Tuesday, 4 January 2011

No Impact Week: Reflecting on How I Get Around.

For No Impact Week today I am meant to be thinking about my travel arrangements. Now I live near enough to my place of work to be able to walk there if I have the time, so better planning could make that possible more often.

On the other hand I only work three days each week and once a week I do an evening shift, so I wouldn't walk home then when it's already dark.  I often do shopping after work, so I am doubling up on journeys, but if I planned it right I might only have one or two light items to carry home most days.

I might try walking to work today as hubby isn't back at work yet and he can pick me up after visiting his mum, I'll need to be better organised before walking to work on a regular basis is feasible.  It is something I shall definitely work on. There's also the matter of walking when it's pouring with rain, which I am a bit averse to.

Getting rid of the car is out of the question.  Without a car life becomes much more limited and besided, these days I need to visit my parents at least once a fortnight, who need moral, and sometimes practical support. Even if I don't need to take my mum somewhere, which I usually do, the train is slow and expensive and I'd have to get a bus or taxi at the other end, which would all take a lot of time out of a day's visit.

I also anticipate flying more than usual this year to visit family, so while I shall try to walk more during the week, I shall have to work harder at reducing my carbon footprint in other ways.

A few years ago I participated in something called the Year of Living Generously, which involved undertaking a new 'generous' action each month.  Some actions were about more sustainable living and others were about being a better neighbour.  This got me started into looking at ways I could change the way I lived for the better, but I found that even a small change once a month took some doing and also that other family members weren't always as keen on making the changes as I was.

So I think the best way to make lasting changes is to work on things a bit at a time, going at your own pace, and if you need to get your family to join in,  taking their views and needs into consideration.  Sometimes you just have to give up on some changes to keep the peace, and if those changes are minor it won't be the end of the world.  Other changes might need more subtle tactics and ingenuity or an element of compromise.

For instance, I remember my family weren't too happy when I changed to recycled toilet paper. Indeed, one member protested very vociferously.  After a while I gave it up, to be honest I wasn't all that impressed with the stuff myself.  A year or so later I discovered a softer version of recycled toilet paper and the family accepted it happily.

So perhaps this will be the year I walk more and use the car for less short journeys. It's been something I've thought I should work on for a few years now.  It will also help me achieve my goal of getting fitter, so I shall try to give it a go.

I know I am lucky not to have to go very far to work and therefore, even when I do drive I don't spend hours in slow-moving traffic, but I can choose to walk, too.  In fact my journey to work is mostly downhill, so uses very little petrol, but I need to think of the positive impact walking will have on my health, especially if I take short cuts and avoid all the car fumes in the mornings.


  1. I don't own a car and never have done. I think this makes it easier as I've built my life around my carless state. I appreciate that it's harder to give up something you've got used to but cutting back is better than doing nothing.

    I live within 10 minutes walk of my place of work and the local shops. The town centre is only 30 minutes away and there's a regular bus service for when it's dark or wet. My husband and children have to walk further but they've never minded much. Grocery shopping is the biggest issue but I have milk delivered by the milkman, a weekly organic fruit and vegetable box and infrequent internet orders from one or other of the local supermarkets (which I'm hoping to cut back/out altogether this year). The rest of my shopping is done little and often on our local high street.

    Holidays are taken by train - Cornwall being our favourite destination. However we've also travelled as far afield as the south west of France and nothern Italy by rail. It can be expensive but booking in advance can cust the cost and there's often not as much difference as you'd think between rail and air travel in the UK. I have to confess to being a lifelong lover of trains which makes it easier.

    I appreciate that not everyone has these options and successive governments' promotion of private over public transport, despite their green credentials, hasn't helped. You only have to cross the Channel to discover countries with much better integrated public transport systems than ours.

  2. We have a milkman and I've been getting a regular delivery from Riverford for a while now. I could probably manage with a fortnightly shop for heavies and just carry the odd thing home by foot the rest of the time, although as I'll be driving to and from work once a week while the dark evenings persist I can pick a few bits up after work then. What I probably need to phase out is driving three times a week.

    You are right in saying it depends on what you are used to, I grew up with a car in the family and found not having one very restrictive in the early years of our marriage, and especially when the children came along. We do only have the one car, though.

    Lack of good, affordable public transport is another issue and I think recent governments have been very short-sighted where transport policy is concerned. Now my Dad can't drive so much, Mum seems to be hanging around at bus stops in the cold a lot, sometimes waiting quite a while when she has to change buses.

  3. Hi Karin,

    Did you manage the walk to work?

    We got a thorough soaking on our walk back from the bus stop & have spent the rest of the evening feeling really chilled! Glad we did it, but would rather take the car for our once a week excursions to St Austell!

    We have a Riverford box & we also are part of a local food co-op that buys from a wholefood wholesaler, so we don't visit supermarkets very often, but we use the Co-op when we do.

    I think if we all just do the very best we can, then that's great & it's certainly better than most people... We have friends who think we're mad - making life difficult for ourselves, but we're happy & feel good that we're making the effort.

    Keep up the good work!

    Kay :)

  4. Hello again, Kay,

    as you'll have seen from my next post, I did manage the walk to work, and I'm glad to say there was only very light rain for the half hour I was out in the elements.

    I see you now know why you haven't used public transport for years. Our local buses our hourly and finish very early, but I have used them occasionally to get home from work when I have shopping. It's a short journey with no detour, but costs about £1.00, (which I believe is about 2 US$ for any American readers) for a five minute ride.

    You're not mad - it's the rest of the world that's out of touch with reality. ;-) Besides if it makes you happy and feel good, that's what counts.

    Good luck with your efforts,


  5. I agree that going "carless" is just not an option for many people. I work from home now, but before that I used to run a music school and didn't get off work until 10:30 at night. There was NO WAY I was going to walk or bike 15 miles at night, and to take a bus would have meant I wouldn't have gotten home before midnight!

    But, there are 2 grocery stores within walking distance, and I can get many of the things I need there. Unfortunately, the Whole Foods store (the one with organic produce and bulk foods) is 3.5 miles away. So I got baskets for my bike and over the summer made a half dozen trips there by bike... other than the enormous hill (which nearly gave me a cardiac arrest) and the harrowing adventure of crossing a VERY busy street, it was OK. WAS OK that is, until I got hit by a car on the way home one day! Fortunatly I wasn't badly hurt, but after that, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and I now only ride my bike on the bike paths, or to destinations I can reach without having to cross any major intersections.

  6. Well done for getting back on your bike for the safer journeys. Such a shame that heavy traffic makes it too dangerous to cycle some places. I'm glad you weren't badly hurt.


All relevant comments to this post are welcome, so feel free to have your say.