Transportation is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, at 29% of our total. This isn’t the norm in other countries. Internationally, only 14% of emissions come from transportation, less than half of the US total. There are many reasons for this difference. The US has a high GDP, making gas-powered cars affordable for many. We have underinvested in Amtrak, commuter rail, and local mass transit, making cars the only practical option for many. Finally, the spread-out, suburban nature of much of the United States means that public transit must often span longer distances to be useful, which adds time and expense.
Living farther apart makes active transportation, such as walking and biking, less practical as well. Nevertheless, as of 2017, more than 20% of vehicle trips in the United States lasted less than a mile, a distance that many could comfortably walk or bike. Whenever they’re practical, these modes have close to zero direct emissions, making them the most sustainable ways to travel.
Unlike some other emissions sectors, you can control your own transportation emissions, which means there are many ways for individuals to make a real difference by changing their daily habits. Take the train to work, walk to school, or ride the bus to the grocery store. Click below to learn about ways to reduce your transportation emissions, help save the planet, and possibly save yourself some money.