• Teja Hudson

Waste Hierarchy: Commuting

The topic for this week was Commuting, and here is the week's roundup!

We took the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid and used it to identify opportunities in the workplace for approaching consumption differently. As always, the idea of the Waste Hierarchy is to work through the levels in order, but ultimately for all levels to work together at the same time to prevent and minimise your waste.

Remember, it's ok to take it in stages, to focus on your quick-wins first and then move towards deeper change as you gain confidence.


Commuting accounts for nearly 20% of all journeys taken in Britain, and the average commute is around 58 mins per day (more in London, less in Scotland), which means RETHINKING our commuting can make quite a difference.

This week we're going to be looking at a range of solutions, from flexible working strategies to vehicle choices and the role of workplace culture in encouraging and incentivising resource-saving behaviours from employees and colleagues.

When we talk about waste here, we are mainly talking about emissions from the fuel, but should not forget the embdied emissions and materials from both the manufacture and disposal of vehicles also.

What could you be doing differently?


The first question at the REFUSE level of the Waste Hierarchy is to ask if we need to commute at all? Can any staff members work remotely?

If we can't cut the entire waste stream out completey then we can look for ways to REPLACE wasteful practices with better solutions: cycling or walking or using electric vehicles (powered by renewable energy) instead of combustion engines of any kind.


The next step is to REDUCE, and this is where the bulk of suggestions fall for Commuting. Are there opportunities to reduce the number of days staff need to be physically present? Switching to public transport might still produce some emissions but overall will be less per person than driving a car. Shifting your work day to allow workers to avoid peak times or using mapping apps to reduce commuting times will both save some fuel and resources.

Lending support to clean transport initiatives in your local area can also make sure the burden - and solutions - are shared amongst the local community, increasing both impact and the chance of success.


SHARING resources is another way of making them REUSABLE (for multiple people) and to take full advantage of the lifespan and value.

Taxis, ridesharing, car pooling, shuttle services and car clubs are all excellent ways to share overheads and get more value out of a vehicle than if it was privately owned, especially since most cars are only used 4-5% of the time!

And with autonomous vehicles coming to market soon, the future of personal transport is going to be much less about private ownership, and more about embracing the shared economy, because it makes both financial and environmental sense.

Why not start now?


The final stage of the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid is RECYCLE & ROT, which in the context of Commuting means making sure the use and disposal of all vehicles fits into the circular economy we are building and does not result in a negative ecological impact.

Neutralising all emissions from transport by planting trees is a must, and there are plenty of carbon calculators online to work out how many you need and organisations who will plant trees on your behalf. If you are a small business then start small if that's all you can afford - even one or two trees per person per year - and build up to the right amount as you can.

Making the greenest buying and disposal choices is also important, as well as supporting individuals, organisations and councils who are working towards greener transport solutions.

As always, what gets measured gets managed, so what could you be measuring in your workplace to help nudge people in the right direction? Could you be providing incentives and running competitions to see who can achieve the greenest commute? Don't forget to include a prize for the greatest improver!


As always, this is just one example of how to work through a problem using the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid; every workplace is different so don't be intimidated by all the different options, just do what you can and work towards long term change.

After all, working towards sustainability is a process, and starting imperfectly is better than not starting at all!

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