Before Christmas, my 13-year-old Bantam “A” hockey player and I were talking about car pooling.

“Mom,” Nic said, “why don’t we car pool more often? It’s good for the environment – and it’s more fun than just going alone.”

As questions often go, this was a rather good one. Why aren’t we sharing more when we’re driving to the rink?

Ride Sharing

The truth is sometimes we do ride share. A recent tournament took us to the north of Lac-St-Jean, where the towns of Dolbeau and Mistassini band together to put on an annual Bantam tournament spread between the two rinks in each town. We piled into the Honda Odyssey of the parents of one of Nic’s teammates. With room for 7, we had all its spots occupied — two coaches in the front, three players in the back, and two hockey moms in the middle.

Since the trip was over an hour away, the time flew by with the different conversations going on in the different sections of the vehicle. The coaches talked about our team and the teams we would be facing in the tournament, the players in the back talked about school, music and girls (or at least that’s what I overheard), and the hockey moms talked about schedules and such. Even when our team had lost and we had to retrace our route home defeated, the road seemed to go quicker than when we’d previously made the journey on our own.

Parking Lots

Ice rinks are often the heart of a community and are very busy venues — especially come weekends when the bulk of the hockey games are played, or during tournaments. Even though most rinks have been well thought-out, with enough room for parking, if there’s an extraordinary amount of snow throughout the wintertime, many of the parking spots can easily be displaced.

And the available space is quickly taken. The breakup of couples often result in more than just one car per family per player — and for local games, especially, there are always other supporters — aunts, uncles, grandparents and other friends — that come to the games. Our family usually has one car going for two/three of us – and quite often, we pick up one or two of my husband’s aunts en route who love to watch the game.

That means that sometimes – but not always – we’re doing a better part for our environment. And since the teams are asked to be present at the rink at least an hour before the puck drop, sometimes families – even families that are still a whole unit – come in two cars just because of the convenience.

Public, er, What? Transportation???

As for public transportation, I can honestly say that I’ve never known of any of Nic’s team mates and parents coming to a rink by bus.

However we look at it, the parking lot outside the arenas are filled with dozens of individual vehicles that collectively account for one of the largest contributions to an ice rink’s carbon footprint. Or should we call it our carbon tire prints?

Carbon Tire Prints

In 2014, the US’s Environmental Protection Agency put together a guide to greenhouse gas emissions from typical passenger vehicles. According to it, an average passenger car emits 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, that’s based on an average fuel consumption of 21 MPG.

In Canada, and Europe, our calculations are different because we use the metric system and we no longer think in terms of miles per gallon but how many litres we use each 100 kilometres driven. That’s because a litre — and a kilometre — are units so much smaller than a gallon and a mile, no one would understand what was meant if we would say “point zero three litres per kilometer”. According to Eco Driver, part of a Green Communities Canada initiative, the average car emits one tonne of carbon dioxide every 5,000 kilometres. >> Cars, people, are our greatest contributing factor: about half of our personal greenhouse gas emissions come from driving.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what 4.7 metric tons means, or 1 tonne/5,000 kilometres, but those numbers sound big, and scary and I don’t want to be singlehandedly responsible for that amount of anything in my planet’s atmosphere. I also know that each of the cars parked in the rink’s parking lot has an invisible tag with those numbers on it: and just because those numbers are invisible doesn’t mean they don’t mean something to our planet.

Sure, car pooling takes more time and organization, and you may find there’s only so much hockey you can talk about as you make your way home. But reducing the numbers of vehicles traveling to the rink on any given Saturday or Sunday by even just one may not be much, but it’s one car less that’s making a difference.

Do you car pool to hockey games? Do you have any tips to share? Tell me, I’d love to hear.