How To Reduce Your Transport Carbon Footprint

November 2, 2020

What do the experts think...

The transportation sector accounts for around a quarter of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, of which almost three quarters are associated with road vehicles.

This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to most of us. When you think about just how many cars are on the road and how often you use your own; to go to work, pick up the groceries, drive to a friend’s house… for anything that’s not immediately on your doorstep. It's something we take for granted and often don't think twice about. But we need to be looking at our individual transport-related carbon emissions and finding ways to reduce them, as the global collective difference will be vital in our efforts to mitigate climate change if we all make the changes we can.

1. Drive an electric or hybrid vehicle

The average petrol car emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is the equivalent of burning 5069 pounds of coal. If you really want to cut down on your personal transport emissions (and it is within your means to do so), consider switching to an electric or hybrid vehicle.

It’s true that they are not entirely clean and green (emissions are produced further upstream in production and, in the case of electric vehicles, depending on which energy source is used for charging), but overall they are a lower carbon alternative to standard petrol vehicles. Electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions and, if charged using renewable energy sources, have a negligible on-road footprint. Hybrids are also a great choice - they still have an internal combustion engine and burn fuel but produce almost half the emissions as a regular petrol car. For more information about the emissions of different vehicles, check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Vehicle Guide.

2. Walk or cycle

Most people are now so accustomed to hopping into their cars anytime they have to leave the house that they don’t often ask the question - can I walk or cycle there instead? When it comes to reducing your personal emissions, swapping out the car keys for your trainers is low-hanging fruit (particularly for short distances). Putting foot to pavement or bike pedal rather than on the gas is also so much better for your health - not only does it improve your fitness levels, but you’ll also get to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Wins all around!

3. Use public transport

It’s a sight we’re all familiar with (and unfortunately for some of us, it’s our daily experience); thousands of people commuting to and from work, all headed in the same direction in different cars, causing major traffic and unnecessary emissions. A simple solution to this is to load up passengers with a similar destination into one vehicle, like a bus. Travelling in this way emits around 82g of carbon dioxide per kilometre, whereas a private car produces a whopping 180g CO2 per kilometre. When you take public transport, there’s also the added benefit of being able to make the most out of your time - while someone else does the driving, you can sit back and relax, listen to a podcast, read a book, or catch up on your emails!

4. Carpool

Another way to share the ride and reduce the overall impact is to carpool. Find people that are going to the same place as you, like work or an event, and fill up a car - you’ll share the emissions and have a smaller impact per passenger. It’s so common nowadays for everyone to want to drive their own car everywhere but that’s just not sustainable. We need to be reimagining how we get around so that it caters to our needs, but also the needs of the environment. Have a little think about how many times you get into the car by yourself - is your answer more often than you would like? Is there any way you can change it?

5. Offset your emissions

It is quite likely that whatever action we take we will still have a carbon footprint. You can offset your remaining footprint by funding climate projects which compensate for your emissions in another part of the world. For example by funding renewable energy projects or protecting land from deforestation. There are a couple of options; you can offset your entire carbon footprint here or check out our vehicle emission calculator here and buy yourself a sticker for your car while you’re at it! 

Any one of these options is a great way to reduce your individual transportation footprint, and multiple is even better! But remember to make these changes sustainable for your lifestyle. It can start with a small promise to yourself to take the bus once a week to work, or to swap out one of your short distance drives for a walk. With lots of people committing to minor behaviour changes in this way, we can have a widespread and lasting impact on the environment.

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