It’s green your urban commute day UrbanMeisters. Because vehicular pollution is an urban horror movie that scares the living daylights off the most hardened pollution sceptics- only it’s not a movie but the real deal! Because smog choking your city and your lungs is your responsibility too. Because greening your urban commute ultimately means more green in your wallet! Ah that got you! Let’s make our urban commute clean and green in 4 smart ways.
Our Green Living Series by founder Mirela Orlovic is to help all kinds of urbans lead a more eco-friendly life. From time challenged work-o-holics who find green living an ‘inconvenience’ to low on awareness but high on intention urban enthusiasts and everyone in between, our Green Living Series has a solution for everyone! So far we’ve touched upon key aspects of urban life like food, fashion, fitness, plastic reduction, kickstarter to zero waste, greening your office and travel and even green laundry goals! Next up is your urban commute. Mirela presents 4 ways to green your commute and cut the smog.
GREEN LIVING URBAN COMMUTE TIP: Ride green to live clean
Paris, February 2017: Smog Reloaded
London, April 2017: Revenge of the Smog
New York, Feb 2017: Smog Supremacy
New Delhi, Jan 2017: Winter full of Smog
Beijing, March 2017: Smogbusters
These are not exactly cheap action thrillers that set the box office on fire but real life smog blockbusters that rocked our metropolitan cities. The world’s most beautiful and not so beautiful cities are all clogged with traffic congestion and poor air quality. World Health Organisation’s Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database update in 2016 observed that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. The 2017 edition of this report may be even scarier! Health effects of bad air quality range from severe respiratory stress, headaches, dizziness to cardio-vascular diseases, stroke and in worse cases lung cancer. According to the same WHO report, around 3 million deaths a year worldwide are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Air pollution in cities is most notably caused by vehicular pollution and inefficient modes of transport apart from household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities. To cut the long story short, vehicular pollution is an urban reality that we all struggle against, complain about and ‘cope’ with. But the key is to ACT and not merely ‘cope’. And the first step towards curbing vehicular pollution is greening your own urban commute. To help you do so, I’ve rounded up 4 killer tips to end the killer urban commute. What’s in it for you?
You’ll save money- green commute is cost efficient.
You’ll save time- green commute helps you beat the traffic most times.
Reduce your carbon footprint- you can’t complain about vehicular pollution while contributing to it!
You’ll get fitter- green commute helps you work-out on your way to work!
›› Reduce cars on road: Choose public transport, car pooling, your own legs!
Choose smarter green urban commute options to reduce the number of cars on the road to relieve traffic congestion and consequently reduce vehicular pollution. And the best part is that all these options will save money!
TAKE A HIKE OR RIDE A BIKE: Don’t have time for work-outs in busy life and tired of inhaling fuel choked city air? Kill two birds in one shot by walking to work or riding that cycle. It’s a completely carbon-free mode of urban commute that will save you money and is a great way to exercise everyday. Sure walking to work is difficult for most urbans with offices being far away but using pedal power is a very viable option with a lot of urban centres providing public cycles and dedicated bike lanes for added safety. Some cities like Toronto host a an entire ride a bike to work month in the summers, Scandinavian countries are biking heavens with Denmark topping the chart and surprisingly even China figuring in the Top 10 countries with most bicycles per capita! Are you listening authorities in Paris! We’re not the most cycle friendly city compared to our cousins. I take to riding short distances on my bike as much as possible on routes that have favourable infrastructure for cyclists. But we need so much more done to encourage Parisians to take to biking in a bigger way Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the city council!
If you’re looking to bike in Paris try Vélib’ which is a fantastic large-scale public bicycle sharing system here. On high pollution days, I’ll also advice you to wear an anti-pollution mask while out and about in the city- I wear and recommend Vogmask. It’s good to prevent pollution but one must also protect from it.
STEP UP TO PUBLIC TRANSPORT: While pedal power is certainly the best way to cut pollution, it’s not the most viable solution in a lot of cities with no cycle friendly infrastructure. And for a lot of urbans who practically have to commute ‘cross country distances’ everyday in large metropolitans like New York, Delhi, Beijing, London etc, cycling to work is a big no-no. In such scenarios choosing public transport is the greenest way to commute. A full capacity bus or subway train can replace hundreds of single occupant cars you see on your way to work everyday. If you’re living in the suburbs and work in the city, taking the metro or bus is the most cost effective and quickest way to commute. It means cleaner air, lesser traffic and more green in your wallet. Public transport has been given a major facelift in all metros with subways coming up in most cities, bus systems being overhauled to run on cleaner fuel like CNG in Delhi buses or the brand new fleet of electric buses in London.
Germany also recently unveiled the world’s first zero emission passenger train powered by clean fuel hydrogen for long distance travel.
Even Paris has Autolib– a great eco-friendly fleet of electric cabs that are a great way to commute in the city.
