My family’s carbon footprint is pretty low but it turns out that over half of our household greenhouse gas emissions are a result of driving our car. Literally the carbon comes straight out of our car’s exhaust pipe. We emit about 4.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide from driving around 15000 miles per year in a 1.9litre diesel engine car. The UK average is only 7400 miles a year. And we thought we were eco warriors! Oh dear.
Now I have may have over estimated a little on the mileage we cover, especially after last year and the coronavirus lockdowns, when travel was very much limited, but it’s a good approximation of what our miles might be this coming year.
We have discussed getting rid of the car before. It does make up our single largest household financial expense. Once we pay for insurance, tax, MOT test, maintenance (oil, tyres etc) and diesel we are into thousands of pounds every year. That doesn’t include the cost of replacing the car when it finally goes to the great scrap yard in the sky.
However despite this we really enjoy the car. It gives a huge amount of freedom. Partly why our mileage is higher than average is that we don’t fly for our holidays. We’ve explored lots of places in the UK and loved our ‘staycation’ trips. We even go camping in our own County for a holiday. If the weather is good there isn’t a need to go far. However the various journeys do add up.
We also live fairly rural and it’s a hassle walking miles to get to the bus stop along a main and potentially dangerous road. Not having the car would definitely lower our life happiness.
Public transport is always the other option but it is expensive and inconvenient. A family ticket to our local town (about 5 miles away) is £18 return and we have to walk a mile and a half to the bus stop to catch the bus. In comparison the car costs £1.80 in fuel for the same return trip door to door. On top of this when you actually work out the carbon emissions, a fully occupied car (5 people) has a lower carbon footprint than the bus on a per passenger basis. If the bus is empty or only has a few passengers (which it is quite often) it’s emissions are actually huge compared to the car.
So we are keeping the car for now. We could change the type of car. An electric vehicle may lower emissions but it depends where that electricity comes from. We can’t charge up at home as our small off grid system won’t be enough so it would have to be at a supermarket or service station charge point. A bit inconvenient and we have no choice if the electricity used there comes from renewable sources or not. Also there is the embodied energy (and it’s associated carbon emissions) in the newer vehicle. So far we have only bought older cars and fixed them up. We are the last stop before they get too broken to fix anymore and ultimately get scrapped (bangernomics some call it).
So the best I can think of is to apply the ecosuffciency principles every time (or as best I can remember!) we use the car. Is the trip needed or worthwhile? Is there some way that it could be done better (and not be so polluting)? One thing that immediately springs to mind is dropping the children off to school. This puts at least 1000 miles per year on the car. It is 2 miles each way to the school drop off point (they catch the school minibus ironically). If only there was a way of getting 3 young children on a bicycle? Could be fun project.