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My Week of Hydrocarbon Dieting in Vancouver

It started with tearful goodbyes at the Vancouver airport as my husband and son left to have Xmas in Atlanta.  It would be the first year that I’d been apart from my 12 year old at Xmas, and my heart was heavy.  But we had decided as a family that we didn’t want to create the greenhouse gas emissions, so I dropped them off, and left.


We’d had a lot of debate about whether to take the bus or drive to the airport, but it was only 15 kms to the airport, and why did we have this Prius if we didn’t use it, and I wanted the extra hour with them, and I was avoiding many 1000s of miles of flying, so I had a few greenhouse gases (GHGs) to spare, I justified.  I got back home, and took the 99 bus downtown.  There was a sign that said “Hybrid” in the window, and the driver told me [E.F1] there were now more than 30 such buses in Vancouver, and that they had regenerative braking (like the Prius, to recapture energy when you applied the brakes) and an electric engine that kicked in on a computer-determined schedule.  I met my friend, and we drove to a party at the newly renovated Woodward’s building[E.F2] , a good example of handsome urban densification.  Afterwards we went for a long dusk walk on the remarkable Sea Wall, and had local fish at a restaurant on the water.  It started pouring, so my friend drove me home – a nice first day, and not bad on GHGs.


The rest of the week was rich, too, and not very hydrocarbon intensive:  a few sad phone calls with my distant family (and Skype-opening presents on Xmas Day), skiing at Cypress (what a local hill!), caroling with new and old friends, exercising, picking and eating fresh winter greens from my organic garden, lots of work since all was calm, long phone calls with extended family.


And here I am on the plane, once again gorging on hydrocarbons on a flight to San Francisco – about 1/3rd the length of a trip to Atlanta, but still a whack of GHGs.  Trip has started well – invited a Kiwi Buddhist monk to join me for dinner and discuss the week, and got to write this piece while I waited for my flight.  Will take Amtrak back – but that only saves about a fifth of the hydrocarbons vs. flying[E.F3] , so I guess my diet’s over. 


I hope to encourage others to abstain.  While aviation produces only 5% of the world’s  GHGs, a number distressingly comparable to the GHGs of the information technology industry[E.F4] , I knew it was a huge part of my locavore, bike-riding, cold-house-in-winter-living self’s footprint.  So I ask colleagues to try to have meetings by phone or Skype or similar video or audio conferencing.  And my son told me today, on Xmas day, that I didn’t have to come with him next year for Xmas in Atlanta – but I’m not sure how I feel about that.






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