By Harriet Lamb, Ashden CEO
How often do your colleagues arrive at the office tired and flustered thanks to a nightmare commute? Workers around the country are reaching their desks in a foul mood, miserable before they’ve even powered up their computers.
With just a few days to go until London Climate Action Week, we should remember that clogged roads aren’t just creating stressful delays. They’re increasing air pollution that triggers serious illness and kills up to 36,000 people a year. Toxic fumes are also speeding up global warming, with scientists warning that we have just 10 years to tackle the climate emergency, maybe less. It’s a gloomy situation – but solutions are at hand.
Sustainable energy innovators are creating happier journeys while cleaning up our air. So how could their smart thinking transform our commutes – and help employers create a healthier, happier workforce?
Electric vehicles are here to stay
Millions of us love the freedom of four wheels, with two-thirds of the UK’s commuting journeys made by car. But all too often the driver is alone in splendid isolation, particularly if they are going to and from work.
One answer filling the headlines is electric cars. New models are constantly hitting the market, with sales boosted by improving technology, falling costs and a greater public awareness of climate change. Last year energy giant BP bought Chargemaster, creator of the UK’s largest public charging network. At the time, BP predicted the number of electric vehicles in the UK would grow from the current total of 135,000 to 12 million by 2040. Of course, we won’t hit top speed as a nation of truly green commuters until companies like BP ditch fossil fuels – but their move into electric charging at least shows how quickly green innovation can go mainstream.
Lift sharing and green deliveries.
Elsewhere, people are joining forces to cut carbon emissions through lift sharing. Companies such as Liftshare offer an app that helps people set up shared journeys, and also work directly with employers to set up workplace lift sharing schemes. In 20 years they’ve saved 800 million car miles working with organisations such as Boots, Bupa, Jaguar Land Rover and the NHS. That’s equivalent to 1,674 return trips to the moon.
Of course, our roads aren’t just clogged because of the work commute. Another reason is our online shopping obsession – which has unleashed a flood of vehicles chauffeuring our groceries, takeaways, fast-fashion bargains and Amazon packages.
But convenience doesn’t have to trigger sky-high carbon emissions. Logistics company Zedify is using pedal-powered cargo bikes and trikes, as well as electric vans, to deliver parcels in cities up and down the UK. So next time you order a hat, hoodie or pair of headphones, it could arrive guilt-free on two or three wheels. They work with businesses of all sizes from – independent shops to e-commerce giants. Partnering with them is a great way to boost your organisation’s green credentials.
Of course, there’s still a carbon cost to manufacturing electric vehicles – and until the UK electricity grid only uses renewable energy, charging them still relies on polluting fossil fuels. So, can we get even greener?
Better places to walk and cycle
More public transport, as well as new tax measures and incentives, will help. For example, Nottingham City Council has introduced a workplace parking levy raising money to invest in new tram routes, electric buses, cycling and public transport smartcards. More people are using public transport and congestion has been constrained, even as Nottingham’s economy has grown.But ultimately, we need to make greener transport more attractive. People will only be tempted out of their cars if we create liveable cities, towns and villages.