Every year, it’s estimated that forms of non-sustainable transport use between 20% and 25% of the world's energy which contributes significantly to the exponentially high levels of greenhouse gases released into the earth’s atmosphere.
A report from 2016 shows the total number of cars around the globe exceeds 1.2 billion. That is a lot of toxic emissions and a grave amount of bad news for the environment. Plus, if our trends in car usage around the world do not change that number is expected to be more than doubled by 2050.
Road traffic in the UK has increased from 255 billion miles travelled in 1990 to 328 billion miles in 2018, an increase of 29%. Plus, only 0.5% of all licensed vehicles in Great Britain in 2018 were ultra-low emissions.
Sustainable Transportation Survey 2019
We decided to conduct our own research. We surveyed 511 people who have an interest in sustainable transportation or who have an interest in this subject.
What is sustainable transport?
Sustainable transport, sometimes known as green transport, is any form of transport that doesn’t use any of our dwindling natural resources. Sustainable transport relies on renewable or regenerated energy rather than fossil fuels. Thus, there is low to no effect on the environment, a factor that has never been more prominent on our planet.
What did we want to find out with the survey?
We asked a simple question, ‘how do you commute to work?’
We thought that those who have an interest in sustainable transportation, would more likely opt for a more environmentally friendly way to commute to work.
We classed cycling, walking & public transport as sustainable transportation.
Here are the results.
What’s the most common mode of transport for commuting to work?
- 42% bike
- 23% car
- 13% walk
- 13% public transport
- 7% other
- 2% motorbike
Who uses sustainable transportation more, males or females?
- 76% of men use sustainable transportation to commute to work
- 65% of women use sustainable transportation to commute to work
Which age group uses sustainable transportation more?
- 94% - 18-24
- 80% - 25-34
- 73% - 55-64
- 72% - 45-54
- 67% - 35-44
- 65% - 55-64
- 50% - 65+
Which area of the UK uses sustainable transportation more?
- 100% - Northern Ireland
- 96% - London
- 89% - South East
- 86% - Wales
- 75% - Scotland
- 71% - South West
- 70% - East Anglia
- 68% - Yorkshire
- 67% - West Midlands
- 67% - North East
- 67% - Home Countries
- 58% - South
- 57% - North West
- 47% - East Midlands
What sustainable options are available?
More than 14.5 million people (over 18) across the UK travel by bicycle at least once a month, with 6.1 million people using their bike at least once a week. This seems like a lot of people but the UK, alongside Luxembourg and Spain have one of the lowest percentages of cyclists (4%) in the EU, only slightly ahead of Cyprus (2%) and Malta (1%). (Source: https://www.cyclinguk.org/statistics).
Nonetheless, cycling is one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transport even when taking into consideration the food energy that is needed to feed the UK’s hungry riders. Cycling produces only 17g of Co2 emissions per passenger KM, compared to a large car which produces a whopping 301g.
The oldest form of transport known to humans is walking. Walking has been around for millennia and remains as the greenest, most environmentally friendly transport mode, plus, it’s free.
There are no manufacturing costs, apart from the food energy your parents needed. It is an extremely efficient use of public space. Around 20 times as many people can walk in the space of one car and if we all swapped one journey a week from car to walking the traffic levels would reduce by at least 10%.
Plus, cycling and walking/running are not only good for the planet, they are obviously of benefit to you and your health and wellbeing too, bonus.
Buses/Park and Ride
Public transport is a contentious one. Although the vehicles used for public transport routes are often very large and consume a huge amount of fossil fuels, they can still be very environmentally effective. This is all due to the amount of people that use them at any given time.
Hence, a school bus has a much lower carbon footprint that your average localised bus service because there is around the same number of people using it every day.
There are around 32,000 buses in service in the UK and for the year ending March 2019 the number of local bus passengers in England was 4.31 Billion, that’s a 1% decrease. Therefore, the sustainability of the nation’s buses is also decreasing.
In 2018/19 public sector spending on Railways in the UK was almost £18 million, over 3 times as much as the next biggest expenditure, local roads and the measly £2.6 million spent on local public transport.
Globally road users account for 71% of the CO2 emissions in the atmosphere compared to railway companies making up for less than 1.8% of the emissions. Trains are clearly an environmentally friendly and sustainable means of transport. However, like buses this is dependent on the amount of people using them.
Although you may end up paying more for an electric vehicle at this moment in time, as it is a relatively new concept, it is considerably better for the environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency says that more carbon emissions are generated in the production of electric cars than conventional ones, most of which come from producing the battery. However, over the lifetime of both the electric and conventional car, the electric car will still have a smaller carbon footprint.
