Salut, 2021… onto my next green challenge

The first week of the year has not been a stellar time for the bike to be brutally honest, much in the same way that it’s not been good for pretty much anything else. Plummeting temperatures have turned our pocket of Dumfriesshire into a winter wonderland which is kind on the eyes but of grave concern to our local orthopaedic department. Just when we thought we’d got ahead of COVID-19 with a vaccine it metamorphosed into a variant so super-spreadable that it’s looking to overwhelm our small hospital. Just when we thought, looking west, that we were coming to the end of an era of populist despotism, in comes Trump at the eleventh hour with a rallying cry which took aim at democracy and led to the loss of life. And just when I thought I’d outsmarted the lethal road ice with a pair of snow tyres (read this helpful article from Cycling UK for more), the thermostat nosedived some more and led to freezing brakes and seizing gear cables. Not a great start for my 2021 green resolution…

A new green resolution, eh?

This blog’s early birds may recall that I started writing about my adventures on two pedals in a bid to sustain momentum in a 2019 self-set challenge to ride more miles in a year than I drove. Mega-fans (not to be confused with Maga fans, see above) might reminisce on my astounding success, outnumbering fossil fuel miles 5,708 to 4,852.

The glory-grabbers among you may be more familiar with my 2020 resolution: to plant enough trees to offset the carbon footprint of those 2019 car miles. Five to six trees, alive over a 40-year period, would be all that it took. Simple, right? Perhaps not, when you have no land to call your own, know nothing about how to nurture a tree, don’t have a 40-year life plan and then a pandemic respiratory virus comes along and turns your civil liberties upside down (Nicola Sturgeon, I’m not complaining, I appreciate you… 😘)

Nonetheless, there are plenty of folk more arboreally-minded than me who have happily lent a hand. In August I got to get soil (or more accurately, biochar) under my fingernails as I volunteered to plant hedgerow trees in Coves Nature Reserve in Inverclyde. In November two trees were planted in the Scottish Highlands to mark Hubs’ birthday courtesy of Trees for Life, a Scottish rewilding charity. Throughout the year I’ve been donating to the Woodland Trust, a UK woodland conservation charity that plants trees and campaigns about climate change. And in a final adieu to 2020’s challenge I launched part of my Secret Santa gift from work – a Neal’s Yard Alder Tree Bomb – into the woodland out the back of our house. Fingers crossed that my aim was true and it takes root early in 2021…

So what’s this year’s challenge?

This year’s challenge is perhaps more pragmatic: it’s to keep my personal travel carbon use for the year within the budget recommended to meet the Paris Climate Agreement for less than 2⁰C global warming by the year 2100.

How am I going to do that?

Deriving a figure from this useful article, I’ve calculated that my individual carbon budget for all purposes 2021 should be 4.02 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e). Looking specifically at what proportion of this budget is usually used on travel I approximate that I should budget 0.92 tCO2e for the challenge.

If I do all my year’s travel using the car we currently have, I can drive 4,381 miles this year (that’s 471 miles LESS than I managed during 2019’s concerted effort). But that doesn’t take into account any rail, bus or air travel.

According to the European Environment Agency, the equivalent distance I could travel solely by rail would be 287,143 miles (which would comfortably get me all the way to the moon), or by air 3,228 miles (which wouldn’t even get me from the UK to the USA one-way as the crow flies). Walking, cycling and sailing are miles for free.

What does that mean for my lifestyle?

Sounds easy in principle – I just need to shave 10% off my car miles from 2019, which I think included a round trip to Belgium by car shared with only one other passenger. But what about including all my public transport use? And the pandemic advice against using public transport unless absolutely necessary? Since the weather turned at the beginning of the year, I’ve already used 60 miles of my 84-mile weekly budget on essential travel to work and back alone 😱. That doesn’t give me much wiggle room for shopping, leisure, or trips to see friends in future.

But you know what – game on. I’ll keep you posted on what happens next!

If you have any guidance to dispense on how you’ve managed to squeeze your carbon footprint I’d be happy to hear it! And if you’d like to support the cause in a fiscal sorta way, I’ve set up a JustGiving page in aid of the Trees for Life Cycle for the Climate campaign – head along to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/twopedals and show me (them) the money!

Take care of yourselves and each other in 2021 my friends,

KP 🌿

9 January, 2020

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