As outdoor adventure enthusiasts, transport and travel are both a fundamental element of our activities and a source of excruciating guilt. Let’s not get unnecessarily weighed down by our conscience, though: we’re incredibly lucky to have access to a wealth of opportunities to travel without the baggage of excessive carbon emissions. Read on for POW volunteer Emily’s tips on how to paint your transport footprint green, without compromising your adventures too much!
That term you learned in school – The Greenhouse Effect – is ever more visibly and deeply manifesting itself. Due to forest fires in BC last summer, it was estimated that everyone inhaled an equivalent of eight cigarettes worth of smoke just by leaving the house. Meanwhile in Europe, we saw fires in the Arctic this summer, which is in itself unprecedented. It’s estimated that in Scotland, average annual temperatures could rise by 3.4 degrees if we carry on as we are.
Ok, there’s some salt to rub into the wound. Moving on – you’ll be pleased to know that there are so many actions we can take to reduce the impact of travelling to and from our activities, and within our day-to-day journeys. Don’t be forgoing that much-anticipated ski trip out of guilt – but be sure to save double the carbon elsewhere!
Carpool karaoke time
Transport accounts for 26% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, according to government figures. Also half of this is from passenger cars. Most modern cars have with five seats, and the chances are someone will always be driving the same way as someone else… Go figure. Somehow it seems we need to kickstart a greater sharing mentality.
You can help lead the car sharing movement. If you’re travelling to the mountains solo or as a pair, post about your spare seats on Facebook groups relevant to your sport. For example, there is a Glasgow Snowsports Liftshare Facebook group to facilitate snow lovers to link up. For the relatively small amount of extra time it will take you to pick up and drop off your passengers, the benefits are countless – more available parking space, new friends with new playlist tunes; not to mention that someone else will likely pay for most of your fuel! For other long-distance journeys, consider using sites like Blablacar, where you can connect with drivers or wannabe passengers going the same way as you.
Apply this at work, if you haven’t already. For business trips, make sure that car drivers transport their colleagues too, and encourage others to do the same. Be sure to call anyone and everyone out on pointless car journeys that could have been shared or on public transport.
Speaking of Public Transport…
The lowest emitters of per-passenger carbon are national coach and rail journeys. Once you realise you can nap, read or work for the whole ordeal, long bus or train rides actually become much more time efficient. It’s also much safer and more relaxing if you’re rushing back from a hiking trip on a Sunday night, and if you’re travelling to visit friends or family you needn’t worry about watching your drink the night before you head back home…
If you don’t already use the local public transport options in your area, take a couple of your regular journeys by bus or train. If you’re a daily driver, leave the car behind and swap to the bus for a few trips.
Are you due a new car?
Did you know that there are now a great number of electric vehicles on the UK market? Not only will an EV cut your emissions on regular tripswithin the UK, it can easily get you to the Alps thanks to a fantastic network of Rapid public charge points on the continent. Check out Richard Leafe’s blog post about driving from Kendal to Chamonix in his Tesla Model S.
Don’t be put off by the hefty price tag though – I’m not just talking about the likely lads (by which I mean Tesla). Hyundai and Kia have both just released 280+ mile range models in the sub-£30,000 category – and with government funding and interest-free loans, purchasing one is as easy as driving it.
As battery, renewable and charging technologies all get exponentially better, the future is bright for EVs. If you’re due a new car, it’s well worth researching ultra-low emission vehicles. Start with the useful resources on the Energy Saving Trust’s website.
The lifetime carbon footprint of an EV is certainly lower than that of a petrol or diesel, because it has zero net emissions at the tailpipe. And with around half of the UK’s power now coming from renewable sources, the fossil fuel burned to indirectly power your car through electricity generation is diminishing. Some energy companies such as E-on provide a Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin for EV drivers who charge at home, ensuring that the electricity that customer uses is backed with renewable energy.
There’s an elephant in the room – and it’s a Boeing 747
We won’t undervalue the 2% figure that is aviation emissions as a total of manmade greenhouse gas output. On an individual basis, there’s no denying that the impact of a flight is greater than that of several car journeys. However, through careful consideration you can still fly occasionally while maintaining a sustainable overall lifestyle!
A plane uses most fuel during takeoff and landing. You don’t need to be an aeronautical engineer to understand that it’s much easier for a plane to glide than to ascend from 0 to 35,000 feet. Therefore, CO2 per passenger per mile will be far greater on short-haul flights. Overall, it’s far worse to fly from London to Glasgow and back eight times than it is to fly London to Vancouver and back once. If you can, skip a shorter connecting flight for a bus, and for domestic journeys, use alternative means.
You might find the following information surprising. When you weigh up the airlines with the smallest carbon footprint per passenger, Ryanair comes out on top. Due to the budget nature of their flights and tight luggage weight restrictions, their flights are generally crammed to the roof with other travellers. This, plus a fleet of newer and relatively low emission planes (as far as a plane can be), makes Ryanair an incredibly efficient airline. Trans-Atlantic airlines such as WestJet achieve a similar effect, and Virgin Atlantic has an extensive programme to use some of their profits to help combat global warming, transparently detailed on their website. So, shop around and research your chosen airline’s policies, emissions and aircraft capacity. Next time you’re squashed in a middle seat, tentatively plucking the seatbelt from beneath the backside of your neighbour, take comfort in the carbon saving.
Negate your emissions with the humble tree
Actively endeavouring to do most of the above, but still concerned about your carbon footprint? Channel your despair into something productive, by supporting the planting of new trees. Did you know that £2.50’s worth of trees is roughly enough to sequester the carbon produced by 1000km of driving? For more information about exactly how much reforestation and rewilding can negate carbon emissions, and more importantly to support said reforestation, check out Mossy Earth.
Flexibility is key
Yes, you read that right. But we’re not talking about yoga. To manage the amount of carbon emitted as a result of our lifestyles, we ultimately need to be strategic about our travel plans. For example, one long ski holiday is better than two short ones. Could you choose a winter or summer stay-cation, or plan any Europe or alpine trips on the EuroStar?
When you consider why you would drive to your desired adventure destination, chances are that it comes down to the convenience. Try overriding convenience with carbon savings this winter. For example, the diesel for your trip may cost you £50, but it will also cost you 1.5kg of carbon (based on a 2l diesel VW Golf emitting 1.5g/km of carbon, if you can trust that figure). Taking a train might cost you the same in finances, but it will cost you a sixth the carbon! Once you commit to saving carbon, you’ll begin to see it as a travel planning consideration as important as finance or arrival time.
More sustainable travel is available to us; we just need to audit our habits and discover where we could make greener alterations. Remember, sharing is caring – this applies fundamentally to overland journeys. Share more travel this winter: share your car, share a bus, leave your car behind this week and share a public space with other cyclists or walkers. Let’s travel green so that we can share many winters to come.