The Ethicist: A need to travel light

Second only to our household energy consumption is the ­energy we use to move ourselves around.

Private transport – mainly the car – is top of the list of polluters, emitting: carbon dioxide, which enhances global warming particulates, an immediate health risk nitrogen oxides, which contribute to low-level ozone smog and benzene, which causes cancer. They’re also noisy and maim and kill.

But they do give door-to-door convenience, a private space, and many folk genuinely love their car and claim they could not live without it. So, if you have to own a car, have one that is fuel-efficient and use it sparingly. You could go for a small one, or perhaps a hybrid, which can give you 60mpg. Or even an electric one, which produces no local pollution. Better still, convert to using pure vegetable oil (diesel engines) or processed vegetable oil – biodiesel. At least these are renewable.

Use your car less, and walk or cycle for shorter trips. Bikes are the most energy-efficient transport and are health-giving and cut through urban jams. A trailer means heavy loads can be carried (children!) and a folding bike can be combined with a train journey. I’m such a fan of the bicycle that we moved house using my bike and trailer plus a day’s hire of a load-carrying tricycle rickshaw and strong-legged rider. We hired rickshaws again for our wedding.

For public transport, I use occasional taxis, the trains often and buses now and again. With these, along with cycling and walking, we don’t need or have a car. I also don’t use aeroplanes!

With my work as a children’s entertainer, I have to go to each venue to perform. However, with other jobs, ask whether it is possible to work from home or alter work times to avoid the rush hour. Getting rid of your private car and hiring one for essential trips may make economic and environmental sense, and there are several car-sharing schemes available.

For a guide to travelling more sustainably, buy Cutting Your Car Use by Anna Semlyen.

John Cossham is Community Care’s ethical living expert. Read his blog 


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