Slowly but surely, the world is reopening, and we’re returning to ‘precedented times’ once more. However, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on almost every industry, forcing many businesses to close and others to ditch the office and turn homes into headquarters.
With a devastating world event locking us up indoors, the recent conversation has turned to our relationship with the planet — climate change protests, new green deals, and discussion of the lifestyle changes that are necessary for us to do better for our environment.
But as workplaces re-introduce onsite hours, where do we stand on travelling for our jobs?
Many of us have enjoyed a quick new commute of 15 seconds to the living room, but have also started to make more eco-friendly choices that don’t involve driving in rush-hour traffic. Everyday transport is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, so as we adapt once more, here are five tips for making your commute more sustainable.
1. Cycle to work
Bike hire and cycle to work schemes have been in operation across many city centres for years now, but few choose to cycle for transport. If your commute is too long to walk but viable on two wheels, taking a bike can be a healthy way to cut your transport costs and carbon footprint. In a survey of worker travel habits across major European cities, researchers found that those who replace car travel with cycling just once a day can reduce their carbon emissions by 0.5 tonnes a year.
Cycling can improve your physical and mental well-being too — with data demonstrating its benefits for fitness, reducing disease risk, and anxiety management. If getting up and active in the morning is your thing, cycling to work is the most practical way to do it.
2. Change your schedule
Sitting idle in rush-hour traffic can be both soul and planet-destroying. With more cars on the road, congestion worsens and engines have to run for longer, meaning more emissions are generated. By rescheduling your commute to a quieter time on the roads, you can minimise your travel time and environmental impact.
This is especially relevant post-pandemic, as many workplaces are choosing to trial more flexible models of working. If you’re spending some days in the office and some from home, your employer may well be accommodating to different work schedules. Where possible, try and choose travel times that avoid the busiest points in the day, or even the week. For example, Mondays and Fridays tend to be the quietest on the roads, so going in on these days will make your commute cleaner.
3. Take public transport
Another option to ditch the driving is to take public transport instead. Alternatives like buses, trams and trains are still greener options than taking a car, and can be just as quick. Fewer cars on the road also means less traffic, so those that have no option but to drive can make it to work quicker and minimise their fuel consumption.
Though more rural areas often have limited transport links, infrastructure in the UK continues to receive significant investment. Over the next ten years, the rural transport strategy aims to better connect more isolated areas of the UK, and integrate areas further afield from central business districts.
If you do have a well-connected network, choosing public transport over individual travel is an easy way to address your sustainability concerns.
4. Carpool with coworkers
If none of these options can pry you away from the steering wheel, consider picking up coworkers on the way to work. When you live nearby to those you share a workplace with, there’s no real need for you all to travel in separately — so why not start up a rota with one or two others and share the responsibility? This can save on fuel consumption and reduce pollution.
While we recognise that not all colleagues will be the best of friends, car sharing can be a good icebreaker and a boredom cure for longer journeys too. And if it doesn’t go so well, it might just be that last bit of encouragement you need to get the bus instead.
5. Reuse your coffee cup
So you’re travelling more sustainably now, but what about your purchasing habits once you’ve left the house? Morning coffee is a wake-up staple for many who commute, and that won’t change anytime soon — but sadly, most single-use cups that you’re given from your favourite coffee shop are difficult to recycle, as you can’t just put them in regular plastic or paper bins.
Recycling experts Bywaters explain that “Although they are made largely of paper, disposable coffee cups are also lined with plastic polyethylene, which makes recycling them difficult, as fused materials cannot be processed at standard recycling facilities.”
As a result, most of the seven million coffee cups used daily go to waste, clogging landfill sites and polluting waterways. To prevent this, you can invest in a reusable cup at your favourite coffee shop, that most are happy to fill up with your order. Otherwise, ensure that your single-use cups are going to facilities able to separate paper and plastic elements, by disposing of them in stores or workplaces that offer coffee cup recycling.