Want to save the planet? Stay out of the CBD

Lots of chatter about Climate Change and what we can do to help. There are two fundamental issues that the Council will no doubt have on their minds. The first is that they own a large slice of the airport, one of the most significant enablers of emissions and the second is that transportation into and around the CBD is right up there as a source of pollution.

Rumours and leaks are starting to surround the NZTA’s Let’s Get Wellington Moving initiative with political interference allegedly playing a part. Clearly, the data is being leaked to significant lobby groups such as Talk Wellington and Save the Basin (and others) who look to have been pre-empting the release of the report by bringing public pressure on the politicians.

The Dominion Post has got on the bandwagon as well and what seems to be happening is what happened previously with the original inner-city bypass plans. On the face of the evidence, Labour and the Greens are in a shit fight over whatever the NZTA has proposed, which would have been an obvious outcome as a result of government flopping back to the left after the last election. No doubt, we’ll end up with a watered-down, bastardised series of options that everyone gets to fight over.

Welcome to democracy in action.

Still, we have an issue with climate change as we’ve discussed before, and one of the most obvious solutions is simple. Stay out of the CBD.

This is probably not the answer that inner-city businesses want and certainly not one the Council wants, but it’s one we need to talk about.

You’d wonder sometimes, we have the most educated workforce in the country, the highest wages, and most of the professional, usually desk-based jobs. That means that we don’t need to go into the office at all with remote working technology now sufficiently reliable and advanced that we can work from home.

The upsides to even working one or two days a week from home are well known and have been supported by multiple studies.

We are mentally healthier. We don’t have to get up, put make up on, get into office attire, wonder if the bus is going to turn up or we are going to get stuck in horrendous traffic, pay a ridiculous price for a sandwich & coffee, and have to spend time in proximity with people that annoy us all enclosed in a poorly ventilated, earthquake-prone office block.

On average, it’s going to give you a couple of hours back a day, minimum, depending on far you are from the CBD. That’s a huge amount of time that can be used on far more productive activities. If you do this twice a week, then you are giving yourself a couple of hundred hours back a year. Hours are good; we’re all getting older and sitting in traffic or waiting for a bus, to then sit in traffic, is a complete waste of life.

You’re supporting local business. I can walk for five minutes and be in reach of several decent café’s, restaurants, and bars. Most are locally owned as opposed to the international invasion of retailers that have taken over the CBD (who else can afford the rates and rent?), and the costs are far cheaper. Lunch for me in Eastern Suburbs might cost $6 for a couple of sandwiches. In the CBD that is going to be closer to $14.

It builds a sense of community because you’re out there supporting it. You meet more people that are relevant to your neighbourhood and your world. The connections you make are quite surprising.

You don’t need a car; you probably don’t even need a bicycle. If you do ride a bike then, at least in the Eastern and Southern suburbs, the roads are wide and safe so we don’t have to pour millions of dollars of residents money into cycle-lanes.

Best of all, while saving the planet, you are saving a significant amount of cash.

I estimate that by setting up a home office and working for at least three days a week from there, I save myself something in the region of $5,000 per year. That’s a conservative estimate, which assumes I don’t drive to work, I use public transport. If you drive, then you are looking at savings more akin to $7,000.

I’m still getting out on those days and getting coffee and sustenance, so it’s not like I’m a hermit.

Of course, those three days a week mean I am not using any fossil burning transport be it a bus, Uber, or my car. That means fewer emissions and better traffic movement for those that need to use the road.

You do need a few things to get to this state.

First, an employer who gets flexible working and will support you to work from your home office.

You’ll need a home office. You can’t just work from the couch or the kitchen table; it simply does not work. You need a specific place that you can go and get about your business.

You need discipline, this takes a few weeks but is entirely possible.  

A good coffee machine is a must, expect to spend $300 minimum as an up-front investment in this regard.

You must stay social. It does take some getting used to when you are working by yourself for the first few weeks. Going into work for a couple of days a week is a must, just for the social contact. I’ve also seen teams that work together occasionally at each other’s homes.

You certainly need a good video conferencing system, of which there are many, and the vast majority are free.

If your partner is also working from home, create a separate workspace at the other end of the house from them unless you are completely confident you can both work together.

The Council has a one-eyed view of investment, which often revolves around getting more and more people into the CBD, including apartment development. They spend almost nothing in comparison on the outlying suburbs. It’s a one-eyed view that is driving higher pollution and emissions, not reducing them.

Building better infrastructure and supporting local businesses in the suburbs will drive an overall move toward fewer emissions while creating vibrant communities that are filled with people. Likewise, encouraging businesses to base themselves outside of the CBD will support that.

Save the planet, avoid the CBD.