Naturally, here at Sustainable Jungle, we often ask ourselves what it means to live a sustainable lifestyle and what things we can change or do in pursuit of that goal.
Though, like anyone who cares about this space, we sometimes get a little overwhelmed wondering what difference we, as a couple of individuals, can actually make! But the more we learn about the plight of our earth, the rate of consumption and its effects, we realize that any step in the right direction, however small it may be, is still a step.
And, while we try to practice what we preach we know we’re far from living a perfectly sustainable life. Very few people truly are. Having said that, it’s not stopping us from trying to make positive choices, choices that are part of the solution, small as they may be. We want to put our hand on our hearts one day and say that we did our part to ensure the world is in a better place than when we found it.
Creating Sustainable Jungle, as well as purchasing and supporting the most sustainable brands and products, is one of the ways that we’re trying to make a difference. But we know that there are so many other things that we can do for ourselves and the environment. So, on the road to living a more sustainable lifestyle, we decided to make a change to our daily commute …
Riding to work may seem a little daunting at first and like any other exercise it’s taken time (and a fair bit of discipline) for us to form the habit (probably a good 3 weeks). But now, it’s just something that’s part of our day, and better yet, it ticks the exercise box without us having to find an extra hour here or there to keep in shape.
Truth is, it’s actually been easy (sort of) to keep pedaling instead of catching the tube by reminding ourselves of the plethora of benefits that cycling has, not only for our environment but also for our health. So, here’s a summary in case you needed some fact-based motivation.
There are heaps of health benefits that come with riding (especially if you’re doing it on a regular basis). Not only are these health benefits physical in nature, according to neuroscientist Dr Ben Martynoga (and a wave of new studies being conducted), they are also mental. For example, aerobic exercise (i.e. in our case, pedalling) can boost your memory (the production of cells in your hippocampus or memory centre increase by two to three times!), improve concentration and mental health, enhance creativity and slow cognitive decline
If the mental benefits weren’t enough, here’s a list of physical ones that reinforced our decision to make the jump. According to the biggest study ever undertaken on this subject (250,000 UK commuters over a five year period), opting for the bike as your preferred mode of commute will cut your risk of death from any cause (yes, any cause!) by 41%, incidence of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%. The increase in your heart rate, and therefore circulation, also has an array of flow on effects too, like reduced levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) which means better and deeper sleep, optimisation of collagen production so you look younger, activation of immune cells to prevent infection and the release of au naturale good feeling endorphins to keep you feeling happy. Cycling to work for the health benefits alone is a no-brainer. Check out this great article we found which goes into more detail.
As you probably know, many of our daily activities produce greenhouse gas emissions and one of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprint is transportation, both public and private. In fact, the UK Government reckons that transport accounts for around a quarter of UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and if you live in NYC it accounts for about 21%. Even though our riding to work may not change the world at large, it will reduce our own carbon footprint by quite a bit. An easy fix for us and for millions of other commuters who live close enough to work to skip the tube/train/car/subway/bus and bike it!
If you’ve ever lived or do live in London/NYC/any other major city, you’ll know that, while public transport is generally pretty good, sharing the tube or subway with millions of other commuters can have its downside, especially in summer, and even more so if you’re short (hanging out under someone’s armpit is apparently uncomfortable, so my wife tells me). It may also surprise you, as it did us, that commuting by bike is actually on average 33% faster than taking the tube in London. Another solid justification to skip the daily underground-grind.
We save at least $300 each month in travel expenses. That’s $3600 a year! In 2 month’s we’ve paid for the cost of our brand spanking-new bikes, and every penny saved thereafter is a bonus. But wait, the savings don’t end there, if you live in the UK for example you’ll also reduce NHS costs because who needs a doctor if you’re fighting fit – according to Modelling for Cycling England increasing cycling by just 20% could save over £100 million in reducing premature deaths, £50 million in NHS costs and over £80 million worth of sick days…and if you don’t have access to national health insurance, well…you’re going to save on private health insurance premiums and doctor’s fees anyways.
Lastly, we feel somewhat liberated and free. It takes us back to when we were about 8 years old, re-living the glory days running a muck round the neighborhood. It’s knowing that your using your own steam to get from A to B. We’re in control and we love the feeling of being self-reliant kids all over again.
When we considered the environmental, physical, mental and financial benefits, oh and not to forget that feeling like you’re a kid all over again, the decision to jump on the bike was actually pretty easy. We hope some of our reasons that inspired us to opt for the pedals may also inspire you!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on riding to work or on any other mode of transport that you use that benefits your health and the health of the environment – get in touch or leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you!