Take the eco-route!

Avoid boredom and routine while travelling by taking time to be aware of your surroundings. Use these ideas to make your daily travel more environmentally fun.

Travel is something we all do daily as part of our routine. We go to work, school, play and errands. In doing so, we often take the same route and use the same method to get to our destination. This can lead to monotony and losing an appreciation for what is around us. We might miss the bald eagle flying overhead, the setting sun or a maple tree blazing in its autumn colors. Sharing these experiences with youth is important to help them grow to be environmentally aware adults.

The most common means of travel is by automobile and we are conditioned to take the fastest and shortest path to our destination. Why not leave 5-10 minutes earlier? This allows you to drive a little slower to take notice of what is around you. You may even decide to take a different route that is longer but offers new sights and scenes. Along the way, ask yourself and youth some questions. What kind of trees do you see? Are there any animals or birds living around here? What other plants, flowers and bushes can you identify? Open the window. What do you smell? Maybe even get out of the car to have a look around. If you arrive early at your destination, instead of rushing into the building, enjoy the landscaping, the insects in the grass or on the sidewalk, and the birds singing. Hopefully, we all can see the value in taking an extra 5-10 minutes for these added benefits.

Riding a bicycle is a great means of travelling to get around. It is a simpler way to go short distances without the hassle of parking and getting caught in traffic. It is less expensive, friendlier to the environment and includes a health benefit. Bicycling provides an immediate connection to the outdoors and offers plenty of refreshment. A mountain bike offers the added advantage of being able to venture off the road where you might see and experience new outdoor signs. Watch for birds. Look for animal signs such as buck rubs and tracks. Feel the wind and listen to the sounds around you. Remember to always use caution when bicycling and wear a helmet.

If you are not in a hurry to get to your destination, then walking is the way to go! It is the least expensive mode of travel and also the most environmentally friendly. Walking is the best way to take in all the sights and smells that surround you during your travel. It also allows you to stop to pick and feel objects such as different rocks, cones and other interesting things you might find.

Having some resources along during your drive, bike ride or walk can help you identify different birds, trees or whatever it is you might find of interest. There are numerous field guides available to help you with the identifying process. Incidental learning is a good thing for all of us!

Taking a different approach to travel can help us all develop a greater appreciation of our surroundings and instill awareness in youth to be more environmentally conscious. Surely, this must be worth the little extra time it takes! Michigan State University Extension encourages participation in new experiences that are safe and expose youth to science involvement with 4-H Science: Asking Questions and Discovering Answers.

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