5 ways to reduce your commuting emissions

The way you travel to and from work impacts your health and your wallet.

Is your commute stressful?  Does it involve physical activity?  How much is it actually costing you? 

Your decisions on how to travel to and from work also contribute to your environmental impact. For example, driving everyday to work contributes more vehicle emissions and local air pollution than choosing other ways to travel. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Chances are, at least one of the five tips below could work for you.

cyclists buses pedestrians

1. Work remotely

This is now common practice, and a great way to cut your carbon emissions. Working from home one day per week reduces your commuting emissions by 20%, two days 40%, and so on. So, if like most office workers this is an option for you, do it! The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency (EECA) estimated that if 1 in 5 kiwis who usually drive to work stayed at home just one day a week this would avoid equivalent emissions from 35,000 cars on the road (or 84,000 tonnes of CO2-e).

2. Switch to walking, cycling, or micromobility

You don’t have to be a greenie to see that walking makes you fit, that cyclists don’t get stuck in traffic, and that e-scooters are fun! People worry about safety, and it is a valid concern. Often it’s a case of knowing the back routes and off-road shortcuts to avoid the scary and noisy main roads. Distance and hills are also less of a problem now with e-bikes and e-scooters, which by the way have become much more affordable. Some companies even offer leasing options, allowing you to try them out by renting an e-bike until you decide to purchase it. A 10km commute may only work for committed pedal cyclists but can be done at most ages and abilities on an e-bike.

The key with these things is to give it a try: why not make one day per week your active commute? That’ll save you from going to a stuffy gym!

3. Use public transport

Yes, public transport in New Zealand is nothing like in Europe, but it’s gotten better in recent years. When was the last time you checked your local bus, train, or ferry timetables? Are you sure there isn’t an option for you now? Could you combine public transport with another mode (e.g. e-scooter)? Visit your local transport authority’s website, enter your commute into their journey planner, and give the best option a try next week! People who regularly use public transport often treasure the time this gives them to read, listen to podcasts, or binge on social media. Some employers also subsidise their employees’ public transport passes.

4. Carpool

For some of us, using a car really is the fastest or cheapest way to commute, and that’s okay. Make sure you compare all your options though: people often overstate the inconvenience and cost of public transport, and only look at the advantages of driving (e.g. comfort). But how much does driving really cost you when adding up fuel, insurance, parking, licensing, and repairs? You can get a general idea with the University of Canterbury’s Transport cost calculator, however the best option is to go through all your car related spending in the past year.

Why not also talk to your colleagues (or your employer) about carpooling? People who do it share the cost and the chats (if they feel like it). In some organisations, carpoolers get a priority parking space or can claim the fuel back. Some organisations also have a “guaranteed ride home” policy that means if your buddy lets you down, or if you urgently need to get home, your employer pays for a taxi. Also, can you optimise trips in your household by travelling some of the way with your partner, kids, or housemates? Does a friend live on your way to work who travels to the same area for work and might enjoy a morning chat?

5. Think about transport when choosing where to live and work

How much time do you spend commuting every week? Is that time enjoyed or wasted? Is your home far from your workplace? If you are looking at moving house, make sure you factor in the cost and time spent travelling for your family when making decisions on where to live. Having options to build in active travel and less time commuting can provide us with more time to spend with whanau and activities we would rather be doing!

Whichever way you think about it, choosing a home or a job that makes everyday trips easier is a big part of the solution. Maybe you can’t move closer to your job, but you could move closer to public transport or a dedicated cycle path that can take you there?

Everyone’s commute is different. Talk to your employer about how they can help you with your commute. Many people aren’t aware of the support they could get from their employer, including help to purchase an e-bike or e-scooter. And if your employer hasn’t really looked into this yet, then keep asking them! 

If you’re keen to learn more about this, our commuting experts at Abley can point any organisation in the right direction to support their employees in making healthy and sustainable travel choices. And make sure you check out our CarbonWise commuting emissions tool.