What’s the environmental impact of unnecessarily driving the school run?

Plus 5 top tips to make the school run easier



Stressing out about the school run? You’re not alone: our new research found that two-fifths of parents (38%) find the school run stressful.

At 100Green, we have plenty of parents who work here and fully understand the struggles of getting the kids ready for school in the morning. We know that the weekday mornings are hard enough without the added stress of actually getting them there.

By the time parents factor in wake-up calls, uniforms, packing bags, and scoffing down some breakfast, the school bell is nearly ringing, leaving millions of parents across the country feeling like they’ve no time to do anything else but pack the kids into the car and drive them there.

In light of Walk to School Week 2024, we’ve surveyed parents and found that despite 8 in 10 parents in the UK saying they’re able to walk their children to school, nearly two-fifths (37%) of them still drive. 1

Even though many parents across the UK find the school run stressful, our research also found that a resounding 7 in 10 (68%) parents say they find walking to school beneficial for both their own, and their children’s mental health when they do it.

Our research also shows that half (47%) parents across the country consciously want to do the right thing, saying they wish they walked their children to school more often.

But just how much CO2 is caused by British parents driving to school in the morning when they live close enough to walk?

As a result of these unnecessary drives to school, parents in the UK rack up 8,760 tonnes of CO2 EACH WEEK on journeys that they say they could walk – or 341,640 tonnes of CO2 over the course of the school year (39 weeks).

Across the country, that’s more than 140 MILLION unnecessary emissions caused by driving to and from schools each year.

For context, that’s enough annual CO2 to cover over 81,000 people in the UK’s annual emissions – or enough to cover everyone living in a town as big as Scunthorpe…

If even a quarter of these driven journeys were switched to walking, 85,410 tonnes of CO2 would be saved each year. That’s enough to cover over 20,000 cars 2 for an entire year.

If we increase this to a third of these journeys walked, we’d be able to save 113,880 tonnes of CO2 – savings big enough to cover the charging of over 7.5 BILLION smartphones.

Cutting out unnecessary car emissions is one of the easiest ways to reduce our environmental impacts, but that’s easier said than done. So, what school morning routine changes can they make to let this happen?

Five tried-and-tested tips for making the school morning routine and run easier (and greener)

Our previous research found that 4 in 5 (83%) people in the UK think their personal impact is important when it comes to supporting the UK’s journey to net zero.

And while it’s all very well for us to say how bad these unnecessary drives on the school run can be for the environment, it’s another thing actually putting any school morning routine changes into practice with little ones.

When it comes to making the school run greener, it can be easy to think you have to take an “all or nothing” approach, but just like setting up any new habits, you’re always more likely to stick to them if you implement your changes gradually. However, the team at 100Green wants to stress that no one starts their green journey as an A+ eco pupil.

What truly matters in your journey to a more sustainable lifestyle is making small, realistic changes to your routine that you enjoy. Why not use this Walk to School Week as a bit of a couch-to-school challenge? Spend the month of May (which is also National Walking Month) working up the number of journeys you walk the children to school, eventually getting up to all 10 journeys.

We’ve teamed up with Georgina Sturmer, Counsellor, MBACP to offer parents across the UK 5 tried-and-tested tips on how to keep the school run stress-free, simple and green. Check them out below.

1. Build in a buffer zone

Georgina says: Being late or in a rush adds an extra layer of stress to a situation. So, try making sure that you add a few minutes as a buffer to your journey if you can. It might feel difficult to leave slightly earlier, but you’ll thank yourself for it if you get stuck in traffic or something unexpected happens.

The parents at 100Green say: : A great way to ensure you have a buffer zone is to plan ahead. Instead of sorting lunches and uniforms out in the morning, try to set aside 10-15 minutes doing it the night before. Once you’re in the routine of it, and not rushing around in the AM, it will feel like an easier job.

If your children are old enough, why not try encouraging them to get their own clothes ready the night before. Over time, as children build routines, they’ll be able to complete them with less help.

