Green Spot: Going Ungreen

Well the other day I finally made a decision on something that bothered me a bit until I thought about it.  I made a choice that increased my carbon footprint, uses more natural resources and costs me more money.  So what did I do?  I’m now driving my car to work most days.

WHAT?!? After all my talk of using the bus is a good thing, what the hell happened?  Well in a nut shell I had an offer than changed the math.  You see typically driving to work each day was a stupid idea because of the costs involved.  When parking runs you about $120/month and then about an extra $60 in gas, it’s damn more expensive than $57/month for a bus pass.

Yet when my work offered me a parking space just behind the building for a total of $37/month (a combination of cash and taxable benefit) and the price of gas has dropped to the point it will cost me about $40.  Suddenly I had to think about the other factor in all of this: my time.  So for about an extra $1 a work day I’m now saving close to an hour of my day.  In my book that’s a fairly good deal. (I’m also aware that secondary costs are not included in this calculation like more frequent oil changes and other wear on the car.)

So other factors that helped my decision were that fact parking spaces at my work don’t come up that often.  Typically most employees have to wait four or more years to get a spot.  I happen to just get lucky and get one after two months.  The other factor was my wife is going to go back to work in May so from that point onwards the car won’t be used during the day all week long.

So how has it been?  Well I dislike having to warm up a car and scrape windows again, but I love getting home in about 15 minutes after work instead of the usual 30 to 45 minutes.  I’ve also realized if I can car pool with someone I might be able to reduce my costs a bit and cut back on the environmental impacts as well.  So I will be looking into doing that.  Yet regardless I’m still happy with the decision, I enjoy that extra time with my boys in the evening.

So how about you, have you ever made a ungreen choice and didn’t mind it at all?

13 thoughts on “Green Spot: Going Ungreen”

  1. Way to set an example to your boys 🙂

    The financial cost of your example is not the true cost. Environmental damage is subsidized by our culture and is thought to be free.

    We need examples, mentors, governments to take bold decisions. I’m disappointed that your sense of value is so linked to saving a few minutes.

    When I traveled to Africa two years ago we stayed in a village near the Masai Mara where we met families who’s very existence was being threatened by global warming. These people have almost a zero carbon footprint to begin with and yet suffer becuase we north americans are inconvienced if living more sustainably annoys us.

    During our stay it was supposed to be the short dry season, but with climate change the first rainiy season failed to end. Meaning farmers did not know when to plant. If they went ahead and planted during the time they always plant, the continuing rains would rot their seeds. If they planted too late they would bump up against the next rainy season and their crops would rot.

    Never in the history of the village’s elders had they encountered such a time.

    The effects were disasterous. When families being doing their budgeting their decisions are a little different then ours. These families who already live on less than a dollar a day now need to decide which of their children won’t eat, which one will die.

    Your decision saddens me. You’re a person who has strong counter cultural values when it comes to personal finance, I guess I wish your values extended beyond your immediate local to realize that your carbon spewing lifestyle impacts innocence a world away would can’t even dream about budgeting that isn’t life threatening.


  2. I can understand your choice. Even though my company would pay for my bus pass (they pay for the parking space too), I prefer to use my car even knowing that this means a bit more polution. This saves me more than an hour every day.

    On top of that, I usually do grocery shopping along the way while going home, so it means I don’t have to go out again to do that, and it saves me both gas and time. SO some of the additional gas burned by driving to work is saved by combining those.

    When considering pollution, and how we can reduce our environmental footprint (carbon is just one factor there), it always comes down to a choice. I spend quite a bit of my time aggressively recycling and reusing, and I am generally quite careful about my environmental footprint. If I had to spend an additional hour or more every day to get to work, I might not have time to do that.

    I walk whenever I can instead of using my car. But I use my car to go to work, because it saves me time and increases my freedom.

    It’s easy to judge other people’s choices.

  3. I totally understand your choice, it’s another hour you can spend with your family which in my books balances the cost to the environment. I don’t understand where Graham’s comments are coming from and seem a little harsh given the other good “green” things you are doing in your life.

    Honestly, the Friday posting isn’t usually my favourite of the week as it usually focuses on things that I’m not entirely interested in, but this one struck a chord with me as it had a more mixed compromise between being green and being I guess practical with a financial slant to it.



