Marin Voice: Now is the time for form carpools

By Laura Kelly, Guest op-ed column
Marin IJ, January 1, 2011

TEN YEARS AGO, another mother and I noticed that we were both driving our daughters to school the same route to kindergarten.

We were both dropping off at 8:30 and picking up at noon, with a younger sibling in tow with us every day. We decided to try it carpooling as a way to decrease the number of car trips we were making.

The personal time we gained from driving less was energizing. We were elated to schlep less, and have more time to do whatever needed to be done. What we weren't aware of at the time was that the journey evolving was far more meaningful, than a simple ride to school.

In first grade, another mother in our neighborhood joined our carpool, and then a fourth mother was quick to "get in" on our movement to gain more time for mom, by driving less.

The carpool provided us with the time to gain balance in our busy lives, and a way for our children to bond with our neighbors in Fairfax.

The mothers in our carpool became fast and furious friends, and so did our children. We each had only one shift per week and rejoiced in our simpler, less stressful mornings. On the extra day, when no one drove, we taught our children to safely bike to and from school. The vision of the kids paddling along like ducklings in a row on their bicycles is one of my fondest memories.

I believe our children will reflect back one day on our neighborhood carpool as a joyride of good times.

In elementary school, a family van departed from our neighborhood daily, which was filled to the brim with children and siblings who talked, laughed, cried and sometimes even sang holiday carols on the way to school.

Our carpool has been a soulful journey with neighbors, who are now lifelong friends.

With growing concerns about global warming and the strong movement to "Go Green," my feelings about our carpool have changed. I now feel like a proud mama Polar Bear when I'm now driving our younger daughter and her friends to middle school.

After all, I am transporting the next generation of leaders that might one day contribute to solutions that will reverse global warming.

Our carpool is an opportunity to educate our kids about the growing importance of green transportation as a way to reduce auto emissions.

Our neighborhood carpool is no longer just a convenience for us moms, but a conscious effort to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Our village carpool is an active part of the revolution to make green travel a part of daily life.

Carpools build strong neighborhood connections and their value is immeasurable. They save busy parents time, stress, and money, gas and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Our carpool has been in place for ten years and our teenage children now walk, bike and/or carpool to high school together, thanks to our carpool roots from elementary school.

Above all, I am grateful of the fact that we have taught our children the lifelong lesson of traveling green together on a daily basis to cool the Earth, and rescue our planet from the perils of global warming.

Laura Kelly is the volunteer liaison for Safe Routes to School in Marin County. For more information about how to establish a carpool and family network in your neighborhood, go to www.schoolpoolmarin.org


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