School is back in session, and more and more Hilliard residents are looking to share their commitment to the environment with the youngest members of their families, including by encouraging them to walk or ride bicycles there.

The city of Hilliard also is looking to help.

This summer, crews have been busy installing enhanced pedestrian crossings throughout the city. You might have seen the recent installations along Avery Road. These crossings will improve pedestrian visibility and make it easier and safer for students to walk or ride their bicycles to school.

In 1969, nearly half of all school-aged children walked or rode a bicycle to school. But since then, walking and bicycling rates have declined.

By 2009, just 13 percent of children nationally walked or cycled to school. Increasing distances to schools and increases in traffic and crime rates have contributed to this decline, but recent efforts to promote walkability and safety, such as the enhanced pedestrian crossings, have resulted in a fresh interest in walking and bicycling.

Walking or cycling to school promotes physical activity and helps protect the environment. A return to 1969 levels of walking and cycling would save 3.2 billion vehicle miles, reduce annual carbon-dioxide emissions by 1.5 million tons and would be the equivalent of keeping 250,000 cars off the road each year.

For those who live too far to walk or ride a bicycle or parents who need to drive their children to school for other reasons, we recommend using the bus or carpooling when possible. This will not only reduce emissions and save parents money on gas, it also will help reduce vehicle traffic at peak hours, which we all know can be extremely busy around the city’s school buildings.

Hilliard parents also are taking the environment into account with the food their children bring to school.

In addition to simple changes, such as providing reusable food containers and water bottles for children, more and more families are using healthful food options and local produce. By buying local, families support the local economy and help reduce transportation costs and emissions.

One option to buy local is the Hilliard Farm Market, which runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sept. 12.

We hope families have had a great summer. Back-to-school time certainly can be hectic, but the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission encourages everyone to make it a little bit greener.

Jon Hsu is vice chairman of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission.