We all know that climate change is real and most of us want to do something about it, but our research shows that New Zealanders aren’t putting transport at the top of that list.
Transport makes up one fifth of New Zealand's total emissions, and our transport emissions have doubled since 1990. But our latest Consumer Monitor survey found that only a third of us are aware of the big impact that driving has — and only a quarter of people are actually reducing the use of their car.
In reality, one of the best things we can do to cut transport emissions is switching to a cleaner commute, even just for a couple of journeys a week. With that in mind, we've put together the best low carbon commuting options, and why they're great.
#1 — Walking or running
Our Consumer Monitor survey found that 55% of New Zealanders would like to cycle or walk more, and with the weather being on our side, now's the perfect time to do it.
It’s a 100% emissions-free way to commute, but there are loads of other benefits too. You'll also be enjoying fresh air, getting in your daily exercise, and experiencing a boost to your mental health. Studies have consistently shown that people who walk or run each day experience lower stress levels, better mental wellbeing, and fewer health issues.
There's also the added plus of not being stuck in traffic twice a day. And the fact that your commute will cost you nothing, saving you money you could be spending on other things.
We get that walking or running to work isn't for everyone and works best if you live reasonably close, but if it's an option for you, it's well worth considering.
#2 — Biking or scootering
Jumping on the bike or scooter is another great low emissions option. Commuting by regular push bike produces no emissions whatsoever, and an e-bike will only produce a tiny amount of emissions over time, as it uses predominantly renewable electricity to charge up.
Choosing the bike or scooter as your transport of choice offers a lot of the same benefits as walking or running, but it's faster and is a good option if you live a bit further away from work.
Cycling has been a growing focus for many local councils over the past couple of years, and the infrastructure for cycling and scootering is growing all the time. Many workplaces are also investing in end-of-trip facilities like showers and bike racks, making it safer, more accessible, and more convenient.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has an interactive map showing cycle routes through towns and cities, including shared paths and cycle lanes.
#3 – Public transport
When it comes to public transport, the main options are buses and trains. Both produce fewer emissions than driving in a car — the more people onboard public transport, the smaller the carbon footprint of the trip.
While trains are only options in some parts of New Zealand, like Wellington and Auckland, buses are available in towns and cities across the country. And catching the bus is a really great way to help the planet. If 100,000 people used the bus for a 20km ride, we'd save roughly the equivalent of the emissions of 5,000 petrol or diesel cars each year1.
Commuting by public transport also lets you do things you couldn't in a car – reading a book, checking emails, scrolling through social media, or doing work. And because you're not the one driving, you don't feel the same stress dealing with traffic and you don't have to pay for parking at the end.
#4 — Carpooling
Carpooling has been growing in recent years and for a lot of people, it's a very convenient way of getting to work — particularly in areas where public transport connections aren't as strong.
Right now, 78% of commutes in New Zealand are by car — and most of those cars have just one person in them2. If more people teamed up and carpooled, we'd be taking cars off the road which would reduce traffic congestion, cut emissions, and improve air pollution. It's also a good way to reduce fuel and parking costs by splitting them between people.
Carpooling could also have a less obvious benefit. People who commute by car report the lowest wellbeing of all the transport options, so making it a sociable activity could really boost your mood.
If carpooling is something you'd like to try, have a look into the options in your area, or set up a carpool system with friends, neighbours, or workmates. In Wellington, carpooling company Hitch(external link) has just run a successful pilot with local businesses and are now looking to roll that out more widely.
2Source: Waka Kotahi