How to green your commute


Using your city or town’s public bike share system is a great way to participate in active participation without needing to own a bicycle. (Photo: Uriel Mont via Pexels)

A 2021 Environment Canada report stated that the majority of transport emissions here are related to road transportation. This includes light-duty vehicles such as cars, vans and trucks.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, personal motorized vehicles made up 75 per cent of commuter transportation. Only 13 per cent of commuters took public transportation and seven per cent walked or cycled to work. These statistics have changed significantly since the pandemic, as many people have been laid off, changed careers or started telecommuting.

As many people in Canada return to their workplaces and schools and travel more to visit friends and family, it’s a great opportunity to look at your transportation and make cleaner, greener choices. Choosing better transportation methods can benefit you and nature.

Alternatives to driving

Instead of driving, consider options like cycling, walking or taking public transit. You could even (safely) wheel, skateboard or scoot! These options reduce your carbon footprint and can be great ways to engage with the space between your home and destination. For example, cycling and walking offer great opportunities to explore sights, smells and sounds. You may discover a new local business to visit or bump into an old friend! Have you ever heard of a walking party?

Cycling teaches us to be alive to what’s in front of us — the demands of living compassionately now — and not immersed in abstraction.

Gideon Forman, “Beckett’s bicycle: Lessons on cycling from the great dramatist”

Why choose active transportation?

Active transportation is any human-powered method. This includes but is not limited to walking, cycling, skateboarding, skiing or using a wheelchair. Learn more about Canada’s cycling movement.

Active transportation increases your physical activity, improves your mental well-being and is great for the planet. In fact, in terms of sustainability, active transportation is the best personal transport choice. Plus, you’ll save money!

Some people may have challenges that limit active transportation, because of age, health or ability. If you can’t partake, consider exploring other sustainable options, such as electric bicycles, electric scooters, motorized wheelchairs or public transit. You’ll be a role model for others to choose alternatives to gas-powered options!

Make it fun! Organize a commuter challenge

Gather friends, family or colleagues and organize your own commuter challenge for a week or longer! Check to see if your city is hosting a smart commuter challenge by searching online for “smart commuter [your city].”

Changing your commute requires a major shift in personal behaviour, so you may meet resistance from other group members. (“The bus never came!” “I got soaked on my bike ride!”) Talk about the barriers and see if there’s anything you can do to overcome them as a team. Use our climate change conversations guide to emphasize to your group members the importance of this challenge to your values and to protecting the climate.

  • Secure support from your group by asking for volunteers to be commuter captains. Collect data on your group’s commuting choices. (Lots of apps help you log trips, but a spreadsheet works too.) This will help when you report your findings at the end of your event.
  • Create buzz by starting a group text message thread, Facebook group or email list so you can post announcements and share personal wins and insights during the challenge.
  • Encourage friendly competition among group members, always maintaining a positive and encouraging attitude. (Prizes help!)
  • Provide resources to your group by sharing transit schedules, cycling routes, nearby bike-sharing station locations and carpooling sign-up sheets.
  • Host a special event virtually or physically to celebrate your smart, green commuting. Share your experiences, offer and seek advice and create your own commuter community.
  • Provide bike tune-up basics or offer a running clinic. Ask members if they can share their skills, or attend a local event together.
  • Wrap up your event by reporting on participation and, if possible, calculate the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Award the most committed individuals or groups. Share photos, stories and successes from the challenge.

Practical tips for walking and cycling

We asked David Suzuki Foundation staff what tips they have to share about cycling and walking. Here’s what they had to say!

Toronto cyclist

Dress appropriately

  • Wear brightly coloured clothes and helmets to increase your visibility. (It’s important to remain safe and seen on roads and paths!)
  • Incorporate reflective gear into your outfit when possible. This could even be achieved by adding reflective patches onto your gear.
  • Dress warmly for colder seasons. Staff emphasized the comfort provided by wool socks, proper shoes, appropriate coat and even shoe covers.
  • Don’t overdress in warmer seasons. Biking is a sport and you want to be comfortable. Wear layers that are easy to add or remove.
Walking in urban setting

Be present and explore

  • When walking, take the opportunity to unplug and engage in a “walking meditation.”
  • Change routes to keep things fresh and explore neighbourhoods.
  • Look for flowers, birds, graffiti or neighbourhood “little libraries” and book exchanges.
Woman biking in the city

Be ready

  • Have an umbrella, hat, gloves and rain jacket in case the weather changes during your journey.
  • Pack water and snacks.
  • If you’re on a bike and have space, carry a hand-held tire pump.
  • Bring a panier, backpack or reusable tote for items you may need to carry.

Make your voice heard

It’s time to speed the transition to sustainable transportation alternatives. Governments need to invest in the necessary infrastructure and enact supportive policies. You can speak up for sustainable transportation options that increase the well-being of your community!

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