Rethinking How We Commute to Lower Our Environmental Impact
Reducing our emission footprint to act on climate change can seem difficult, even impossible if we rely on cars to get to work, but small actions lead to big changes. We’re here to look at the options so we can make informed decisions where possible.
In this blog post we focus on Commuting, its impact on the planet and what we can do to make a difference.
A bit of background…
Commuting is not only a real source of stress and frustration for most of us, but it’s also a serious source of climate altering gases.
In 2017, transport was the largest contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK, with 27% of the total net domestic emissions of 468 million tonnes of CO² equivalent¹. Collectively, UK passengers travelled 808 billion kilometres in 2017, the highest volume ever recorded, and over 25% of this was for commuting or business purposes.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy estimates the annual greenhouse gas emissions for various modes of transport⁴ and unsurprisingly, driver-only cars are the worst performers, by a decent margin.
So what do these numbers actually mean and how can we translate them into an actionable change in our own personal travels? Here are some options that can help make commuting more enjoyable and affordable while reducing our carbon footprint.
Based on the data, the best options are as follows:
For shorter distances: going by bus is better than car sharing
For longer distances: going by coach is better than the train, which in-turn is better than car sharing
Public transport and car sharing are better than driving yourself alone to work
Encouragingly, we are now seeing a rise in employers with more sustainability-focussed principles, often providing incentives to encourage people to change the way they get to work and joining environmentally conscious global movements like 1% For The Planet.
Even resorts and destinations are getting in on the act, for example some in Switzerland (working in partnership with POW) are offering lift-pass discounts for people that arrive by public transport.
Other than public transport, let’s consider the emission-less option of the humble bicycle!
While there are emissions inherent in the production of a bike, these are very minor compared to car production years of commuting⁵.
In addition to being climate-friendly, cycling also has several personal benefits. Research shows that keeping physically active, which could be five times 30 minutes a week (and less than the mean UK commute time), can reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease by up to 35% and the risk of early death by up to 30%⁷⁺⁸.
There are also cycle-to-work schemes that can be utilised to make it easier to get hold of a bike at a great saving. For example, in the UK there is CycleScheme and in Germany there is JobRad. In many countries, you’ll find dedicated weeks to get you to jump on your bike, like Canada’s Bike to Work Week.
If a viable commuting option, walking and running are unequivocally and naturally the best option. In addition, commuters who walk or cycle are usually less exposed to pollution than those travelling by car or bus, possibly due to the close proximity of vehicles on the roads and in traffic⁹.
As well as commuting, we can consider how we make the short journeys we make weekly or monthly to access adventures in the outdoors and the impact on our emissions footprint quickly builds up.
With trail running also an activity now on FATMAP, you can find hundreds of routes on the map. You can also take advantage of our snap-to tool to plot out your routes on off-road trails as our previous blog post explains:
Lastly, for those of us that have to drive, there are other options!
Speak to friends and colleagues to see if car sharing is possible. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach, one or two days a week car sharing will have an impact on our carbon footprint.
Electric vehicles are a climate friendly alternative to traditional petrol and diesel cars and an increasing number of towns and cities are now offering charging stations.
If neither of these are possible, we like to consider carbon offsetting through social enterprises like POW UK partners Mossy Earth.
How are team FATMAP doing their part? We asked our teams in Berlin, Chamonix, Vilnius and other locations around the world, how they get to work:
28% use public transport
18% work from home
We can all make small changes to our daily activities like commuting, and collectively this will have a significant impact!
We want to hear how you are changing your commute! Walking, cycling or running to work, even changing to public transport or an electric car. Tell us what you’re doing!
Here’s how you can enter:
In the comments underneath the post, tell us how you will (or already are) commuting in a sustainable way
Tag at least one friend
Only leave one comment - multiple comments will be disqualified
The competition closes on 31st May 2019 and we’ll pick our favourite answer as the winner
One winner will be announced on 5th June 2019 across our social channels.
The winner will receive: