Sustainable consumption: recycling is not enough!

The maximum restriction of fuel consumption is necessary to reduce your impact on the planet. Thus, according to the experts who participated in the survey, daily travel on foot or by bike or even by public transport is the best solution – by far.

Katherine Hussar even mentions that, according to CIRAIG’s analysis, daily transportation has a greater impact on the carbon footprint (and therefore climate change) than food in Quebec. “This can be explained, among other things, by the heavy use of the car alone, the long distances traveled and the lack of public transport infrastructure. We are really behind in North America,” she said.

In several European countries – Spain, France, Austria and Germany – at least half of respondents say they often (or almost always) walk, cycle or use public transport during their daily commute. In Canada, it is only about one third.

What about driving an electric vehicle (EV)? In the context of Quebec, this is a greener option than in many provinces and countries, because our electricity comes from a renewable energy source: mostly hydropower (hydroelectricity). However, even if an electric car quickly proves to be more environmentally friendly than its gas-powered cousin – after 32,000 km in Quebec, according to CIRAIG data for 2016, in terms of climate change impact, this is not a panacea. The least polluting car will always be the one that is not produced or used!

The most important gestures

(in order of importance, according to expert consensus)

1. Walk, bike, or use public transportation to get to work.

2. Avoid flying and use less polluting modes of transport.

3. Lack of a car (rent, carpool or carsharing, if necessary).

4. Use your car only when necessary, or use an environmentally friendly car (such as an electric car).

5. Practice sustainable tourism.

Attached to our vehicles

Canadians and Quebecers don’t do well in terms of transportation habits because they use cars a lot.

What’s more, 77% of Canadians and 81% of Quebecers own at least one car per household. Europeans compete with us in this regard, according to our survey: only Russians, Danes, British and Czechs are less likely than Canadians to own at least one car.

“European cars use about two liters less fuel per 100 kilometers than North American cars,” says Pierre-Olivier Pinault, professor at HEC Montréal and chair of the energy sector management department at the institution. Indeed, on the other side of the Atlantic, people drive smaller cars to avoid additional taxes on gasoline, as well as higher registration and sales tax costs (for more powerful cars and more).

Petrol, always petrol!

When it comes to vehicle categories, those that run solely on gas still reign supreme. According to our survey, all-electric vehicles, as well as hybrids and plug-in hybrids, are not yet in widespread use. Denmark is a leader in this area with a 13% electrified vehicle fleet, including 5% all-electric vehicles. In Canada and Quebec, roughly 6% of respondents say they own a hybrid or electric vehicle.

And in fact? These types of vehicles make up about 4% of the estimated 5 million passenger cars that circulate on Quebec’s roads, according to the Quebec Energy Report 2022 Edition signed by Pierre-Olivier Pinault and his colleague Joanna Whitmore. With only 100% electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids (grouped under the term “EV”), this figure drops to less than 2.5%.

If sales of electric vehicles are growing, so are sales of a few gasoline-powered vehicles; think of SUVs (SUVs) here, which pollute the environment more than small cars. “About 15 light trucks have been sold. [VUS, minifourgonnettes, camionnettes] for every electric vehicle sold in 2020. These trends are contrary to the achievement of goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the report says.

Electric cars: really more expensive?

To justify their (bad) transportation habits, 37% of Canadians and 20% of Quebecers surveyed cite the high cost of environmental solutions.

According to Pierre-Olivier Pinault, if it is really more expensive to buy electric cars, they quickly become more economical than gasoline-powered cars. A report prepared by his colleagues in 2021 shows that after 20,000 km, an all-electric car becomes more profitable than a comparable gasoline-powered car in Quebec.

However, the professor notes that this option remains more expensive and less environmentally friendly than public or active transport (cycling, walking, etc.). Car ownership also encourages car use and eventually urban sprawl (which reinforces reliance on individual transportation).

At the same time, 25% of Canadians and 29% of Quebecers point to the lack of infrastructure and services as an obstacle to the transition to more sustainable transportation habits.

“We must develop the sustainable mobility offering,” agrees Pierre-Olivier Pinault, “as well as all car sharing and car sharing solutions. These are tools that are very effective and cost nothing to the government of Quebec if we use existing equipment to optimize their use. »

Travel differently

In Quebec, 38% of those surveyed (24% in Canada) say they avoid flying almost entirely, for example by forgoing non-essential travel. The practice of sustainable tourism—choosing less remote destinations, staying in hotels that are certified eco-friendly or have an environmental policy, etc.—is more or less popular for its part.

As they contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions in record time, air travel should be avoided whenever possible, especially short to medium distances (such as between Montreal and Toronto), says Catherine Hussar. Similarly, if train is preferred, cruises should be avoided as they are very polluting. Instead, consider adopting the principles of slow travel, which means moving less when you arrive at your destination (avoiding multiple flights or renting a car locally, among other solutions). In short, plan your time travels… but feel free to extend your stay if done in a sustainable way!

>> Read also: Are you ready for an electric car?


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