Living Car-Free: Is it Worth it?

What could be more Albertan than a snow storm hitting the city two days into my car free trial? What could be more frustrating than injuring my knee two weeks before I commit to going car free? But a little bit of snow wasn’t about to stop me (or the many other Edmontonians who kept walking and cycling during this short reminder of winter weather).

Spring snowstorm photos: Tom Young

To be honest, I thought I would have an easier time with this whole experiment. I have lived in Edmonton without a car and managed just fine with public transit and my bike in the past so I was quite surprised when I added up my mileage and discovered that, although I had not personally driven anywhere, I had accumulated the same amount of car kilometres as I had cycling kilometres. I was even more surprised, this time pleasantly, to learn that my bike and walking trips had saved me $50 regardless of whether I would have normally used the car or taken the bus.

Overall, I avoided four trips in the car as the only occupant (I car pooled instead); three car trips were completely avoided (including walking to and from the Muttart bedding plant sale with an armful of plants); and I avoided seven bus trips (walking or biking instead).

Here’s what I found most interesting though: spending time walking and cycling increased the time I spent with my husband because we would arrange to meet and then travel home together, something we wouldn’t do with either the bus or the car. And showing up on my bike to visit my three-year-old niece inspired her to practice riding her bike in the basement. We would have gone outside except for the snow on the ground. It also improved my mood and when I got home from each trip I was more willing to do other activities, like cleaning, because of my increased overall activity level.

So how much did I reduce my footprint by? Well, I started with a footprint of 7.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide. If I was to consistently maintain the reduced car trips that I did for the past two weeks my footprint would be 6.5 tonnes of CO2. The reduced number of trips on public transit would further reduce my footprint by 0.1 tonnes for a total of 6.4 tonnes.

Not bad. If I was to pay an organization to offset this amount it would cost between $140 and $240 depending on which organization I chose. I’m going to keep trying to reduce my footprint though, rather than offset it. Mission #2 is no meat.

If you are looking for some resources or events relating to reducing car trips in Edmonton check out the 2009 Local Motion project in Parkallen and Park(ed) Day on June 19th.

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About the Author
Tai Munro
Tai is currently one of two CO2RE Coordinators. She works in the community on reducing carbon dioxide emissions through education, outreach, and incentives. In her spare time, she is also working towards her PhD, focusing on climate change education. With anything that is left, you'll find her outside with either camera or sports equipment in hand.
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