What impact do cars have on our environment?
Transport is part of our lives, and getting out and about is essential for social inclusion, meeting friends and family, working, and exploring new places. One reason we might travel is to connect with nature and explore areas of natural beauty, such as beaches or national parks. Unfortunately, transport can also be harmful to the environment if the methods we use to travel are not sustainable. But, what exactly is the impact of travelling by car?
When we drive, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. These gases absorb heat energy and prevent it escaping into space, meaning that the Earth heats up more than it would do otherwise. It was reported that transport is the largest emitting sector of greenhouse gas emissions, producing 27% of the UK’s total emissions in 2019. The biggest contributors to this were cars and taxis, which made up 61% of the emissions from road transport.
Why should we act now?
Cars provide us with a convenient mode of getting around, but it was found that around 60% of 1-2 mile trips are made by car in England. Short journeys are a great opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the amount of times you use your car or replacing these short car journeys with active travel.
According to Public Health England, air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK. When we think of air pollution, we might not think of our local area because we can’t necessarily see smog in the air. But many areas across South Yorkshire are being negatively impacted by air pollution. By reducing your car use and walking or cycling more, you can help to create a cleaner and quieter environment in your local area, making a positive difference to the health of your community and your own health too.
And that’s not all! Walking and cycling can also be a great opportunity for socialising with friends and family. Both activities also release endorphins; hormones which help you feel happier and more relaxed. Improving our mental and physical health is an important part of building strong communities, where we all work collectively to take climate action.
If you’re ready to learn more, keep reading!
So, how can you reduce your car use?
We know that it isn’t always possible or realistic to stop travelling by car altogether. But there are plenty of reasons to reduce your car use. All it takes are small steps and building easy habits to help you make a positive difference. Check out our top tips for reducing car use.
- Introduce a local car sharing scheme with neighbours, colleagues and friends. Why not take turns driving yourself and a colleague to work? Or you and your neighbour could drive together to do the weekly shop. Not only is this a great way to save money and cut emissions, it encourages us to be social and help others too.
- Think about those short journeys that you usually make by car, and work out which ones could be switched to other methods of transport. If you are able to, why not start making a few of those journeys on foot or by bike? Start with one small habit – maybe you can walk to work rather than driving, or walk to the shop if you are only buying a few items.
- Organise your errands into one trip rather than lots of shorter trips. A bit of planning ahead can reduce the time you spend driving. For example, making a shopping list for the week could reduce the number of times you need to pop to the shop. Or maybe you can pass by the post office on the way to the dentist, rather than making two journeys by car.
If you have been inspired to reduce your car use, we would love to hear from you. Acting collectively will make a big difference, and your stories can inspire other people in South Yorkshire to reduce their car use. Let us know about the steps you have taken by using the hashtag #candosouthyorkshire on social media!
Links and resources
For more information on why walking and cycling are great for your mental health: Why cycling and walking are great for your mental health – Sustrans.org.uk
To find out more about the climate impact of daily travel: How our daily travel harms the planet – BBC Future
Cycle Sheffield campaign for a cycle friendly Sheffield where anyone can choose to make their journey by bike. They want cycling to be inclusive and easy, not limited to the quick and the brave.