What to give the planet for Christmas?

Saw this on one of our favourite websites World Sweet World.  It’s the precis for an article on building your own bike trailer – something we had our own feature on this year…

While around a quarter of all the energy we use in New Zealand is for transport, two thirds of the trips we actually make are less than six kilometres. If you calculate the embedded energy used to get your food on your table (how much energy is used for the farmer to fertilise the field, to run the tractor, package it, transport it to market, etc.), you are likely to double that amount by driving to the supermarket to do the shopping. It’s relatively easy to make big energy savings here and you’ll be better off health- and wallet-wise in the process.

–          World Sweet World – Steven Muir, Issue #9

So, what to give the planet for Christmas?

How about a break?


How much money is this saving us?

Straight up we’re saving the cost of buying a new car, (a new old car that is) but how much are we actually saving in our day to day budget by not running a car?

The AA makes this calculation very easy for everyone. Every year they compile the annual costs of running a full spectrum of cars, from a small petrol shopping trolley to a large diesel guzzling monster. You can access these figures for free if you are an AA member.

We run what the AA refers to as a compact car, (1501cc-2000cc). The AA’s estimate of the annual costs associated with that are below.

Fixed Costs
Annual relicensing $248
Insurance – third party only, no claim $158.63
Warrant of Fitness (biannually) $90
Total fixed costs $496.63
Running Costs
Petrol-litres used per 100km 6.35
Litres used over 14,000km 1039.5
Cost of fuel annually at $1.70 $1,767.15
Cost of oil $55.77
Tyres, cost per year $302.79
Repairs & Maintenance $579.22
Total Running Costs $2,704.93
Total Costs $3,201.56

AA also incorporates the depreciation value and the interest on outlay to purchase into your costs, if your car is less than five years old. According to the AA “a low value, older vehicle will have depreciated about as far as it’s likely to, so the fixed costs will be minimal”. Given that our car is 27 years old, I reckon it’s past the depreciation stage of affairs.

Based on these figures, the cost to run our car is approximately $61.57 per week. This doesn’t factor in parking costs, which can become substantial if you park your car in a city centre every day.

Compare this to the cost of public transport here in Christchurch. It costs Ciaran $21 per week for him to go to work on the bus every day. Assuming we also decide to use the bus as a family both days at the weekend that would cost us an extra $16.80, so $37.80 a week in total. In reality we tend to stay pretty close to home at the weekends, so costs are usually towards the lower end of that spread.

If both Ciaran and I began to work full time again, it might start to make more sense financially, to run a small efficient car and travel to work together. However figures on a spreadsheet don’t take into account the hidden costs of running a car and as we are all becoming increasingly aware, the pollution emitted by cars is a major contributor to the degradation of our environment. I think that now we’ve done some hard thinking about our transport choices, we’d feel morally obliged to buy the most environmentally efficient car we could afford (and there’s nothing like a public forum to make you walk the talk eh?), which means we’ve got some saving to do.

In our current circumstances, ditching the car is going to save us a minimum of $1,225 and a maximum of $2.109 a year, which isn’t to be sneezed at. That extra money is also going to come in very handy later this year when GST and childcare costs go up.

But are we paying for this monetary saving with a far greater outlay in effort and inconvenience? Well so far in my opinion, not so much. Sure some stuff is trickier, but it’s amazing when it comes down to it how many trips we were making were simply unnecessary, and I’m not missing that at all.

We want to talk more here about how convenience and speed have been raised up to be false gods in our society; indeed the title of this blog might give that away a teeny bit. But for now I’ve got to go and drink a cup of Earl Grey and listen to the Southerly gale hurling hail at the windows.