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Travel More Sustainably

While it’s undeniably important that government and the private sector take the lead in reducing their travel, every individual should also be looking to see what they can do to make their own travel more sustainable.

Our Sustainable Travel Information page provides useful information on travelling around Scotland in a sustainable way, with links to the major transport operators for bus, coach, rail and ferry; as well as useful guides for people looking to walk and cycle round Scotland.

Here we suggest some things you might want to think about:

Cut down on air travel

Air travel is cheap because the industry avoids paying tax! But air travel is also the most polluting form of travel, so if you do only one thing then this is what you should cut down on.

The website Choose Climate provides a single calculator for the CO2 impact of flying. One transatlantic return flight will use up all your annual carbon allowance for the year (so you’d better get used to no heating & lighting for the rest of the year!)

For trips to the continent, rail is increasingly a good option, especially with the opening of Eurostar services on ‘High Speed 1’ between St Pancras & Paris/Brussels, the expansion of Europe’s high-speed rail network, and better rail through-ticketing options from Scotland to the continent.

Avoid making short trips by car

Closer to home, it’s also important that everyone looks at their own car use. There are many journeys for which cars are the most appropriate mode of transport, and indeed may even be reasonably benign on environmental grounds, but there are also an awful lot of journeys for which car journeys are entirely inappropriate.

Most travel is very short in distance (40% of all trips are less than 2 miles & 67% less than 5 miles) so there’s plenty of opportunity for many of these trips to instead be made by foot, by bike, or by bus. Travelling by foot or by bike will also help to keep you fit: with public health advice to take 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week, walking or cycling is an easy way to fit this into your daily routine.

For more information on this topic, we’d suggest getting hold of a copy of the excellent guide ‘Cutting Your Car Use’ 

Buy local produce

The high levels of lorries on the roads is to a large extent because of the distances that food is transported: a quarter of all lorries are carrying food around the country. The concept of ‘Food miles’ have been known about for years, but there’s only limited evidence that we are buying food that is more local.

The report ‘Eating Oil’ by Sustain found that for every calorie from a carrot flown in from South Africa, 66 calories of fuel had been used to transport it to the plate. So it’s important to consider not only how we travel ourselves, but also the carbon cost of the things we consume.

Not every food you might want to eat is grown or made locally, but the growth of Farmers Markets and Veggiebox schemes means that a lot of food can now be sourced from local producers, thereby cutting out long-distance trips by HGV or by air freight. And even if nothing is available for you locally, you might want to ask your local retailer why they’re stocking Californian strawberries and New Zealand apples rather than their Scottish and English equivalents!