Back in 2013, there were 3500 electric vehicles registered in the UK. As of 2017 there were 85,000. This rate of growth is set to continue its rise and some cities have claimed that there will be no fuelled vehicles on the road as early as 2030.
All of these options are viable forms of sustainable transport. The carbon emissions we release from burning fossil fuels is killing our planet and changing the way we move around the world will significantly increase the chances of halting climate change.
We know that isn’t always viable, you might have to travel to work by car because there is simply no other way. However, there is always a small change that you can make to play your part in the fight against climate crisis, but what?
What can humans do to be sustainable in transportation?
From ‘pedal to the metal’ to ‘pedal power’.
Choosing to drive everywhere is not good for the planet, or you for that matter, but we aren’t here to give you health and lifestyle lessons. Changing just one car journey a week to walking/running or cycling could reduce our traffic levels by at least 10%.
It’s not all planes and automobiles.
Where possible, use public transport. Spending your hard-earned cash on a tube or bus may not be your idea of heaven, but it will certainly help to avoid the trigger of impending and irreversible climate change. The more people that use these systems, the smaller the carbon footprint becomes, it’s simple.
For example, the underground in London uses a 630-volt battery to power one of the oldest and most sophisticated rail networks in the world. It’s infrastructure like this that makes cities a powerful ally in the fight against climate change, and its carbon footprint is almost zero.
Oi, greedy. Stop hogging that car.
You may view it as one of your happy places, but the inside of your car isn’t for only you to hear your incredible rendition of Islands in the Stream, it’s for everyone to hear. Start car sharing. There would then be fewer cars on the road, you’d save money on fuel and car maintenance. Less parking infrastructures and road expansions and everyone hates parking and roadworks anyway.
Get with the programme, get a hybrid.
Hybrid/electric cars are forcing their way into the mainstream and they are not as expensive as they used to be. Plus, making the change from conventional to electric/hybrid would mean, less air pollution, improved gas mileage (with hybrids), reduced noise pollution, less oil drilling. Do we need to carry on?
So, as you can see there are many options available to you to improve your carbon footprint, but why are these important? Why are we telling you that these are changes that need to be made?
Why is sustainable transport important?
Why is it important for us to travel sustainably? We are currently in a climate crisis.
Our summers and winter are getting warmer, and they are not stopping. Temperatures of 21.2 degrees Celsius were recorded in London’s Kew Gardens on February 26, 2019, that is the highest winter temperature EVER recorded in the UK, with parts of the country being warmer than places like Malibu and Crete.
The average wildlife population has dropped 60% in just over 40 years. Climate change is playing a huge part in the loss of our animal kingdom on Earth. Forcing animals to move habitats because of changes in weather, deforestation means habitats are completely destroyed, and even under two degrees Celsius warming, five per cent of animal and plant species will be at risk from extinction.
We used all of our 2019 resources by July 29th this year. It’s known as Earth Overshoot Day, the day that signifies our energy consumption for the year overshooting the rate at which these energy sources can regenerate. In 1999 it was September 29th, it was July 29th this year.
Two-thirds of extreme weather in the last 20 years was influenced by us. Floods have doubled since 2004, there are more and more cases of extreme temperatures, more wildfires, more droughts, heatwaves, storms. Do we need to keep going?
A study by Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering climate science, gathered data from 230 studies into “extreme event attribution”. They found that 68% of all extreme weather events analysed were made more likely/severe by human caused climate change.
120,000 square kilometers of tropical rainforest were lost in 2018. That’s 30 football pitches. Whether the space is being used for agriculture, cattle or for products like palm oil and soybeans, the trees are still being cut down that took decades to store huge amounts of carbon, which is then released back into the atmosphere.
The UK will most likely miss its transport emissions targets. The UK have set targets to reach a net zero on carbon emissions by 2050. However, this will not happen if we carry on our current trends. Tens of millions of petrol and diesel cars will have to be replaced. Is that going to happen? Not if we don’t travel sustainably.
There is now more CO2 in the atmosphere than any time in the history of our species. Sensors in Hawaii have detected the amount/concentration of CO2 in the air since the late 50s. In may they detected that the earth had a CO2 concentration of 415.26ppm. The last time it was this high was 3 MILLION years ago, and trees were growing in the south pole. Oh, and if they reach 450ppm, climate change will be irreversible and our planet will be destroyed, forever. So travelling sustainably is important, don’t you think?
Sustainable transport is no longer a way to help the environment. It is essential. Every one of us must investigate the methods that we choose to travel. Could you share a car, could you take the bus or swap a journey a week in car to one on a bike? The planet is dying and will soon be on a path to irreversible damage. These methods are just one of the ways that we can all do our bit to save the planet and make sure that future generations have a planet to live on, cars or no cars.