Many of us live in places with threatening levels of air pollution. The 2019 State of Global Air report showed that air pollution was the 5th highest mortality risk factor in 20171. In that year, 90% of the world’s population was exposed to unhealthy air. And according to the EPA, transportation is largely responsible for this level of pollution. Which makes it imperative that we all join a car share to cut air pollution.
Cutting our individual carbon footprint involves taking a range of small but significant steps. One key thing to consider when trying to reduce your negative impact on people and the planet is how you get around.
The journeys we make every day, or regularly have the most impact over time. So making better choices when it comes to these journeys can make a big difference. Deciding to join a car share to cut air pollution is one thing we can do to reduce our harmful impact.
The Environmental Impacts of Driving To Work
To understand why car share schemes can be such a good idea, we first need to look at the true costs involved in driving regularly. In particular, those drives where we use petrol, diesel or non electric vehicles.
Whereas electric vehicles are a vast improvement, it’s worth noting that the benefit is predominantly derived where the electricity used to charge them is from renewable sources. Furthermore, whereas progress is being made, in the US electric vehicles are forecast to hit 7% of all vehicles on the road by 2030. With most journeys, in the US and elsewhere, still made using traditional fossil fuel powered vehicles.
Accordingly, when we analyse the environmental impacts of driving daily, e.g. our daily drives to work, it is easy to see why we need to make changes where we can.
When we drive daily:
- We consume fossil fuels that would be more eco-friendly to keep in the ground.
- CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming, are produced by our vehicles.
- Vehicles also release particulates and air pollution – that reduce air quality and cause a range of health problems for ecosystems, people and wildlife.
- Cars also release heavy metals and other contaminants, which end up on roads, and pollute soils and waterways.
- Car tires also become a major source of plastic pollution – releasing huge quantities of micro-plastic particles that also end up causing many issues in the wider environment.
Most people are now aware of the harm done by driving to work. But for many, it is still essential to travel from A to B. So how can we limit our negative impact and cut air pollution (and other forms of pollution) that we create?
The Ideal Options To Cut Air Pollution
The best way to think about what you can do to cut air pollution is to consider all your options – from best to worst. We may not all be able to make the most ideal choices right away. But by working through all the potential solutions, we can make sure we choose the option that does the least harm while still enabling us to make a living and get where we need to go.
Work from home
The best option of all is to cut down on the daily commute. If there is potential for you to work from home – at least some of the time – then this is something you should consider. Many companies are now more open to home working than they were before. If your current organization does not offer home working – but you feel you could do your job effectively from home – it could be worth discussing this with your boss.
If you run an online business (such as freelancing or eCommerce) and still commute daily, ask yourself if your reasons are valid enough. If you work out of a co-working space that is far away, find a closer option that you can walk or bike to.
Walk or cycle to work
If you live relatively close to where you work, then walking, jogging or running to work is an excellent low-impact option. Of course, travelling in this way will take longer than travelling by car. But it could be time that you might have to spend exercising in another way, or heading to the gym.
You could also consider getting a bicycle and cycling to work if it is not too far. Cycling is much quicker than walking but is also brilliant exercise. And of course, this option too allows you to travel without creating air pollution.
Of course, if you work too far from home to consider these options, you will have to look at other options.
Take public transportation
Sometimes, eco-friendly public transport options are available. Taking a train, bus, or tram to work could be an excellent option if these are available in your area.
The problem is, public transportation in some areas can be expensive. It can cost far more financially than taking your car. And in some other areas, the transport links simply aren’t there.
Choose an electric vehicle
If you cannot walk, cycle or take public transport, then you might be able to cut air pollution. And reduce your negative impact by choosing a less polluting vehicle. An electric vehicle is, of course, an excellent option – as long as there are charge points available. And as long as they are run on renewable energy sources. Though not entirely carbon neutral, an electric vehicle is far less polluting than traditional diesel or petrol vehicles.
But electric vehicles are still very expensive. Also, the infrastructure is not available globally.
Join a car share scheme
If you have exhausted these other options, then a car share scheme could be your best option – at least for now. A car share scheme is a scheme that allows you to carpool with colleagues or other local workers to get to and from work. It can be with people you already know, or (following safety guidelines of course) with strangers. This allows you to collectively cut congestion and reduce the number of cars on the road.
There is a range of different car-sharing models to consider, but however you share your journeys, it’s still worth the switch.
The Benefits of Car Sharing
Travelling in a car with several other people will allow you all to reduce your impact. This happens when you ensure that there is only one vehicle, rather than several, on the road. This means a reduction in emissions and pollution of all the types described above.
When you join a car share scheme, you can also save energy expended on driving yourself every day. Your group may take turns with driving duty. Join a car share scheme and you can also save money. Since you and the other members of the scheme can cut the cost of fuel. And if you are not driving your car every day, you’ll save on the wear and tear on your vehicle too.
Car shares can provide significant cost savings as a result of sharing the costs of petrol, car parking and other vehicle running costs. On average, in the UK, commuters that share cars save themselves £1,000 a year compared to driving alone2.
Car sharing can also help you avoid parking hassles, and provide social benefits. It might be enjoyable to have someone (or several people) to talk to as you make your way to and from work. While with a car share scheme, you’ll have to arrive and leave work at a set, pre-decided time. This can also be beneficial, as it can help you to develop a healthy work-life balance.
How To Find a Car Share Scheme
The first place to go to look for a car share scheme is your place of work. If you work for a larger company, you may find that they already have a car share network in place. Look at company notice boards and within the company intranet to see whether there is any information.
It is also worthwhile speaking informally with your colleagues, to see whether anyone is already carpooling. Or whether anyone has an interest in setting up a car share scheme. You could also post a bulletin or send out an email advertising the fact that you are looking for someone to car share with on your commute.
If you commute from a small village, town, or suburb to a city centre, you may need to do a bit more digging. Consider placing a notice in a local community space, local shop or other notice board. Advertise for people willing to car share into the centre from your area.
In certain places, there are also online resources to help you find a car share scheme. For example, check out Liftshare. On this site, you can register to advertise the fact that you can offer a lift, or look for someone who can give you a ride to work. Go Car Share is another interesting car share site to look at.
If there is no car share scheme in place in your area, then you should start one, either formally or informally.
Think of this: On the day of the London marathon, there was an 89% reduction in air pollution. Our actions add up collectively to either help or harm our planet. Choosing to stop driving daily might seem like a drop in the ocean, but it’s a very important drop. And by encouraging others to do same, you could start a trickle, and eventually a stream of change in the air quality of your environment and the world at large.
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Sources & References:
|State of Global Air/2019: A Special Report On Global Exposure to Air Pollution And its Disease Burden. Health Effects Institute, MA|
|Transport for London: Car Share Guide 2017|