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Going Green: OVO CCO Ben swaps his car for a bike on the road to net zero

27 August 2021 | Aimee Tweedale

*Going Green is our new blog series featuring OVO team members, as they make an eco-friendly lifestyle change for one whole week. Whether it’s turning down the heating, ditching plastic, or changing our eating habits, we’re challenging ourselves to be greener, here at OVO. This week, Ben Blake, Chief Commercial Officer of OVO Energy and Smart Home, gives up his car keys for a greener commute.*

Did you know that transport is the biggest source of planet-damaging emissions in the UK?

In 2019 alone, planes, trains, and automobiles accounted for 27% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions – more than a quarter. Of that figure, 61% came from cars and taxis1. And lots of that was made up of short journeys that could have been walked – or cycled! In England, it’s estimated that around 60% of 1-2 mile journeys are made by car2.

Why does all this matter? Well, because greenhouse gases are trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere. That means the cars we’re driving are also driving the climate crisis

So: ditching the car keys in favour of walking, cycling, or public transport is one of the best things you can do for your personal carbon footprint. But for many of us, giving up our cars isn’t easy. After all, your car might feel essential for your commute, school run, or long-distance trips. 

With all that in mind, our CCO Ben Blake decided to challenge himself to see if he could go without his car for a week. His 2 kids were (reluctantly) along for the ride, too!

What made you choose to give up the car for a week, as your Going Green challenge?

“I chose to give up the car, frankly, because I thought it was going to be easy! I typically drive quite short distances, and love riding my bike.”

How much would you usually use the family car in a typical week?

“I do school runs twice a week… plus, I use the car both days on weekends to visit friends and take kids (pictured above) to various activities.”

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What changes did you have to make to your day-to-day routine?

“School runs were the easy part. The challenge was more about the longer journeys. 

“It was also very easy for me to fix most things that only affected me. My family, on the other hand, were not bought into how ‘fun’ this challenge would be…”

Were there any days or journeys that were particularly challenging? How did you make it work?

“OK, so this is where I admit something. I actually tried and failed to complete my week of no driving… twice!  

“The first attempt was in May. I was derailed on the Monday evening (first day!) when my wife had a last minute work thing, and I had no other way to get the children.  

“The second time, I made it all the way through the week, and then we got a last minute invite to see friends who we hadn't seen since before the pandemic. So I caved again. This was a case of third time lucky.”

What was your favourite thing about doing this challenge?

“I loved the extra miles I did on the bike!  Of course, many of them were with children and dogs in tow… but even so.”

What was your least favourite thing about it?

“Negotiating with the family about how my challenge affected them. (I take a different view from everyone else on the importance of reducing our impact on the world's resources.)”

What was the kids’ verdict on their car-free week?

“Awful. This was not something that got much support. I'd love to say that in the end they were happy about it. Truth is, they’re spoiled by convenience.”

Two people cycling along a country road

How has this challenge changed the way you think about driving – do you think that after this week you’ll drive less?

“You can't keep the same lifestyle and stop driving completely. We have built our lives around the mode of transport that we prefer. My kids do an art class that is genuinely inaccessible by bike or public transport. There are other art classes… or they could do something else. Not impossible, but it needs to be really thought through quite a long way in advance.

“Overall, I still think about driving in the same way. People still need cars… but we should electrify them as fast as possible.

"My next car will definitely be a fully electric one.  At the moment, I drive less than 4,000 miles a year so, in my view, the benefit is not quite worth changing the car early – for my pocket or for the environment. I drive a very boring (but very efficient) Toyota hybrid.  I'm actually really, really excited to get an EV when the time comes!  Hopefully next year!

“Those of us who live in cities should massively reduce the use of cars on short journeys, wherever possible. (Sometime, over a beer, I’d be happy to regale you with a litany of benefits that cycling brings to urban living).” 

For more in our Going Green series, read all about OVO Drive team member Chris’s journey into veganism

Top tips on how to cut the carbon footprint of your commute

Did you know that around 23% of your own carbon footprint comes from the transport you use3?

Here are some of the best ways to cut down your impact:

For more tips on eco-friendly transport, read some of our guides:

Want to cut your home’s carbon footprint, too?

As much as 28% of your personal carbon footprint comes from the energy you use to power your home4.

If you want to lower your impact on the planet, consider switching to OVO Energy. We power all our members’ homes with 100% renewable electricity5, and we plant a tree for every member, every year6.

Want to go even further? OVO Beyond is our even greener add-on. It comes with 100% carbon-neutral energy7, and 5 extra trees planted for you each year!

Get a quote in less than 2 minutes to find out how much you could save with us.

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Sources and references:

1 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/984685/transport-and-environment-statistics-2021.pdf

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200317-climate-change-cut-carbon-emissions-from-your-commute

3 Based on analysis carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2020), 23% of an average individual’s carbon footprint in the UK comes from transport. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control such as supporting the NHS, defence, government bodies, etc. Please note these figures are not reflective of potential changes to your habits during the coronavirus pandemic.

4 Based on analysis carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2020), 28% of an average individual’s carbon footprint in the UK comes from energy. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. This carbon footprint data has been calculated using BEIS 2020 emission factors. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control such as supporting the NHS, defence, government bodies, etc. Please note these figures are not reflective of potential changes to your habits during the coronavirus pandemic.

5 100% of the renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. A proportion of the electricity we sell is also purchased directly from renewable generators in the UK.

6 Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.

7 Enjoy even greener energy with OVO Beyond in comparison with our standard OVO plans. In addition to 100% renewable electricity as available with our standard plans, OVO Beyond reduces your yearly carbon emissions from the energy used in your home that is supplied by OVO to net zero by providing 100% carbon-neutral gas (15% green gas and 85% offset) and offsetting all associated lifecycle carbon emissions involved in the production and consumption of your electricity & gas, you will also get 5 trees per year in UK schools and communities and other green benefits. The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. The green gas we sell is backed via renewable certificates (Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin (RGGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin and how these work. We offset the remaining emissions by supporting UN REDD+ carbon reduction projects that are certified to the Verified Carbon Standard or the Gold Standard. See here for more information on how we restore nature and protect rainforests with our offsetting programmes.

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