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Airport taxi lines

I landed at Washington Dulles airport last month en route to a climate policy conference. As I waited at the taxi stand for a cab to take me into the city, a giant Ford Expedition SUV with seats for eight passengers pulled up. I asked the dispatcher, “Do I have to get in this thing? Can’t I go in a smaller vehicle?”

In a frustrated voice (I had delayed the flow of the taxi line), he said, “Come on; get in. It costs the same.” I was on the verge of arguing with him that it might cost the same in dollars, but not in terms of carbon. Instead, in a small act of civil disobedience, I walked across the roadway to a more reasonably sized taxi. Then, the horns started blaring and everyone (the dispatcher, taxi drivers, and waiting passengers) joined in the commotion. You might have thought I had incited a riot.

Once in the safety of the smaller taxi (a still too big Ford Crown Victoria), I reflected on my carbon-fighting experience. How much of a difference would this really make? About 27% on this ride, according to the TerraPass calculator. Should I have taken the bus, which emits far less carbon per passenger, and which I have used on other occasions? It would not have worked this time because I was on a tight schedule.

I had a related experience in San Diego in July. At the airport taxi stand, I overheard two men behind me saying they were going to the same hotel. I suggested that we share a cab. As we got into the vehicle, this time a Ford Taurus, the driver said, “No, you can’t do this. You weren’t together. It’s against the rules.” We eventually calmed down the driver and he took us to our destination.

I tell these stories not to blame taxi drivers. They’re just doing their jobs — and difficult ones at that. But somehow we need to change the societal thinking, so that saving carbon is viewed as a mission we’re all in together.

Take the first step.

Start small. Be conscious of the impact your actions have on the environment and figure out what you can do to lessen the blow. Calculate, conserve, and offset.

For businesses, our Corporate Sustainability Plans can help you with your emission reduction goals.

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