New­ton: County res­i­dents have longer com­mutes

The Covington News - - Lo­cal News -

De­spite the many ef­forts of Keep Cov­ing­ton/New­ton Beau­ti­ful, com­pared to the rest of the na­tion New­ton County res­i­dents re­cy­cle much less of their garbage — 3.62 per­cent.

New­ton County res­i­dents own more than their share of cars — more than one for ev­ery per­son liv­ing in the county. Ac­cord­ing to the New­ton County Tax Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice, as of April 1, there were 97,925 ve­hi­cles reg­is­tered in the county.

Pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles ac­counted for 59,295 of the ve­hi­cles reg­is­tered.

Keep in mind that ac­cord­ing to the 2007 U.S. Cen­sus pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mate, the county only has a pop­u­la­tion of 96,019, many of whom are not li­censed driv­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2003 Na­tional House­hold Travel Sur­vey pub­lished by the U.S. De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion, the aver­age Amer­i­can house­hold owns 1.9 per­sonal ve­hi­cles but only has 1.8 li­censed driv­ers.

New­ton County driv­ers are also com­mut­ing a greater dis­tance to work. Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus, while the aver­age na­tional com­mute time is 24.3 min­utes, the aver­age com­mute time jumps to 29.9 min­utes in New­ton County.

On one en­vi­ron­men­tal marker, it does ap­pear that New­ton County res­i­dents are con­serv­ing more than the rest of the na­tion — water us­age.

Ac­cord­ing to the New­ton County Water and Sew­er­age Au­thor­ity, in Jan­uary the per cus­tomer aver­age daily us­age of water was 176 gal­lons. Com­pared to the 350 gal­lons a day the Amer­i­can Water Works As­so­ci­a­tion re­ports the aver­age U.S. house­hold runs through, New­ton County res­i­dents are pos­i­tively fru­gal when it comes to water.

Whether this is a re­sult of the drought and the manda­tory re­stric­tions im­posed by Gov. Sonny Per­due or if it re­flects a real change in water con­sump­tion habits on the part of county res­i­dents re­mains to be seen.

Both Jasper County (120 gal­lons) and Wal­ton County (170 gal­lons) man­aged to con­serve even more water on a per cus­tomer ba­sis in Jan­uary.

Ac­cord­ing to the Hin­kle Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that ad­vo­cates for more en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion, in 2003, the aver­age U.S. house­hold pro­duced 12.4 tons of car­bon diox­ide from its house­hold op­er­a­tions and ap­prox­i­mately 11.7 tons from its au­to­mo­tive uses.

Amer­i­can house­holds on a yearly ba­sis pro­duce six times the car­bon diox­ide emis­sions as the rest of the world.

Pro­fes­sor Bryan Nor­ton, who stud­ies en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able prac­tices at Ge­or­gia Tech’s School of Pub­lic Pol­icy, be­lieves that U.S. con­sumers will have lit­tle choice but to be­gin cut­ting back their con­sump­tion rates, not only to de­crease green­house gas emis­sions, but also as a re­sult of the rest of the de­vel­op­ing world, es­pe­cially China and In­dia, de­mand­ing a greater share of the planet’s nat­u­ral re­sources.

“From an eth­i­cal point of view, we need to look at this as a prob­lem of fair­ness,” Nor­ton said. “At some point we’re go­ing to have to cut back our car­bon foot­print in or­der to al­low oth­ers to go through the de­vel­op­ment stage.”

While the de­vel­oped world has pro­duced the lion’s share of green­house gas emis­sions, Nor­ton noted that it is the de­vel­op­ing world that will likely bear the brunt of prob­lems caused by cli­mate change — se­vere weather storms, droughts, low plant pro­duc­tion and flood­ing, un­less wealthy na­tions, such as the U.S., de­cide to take ac­tion, sooner rather than later.

But with Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush and many mem­bers of Con­gress en­cour­ag­ing tax­pay­ers to spend their stim­u­lus checks rather than save them, Nor­ton doesn’t have much hope for any rad­i­cal pol­icy changes in the next year.

“If the govern­ment is en­cour­ag­ing con­sump­tion as one of its main eco­nomic poli­cies then where are we headed?” Nor­ton said. “The time of too much reg­u­la­tion if it ever ex­isted is long over with.”

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