7 Tips for more Sustainability on the Road

Never have so many means of transport stood still as in the times of Corona. Less traffic means less pollution with exhaust gases and fine dust. But it won’t stay that way. Which is why we should keep an eye on sustainable transport – on the road, in the air, and on the water.

Sustainability on the Road. Photo: Shutterstock - Solveig Been

For more sustainability on the road: cycling, using public transport or car-pooling. Grafic: Shutterstock – Solveig Been

Cycle

To reduce your own CO2 emissions, it’s advisable to take the bicycle. Cycling is also healthy: it prevents high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, among other things. According to the German government, Germans currently cover ten percent of all distances by bicycle. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. According to the Federal Environment Agency, up to 30 percent of car trips could be replaced by cycling. In order to further promote cycling, the federal government is, for example, subsidizing the implementation of the National Cycling Plan (NRVP) with around three million euros.

If you only need a car from time to time, various forms of carpooling could be interesting for you. According to the Federal Environment Agency, a car stands around unused for an average of 23 hours a day and blocks valuable space, especially in cities. Thanks to alternatives such as car-sharing agencies, car-sharing offers, or other rental models (e-scooters etc.), it’s often no longer necessary to own a car. If a neighbor has his own car and has to go in the same direction, this would also be a way to produce less CO2.

Walk

Shoes are presumably the best-selling “means of transport” – and probably also the most sustainable. In 2017, pedestrians covered 3.6 kilometers a day. That is 0.5 kilometers more than in 2002, according to a study by the Federal Ministry of Transport. According to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), if one covers a distance on foot instead of by car, an average of 140 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometer can be saved. Compliance with the noise limits of 40 dB(A) at night and 50 dB(A) during the day is also easier to achieve. Cities with a high proportion of foot traffic, such as Zurich with 35 percent, Helsinki with 32 percent, or Vienna with 27 percent, seem very attractive. According to UBA, they regularly rank among the top cities in comparative studies on quality of life. In view of climate change, energy system transformation, and changed mobility behavior, walking offers a healthy, sustainable, and trouble-free alternative to other means of transport.

Especially in cities with dense infrastructure, the change from car to public transport is a good idea. This is because car traffic requires more space and resources per passenger kilometer than any other form of public transport, according to a study by the European Environment Agency. The agency examined the possibilities for making mobility more environmentally friendly and efficient. According to the study, public transport would be one of the most important factors in improving the quality of life in cities, for example. A convenient and user-friendly integration of transport modes is important in this context. Consequently, the shorter the waiting times and the distances to be covered on foot, the lower the costs, and the greater the comfort, the easier it is to switch to public transport. One of the examples of success is the city of Lisbon, which, in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008/2009, focused on more sustainable mobility. Today, 93 percent of all Lisbon residents have access to the public transport network within a radius of 300 meters. The figures speak for themselves: Particularly with an average occupancy rate of 1.5 people per car, regular buses with 80 g CO2/km, city buses, trams, or metros with 58 g CO2/km are the more sustainable means of transport. According to statistics from the Federal Environment Agency, however, a car emits 147 g CO2/km.

Check the Vehicle’s General Condition

Anyone who wants to be on the road as sustainably as possible but cannot do without their car should make sure that the vehicle is always well maintained. If it’s technically sound and the engine is optimally adjusted, it also runs more economically. Regular filter, oil, and spark plug changes should be carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Conducting a quick tire pressure check at the petrol station? Good idea! “Use the filling pressure the vehicle and tire manufacturer jointly specify for the respective load condition of the vehicle”, recommends DEKRA tire expert Christian Koch. Avoid unnecessary ballast such as roof and bicycle racks or other superstructures when they’re not in use. These increase weight and air resistance and thus fuel consumption.

Adjust Driving Style

Whether it’s the fleet of trucks, the company car fleet, or your own car – the person behind the wheel is the deciding factor in energy-efficient driving. Driving with foresight not only reduces fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions, but also costs. Accelerating, even though the traffic light is already changing to red, is counterproductive. Instead, use the braking effect of the engine while you step off the gas. Make sure that the engine speed is as low as possible and shift up the gears early. The trick is to drive smoothly, without rapid acceleration and braking. Speed is also crucial: A mid-range car can be driven at 100 km/h with an average consumption of around six liters. At 160 km/h, consumption rises to around ten liters per 100 kilometers. So use your potential as a driver, pay attention to your driving style and the applicable speed limits. Modern on-board computers help you do this, allowing you to analyze not only your average consumption but also your driving style. Let the navigation system also calculate an already known route according to the criterion “economical” and drive the route with “fresh” eyes.

Travel Sustainably

The year 2020 is certainly not exemplary for the population’s travel behavior. The volume of air, sea, rail, and car traffic has fallen dramatically. However, sustainable travel is still recommended. According to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), air travel is particularly harmful to the environment. According to UBA, a flight from Germany to the Canary Islands and back causes emissions of about 1,800 kilograms of CO2. For a family of four, the figure adds up to 7.2 tonnes of CO2. On that same amount, the four of them would travel about 45,000 kilometers by car. Cruise ships have also come under massive criticism. UBA therefore advises people to switch to buses, trains, and bicycles to travel to nearby destinations.

Sustainability is not only the focus of private but also business travel: 64 percent of travel managers in companies want to reduce the number of business trips overall, according to the German Travel Management Association (VDR). When choosing a mode of transport, the change from air to rail is on the agenda for domestic routes. 53 percent are already implementing this measure and another 35 percent are planning to do so. Another option would be to do without travel altogether and to switch to online meetings. A climate-friendly business trip also includes ensuring sustainability at the destination and using local transport for short distances. Navigation apps, for example, help you find your way around and take advantage of car-sharing, ride-sharing, city bikes, or e-scooters – incidentally, this also applies to private trips.

Grafic: Fabian Techel

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