Bicycle commuter riding next to a bus. Photo © connel_design \ Fotolia.com

The average Canadian spends 26 minutes getting to work each morning, according to Statistics Canada. Considering that we’re a nation of drivers (82 per cent of commuters travel to work by car), it’s no wonder most metropolitan areas are plagued by traffic congestion and poor air quality. Reduce your commuter carbon footprint with these simple ideas.

1. Take public transportation

According to the Clean Air Commute, one fully loaded bus replaces 57 single-occupant cars on the road; one subway or train replaces 1,100 to 1,500 cars! That means cleaner air and less congestion, and if you switch to public transportation, your wallet will thank you, too: Transport Canada reports that the average cost of travel per person per kilometre in Canada is $0.50 by car and $0.12 by public transit. Plus, transit users might be eligible for tax credits.

Not a regular transit user? Leave the car at home more often. Taking public transportation even once a week equals huge carbon savings. Use your new-found free time to read the news or listen to an audiobook without distractions. Map your route using Google Maps, which now provides directions and estimated times for a variety of transportation options. Live in the GTA? Check out findtheway.ca, a portal created by Metrolinx to view maps and transportation info, from GO to the TTC to cycling routes.

Tip: Tell your MP you want public transportation options that use clean fuel or renewable energy. 

2. Use pedal power

Dust off your helmet and dig out those bike shorts! June is Bike to Work Month across Greater Toronto and Hamilton – the perfect time to start or renew a commitment to cycling. Not only is it a carbon-free method of transportation, but it’s cheap (maintaining a bike costs around $200 annually), it’s quick (the average person can bike 3.5 kilometres in just 15 minutes) and it’s great exercise. Plan your route ahead of time, using bike lanes and paths for added safety. (Torontonians can download a cycling map, and cyclists in major Canadian or U.S. cities can plan their route on Ride the City.) Check out BIXI, the bike share program, in MontrealOttawaToronto and other locations, and pick up a copy of Momentum Magazine for pedal inspiration.

3. Carpool with co-workers

Thirty million: that’s the number of empty seats travelling to work each day in Canada, according to Carpool.ca. Help fill them by carpooling (also known as ridesharing), an effective way to reduce air pollution and save money, since passengers share gas and vehicle expenses. If your workplace doesn’t have a carpooling program, take it upon yourself to see who’s interested, or find a carpool partner at a site like Smart Commute’s Carpool ZoneCarpool.caCarpool World or PickupPal. Calculate how much you could save by participating in a rideshare.

4. Ditch the car

It might seem drastic, but ditching the car altogether is a viable option for city dwellers who don’t do a lot of driving. Given that the average annual cost of owning a car is greater than $10,000 (according to the Canadian Automobile Association), and each vehicle produces approximately four to five tonnes of emissions per year, there’s a lot of room for “green” savings, in both senses of the word. You can still drive when you need to – car sharing services such as AutoSharecar2goVRTUCAR and Zipcar are popping up all over Canada. According to AutoShare, members of car sharing organizations reduce their carbon footprint by as much as 1.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person each year. You could also switch to an electric scooter (we love Volo Scooters and Amego Electric Vehicles). Bonus – see if your city has EcoCab, a fun, free shuttle service that uses zero-emission state-of-the-art pedal cabs.

5. Get a tune-up

For some of us, going car-free is just not practical. Fortunately, there are still ways to reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Upgrade to an electric or hybrid vehicle. Thanks to CAA’s new consumer portal, you can read about the types available in Canadafind a charging station or keep up to date on government incentives.
  • Look for cars with the greatest fuel efficiency. Check out Natural Resource Canada’s Fuel Consumption Guide, which provides fuel-consumption estimates for specific vehicles. Here are some of AJAC’s Canadian Green Car Award finalists to choose from. Bonus – plan to test drive some of the leading models at the annual Green Living Show.  
  • Keep your car in shape. For every litre of gasoline burned, approximately 2.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide are produced. Reduce fuel consumption by up to 15 per cent by keeping the tires properly inflated and having the engine checked regularly. For inspiration to really max your mileage, check out websites like ecomodder and CleanMPG, which are devoted to the fine art of hypermiling.
  • Don’t idle! According to Dads Against Dirty Air, you could save $200 to $300 in fuel each year.

6. Telecommute

Telecommuters work from home, so their cars don’t log 52 minutes in traffic per day (the Canadian average). The David Suzuki Foundation states that “if a million telecommuters worked from home just one weekday a year, Canada could save some 250 million kg of CO2 emissions; 100 million litres of fuel; and 800 million fewer kilometers of mileage on our roads.” Technology makes it easy to connect with co-workers remotely – look for solutions that fit your workplace.

7. Offset your carbon

Whether you’re driving to work or flying cross-country to a business meeting, you can buy credits to offset your carbon emissions. We’re impressed with Air Canada, which has partnered up with non-profit Zerofootprint to offer a carbon offset program. The Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation have a comprehensive guide to purchasing offsets. Use these offsets as a last resort; try to reduce your personal carbon footprint as much as possible first.

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