Hitting the Road: How to Travel Sustainably
We look at a few ways you can travel more sustainably across Scotland and beyond
Getting out and exploring the world is one of life’s great joys, but it comes with its share of problems. The transport sector is the UK’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (producing over 120 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2019), and while ending our over-reliance on fossil fuels is best described as a “large” and “medium-term” goal, some forms of travel are definitely more sustainable than others.
OK, cool story. What can we actually do about it? First things first, don’t be a doomer; there’s no need to abandon your dreams of seeing new places. “We don’t need to stop travelling; we just need to be smarter about how we travel,” Alice Ridley of the Campaign for Better Transport told The Independent in 2021. “One double-decker bus can remove up to 75 cars from the road, and domestic flights in a country the size of the UK are quite frankly unnecessary.”
When it comes to being smarter about your travel, public transport is the name of the game. There were more than 500 million public transport journeys taken in Scotland in 2019-20, with nearly three quarters of those journeys taken by bus. At the same time, nearly two-thirds of all journeys in Scotland in the same period were by car, whether that’s as a driver or passenger. The stats are super-duper clear – over the last 20 years car use has gone up in Scotland, and bus use has gone down, and that needs to change.
One of the best and easiest things you can do is really, really look at your plans and think ‘do I actually need to get in the car?’. If you don’t, public transport’s the way to go; it’s better for the environment, it cuts down on traffic, it saves you hassle when you get to your destination, and if you’re under 22 it doesn’t cost you anything. What’s not to love?
While the most sustainable and eco-friendly way to get around remains good old-fashioned walking, there’s only so far your legs will carry you (or how much you can carry while using your legs). There have also been some interesting recent innovations that make public transport a more environmentally friendly way to travel than in the past. Aberdeen is now home to the world’s first commercial fleet of hydrogen-powered double decker buses. The First Bus fleet clocked up a million miles of travel in their first year, with a reported reduction of 1,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions, compared to the same journeys for a typical diesel bus.
Over in Glasgow, First Bus has built the UK’s largest electric vehicle charging station, fit to charge up to 300 electric buses for journeys across the city. These vehicles put out no emissions as they travel, making for cleaner (and quieter) city streets.
Remember: unless you happen to run a major transport company, you are at the whim of others’ decisions when it comes to travel. However, if you’re mindful and aware of the impact of your transport choices, you’re heading in the right direction. Much like you would if you really did have to walk everywhere, just take it one step at a time.
Remember, if you are aged under-22 and living in Scotland, then free travel is within grasp. Make sure to apply for your NEC card to take advantage, leaving you #FreeToExplore at GetYourNec.scot
Older than 22? Don’t panic! Bus remains a sustainable way to travel that won’t break the bank. Hop on board and do your bit for the planet next time you head out.