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The Greenest Ways to Get Around

Note: In response to reader feedback on this post, the makers of the infographic below updated it and resent us a copy, so we reposted it at 2:52 PM on May 7, 2013. The infographic was not created by National Geographic.

You’ve probably heard by now that how you get around has a big impact on the environment. Overall, transportation accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and our fossil-fuel infrastructure has a number of downsides, from promoting sprawl to oil spills and pollution from fracking.

Fortunately, there is also an increasing number of alternatives. Car companies are offering more efficient cars than ever, from hybrids to ultra-compacts, from electric vehicles to those powered by biofuels. Transit ridership is up, new lines are being built in many cities, and more people are taking their bikes to work, or even walking.

Plus, more people are opting to live closer to work, as cities become cool, and safe, once again, reversing at least part of the flight to the burbs.

We have a long way to go to be a truly sustainable society, of course, but there is hope and progress.

This infographic highlights some of the gains, such as the fact that 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are saved daily by U.S. public transportation.

So “stop being an S.O.V.,” a single occupant vehicle, as the graphic suggests. Some 86 percent of us still drive to work, and 76 percent of those do it alone. (Remember that World War II poster, “when you drive alone you drive with Hitler…”)

I take Washington, D.C.’s metro (subway) to work every morning, and it’s great. I read the paper to get a jump start on the day’s news. In the evenings, I sometimes walk the hour home, or often walk at least part way before grabbing a metro.

How do you get to work?

greenest ways to get around infographic
Presented by CheapCarInsurance.Net


  1. Hans Vissers
    May 6, 2013, 12:11 pm

    The infrastructure in the Netherlands is build to have a life without a car. In the country, there is an exstinsive network of bycicle roads, even with their own traffic lights, which have preference of the traffic lights of the cars. This network also connects cities all through the country. In the Netherlands we have more bicycles that people. During morning rush hour, thousands of bikes in the streets. Kids who go to school, people go to work, everybody takes the bike. Except the lazy ones, they take the car, but must pay. Inside the city, parking rates cost up to €1,- for every 10 minutes.
    Inside the cities we have a big network of busses, street cars, subways, trains, bikes for rent, etc…..
    The cities are connected with a dense railway network. Every 15 to 30 minutes all cities are connected with very comfortable, high speed (140 km/h) intercities, which can carry up to 1500 people in each train. They stop only 3 minutes at eacht station. Wide doors in the train provide passengerst o leave and enter the trains very quickly.
    Next tot his trains, there are cummutor trains to connect the intercity stations with the villages. Often with their own tracks. These commutor trains also run 140 km/h with a frequency of up to 6 times an hour.
    And if you live in the country side, you only need to call a special mini bus service which show up very quickly tob ring you for little money to the next railway (intercity) station.
    If you see “sporenplan.nl” you can see the lay out of the tracks of Amsterdam and other big cities. And you see, that there is a capacity of many trains driving at once at the stations.

    Well, good luck of making people aware of how lazy their are and always have a reason to take the car……

    Best regards, Hans

  2. Hans Vissers
    May 6, 2013, 11:49 am

    Awareness is the point… Then, after being aware, people must take decisions. In the Netherlands, the society is build to use as less cars as possible. Parkings in cities are rare or extreme expensive. Up to € 1,- every 10 minutes. But in the Netherlands there is an extensive network of bycicly roads. Inside and outside the cities. We have more bicycles in the country than people. Fast and comfortable intercities with speeds of 140 km/h and only 3 minute stop at the stations, run every 15 minutes or every 30 minutes all through the country. Next to that at least every 30 minute there is a commuter train to bring you to the smaller villages.
    In the cities we have a network of busses, street trains, subways, bikes for rent, etc. In fact, nobody needs a car in the Netherlands. And if you live far outside in the country, there are special mini bus services which you can call. They show up within a short time and bring you for a small amount of money to the next train station.

    Best regards, Hans

    • Brian Clark Howard
      May 7, 2013, 2:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing Hans! It’s great the Netherlands is serving as such an example.

      One important thing to keep in mind: it is a small, densely populated country, so it’s a lot easier to provide transit than in countries that are larger and more spread out. Not that it isn’t a worthy goal. 😉

  3. Jonathan
    May 5, 2013, 12:47 pm

    Great graphic.

    The bicycle figure reflects the manufacture of the bike, but it’s not clear whether the other figures do. If they don’t, then the comparison is skewed (but still a hands down win for us bikeheads).

  4. Joe
    May 4, 2013, 10:39 pm

    The breitbart.com source is pure propaganda.

  5. Joe
    May 4, 2013, 10:38 pm

    The data on electric car carbon footprint is completely wrong. All serious studies on cradle to grave point that an all electric var such as the Nissan Leaf is roughly half of that of an average gasoline ICE car. What is misleading about this info here is that they a only likely (no source is mentioned) use the manufacture of the car and the lithium used in the battery. So yes just the manufacture is double the carbon of a conventional ICE car. What it failed to take into account is that 90% of a the carbon in the life cycle of an automobile is in the operation. Very disappointing in the editing of this story, pretty sad really in just the use of propaganda..

    • Brian Clark Howard
      May 7, 2013, 3:00 pm

      Joe, I relayed your comment to the makers of the infographic (not National Geographic), and they did some more research. They edited that section of the infographic and send me a new version, so I replaced it.

      The last time I looked into this issue, studies showed that electric cars had a better environmental footprint even if they were running on 100% coal-fired electricity, which is unlikely.