Earlier this month, Changeworks’ Deputy Chief Executive Liz Partington shared some of the actions we can all take to play our part in tackling the global climate emergency. Here we look at another of those actions in more detail: choosing greener ways to travel.
Travel is a fundamental part of every day life for most people. Whether it’s commuting to work, picking up the kids up or going to the shops, we need to get about. Depending on where you live, you might have pretty limited options too. But when nearly 37 per cent of emissions come from transport, two thirds of that from cars and vans, how we travel can make a big impact on the world around us.
Changeworks, as a trusted expert on improving energy efficiency and promoting low carbon behaviours, provides advice to businesses, organisations and individuals on how to make their travel more green. We spoke to our transport specialists Christopher Milne, Specialist Transport Advisor (Home Energy Scotland South East), and Rebecca Fretwell, Transport Advisor (Home Energy Scotland Highlands and Islands)*, to get their top tips for making greener travel choices.
There are loads of reasons to make greener travel choices, from improving air quality and helping to address the climate crisis and cutting your carbon footprint, to even saving you and your family money.
So with that in mind, here are our five top tips to make changes in how you get about.
Do you need to go at all?
The greenest form of travel is not to travel at all, so think about how you make your journeys in advance – and think about if you need to go. Can you work from home a day a week and video call into your meeting? Can you combine your trip to that one shop with another couple of errands you’re putting off until the end of the week?
If you need to make the trip, don’t just jump in the car out of habit. Think about your other options – can you walk there easily? Would a different method of travel allow you to do other things on the way? Is there an easy public transport route? Just moving things from habit to an active decision can help us to make the best possible choices.
Choose the most sustainable travel option you can
Everyone has different needs, circumstances, and preferences. No one is saying get rid of the car and start walking everywhere, but when you’re thinking about the journey you need to make think about what the travel options are. Instead of taking the car, can you cycle? Or get the bus? Even just moving to a slightly better form of transport, like switching from driving to work to using a park and ride, makes a contribution to lowering your carbon emissions. Every little helps!
Just by asking questions at work can start the journey to more sustainable travel. If you don’t know what the work from home policy is where you work, or there isn’t one, ask about it. Check the travel policy too. If they have petrol or diesel company cars, ask if they are planning to move to lower emission cars – or contact your green team or rep if you have one.
One day, one journey at a time
Giving up the car and getting on your bike or walking five days a week can be an understandably daunting prospect! But it doesn’t need to be that drastic. Focus on making one change – can you leave the car behind one day a week? Can you use a park and ride? Can you park outside of the busiest areas and walk or get the bus the rest of the way? One day out of a working week is a significant change. Sustainable travel doesn’t have to be all or nothing proposition.
Focus on fuel efficiency
If giving up the car isn’t viable, fuel efficiency is the name of the game. There are loads of great tips and resources online with advice on how to drive in a way that maximises your fuel economy. The further you can make your fuel go, the less energy you use. Smoother braking and smoother accelerating are key.
No one is saying go out and buy a new car tomorrow – scrapping your current car when you don’t need to is bad for the planet too. But if you are looking to replace your vehicle, go for something as fuel efficient as possible. If an electric car is an option, go for that. If not, a hybrid or other vehicle with maximum fuel economy will also make a difference. When choosing your next car, prioritise that fuel economy. There are a ton of economic benefits to doing so, and with new climate laws and low emission zones coming into force, older more polluting cars will become more of a pain to own.
A lot of commuter cars still have just one person in them. If you car share with just one person, that’s halved the number of the cars on the road between the two of you. Imagine if you could find a whole group of people to commute with! Not only would you make a group of new friends, you’d be making a big difference to your group’s emissions and saving a few quid too.
Something that’s becoming more and more popular in urban areas are car clubs. Many city residents who have decided against getting a car or have given one up make use of car clubs when the car can’t be avoided. If you are a two-car household, think about how often that second car isn’t used – could you swap it for a cheaper car membership?
Take the first step
It doesn’t take a complete overhaul of your life to start travelling in a more environmentally friendly way. Just a small action can be the first step on the road to making a big difference – so what will you do? Let us know on social media, on our Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments below.
*Funded by the Scottish Government, Changeworks’ delivers Home Energy Scotland advice centres in South East Scotland and Highlands and Islands on behalf of Energy Saving Trust.