Travelling, be it for business or leisure, causes a large part of your climate impact. Your chosen mode of transportation makes all the difference. How consciously do you choose to get from A to B? As with many aspects of day-to-day life, we often opt to follow our routine rather than question our daily habits. When it comes to mobility, the fact that it makes up a relatively large percentage of your carbon footprint can actually serve as an advantage; here lies a great opportunity to reduce your footprint relatively easily. Many of us now own cars. Fortunately, sustainable transportation options are becoming better, cheaper and more available. Let’s have a look!
It’s the most impactful change, but not always the most feasible; move when you need to move. Meaning, if you need to go somewhere, use your body to get there, be it through walking or cycling. Both modes of ‘transportation’ (the Dutch have a word for it, ‘benenwagen’ or ‘leg-vehicle’) are obviously the most environmentally friendly, as they need no fuel (maybe just a hearty breakfast).
But let’s face it; we don’t all live within walking distance from the office, let alone from our family, friends, football field, and holiday destination. Interestingly, half of our car trips are used to travel under 5 kilometres. For those familiar with a ‘Start To Run’-like podcast, the couch-to-five-k demonstrates that a 5-kilometre distance really isn’t that far (well, depending on whether you’re only just starting your running journey – in that case, admittedly, 5k seems like the end of the world). If you are biking, it’s a 15-20 minute ride. Something we could all get used to, don’t you agree?
Now, 5k sounds quite doable when it comes to cycling. But what about a 10k-one-way distance? Look at it this way: a 10-kilometre bike ride takes you just over half an hour. It doesn’t just save you from having to use your car, but it also saves you a lot of traffic lights, avoids all traffic jams, and means you won’t have to circle the block ten times over, looking for parking. In short; you’re not that much faster by car.
Plus, that 60-minute bike ride didn’t just save you CO₂ (6 kilograms of CO₂, to be exact), it also made sure you started your day with a healthy dose of fresh air while training cardio and burning 240kcal! It probably also helped you clear your head before a busy day at the office. Not the athletic type? An e-bike helps get you from A to Better in no time.
The best part about reducing your mobility footprint; it doesn’t require a major financial investment. Yes, a new hybrid or electric car isn’t cheap, but the truth is: you don’t need a new car to leave your current one on the driveway.
Your chosen mode of transportation, be it by car, public transportation or bike, really makes a difference for the environment. Your environmental impact also varies depending on the type of car or public transportation you choose.
In general, electric driving has a smaller footprint than cars with petrol or diesel engines. In a standard petrol car, 75% of the energy is actually lost in heat! Not very efficient, is it? This isn’t just true for cars, but also buses, trains and so on. Electric vehicles charged with green power have an even smaller footprint. See the table below.
Taking the train is a solid, sustainable choice. E-transport (train, subway, tram) is more environmentally friendly than the average bus, though more and more public buses are electric nowadays as well.
If you’re looking to buy a car, buy electric: it saves at least 50% in CO₂ emissions over its entire life cycle. If your budget only allows for a traditional fuelled car, opt for a more recent, fuel-efficient one. As a rule of thumb, older cars are always less environmentally friendly. The same goes for old mopeds and scooters, amongst which the biggest air polluters are models with a two-stroke engine. If you want a scooter, please e-scoot your way.
As with all lifestyle changes, the hard part isn’t the initial investment (leaving your car at home doesn’t cost a single dime); it’s the disruption of your day-to-day routines. Swapping your car for a bicycle for short or less-short drives means packing differently, literally finding new ways and potentially even a change in diet (a substantial breakfast rather than a granola bar in the car). Opting for public transport requires more planning ahead (especially the first few times) and maybe planning your week differently so that you don’t need to travel in between meetings. All is doable, especially if you keep in mind that even slight improvements in your mobility choices, can have significant positive impacts.
Over the long run, changing how you move around doesn’t just reduce your carbon emissions. It can also increase fitness levels and improve your mental health since driving less implies spending more time outdoors. You will arrive at your destination more zen, having avoided traffic lights and the infamous road rage.