Hitch-hiking to cut Carbon Emissions

Transport is one of the largest areas of emissions for our country; cars form a major part of this sector. I’m often thinking about how to cut my car emissions. I live 10km from my nearest town, Motueka, and 60km from my nearest city, Nelson. There’s no public transport.

I use a smallish fuel-efficient car, use driving strategies to minimise fuel consumption and consolidate my errands into two trips per week. When this car wears out, it will be replaced by an electric one. But…there are often extra trips, to meetings, to visit friends, to see a film.

I’ve made a new rule for myself. If I’m not carrying heavy stuff, and if the return journey is not after dark, I must ride-share or hitch-hike. Ride-sharing is possible because I live in a small community with a group e-mail. I can send a message – ‘Anyone going to town tomorrow around 1pm?’, or knowing some of the regular trips of neighbours, ‘Can I go in and out with you when you go to church on Sunday?’ These trips are delightful, catching up with people in my community.

And then there’s hitch-hiking, recently taken up at the age of 76. Being an elderly woman is an advantage, I reckon. Once I had worked out where to stand on the highway, I got lifts within minutes. I was a little nervous at first, but now I look forward to it. Every trip is a lovely surprise – a conversation with someone I might not otherwise meet. One man diverted from his route to take me to my optimal landing place, then stopped the car for five minutes to finish our chat about climate change.

Another benefit is to my health – I walk 15 minutes to the highway, and while I often get delivered to where I want to go, on the return journey I need to walk a bit to get to the right spot to hitch. Then a 15 minute walk home (although several people have delivered me to my door). I greatly need this extra walking.

My vision is that this should become a common practice, and result in taking half the cars off the road, halving car emissions and reducing road maintenance costs. It’s a community-building practice too. I’m considering leaving a gold coin on each trip, to increase the desirability to the driver of picking people up, and for reasons of fairness.

Honestly, it’s much more fun than driving.