The Sunshine Coast joined a growing number of communities in promoting car-free transportation by participating in the inaugural Coast Car Diet challenge.
Earth Day in Roberts Creek was the launching point for this grassroots initiative to reduce single-person/single-family car trips on the Sunshine Coast. More than 100 people pledged to reduce their single vehicular mileage by walking, biking, carpooling, taking transit, combining trips or by consciously electing to stay home as much as possible for the month of May.
Collectively, participants reduced their car trips by more than 11,000 vehicle kilometres for the month, the equivalent of driving from Vancouver to Tierra de Fuego, or nearly 1.5 full lengths of the trans-Canada highway. In just four weeks, the Coast Car Diet prevented 2,400 kg (2.6 tons) of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) from entering the atmosphere. In total, the 30 participants who turned in their results saved more than 1,000 litres of gasoline, for a total savings of $1,150 on gas (current Gibsons price of $1.15 per litre) alone.
According to one of the Challenge organizers Sheila Wilson, if participants are able to keep up this behavior for a year, they would each save $460 on gas, plus additional cost savings on car maintenance, insurance, depreciation, and parking - for an estimated total savings of $3,750 per participant.
"Pretty great ways to save money, stay in shape, and help the environment at the same time," said Wilson. "Like local eating, a fossil fuel diet requires a bit of planning, a little creativity, and some dedication. The Sunshine Coast is arguably more difficult to navigate without a car than is a city like Vancouver."
Wilson said participants utilized different strategies to overcome this. Some purchased bus tickets for the first time, and learned that with some planning, the bus is a very easy and comfortable alternative. Many participants were parents of young children. One family of five, with another on the way, creatively logged 933 km., much of which was facilitated by one of Spin Cycle's double tag-along bicycles. Other families regularly huffed up Orange Road with garden implements stuffed into a BOB trailer, in order to reach a community garden plot. Many others became more efficient at completing several tasks with one car trip in lieu of multiple one-task trips.
"Statistically, 25 per cent of car trips made by Canadians are less than one mile in length, an ideal distance for walking or cycling," said Wilson. "Yet nearly three-quarters of these trips are completed by driving. Changing our habits is hard, but as the Coast Car Diet participants showed, it can be done."