Driving Along

My first challenge for reducing my consumption this year is going to be driving. It is all about driving at the moment at our place. I have two girls on their L plates. Rosy is going for her L2 license on Saturday, which will then allow her to work towards her P plate test, which means she will be able to drive without a supervisory driver. It takes fifty hours of supervised driving to get P plates in Tasmania. Thankfully so, as most other states require a lot more. Rosy has already done about twenty hours to get her to her first basic driving test. The Girl is just finishing off her fifty hours and has her P plate test in about three weeks. So many driving hours.

I try really hard not to just 'go out driving' with the girls, but make them drive me places we already need to go, but still, it all adds up. I often wonder quite what the point is. A lot of young people all over the developed world are deciding not to learn to drive. If the next generation decides not to learn to drive it will be excellent, as public transportation will become a huge priority. The Girl herself will (hopefully) get her license in February, then go back to university in Melbourne where she doesn't have a car, but gets around on public transport all year.

Maybe my very best option for driving less would be to pretend I can't drive. Or at the very least, treating driving the car like a dreadful embarrassment. The most compelling and hilarious article I have ever read on the stupidity of car use is by Mr Money Mustache. If that doesn't make you feel slightly embarrassed when you hop into the car, nothing will.

Now down to brass tacks.

I was moaning and sighing at the thought of finding all the statistics to do this project, but as it turns out, Mr Google is our friend. Tasmanians drive an average of 11,900kms (7394 miles) per year (stats for other Australian states here). This is lower than the Australian average of 13,800km (8575 miles), just a little lower than  the UK average of 12,700km (7,900 miles) and waaay lower than the US average of 21,687km (13,476 miles).

This is not particularly surprising as Tasmanians are very parochial. We don't stray far from home. When my parents bought a house in the lovely country town of Longford I was appalled to think I would have to be driving nearly half an hour to visit them (of course, this is much closer than South Australia, so all good. And Mum and Dad were very brave to move all the way here and have found a wonderful community in their wee country town. But still half an hour!).

Anyway, I have been doing hard maths sums and have worked out that I drive 7427km (4615 miles) per year. After more hard sums (actually, I needed advice from The Girl for this) I have discovered that I drive 38% less than the average Tasmanian. To drive 90% less I will need to drive only 1190km (739.4 miles) this year. Goodness. That won't get us very far. And next week the girls and I are driving to a friend's shack at the beach for a few days. And the girls are booked in for four hours of driving lessons between them in the next few weeks. In my car. But that's ok. We will work this out.

The truth is, for my daily life I rarely need to use the car. I walk to work. I can walk to any number of local shops to buy food, and most essentially, the library is only ten minutes' walk away. Well, the library and the rest of town as well. The girls catch the bus to school and have lots of friends in walking distance. This was one of the most important considerations when I moved house - to be in walking distance of most of my life.

Ironically, there is a Coles supermarket within walking distance as well. But I swore off shopping at giant supermarket chains last year. Tasmania does have independently owned supermarkets, but there are none within walking distance of me. The wholefoods shop I love where I buy all my bulk dry foods is also about fifteen minutes' drive away, next to the girls' highschool. Last year I cut my trips to the wholefoods shop to once a month, and so I am thinking I could make just one run to the supermarket at the same time for things like cat and dog food and toilet paper. But think of the organisation required! Forward planning is my absolute nemesis.

Driving children to activities is also a big driving black hole. Mind you, there are ways around this. I have been vaguely talking to the hockey mums about carpooling for the last three years. Everyone agrees that is is a good idea, but we haven't quite managed to arrange it yet. This could be the year..

I am beginning to see a pattern here, are you? Not driving as much seems to necessitate a modicum of organisation. Jumping in the car seems so effortless, but the truth is we are using up a finite and precious resource to move a tonne or so of metal and plastic.. to pick up a loaf of bread. It sounds really stupid when put like that..

So this is my plan. Reduce driving to essential trips where there are no other alternatives such as walking or public transport. Explore those other alternatives..

Tell me about your driving patterns. Do you drive more or less than the average in your country? Is there anything that leaps to mind that you could do to save some driving here and there?


Anonymous said…
Hi Jo
I don't keep records on kms, but I'm confident I would be at or near the 10% goal. The bad news is that I do it by being organised. When I know I MUST go into the city I make a mental list of everything I might conceivably have to do before the next trip. So, foodstuffs I can't get here, haircut, visit family, etc etc, all go on the list and get completed in a blur of activity. After which I have a cuppa tea and a rest.

