In July, my husband, three kids and I were lucky to get back to France to spend time with whānau we hadn’t seen for three years. With four families and in-laws together for two weeks, my kids preferred to travel in an aunty or uncle’s car with their cousins rather than with Mum. On one occasion, I was left with empty seats in our rental car for a two-hour trip, so I decided to try out “Blabla car”. It’s the world’s leading community-based travel network with over 100 Million drivers and passengers registered globally.
Within 24 hours of posting my trip, Kévin responds asking if I can pick him up from a motorway rest area near Roquefort and drop him at the Supermarket in Pau. That’s on my way so I accept. The next day Kévin is waiting for us at the agreed time and place. He tells me he’s a student with a driver’s licence but no car. He uses Blabla car several times a month and has even been to Octoberfest via Blabla car, a ten-hour trip that formed a firm friendship between the travellers.
It’s hot. Not the ‘I could do with an ice block’ hot we get in a Hawke’s Bay summer, but a brutal 41 degrees, feet-swelling and lungs struggling. A couple of hours in the car’s air conditioning is a welcome break, but touching the inside of the car windows makes you flinch. It’s the second week of scorching days and oppressive nights. Instead of the usual 130km per hour allowed on the motorway, we are limited to 110km/hr as an antipollution measure. As we pass south of Bordeaux, the air is smoggy and signs warn us that our trip may be affected by wild fires ravaging the Landes – the largest pine forest in Europe. Climate change is in our lungs and on everyone’s lips.
As we exit the motorway, Kévin reminds me that speed limits on the smaller ‘national’ roads have been reduced from 90 to 80 km/hr. It’s a road security measure, but also being promoted as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of national emissions reduction efforts.
I drop Kévin at the supermarket and continue my trip to a friend’s house for yet another round of food and catch ups. My phone beeps with a review from Kévin and a message from Blabla car transferring nine Euros to my account. Seamless, social and a great way to fill seats in cars to reduce the number of cars on the road and related emissions. With an average of 3.9 passengers per trip, ride sharing through Blabla car France reportedly saves 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
A quick bit of Googling shows me that sites like this do exist in New Zealand, but they haven’t had the same uptake as overseas. However, the opportunity to develop in-house car-pooling systems for community or business groups is enormous. National emissions reductions targets aim to decrease our vehicle kilometres travelled by 20% by 2035. For commuters – that’s one less trip by individual car per week. New Zealand’s ranking with the fourth highest car ownership per person in the OECD is an indication that we have a long way to go. Sharing a ride can be a great example of a simple climate action that builds community and creates connections.
Lastly, and for those of you thinking “what about your flight emissions?” – as someone committed to climate action, this did indeed keep me awake at night. Ultimately, the wellbeing of family won out – not having not connected with the overseas half since pre-Covid times combined with my father-in-law’s 90th birthday meant this was a vital family trip that we couldn’t miss. We calculated the emissions from our return flights and used EKOS to offset them by purchasing carbon credits to support forest plantation. A significant additional expense, but one that I feel was fully justified for the sake of our climate.
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For those wanting to investigate offsetting their own lifestyle choices go to www.ekos.co.nz