To be a greener driver is good, if you can’t give up your car just yet. It’s nice to be car-free, but not practical for many, until town planners make it easier to walk or cycle places. It’s greenwash to say that cars are green, but we can be greener drivers. In Finland, fines for crimes are based on income. It’s known as home to the ‘$103,000 speeding ticket’.
- Cutting Your Car Use is a nice illustrated book with 100 tips by a traffic reduction consultant. Anna walks and cycles most places, hires a car now and then, and occasionally takes a taxi.
- See tips to keep wildlife safe near roads. A lot of help can be done by councils, but we can help too by being wildlife-careful drivers, and keeping a first aid box and details of a local wildlife ambulance to hand.
- Environmental Transport Association offers breakdown (and insurance) for cars and bicycles, profits are used to campaign for sustainable transport. It also offers local vehicle inspection.
Zero Waste Car Maintenance
Moso Bags are made from charcoal, to absorb odours
Oil & antifreeze are lethal to pets (the latter has a sweet taste). If you can’t have your mechanic change both, use a funnel and choose antifreeze made with propylene glycol (think P for protection – not pet-safe just safer than ethylene glycol – keep both locked away). Read up on how to clean up spilled antifreeze.
- Replace toxic air fresheners with charcoal PURGGO or Moso Bags (good to remove cigarette smells). Avoid essential oils near pets, children or allergies. But for everyone else, Scent (essential oils in a wooden tube that attaches to air vent) or Purple Frog (organic ‘tree freshener) are better than conventional brands.
- Never wash cars on the drive, as the untreated water goes down storm drains and causes mini oil-spills. Either use a car wash that recycles the water or use waterless car wash products that clean and polish your car in one (wipe off in straight lines, to avoid swirl marks). Supermarket car washes often don’t have regulations to filter the water, and the oily suds can attract thirsty foxes or feral cats. Use a compostable cloth (launder microfiber cloths in a microplastic catch bag). Bin very dirty/oily cloths.
- Click Mechanic employs local mechanics to service and repair cars at your home, to avoid high prices of renting big showrooms.
Consider Sharing a Car
- Bla Bla Car (Europe) is a car-sharing site with good safety caveats. You can also choose the kind of person you want (so if you’re quiet, you won’t be landed on a long drive with a motormouth!)
- Co-Wheels rents cars out by the hour (they cover the vehicle, MOT, insurance, road tax, cleaning), most car clubs also have cards to cover petrol and breakdown – and offer pet-friendly and disabled friendly options. There are usually grace periods for traffic, and this idea frees up parking spaces and takes 19 cars out of every 20 off the road, while giving you the freedom to drive your own car.
Hail a Greener Cab
Would you like to know where to hail a greener cab? Zero waste lifestyles are not just about what you buy or don’t buy, but about the way you live your life all the time. And what makes life more relaxing and pleasant for you. Car may be convenient. But if you spend half your life in a traffic jam, and worrying about the finance payments on your car, is that the way you want to live?
Not everyone can go car-free. But occasionally hailing a greener cab can form part of a simpler lifestyle. The lovely little guide Cutting Your Car Use was penned by Anna, Britain’s first traffic reduction consultant. She walks and cycles most places (she has a folding bicycle), sometimes hires a car for longer trips, and occasionally takes a taxi. You can fit it all into whatever suits your life best.
So if you do take a cab now and then, try to choose companies that offer greener options. London’s Green Tomato Cars offer pre-booked rides in electric cars, but their seats are made from leather (it takes the death of four cows to make one leather car). Better to use vegan cars for a ‘green taxi service’. Other London taxis are Bolt (an app that sets prices before rides) and Gett (discounts for electric vehicles).
Of course, in London you can also take a London cabbie. These are very big, because they began when men in top hats would use them, so they had to be tall enough not to knock them off! Did you know that it’s illegal to shout ‘Taxi!’ to a cab driver? Just hold out your arm. If you are disabled or blind, Taxicard offers reduced fares for Londoners, and their carers.
Cabs That Work on Feet!
You don’t always have to use a cab that uses petrol and four wheels. Pedicabs are popular. These are like modern versions of Asian rickshaws, and gives someone a nice job pedalling you to and fro. Some companies like London’s Bugbugs offer courier and wedding services too. If you feel a business idea coming on, you could look into buying a pedicab.
