Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Part 3

(First published on the Carbon Clear website 06 Ferbuary 2007)

We'll finish off our travel emissions mini-series by discussing what you can do about the carbon footprint (or is it the tyre-print?) of driving.

Automobiles are popular for a reason - they provide fast, door-to-door transport, at a cost per mile that is usually comparable to taking the train or flying. What's more, you don't have to share your car with strangers.

Looked at a different way, though, driving alone in an automobile means setting fire to one and a half tonnes of polluting fuels each year, in order to hurl over a tonne of steel and plastic down the road at high speed -- just to move a single person. Driving 12,000 miles a year releases more CO2 than a return flight from London to Sydney, as much carbon as two years of household electricity use. And that's saying nothing about the costs of local air pollution, noise, and traffic accidents. Future generations may shake their heads in wonder at our car-centred lifestyle.

We've talked before about ways to reduce your driving-related climate pollution. Some measures are easier than others; try a few and see which you like best:

  • Leave the car at home twice a month. You'll reduce your driving related CO2 emissions by about 10%. If you work from home once every other week you could save £85 per year in fuel costs. That's enough to offsest the rest of your driving emissions with money to spare.
  • Drive a more efficient car. Hybrids produce less CO2 than a small diesel car with exactly the same fuel economy, and produce a lot less soot and other pollutants. You could easily reduce your emissions by around 20% - or even more depending on your driving habits.
  • Stick to the speed limit. A car driving at 70 mph produces 15% more pollution than one driving at 60 mph.
    Share a ride - carpooling with friends or using a rideshare scheme like Freewheelers means one less car on the road, and halves your per-person driving emissions.
    Stopped for more than two minutes? Switch off the motor. You could reduce your driving emissions by 10% or more.

With the state of Britain's transport system, few of us are ready to give up driving completely - at least not yet. But there's a lot we can do to use our cars less and reduce the impact of driving. The hints I've shared above are just the start. For those CO2 emissions that remain, there's a Carbon Clear offset package to cancel out your driving pollution. At least until we can all drive electric cars powered by wind energy.