Many of the articles I have seen on reducing the number of flights we take, come out of Europe where shorter distances between major cities and the higher population density make alternatives like fast, cost effective trains a realistic alternative. However we are in Australia, distances are enormous and population density is approx. 3.1 people per square km (Aust Bureau of Stats 2016). So straight out the gate, at >$2500 per person one-way, taking the train is out (unless you are offering to pay of course).
We decided the best way might be a rental return. This is when a hire company has a car in one place that it needs to get somewhere else. They either pay someone to put it on a truck or they hire them out at $1 a day to budget travellers (that’s us!). The best thing is this vehicle needs to do this trip regardless so does it even count towards our carbon emissions if we just happen to be in it? Of course it does but it’s got to count for something right?
Bingo – we found a four-seater van from Adelaide to Darwin at around the right dates. So all we need are two more willing roadies! This route takes us right through the heart of Australia at the best time of year – the Alice Spring Beanie Festival! I’m already compiling a birding check list too!
Of course we left the actual planning of this trip till quite late and other more sensible ornithologists have already booked their transport to Darwin. So it looks to be just the two of us. No worries! There is also a two-seater van available 😊 #BirdNerdRoadie
So, can we really reduce our carbon footprint by driving from Hobart to Darwin?
Yes we can! (with 2 or more people in the car)
Currently aviation travel accounts for 2% of man-made carbon emissions (according to The International Air Transport Association, although it is likely higher than this https://www.iata.org/publications/tracker/june-2018/Pages/corsia.aspx ) but for those of us who fly, it also makes up the largest part of our personal annual carbon footprint.
Lets get down to it – how much carbon does it cost to travel from Hobart to Darwin?
Calculations made using www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx
N.B. I have used many generalisations and averages here.
Things to note:
I haven’t blogged in years, and I wasn’t very good at keeping up with it back then either. So I am going to try again. Clean slate. This time I have an idea, a purpose, a story and a partner in crime. Come along for the journey (literally if you want to!)
It started off as many things in my life seem to these days, with a simple Tweet. My friend Clare (@Ottercivet), inspired by Greta Thunberg was on a mission to reduce her carbon emissions. Can we get together a group of ornithologists and drive at least part way to the Australasian Ornithological Conference in Darwin?
Pffffffft I thought, who has time for that! And how much carbon is it really going to save anyway? After a few weeks of this nagging at me I realised that’s exactly the point!
If reducing carbon was so easy we’d all be carbon neutral. Plus, if everyone at the conference saved just 100kg of carbon on their transport, that’d be >30,000 kg less carbon going into the atmosphere!
Now you can easily do this in far less dramatic ways than driving 1000’s of km across Australia. Some advice I’ve read from various sources suggest flying direct instead of taking the often cheaper, multiple stop over flights - cruising in a plane uses hardly any fuel, it’s all in the take-off and landing. Even just packing light (or dare I say, losing weight) can make a big difference to aircraft fuel consumption. There are also some really great carbon offset funds you can pay into to ease your conscience.
I know what you are thinking – the plane is going anyway. There are arguments to counter this but I’m not going into them here, when it comes down to it, this is just you making excuses, like I was. Driving has much lower impact on climate change compared to flying. As you get more people in the vehicle, you lower the per person emissions exponentially.
You could say that the best way to reduce carbon emissions would be not to attend the conference at all. You would be making a good point but you would also be missing our point.
This is not an anti-airline, anti-conference or anti-travel campaign, we are not advocating a boycott of any sort. We both have family overseas, we both have cars, we both fly regularly.
We simply want to be more carbon aware. To think about how our choices contribute to global climate change. Because really, unless you walk, any type of transport is going to produce carbon.
Follow along with our adventures on twitter #BirdNerdRoadie