I take the metro very often in Paris but my appeal is for Mayor Anne Hidalgo to look into the alarming indoor air pollution in Paris subways. Indoor air pollution gets frequently over looked but it’s just as harmful. For me personally taking the bus or metro means more time to catch up on all that reading, a quick chat with friends on whatsapp or just tuning in to the news before the day starts! So don’t be a snob and say hello to your nearest bus or metro.
CAR POOLING COMES BACK IN FASHION: Share a ride to work or school or the nightclub! Car pooling is a great option that helps you share fuel and car expenses with co-riders and also cut the number of vehicles going to the same destination. Even global taxi providers like Uber and other similar local players all have an option for shared ride. Though I advice caution while sharing rides with strangers, it’s a great way forward. There are also plenty of speciality apps that facilitate car pooling and shared rides. I have found Bla Bla Car to be a super option for car pooling in France. This new company is a huge hit in the shared car rides sector now operating across 22 countries world-wide. Find one shared rides service in your city and hook us up too. Send your recommendations to email@example.com
So it may not be the easiest thing to completely ditch your car in modern times but my solution is to mix up the modes of urban commute. Divide your work week in to no car days when you take the bus or subway and if it’s a bright day then just hike or push the pedal. If you can’t join a permanent car pool to work then opt for ride share when ever you can. And definitely share that car to the club with friends on the week-end!
›› Upgrade to electric cars
Even if you’re not an Elon Musk fan girl (ME! ME! ME!) or a Tesla geek you must know that electric or hybrid cars are the future. And Tesla now has stiff competition with mainstream car makers investing in electric and hybrid technology. In fact at the Geneva Motor Show earlier in the month, Bentley unveiled it’s gorgeous luxury electric car concept. So if Tesla’s too run of the mill for you wait it out for this beauty!
I know a lot of us share a passion for cars and the need for speed but this new found craze for SUVs taking over the world is not so funny for our planet. SUVs are eco-enemies because they’re both gas guzzlers and emission machines generating much pollution. Most of them are diesel powered which actually is one of the worst polluters. Diesel powered cars are most wanted in a lot of countries due to this fuel being cheaper than gas/ petrol. These have also been pushed through a lot of tax subsidies in countries like France.
Frankly my advice is to not buy a car at all- the world really doesn’t need more cars! And it’s quite possible in this day and age with abundant alternative modes of transport and omnipresent Uber. Singapore even gives you money for not buying a car! Now of course it’s not possible for all of us to move there so if you must buy a car then switch to electric or hybrid vehicles or at least choose clean fuel options like CNG. Apart from cutting pollution massively, these are much more cost effective in the long run. Sustainable modes of transport are incentivised by governments too in the form of major subsidies for clean fuel. Electric vehicles are the most sustainable way to fight urban vehicular pollution cutting emissions. I have test driven a Tesla and another great feature is that it’s so silent- great to curb noise pollution too!
›› Take care of your car: maintain it well & drive with love
Your car will pollute but this can be kept in check by taking care of your vehicles properly and driving in a more eco-friendly manner.
REGULAR MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST: Keep your tyres inflated, service your engine well, change oil regularly, replace clogged air filters and over all love your car more. Consider biodiesel if your vehicle uses diesel fuel.
DRIVE BETTER, DRIVE GREENER: Drive slow or at a stable speed because speeding raises emissions. Turn off car at traffic lights and off load car for better fuel efficiency. Do you really need to carry your entire shoe cabinet in your car or the whole golf set on your way to work?
GO FOR REGULAR POLLUTION CHECKS: This is not even a tip anymore because pollution checks for cars is required by law in most metros like Paris, Delhi etc and you could be fined heavily for failing to comply. Recently London announced a pollution charge on vehicles failing emission standards. But even if your city has not enforced it go for regular checks to help curb traffic pollution.
DO THE BALANCING ACT BY EARNING SOME GOOD CARBON KARMA: If you must drive a car then offset your carbon footprint with a good green deed like planting trees. All you need to do is sign up with TreeEra which plants trees on your behalf for a nominal monthly subscription fee.
›› Telecommute- work from home
The new trend in the corporate world – telecommuting- is my absolute favourite. Technology has made it so much easier for working and connecting from any where in the world. All you need is a smartphone really. Telecommute refers to working from home and connecting via tele communications and it’s quite in vogue. A lot of work places are warming to the idea and small scale entrepreneurs and start-ups are spearheading this green commute mode. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada: “if a million telecommuters worked from home just one weekday a year, Canada could save some 250 million kg of CO2 emissions; 100 million litres of fuel; and 800 million fewer kilometers of mileage on our roads.” Now multiply that for the rest of the over populated world! Take my advice and set up your cozy work station at home like me and don’t get onto the traffic congested, smoke choked roads at all! And if that’s not possible then advocate for telecommute once a week at least in your company.
Mix up these green urban commute tips during your work week and reduce your carbon footprint. Controlling vehicular pollution is very much in our hands so let’s not pass this opportunity to go green! If you have more suggestions on how to green the urban commute or other green living tips then write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned to the next GREEN LIVING tip on another crucial aspect of everyday urban life! Till then GET WITH GREEN OR GET OUT!