Could you commit to finding alternative modes of transport this Lent?

It is estimated that the excessive burning of fossil fuels, such as petrol, for powering cars has contributed to 0.6° of climate change about pre-industrial levels[1]. That’s over one-third of the 1.5° that scientists warn could cause irreversible consequences.[2]

And it’s not just the energy that a car uses while driving that impacts the environment – before and after a car hits the road, the production and destruction of materials adds more and more to the pollution caused by its existence.  In fact, research from the US suggests that when you factor in production and disposal, the climate impact of a car almost doubles per mile.[3]

In September 2018, there were 31.6 million cars in the UK, which contributed 18% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. [4] In 2017, 61% of trips were made by car.[5] This rises to 76% for all trips between 2 and 3 miles, which on average only takes around 5 minutes.

Individually, land based travel contributes to 11.9% of our individual carbon footprint.[6] But it’s not just carbon that driving adds to our climate impact. Other pollutants, including nitrous oxide, and pollutants from brake and tyre dust, add to air that is getting dirtier and dirtier.[7]  In fact, air pollution from road vehicles costs the UK over £6 billion in health bills every year.[8]

And it’s not just driving which affects our climate impact. Whilst driving might be our most frequent choice of transport, it’s flying that makes a big stamp on the climate too. On every return flight from London to New York, each passenger produces around 1.2 tonnes of CO2. This is 17% of an average individuals total carbon production annually.[9]

So, what changes can you make?

Getting out of the driving seat for the majority of your regular journeys can make a huge difference. Using public transport for longer journeys can split your environmental impact, and even make the air you consume cleaner, as people in cars can be exposed to 15 times more pollution than those walking or cycling.[10]

Lift sharing is also a great way of reducing your impact, and someone else’s too! Whilst it does take some coordination, it’s a good chance to get to know fellow commuters, and there are plenty of schemes around the country that help to set this up.

You could start by reviewing the regular journeys you make. How often do you get in the car when you could walk? Which journeys could be replaced by bus? Could any of your air travel be replaced by train?

For some people, giving up the car just isn’t an option. This might be because of mobility issues, family commitments, or the public transport links in your area. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t review the impact of your travel. Exploring carbon offsetting might be a good alternative for you, to help you balance the carbon impact of your transport.

You can find out more here:

What difference will this really make?

If you were to get out a bicycle and cycle across town instead of using the car three times a week during Lent, you could save 20kg of CO2, which is 11.5% of the average person’s weekly climate impact.  

If you were to replace a car journey with taking the bus once a week, you would half the CO2 emissions you would have produced by driving.

If you were to replace a 40-mile round trip in the car with travel by train on 6 occasions during Lent, you would save around 60kg of CO2, reducing 9% of the average person’s monthly climate impact. [11]

Changing the way we travel isn’t just about practicalities, but also how we steward our time. The significant difference of taking up alternative forms of travel on someone’s lifestyle is adding extra time onto each journey. This can stop a lot of us from making the switch, as time is precious and often scarce. But if changing our travelling habits will really make such a difference to the future of our planet, how can this commitment be seen as positive stewardship of our time?

If you’d like to find out more about the climate impact of travelling, you can explore the articles and websites below:

Climate Stewards

A Guide to buying cars.

‘Climate change means no airport expansion’ – The Guardian

Sustainable Transport and the Environemnt

Carbon offsetting

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