Want to lose 500 pounds in a year?

We're talking carbon dioxide, of course. While nontoxic and good for plant life, humans simply make too much of it. Carbon dioxide is a prime greenhouse gas, and scientists say it's connected to climate change — more popularly known a global warming.

You're producing carbon dioxide right now. Not just through your breathing, but through the energy you consume every day. It's a byproduct of nonrenewable power generation. Virtually all human activity — from food production to heavy industry — produces some amount of carbon dioxide. And despite plenty of public attention to the issue, man-made carbon dioxide production is increasing.

One of the biggest producers is automobiles. Nobody is expecting you to turn over the keys to the family car, but every mile we save in transportation is money in the bank, and less carbon dioxide (and even more noxious pollutants) in the atmosphere.

Ready for a fairly painless way to start making a difference? Take the 10-Mile Pledge.

What is the 10-Mile Pledge?

This is a pretty simple exercise. Put down, in writing, how you can save 10 miles of driving each week. Just 10 miles. Then do it.

You probably live within three miles of where you buy groceries. So an errand or two a week should do the trick. Consistency is the key. We strongly believe that steady, incremental change is the best way for most people to incorporate sustainability in their lives.

If you can make the 10-Mile Pledge stick, your reduced driving will cut approximately 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year. More importantly, it will get you thinking about your driving.

Where to find your 10 miles

Combine trips. You've heard this for years. Maybe it's easier to do now with gasoline at record price levels almost everywhere. Making a weekly grocery list helps. So does keeping a driving log for a month or two to see if you can locate any wasteful patterns. Think about where you usually shop. Would someplace closer do just as well?

Share a ride with another Pledger. Just like dieting, exercise, or quitting smoking, a habit is easier to keep if you have a buddy. Share the 10-Mile Pledge with your friends. Then take turns sharing a ride twice a week. That should do it.

Run weekend errands on bike or on foot. You needn't pull out your bicycle to do every weekend errand (though that's not a bad idea). Just walk or ride on or two little tasks a weekend. A trip to rent Saturday night movies could give you 10 miles in a single hour. Bonus points if you return them the same way.

Investigate public transportation. Not everyone has access to useful public transportation. But if your community offers it, see whether public transport might work for you. A lot of people go multi-modal on their commute, driving to a central point and taking buses, subways or light rail to their final destination. Get a schedule and see what's available.

Declare one car-free day every month. Ever hit the office Monday more tired than when you left? Maybe that weekend was a little too full. Go car-free on Saturday or Sunday and stay close to home. Make yourself slow down, catch up on your reading and unwind. Even if you're not using the driving you save toward the Pledge, you'll start your week more refreshed. And relaxation is a habit most of us could learn to love.

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