2. Set clear boundaries and responsibilities

Georgina says: : If your children are old enough to take on specific responsibilities and follow set timings, then it’s useful to establish some ground rules and boundaries. That way, it’s everyone’s responsibility to get ready in time, and it doesn’t just fall on your shoulders.

The parents at 100Green say: :While it’s often easier said than done, know where to set your expectations with your own children. For example, most 10-year-olds should be capable of organising themselves from bed to the front door with little help (apart from the odd timing reminder).

The anticipation of a small reward goes a long way. For example, allowing them to hold the dog lead on the school run, or choose the pudding for dinner.

3. Avoid seeking perfection

Georgina says: : We all have an idea of what the perfect family school run might look like. As parents, when we try to seek an idealised perfection, it can make us feel anxious or insecure.

The reality is that we all have good days and bad days, and as parents, we just need to try our best to be ‘good enough’, not perfect. If we can embrace the possibility of imperfection, then it can buy us some time and some energy when we are trying to get everybody ready.

The parents at 100Green say: :We know it’s not realistic for everyone to live a 100% green lifestyle. What’s more important is to give yourself grace to be a normal human being, without giving yourself a hard time about it.

Maybe you opted to swing by Greggs for breakfast because there wasn’t enough milk for everyone’s cereals - don’t beat yourself up!

4. Think about your own morning routine

Georgina says: : It might feel as if mornings are just a process of sorting everybody else out. Is there time to do something for yourself when you start your day?

If so, build it in and make it a non-negotiable. Even if it’s just a long peaceful shower without needing to cater to anyone else’s needs, or a few minutes of screen-free time when you wake up in the morning.

The parents at 100Green say: While it can seem daunting at first if it’s not part of your normal routine, getting up just an extra 10-15 minutes before you normally do can give you a little extra me-time to gather your thoughts and set your mood for the day. Give it a go and see what the extra 10 minutes could do for your mental state.

5. Build a support network

Georgina says: : Life doesn't always go to plan, and sometimes we need to lean on the support of fellow parents. Be open to the idea of asking for help, and offering it in return.

We might not always need other people’s help, but it can be reassuring to know that it’s there if we need it.

The parents at 100Green say: You’d be surprised how many other parents are in the same boat as you, wishing they could ask for support, but are too afraid to do so. Being the first to start these conversations with your parent peers can be scary, but by doing so, you’ll be opening up a channel of communication that will greatly benefit everyone.

You could suggest setting up a WhatsApp group for parents to request support like pick-ups or date night cover, or even set up a walk-to-school club with parents nearby.


1 Survey research was conducted via a 3Gem survey of 600 parents (18+) who take their school-age children to school. The survey was conducted between 3rd and 5th April 2024. The survey results were analysed in RAW format. Data was cleaned for the purpose of the analysis with 14 results being removed as they had either more or less than 10 journeys throughout the week.

2 comparisons calculated using https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator

CO2 & Estimated Figure Calculations: : In our survey, we asked parents if they were able to walk their children to school (also if they were within walking distance), to which 80.2% said they could.

We then looked at our survey data, which showed us the number of journeys to and from school undergone by each transport method (walk, bus, car, cycle).

From here, we were able to multiply the number of journeys by the distance from school to get an estimate of the number of miles travelled by each mode of transport. These numbers could then be used to calculate the CO2 produced across the unnecessary journeys (where parents told us they could walk) in the UK each week.

To calculate these figures, the average grams of CO2 produced by each mode of transport by the total number of miles travelled each week by people who say that they are able to walk their children to school (and it’s within walking distance).

Infographic 1: : The unnecessary 8,760 tonnes of CO2 per week refers to school run journeys taken by both car and bus (7,310 by car and 1,450 by bus). ‘More than 140 million miles’ refers to 3,592,743 weekly unnecessary miles and 140,116,977 over the school year.

Infographic 2: : The average person in the UK causes 4.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, thus making the CO2 from unnecessarily driven school journeys enough to cover 81,343 people’s total emissions for the year. Scunthorpe has a population of 81,286.