Australia has a commuting problem. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently revealed that the average Aussie commutes 16.5km per day to get to work. That's 6km further than the average Kiwi and 4 km further than the average Dutch citizen.
This can put a real strain on the environment if, like most people, you aren't using sustainable transportation alternatives. Today, 79% of Australians still take a private car to work, and only 5.2% cycle or walk.
Your commute – and how you navigate your neighbourhood on an everyday basis – is a great opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint. By using a combination of taking public transport, biking, carpooling and using other eco-friendly transportation methods, you can still get where you need to go while prioritizing the planet. While it takes time to build the habit, let's look at some of the different ways that you can make your commute more sustainable.
Few modes of transport can rival riding a bike to and from work. It's free, produces no carbon, and helps you get a great workout twice a day. Many cities have bike-sharing schemes that help you spread the cost of a new bike and can keep your daily costs extremely low.
Recent research shows that bike-sharing has environmental benefits, too. Cities like Shanghai have reportedly saved a total of 8,358 tonnes of petrol in a single year. This is great news for commuters and residents alike as it significantly reduces the amount of pollution that plagues our towns and cities.
If you're new to the idea of cycling to work, you may be a little nervous about sharing the road with cars. This is entirely understandable, as some drivers don't give cyclists the room they deserve. Practice defensive cycling and learn to reduce the risk of conflict with cars by wearing bright colours and using clear hand signals. Avoid weaving between cars in traffic, too, as this can cause accidents if drivers don't see you in their mirrors.
Car-pooling is a tried-and-tested eco-friendly form of commuting. Every time you decide to take a lift in with colleagues, you're effectively halving your total carbon use. This is a significant saving if you're driving a long way or are otherwise concerned about the carbon your car generates.
Of course, car-pooling doesn't eliminate carbon use completely. Consider buying carbon offsetsif you're still worried about the impact that your commute has on the environment. Carbon offsets aren't a perfect science and shouldn't be seen as a replacement for lifestyle changes. However, they can be a powerful tool in your eco-friendly arsenal if you simply must drive in to work on certain days.
Public transport is often overlooked by folks looking to cut down on their environmental impact. However, trains, buses, and trams are innately eco-friendly. You're potentially spreading the carbon cost of a single journey with hundreds of other commuters and are, in effect, nullifying your use of non-renewable gasses.
Cities that rely heavily on public transport may benefit from lowered pollution, too. Without so many cars on the road, pedestrians and residents can live without fear of petrol pollution. This is extremely important today, as we now know that air pollution causes health conditions like:
- Respiratory illnesses;
- Aggravated asthma;
- Cardiovascular problems;
- Compromised immune health.
Cut down on pollution and make the most of public transport by sorting out your entertainment ahead of time. Passing the time by reading can turn your commute into a peaceful, introspective time that helps you relax after work. Alternatively, audiobooks and crafting projects like knitting can help occupy your mind while you wait for your stop.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular across Australia. In July 2023, 46,624 EVs were sold — that's a 269% increase from July 2022. Driving an EV can cut down your carbon footprint, reduce pollution in your city, and help you lead a more sustainable life.
EVs will become more energy-efficient in years to come, too. As our energy grid transitions towards a more renewable system, EVs will generate more of their power from solar panels and wind turbines. This is great news if you plan on commuting throughout your career but cannot use public transport.
EVs are becoming more cost-effective as used models hit the market. While some fear that EV batteries harm the environment, there is much work being done to give these batteries a second life (when they are no longer fit to power a car but have plenty of life left in them) and at the very end of life ensuring that old cars are dealt with efficiently.
Greening your commute can reduce your carbon footprint and help minimize pollution in your city or town. Taking the bus or cycling to work is cost-effective, too. Even if you can't ride public transport, you can still reduce the impact of your commute by carpooling. If you have to drive an can make the investment, having an EV is a long term solution to avoid emissions on your commute. All these little lifestyle changes add up and minimizes harm on the planet.
Guest blog written by Ainsley Lawrence
Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.
Header image from unsplash.