Fortunately, there are alternatives to vehicle transport, but realistically we won’t be able to replace all vehicles in one shot. If we see this as a personal responsibility towards sustainability, understanding private vehicle transport can also contribute to reducing our environmental footprint. We just need to adjust our sails a bit.
By Francisco Doudebés
Photography: The Guardian, Tom’s Automotive, Connected World
The gradual return to normality after the pandemic has changed our transportation patterns. While the nature of the pandemic has forced us to use less public transportation, working from home has forced us to use less individual private transportation. Using less private transport means that we have a great opportunity to reduce our footprint, but there are certain behavioral patterns that can lead us to further improve our results.
If we all focus on improving our practices, we will create a framework of sustainable culture and that will help us on several fronts: gradually decarbonization, raise awareness, understand better our environmental impact, and inspire others to adopt new ways and styles in our daily lives.
Here are five easy ways that can make our driving more sustainable, and while all of these options sound logical, the underlying question is how many times have we adopted them in our daily transportation needs?
- Ridesharing and Carpooling. The benefits are truly mathematical. If a driver shares with two, three or more, divide the emissions by the number of passengers. However, let us always remember that transportation is currently responsible for 64% of the consumption of fossil fuels, 27% of the energy we use, and 23% of the energy associated with CO2 emissions. If we share private transport, we can change statistics. Simple.
- Learn to travel light. Does your car sometimes look like a storage facility, with bike racks, boxes and sports equipment weighing you down? Remove anything you don’t need to lighten your vehicle and save on gas. Consumption rises by 1-2% for every 45 kg in the trunk.
- Cut down on A/C. Using air conditioning increases your gas consumption by up to 20%. Avoid it on short trips; before starting your vehicle, wind down your windows to lower the temperature and then leave the windows closed if you have the AC running; get used to driving at slightly higher temperatures!
- Adequate vehicle maintenance. Make sure to use the correct engine oil for your car and change it regularly. Consider synthetic oil, proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by carbon combustion. Synthetic oil needs to be changed less often, which is another plus for the environment. Be sure to check your tire pressure: low pressure increases fuel consumption — for example, Canada has been able to quantify this variable, and this equates to an unnecessary use of 1.8 million gallons of gasoline per year.
- Pace yourself. The faster you drive, the more your car encounters air resistance – meaning higher gas consumption. Minimize acceleration and deceleration to avoid wasting gas. Try anticipating trac patterns that require you to brake often and modify your speed accordingly. Driving at a smooth and steady pace will save you money on gas but will also lessen the wear on your tires and brakes. Leave a little earlier than usual and slow down. You decide your footprint!
Transport is responsible for around a quarter of global CO2 emissions, 72% of which come from cars and other road vehicles. From 1970 to 2010, such vehicles were responsible for 80% of the increase in emissions. Over 90% of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum based, primarily gasoline and diesel.
At any rate, there are good results in countries with high CO2 emissions, although perhaps not enough. Notably, China, as of January 2021, had committed five times more money to clean energy than to fossil fuels. China, which prioritized electrification of its public transit with subsidies and national regulations, has more than 400,000 electric buses, about 99% of the world’s total. The multitude and breadth of innovations is encouraging for the future of sustainable transport. Electric vehicles could further expand with the addition of charging stations. However, many developing countries still need access to reliable electricity sources for this low-carbon option to really take off.
The start of this almost post-pandemic moment has put what is possible into context. Transforming various mindsets is a first step, and then with behavioral attitudes we can take the second step. As Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, said: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have a car. It is where the rich use public transport”. Opportunities like the new Quito Metro Underground System can teach us some new things, and then other cities can improve that model.
Meanwhile, creative models within the companies at Grupo Futuro such as focused work from home, efficient processes, carpooling campaigns, sustainability training, application of ESG platforms, and much more could set the pace for leadership that goes beyond economic growth. We are certainly on the right track.
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