One of the engineers gave us a presentation on a concept they used when considering sustainability – one less thing. As important as new technology is, sometimes it is considering what can be removed that leads to the greatest innovations.
Like all Australian 18 year olds, having just obtained my drivers licence I was reluctant to stop driving and give up my hard earned freedom. Plus I had a million excuses why I couldn’t:
- I lived 20 kilometres from uni and taking public transport took at least twice as long as driving
- I worked early mornings and late nights, getting there any other way would be dangerous
- I lived at the bottom of a massive hill!
Just as a side note, shall we have a look at some of the impacts of driving? I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, but I couldn’t resist including some graphs (I am an engineer after all). This one, from the Australian Government Climate Change Authority shows the significant contribution that light vehicle (aka car) use makes to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The comparative contributions of public transport seem tiny!
It is interesting to note that this data will really depend on where you live. Unfortunately in Melbourne the electricity that powers our trains is very polluting as its mostly from brown coal. Also our bus system often operates below capacity, which means there are less people to share the emissions between. The data I have collated in this graph is from a University of Melbourne study (if you are keen to recreate it, I have averaged all the values in Table 10).
But one chilly morning my dad helped me put some lights on it and I struggled through the 3km ride to work. But I survived, and I grew in confidence. That summer I had the time and freedom to ride everywhere, and by the time uni started the next year I was ready to tackle the daunting 20km commute.
Several years later, cycling has become a habit that I love. It brings me so much happiness to whiz past gridlocked cars and packed trams on my way to work. It started as one less thing – but cycling has had more benefits for me than I had imagined.
What’s your one less thing? If there is something in your life that you have changed or are considering changing for the greener, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.