Post by Debbie Firestone
AUSTRALIANS own more cars than any other nation except the USA. In Australia, the transport sector accounts for 80.4 million tonnes (or about 14%) of our total greenhouse pollution. More than half of this comes from cars*.
Leaving the car at home and walking, riding, car-pooling, or catching public transport is a simple way to take action against human-induced climate change. If every vehicle owner in NSW drove an average of 1 kilometre less each day, we’d save up to 130 million litres of fuel each year. Every litre of petrol you avoid keeps 2.6kg of CO2 out of the atmosphere**.
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The great news is, almost 90 percent of people in regional areas live within easy walking or cycling distance of a local centre, with access to shops, schools, and workplaces***. In our region, many of us prefer ‘active transport’. 15% of people walk or cycle regularly, particularly young people and people in the 45 – 54 age bracket****.
Walking is a great form of gentle exercise. To stay healthy, we need 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity. Walking to work or with the kids to school part can build regular exercise into your daily routine.
Cycling is great for short trips, as well as being easy, environmentally friendly, very cheap and a great way to keep fit. Bike riding is growing in popularity in New South Wales, with well over one million people cycling in a typical week.
Are you going my way?
Carpooling to work or study is a simple and effective way of reducing your carbon footprint, and there are free online services to help you find someone to share your commute. The Northern Rivers Carpool has over 1,600 members and designated carpool spaces in public car parks.
Using public transport has immediate environmental advantages and avoids extra costs associated with private vehicles, such as parking fees, fuel and vehicle maintenance. Sit back while someone else does the driving, and read a book, catch up with correspondence, news or personal admin on your mobile device, or just relax. Walking or cycling to and from public transport is also an opportunity to exercise.
Whenever you do have to use your car, check out these great tips to minimise your vehicle’s effect on the environment and save yourself money at the same time*****:
• Avoid short trips. Emissions from cars are greatest when an engine is cold; a petrol car can take up to 10km to warm up and operate at maximum efficiency.
• Avoid rapid acceleration, long periods of idling and braking hard. These will all increase your fuel consumption. Get into the habit of allowing the car to coast up to the red light ahead.
• Check your tyre pressure. Monthly checks will ensure low tyre pressures aren’t costing you more money in extra fuel use.
• Eco-friendly cars. Do you really need a four-wheel drive for the grocery run? See the Green Vehicle Guide to the carbon and air pollution emissions of new vehicles.
• Hybrid vehicles. Petrol/electric vehicles use up to 50 per cent less fuel than conventionally powered vehicles and produce up to 80 per cent lower emissions. For more information, refer to the NRMA .
• Keep your engine properly maintained. Regular oil and air filter changes will keep your car’s fuel consumption to a minimum, and means the fuel you use burns better and pollutes less.
• Lower your wind resistance. Anything fixed to the outside of the car, such as a roof rack or bull-bars, increases wind resistance and fuel consumption, so if possible, remove them when not in use.
• Remove non-essential loads. Check your car boot for any unnecessary items that add extra weight and increase your fuel consumption. An extra 50kg of weight can increase your fuel bill by two per cent.
• Service your vehicle regularly. A well-tuned car can reduce its carbon emissions by up to 15 per cent and minimises the risk of oil leaks.
• Use air-conditioning sparingly. It can increase fuel consumption by 10 per cent.
For more simple and cost-effective ways to reduce your environmental impact at your place, come along to Tweed Shire Council’s ‘Living for the Future’ Home Expo on Saturday 23 August 2014 at the Tweed Heads Civic Centre from 9am until 2pm. For full details, visit tweed.nsw.gov.au/homeexpo.
* Northern Rivers Transport Guide 2014
*** Northern Rivers Regional Transport Plan December 2013
**** Sustain Northern Rivers Transport Survey 2013