Driving to work. Driving to the supermarket. Driving to social gatherings. The convenience of a personal vehicle is undeniable, but it comes at a steep environmental cost - so how can you reduce your impact without buying an expensive new electric car, or if you want to go somewhere where public transport isn't always an option?

What can I do?

We realise that not all these options are available to everyone, but the key is to try. A small improvement, done every day, makes an enormous difference.

  • Plan your trips. Do your shopping on your way home from work, or run a few errands at the same time in an area rather than making individual trips for each of them.
  • Carpool. Whether you're driving to work or school, you are there with the same people every day and you may find that it's possible for some of you to form a lift club. If nobody you work with lives along your route, consider asking if anyone would like to carpool with you via one of the many suburban Facebook communities.
  • Walk or cycle if you are able.
Safe public transport options are becoming available in progressively more areas. If you have these opportunities available, making use of them is certainly one of the best changes you can make for the good of the environment. Credit: Discott [CC BY-SA 3.0]
  • If a safe public mass transport option is available to you, such as a bus or train, consider using it.
  • Chat to your boss! Here are a few things your work can do to improve your commute (and stress levels):
    • Ask your boss if you can work flexible hours to avoid rush hour commuting - even better if this can extend to your coworkers too.
    • Ask your boss if you can work from home if you feel it is viable for your job.
    • Ask your boss to consider 4-day work weeks with slightly longer shifts. It's been proven to be just as productive, but alleviates stress and saves the commute!
  • If you absolutely cannot use your car less, consider offsetting your carbon footprint by having long-lives trees planted in reputable reforestation projects. Greenpop and Platbos Indigenous Forest - one very large tree can offset 1 tonne of CO2, which is the result of the use of 440L petrol or 375L diesel.
  • Keep your car well serviced and efficient:
    • Check your car's tyre pressure - they should be kept at the manufacturer's specification, not at what your dad told you that one time!
    • Perform basic services and oil changes at the manufacturer's specification.
    • Don't keep your car loaded unless you are transporting goods for a reason.
    • Accelerate and drive a bit slower - keep an eye on that rev counter, especially if your car recommends gear changes.
    • Do not idle!

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Commuting sucks. Credit: @thinusinesmax1823, @sarie_photos, @ajcapetown, @thembakostile, @theswartlander and @grant_pringle.

Why does it matter?

We all know that burning fuel releases greenhouse gases, contributing significantly to climate change. Current estimates put transportation as being responsible for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions - about the same as livestock farming - and about 72% of that is attributed to road transport. Although a large portion of that can certainly be attributed to commercial trucking (something that we all contribute to through our buying habits), our daily commutes are a major factor. Here's what commuting does to the environment:

  • Tiny fragments from your tyres blow into the ocean - as much as 28% of all ocean microplastic is tyre-dust.
  • A "short" commute of 15km to and from work can add up to a release of 1.5 to 4 tons of CO2 over the course of a year!
  • The average Capetonian spends 163 hours a year stuck in traffic. Carpooling and public transport options can free up your attention so that you can use this time for conversation, catching up on the news or listening to a podcast. Less stress leads to a healthier life.
  • Currently, ride-hailing services, like Uber and Bolt, are certainly a convenience, but they actually release 69% more emissions than the personal vehicle use they replace.
Credit: Pieter Jan Kole, Ansje J. Löhr, Frank Van Belleghem, A. d. Ragas (2017). "Wear and Tear of Tyres: A Stealthy Source of Microplastics in the Environment". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14 (10): 1265. [CC BY 4.0]

Myth-busting: It's better to idle than to turn the car off and on. Well, no...

Actually, the opposite is true, for all modern vehicles (including diesel) it's almost always better to switch your vehicle off if you need to wait for longer than 10-30 seconds. Vehicle starter motors are able to handle regular use, and modern diesel engines heat up in seconds and can continue to warm up while under load. Many of these anecdotes have their origins with older, less hardy vehicles.

The exception to this is old cars that have carburetted engines, and very old diesel vehicles that take a long time to heat up - but if you have a vehicle this old, you are hopefully also considering how to be able to replace it with something a bit more efficient that can save you some money.

Who can I follow?

Find your local carpool group! Facebook is filled with them!

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