Sunday, 10 April 2011


If only we lived in a different world.  If that was the case, maybe Tim and I would not have bought a home in North Vancouver when we moved to the Lower Mainland.  In this alternate reality I would not have taken a job in Pitt Meadows, which is 40 km from where we live.  Alas, this is my reality, and it has made me contemplate a number of strategies in order to minimize my carbon footprint.

Before you even suggest that I should change jobs, I love my job and the company I work for.  In a profession which is not known for its eco-friendliness or ability to adapt and modernize, I am blessed with very progressive bosses that actually win awards for their environmental initiatives.  So I want to work where I work and I want to live where I live. It's not a perfect set up, admitted, but it is the situation I find myself in.

The first option I contemplated was using public transit.  The West Coast Express actually stops across from my work.  Unfortunately, it departs from in front of my work and goes in to the city, therefore, going in the opposite direction from the direction I travel.  I then tried to find someone to carpool with using the internet-based eRideShare and a couple other similar sites, and I was unsuccessful.  It seems few people are interested in traveling that far away from the centre of town.

I drive a Mini, so my next thought was that I could maybe have my car converted into an electric car.  I was very excited to find out the Hybrid Technologies (now Li-ion Motors) converts Minis.  I wrote them and they haven't responded to my inquiries.  I then checked into the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, which has a really useful resource page for those looking to convert their cars.  Unfortunately, it is both a lengthy and expensive process (I got one company to confirm that they would convert my car, but it would take six months and cost $20K-$30K).  There would also be charging issues, as I live in an apartment building, so would have to get permission to install a charging area.

As a last partially environmental option, I came across something called hypermiling.  I had seen references to this many times and could imagine what it referred to, but had kept thinking that I could find a better solution, so hadn't researched it until recently.  Hypermiling is a way to improve your car's existing fuel efficiency by driving differently.  Some of the basic techniques, which I think are fairly obvious, are to keep your vehicle properly maintained, drive with as little weight in your car as possible, choosing an appropriate gear, avoiding sudden accelerating and braking.  Some advanced techniques include "burning and coasting", putting the car into neutral when you know you are to slow down to a stop, and drafting.  If you would like to learn a bit more about all of the hypermiling techniques, here is a website dedicated to hypermiling.

Unfortunately, I already drive using most of the more basic techniques, and most of the more advanced techniques are pretty intense.  I think the burn and coast technique (you speed up to a certain speed, let's say 100 km/hr) then coast until the speed reduces to another speed (for instance 80 km/hr), might be something I will try.  I will not be putting my car in neutral as I stop (I drive a car with an automatic transmission, so I don't want to be putting the car into neutral all the time, I imagine I will forget quite a bit and probably do some damage to my engine).  Drafting works best when you are REALLY close to the large vehicle in front of you, which necessarily means that you will not be able to see what is happening in front of the vehicle in front of you.  The improvement in fuel economy begins when you follow within 100 feet (by 11%) and increases as you approach to 10 feet (39%).  The only problem is the corresponding reduction in safety...

The only other option is to work from home, maybe one day a week.  I haven't explored this option with my employer, but I am optimistic that they may be willing to allow me to do so.  For anyone with a job that can be done from home, it is always the best option for the environment as it avoids any type of carbon emissions.  It is also may be better for your wallet as it reduces commuting costs AND potential expenses for coffee and meals, if you don't bring your own.

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