Green Consumerism Diary – Days 24-28

Posted on September 8, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Wednesday 25th – Sunday 29th August

No new dilemmas during this period but perhaps instead a chance to reflect on how keeping this diary has influenced my consumer behaviour.

As outlined in the intro I have given a degree of consideration of the ethical dilemmas of consumerism for some ten years.  Given that it maybe isn’t a surprise that the compromises that I make in my daily living are the compromises that I’m prepared to live with.  Over time I have found a balance between my desire to be an ethical consumer and my needs to eat, live and be sociable without being an angry, bitter, uptight stereotypical vegan.

The one exception is car usage.  I have been driving for just under two years and I still haven’t found the right balance yet.  Unfortunately I’ve come to the conclusion that on an economic level there are only two options; don’t own a car.  Alternatively if you need a car don’t use public transport.  Having done some figures it doesn’t pay to own a car and not use it.  Now I’m not saying that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to use public transport anymore, money is not my only driver.  But it does mean when it’s getting tight at the end of the month and there’s petrol in the car I’m probably going to use it.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Public transport

It costs £125 per month for a zone 2 i-link card.  That’s £1,500 per year assuming you don’t go outside zone 2.

  • Car

£60 (average) per month on petrol = £720 per year

£160 per year on tax

£55 per year MOT

£150 maintenance (guestimate)

£300 cost of the car, have had it for two years, hoping to get another year out of it = £100 per year

£43 per month on insurance = £516

Total £1701 per year to own and run my car.

So overall it would be cheaper to use solely public transport if I could.  Considering I have a tin can with an engine rather than a real car, and have quite a low mileage, for most people it would be a lot cheaper.  Unfortunately given the public transport provisions to and from Stormont I don’t think I could get by without a car without spending an inordinate amount of money on taxis to get me to and from meetings and home on the nights I’m working late.

Conclusions

I am no different from anyone else; I could definitely do more to ensure the impact of my consumption is reduced.  Equally, I would be happy to do more if the ‘right’ choice was made easier for me.  Some examples: 

  • If a higher proportion of the transport budget was spent on public transport (currently its 19% in NI compared with 60% in England and moving towards 66% in ROI) it would be cheaper and there would be better provisions.
  • If there was a proper cycle network (and cars weren’t parked in the cycle lanes) I might be persuaded to conquer my fear of cycling on the roads and therefore keep the car at home without incurring the extra costs of public transport.  I have tried cycling on the roads but I am a nervous wreck and I do and do not feel safe at all. 
  • If I could walk into a high street store and buy a Fairtrade, organic cotton suit without paying an extortion price for it, I would do so happily. 
  • If there were vegan options on menus in restaurants and I didn’t have to pay £10 for “the chef said he could do you some pasta in a tomato sauce” or “a veg stir fry in a soy sauce” both of which I could make myself for under two quid.  Okay I am still a bitter vegan but credit where it’s due; the chef in Stormont is going out of his way to make me a tasty vegan dish any time he sees me.  The occasions where, instead of missing out you get extra special treatment, are almost worth all those other times when you have to explain to a chef that no, pasta in a cream sauce is not vegan. My favourite question though is this one; “Can you have vegetable oil?”

I have been asked this twice.

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