Transport accounts for about a third of all the energy used in the UK and while industrial consumption has halved since 1970, according to University of Warwick figures, fuel usage on the roads has almost tripled over the same period.
Something in the region of 55 million tonnes of oil is used every year to move us around – so anything that helps reduce our own contribution to that staggering figure has got to be worth considering.
Perhaps the best news for erstwhile energy savers is that many of the top tips for getting started are both simple and cheap, or even free, to achieve.
For many of us, the daily commute to work makes up a significant percentage – if not the majority – of our annual travel mileage. Even a relatively modest five mile journey from home to the office adds up to more than the distance from Manchester to Cairo over a year, whereas a one-way commute of 25 miles clocks up more than the equivalent of flying from London to Sydney.
With work responsible for so much of our travel, it’s a good place to start trying to cut our transport impact.
Whether it’s a formal car pool, organised car sharing or colleagues giving each other informal lifts, multiple occupancy car journeys are a great way to lower the impact of travel, for those journeys where there simply aren’t any viable alternatives.
Improving how efficiently you use your fuel – ‘eco driving’ – is another excellent way to start making a difference and it isn’t just a case of going slower. Reading the road conditions so you accelerate gently, don’t have to break hard and can adjust your speed to traffic and circumstances will see fuel consumption drop.
You simply can’t have a discussion about travel without mentioning public transport! If it’s available and convenient (and let’s not forget that in many areas, away from towns and cities, it actually isn’t either) then it’s the way to go, if you possibly can.
Telecommute/Work from Home
These days, working from home isn’t only possible for artists, novelists or designers and there’s no better way to cut the impact of your physical commute than by telecommuting. Many companies are more than willing to consider home working for all or part of the time, so even if your employer doesn’t currently have a scheme, it’s still worth asking.
Although just getting to work contributes so much – and add to that any additional journeys for meetings or other employment errands and the total just goes on mounting – there are opportunities to make a difference elsewhere in our lives too.
Plan Your Trip
Planning things so you can take in a number of places that you want or need to visit in a single trip makes obvious sense. If you can arrange to fill the car with friends or family who would otherwise be making the same journey alone in their own vehicles, so much the better!
However you travel, a bit of careful planning can often help you make some serious cuts in both costs and emissions.
Clearly, choosing to shop locally where you can, will help by reducing the straightforward distance you travel to buy things, but it can also bring significant benefits to the local amenities and economy, particularly if enough people in a community take the idea up. Local shops will thrive on the renewed demand – and especially in these days of recession, ‘use it or lose it’ has never been more true.
Home deliveries can offer another route to lowering the environmental effects of your transport – one lorry making multiple deliveries within an area makes much more sense than any number of ‘driver only’ cars travelling to and from distant shops. It isn’t always an option, but when it is, it’s one that’s certainly worth considering.
Think about how you travel
All forms of transport have their place; after all, you’d hardly try to walk to Beijing or want to fly to the supermarket! It’s all a question of what’s appropriate and sometimes we’re not very good at stopping for a moment or two to make that decision.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, around half of us use cars for very short journeys that could be made by alternative means – so anything that can help wean us off that kind of default dependency has to help towards our goal of lower impact travel. Whether than means deciding to walk or cycle – or perhaps even take a long-term decision to buy one of the latest generation of electric scooters – is ultimately a personal decision, but the important thing is to start actually thinking about how we get around, rather than just carrying on doing what we’ve always done.
Finally, although carbon offsetting has captured our imaginations for flights, it’s still much less used for our general travel arrangements. Although it may not be a perfect solution to the problem of transport emissions, a wisely chosen scheme – or even the private promise to plant more trees in your own garden – is an attempt to address the issue at least, and that’s got to be a step in the right direction!