Using sustainable transportation can help reduce your climate impact
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Many people have resorted to flight shaming, and we get it. Simply taking less flights is one HUGE way to reduce your carbon footprint from travel. But also, the term “carbon footprint” was invented as a PR strategy by BP to deflect from their own corporate responsibility. However, it’s time we face the facts.
We don’t think it’s very useful to tell people to fly less or ride a bike more. You already know that. Plus, it feels hypocritical as a gas-car driver and occasional plane-traveler to tell others to stop driving or flying. So, instead of making you feel bad, we want to explore how we can solve this together, put pressure on who’s really responsible, and be in it for the long term.
Here’s what we’ll cover step-by-step:
So, hop on a bike with us as we take you on a journey to see just how intertwined the world of transportation is!
🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.
Transportation is an unwieldy sustainability topic because it spans so many challenges. The transportation sector alone is a large emitter of fossil fuels and continues to heat up our planet. To kick things off, we’ll start with a broad understanding of how big the problem is.
Below are highlights from a 2019 article from Yale Climate Connections:
When it comes to transportation, the environmental, social, and economic issues are very much connected. For instance, we see how COVID and public transit highlight racial inequities, how transportation is a public health issue, and how building more bike lanes can actually increase biking, etc. You’ll see there are many caveats behind the transportation issue.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.
🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.
While it’s easy to believe that traffic was just an issue that magically happened, it turns out, as with most things, we did this to ourselves. This 6-min video explains how we got to where we are today.
You’ll learn that:
TL;DR: Highways make traffic worse. We need demand and transportation solutions.
While the traffic issue is messy and complex, the video does a fantastic job of pinpointing the problems we create for ourselves.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.
🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!
There are several things you could do to make transportation more sustainable and equitable. Let’s highlight the 5 most relevant things you can do right now to promote sustainable transportation.
1. Offset your flights.
Preventing emissions is better than offsetting, of course, but if you’re thinking about taking a flight, check out this 3-step offset framework written by Soapbox Project community member Rose Hartley. Check out her 1-min read to see how she offset a tonne of carbon for ~$17 USD.
2. Substitute 1 car trip a week.
Get creative with this one! Hint: e-bikes are a great hack if you have them in your area. They're also a fun weekend activity!
3. Understand your city budget.
Transportation is an economic issue. Look up your city budget and see how much funding goes to transit. This can affect how you vote in local elections!
4. Join a transit advocacy group.
Meet a new community or learn something new! National US orgs you can check out America Walks, People for Bikes, and Smart Growth America. For international orgs, check out The International Association of Public Transport and other various advocacy groups.
5. Push for change at your company.
If we learned anything this year, it's that business travel is essentially just a flex. We don't need it! Write an email to your HR department proposing an essential travel policy. At the very minimum, you can ask for transparency in your company's travel footprint and get them to purchase offsets for all employees.
It’s time we hop off the struggle bus and join the sustainable transportation train.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.
Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!
🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?
While more travel equals more emissions (and our solutions help you reduce those emissions), the social impacts also need to be a part of the conversation. In many communities, transportation systems have been designed and built in ways that reinforce structural racism and perpetuate inequities.
Structural racism refers to the ways in which policies, practices, and systems perpetuate racial inequality, even if they are not intentionally discriminatory. Transportation systems are no exception to this outcome.
This report from the Urban Institute highlights how the interests of low-income and non-white populations have historically been neglected during transportation planning in favor of the needs of white, middle-class commuters. For instance, highway construction frequently displaced residents and divided neighborhoods in low-income and minority areas. In addition to causing social unrest, this made it more difficult for these people to access services like jobs, healthcare, and other necessities.
There’s also implications in how policy addresses these issues. This short NPR article/clip (4-min listen) talks about the impact of Joe Biden's infrastructure plan on racist urban planning, which affects countries around the world.
You’ll learn that:
According to NPR, it's encouraging that the highest levels of government are looking into how highways contribute to structural racism. The NPR piece is a fantastic, easy place to start, but there is SO much more to learn on this subject. As you continue learning and taking action about transit, we also strongly suggest checking out The Color of Law.
There’s so much more on the journey ahead and endless roads to explore for this topic. We hope this first journey was a smooth one.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.
Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!