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?