People love to travel, so much so that it represents a quarter of our carbon footprint. While a climate emergency combined with a global pandemic may reduce the number and distance of journeys taken, transport will still be a big part of the challenge we face to get to carbon neutral. So here I take a look at the environmentally-friendly choices you can make to get from A to B.
Get on Your Bike (or Feet)
Most of the journeys we make in our daily lives are short ones, and many of these could be done by foot or on bike. Every time you have a journey of 5 miles or less, think to yourself ‘could I walk or cycle instead?’. Not only will it cut your carbon footprint dramatically if you do, but it will save you money and improve your health to boot.
Note – the Government has just launched a £50 voucher for you to get your bike repaired for free, so now is the time to dust down your old bicycle and get back on the road!
And if you are not very cycle-fit, do consider an e-bicycle, as these are still emission-free and are coming down in price all the time.
After active travel, the next-best way to get to your destination is public transport. While this can often be the easiest choice to make in our cities, in smaller towns and rural areas you may need a little more time to get round by train or bus. Either way, it uses MUCH less fuel than driving a car so is a good environmental option if walking or cycling isn’t possible.
There is a reason that the car has been one of the most popular inventions of the past hundred years – and the freedom it gives people will mean it will continue to account for the lion’s share of the total distance we travel each year.
Given that, you can save a huge amount of carbon by switching from a petrol or diesel car to an electric one. The higher cost of purchasing an electric car is often cited as a reason to delay switching, but running costs for an electric car are much lower and if you get a finance package for the initial outlay you may find the overall cost between a fuel and electric car is marginal. Put another way, you can potentially switch today an no significant cost.
The other main barrier to switching is the battery range of an electric vehicle. But do consider the following factors which would greatly reduce the chance of you ever coming up short:
- Off-street parking – if you have this, you’ll always be able to charge your battery back to 100% overnight
- Second car – two or more cars makes it unlikely you’d ever need to take a drive where you’d risk running out of battery
- Local journeys – if most of your journeys are local, you’ll usually be well within the battery range
- Charging points – the charging network is expanding every day, with new points being installed at car parks, petrol stations and other accessible locations. There are several phone apps which map where the sites are.
All in all, it’s worth doing some research to see whether now might be the time to change a polluting fuel car for a much more environmentally-friendly electric vehicle.
Finally, another option to consider is car sharing. Spreading the fuel consumption of a journey across two or more passengers helps cut pollution and is a cheaper way to travel. You may have friends you can do this with or you can search online to find car-sharing services in your area.
Every air flight we take creates a huge amount of CO2. Yet of all the choices we face, reducing this source of pollution is probably the hardest, as there are no easy alternatives. Yes, we can take the train or drive within Britain or even to north-west Europe, but beyond that, the only alternative is to not fly at all.
All I can recommend is to not fly within the UK and to try and limit overseas holidays. Note easy, but any reductions you make in this area will have a big impact.
So, the big 4 things you can do are:
- Walk of cycle for smaller journeys…
- … and failing that, take public transport
- Replace your petrol or diesel car with an electric one
- Reduce the number of flights you take.