Embracing Greener Travel: How I’m Reducing My Car Carbon Footprint

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When I used an online carbon calculator to measure my carbon footprint for the first time this January, travel was by far my worst category. It accounted for approximately 41% of my total emissions- which is more than all the food I ate in 2019 and all the electricity & gas I used at home. 😱 Chances are, if you own a car or take a lot of taxis and fly a lot like I do, then you’ll be in the same boat.

So this January, it only made sense that I kickstart my resolution to reduce my carbon footprint by 45% this year by embracing greener travel. How easy will this be? Honestly, it won’t be. Particularly when I may have already blown my budget.

A rock wallaby at Granite Gorge in the Atherton Tablelands, Australia // travelmermaid.com

In 2019, most of my travel CO2 emissions were from five flights which made my footprint Hulk-sized. This was even modest compared to the 10 flights I took in 2018!

If I was going to be an A* student, to achieve my goal this year I would have flown less & used more sustainable airlines. Except last October I already booked a trip to Europe to see my family who I haven’t seen in three years. And on that trip we’re taking a total of six flights 😳.

So mate, I’m not a mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that already puts me in a deficit!

Silk Airlines flight approaching Cairns Airport in North Queensland // travelmermaid.com

Over the past couple of months I’ve therefore been looking at other ways I can improve on my 2020 travel emissions. Although not perfect, I’m planning on carbon offsetting all my flights from this year and will research good, legit companies to use. I’ve also been researching sustainable airlines quite heavily.

We’re still some time away from air travel reaching net zero, however there have been some positive developments over the past decade with ambitious targets set over the next 10 years. I look forward to sharing that information with you soon.

For now though, I’ve brought myself a green set of second-hand wheels! 🙌🏼

Reducing my car carbon footprint with a bike- on Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, Australia // travelmermaid.com

Reducing my car carbon footprint…with a bike!

The last time I lived in Port Douglas, the Sailor and I only had a bicycle to get around and we really missed it. We bought him a bike last year with the intention of taking it up again, so now we can cycle together like the good old days.

Port Douglas is quite remote & there’s no public transport so we still use the car for our weekly food shops and whenever we leave town. January is also when the wet season really starts kicking in, so I’m not going to lie, a few times we drove when there was an epic-level tropical downpour outside. I also crashed by bike twice on the way home in the dark one night and sprained my foot, so that set me out for a few days! 🙈

And to top it off, January is bang in the middle of summer and this year it’s been the hottest one in decades with multiple heatwaves. But still, for all other trips it’s been pure pedal power and I’ve just accepted that permanent sweaty look, 3 showers per day & multiple changes of clothes.

Reducing my car carbon footprint with a bike- on Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, Australia // travelmermaid.com
Riding on the sand is also much harder than it looks!

I realise that for most of you, travelling by bicycle everyday is impossible. You may live far away from work, or somewhere remote, or have young children. So there’s a few other ways we can reduce our car carbon footprint at home and whilst travelling…

  1. Buying an electric or hybrid car. I’m going to try and hire one when we travel back to England this year, and for our next car I’ll look into hybrid alternatives.
  2. Car pooling or using public transport. In Port Douglas we don’t have public transport, but I’ll be using public transport as much as possible when we visit London & Prague in May.
  3. Good old fashioned walking. I must admit that for the past two years living in Kuala Lumpur, I was terrible with taxi travel! It was always scorching hot and I used to live up a mammoth hill so I always ordered a taxi home, even though it was only a 10 minute walk away! Otherwise I love walking and have been doing lots of it since moving back to Oz.
  4. Harnessing the wind baby! Lol, perhaps a tad tricky for most of us to achieve but I loved the whacky element of this one. 👇🏼This is a video of Bretto from Windswell land-boarding here in Port Douglas.

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And finally, some number crunching…

To calculate my car carbon emissions from last year, I used The Australian Government’s Green Vehicle Guide. They take data like your car’s CO2 emissions, fuel consumption, KM’s travelled & fuel price to give a pretty accurate estimate. Of course, no calculator will be exact and each website varies greatly, but this one is the best I’ve found if you have that information to hand.

Last year, my car’s CO2 levels came out at 0.79 tonnes of CO2 since July when I bought her.

Before that, I was travelling mainly by taxi with the odd hire car in Kuala Lumpur. As I don’t know the data for all those cars, which I believe were generally not as fuel efficient as mine, I used MyClimate.org as a rough estimate. In KL, my car emissions came to 0.95 tonnes of CO2.

So last year my overall CO2 emissions totalled 1.7 tonnes. This year I’ll be looking at reducing my car carbon footprint to 0.95 tonnes. Do you think it’s achievable? 🤔

By reducing my car carbon footprint, my petrol consumption has almost halved // travelmermaid.com

I’ve calculated that using my bicycle alone should save 0.32 tonnes of CO2 in 2020, and I didn’t need to refuel my car for over 5 weeks since beginning this resolution (before, we’d easily top her up every 3 weeks), so I think we’re on the right path.

At Thala Beach Lodge in Port Douglas, Australia // travelmermaid.com

Overall, I’ve honestly- not kidding you- been a lot happier since riding again. Not only do I feel good knowing I’m helping the environment in a small way, but I’m getting fitter, have more down-time to think and don’t always feel like I’m in a hurry.

Plus, cycling in Port Douglas is a constant attack of the senses. It’s hard to fully appreciate these gorgeous surroundings when you’re cooped up inside a metal case. Aside from the striking jungle-clad mountain views or Coral Sea to gawp at, fleets of birds come to swoop by you and all around town is the sound of their chirping. The tropical air also smells fragrant with ocean spray, flowers and mangroves. I love it.

So if you ever come here, you should try and ride a bike at least once! 🤙🏻

View of Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas from Flagstaff Hill Lookout- Queensland, Australia // Travel Mermaid

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Tip: Most hotels in Port Douglas hire bicycles for free, or you can rent one from Bike Shop & Hire in town.

Do you cycle, or have tips for me to keep on reducing my car carbon footprint even more? Comment below to share your secrets!

XOXO
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Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.

Anita Desai

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