What is the climate impact of travelling to work by car?
Air pollution caused by vehicle emissions tends to be higher in cities and towns, where road traffic is concentrated – particularly during rush hour. When we drive, gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide are released into the atmosphere. These gases are known as greenhouse gases – they absorb heat energy and prevent it escaping into space, meaning that the Earth heats up more than it would do otherwise.
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. This means that we have a great opportunity to reduce our carbon footprints, whether that is through opting for active travel instead of driving, or by coming up with creative ways to drive less. For example, walking or cycling to work can be a great way to incorporate exercise into your routine, and avoids the frustration of being stuck in a traffic jam. Alternatively, you can reduce your carbon footprint through car-sharing with colleagues. Every workplace is different, and we want to encourage you to think about how you can personally make a positive impact on our environment.
How can you make a positive difference?
All of our quick tips can be adapted to your own job or voluntary role, or based on your level of seniority in your workplace.
- Incentivise active travel (cycling or walking) or public transport use, instead using the car to get to work. According to Sustrans, an average commute in the UK is just five miles – a distance that can usually be cycled in less than 30 minutes. If you are an employer or business owner, why not encourage your employees to ditch the car by rewarding those who do.
- Set up a car sharing scheme between employees who live nearby. Daily car sharing reduces traffic congestion, which has time-saving benefits for everyone. The practice could potentially reduce the amount of money you spend on petrol and vehicle maintenance. It’s also a good opportunity to catch up and socialise.
- Consider alternative methods of transport for training days and time out of the workplace. Planning a work social event, weekend away or training day? Why not consider travelling together by bike, or hiring one vehicle to transport the entire team? Not only will this help to build team morale by travelling as a group, it could work out cheaper for everyone.
If you have made a positive contribution to reducing car use at your workplace, we would love to hear from you. Use the hashtag #candosouthyorkshire to share your story on social media.
Links and resources
To find out more about the climate impact of daily travel: How our daily travel harms the planet – BBC Future
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