But, I don't have teenagers to transport. The idea of carpooling is really appealing to me. Perhaps you could designate yourself president of the carpool club and bring everybody on board. Spreadsheet optional of course :)

Jo said…
Specks, you are a star! Maybe being out of town helps, because travelling into town is such a huge venture. Living in town it just seems so easy to hop in the car.. such a short trip won't make any difference.. but all those short trips add up. Maybe I can imagine I am living in a cabin in the woods like Ma and Pa Ingalls (or Specks, clearly) and make a list for my monthly car trip! I like that. As you can see, I need stories to make my life function, rather more than spreadsheets. Yes, I will be president of the carpool if that is the only way to make it work, but other people are generally more organised:)

Thanks for your very simple, very clever idea xx it does take a community, doesn't it?
Wendy said…
I drive less than my fellow countrymen (I'm in the US), but a lot more than you. I've looked at my driving habits in the past and ways to cut, but like you, it definitely requires some deep thought on the subject. As an American, driving is not so much a means of transportation, but a birthright. And I'm not saying that *I* feel that way, but that it's the perception of most people I know - that we *need* to be able to drive. My daughter will be 20 in May. The minimum age to learn to drive is 16. Most kids start learning then, and almost all of them have a license before they turn 18. People can't believe she doesn't have a license, yet.

I've looked into the transportation issue in the past and through careful planning, I was able to reduce my mileage. I've really got off track the last two years. You've inspired me to look at my driving again, and see where I can make some changes. Thanks!
Natalie Hausler said…
Very much enjoy your blog. Keep it coming! Xxx
Anonymous said…
Most of our driving comes from road trips on holidays. We love visiting places - currently in Canberra and then off to the Snowy Mountains. Mr S walks to work and we won't be moving while he works. No way does he want to hit Sydney traffic again. During the holidays, if we don't go away, we may not use the car for days, weeks even. We walk up to the shop with our nanna trolley. Restaurants and library are a short 6 min walk. We catch public transport to the city. And we hang out at home.

Of course our use of planes racks up the energy emissions. I have been tempted by the thought of biking to work but the road I have to go along is one of the busiest with lots of double b semis. My life isn't worth the savings. Except for the hills, I'd recommend you get a bike. There are trikes with big baskets front and back. Big enough to bring home a bag of soil!

Menu planning and fortnightly shopping (in other words be organised) may help you. Could you stock up on powdered milk for when you run out? And have some bread in the freezer?
Jo said…
Wendy, I am hearing you on 'driving as a birthright'. Australians appear to feel exactly the same way. We have similar countries - huge distances to cover, sprawling suburbs and terrible public transport in most places.

I think that in order to change my driving habits I need to challenge that 'driving as a birthright' story, which is in my own head too, as I am just as much a product of my culture as everyone else is. In my head, driving is the norm, and if I am feeling exceptionally noble, I walk instead. This is why I like Mr Money Mustache's article - it changes the story. The image of driving a car as a clown in a La-Z-Boy recliner is not going to leave my head any time soon..

Minimalist Aussie, thank you! I will endeavour to do so:)
sarahN said…
Read all your posts just a very sparodic commenter....

So I just bought a car, post my break up. He had a car. Without a car i can't get to water polo which is about a half hour drive. Previous seasons I've had teammates to car pool with and parents, but at 31, it seemed high time I found a more simple solution. A scooter in wet bathers was not one of them, nor was the walk after getting off the bus.

And... I have a work car! I want to have one car and get work to subsidise my car, save one car. But it's far less financially beneficial than the current car which costs me nothing at all, but cannot be driven other than to and from and for work purposes, sigh! And to get a car allowance you need to drive more than 10,000kms per year which, based on this cars log books, I will not achieve! I drive 16km each way to work, and do site visits. The only way would be to game the system and I'm inherently honest.... Grr!
Jo said…
Lucinda, your holidays at home sound divine! I have a nanna trolley too! My children avoid being seen with me when I go out with it:)

Ah yes, menu planning. I do that.. some weeks. Could do better. As you say, it's mostly just making sure we have enough milk. And there is a green grocer's five minutes' walk away that stocks milk and is open five and a half days a week until 6.30 in the evening. It doesn't sound like there should be a problem, does it? We mysteriously ran out of milk at 8pm last night, although I swore we had at least a litre left last time I looked. So The Girl had a little huff, because tea! and walked the dog down to Coles to get some, and while she was out we discovered that Posy had accidentally put the milk in the cupboard! So there is probably no hope for us at all..
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Driving is a problem for me as I live in the middle of nowhere, but the everywhere else still demands that I be to be part of the monetary economy. Mind you, as you may expect, I make every single trip count and so there are always multiple stops along the way. And there is no popping out just to pick up anything at all. You either have it or make do without it. You may be interested to know that shopping is now a six weekly experience and between the local foodworks supermarket and the Queen Vic Market in Melbourne that is about $250 all up. It has taken a big journey to get to that point though and there are diminishing returns with future gains which inevitably involve setting up more growing systems. To forward plan things, I recommend lists so that you can write and forget. I have the memory of a goldfish and can't be bothered remembering all of the details, but I can write detailed notes though and that helps letting things go too. Everyone is different in that regard though.

