Transportation-related emissions are the fastest growing green house gas emissions category in the United States. This includes commercial business, and personal travel as well as commuting. Green house gas emissions related to transportation include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about 36% to 380 parts per million by volume (ppmv). However, most worryingly is the acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. The first 50 ppmv increase took place in about 200 years, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to around 1973; however the next 50 ppmv increase took place in about 33 years, from 1973 to 2006.

The Greenhouse Effect

Transportation by car or by plane accounts for a little over 12% of the total green house emissions produced each year. Most of this travel is work related. In 2008, domestic airlines traveled over 567 billion miles, spitting out over 400 billion pounds of CO2, charting people across the US. For every mile traveled, carbon dioxide is collecting in our atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded in their many reports that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations are responsible for most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century, a result of what has been popularly referred to as the Greenhouse Effect.

Greenhouse gases reflect some of the heat energy that is radiated by the earth, instead of allowing it to pass back into space, raising global temperatures.

CO2 Emissions Created by Your Commute

The average United States driver commutes 29 miles per day for a total of 55 minutes per day. Over a month of commuting 5 times a week, this adds up to 580 miles of driving. 86 percent of people commute to work by automobile.

BTS: Bureau of Transportation Statistics - 2009

Over the course of a month of commuting, your car emits 500.45 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. SUVs and light trucks emit 694.45 pounds, and motorcycles emit 260 pounds per month.

BTS: Bureau of Transportation Statistics - 2009

The related fuel use is also significant. Cars, averaging 22.4 miles per gallon, would use 25.89 gallons in a month of commuting. SUVs and light trucks, with an average MPG of 17.7, would use 32.77 gallons, and motorcycles would use 11.58 gallons.

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint:

Commute via light rail:

According to the US Bureau of Transportation, only 5% of people in the US commute by light rail to work. A lot of this has to do with a lack of an established system in a lot of urban areas. However, if you were able to use light rail public transit to commute that same 580 miles a month as seen above, the carbon emissions would be reduced by more than 67% compared to traveling by car. You would also save a lot of money, and you could work or read while commuting.

Find a co-working place or move closer to your work:

I recently wrote a post on great co-working spaces across the world. Co-working spaces are often a blend between a hip cafe and a sophisticated office. More and more spaces are opening each month, so you can probably find one close to your home. Imagine being able to walk to work each morning. That 580 miles traveled, in the above example, resulted in 55 minutes a day of driving time, or a 18.33 hours per month! Imagine all the cool things you could do with 18 extra hours each month!

Work Remotely:

By combining cheap (or free) VOIP phones, instant messaging software, web cameras, and online collaboration tools, most jobs can be done anywhere there is an internet connection. Why should you have to commute to an office each day, only to email your coworker who sits 5 feet away? The cost and time savings of business related travel is huge. $25.8 billion dollars were spent on air travel in 2008.

Or, you could work two hours extra each day and take Friday off!

Additional Resources:

Carbon Tracker iPhone App Use your iPhone’s GPS feature while traveling to determine the carbon emissions of your travel. Set monthly “maximum emission” goals and monitor your progress

EPA: Emission Facts

BTS: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Wikipedia: Global Warming

World Resources Institute

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Rishi Chowdhury

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