John Cossham looks at travel choices I loved learning to drive. This might surprise some people, knowing my opposition to private car ownership and my devotion to cycling and all things bike. One of the best bits was understanding how invisible some cyclists can be, and since then I’ve always worn a high-vis reflective jacket when out cycling. I took driving lessons in my midtwenties, as I was told I’d be unemployable as an environmental health officer if I didn’t have a licence. But as soon as I qualified, I knew I must NEVER have a car or I’d end up as someone who bangs on about being ‘green’ but jumps in the car for little ‘essential’ trips, and I knew this would cause me to regard myself as a hypocrite. So I don’t drive. I only use public transport, Shanks’ pony, and my bike and trailer. I love cycling. I find it to be almost a meditation. But that’s because I’m confident on the road, and I know and follow the Highway Code. So, if the lane is too narrow for a vehicle to overtake me, I ride in the centre of the lane, and pull in when it’s safe for a vehicle to pass me. I have bright lights but still sometimes motorists don’t see me, so I have to be aware of them. Using public transport requires planning, more so probably than just jumping in the car. Our family uses websites and sometimes the phone for information. I enjoy trains, as I invariably have a conversation that brightens my day, and if we are travelling with the children, we always have a ‘traditional’ game of I Spy. Most people are happy to chat... and if not, I can read a book, daydream whilst looking out of the window, or doze. Public transport is cheap. We get almost wherever we want, all over the country, for under £1,000 a year. Trains are also much safer, statistically, than road transport. One of the less popular answers to the green travel conundrum is simply not to do the journey. I’ve on occasion had to say no to a gig as I couldn’t get there using public transport. I don’t see this as a bad thing – after all, we can’t do everything we want to do. Sometimes it is more ethical to just say no!
becomes an even bigger challenge, as we live in a consumer-based society and can easily fall into the trap of thinking that buying our children gifts is a form of love.
> say that you simply follow your intuition. In some cases of course this is true: it makes intuitive sense to create less waste to create a healthier planet, to compost to avoid landfill, and to forage, to drive less, and so on. But other areas are far more complicated and murky. For example, what’s the best way to wean your child, and does the method you choose have repercussions on the environment? What about the foods you eat, the clothes you wear? And this leads to the bigger question we are often confronted with as ecoaware parents: what do we really, truly, need to buy? In truth it is very little. Being environmentally aware means consuming less, in fact, especially new goods. Doing this with children instead of focusing on our perceived failings, we can continue to make small, achievable steps to bring our environmental awareness to real-life practices
There are other issues at play too. Some things that may not seem like environmental issues can have heavy repercussions on the environment: for example your birth experience or the way we automatically use material objects as rewards or punishments as a parenting method. I explore these in detail in my book The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting, but I mention them here to illustrate how lost we can become when we try to care for our planet, and how that can become a barrier to real change occurring.