Being a Green VA – Part 3: Travel

As a Virtual Assistant working from a home-based office, there is no carbon-footprint produced by travelling to / from my place of work, I simply have to go to a different room of the house.  My preference for travel is public transport and if I have to drive, I do like to car-share.  Have a look at how I approach travelling as a Green Virtual Assistant…

Public Transport

When I do have to travel, mainly for networking events and training, I use public transport wherever practical, including by bus and/or train. Public Transport not only supports local individuals (those who drive the buses and work at the bus and train stations!), but also helps to reduce my carbon footprint dramatically compared to if I drove everywhere.

Comparison of CO2 emissions for a 5-mile journey

Comparison of CO2 emissions for a 5-mile journey

You can check out a guestimate of your carbon footprint per journey via Transport Direct’s CO2 Emissions Calculator.  My most regular journey is from Bramley to Leeds and is about 5 miles by bus or car.  From this, you can see that it is Now, at first glance, the 5-miles from my house to town (my most travelled journey), you may be surprised that a small car actually appears to be more efficient than getting the bus, but when you consider that the bus is already running, if you take the car, you’re actually adding the extra CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, rather than sharing them with the other passengers on public transport, not to mention that my Landrover Freelander is not a small car and (if using normal diesel) would be over twice the emissions of a small car!

Another benefit to public transport is that I can usually do some work, or social media related activity while travelling.  My laptop is perfect for using on a train if I need to prepare some invoicing, or even start brain-storming my next blog post, and a lot of my tweeting is done when sitting on a bus.  When you’re driving, you don’t have the opportunity to do anything like that, so, from a business point of view, it’s just time wasted!

Personal Vehicle

As mentioned, my car is a Landrover Freelander.  We got this car when I had severe back-problems and, due to the upright (rather than reclined in a “normal” car), was the only vehicle I took for a test drive that didn’t cause my back to seize up (resulting in being unsafe to drive).  At the time we also had a 7′x5′ trailer (which has since been stolen), which we often took on camping trips across fields, so this was actually better for towing than our previous car.

I was highly aware that it was not the most eco-friendly car, but started looking at ways to make it more eco-friendly.  My first thought was to convert it to run on waste vegetable oil (WVO) and I found DieselVeg, a company which would convert the car so that it could run on WVO, but as we bought it under guarantee, my OH was not happy as it was unlikely that the guarantee would cover such a conversion.

Goldenfuels' 100-litre biodiesel reactor

The Goldenfuels’ 100-litre biodiesel reactor that you can learn how to build on the LILI course

My next thought was Biodiesel, but after some research, I found out that the there are a lot of problems with commercially produced biodiesel coming from palm oil plantations, instead of local oil sources, resulting in the deforestation of rainforests to create palm oil plantations.  This, in turn, results in the displacement of people, a reduction of biodiversity and continues to have a huge carbon footprint!

I finally found the answer in Spen Valley Biodiesel.  This is locally produced biodiesel, created from waste vegetable oil from UK restaurants and takeaways!  This is recycling at it’s finest!  Not only is there no land-cost in the production of the waste oil, but it does not have to travel half way around the globe to be used!  Furthermore, they are actually using a waste product that is normally difficult to dispose of, and making something useful from it! The environmental benefits are huge and the fact that there are almost no CO2 emissions makes me want to jump for joy!  :)

The Low Impact Living Initiative (LILI), have a lot of information on biodiesel and even run courses on how to build a biodiesel processor, and how to make biodiesel yourself, and it is something that I dream of doing in the future.  :)

Other transport options

Car/Lift Sharing

If I am travelling to an event where I know other people will be attending and it is impractical to get there via public transport, I will often try to find a car-share.  As I run on biodiesel, I prefer to drive as there are still very low CO2 emissions.  Furthermore, this is then shared between two travellers, instead of it being doubled from having 2 vehicles doing the same journey!

Once a month I try to attend the intelligentVA coffee morning in York.  This is technically possible for me to get to via public transport, however after a bus-journey through to Leeds centre (during rush-hour!), and then the train through to York, I find it will tend to take about 2-hours.  When I can drive it in 45 minutes (for about half the price!) it stops looking as practical.  Furthermore, each coffee morning I’ve been to, I’ve managed to find a lift-share with someone else who was more likely to have driven than considered public transport.  There are a lot of Virtual Assistants in Leeds and each time I’ve had a chance to car-share with them, which also means we can have a bit of business natter, whilst trying to save the world!  :)

Park & Ride

York Park & Ride Bus

York Park & Ride Bus

This isn’t particularly relevant when talking about Leeds, but when I go to York for the intelligentVA coffee morning, I do inform the person I’m giving a lift to that I will be taking the Park & Ride.  This is part of their public transport system which offers 5 Park & Ride sites to helps to keep traffic and congestion out of York city centre.  Less congestion means less vehicles sitting idling in queues pumping their emissions into the atmosphere, and again, a reduction in vehicles taking the same journeys as the buses reduces the emissions for that stretch of road!

Walking

As a Virtual Assistant, there are very few places within my walking remit.  The only place I actually walk to is the post-box, or the post-office, however, once I get the bus into town, the actual destination I need to get to is often still about half-a-mile away from where I get off the bus, so I walk there.

Cycling

I know one Virtual Assistant based in York who works from a shared office location and she cycles everywhere.  She works with a lot of local clients and enjoys cycling.  Personally, I am aware that my fitness levels and health issues mean it’s not something I’m going to be doing anytime soon, but I do hope to keep increasing my fitness levels (and therefore reducing the symptoms of the health problems), to the point where I can cycle the 5-miles (mostly downhill) into Leeds city centre… I think I can almost manage that – it’s the uphill return journey that I worry about!

4 Responses to Being a Green VA – Part 3: Travel

  • Helen says:

    What an interesting article and it’s reminded me about the value of public transport as I’ve found myself reverting back to the car more often over the last few months. If I am using the car I tend to try to make additional appointments in the area I’m going to so I’m not travelling miles for a 1 hour meeting. Tomorrow I’m now going to head off to a short meeting by train with my bike!

  • What an interesting article- although my partner who has just bought a landrover freelander might not welcome my suggestions on conversion just yet!
    I also use Skype to have conference calls when I have already formed a bond with a client which I find works really well.

    • Hi Jane
      If he has a new landrover freelander, he would need to check that converting it to WVO (or even just using biodiesel) doesn’t invalidate any warranty that he has.

      I find that a lot of people are happy to use skype, even if they’ve never met me, or have only met me once. I find that, if they’re confident using Skype, they are happy to have found someone who uses it too, and therefore it’s not an issue. I will admit, I tend not to use the video option with clients, but I think they appreciate that it doesn’t cost them anything. :)

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