Cyclist, pedestrians and double decker bus on London Bridge
Cyclist, pedestrians and double decker bus on London Bridge

How might attitudes towards sustainable living change post-Covid?


During the first lockdown (March-June 2020), nearly half of people re-evaluated how sustainable their lives are. From going plastic free to reducing, reusing and recycling at home, sustainability became an integral part of the ‘new normal’ for many people in the UK during the first lockdown in 2020. 


Even during the third lockdown since the pandemic hit, this attitude towards sustainable living doesn’t appear to be losing momentum. A UN global climate poll in January 2021 has found that two-thirds of people think climate change is a global emergency, and it seems many are taking steps to reduce their impact on the planet as a result.


But it’s easy to stick to sustainable lifestyle choices when you’re staying at home under lockdown. How might things change post-pandemic, when people’s lives change again? We conducted a survey with YouGov which could shine a light on how people’s behaviour may change in a post-pandemic world.



How might sustainability shape transport and travel post-covid?

When we come out of lockdown in the UK, many aspects of our lifestyles will change. Here’s how sustainability might factor into the ways we get around post-pandemic.

Sustainable transport

walking and cycling to work

Sustainable transport

Active sustainable transport is a big part of the government’s plans post-pandemic. In May 2020 they announced £2 billion in funds to create cycle lanes, widen pavements, and a range of other measures to make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians. The aim is to encourage people to choose healthier alternatives and ease the strain in public transport, which might just work. When restrictions eased following the first lockdown in summer 2020, our survey found that over half of Brits (51%) were walking and cycling more.


eco friendly accomodation


When lockdown restrictions were eased during last summer, the UK government urged people to holiday at home rather than travelling abroad and risking transmitting or contracting the virus. And it looks like 2021 will be no different, with travel firms predicting a record staycation summer as international travel remains restricted and Brexit makes travelling to the EU more complicated. 

Staycations are also a more sustainable way to holiday as there’s no need to fly. Around 2.4% of global CO2 emissions come from aviation, with emissions from a Boeing 737-400 approximately 90 kg CO2 per hour. Holidaying in the UK will likely become more popular as people can choose sustainable travel options and more eco-friendly ways to enjoy their free time.


More mindful travel

travelling with a pet

More mindful travel

It is likely that people will be more mindful of their travelling habits, both abroad and at home. Covid vaccinations in some foreign countries are unlikely to happen as quickly as in the UK, meaning travelling across multiple countries and for extended periods, for example backpacking, could put others at risk.

In the UK, once restrictions are eased people will want to reunite with friends and family they haven’t seen during the pandemic. This means there will be an increase in people travelling between towns and cities. Following the first lockdown, Zipcar saw a 20% uplift in planned journeys compared with pre-lockdown behaviour.

people walking up to a zipcar

While people want to make positive environmental choices such as using public transport, travelling by car remains one of the most convenient ways of getting around in the UK. Car sharing is a more sustainable choice than buying a car outright, which many people got on board with after the first lockdown.

Zipcar saw a 25% increase in daily reservations for our planned trips (Roundtrip) and one-way (Flex) journeys increased by 27% after the first lockdown as people sought out cars as their main mode of transport. 52% more journeys were also taken in electric vehicles compared with pre-lockdown behaviour, as people chose the more sustainable option.

How might sustainable living shape transport and travel in the future?

As sustainable living goes mainstream and technology advances, how might the way we travel change in the future?

Less car ownership

empty city centre

Less car ownership

UK car sales for 2020 were the lowest since 1992. This makes sense considering the economy contracted by an unprecedented 20% in the second quarter of 2020, however it could be a sign that car ownership is becoming less desirable. Zipcar’s YouGov survey found that 15% of people outside London were less likely to purchase a car following the first lockdown.

The RAC also found that at the end of September 2020, there were 38.8 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain, a 0.1% decrease compared to the end of September 2019. But this wasn’t an anomaly – it’s the third year on year quarterly decline in licensed vehicles in a row. As more people put sustainable living first, and as more sustainable options such as car sharing go mainstream, owning a car could become a thing of the past.

The rise of electric

2 zipcar electric vehicles charging

The rise of electric

Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular as a more sustainable alternative to petrol and diesel. Sales in electric cars rose 43% globally in 2020, and many reports claim we are close to the ‘tipping point’ of mass adoption. The ban on new petrol and diesel cars in the UK from 2030 as part of the “green industrial revolution” is sure to contribute to this shift. However, lack of access to charging points and the shortage of materials like cobalt, lithium and graphite which are required to produce electric vehicles could mean mass adoption is slower than predicted.

Car-free cities

aerial shot of brighton

Car-free cities

The popularity of car-free cities – cities where cars are banned from the city centre in favour of sustainable public transport – in Europe and other parts of the world has led to the idea being put forward in Brighton. Plans for a “liveable city centre” with an ultra-low emission zone would ban cars from the seafront and other areas in the seaside city. With London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) also due to be expanded from October 2021, the sight of cars in cities could become a thing of the past.

Car sharing

woman renting a zipcar

Car sharing

Could car sharing be the sustainable solution to our transport needs into the future? Each Zipcar takes the place of about 13 personally owned cars, and covers transportation needs of about 40 members – meaning fewer people owning cars outright. In fact, without Zipcar 1 in 4 users would’ve bought a car. And people are joining Zipcar because of our sustainability. Join Zipcar today as part of your sustainability journey.

Predicting the future is never easy, but we’re confident that sustainable living will only become more intrinsic to our lives. As transportation accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, finding more sustainable ways to get around will be a big part of the movement towards a sustainable future which Zipcar is proud to be part of.

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