Gearing up for Green Travelling
Cities all over Europe and around the world are gearing up for the biggest global event dedicated to environmentally friendly travelling – European Mobility Week. Every year between September 16 and 22 people get to try alternative forms of transport and local authorities can test-run new ideas and find out what really works.
Since its launch in 2002, Mobility Week has grown in popularity and last year saw a record number of cities participating. This year around 200 million people are expected to take part in cities across Europe as well as in other countries including Brazil, Japan and Canada.
The theme for the seventh edition of the European Mobility Week is 'Clean Air for All ' and since transport is the main cause of pollution in European cities, the aim is find ways to cut harmful emissions and make cities cleaner and better places to live in. The statistics speak for themselves. One-quarter of all emissions in the EU come from transport, and that figure could rise to 30% by 2030. Efforts to combat climate change brought down total emissions by almost 5% between 1990 and 2004, and yet carbon dioxide (CO2) output from transport in the 32 European Economic Area (EEA) countries went up by 27%, not counting ships and planes. Cars and vans generate some 19% of Europe’s CO2 emissions every year. There are 220 million cars on EU roads and that number continues to grow: car use rose by 18% between 1995 and 2004, accounting for 74% of all passenger transport.
The EU is tackling this problem through new laws. Steps to curb emissions of CO2 from new cars are currently underway. Congestion charges could cut the jams in towns and cities that generate 40% of all CO2 from cars. New technologies also have a vital role to play. But in the meantime, individuals can help cut the growth in greenhouse gas emissions, and Mobility Week shows how.
What can you do to make a difference?
- Calculate the environmental impact of your journey
- Get out of your car and get in shape! Journeys of less than 3 km often take less time if you walk, cycle or even take the bus, tram or metro. On quiet streets you can try skateboards or roller blades. A cold engine uses almost twice as much fuel, and catalytic converters can take 8 km to become effective, so think alternatives. Keeping 1 million cars off the roads for one day would save 20 000 tonnes of CO2. Cycling burns up about 300 calories per hour and produces no greenhouse gases. You will not only keep fit, but also reduce emissions, noise and congestion.
- Car pool: If you live far from school or college and have to travel by car, encourage your friends or parents to start a car pool to share journeys. It will save your family time, petrol and help the environment.
- Improve your family’s driving habits. Eco-driving can cut fuel consumption by 10% and save €150 a year, on average. Reduce your speed from 130 kph to 110 kph and bring down your CO2 emissions by almost one-third. Try to drive steadily and anticipate what is coming up, avoiding rapid acceleration and sudden braking.
- Turn off your engine when caught in traffic jams. ‘Idling’ engines emit 13% more emissions and use up more fuel in 10 seconds than restarting the car.
- Keep car tyres properly inflated. This will reduce wear and tear and save precious raw material: it takes 27 litres of crude oil to produce a new tyre. Under-inflated tyres also increase fuel consumption by up to 10%. Check your tyres at least once a month – it only takes a few minutes.
- Buying a new car? A hybrid car consumes between 20 % and 30 % less fuel and generates far less CO2 than a regular vehicle. So why not pollute less and save money in the long run?
- Do you really need a car? In towns and cities, public transport may be cheaper, cleaner and more convenient. Manufacturing a car emits five tonnes of CO2.
- Going on a longer trip? Choose wisely. An average new car generates 160 g/km of CO2 equivalent per passenger, a plane 100-250 g/km, a bus 40-80 g/km, and a train 40-160g/km. If you travel by car, take as many passengers onboard as possible as it will reduce the CO2 emissions per person.
- Travel responsibly: Fly only for distances greater than 700 km. A transatlantic flight produces almost half as much CO2 as an average person generates over an entire year for other needs. More and more travellers are discovering that for overland journeys a train can be more comfortable and interesting, and even faster than the plane on some routes! It can save up to 90% of your CO2 emissions. There are websites to help you plan your train journey.
- ‘Offset’ your journey: The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, and Al Gore have all claimed to carry out carbon offsetting to reduce the environmental impact of their travel. This is one of the world’s fastest growing industries, with an increasing number of companies offering to invest your money in climate-friendly projects.
Greenhouse gas emissions rise as transport volume increases
Source: European Environment Agency
Burning up the kilometres
Goodbye petrol, hello cooking oil! Your chip pan could contain the vehicle fuel of the future.
More and more people are realising the potential of waste cooking oil to keep their cars on the road more cheaply, while generating fewer greenhouse gases. About €850 buys a conversion kit to produce your own ‘home-brewed’ fuel, although some people make their own.
Governments are also taking the idea seriously. For example, a recent change in UK law allows individuals to produce up to 2 500 litres of bio-diesel for their own use, without paying tax. Motoring associations, however, recommend diluting it with standard fuels and checking with your car dealer to avoid any possible engine damage.
Potentially it’s one of those win-win solutions, cutting down on pollution from used oil that would otherwise get thrown into landfill sites or dumped illegally, clogging up drains with fat, oil and grease (‘FOG’) and even causing a flood risk. In some countries, restaurants have to pay around €20 to dispose of one barrel of waste cooking oil.
Local authorities are already counting the savings in money and emissions. In Great Yarmouth on the east coast of England, the council runs a free collection service for over 700 catering establishments, and converts the oil into bio-diesel for its own vehicles, local hauliers and taxi firms.
To show what can be done, this summer (2008), Andy Pag and his partner Esther Obiri-Darko drove from London to Greece in their converted Peugeot, fuelled by waste cooking oil from restaurants along the route. They travelled 3,200 km on 200 litres of fat, saving more than €350 in petrol bills. "I’ve always been aware of the hypocrisy of travelling through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world in a car that burns fossil fuels," declares Andy. "Hopefully, this will encourage people to try alternatives."
Walking rates in 2000 (EU-15)