To a brighter future

To a brighter future

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Planning for Getting There Green - Part 3 (updated for 2017)

Planning is useful: you should plan a week ahead

I know, you think that'll never happen. "A week?!" you say, "I can't even plan breakfast!" Fair enough, but you've at least been able to plan things like going out to a movie. Or a week-end at the cottage. Or getting married. Planning for one day when you don't take the car is really not a big deal! Especially if you make it a habit.

You've already started building this habit. Let's recap what you're doing so far:
  1. measuring your fuel purchases and mileage, using a booklet or your receipts
  2. keeping a shopping list and an errands list
  3. checking the weather forecast
Now some motivation. What can planning one day per week when you don't drive do for your wallet and the planet?

 Let's say you drive to work every day, five days a week, in a car that uses 5 L/100 km of diesel. Your commute is 25 km one way, so 50 km per day and 250 km per week. This gives you:

  • 12.5 litres of fuel burned per work week
  • $16.25 spent on fuel per work week (at $1.30/L for diesel)
  • 33.75 kg of carbon dioxide emitted by your diesel-burning car per work week
Over a 50 week work year your commuting (and only commuting, not personal driving) means:

  • 625 litres of fuel burned
  • $812.50 spent on fuel
  • 1 687.5 kg of carbon dioxide emitted (more than the car weighs)
Actually your numbers could be more like double these ones. The car in this example is a scary-efficient diesel Golf; most vehicles do a lot more fuel burning, dollar munching and CO2 spewing than this. But to follow through on the example, getting to work by bicycle -- just to pick an alternative -- even one day per week would mean cutting those numbers by 20%. So you save:

  • 125 litres of fuel
  • $162.50 on fuel
  • 337.5 kg of carbon dioxide
Just by commuting one day per week by bike. It's even better if you can bike more, but I won't be greedy!

So, how to decide which day? Glad you asked!

Where's that shopping list?



Somewhere, probably the kitchen, you've been keeping a list of items you need to buy and errands you need to run. Can't find it? Okay, we'll use mine.


The trick is to break the list down into things that need the car, and things that don't. Or, to turn the idea around, what items could you NOT carry in a shopping bag on foot, or on the bus? In panniers or a backpack on your bike? Now for errands. Which ones can NOT be done on foot, by transit or by bike?










Mark the items/errands that need a car with an  *.  Or circle them, underline them whatever works. But I'm using an  *. You probably get this  >>>









So an oil change, a kitchen sink and garden soil (even one bag is heavy). Could you take care of all three on the same day,  even the same trip? Yes? Oh, I definitely hear "yes"!  But which day? Which day will be your for-sure car day?


We don't know yet: we need to check the weather.

What's the weather doing?


That habit you have of checking the weather forecasts twice a day? Good idea. Here's where it pays off. Even if you don't take screen shots like I do.


This is the 10 day forecast for Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where I live. It's from Foreca.

I've outlined in red any day where it looks like you'd get cold, wet and slushy if you walked, took the bus or rode your bike. I looked at the Details for each day to see what to expect in the morning and afternoon commutes: only Friday 24 March looks bad enough for red.

A day outlined in red is likely a car day, so that means that we want the car for sure on Friday 24 March. The others are potential walk or transit or bike days. You've only planned to leave the car at home one day per week, so take your pick. This Tuesday and Wednesday are looking so good they're even circled in green!

There's one more thing: the dentist! Oh, don't worry, it's just a cleaning. But your appointment's on Tuesday, which could be a nice day to not drive. And wouldn't your dentist be impressed if you saved the planet on the way there!


So are we done deciding on which day to leave the car at home? The day where you'll save 2.5 litres of fuel, 6.75 kg of carbon dioxide and $3.25 you can now spend on good coffee? You can have more than one, you know. Why not Tuesday, Impress the Dentist Day and Monday, Getting There Green Day, taking a small chance on the weather? Or is that pushing it?

Dave K
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