Castle star Stana Katic knows the headaches Los Angeles traffic can cause.
“People in L.A. joke that dating someone on the other side of town can be a deal breaker, because who wants to do ‘long distance’?” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Anyone who has experienced L.A. traffic understands the joke. On my end, I just thought there has to be a better way to get around town.”
Katic’s parents are immigrants, “so my upbringing wasn t influenced by environmental activism as much as practicality,” she adds. “My ‘normal’ has always been to have a veggie garden and a few fruit trees in the backyard.”
When the actress was visiting family in Europe, she saw that “walking and cycling to go about your day was more normal than having a car to run chores.” Exposure to that lifestyle inspired Katic to create the Alternative Travel Project in 2010 which encourages people to seek out different transportation options.
“ATP makes sense to me,” she says. “It is a fun lifestyle choice that has a valuable positive effect on health and the environment.”
Now “we have people across the globe volunteering car-free days,” Katic adds. “From a librarian in Minnesota battling MS, who, in spite of her health challenges, has decided to dedicate ATP days by walking to work, to schoolchildren in Romania enjoying car-free Fridays and learning about the benefits of ATP travel.”
The response to the project “has been phenomenal,” she says. “It s a lifestyle choice that has a positive effect on your health and the environment. It just makes sense.”
For more on Stana Katic, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now