Noreen and I have always maintained that we’ve done two of the most important things one ever can in terms of being green and preventing global warming. We don’t have children and we don’t run a car.
It turns out that we’re right, as this article outlines.
Any of [the top] lifestyle changes drastically reduces carbon emissions compared to more common practices like recycling, using energy-efficient light bulbs and line-drying clothes.
- having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 metric ton CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year;
- living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year);
- avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per round trip trans-Atlantic flight);
- eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year).
In fact, according to this list, we should also count the third item.
As always though there is a “but” …
Yes we’ve chosen not to have children. So far, really good. However we are not totally car-free. It’s true that neither of us drives and we’ve never owned a car, but we do use taxis a fair amount. I calculated many years ago that, when one looks at the total (money) cost of ownership, using taxis was much cheaper than running a car. Nevertheless, using taxis can’t count as totally car-free, although I’d maintain it is pretty damn good: on the 2-3 times a week we need car transport, by using a taxi for maybe 20 minutes, we share that car with tens of other people that day. And having to get a cab, makes us think about what we’re doing and where we’re going, as we can’t just jump in the car at any slight provocation, several times a day.
In addition we avoid air travel wherever possible. We’ve only ever done one long-haul trip (Washington DC) and even then we made a special effort to offset the carbon emissions. I don’t see us doing long-haul again; but one never knows. Although over the years I did a couple of dozen internal or European flights for work, we’ve only ever done a handful of short-haul flights for leisure purposes – and again I don’t see that changing significantly. Yes, of course we would love to go and see all these fancy places – but we don’t need to, it’s expensive (in so many ways) and we can live without it.
So while we may not be able to count a full 3 out of the 4, I reckon we’re entitled to 2½. Which is probably 2 more than the average person. No reason to gloat, but a reason to be sad that others are perhaps less compassionate, and a reason for some small contentment.
Ultimately it is all down to one’s ethical compass, how one views the world, and making lifestyle choices.
How well do you do?