How to make commuting more sustainable 

Commuting is a daily reality for millions of people who need to get to and from work. However, it also has a significant environmental impact as it contributes to transport emissions which make up 16% of all global CO2 emissions with road transportation emitting 6 billion tonnes of carbon ever year.  

The challenge commuters face is how to choose the most convenient, affordable, and comfortable way to travel, whilst also reducing their environmental impact.  

It’s also challenging because commuting patterns and preferences vary widely across different regions, cultures, and lifestyles. Some people may have access to public transport, bike lanes, or carpooling options, while others may depend on driving their own cars. Some people may enjoy the social and health benefits of active commuting, such as walking or cycling, while others may prefer the convenience and comfort of driving or taking a bus or train. 

Commuting contributes to transport emissions which make up 16% of all global CO2 emissions, with road transportation emitting 6 billion tonnes of carbon ever year.

How important are commuting emissions? 

Commuting is the daily act of travelling from home to work and back again. It is a significant part of our lives, as it affects our time, money, health, and well-being.  

In the US, UK and EU the average commuting time is just under 30 minutes with cars being the most common way that people get to work. However, every person has a different commute. 10% of people travel just 2.5 miles for their commute day but 12% travel 10 times that amount. And whilst the car is the most popular form of transport walking, bus, train, underground and bike are also used by millions of people. The key message is that we need sustainable commuting but the way to do it will be personal and local.  

In the US, UK and EU the average commuting time is just under 30 minutes with cars being the most common way that people get to work

What role can an individual employee play in reducing commuting emissions? 

We all have a role to play in making commuting greener. Both individuals and companies can take steps to reduce the carbon emissions from commuting, and to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. Here are some tips and examples of how to do that as an employee: 

Learn about how to commute sustainably 

Start by improving your understanding about why we need to save on commuting emissions and the many different ways you can do it. Think about all stages of your commute and the different options you can take. You can use Giki’s commuting carbon calculator to see the emissions from each trip. 

Complete any company commuting surveys 

If your company is collecting information about commuting share your thoughts. A survey will help your company understand how it can reduce emissions by supporting commuters and promoting sustainable practices. With more information better solutions can be found.  

Find out about all the ways your company is encouraging and supporting sustainable commuting  

Your company may well be ready to support your sustainable commute, but do you know about all the options which are relevant to you? Learn more by asking your HR Team or Sustainability Team about what they are doing. If they’re not yet supporting greener commuting then suggest some ideas, with solutions that you think you, and your colleagues will take up, to cut carbon.  

Try to cycle or walk to work at least three times to build a new habit 

Cycling and walking are very low carbon ways to travel especially compared to cars. Walking and cycling to work will save carbon emissions and will also be good for your health and well-being. 

Joining your company EV salary sacrifice scheme 

A planet saving step as a salary sacrifice scheme can help you drive a new electric vehicle (EV) at a lower cost, whilst reducing your carbon emissions. An EV salary sacrifice scheme allows you to lease an EV from your employer by exchanging part of your gross salary for the non-cash benefit of driving an EV. This can result in tax savings for both you and your employer, as well as lower fuel and maintenance costs for you. 

Take public transport more 

Taking public transport more is a simple and effective way to reduce your environmental impact and carbon footprint. By choosing to ride a bus, train, or subway instead of driving your own car, you can help save energy, lower emissions, and improve air quality. Public transport is also cheaper, faster, and more convenient than driving in many cases, especially in urban areas. Start with a week of taking public transport whenever you can, to build a long-term habit. 

Drive efficiently or carpool 

If public transport or active travel is just not an option, then you can still drive efficiently to save carbon, money and pollution. For electric cars it’ll save battery too. You can also join a carpool scheme to share the emissions across more people.  

Broad ideas to always keep in mind 

The hierarchy of sustainable travel is quick way to find the most sustainable option. The higher up the hierarchy the more sustainable. 

  1. Active travel: This includes walking, cycling, or other forms of human-powered transport. These modes have zero emissions and improve health and well-being. 
  1. Public transport: This covers buses, trains, trams, subways and any form of mass transit. Public transport has lower emissions per passenger than private vehicles and can also reduce traffic. 
  1. Shared transport: This involves carpooling (sharing a journey with a colleague) or car sharing (joining a scheme to share a car but not necessarily the journey). Cuts the number of vehicles on the road, can lower costs and foster community. 
  1. Private transport: This refers to driving alone in a personal vehicle. This is the least sustainable option, as it generates the most emissions, consumes the most resources, and causes the most pollution and congestion.  

For any of public, shared or private modes of transport, if you can go electric that will help cut emissions even more. 

Whilst individuals and companies are different, we share the same climate goals. Don’t let the fact that you cannot do everything stop you from doing something and we hope this article has provided you with new ideas to do something new today! 

If you have been inspired to take some steps towards a more sustainable commute, then you can sign up to Giki Zero to find more steps and discover your carbon footprint. Or get in touch to talk about how we can help engage your colleagues on making commuting to work more sustainable.