Transport is currently the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Most of these emissions come from travel by car, with a typical car creating around 4 times more emissions for a journey when compared to making it by train or coach.
Commuting also accounts for a massive 25% of these emissions, and so changing the way we travel into work each day is vital to tackling climate change.
Cars are responsible for more than just CO2 emissions – car exhausts also contribute to air pollution in our towns and cities, posing a risk to public health. It is estimated that long-term exposure to air pollution leads to 28,000 – 36,000 excess deaths each year in the UK.
Electric cars produce far fewer emissions that petrol or diesel cars but still create environmental problems. For example, there is currently no solution to the disposal of old batteries at a scale needed to deal with the number being produced. Car travel of any kind also impacts our wildlife whether the car is powered by electricity or oil. The decrease in road traffic during lockdown meant a significant reduction in the number of wild animals killed in vehicle collisions on Britain’s roads, and highlighted the scale of the issue. For example, a study estimated that about 194 million birds are killed each year on European roads.
There are many different ways to change up your commute to work, or to reduce the environmental impact of at least one of your regular journeys. Simply being more aware of the different types of transport which are available and how they impact the planet can make you a more mindful traveller.
Challenge 1: Calculate Your Journey to Work
Part A: your current journey
The first task is to work out what the impact of your current commute is. If you work from home some of the time then work this out based on the journey you have to make to the office.
You can use this calculator to work out the carbon footprint of your journey to and from work: https://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=4
Part B: alternative travel methods
Now you know your current impact it’s time to see what it would be like if you changed it. If you usually drive to work use the carbon calculator again but this time changing it to see what your impact would be if you travelled by train or coach instead.
If you already travel by a more sustainable method, like by cycling or using the train, then use the calculator to see how much more impact you would have if you drove instead.
Challenge 2: Committing to Changing Your Commute
Changing Up Your Commute
Use the knowledge you have just gained about your travel impact to make a pledge for a way to reduce the impact of your travel. Even changing your commute for one day each week can have a big positive impact over time.
Alternative ways to travel:
Walking or cycling, where possible, is a zero-emission way to travel without fuel costs, traffic queues or ticket fares. Its also a great opportunity to incorporate more exercise into your life – something as simple as just 30 minutes of walking each day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones and muscles and reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Opting for public transport is another excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint, with public transport producing significantly lower emissions compared to driving.
For example, from Croydon to Wimbledon, taking the bus would produce approximately 30% less CO2 compared to making the same journey by car. Taking the tram instead of driving would cut emissions by over 75%.
Catching a train from Manchester to Cardiff produces less than 1/3 of the CO2 emissions produced by a car driving the same distance.
Examples could include:
- Swapping to travelling by train.
- Commuting by bike.
- Reducing your miles driven by using a park and ride service for part of your journey.
- Carpooling with a colleague.
- Hopping on the bus instead of driving – or taking the tram if applicable.
- Try walking to work if you live locally.
For some people a car is simply the only viable option for travelling to work. In this case your pledge could involve reducing your impact in other areas of your life, like walking to the shop at the weekend instead of driving, or cycling to your friend’s house instead of using the car.
Resources for Making Greener Journeys
- Take advantage of your organisation’s cycle to work scheme, or advocate for the scheme to implemented in your workplace.
- You can use apps like Go Jauntly to plan a walking journey from A-B. Many walking apps are now designed to prioritise leafy, pleasant routes and help you to avoid busy and polluted areas.
- The Passenger Assistance app works in collaboration with National Rail to make assisted travel on the UK’s trains easier and smoother to navigate.
- Read about some of the ways you or your child can travel to school car-free here: https://www.groundwork.org.uk/4-epic-ways-you-can-travel-to-school-car-free.
- Sustrans have a range of resources on their
website to support walking and cycling in the UK https://www.sustrans.org.uk/.
What Groundwork is doing
Groundwork supports Westminster Wheels, an initiative which supports young people aged 17-24 not in employment, education or training. The young people are able to gain a mechanic qualification, followed by a 6 month position working in the Westminster Wheels bicycle shop, giving them a wealth of valuable experience.
The bike shop takes old bikes which would have otherwise gone into landfill and gives them a new lease of life. The refurbished bikes are then either sold or donated to members of the community. Each year Westminster Wheels donates 400 bikes to people who need them.
Chorlton Climate Action Partnership
The Chorlton Climate Action Partnership, lead by WalkRideGM and in partnership with Groundwork, is working to support residents to get around on foot, in wheelchairs, and by bike.
After the initial stages of gathering data and consulting with people in the area, three projects will be launched to support people to get around safely and sustainably.
One project will seek to bring more shoppers to the local high street, another will work with families to provide children with a safer, greener school run and the third will make environmental improvements to a residential street.
The overall aim of the projects will be to make Chorlton a quieter, greener and more attractive area – fostering a healthier and happier community, and enabling greater connection between local people.