of the pool if someone isn't riding on a particular day. For safety reasons, it's essential that everyone involved in the carpool have full contact information for all the children's parents, along with the children's addresses, allergy notes, and any important health information.
Gillian "Gill" Deacon is a Canadian author and broadcaster, currently the host of Here and Now on CBLA-FM in Toronto. Before working in radio, Deacon was a television broadcaster.