With the rise of eco-activism on the streets of London and the recent release of David Attenborough’s Climate Change: The Facts, it seems that climate change is creeping its way to the forefront of everyone’s minds. Sunnier days, while much enjoyed, strike small alarm bells when studied against weather records from previous centuries, and the findings of the IPCC report, which proclaims that we have 12 years to act before irreversible damage is done, really hits home.
The green commuter.
The good news is that we can all play our part in helping address this growing concern. While climate change is a serious issue, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several things you can do about it that don’t involve rioting for days on end, or chucking out all your plastic wares overnight. Randstad has put together its top three tips for commuters wanting to cut their carbon footprint:
- Lift share
- Take public transport
- Cycle to work
The main cause of concern when it comes to damaging the planet is pollution. We’ve been told and told again - but if you work in Leighton Buzzard and live in Stevenage, it can feel like there’s nothing else for it but to hop into your car and accept the carbon consequences. The good news is, this may not be the case! No one expects you to cycle 30 miles every morning and afternoon, but there may be something else you can do to become more eco savvy.
Founded in 1998, Liftshare was the first car sharing system provider in the UK and remains the largest. Awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for a second time this year, the Norwich-based company provides organisations with solutions to monitor and reduce their carbon footprint by putting colleagues in contact who take similar journeys and encouraging them to share rides. If you live near a co-worker who’s also commuting tens of miles to work, you could save a small fortune by carpooling! A nifty tool on the Liftshare website can estimate your exact savings - a Stevenage resident commuting on weekdays to Leighton Buzzard, for example, could save a whopping £1,578 per year, reducing the cost to the environment by 1.73 tonnes CO².
While Liftshare is the ideal fix for colleagues working the same shift pattern - think teachers or LSAs - it may not be so helpful to individuals who work unusual or flexible hours. According to a 2015 study, ‘social care professionals take an average of 55 minutes to commute to work, travelling 36 miles each way’: ‘if people in care jobs valued the time they spend getting to work as highly as they value the time they spend at work, then the average commute would be worth £5,194... represent[ing] 25% of their average annual salary.’ How can care workers tap into this unseen income - or at least minimise their losses?
As indicated by Liftshare’s savings calculator, cutting back on solo car journeys can drastically reduce expenses, as well as greening up your commute. For individuals working in central London in particular, Low (& Ultra-Low) Emissions Zones mean a charge of up to £12.50 per day per vehicle - and rightly so, considering that road transport is the biggest source of the emissions damaging health in London. So what are the alternatives?
take public transport.
An obvious one is public transport. In most areas, transport services run frequently, with a wide range of accessible options to choose from. Every bus in central London now meets the highest emission standards and all buses operating in the ULEZ area are electric or meet Euro VI emissions standards. For NHS staff especially, public transport is a valuable alternative to driving to work, as several transport companies offer discounts to health workers, including Virgin Trains and Hover Travel (in The Isle Of Wight). NHS-registered Care Workers should visit the heath service discounts website for more information.
on your bike.
Another option is cycling to work. A faster alternative to walking in and more effective as a workout, cycling is also easier on the pocket than driving and can offer some employees additional perks. The ‘Cycle To Work’ scheme was introduced in 1999, but is still relevant in 2019, according to an article in Cycling Weekly. The scheme allows employees to spend up to £1000 on bikes and equipment, tax-free, making a claimed saving of up to 42 per cent on the overall value. Sam Jones from national cycling charity Cycling UK states that the scheme has had an impact ‘in cities where they’ve actively been trying to promote cycling, like Cambridge or London, Bristol’; and while you can’t buy items through the scheme that clearly aren’t for day-to-day commuting (ie. full-face helmets), there’s nothing stopping you from buying a time trial bike or new road race bike to give your weekends an eco-friendly adrenaline boost, too.
Cycling schemes also present a great opportunity for family bonding, with various schools getting in on the action via Sustran's Big Pedal initiative. The UK’s largest inter-school cycling, walking and scooting challenge, the Big Pedal inspires pupils, staff and parents to choose ‘human power’, offering prizes to help schoolchildren be more active and ranking participating schools in order of most attendees cycling to school. With 746,278 pupils registered as having taken part this year, totalling 3.8 million journeys, the Big Pedal has certainly helped to raise awareness of healthier travel alternatives, as well as having made an impressive contribution to the reduction of toxic gas emissions. If last year’s figures are anything to go by, more than 1179.2 kg of nitrogen oxide was prevented from reaching the atmosphere, and over 43.2 million balloons-worth of CO²!
In this instance, perhaps it’s time we follow the lead of the younger, pedal-powered generation. With top-of-the-range cycle gear available through the Cycle To Work scheme, cheaper travel fares available to healthcare workers and lift-sharing options easily accessible online or via the official Liftshare app, we’ve got no excuse not to ‘green up’ our work journeys in whatever way we can.
The commitment needed isn’t just a personal one either: everyone knows there’s power in numbers and it’s up to businesses to step up and put employee schemes in place, too. Such schemes can even generate savings for employers - ‘Cyclescheme’, for example, allows employers to recover the full cost of the bikes bought for employees, in addition generating a NICs saving up to 13.8% of the bike’s value.
Liftshare also offers a business package to help employees find colleagues taking the same route into work. Check out if your business could benefit from Liftshare’s services by following the top link below- for more information on any of the initiatives mentioned in this article, explore the links further down. The most important thing, for employers and employees alike, is to remember that there are always small changes that can be made, so use your own initiative to get trendsetting! It’s not always easy, being green - but thanks to the rise of public demand and business innovation, it’s getting easier.