Road trips and carbon emissions, the conundrum

Last week I wrote a post about a recent road trip we did and shared some ideas to reduce waste. This time I simply want to address the elephant in the room: carbon emissions.

 

I must admit that every time we talk about holidays or trips, we feel a bit conflicted about the emissions, for us it is a real conundrum because I honestly love travelling and exploring, and I know many people also enjoy this type of experiences.

Today I am just sharing some thoughts about this topic and some alternatives to consider.

Greenhouse gases

I think it is fair to say that everyone has at least heard the words “climate change” and “global warming”. It is all over the news, these days even kids area doing school strikes for climate.

The amount of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, that human activity is releasing into the environment is causing major changes in this planet. Read this BBC article if you want to learn more.

The fuel we use in our cars (and air travelling) is a big carbon emitter. For instance, according to US EPA website, transportation alone accounts for 28% of their greenhouse gas emissions which is quite significant.

Road

So unfortunately, every time we use our cars we are contributing to the problem and if you are like me and you are trying to do your best to minimise your impact, this reality is hard to swallow.

To travel or not to travel

That’s the question and there isn’t a “one-size fits all solution” for everyone.

I am not a purist, if you have read my story you know I don’t live in a mountain in a little cottage off-the-grid. I have a regular life in a big city and do my best to navigate between modern busy life and sustainability.

My answer is always minimise as much as possible. 

I don’t own an electric car yet which is a limitation (I hope they become more common and affordable and we can make the switch, especially now that we have solar panels installed at home and part of our electricity comes from this clean source) however, I try to reduce my emissions when possible:

  • I commute to work by train and use public transport when possible.
  • I use my car locally around 80% of the time (e.g. I buy my groceries in the suburb I live, I try to run errands and do everything we need around this area of the city)
  • We try to limit our air travelling, especially transpacific long flights (I’ll write a separate post about this topic).
  • We only own 1 car in the house, if we all need it at the same time it means someone will have to compromise somehow.

So when it comes to a road trip, I just go with it. We don’t do these trips several times per year, so for us it is about balancing it against all the other things that we actually do to reduce our emissions. 

Again everyone is different, we all have different lives, problems, limitations, life circumstances, what works for me perhaps won’t for you and that’s ok, that’s life.

I wish I could have all the answers, I wish I could live carbon neutral, I wish it was easy, I wish…. but it is not, it is complicated!

So, I am kind to myself and I do the best I can.

Options to minimise emissions from trips

 

 

Offset emissions

 

A good option to reduce our footprint is to carbon offset. This is the definition from CarbonFootPrint website:

“A Carbon offset is a way to compensate for your emissions by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere. Our everyday actions, at home and at work, consume energy and produce carbon emissions, such as driving, flying and heating buildings. Carbon offsetting is used to balance out these emissions by helping to pay for emission savings in other parts of the world.”

So basically, you support projects that help prevent greenhouse emissions or capture CO2 from the environment. Also you are helping local communities often in developing countries to improve their quality of life.   

Of course offsetting emissions to avoid reducing our emissions wont’ take us far. I see it as a complement to the rest of the efforts we can do to adjust our lifestyle. 

So for this last trip we did, the first step was to estimate the kilometres we drove, roughly. I did it using GoogleMaps. The total I got was around 1420 km.

Then I used some carbon calculator to know the equivalent in CO2. I checked several to ensure the number was roughly the same. I like these two:

CarbonFootPrint.com

CarbonNeutral.com

These calculators consider factors like the size of the car – it is not the same to drive a large pick-up truck to a small car. 

Then I got my number: 0.28 tonnes of CO2e.

There are many places online that allow you to offset your emissions.  It is important to make sure the projects you are supporting are actually certified and they will deliver the results they claim.

For that reason I like Gold Standard, which is basically a framework that certifies offset projects under rigorous standards, to ensure these actions really reduce emissions and have a positive impact on local communities. 

In the website you can actually see the projects they have certified and you can buy carbon credit.

Even when our emissions were only 0.28, I decided to buy 2 tonnes of CO2 to support a Wind Power Project in India.

 

Hire an electric car

It is funny that during this recent trip I was saying to my husband: “I wonder if here in Australia we could hire an electric car for trips like this“. For some reason I had never considered it and guess what? Yes, we can.

My doubt was mainly because I haven’t seen a lot of infrastructure for electric vehicles here, it is uncommon seeing a place to charge electric vehicles (perhaps because I have never looked for them) but actually there are.

I did a bit of research the other day and found this map that shows charging stations all around the country. Tesla also have a map with charging stations for their cars. So with a bit of preparation, this seems totally achievable.

Then the next important part is the car: How do I get one? well, I discovered a website called Evee where you can hire an electric car from individuals – it is similar to AirBnb but for electric cards instead of accommodation.

There seems to be cars listed in the main cities, you get reviews from other people and their FAQ section is quite good. Overall, I think it is a great option, the only limitation would be the financial component (considering that we already own a car), but definitely something to consider for future trips.

If you are reading from other countries, I am sure there are similar options, so ask Mr Google and see what’s available locally. 

“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”- Dr Jane Goodall

That’s it for today. Let me know in the comments below: Do you use your car very often? Have you ever considered a carbon offset method? let me know in the comments below and share with friends and family. 

Let’s connect on social media. These are my accounts:

 

Thanks for reading,

Diana

By | 2019-04-26T10:33:56+11:00 March 29th, 2019|Reflections, Travel|0 Comments

About the Author:

I am Diana. I write about my journey trying to live a greener lifestyle and how we collectively can make a difference revisiting our beliefs and daily habits, learning more about the environment and being an active participant.

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