In New Zealand, Green Cabs use electric vehicles, so don’t have to charge so much, as they don’t pay for so much gas. They also plant trees for each ride (so far the company has planted over 350,000 trees).
A Beautiful Horseless e-Carriage
This beautiful horseless e-carriage has been designed by experts, and runs on electric to replace horses that are used in New York’s Central Park, many of which get spooked and injured from traffic. These carriages are beautiful, and would also earn the drivers more money. And the horses could go live out their lives in lovely sanctuaries in the wilderness.
Nearly all the major animal charities began over 100 years, after seeing abuse of ‘carriage horses’ being used as taxis through major cities. Today in New York, campaigners want an end to the use of carriage horses in Central Park. No doubt they are cared for by their guardians, but many are killed or injured each year in car accidents, and many also suffer stress & injuries in a very big and noisy city.
In 2020, video footage of a horse that stumbled many times in Central Park then collapsed on the pavement, caused outrage. Another spooked horse took off and crashed into 3 parked cars.
If you see a carriage horse you are concerned about, report it (in the UK, you can report horse concerns to RSPCA, World Horse Welfare or The British Equine Society). And obviously, never take carriage rides abroad of any animal, many are not well and charities are working to educate how to look after them better.
How to Make Our Roads Safer
To make our roads & pavements safer is something a long time due. Considering we aren’t by nature mad drivers (like Neapolitans – don’t drive there if you have a dodgy ticker, you’ll have a heart attack), yet we have a very high rate of car accidents, often involving pedestrians. We all know about ’20’s plenty’, but it doesn’t go far enough. There are wonderful ideas around the world, let’s take a look.
Handbook for an Urban Revolution is the story of how one woman transformed the streets of New York City, to make them safe for pedestrians and cyclists. This is a real good story, her life story should be made into a film. A real ‘up against the giants’ story, but she won, and now cities worldwide emulate what she did.
Urban Playground is written by a UK author, and looks at how child-friendly design can save cities. Why aren’t town planners and councillors looking at what’s best for young people – walking to school, walking home from school, walking safely to the shops? Why is planning always centred around the car, supermarket drives and motorways?
How to Keep Wildlife Safe Near Roads
Red Wildlife Crossing, Janet Rosenberg & Studio
To learn how to keep wildlife safe near roads, is very important. Both as individual drivers and for town planners. Millions of wildlife get killed each year (and millions more will die, if Buckinghamshire’s HS2 project goes ahead, as all super-fast trains kill tens of thousands of wildlife.
To keep wildlife safe near roads, drive sensibly and use your beam lights if driving in poor light (dim them if you see wildlife). If you see one deer (especially at dusk and dawn) there are likely to be more. Keep a wildlife rescue box in your car and call the wildlife ambulance (and police for larger animals), keeping animals quiet and safe in a ventilated box.
Keep Wildlife Safe Near roads
Red Wildlife Crossing, Janet Rosenberg & Studio
- Use a car trash bag. This helps to avoid throwing food waste out the window, which attracts wildlife. The dead wildlife then attracts more wildlife to scavenge. Take your rubbish home with you.
- Volunteer for Toad Patrol. Toads cross roads to breed, and don’t notice lorries. Local groups always welcome ‘toad lollipop ladies!
- Banff National Park in Canada has reduced collisions by 80% through wildlife crossing ideas. It’s the gold-standard worldwide. For more ideas, read The Handbook of Road Ecology by world experts.
- CROCFAST and SWAN-FLIGHT make bird diverters. These stop swans and geese hitting power lines, by using special UV light, so they can see them, and can fly a different route. A big cause of wildlife ambulance call-outs are creatures who have crashed-landed on roads or roundabouts.
We spend billions a year running over wildlife. If we took that cost and quartered it, we could build 200 animal crossings a year. And roadkill would disappear within a generation. Ted Zoli
For more info, visit ARC. This is the worldwide ‘hub’ for all the experts in wildlife road safety and inventions in wildlife crossings. It also works to educate councils and governments on the financial reasons for adding wildlife crossings, if they won’t take any notice on welfare grounds.