Earth Day and How We Travel
POSTED ON - 22 Apr 2022
Today is Earth Day and the theme for 2022 is Invest in Our Planet. Our take on this is… why not invest in changing your travel habits to invest in our planet.
There is a pretty broad range of activities we can all undertake to ensure we look after our planet better… planting more trees, switching to reusable energy, changing our diets, picking up litter, choosing sustainable fashion and many, many more valuable actions which have an incredible impact.
But one everyday activity we all undertake seems to have slipped off the radar for some campaign organisations… changing the way we travel.
The Effect of Road Traffic on the Environment
In the UK transport is the largest source of carbon emissions and is the fastest growing. We need to stem this growth and turn the tide if we are going to achieve net zero by mid century.
Apart from carbon emissions, our high levels of car dependency are affecting our planet and our communities in other damaging ways. Vehicles are the greatest source of nitrogen dioxide and other devastating pollutants. Driving is a major cause of particulate matter from tyres and brakes (which electric cars produce too). Air quality issues in the UK are the cause of almost 40,000 deaths a year.
Other impacts include noise pollution which has a big effect on mental wellbeing and the ‘liveability’ of a place. Other factors such as congestion causes places to be less attractive and also has an economic cost - the cost of congestion in the UK in 2019 was estimated at £6.9 billion.
So what can we do now?
The key thing to remember is we don’t need everyone to change the way they travel for every journey. Our society - where we work, where our children go to school, the way our road network is built - is very much designed around car ownership and usage. It will take years to change those aspects (which definitely needs to be done of course). In the short term there is plenty we can all do as individuals to help reduce our car dependency as a society. Here are some ideas. Even if you just try one of these once you will be investing in better travel habits for our planet and it could lead to much more.
Here are some ideas...
Even if you just try one of these once you will be investing in better travel habits for our planet and it could lead to much more.
- Take a bus trip. If you are over 65 in the UK your free bus pass means you don’t even need to pay. Even if you can drive, by using the service you are helping to keep it going in your area… and you never know when you might need it for real.
- Pump up your bike tyres. If you’ve a cycle in the shed which you’ve not used for a while, get it out and give it some love. Cycling isn’t just for kids or holidays! If you need help to get it shipshape, pop it along to a local independent cycle shop. Or look out for Cycling UK Big Bike Revival summer events in your area from May. These include free repairs, learn to fix workshops and community cycle rides to give you a bit of confidence again.
- Walk the kids to school. If you have school age children, make a point of walking them to school. If you have to dash off to work and can only do it some days, why not start a walking bus scheme where parents take it in turns to walk the kids to school. Get your school on board with promoting initiatives such as WOW - Walk on Wednesdays.
- Park and Stride. If you have to take the car, reduce some of your journey distance by parking away and walking the last 10 minutes. This is really good if your destination is a hot spot for traffic congestion - you can be part of the solution by keeping your car away.
- Care to Share. Another one for those who HAVE to drive… give a lift to a friend or colleague. It reduces your fuel costs too and don’t be shy about accepting money towards petrol - it makes your passenger feel less obliged to you if you accept. See Liftshare.com for tips and to register for their free scheme.
- Research your area. Use google maps (or an actual map) to research the best routes you can take for some of your everyday journeys. So next time you need a pint of milk (or oat milk!) you can easily hop on your bike and cycle to the nearest shop along the quietest route.
- Speak up. This is more of a long term impact but you can take action now. Many areas are running consultations on how routes should be improved for walking or cycling. Keep an eye on your local council’s website or even be proactive and contact your local councillors to ask about these and express your interest. Political decisions and investments are very often determined by the strength of local views so make sure yours are made known. For example here in Kettering the Commonplace platform is being used to get local views on the needs for local cycle and walk routes as part of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP).
- Vote with your Wallet. Some venues are much better than others in how they address transport impacts. Look out for those that have demonstrated they have considered the needs of walkers, cyclists, bus users etc and give them your custom. The Modeshift STARS accreditation is one way of evidencing this. Ask the venues for events and festivals etc you plan to go to what they are doing to encourage and enable sustainable travel.
- Take Part. Many organisations are keen to promote and enable more active and sustainable travel as it links in well with so many goals - climate, health and wellbeing and better use of valuable site space. Look out for active travel events run by your employer, child’s school or local council and support them. This could include community cycle rides, bike to breakfast events, car share initiatives, walk to school week and bus promotion campaigns. Also make sure you share news of activities coming up in your area with your local friends and colleagues.
- Get informed. There are some great sources of information out there which can help you understand the wider benefits of becoming less car dependent and help with starting active travel initiatives in your area, workplace or child’s school. Take a look at Living Streets and information about National Walking Month this May. Cycling UK has great support to help new or returning cyclists to get cycling for everyday journeys. Sustrans has a wealth of information too. By following these organisations on social media you will be kept up to date.
Finally, do check out our own website and blog articles for plenty more tips and ideas on how to reduce car dependency… for yourself, others and of course our planet.
#EarthDay2022 #ActiveTravel #ReachingNetZero #ReducingCarDependency