Future Living: Smart Travel and Sustainable Transport

“Each million we invest into urban motorways is an investment to destroy the city“ – Mayor Hans Joachim Vogel, Munich (1970).

Similar to many economically developed countries, in Aotearoa New Zealand 20% of greenhouse gases are emitted through travel and transport. Culture and infrastructure have encouraged high car use, car dependency, and a myriad of social and environmental costs including:

congestion, air pollution, accidents and deaths, noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, land clearing and ecosystem destruction, water pollution, soil pollution, dependence on imported fuel, less active lifestyles and associated health implications, and …, and …, and…

"There doesn't always seem to be a reason for the traffic apart from at Takanini," Bob Mitchell said.
Image credit: CHRIS SKELTON, Fairfax Media

Transport, Energy and Climate

Simon Gascoigne, Emissions Expert at the Waikato Environment Centre explains that there are two converging issues: climate change and peak oil.

He explains that before the industrial revolution, there were approximately 280 ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Now we are at 409.76 ppm. This is significant because CO2 has a warming effect in the atmosphere, and the greater the proportion of atmospheric CO2, the greater the warming; the greater the level of disruption and change to the climate.

The burning of fossil fuels to fuel our lifestyles is the greatest contributor to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Simon shared that in Aotearoa New Zealand we use approximately 3 litres of oil per person each day on transport and freight. From that we get the same amount of energy equivalent to 291 hours of humans engaging in moderate energy-exerting work, so we are actually very lucky we spend less than $6 on that amount of energy (it would cost $5878.30 to pay humans to do that, assuming they were paid a living wage).

What all the data on peak oil shows is that it is happening now (or has already happened), and now we are using more oil than we are finding. In addition, we are relying more and more on unconventional oil sources, such as fracking and tar sands, which are more difficult and more environmentally destructive to extract oil from.

Transport Options – Breaking Away From The Car Addiction

We need to DIVERSIFY our means of transport. We may not be able/willing to eliminate car use from our lifestyles, but every journey that is not taken by car means fewer emissions and pollution.

Plus, nowadays there are many alternatives!


Bicycle. Especially good for shorter distances, increasing activity in our lifestyles. $50-500 for an average/good model.


Image result for electric bikes
Electric Bike. Great for commuting, 20-30km/hr. $2000-3000 for an average/good model.


Image result for scooter


Image result for scooter electric
Electric scooter approx. 25km/hr

In some parts of the world, dockless bike sharing is growing. This involves using a QR Code which, when scanned using a phone, unlocks the bicycle and charges your account 30 cents per hour. You use an app to locate the nearest one, ause it, and then leave it when you no longer need it. Amazing!

Dockless Bike Sharing

There are also a growing number of car sharing and car pooling options available in many cities and towns, including Your Drive, MyCarYourRental. These allow people to rent other peoples’ cars by the hour, day or week – a bit like AirBnB for your car.

Local Action

It is worth checking out what your local council is doing to support low carbon transport options. For example, here in Kirikiriroa Hamilton the Council wants to create a Bike Friendly City and so there is a lot happening to promote active transport and road safety.

Electric Vehicles

Justin Boyd, EV enthusiast and owner, and part of Leading the Charge, talks about the many direct and indirect incentives for and advantages of electric vehicles.

For example, it is becoming more and more affordable to purchase new and second-hand EVs. Here in Aotearoa, it costs 50% the amount to register your EV as it does a conventional car, and there are no road user charges (only to be introduced when 2% of the vehicles on the road are electric – and currently that is a long while away).

Image result for bmw i3
Justin has driven electric for over a year and currently owns a BMW I3. Using free fast-charge stations he accesses through ChargeNet, he powers this zero-emission vehicle.

EECA have developed some great resources about electric vehicles: https://www.energywise.govt.nz/on-the-road/electric-vehicles.

Fuel Efficient Driving

Using low-carbon transport options is an important part of creating a more sustainable future. However, for some of us car use is sometimes unavoidable.

When this is the case, the next best thing we can do is engage in fuel efficient driving. Through best practice driving techniques and correct vehicle maintenance, it is possible to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 30%. Here is a blog post about how to practice fuel efficient driving.

But of course, the best way to reduce emissions associated with driving is to make a commitment to drive less 🙂

For more information, contact Tania or myself via education@envirocentre.org.nz.

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