How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.

Ten Ways to Get Rid of the Car

First published in Corporate Knights, 2008

  1. Bring on Carbon Taxes and Labeling

Warning: This vehicle’s emissions cause global warming. It took us 40 years to accept that smoking caused lung cancer. Today, our cars are causing equivalent harm to the planet. Permanent red or green stars on all cars would be a good start, indicating the degree of harm they cause. Carbon taxes would also send an important financial message. $50 per tonne of CO2, for a start, would increase the price of gas by 12 cents a litre. Most of the income could be used to reduce income taxes; the rest as incentives for green star vehicles.

  1. Pine for a Pedestrian Friendly Community

What’s the use of a stout pair of legs when there’s nowhere to walk? Our ancestors walked all around the planet – but the way most suburbs are designed today, you’d think legs were out of fashion. Their architects should hang their heads in ecological shame. We fly on carbon-expensive holidays to Europe’s cities and revel in the street life, then return to sterile autoburbs, and wonder where the magic went. No wonder we drive. Bring back the winding lane that lead to the woods and village stores. Bring back our legs - and the magic they discover.

  1. Beseech for Bicycle Friendly Community

It is such a pleasure to ride a safe cycle-path, away from danger and exhaust. If your muscles hurt, an easy conversion will make your bike fly up hills with power electric – maybe from the wind! In Winnipeg winters, cyclists ride with studded tires. But how safe is it in a city with no bike trails? Davis, California, has built 100 miles of bike lanes, trails, and other routes – and 17% of their commuters ride to work. In Copenhagen, Denmark, it’s 33%. So let’s start investing now, before it is too late.

  1. Trip along in Transit

In Victoria, transit riders say thankyou to the driver when they get off – it’s a local thing. In Boulder, Colorado, they redesigned the service making the buses smaller and more frequent - increasing ridership 5-fold. In Hasselt, Belgium, they made the buses free, paid for in city taxes - increasing ridership 10-fold. In more advanced cities, buses have GPS and electronic timetables so you know exactly when they’ll come. If we want people to leave their cars at home we must invest far more in transit, bus rapid transit (like light rail transit, on regular roads) and luxury commuter coaches with laptop plug-ins and hot frappuccinos.
See and

  1. Hop on a Home-Delivery

But what about the weekly hunter-gathering, filling our cars with booty for the week ahead? In western Canada, Small Potatoes Urban Delivery shows what’s possible, with weekly home delivery of organic food, all carbon neutral, sometimes by bicycle. There are smaller home-delivery services in most Canadian cities. This is something we need to expand, with tax relief for businesses that do home deliveries of more than ten items at a time.

  1. Share those Cars

When car sharing started in Switzerland in 1987, the groups were happy to have a few hundred members. Today, 200,000 people are members of car share groups in North America, 300,000 in Europe. Philadelphia’s CarShare started in 2002. Today, it has 35,000 members, 10,000 of whom have given up their personal cars. Their goal is a million members. And why not? Vancouver’s Cooperative Auto Network has 3,000 members who share 200 cars. Only 20 Canadian communities have access to car-sharing out of a possible thousand, so there’s huge potential to grow.

  1. Share that Ride!

Just count ‘em – single occupancy vehicles, drivers drumming their fingers on their steering wheels in yet another traffic jam. If only they’d share the ride – the congestion would disappear and they’d all have money to spend at the theatre. It just needs someone to organize things. Nelson, in BC’s mellow interior, has its own Ride-Share. Quebec’s got Allo Stop; Concordia University’s got allégo Concordia. Canadians can also use and erideshare. Britain’s liftshare has cracked the biggest problem, which is how to expand and make the service professional – they have 206,000 members, with over a million shared trips registered.
See  -  -

  1. Zip Along in a High Speed Train

In April 2007, a sudden whooshing sound was heard in the countryside between Paris and Strasbourg. The TGV (train à grande vitesse) was breaking the world speed record for a train on conventional rails, clocking 574.8 kilometres an hour. With another 7 kph, it could have beaten Japan’s Maglev record, of 581 kph. In Canada, we could have high speed trains between Vancouver and Seattle, Edmonton and Calgary, Montreal and Boston, and Quebec City and Windsor. It’s just so civilized.

  1. Beam Me Over, Scotty!

Why spend hours driving (or flying) to a meeting when you can get there by teleconferencing without burning a litre of gas? The latest designs so sophisticated, they make it seem you are almost there. Every community of more than 5,000 people should have a teleconferencing centre.

  1. Plug-In a PHEV

Ok, it’s a car, and it’s not on the market yet. A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid with an extra battery, enabling you to run 80% of your trips on electricity (from the sun, wind, earth or ocean) only using fuel for 20% of your trips. The car of the future will not be powered by hydrogen or biofuel - it’ll be a PHEV. When the public catches on, the advance orders will be in the millions. Governments - take note!
See  -

Guy Dauncey is author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change, and President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association. See