I first moved to Australia in 2015. Before this, I was living in Oklahoma, smack in the middle of the United States. In Oklahoma, we have a shoddy public transport system consisting of only busses, and the VERY rare tram.
No one walks anywhere, everyone bikes less than that, and typically everyone owns at least one car. We don’t have bicycle lanes, we aren’t encouraged to walk to school, and we take advantage of having the convenience of cars.
Typically, even if the destination I was going was only a block away, I would still hop in my car and drive it. Who knows at this rate how much money I had spent on fuel and upkeep, or how much of a negative impact I was making on the environment…
Now, living in the inner-North of Melbourne, I have so many travel options at my fingertips that the thought of my previous vehicle usage repulses me.
Here, we have ample bike lanes and trails, so many gorgeous areas to walk, and a complex public transport system that neither my husband nor I see the need to own a car. Yes, we sometimes use Uber, and yes, we sometimes have to rent a vehicle to travel, but the cost and environmental impact is so much less, plus, our bodies are thanking us for not relying on a car, too.
Neither my body or the environment were thanking me for my constant driving back in Oklahoma, but now that I live in a place of ample opportunity, my modes of transportation have been helpful in both my quest to better health, and my journey in helping the planet.
Looking at our options, we’re left with driving a car by yourself, carpooling, taking public transport, and biking or walking. With so many travel options on hand, there are so many ways to further your agenda of helping the environment, with some benefits for your health, too.
Worst: Travelling in a car by yourself.
On the environment: Driving a car, and especially not utilising the other seats in your car, is the most negative way to do your daily travel.
As sciencing.com explains, “Car pollutants cause immediate and long-term effects on the environment. Car exhausts emit a wide range of gases and solid matter, causing global warming, acid rain, and harming the environment and human health. Engine noise and fuel spills also cause pollution. Cars, trucks and other forms of transportation are the single largest contributor to air pollution.”
On your body: Besides maybe sweating at the thought of how much traffic there is, or using a certain finger to exercise your anger at terrible drivers, you’re getting the least amount of physical activity by driving.
On the environment: Even though you’d still be harming the Earth by driving, having passengers with you help to lessen the overall impact.
When you carpool, you’re instantly reducing you and your passengers carbon footprint by simply taking other vehicles off the road. Instead of four cars being driven and emitting pollution, you’re only having one car producing fumes, and in turn you’re lessening the load of traffic.
Through greenlivingtips.com, we learn that “if everyone car pooled, […] hundreds of thousands of vehicles that would be off the road each day. This would lessen traffic congestion, making trips faster, cutting fuel and car maintenance costs even further.”
On your body: Again, you’re not experiencing very much physical activity by being in the car. You may be getting some mental health benefits by being social with the other car mates, but nothing physical is really happening.
Better: Taking Public Transport.
On the environment: With public transport, there are a set amount of vehicles taking the same route every day, regardless of how many passengers are aboard. If we utilised what was already available, instead of driving our own route, we’d be keeping a number of cars off of the road.
Considering that my local bus route has a sticker affixed to it that says it can hold 63 passengers, that’d be an ample amount of cars not producing exhaust and polluting the air.
Sustainability.vic.gov.au teaches us that “travel[ing] by public transport instead of cars and planes reduces greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. Public transport also reduces our reliance on precious natural resources such as oil and the land we use for road infrastructure and car parks.”
On your body: Here is where we start to see some physical activity. As the bus, tram, train, and other pick up points are not always right at your doorsteps, you’re getting a bit of exercise by walking to your nearest station or stop.
If you have a point of connection in your journey, you’ll be getting more walking in there, too. Have a station that involves stairs? There’s another way to get your heart pumping. Even if you’re standing on the tram (either out of choice, or because it’s quite full), you’ll be burning more calories than having a seat.
Best: Biking or Walking.
On the environment: This method of transport is definitely the greenest way to get from point A to point B. By using your body to help you travel, you won’t be emitting pollution into the air, and you won’t be contributing to the ever-growing traffic.
According to tmr.qld.gov.au, “bike riding uses minimal fossil fuels and is a pollution-free mode of transport,” and that “cycling 10 km each way to work would save 1500 kg of greenhouse gas emissions each year.”
On your body: Obviously, this is your best bet to get physical activity while you’re travelling.
Your body depends on you to get cardio everyday, and that is as simple as walking, or leisurely biking. Yes, it may take longer to get to your destination, but your body will thank you. Also, if one activity you do before and after work is the gym, then walking or biking to and from work can replace that, leaving you with more money in your pocket, and all the exercise done.
It’s clear to see that either biking or walking will be the best choice for your body and for the environment. There are several places that we go in a day that are so close that we don’t need to hop in the car, and by making a conscious effort, we can reduce our environmental impact, and achieve a healthier body.