If you drive to work and run errands regularly, you may be aware of the carbon emissions you’re dumping into the atmosphere. In fact, about 30 percent of our country’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions come from vehicles, or 1,540 million metric tons of CO2 in 2016. If we were collectively able to reduce or eliminate transportation, we could easily reduce this to a fraction of its former self.
But most of us have considerable difficulty making massive changes to an established lifestyle. You’re used to driving everywhere you need to go, and can’t suddenly eliminate that without massive stress.
Fortunately, there’s a simpler process, with relatively easy changes, that can reduce your transportation-based carbon emissions.
The Simple Way to Reduce Emissions
This process allows you to significantly reduce your fuel consumption and carbon footprint, but without requiring massive or sudden changes to your routine:
1. Start consolidating your errands.
First, try to run all your errands in the same trip. Instead of running to the store on Monday, the bank on Tuesday, and the dry cleaner on Wednesday, try to do all three on the same day, and in the same trip. Doing so can reduce the total number of miles you drive, and could even improve the efficiency of your vehicle (since you won’t be starting and stopping it as often). Plus, you could spend less total time running errands overall.
2. Walk to your closest destinations, and expand outward.
Start walking to destinations that are less than quarter of a mile away, such as neighbors’ houses or the convenience store down the street. When you’re ready, expand that circle to half a mile, and then to a mile. Even walking slowly, a mile walk should only take about 20-30 minutes—it’s a great way to get in some exercise and spare yourself fuel emissions at the same time.
3. Find a biking partner.
Next, find a partner to bike with on a regular basis. When you participate in an activity with another person, you’ll be far more likely to stick with it, and you’ll have an easier time justifying the investment. Build up your biking chops with some rides around the neighborhood, then start biking to do some of your errands. As your levels of physical exercise and physical fitness build up, you’ll start sleeping better and feeling better—another bonus to these lifestyle changes.
4. Bike to work one day a week.
Once you’re comfortable on the bike, start biking to work one day a week. Look at the weather forecast in advance, so you don’t get stuck in the rain or snow, and bring a change of clothes in case you work up a sweat. One day per week is a small commitment, but if you stay consistent, it can make a big impact on your overall fuel emissions.
5. Take public transportation one day a week.
While you’re at it, make a commitment to take public transportation to work (where available) at least one day a week. Between your public transportation day and your biking day, you’ll eliminate almost two full days of fuel consumption—cutting your emissions by up to 40 percent per week.
6. Talk about a carpool with your coworkers.
Start talking to your coworkers about a rotating carpool. If some of you live close together, you can take turns driving to work, and pick each other up to save on fuel costs (and time, while you’re at it). Carpooling is good for many reasons, so if you can join a group or start one, it’s worth the extra effort.
7. Ratchet up your commitments.
Once you’ve done everything else on this list, start ratcheting up your commitments. Instead of biking to work one day a week, try it three or four days a week, or start walking or biking to errands within several miles of your house. Make the process gradual so you’re never overwhelmed, but keep pushing for more and healthier changes.
Spreading the Word
Accomplishing these steps yourself can drastically cut the carbon emissions in your own life. If you can convince just one other person to follow these steps, that load reduction will instantly double. Talk to your friends and family about these simple changes, especially as you start incorporating them into your own life, and try to build a self-contained culture of sustainability. Even small, gradual changes can add up to make a big difference for our environment.