Sustainable Living

Transportation and Sustainability: 4 Starting Points for Big Issues

The transportation we use and how much we use it impacts our planet. That’s a fairly obvious and indisputable statement, but one that doesn’t necessarily get talked about often or in depth. While it’s a wide-ranging topic that can be overwhelming, I’m breaking down some of the issues with transportation and sustainability as well as some practical things we can do about it.

Highway interstate showing transportation and sustainability issues
Photo credit: Pixabay

Transportation and the Climate

The topic of transportation and the climate is not new to our blog. You may remember Krista sharing how our travel choices can help the planet last year. The topic, however, is huge and has a long history. In his post Travel With Climate Change on Jamie Ad Stories, Jamie talks about learning climate change information all the way back in 1996. He also raises the issue of people disconnecting from the natural world and leaning on the convenience of travel without acknowledging consequences.

Many people move from one city to the next and one country to the next as if it has no consequence. Flying around for meetings, for quick getaways or just for the sake of it, has become second nature for many of us. People are always looking for the fastest way to get from one distant place to another.

Jamie Ad Stories

This Jamie Ad Stories post is a part of our Climate Change Collective series, through which a group of environmentally minded bloggers are trying to keep climate change at the top of people’s minds. In this series, one blogger writes a topical post and the Climate Change Collective participants write a response to their post, sharing thoughts or more information on the topic. Learn more about our Climate Change Collective at the end of this post and find our first in the series here: Climate Change Collective–What You Can Do.

City street with traffic
Photo credit: Pixabay

Conversations About Transportation and Sustainability

From personal travel (think going to work, school, events) to corporate transportation (think couriering goods and services) to civic transportation (think garbage trucks, service vehicles, road maintenance) transportation is a huge issue.

The Problem of Transportation and Sustainability for our Lives

According to Natural Resources Canada: “The transportation sector is responsible for 27 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada. Light-duty vehicles – the cars, vans and light-duty trucks we drive – are responsible for almost half of that total.” 

While we have access to great freedom and convenience by being able to drive from one place to the next, this ability is greatly contributing to the large amount of GHG emissions. In his post, Jamie references the amount of pollution that accumulates around schools during pick up and drop off times. Such a simple daily task provides a visible (at least to our noses and lungs) example of the harm our vehicles are doing.

The Problem of Transportation and Sustainability for our Needs

Just as it’s a reality that we need to get to and from work, it’s a reality that we need things in our lives. Whether it’s groceries or school supplies, the items we buy have to get from production location to our stores.

Global CO2 emissions from transport graphic chart
Photo Credit: ourworldindata.org

The distance a product needs to travel and the type of transportation this product travels in both play a part in the amount of emissions being released into our atmosphere.

The Problem of Transportation and Sustainability for our Wants

Not only do we need things in our lives, but we also want things. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with that. I certainly missed having the option to go on vacation during the pandemic–whether that was jet-setting off somewhere or simply driving across the USA border. It can’t be ignored that these travel choices are contributing to climate change.

Globally, aviation produced 2.4 percent of total CO2 emissions in 2018. While this may seem like a relatively small amount, consider that if global commercial aviation had been a country in the 2019 national GHG emissions standings, the industry would rank number six in the world between Japan and Germany.

Environmental and Energy Study Institute, EESI.org
Tree-lined street with traffic for topic of transportation and sustainability
Photo credit: Pixabay

4 Starting Points for Change

So we can see that there’s a problem, but what can we do about something that is both essential to our lives and also causing havoc on our environment? Change does need to happen on a large scale, but here are four ideas to get you started with change on a practical level in your own life.

1. Stop idling your vehicle

It’s actually illegal to idle your vehicle in British Columbia where I live. It seems like such a small issue, but it can have a big impact.

If Canadian motorists avoided unnecessary idling for just three minutes every day of the year, it would prevent 630 million litres of fuel from being wasted and 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being needlessly pumped into the environment. Annually, that would be the equivalent of taking 320,000 cars off of the road!

Natural Resources Canada

2. Start making smarter commuting choices

As we see with the difference an idling vehicle makes, other small choices can add up to make a difference too.

  • Combine tasks into one trip to create a shorter amount of time on the road.
  • Find shops in one close area, price match flyers at your grocery store, or find other creative ways to shorten your trips.
  • Car pool with friends to events or with colleagues to work.
  • Take public transit, walk, bike, or use other green transport when possible.

3. Shop small and local

We talk so often about shopping small because the overall benefits of shopping local are huge. With respects to transportation and sustainability, shopping small and local reduces the distance your products need to travel. Your local farmer transporting their goods to a farmer’s market and then you transporting those same goods to your table is a much smaller scale than bananas travelling from Mexico to Canada.

4. Raise your voice on issues that matter

In a previous post about how our actions help the planet, I talked about using our voices for good. Subjects like climate change or transportation and sustainability can get overwhelming because they are so big. One way you can make a difference with little effort is to sign petitions or to contact your local government representative to voice your concerns.

Here are a few places to start:

Climate Change Collective
Photo Credit: Michelle at Boomer Eco Crusader

About the Climate Change Collective

The Climate Change Collective was born out of an exchange that took place between Michelle and Jamie in the comments section of a Jamie Ad Stories blog post. Jamie and Michelle both care deeply about the impact of human activity on our planet and wanted to find a way to keep the climate change message top of mind for everyone. A tweet was sent out, bloggers responded, and we’ve all now teamed up to create the Climate Change Collective!

The idea is simple. The members of the collective will take turns writing a monthly blog post sharing their concerns and unique perspective about climate change. After the post is published, the rest of the group will keep the conversation going by sharing a link to the post on their blogs along with their thoughts and ideas. If you’re a like-minded blogger and would like to join our collective, please get in touch. The more the merrier!

Cork Yoga Mat

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10 Comments

  • Michelle (Boomer Eco Crusader)

    You raise a great point about the transportation of the goods we use. Living just outside the Greater Toronto Area, I am always amazed at the number of trucks on the highway, no matter what time of day or what day of the week. Where is all this stuff coming from and going? Rethinking our consumption choices can have a big impact.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      It is really shocking to see, isn’t it?! My friend lives close to the port in Vancouver and sometimes the trucks are in a huge line up to get in.

  • Jenny

    Really great post. Obviously travel is something that’s never going to stop; whether it’s for leisure, work or buying necessities. Especially when you take into consideration people who need these means of travel for accessibility, medical reasons etc. But there’s always something we can do, I think. Walking more for start! Not only good for the planet but amazing for your health too.

  • Molly | Transatlantic Notes

    This is great and I echo your thoughts on this; we have to find workable solutions for ourselves and just try and find ways that fit. We can’t walk everywhere (it’s certainly not that easy where I live) so cars are inevitable – so we have to encourage innovation towards sustainable and eco-friendly vehicles, etc. Great post with really helpful ideas!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      The necessity of vehicles makes me think of your talking about food deserts a while back. Sometimes there’s no escaping the need to travel by car.

  • crystalsandcurls

    This is a great post! I had no idea idling was illegal in BC 😮 I can’t drive so public transport/walking is always a go for me, but I definitely can see how in certain areas (like Vancouver or more rural areas) it seems like you have to. Hopefully better public transport options will be brought in!x

    mia // https://miasdiyprojects.com/

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