Days 18, 19 & 20 of 365 Days Of Low Carbon Living.
Sometimes you don’t much option but to travel by car.
Yet, currently, car travel usually means more damage to our climate and to the quality of our local air, water and land. (That’s because at the moment almost all of our cars are not powered by clean, renewable energy-generated electricity.) It’s worst when each person drives their own car without any passengers.
So, how can we reduce the damage caused when we travel by car?
Check out these case studies of car travel on three different days for ideas.
1 On the first day, a nearby friend and I needed to go to some training where the nearest bus stop is 20-30 minutes walk away…through conditions inhospitable to pedestrians…on a very warm day.
In contrast, the journey by car would take 5-10 minutes By bike it would take about 20 minutes for me and 25-30 minutes for my friend.
2 On the second day, I was planning on travelling by bus to a mid-to-late morning meeting and then to another appointment. Normally that’s what I would gave done, and I would have made extra use of my travel time by working on the bus.
However, there were some complicating factors:
- A couple who live fairly close to me were going to the same meeting.
- The day was forecast to be very hot.
- Since recent route changes, we now have 10-20 minute walks to the bus.
- We had not seen each other since before Christmas and they were keen to catch up.
3 On the third day, I had a gathering to attend in a nearby suburb. In the 39 degree Celsius heat, a 1 1/4 hour walk or 25-30 minute bike ride were not healthy options for me and I was unable to drive my car there.
What I did
1 On the first day, I picked up my friend in my car. The whole carpooling journey took less than 10 minutes door to door, including the couple of minutes for her to get in the car.
Just waiting for a taxi or share ride would probably have taken at least that amount of time as well as meaning less flexibility for us on the return journey.
So we made use of one of our existing cars and halved the petrol used and damage done compared with each of us driving.
We also arrived at our destination and back again safely and in a fit state to be able to do what we needed to do – instead of being very hot and tired from travelling by bus and foot or by bike.
2 On the second day, I agreed to accept a lift with the couple.
I didn’t press the case for us all going by bus because I thought they wanted to talk in confidence while we travelled. The heat added wait to my choice. (Never mind about my second journey the meeting was due to conclude in plenty of time for me to catch a bus to it.)
As it turned out, we didn’t talk much in the car. I had clearly misread the cues…and my main reason for carpooling with them was destroyed.
It also emerged that they had been travelling by bus a lot recently. The new bus route is further for us all to reach (now about 10-15 minutes’ walk) but they do not face the steepness and lack of shelter that I do. And they have been liking bus travel so much (especially the improved frequency) that they have been considering getting rid of their (troublesome) cars.
It turned out that the meeting ran overtime and I would have had to leave before it finished to catch the bus to my subsequent appointment. So I caught a lift back with my friends and then drove to the nearby suburb in time for my appointment. (I would have been late if I had waited for a cab or share ride.) Amazingly, I also managed to park right at the door of where my appointment was!
Travelling with them by car therefore meant more pollution and that I lost work time on the bus. We also had to pay for parking and they had a hot car for the return journey. On the flip side, the car travel enabled me to leave a little later for the meeting, talk a little with my companions, stay for the whole meeting, and make my next appointment.
3 On the third day, I decided that bus travel was going to be too much of a strain on me and ruin my experience of the event I was attending.
That meant some sort of shared car travel.
I was pretty sure that at least one person near me would be going to the same event but I couldn’t think who…so that meant that carpooling wasn’t an option.
That left taxi or share ride as the remaining viable options. (Travel to a share car or hire car would make those options more onerous than bus travel – and worse for the environment and my hip pocket.)
For guaranteed fuel efficiency, safety and fairness, I chose to take a cab. It was wonderfully air conditioned, so I arrived at my event much cooler than when I set out – and much cooler than if I had gone by bus. (As well as walking to the bus, I would have had to wait about 15 mins in the heat – albeit shaded – to change buses.)
At the event I met the person with whom I would have carpooled if I had remembered them. They gave me a lift back in their small car. We were able to chat and, because their car is so small, it probably used less fuel than a cab ride.
Why – and why now?
Transport is a major source of the pollution that damages our climate and air quality. As electricity generation shifts away from coal and fossil gas and oil, transport will account for an increasing proportion of pollution – unless we rapidly shift away from fuel-based transport.
Air-conditioning in cars uses even more energy and thus more fuel in most of our current cars. It also uses refrigerants that are the most powerful causes of damage to our climate.
All that means more damage to our climate, and the consequences of damage to our climate are accelerating and worse than predicted.
Another reason for reducing single-user car travel is the amount of cars on the road. Each one takes climate damaging processes and energy to make, and each one uses up space on roads and in carparks. Those roads and carparks:
- are made with materials and processes that damage the climate
- create ‘heat islands’ in summer; they absorb and re-radiate heat, making their local environment much hotter
- take water away from the area, instead of it being allowed to soak into the soil – to the detriment of soil and plant health (especially trees)
The faster we use cars less, the faster fewer cars will be on the road, so the faster less road will be needed…and the faster our urban areas will become more people and nature friendly (designed for people and nature rather than cars), less expensive to construct and maintain, and less of heat islands in summer.
Ask yourself two questions for each car trip you usually do or are planning to do:
- Do I really need to travel by car or could I travel by another means that causes less damage, like public transport, walk or bike?
- When I need to travel by car, do I need to drive alone? Could I travel with someone else (carpool or give other people a lift) or catch a cab or share ride?
Any change or challenge is easier if you have company along the way.
So let’s embark on this journey together.
- Read my blog every day for ideas, thoughts and experiences for living a lower carbon lifestyle, more in harmony with nature – while also adapting to the consequences of our damaged climate.
- Subscribe to get posts direct to your inbox.
- Commit to taking action yourself.
- Add a comment to let me know you’re joining in the effort to turn around our world so it can remain liveable – and what your experiences are.
- Share with others my posts and what you’re doing – our efforts, progress, experiences and challenges – on Facebook, on Twitter, in conversations with friends, on talkback radio and in letters to the editor.
A problem shared is a problem halved. We’re all affected by the changes to our world so we need to be all in on the action!
Till next time…