Hey, berries are so good this year that we picked up two kg of them today and are stewing them up for a strawberry wine brew. It is good stuff and a very high value and low cost product. That many berries will probably produce about 21 bottles. The maths for that is all a bit beyond my poor brain! Hehe!

Well done with the minimal car use too.

Jo said…
Chris, yes, lists. I am the sort of person who writes them, then leaves them at home:( I now have a list that I store in the front pocket of my handbag. Speaking of that, I need to write another list of all the things I need to do when I (walk) into town tomorrow:)

Strawberry wine sounds magnificent, and $250 for 6 weeks of food is brilliant too. Hoping that in a few years of gardening here I can get home grown food a significant part of our diet. It must feel good to be at the other end of that process!
Linda said…
It's great when you can arrange several appointments on one day which justifies the use of the car. Today I have managed to arrange a blood test, a Lecture and Quilt Show followed by a hair cut. Can't take total credit for the arrangements though! The blood test needed to be done today so that was already scheduled. Then I was told about the Lecture and Quilt Show which just happened to be on the same day and fortunately followed the timing of the test absolutely perfectly. I needed a haircut and managed to get an appointment later in the afternoon so with a bit of luck I'll manage to grab a coffee and sandwich before going to the hairdresser's. Oh, and I'll do my weekend supermarket shop too! And a visit to the Post Office! Now feeling quite virtuous! Good luck with your goal of reducing your car usage. It can be done with a lot of planning and a measure of serendipity.
Jo said…
Linda, serendipity indeed! Hope you enjoyed your busy day and had a nice cup of tea and put your feet up at the end. I am thinking I might be able to arrange a 'car day' during the week where I run around and do all my errands that are too far to walk to.. we'll see how it goes:)
Bek said…
I have cut my driving slowly back from daily to and from work (a 45min trip both ways!!!! craziness!) + driving to shops/friends/etc to now once a week 40 minutes regular trip to and from my sport of choice where I teach and train, and the odd trip to friends/family not in biking distance. Which leads me to the best thing ever: bikes! Easily makes the slightly un-walkable distance non-car requiring. My partner and I do the shopping each week with a bike trailer (the type that are usually for lugging kids around, but is great for our shopping) attached to his bike. I would never go back to driving to the shops!
PS I love the MMM article too! One of my favourite blog reads.
Barbara said…
I've never learnt to drive despite growing up in the US
and living in Australia for almost 30 years. I walk and
cycle and, yes, knowing you can't jump into the car at
the last minute, does make you organised! We do own a
car and my husband drives but living in an inner suburb
close to everything makes it easy for do so as little
as possible.
Jo said…
Bek, that is a great story! How did you ditch the driving to work? Change work, work from home, quit work??

I love the bike with trailer combo, I think it is great. Our family has one bike between us. We live on the side of the steepest hill in town, and the rest of town has all the other steep hills. I am very uncoordinated and feel like I might die riding a bike down the hill, and there is no way on earth I could ride up the hill. Truth is I am a whiny scaredy pants about bikes.

I want that to change, but.. it's a bit too scary right now. It is on that shelf in my mind with all the other scary things. But, some of those things I have tackled eventually, so here's to trying new things:)

Barbara, really? You are only the third adult I know who never learned to drive. Kudos to you! You must be extremely healthy and organised. I feel like I want to go and park my car at a friend's house so I can work out ways to get stuff done without driving. Like you, I live in an inner suburb, so almost everything except schlepping heavy loads around can be done on foot. I am discovering that places I thought were too far away to walk to are actually within a half hour's walk - it just means organising appointments so that there is walking time either side. It is taking a little time to reorient to a slower pace.

Thanks for sharing your story. I love hearing that other paths are possible:)
Bek said…
Jo - as much as I would love to quit work (MMM style) I'm a far way off that. I slowly got into biking where I started driving 3/5 of the way and biked the rest (around 5km), then drive half way and bike (around 11kms) then I bit the bullet and I bike the whole way to and from work (22kms). It takes me about an hour each way, but I save time going to the gym and its only 15mins each way more than my commute was. I'd never go back.
But as a beginner I'd consider an electric bike. I'm lucky that there are no hills on my ride, so its not that scary. But with your hills an electric bike would really reduce the work as you build your biking legs. Even MMM has one! Expensive I know, but an investment.

Popular Posts