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Journeys to net zero that don’t cost the earth

A couple riding electric bikes on a cobbled street.

Share your net zero transport pledge for a chance to win £2,500 towards an electric bike, cargo bike or adapted cycle.

The cost-of-living crisis and climate change are both urgent problems.

In Scotland, the average household spends 14% on transport costs and transport accounts for 36% of all greenhouse gas emissions, with over a third of these emissions coming from cars. Changing transport choices can help our bank balances whilst helping Scotland reach our target of net zero by 2045.

During winter, it’s important to focus on our wellbeing, including physical and mental health. Saving on transport could free up some money for essentials, and travelling more actively – by walking, wheeling or cycling – can help tackle the season’s effect on our mood and health.

This time of year is a great time to take stock, plan ahead and think about starting new positive habits. Here are some solutions and support to help you on your net zero journey to save money and the planet.

Small steps for immediate savings

The sustainable transport hierarchy ranks the travel modes by their sustainability impact, including environmental, social, and economic. It can be a good visual guide for choosing small, manageable goals.

For shorter journeys especially, it is useful to be thinking about active travel to get from A to B, carbon free. Whilst public and shared transport is often a more sustainable choice for longer journeys, the running costs of active travel can be free or very low cost compared to driving. For shared transport, you mostly only pay for the journeys you take, and all operating costs are included in your ticket. Citizens Advice Scotland has information on concessionary fares and free travel.

Here are eight simple commitment ideas that can help you to shift journeys up the sustainable transport hierarchy and closer to net zero for the benefit of your wallet, health and the planet.

1. Walk, cycle or wheel once a week this year

Starting with a regular, small commitment can help you build confidence and fitness to get ready to travel more actively in the spring – this isn’t just great for your physical health, it can also help reduce the risk of depression by 30%, manage stress and improve sleep.

2. Ditch the car for short trips to help us on the journey to net zero

Try to replace journeys with shared transport, combining them with active travel or using park and rides. Reducing your car use by a quarter could save up to £273 in fuel costs and 508kg in CO2e a year.

3. Get out and about with a daily walk

Paths for All have resources to support and motivate you to walk once a day this winter, including a 12 Week Walking Programme. There are over 800 accessible and social led health walks in every local authority across Scotland.

4. Join a group cycle or explore local options to build confidence

If you don’t quite feel confident enough to cycle on your own on the road, why not explore your local national cycle network off-road routes or Cycling Scotland’s Essential Cycling Skills Guide? A local group may also be able to provide training or led rides.

5. Research cycle options or try an electric bike for net zero journeys

If you’re not quite ready to make a change, use the winter to plan and research. Cycling UK found that after the initial purchase owning an average bike compared to an average car could save you £771 a year.

eBikes, (electric assisted pedal bikes), can help you tackle those longer or more challenging routes. Cargo cycles can help you carry a load such as heavy shopping or children. It can be a great cheaper alternative to a car for families. If you have specific mobility needs, read our guide to inclusive cycling and adapted cycles to explore cycle options and the support available. You may be able to access a cycle through a local group or public bike share.

If you already have a bike, you may be eligible for Cycling UK funding to get it road ready.

6. Sign up for a bus pass or rail card to use public transport in your area

Traveline Scotland is a great resource for exploring journey planning. It includes routes in your area, specialised services, fares and ticket options and accessible travel information.

If your closest public transport option is too far to walk, could you reach it by cycle or ebike? Check out Sustrans’ guide to combining cycling and rail travel.

7. Explore liftshares or car clubs as an option to reduce your costs and help Scotland achieve net zero

For immediate savings, you can explore the benefits of sharing your journeys, on average liftshare members save over £1,000 a year!

CoMoUK have great shared transport resources, including a map showing car club vehicles near you. Car club vehicles use 37% less CO2 than the average UK car and 60% of car club fleets are electric or hybrid.

8. Explore funding available to support your journey to net zero

Way to Work’s funding page lists support from Energy Saving Trust and partners. Their website can help you and your workplace plan your shift to cheaper and greener journeys.

How will you start your journey to net zero?

How will you start your net zero journey? Share your sustainable transport pledge for 2023 on social media. Use #NetZeroJourney23 and tag @HomeEnergyScotland on Facebook or @HomeEnergyScot on Twitter and Instagram, or comment to enter our competition to win £2,500 towards an electric bike, cargo or adapted cycle. Two runners-up will win a £100 gift voucher for the Sustrans online shop

To enter, tag us in your pledge around your journey to net zero. Tell us about something you’re already doing, planning to do or committed to trying!

The competition will run until midnight, 31 January. You can read further details and the campaign terms and conditions here.