6 Ways to Reduce Your Car Use

We all know that driving is a major contributor to climate change and air pollution, yet we are so used to jumping in our cars to nip to the shop, it is easy to forget the harm our journey is causing. However, with a little more awareness and planning, it needn’t be hard to reduce the carbon footprint of your journeys. An added bonus is you can save money by not needing to get petrol so often! Here are my top tips:

1. Cycle or Walk

It may seem obvious, but walking or cycling short journeys that you would usually use your car for is a surprisingly easy habit to get into once you begin. I often walk rather than drive if I’m visiting my parents (3 miles), and I started riding my bike a lot more during lockdown, so it was a natural step to start cycling on shortish journeys instead of driving (6-12 miles). Whereas previously I used to cycle for leisure, with no specific purpose other than fun and exercise, I now like to combine cycling with travelling to a destination (to visit family or to go shopping, for example). Yes, I have to allow more time to get anywhere, but the way I see it I’m saving time by not spending time cycling aimlessly for pleasure, and it is very satisfying to know I’m not burning fossil fuels. Of course, whether I will keep up this habit during the winter months remains to be seen, but the good intention is there!

Jane and her family try to do the school run on foot two or three times a week instead of driving. It’s not always an easy feat as the quickest route involves several muddy fields! However, the 25 minute walk is a nice way for the kids to wind down from school and a good opportunity to find out what they’ve been up to that day (before they slump silently in front of the TV!). The kids do sometimes complain, but can usually be persuaded with bribery!

2. Save Up Your Errands

Again, this requires being a bit organised, but is an easy habit to follow once you get into it, which can save you time as well as emissions! As we live about 6 miles from the nearest town, it’s not very convenient to just “pop out” to the shops. Also, I don’t enjoy shopping, so I like to minimise the time spent doing it! When I do go grocery shopping, I make a list and stock up, meaning I only need to go to town about once a month, or often less frequently than that. I try to time this around appointments, such as visiting the optician or hairdresser, or going to the recycling centre. Yes, I could cycle to town instead of driving, but for me doing all my errands in the same trip makes sense and avoids me turning up to the hairdresser all sweaty! I keep a list on our fridge of “jobs to do in town” so when I do make a trip I can easily see all the things I need to do.

3. Use Public Transport

This isn’t so easy to do if you live in a rural area like me, but if you’re lucky enough to live near a bus route or train station, using public transport is a great way to avoid using your car. Depending on where you’re going, it can be quite relaxing getting a bus or train, knowing you don’t need to worry about getting lost, stuck in traffic, or trying to find a parking space. You could even attempt a staycation by travelling to your UK holiday destination by train!

4. Get Stuff Delivered

Depending on where you live and how close your local shops are, getting groceries delivered (from a local or ethical supplier if possible) can be better from the environment, especially if you need to drive to get to your nearest shop. One easy thing to do is to get your milk delivered in glass bottles, which saves having to drive to a shop every few days. I’m a big fan of home deliveries and we get a weekly veg box from Riverford, and my husband gets a bulk delivery of meat from the local butcher every few weeks, which we store in our chest freezer. Why don’t you see which local companies near you offer a delivery service? Since the first lockdown more and more businesses have started delivering, and I have to say I love the convenience of not having to drive to the shops! Bulk buying non-perishable things like flour, tins etc online is another option to consider, providing you have enough storage space.

5. Have a Virtual Meeting

Zoom calls have become all the rage this year for obvious reasons, but actually it makes environmental sense to meet people virtually in some situations. If you need to have a discussion or meeting, whether for work or otherwise, why not ask yourself whether you actually need to drive somewhere to be there in person? My yoga teacher has carried on offering online classes in addition to in-person ones, and as well as reducing my car use, it saves me a lot of time to be able to join the class from home!

6. Car Share

I almost forgot this one, but if using your car is unavoidable, giving someone else a lift is one way to make your journey more efficient. For example, before lockdown I used to pick my mum up on the way to our yoga class and give lifts to friends from the village to our book club. And as I don’t drink, I often end up being the taxi driver on nights out!

We live in a society where we are reliant on our cars and at the moment more eco-friendly alternatives, such as electric vehicles, are expensive and not practical for everyone. However, if you do own a car, with a bit of thought, it is possible to reduce your car use, reduce your fuel bills and reduce emissions!

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