Lifestyle interlude 1 – the car and getting around

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Now I’ve started this zero-carbon process, I want it all to happen straight away. But I’m learning it doesn’t work like that. It seems I can’t just decide to do something and it happens. It usually takes way longer than I thought. Which makes me think – if the planet needs us all to be doing things to reduce our emissions now, and it requires heaps of effort and perseverance and we can’t see the effects quickly, it’s going to put a lot of people off – and that’s a big problem.

Anyway, while I’m waiting for the LEDs to be installed (still a week away) I thought I’d look at some other things I ‘ve been working on to reduce carbon emissions in four main areas: transport, shopping, recycling, and divestment. How hard can these things be?

Hybrid versus electric cars

I’m a driver. There it is. I drive to work and therefore have carbon emissions from petrol. So how could I reduce my car CO2? We investigated all-electric and hybrid vehicles and about three months ago, after a year of deliberation and research, we swapped the old station wagon for a Prius C, Toyota’s smallest hybrid, roughly the size of a Yaris and around the same price. So far, we’ve averaged less than 5 litres per 100 kms, which is much more fuel-efficient than the old car.

Getting a hybrid rather than an all-electric vehicle was a bit of a compromise and isn’t perfect, but nevertheless it’s a big improvement. We decided charging an all-electric car off the grid wasn’t really saving emissions, even though we’ve chosen the wind and solar option from our electricity supplier. We have solar energy during the day and pay the renewable energy loading on our power bill but it’s still the petrol versus brown coal thing.

bmw i3Plus, electric cars are way more expensive. We test-drove the new BMW i3 and loved it – beautiful to drive, very comfortable and hi-tech, mostly built from recycled materials and most of it can be recycled at the end of its life. But at $80-90,000 it was way out of our price range. There are cheaper EVs on the market but they’re still expensive compared with hybrids, mostly due to the battery cost. Hopefully in the next couple of years electric cars will become cheaper and rooftop solar battery storage will get better and more competitive, and then our next car can be all-electric.

Public transport and bikes
trainAs for public transport – I’ve stayed in cities overseas where cars are unnecessary as the public transport runs so well, but depending on where you live and work in Melbourne it can be really difficult. My partner rides or catches the train to work every day but he works in the city so it’s easy. If I’m going into the city, I’ll catch the train. However, I live in the north-east and work in the west of Melbourne. I’ve tried catching public transport to work and it is sadly inadequate. I have to walk nearly a kilometre to the station, catch a train into the city, change at Flinders St or Southern Cross to another train, and then catch a bus or tram or walk 2 kms at the other end. There was always a wait for connections and I had to leave home nearly an hour earlier to get to work on time.IMG_3411 I tried for a couple of months one summer, but it took too long and I couldn’t keep it up. I have a bicycle but I’m not a confident rider, especially on bike paths shared with cars and it’s too far to ride to my work anyway. So I feel guilty about it, but I drive. At least with the Prius my car emissions are less but I’ll have to work on offsetting them some other way. Melbourne seriously needs better public transport. And some fast train links between Australian capital cities, and to airports would be wonderful too.


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