People commuting by bus

After three flat years, carbon dioxide emissions rose again in 2017, showing that the earth’s struggles with climate change will only continue. While this news discouraged those who believed we might have finally hit peak levels, there’s plenty to be hopeful about. Now is the time for individuals to do what they can to reduce their impact, through actions big and small. In the week leading up to Earth Day, Earth911 tackles five different areas in which you can make a difference. Today’s topic: transportation.

Why Transportation Matters

The transportation sector is responsible for 27 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to contributing to climate change, the transportation sector is also responsible for significant amounts of air pollution and oil extraction. Spring is a great time to look to green transportation solutions to cut fossil fuel use and associated carbon emissions.

What You Can Do


Are there times you could carpool with others to drive less? Although this might require more time and planning, it can save large amounts of gasoline, especially for long trips. Determine if you regularly drive to the same place as neighbors or people who live along the way. In addition to creating time to socialize, carpooling saves gasoline and wear and tear on the car. 

Combine Trips

When you run errands, think ahead to minimize driving. What trips can be combined? Even if you don’t cut the miles that you drive by combining trips, operating a car with a hot motor has better fuel economy than a cool car, especially in colder weather. 

Walk, Jog or Bike

There are many fun ways to get around town that don’t include burning fossil fuels. Whenever possible, roll, stroll or glide during your commute. It’s also a great way to get some exercise and stay in shape. Take a pledge to bike to work and encourage co-workers and friends to do the same.

Drive an Electric Vehicle

If you do own a car, electric vehicles are a cleaner and greener option than gasoline-powered cars. With no tailpipe emissions, they prevent air pollution and cut fossil fuel use. Electric vehicles, followed by hybrid vehicles, have lower carbon emissions than gasoline-powered cars. 

It is, however, important to consider the source of power that is used to charge the car because there are associated emissions elsewhere beyond the tailpipe. Electricity produced from coal power, for example, has more greenhouse gas emissions compared with nuclear, hydropower, nuclear energy, solar power and wind energy. Whenever possible, use low-emissions sources of electricity for charging.

Use Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

If you are unable to go electric or even car-free, drive one of the most fuel-efficient cars within its class. Through this simple purchasing decision, you will use less gas and save more cash throughout the life of the vehicle.

Take Public Transit

In addition to cutting your carbon emissions and saving an estimated 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually in the U.S., using public transportation also helps reduce car ownership, often saves money and helps prevent air pollution. Enjoy the ride by bringing along something to read, or just relax and let someone else do the driving. Apps now make it simpler than ever in many areas to know when trains or buses will arrive, saving time.

The Future of Transportation

Transportation in most cities is centered around personal automobile use, but that’s changing in many areas. Bike lanes, pedestrian-friendly planning and ride-sharing services are all becoming more popular in many cities. Ridership on public transportation has risen 34 percent since 1995, reducing congestion and cutting emissions.

The impact of self-driving cars on the environment is still unclear. The ease of use could encourage additional car trips; alternately, it could promote efficiency through smarter driving. 

Ultimately, the future of transportation depends on our choices. Encouraging greener transportation infrastructure locally helps make options more plentiful and appealing. If we make individual choices to reduce our emissions, we can make a big impact collectively. 

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.