Sustainability Theme of the Month: June is for Sustainable Transportation

Can you believe we are already halfway through 2021? With summer almost upon us, it’s the perfect time to explore ways we can move more sustainably by embracing the outdoors. As we will discuss in this blog post, reducing our community’s greenhouse gas emissions will heavily rely on our ability to use sustainable transportation options.

Why does sustainable transportation matter?

Congested highway with cars in trafficAs we know, climate change is a global issue that will require collective efforts to address. A major contributor to climate change in Waterloo n and around the world is transportation. According to ClimateAction Waterloo Region (CAWR), 49 percent of the emissions generated in Waterloo Region are from transportation – and nearly two-thirds of those emissions comes from our personal vehicles . And on campus, about 20 percent of our carbon footprint comes from commuting.

For each litre of gasoline used in your car, 2.3 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide gas are produced. The average Canadian car burns two thousand litres of gasoline annually, resulting in the production of 4,600 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide every year! That’s more than 2.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from fuel consumption when we add that all up, based on 2015 data. Evidently, if we can change our transportation habits, we can create a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions! 

The Region of Waterloo has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2010 levels by 2050. Likewise, the University of Waterloo has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and to increase sustainable transportation to and from campus in its Environmental Sustainability Strategy (2017). To get there, there are many tools and resources available to you so our emissions reduction goals can be reached through collective efforts of the community.

Sustainable transportation options

As we’ve seen, single-passenger vehicles are a major contributor of local greenhouse gas emissions. So, what are some ways that we can reduce our use of single-passenger vehicles while still getting where we need to go? There are many options to suit diverse lifestyles and accessibility needs. Let’s explore the two main ‘categories’ of sustainable transportation options:

  1. Public transportation. This includes multi-person vehicles including busses and trains.
  2. Active transportation. This involves actively moving, such as through walking, cycling, roller skating, rolling, or scootering. There are also exciting (and challenging) options as well, such as rollerblading and unicycling! Aside from producing little to no emissions, active transportation is also beneficial to your physical health and wellbeing by allowing you to move your body. Your commute to and from work, errands, or other trips can become an opportunity to get fresh air and exercise, in comparison to driving where you are stationary.

Bikes on bike rack

Your impact matters

A key reason to care about transportation is that every single trip you make has an impact. Choosing to walk or bike to work instead of drive even once per week can cut down your personal emissions and ecological impact. This, in combination with the efforts of so many others in the community supporting sustainable transportation, can have far-reaching impacts on the planet and your community.

Not only does this help to fight climate change and mitigate impacts on land, but it helps to build the community that we want to see. As more individuals use sustainable transportation options and demand infrastructure that supports these options (e.g. bike lanes, well maintained trails, public transit), the more our communities will invest in accommodating these options. For instance, there is a high demand for bike lanes in Waterloo, and as such the city has been creating separated cycling lanes on major roads. This makes active transportation more accessible to individuals around the community, and therefore more individuals can create positive change!

Programs and services in Waterloo to support sustainable transportation

There are many programs and services being offered by the University and broader community to support a transition towards sustainable transportation. A few of these are listed below, with many more to explore!

Also, keep an eye out later this month for a special episode on WAT’s Sustainable? where we have an in-depth conversation with TravelWise about sustainable transportation options in Waterloo Region and beyond!

Woman taking selfie on bikeTake action

In addition to exploring the resources above, we encourage you to take part in our Bike Month Challenge! All you need to do is take a photo of yourself or your household whenever you ride a bike (preferably while you are stationary, though!) and/or share your favourite cycling story with us a for a chance to win cyclist-friendly prizes!

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