Conducting a Household Transport Sustainability Audit

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Transport in all its forms is a major consumer of energy and so is also a major contributor to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.  In fact transport contributes 83.2 Mt CO2-e per year which equates to 15% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Household passenger car use is the major contributor at 56% followed along way back by commercial road transport at 34% with air transport (6%), domestic water transport (2%) and railways (2%) bringing up the rear. It is interesting that household car use is the biggest single contributor because it is the one source of transport emissions we are well placed to do something about.

OK, so we know that there is a problem, but what do we do about it? It seems reasonable to use our purchasing power and behaviour to reduce our environmental impact as much as we can but that presumes we know where to start. The premise of this article and the associated sustainable Transport audit form is that it gives us a way to review how sustainable our practices are at the moment and help us work through what we need to do to improve.

You may want to work through the Sustainable Lifestyle Assessment Matrix first to understand the bigger picture of sustainable living or if you just want to focus on transport alone and give the transport audit a go. It can be as simple or formal as you like, filling the form out as you go or just running through things in your head and working out where you go from there. I recommend the more formal method so you have a record of where you are starting from which you can come back to later, re-do and get a feeling of how far you have come.

I also suggest that you share this with your family, or the people you are living with, so improvement can be on a united front.


Go through all of the questions one section at a time and mark the number most appropriate for your answer from “always” = 3 down to “never” = 0 by circling, crossing out or whatever. Some questions may appear to support a more yes/no answer so to reflect this it would be best to mark 3 for yes and 0 for no. If the question is not applicable to your situation, strike it out and when counting up the maximum possible number to work out score do not add 3 for that question.

To calculate your score add up all of the potential answers and multiply by 3 to give the maximum possible score, and then add up all of the scores from your answers. Divide your answer score number by the maximum possible score and multiply by 100, this will give you your sustainable transport score as a percentage. The number itself does not mean much, but provides a base number upon which you can improve over time.

Review the results with your family, focussing on some of the lower scores and this will help you focus on areas which you wish to improve. This may be as simple as buying E10 petrol more often or making sure you walk rather than drive for short journeys; or you may wish to write up a plan so that you can track your progress over time. Either way you may want to run the sustainable transport audit again every year or two to check over all progress.

Public transport – Most of us in the urban/suburban landscape can get where we need to go with public transport. Seeing as public transport is already in place and running, using it does not add greatly to the environmental degradation due to transport. It also reduces our cost because we no longer need to –

  • Buy a car
  • Pay to register a car
  • Pay to maintain a car
  • Pay to use motorways
  • Pay to park a car
  • Pay to fuel a car

And it means one less car on the road. If enough of us take this option then the roads will be less cluttered and the air will be less polluted. There are some things, like picking up bulky materials which would be easier with a car (or more specifically a ute) and in this case it is easy to rent one for a specific job.  For this purpose alone it is worth maintaining your driver’s licence.


“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle” So says Elizabeth west in her book about living the simple life called “Hovel in the Hills”.

A trike is easier if your balance is a bit dodgy

That covers things pretty well really! Bikes are comparatively cheap to by (the usual ones anyway) and for a few hundred dollars more you can get an electrically boosted bike to help with those pesky hills. While I love bikes and biking, you do need to think about where you are and if you can get safe bike access to where you want to go. I rode to work a few times many years ago and then walked rather than biked because it was safer. If you live in a more enlightened and bike friendly city than Sydney, it is worth a go!


Cars have a whole lot of regulations and costs associated with them and they would be about the least environmentally friendly of all the transport options. At each step of the car ownership journey   buying, driving and maintaining there are things you can do to reduce the impact of your car ownership. If you can’t get away from owning a car because of your personal circumstances (and it is worth asking the question, not having car ownership the default transport answer) check out the things you can do and start reducing your impact today!

A few years ago I had a company car, which went when I was retrenched. For some months Linda and I did without a car and our experiences can be read about here.


This would be my favourite low impact transport method. It is healthy, requires a minimum of equipment and almost anyone can do it. It is, however, quite slow and not well regarded in this fast-paced western civilisation which we live in. That aside from the point of view of savings, environmental benefits and positive health effects walking has got to be the transport mode of choice, at least for short distances.

Walking with a

Air Travel

While it is only a comparatively small contributor to our greenhouse gas production at 6% of the total, they pump them out at high altitude, which can enhance their effects. Certainly when calculating your ecological footprint, air travel seems to have an effect more than its share. It suffices to say that if you can get there another way, don’t fly!


Be one of the first to get your hands on davids latest work. Pre-order your copy before the launch on February 10 at SLF Melb.

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