By C. O’Donovan
As we enter the third decade of the millennium, never has it been more apparent that humanity has not been doing enough to curb our impact on the natural environment. A quick search on the internet will reveal some pretty sobering stats about the state of the world. One such stat that reveals our impact on the global climate is that the past five years have been the warmest years on record since pre-industrial temperatures. Thankfully though, the smart people on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have set targets to keep the average global temperatures as low as possible. A big part of what needs to be done comes down to pumping less of that carbon dioxide stuff into the atmosphere. Some action is being taken at legislative levels with many of the major global greenhouse gas emitters accepting to cut emissions in the Paris Climate Agreement.
The difficulty with climate science is that it’s all quite academic and not until recently has it been widely accepted that climate change was even as a result of human activity. To make matters worse, it is also very difficult as individuals to understand how we can make a positive impact on the environment and help to curb climate change. Sure, a quick ponder and some options will come to mind; solar panels installed on your roof could be useful to both offset your electrical bill and dependence on Eskom’s coal laden power grid; a vermiculture composter could be used to convert your food waste to plant food; a hybrid car could reduce your fuel consumption; or, better yet, riding a bicycle to work could be a carbon neutral way of commuting. Needless to say, there are many ways we could all reduce our impact on the environment, although generally these solutions either require an investment or a change of lifestyle, and sometimes the exact environmental impact of a decision can be pretty hard to ascertain. One of the most effective, and lesser known, ways to reduce impact and lower carbon emissions is to avoid producing new and utilise what’s already in circulation in the economy. Something like a car, or a bicycle, has a hefty carbon price tag associated with its manufacture and with new age alloys and composites like carbon fibre being resource intensive to produce and, in some cases difficult to recyclable, keeping these materials in use for as long as possible is a straightforward way to mitigate the product’s initial environmental impact. Of course, running an old diesel bakkie from the 80’s isn’t going to be doing the air quality any favours but something like a bicycle that doesn’t need fuel to run, besides last night’s pasta, has an almost negligible environmental cost to use. Sure, it might need some new tyres, a bit of sealant and consumables to service every now and then but other than that, a bicycle is pretty much carbon neutral once it’s off the showroom floor.
It makes complete environmental sense to keep what we already have manufactured in use and to thereby reduce our demand on the industries producing new products. Buying a pre-owned bicycle not only means that you get better spec for less, it also ensures that the bicycle is kept in use for longer, stretching its carbon footprint over a longer period. Buying a professionally serviced pre-owned bicycle could easily double a bicycle’s useful life. In terms of environmental impact, that’s roughly half the effective carbon footprint compared to buying new. A healthy second-hand bicycle market and buying pre-owned not only reduces the environmental impact of cycling as a whole but should also help ease your environmental worry pangs too.