Making the commutes count

Making the commutes count

I’ve spent many carless years throughout my life. No, it’s not a typo, I really mean that I lived without a car for many years. At least 10 years if I only count times when the whole household did not have a car. 

Obviously part of the reason for this choice was that it’s cheaper. Another key reason was to reduce my environmental impact. Georges, whose primary concern is to encourage others to be healthy, views it a bit differently. He points out that promoting health and well being are two other major reasons why we should opt for a car-free commute.

There were other elements in my background that contributed to the feeling that not owning a car was normal. My parents grew up in the Nice area in France, during WW2 and always went about on bikes when they were young, they kept this love of cycling and transmitted it to me. Also, I’ve been a nature lover from childhood and then became a wildlife biologist so I was also sensitive to the problem of emissions. All things considered, you could say that I was always in an environment where being car-free was a no brainer. 

Of course most people around me didn’t live like that but I never discussed it with them or tried to encourage them to use their car a bit less. I assumed that the environmental (and health) choice is an individual one and that I should show the way rather than push it onto others. 

Well, we’re now in 2019 and I’m old enough to remember the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. This was when the first Climate Change Convention was ratified, which then led to the Kyoto protocol. I remember well the hope that we felt in those days. I now realise and see first hand that not only is climate change happening in front of our eyes but that we are on the edge of a cascade of events that doesn’t look good for life on Earth. I am convinced we should all to be taking immediate action to mitigate our impact. 

So after years of aiming to lead a lifestyle with as low an environmental impact as possible, yet not talking much about it, I have decided it is time to change. I have decided to share more about positive ways that can make you and the planet feel better.

Let’s start with one of my aims for 2019. Namely to keep track of how much CO2 our family produces through transport and how much I save thanks to cycling or walking commutes. 

So I just calculated how much we drove and how much I cycled for commuting purposes in March.

I actually can’t believe our car mileage: 1521 km! I used a Carbon Footprint calculator to estimate how much CO2 this produced and found we released about 430 kg of CO2 in the atmosphere just by driving.  On the positive side, I cycle-commuted 141 km, which amounts to about 40 kg of CO2 saved.

A conservative estimate is that you need to plant 15 trees for every tonne of CO2 emitted. Our emissions haven’t yet reached a tonne but at some point this year, I will make sure that enough trees are planted to compensate our 2019 driving CO2 emissions.

So yes, my focus will be to show our planet some love by planting trees and helping protect existing forests. Trees are good for the soul.

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