  4. My wife and I made the exact same choice about commuting as you did. We were taking the bus to work but it was taking 45 minutes minimum for me and an hour minimum for my wife and there were many times that the bus was overcrowded. When my company offered a taxable parking benefit I took it. We avoid the peak rush hours in order to save money on gas and reduce environment impact. Driving allows us more flexibility with our hours and only takes 20 minutes.
    I feel sympathy for the developing world and realize that my choice to drive isn’t helping but at this point in time I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask anyone to make huge changes when the infrastructure isn’t in place to accommodate those changes. We need a government willing to deal with these issues.

  5. Graham,

    Wow! That came across a little harsh. Yet I know your just expressing your feelings about the subject, which is part of the reason I wanted to share this post. Decisions like this are hard to do and involve emotion.

    As to my carbon spewing lifestyle. Unlike most people I know what I’m doing and I’m aware of the ‘true’ costs involved. Realistically I’m so much lower of a carbon footprint than the average North American so I really don’t feel that bad about this one choice.

    After all my day job is to try and reduce the 17,000,000 tonnes (or 17 billion kgs) of CO2 emissions annually from my employer so if I can do that even a little bit in my lifetime I will have done much more for the world several thousand times over to reduce CO2 emissions than my car could ever produce (I drive an Echo, do you know how little gas that thing uses?).

    So trying to guilt trip me likely isn’t going to get me to change my mind. I can still sleep well at night.


    Glad you liked the post. Thanks for reading it.

    Everyone else,

    Thanks for your stories and comments. It’s nice to hear others thoughts on this.


  6. On the subject of good intentions, yet actions not fully living up to them (however eloquently justified and/or socially reinforced), I thought you’d find this article interesting.

    I share Graham’s frusteration. That’s not to say I don’t sympathize – I do. Nobody’s a climate saint. But transportation isn’t a negligable part of your carbon footprint, it’s the biggest part. If you’re going to make change, start with the biggest parts.

    There will always be a thousand people happy to back you up, to help validate their own drive to work. I will not be one of those people.

  7. Tim, your comment about the CO2 emissions you help reduce at work got me thinking: How should our employment fit into our carbon/ ecological footprints? Most of what I read (also online calculators etc) only consider “personal items.” So if I need to drive to work (or fly to a meeting) it makes no difference whether I am working to get more coal out of the ground, or to remove CO2 from the air.

    @ Graham, did you get to Africa by foot, by bicycle, or in a sailboat? If so, share your story! If not, how did you rationalize the environmental impact of that trip?

  8. Christine,

    Great article. Thanks for the link. I’m not looking for an ‘Ok’ from people to do this. I just wanted to point out even I don’t do the ‘right’ thing all the time.

    As to the car driving. I found a calculator online and ran an estimate. My extra driving is about 0.36 tonnes of CO2 a year, if I drive all year. I’m considering getting a bike for the spring, summer and fall (I haven’t made my mind up yet). I should also point out for those in SK that my average power consumption (which is about half the average) releases about 3.1 tonnes per year of CO2 (if my memory is correct on the fleet intensity numbers). So in my case I might be able to offset my car use by using less power.


  9. I don’t think you made a bad choice at all. You saved 1 hour a day, or over 5% of your waking life. If you car pool then that’s a huge betterment.

    You shouldn’t have to pay more, either in lifespan or dollars, to be green.

  10. In response to the comments on my comment:

    Points well taken: my comment was overtly harsh – apologies all way round. I was frustrated seeing someone take a step backwards from such a bold positive change, started going down the judgment road, thanks for pulling me back 🙂

    I’m still learning how to communicate motivation for changing from our planting hogging ways. I’m also reminded I’m a hypocrite when it comes to eco-footprint … We all need to continually make small changes and these are going to be different for different people.

    ghandy – I took a plane, even though we did purchase offsets for the trip. Which is much along the lines of others who look to cut their footprint in other ways. I’m fortunate to work within 4 km of where I live and it still took a year for me to ditch our second car and fully convert to a bike and running shoes (my wife still has a car as we haven’t fully kicked our gasoline habit and I’m not sure when we’ll do so).

    Good discussion!

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