13 Eco-Friendly Ways to Commute to Work

FT Contributor
A man dressed in a business suite, bicycling to work with a helmet on.

Everyone can do their part to reduce carbon emissions by living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. The changes don’t necessarily take big sacrifices to make. One of the most significant ways to live greener is by reconsidering how you commute to work every day.

Even if driving to work is inevitable, you can feel confident that using an alternative form of transportation as little as once or twice per week will make a difference. Consider these 13 eco-friendly commuting ideas:

Table of Contents

1. Work Flexible Hours

If you can switch up your work hours, you may be able to avoid the highest traffic commute times. You’ll save time and money by avoiding gridlock. Your commute will likely be shorter, requiring less gasoline.

There are added health benefits to changing your work hours up — CBS News reported that commuters who are stuck in rush hour traffic are subjected to increased pollution levels in the vehicle, too. Avoiding the busiest hours on the road minimizes your exposure while reducing your contribution to pollution.

2. Utilize Public Transportation

Many cities offer eco-friendly transportation powered by natural gas or electricity. Consider using your city’s public transport to commute to work. In larger metropolitan areas with heavy traffic, you may even save time on the commute since public transportation often travels in designated high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes or tracks, away from the gridlock. There are other advantages to commuting by bus or train — you can use the free time to read or catch up with friends or family.

3. Carpool

Check your workplace or local community for opportunities to share a ride to work. Carpooling reduces the number of cars on the road, potentially reducing pollution levels and traffic. You’ll also have access to the faster carpool or HOV lanes to save time on your commute.

4. Ride a Bike

Bikes are one of the most eco-friendly transportation methods. Riding a bike is also fast and free. If you don’t live too far from your job and have access to bike paths or bike-friendly roads, you’ll get some exercise that’s clean and green for the earth.

5. Work From Home

Working from home, even if just a few times per month, can reduce your contribution to harmful emissions. Some people even have a remote side gig to make extra cash at home. As Americans isolated at home in 2020 to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, pollution plummeted in major cities nationwide.

6. Invest in an Electric Vehicle

An electric vehicle (EV) may initially cost more to purchase but will save you thousands of dollars from decreased fuel consumption over the life of the vehicle. Even when you account for battery production and the electricity required to charge the vehicle, EVs generate half the emissions a regular gas-powered car produces. Many states recognize the benefits and offer electric vehicle buyers incentives, including tax credits and access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

7. Don’t Speed

Speed limits are set for your safety — and to reduce pollution. A British study found that a car operates optimally at a steady speed of 55 to 60 miles per hour (mph). Traveling past the set speed limit can cause your vehicle to run harder and create more pollution. Plus, the harder acceleration means you’ll use more gasoline, increasing your use of fossil fuels.

8. Turn Off Your Engine Instead of Idling

Most modern cars have automatic stop-start technology that shuts your engine off when you’re not moving, such as when you’re stuck in traffic. There’s a good reason for the technology — according to the U.S. Department of Energy, “Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more emissions that contribute to smog and climate change than stopping and restarting your engine does.” If you’re driving an older-model car, turn your car off while you wait.

9. Hail a Rideshare Service Such As Uber or Lyft

It’s easy to order an Uber or Lyft to get to work by downloading the app and setting up an account. And if you plan it right, you can take advantage of coupons or lower prices during off-peak commuting hours, so your shared ride costs you less than your parking and gas expense when you drive your own car.

Unlike carpooling where you may be on someone else’s schedule, rideshare services like Uber offer flexible payments and pickups — you can order an Uber whenever and wherever you’d like. Check and see if your employer would reimburse you or pay for your Uber to and from work.

10. Ride a Scooter

Electric scooters have made riding around on two wheels fun again. You can sign up for a scooter-sharing service such as Bird, Lime, and Lyft to pick up an available scooter as needed. Scooters can travel fairly fast, too. Rentals go as fast as 19 miles per hour, while purchased ones can travel up to 35 mph. Remember to wear a helmet for your safety and follow traffic rules.

11. Walk to Work

Walking is a powerful stress reliever. Considering that work is one of the most stressful aspects of people’s lives, walking home after a rough day can contribute to the environment and your wellbeing.

12. Switch to a Four Day Workweek

Reducing the number of days you need to travel back and forth to your company headquarters can lower the amount of smog and pollution your vehicle contributes to. If you can get the bulk of your work done in four days out of five, your four-day workweek has added benefits — a three-day weekend! If your workload is too heavy, consider working from home on the fifth day of your workweek.

13. Make Sure Your Tires Are Correctly Inflated

Regularly checking your tire’s air pressure level can help you reduce the amount of fuel you use and increases the life of your tires, so they don’t end up in a landfill sooner than they should.

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