Even putting one foot in front of the other requires energy. So, in a world where everyone has somewhere else to be — and wants to get there as fast as possible — how can mass, sustainable transportation ever happen? The good news? New technologies are in development — some of them already deployed — to make all our planes, trains, and automobiles environmentally friendly sometime in the future. In the meantime, there are also steps we can take right now to minimize our impact on the planet.
1. Retro-fit your classic car
A lot of energy goes into building a new vehicle, so it makes sense that if you can extend the life of an older car, you are reducing the environmental impact of both manufacturing and shipping. No wonder a growing number of companies are converting older classic cars into electric vehicles. That way, these gas-guzzling giants can meet current emissions standards and once again prove roadworthy. Some outfitters are even developing custom kits to allow motorists to make the switch themselves. That’s good news — not just for drivers looking to reduce their carbon tire tracks, but for classic car lovers sure to relish these roadsters receiving a new and long overdue lease on life.
2. Take the bus
Public transportation is already the greenest, most sustainable way to get around. But that’s not slowing the push to make it even more so, thanks to new global eco-friendly initiatives. Among them: electric buses. Last year, Los Angeles introduced its first zero-emission Metro bus line — with 40 electric busses — in addition to being awarded a $6 million grant by the California Energy Commission to install one of the most extensive EV fleet charging systems in the country. The solar-powered microgrid will be ready by 2028 when LA’s entire bus fleet is electric. LA isn’t alone either — in countries ranging from Australia to Dubai, zero-emission electric bus lines are being tested and developed.
3. Ride the rail when you can
Like buses, rail travel is exceptionally eco-friendly. One study from the International Energy Agency found that travel by rail produces the least amount of greenhouse gasses compared to all other modes of transportation. Nevertheless, alternative energy sources are being explored and, in some cases, implemented. These include natural gas — Florida East Coast Railway has already converted most of its trains to liquefied natural gas — and hydrogen fuel cells. In Germany, some regional trains already operate with the technology, which is called hydrail.
4. Choose two wheels over four
Can you be bribed to bike? That was what the Italian city of Pisa did — rewarding people who eschewed cars for bicycles with virtual cash. An app kept track of the emissions each user produced. Scoring on this sustainability scale translated to good-as-cash vouchers, accepted at local stores. Could such socially engineered eco-mobility translate elsewhere to encourage motorists to go green? If you were wondering, the most bicycle-friendly city in Europe is Copenhagen, Denmark.
5. Join the carpool lane
It’s not a bribe — but the carpool lane is undoubtedly an incentive for motorists to pack into one vehicle to cut down on drive times. And in many states in the U.S., the carpool lane isn’t just an excellent idea — it’s codified into law.
6. Seek out alternatives
Motorcycles are almost as fuel-efficient as buses — although they’re also much more dangerous. (You knew that already.) Safer — although for shorter distances and less heady traffic — are such alternatives as electric scooters and mopeds.
7. Think about going electric
Considering fuel prices, is this the time to ditch gasoline-powered cars altogether? Fortunately, the market has expanded enough so that almost anyone should be able to find an EV (or at least a hybrid) that suits their needs, including an attractive price point.
8. Adjust your driving habits
Like mileage, the small things add up. Did you know speeding consumes as much as thirty percent more gas than when you’re easing off the pedal? Similarly, lay off the brake when you can. Instead, when you’re on the highway, switch on cruise control, which can help keep you at a lower speed, meaning you’re reducing emissions — and saving yourself cash at the pump. Other tips to consider? Explore different routes. The shorter the drive, the less fuel you are burning. Likewise, when you need to run errands, make a single, longer trip out of it rather than several shorter ones.
9. Maintain the car you have
Assuming you already have a car with good gas mileage, keeping it in decent shape is key — for both you and the planet. Routine measures such as changing your oil regularly, replacing your filters, and ensuring your vehicle’s tires are inflated can improve fuel efficiency and save you many, many gallons of gas along the way.
10. Eagerly await the future
Self-driving technology remains parked — despite predictions a decade ago that we would all be riding in autonomous vehicles by now. However, when the revolution does arrive, it will undoubtedly bring change for the better. For one thing, the cars will be lighter since they’ll require less stuff: no steering wheel or pedals, for example. That, in turn, means less fuel consumption and fewer emissions. The car industry isn’t alone in searching for alternative power sources either. Aviation companies are also working to reduce their carbon impact, developing both solar and hydrogen technologies. The solar cell technology would capture sunlight using photovoltaic solar panels, allowing it to power the plane and onboard equipment. Moreover, it would store the energy, allowing for flights at night. Hydrogen, meanwhile, is already being used in experimental aircraft. The aviation industry’s goal is net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.