If you watched our short video ‘survey’, you will have a pretty good idea of the transport situation in Windhoek. There’s almost no public transport system.
This map on the right shows which mode of transport the inhabitants of the respective townships use most. The townships marked in purple mostly use cars to move around Windhoek. The people of the townships marked in green mostly use taxis and the inhabitants of the orange townships mainly walk.
On the map you can see that the main means of transport of inhabitants of the townships surrounding the centre and those of the wealthier townships such as Klein Windhoek and Olympia is the car. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the north-western townships such as Katutura and Khomasdal mainly use taxis to get to other spots in Windhoek.
Bicycles are almost unknown to most people in means of transport. If at all cycling gains increasing popularity as a leisure sport, but to spot a cyclist in Windhoek’s traffic is a rarity. ‘Far too dangerous‘ is the most common excuse for not using one. Therefore most of our 1150 students come to school every day by car.
That is the least sustainable way of getting to school we could think of. Well, apart from taking your own helicopter, maybe.
So ‘Let’s change that!‘ was our idea. In order to achieve a change, we had to show, or rather prove, to the whole school community that the current transport situation is not acceptable. The best way of doing that was to calculate the school’s transport carbon footprint.
If the results were as shocking as we believed they would be, maybe people would be willing to change their ways.
The project was realised in several steps:
- Developing a survey tool
- Evaluation of data and mapping
- Calculating transport carbon footprint
- Measures to reduce carbon footprint
The first step was therefore to develop a survey tool.
You can see the final questionnaire here. It was finished in November 2012. The actual survey was conducted in December the same year, just in time before our Christmas holidays
We interviewed 179 students who were randomly selected from grade 1 to 12. Of those 179 papers handed out, we received 111 completed questionnaires back.
The data collected covered the students’ address, their way of transport and questions about car sharing and alternative transport.
As we expected that most students used cars to come to school, we asked for brand, make, engine capacity and transmission.
We also needed to know how far away from school they lived, how many trips they did to school every week as well as the time it took them to get to school.
The data was collected anonymously.
On this map we displayed the current car sharing practice amongst the students and parents. A grey dot means no car sharing, a green dot means, yes, car sharing is already practiced.
Eight out of 110 households practiced car sharing. That’s a shocking little seven percent.
The good news was: If car sharing was done, then it was quite efficient. The average no. of kids in a car was 3.5 children.
On this map we displayed the willingness to do car sharing. A red dot means, ‘No, we don’t want to do car sharing!‘. A green dot stands for ‘Yes, we would like to start car sharing‘.
93 out of 110 households would like to share cars. That is 85 %. That was an encouraging result, even better than what we would have dreamed of. This potential we’d like to tap into to reduce the current carbon footprint of the school’s transport.
In the third step we calculated the school’s annual transport carbon footprint:
The result: The students’ transport mix is responsible for emitting 384.44 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Is this a devastating amount?
Well, at present, the 2.2 GW coal power plant, which went into operation in Grevenbroich-Neurath (in Germany) in August 2012, emits 16.7 million tons of CO2 each year, that’s a bit more than half a ton of CO2 every second. To emit our carbon footprint, the Neurath coal power plant needs to run for 12 minutes. This comparison makes it sound like 385 t wasn’t much.
But to put it into perspective, we compared it to everyday life situations:
A Toyota Hilux with CO2 emissions of 277 g/km could travel 35 times around the world before its emissions would be equivalent to the carbon footprint of our school.
A VW City Golf with CO2 emissions of 115 g/km, a more efficient car, could even travel 84 times around the world before its emissions would be equal to our carbon footprint.
To emit 384 t of CO2 , an iron would be able to run for 81 years, a dishwasher for 85 years, a hairdryer for 135 years and a washing machine for 311 years.
So that’s a big amount of carbon that could be used elsewhere much more useful.
Do you remember that 80 % of students would be willing to do car-sharing?
If we realized this potential completely, our carbon footprint of 385 440 kg would be reduced to 211 135 kg. That’s a reduction of 45 %, which is equivalent to 174 304 kg of CO2 less every year.
This measure doesn’t cost a penny, but requires that people change their ways.
Unfortunately that’s the most difficult change!! We’ve seen this throughout all of our projects. And the older people are, the more impossible it becomes .
We clearly remembered last year June when we tried to convince our school’s administration to replace the plastic plates for the food sold at our green school bazaar. It didn’t mean more money, but it was still a problem and nearly didn’t happen…
We don’t want to say we’ve given up on the grown-ups…
In the fourth step of the project we started working on campaigns to promote measures reducing our transport carbon footprint. The first idea was car sharing. Ideally this campaign should be followed by providing an easy way of cooperation between parents in the same suburb. We were thinking of an online car sharing platform on the internet.
Great idea, but such a platform costs money and needs a lot of knowledge we don’t have! And as we said before: Trying to change adults and their ways is a highly frustrating endeavor.
So we decided to rather tap into the spontaneity of our students. In the end parents will always do what their kids ask them to do. So by getting the students onto our side, would sooner or later also change their parents.
Therefore, on 19 April 2013 we organized the first EVER bike bus to DHPS. What a refreshing positive experience that was!
The bike bus was only announced three days before the actual event, nevertheless 65 students turned up and experienced a completely new way of getting to school.
Nobody would have thought that it can be so much fun to reduce carbon emissions!
After the event everybody agreed: We need a bike bus more often!
After the May holidays 2013 the YouThinkGreen Namibia group will work on setting up a bike bus once a month from several townships of Windhoek.
In the long run the idea is to set-up bike bus-stops in these suburbs in the same way normal bus-stops work. Our thoughts were to make some easily identifiable signboards and place them on lamp posts at gathering points. We would also like to number them, so that people can say ‘meet you at post 12’, and this would tie in well with mobile apps if we went down that route. At a given time on the timetable students meet at the bus-stop without any prior arrangements and leave to school as a bike bus according to the given time on the timetable. In that way parents don’t need to provide any transport nor worry about safety and our carbon footprint becomes less and less…
On 28 June the second bike-bus took place. Click here for some more info.
For the latest news on the development of our bike bus, please visit the bike-bus category on our blog page.