How to offset the pollution caused by car drives / motorcycle rides

Driving a diesel car for 5,000 km with a fuel efficiency of 15 km/l, you’ll consume 333 liters of fuel & produce ~900 kg of CO2 & 22 kg of particulate matter.

BHPian ambarkhan recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Ground Rules

  • First, refrain from comparing activities that create pollution with what we’re discussing.
  • Second, don’t compare EVs and ICEs in terms of pollution. Instead, share how you offset your pollution.
  • Third, I’m not suggesting giving up the joy of motoring. Just offset its harms.
  • Finally, if you believe that the earth is flat and global warming is a scam, please ignore everything I’ve said.

Assuming you’re an automotive enthusiast who regularly follows team-bhp, you probably drive or ride about 15,000 kilometers in a year. I love cross-country trips and off-roading, and I own a 2-seater, 4×4 vehicle that burns a lot of fuel unnecessarily. I also race motorcycles and burn a lot of fuel while practicing or joyriding. Long story short, I love driving and riding, and I don’t plan to switch to an EV just for the sake of it.

Now, let’s talk numbers.

If you drive 5,000 kilometers in a petrol car (BS6) with a mileage of 15kmpl, you’ll consume 333 liters of petrol and produce 893KGs of CO2 and 22kg of particulate matter. Similarly, if you drive 5,000 kilometers in a diesel car with a mileage of 15kmpl, you’ll consume 333 liters of diesel and produce approximately 900KGs of CO2 and 22kg of particulate matter. If you ride 5,000 kilometers on a petrol two-wheeler with a mileage of 30kmpl, you’ll consume 166.6 liters of petrol and produce 456KGs of CO2.

Altogether, you’ll generate 2.2 tons or 2249Kgs of CO2. To offset a ton of CO2, we need about 30-45 trees per year. So, you’ll need to plant approximately 60-90 trees per year to offset the 2 tons of CO2 you produce.

Unfortunately, automotive enthusiasts can be marked as one of the communities responsible for a lot of pollution. The question is how we can continue following our passion without harming mother nature.

Here’s what GTO had to say about the matter:

We had a similar thread earlier, but it wasn’t focused only on offsetting your drives / rides, and it was from the pre-Covid era (a lot of our daily routines, work styles & commutes changed after Covid). So, we can continue this new thread.

Ways that I hope I’m offsetting my carbon footprint:

Work from home is now permanent for me. No daily commute (as compared to 1.5 hours earlier) which alone helps to control my carbon footprint.

Work from home for my entire team as well. This decision is saving fuel & emissions from their rides too.

Within the area, I usually walk if the destination is 1 – 2 km. Good for my health, good for my cars (short commutes are brutal on cars), good for global warming. Emissions from cold engines are higher than those at operating temperatures.

Will definitely be adding an EV to my garage sometime.

I am a vegetarian. Don’t want to make this a veg Vs non-veg debate, but the data is there.

Have a decent amount of plants & trees in my building. Adding a whole new bunch to my terrace this monsoon.

On the downside, my own cars are powerful guzzlers, I test-drive cars on weekends & high-rev them, go for a lot of leisure drives and I live in a big apartment with lots of electronics & ACs. So, important to consciously control my footprint in whatever way I can.

Here’s what BHPian ninjatalli had to say about the matter:

My primary option: Reduce the impact. Every bit helps – we don’t need to aim to go from 100% to 0% from day one itself. Aim small, win big.

  • Aim for changes that impact at a habitual level. Been taking out the car to go to the daily morning gym or to drop your kid to school just a few kms away? Try walking or cycling to the place instead. It’ll take effort to change but even your body will appreciate this once this becomes habitual. The additional time for the walk will initially be a concern but over the larger picture, won’t matter. See how your perspective changes over time.
  • Look at the driving you are doing; figure out areas that really aren’t what thrills your automobile spirit (e.g. those in-city drives to do grocery / weekend shopping or to the nearby park). Look for alternatives that will satisfy the requirement (e.g. public transport, metro, walking, cycling, or even a more fuel-efficient vehicle).
  • Pool your vehicles. Age-old mantra. Again need not be thought for every single drive, but for a subset of your driving. Those drives to office / work locations on a repeat basis? Definitely not something an enthusiast’s #1 pick of preference. Look for alternatives – e.g. take an office cab if available that enables pooling or even just a 2-wheeler instead of a car.

I’m sure there are much more options once each of us put our mind(s) to it.

For me, just focusing on the above options has indeed borne fruit for me. From an average of driving nearly 15k kms annually just over half a decade ago; currently, I see the annual split roughly as car – 30% / 2wheeler – 30% / public transport (trains, metro, etc.) – 25% / rest being a mix of cycle, etc. My current annual usage of my car is less than 4k kms; but 80% of that is on trips that I really enjoy driving.

Here’s what BHPian ValarMorghulis had to say about the matter:

My driving itself isn’t very high (14k kms in 3.5 years) but still I try to do my bit as much as I can.

  • Reduce small distance rides by car. Switch to two-wheeler instead (all rides to Cult/ gym)
  • Car-pooling to all parties now. Also helps to have a designated driver.
  • Significant reduction in foods which are high in carbon emissions (eg. non-veg, butter, cheese, almonds, rice, chocolate, sugar, palm oil, etc. Still a sucker for coffee/ tea though). Good for health and environment
  • No alcohol
  • Waste segregation at source (compulsory by BBMP as well). Follow rules and feel good
  • Have energy-efficient light bulbs at home and I ensure all electrical appliances are unplugged if not in use
  • Replace plastic/ non-stick items in the kitchen with steel or glass (helps with the dishwasher and health)
  • Use electronic items as long as possible and feasible without compromising on efficiency

Here’s what BHPian DicKy had to say about the matter:

  • Walk small distances. Have no 2 wheelers so can’t jump on it for the small distance. Rarely hire autorickshaws and even in a new city, walking+Gmap+metro+buses are my buddies. Don’t even have Uber/Ola in my phone.
  • No online shopping. Except for my first smartphone, a Moto G which was then available exclusively on Flipkart, haven’t bought anything else online. Had enough when I saw my friends buy small stuff like pendrives/balls, but the packaging was much larger. Such waste.
  • If I have 1-2 items, will refuse plastic bags from shops. Though there are ‘no plastic’ initiatives/drives every two years, it gets lax with time. Even then we take our own cloth carry bag to the local markets/supermarkets.
  • No online food ordering app on my phone. Either eat out or make it at home.
  • No air conditioner at home, though with the increasing temperatures, can’t say how it will stay like that for sure.
  • Generally use stuff for long. Buy good clothes and use them for years instead of fashion shopping every month. Use electronics till they go bust. Even then, Dad will do some DIY to get them going. Use cars for at least a decade unless there are some other pressing issues.

That said, everyone has a different lifestyle or living situation. I can only say as I stay in a suburb of a small town within the metropolitan region of a Tier II city. The kind of place where I can drive to a supermarket to buy milk or take my own bottle/container and walk to the nearest milk society/dairy farmer for fresh milk. Where we can order fast food online or live off the produce of our land (like we did during covid-19 lockdown 1.0). So I am aware that people living in big cities or singles starting their careers won’t be able to live like this.

During my time in Qatar, I have used more plastic water bottles in a month than I used during the whole previous 14 years I lived in India. And less said about our time in the 90s and early 2000s in Riyadh. The fuel, plastics, electricity, and processed foods used. I guess will never be able to offset our pollution.

If people move away from or stopped living modern lifestyles in deserts or areas with snow, a significant amount of energy could be saved IMO.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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