The Fossil Fuel Free Family

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The journey began one afternoon sitting in our old house watching the Minimalist documentary on Netflix with my then 9-year-old son Luca. We watched the documentary and once finished, I told Luca we should really make some significant changes and get rid of some of our ‘stuff’. He laughed, pointing out the fact that we were watching the movie in the cinema room of our house, a house that needed two oil-fired boilers to sustain the heating through all parts of the property. A home that would comfortably double as a small hotel, but the current inhabitants were the three of us and our two dogs. It was quite a profound moment when your nine-year-old deals you a hot potato of reality … difficult to juggle and hard to avoid. I suggested the best course of action was to speak to his mother. Later that day Beatrice came home, and Luca explained our dilemma. Beatrice was relieved to hear the idea and admitted she too was no longer happy living in such a rural location. Two weeks later the house went on the market.

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Our new home needed to have an A-Rating in the context of sustainability and also give us access to the local community . We discovered a new development within the marina in Greystones, Ireland. This was a huge find. We had already become fully plant based in our food choices in 2017, a decision that was down to environmental sustainability factors, but also our personal health. What did Greystones have - The Happy Pear cafe, run by our friends David & Stephen Flynn. We had found a house that was A-rated in terms of energy and within walking distance of The Happy Pear, in a beautiful community and on top of that, close to the sea. Our new home now uses Panasonic Inverter technology to convert cold air into warm air, the water is heated by solar panels and the house is heavily insulated.

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We had made some significant progress concerning our carbon footprint, but there was more to be done: we had two diesel cars sitting outside on our driveway. I started to study how much time my vehicle was static versus providing utility. This was the start, my car spent 93% of it’s time not moving, just sitting there depreciating. When it ran, it was obviously contributing to climate change. Something had to give. I decided to sell my beloved car (cars have always been my second love after family) and to be truly radical and not buy a replacement. We have a pay-as-you-go car option in Greystones called GoCar. This would be my backup when I needed wheels for the airport etc. They are not all electric yet but are heading that way. With cars like the Hyundai Kona Electric now providing over 400km on a single charge, it is only a matter of time before GoCar move to fully eletric. However, this would just be a solution in 5% of my traveling, the rest would need to be sustainable. I started researching Ebikes.

At this point, I should also declare the fact that I had been buried in paperwork for a few weeks as I have been assisting with the review of a hedge fund investment strategy into EVs (electric vehicles) versus ICE (internal combustion vehicles). The data I had seen showed a future (2025) where the car industry believes that 75% of their sales would be electric, but most consumers would start to opt for ride-share rather than vehicle ownership. I always like to get ahead of the curve and to innovate, so this data gave me all I needed to make the final push towards us being a fossil-fuel-free-family in our daily life.

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After extensive research into the world of Ebikes, I was lucky to find a great store in Dublin (greener.ie) which is run by a super friendly and knowledgeable French guy - Aurel. To leave Greystones (home), you have to ride some significant hills and the same to come home. If I was to use an EV to get me to meetings, I needed to arrive in good shape and not dripping with sweat. Aurel provided me with various options, but we settled on the Riese & Muller Charger GH Vario. This was not cheap, but it was a Rolls Royce of rides and would eat into the hills and take me near a 80kms on a charge. With a second battery added, it would double the distance. With the phenomenal suspension, high tech motors and a beautiful drive train it was perfect. With an Ebike you still pedal and once you pass 25km/h, the engine cuts out. This means that 70% of the time it is just you doing the work, thus increasing your cardio fitness.

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This still meant there was one diesel burning SUV parked on our driveway. So we set off to review the exciting electric car options (I will devote an entire post to this on my new blog FossilFuelFreeFamily). We tested all of the cars in this sector and settled for the new Audi e-tron. We have two Golden Retrievers, and this car was the most practical concerning boot space (although Tesla X was good too), but it also looks almost like a regular car. My wife was not taken with the idea of having to open the Tesla gullwing doors at Tesco. As I write today, the Audi e-tron should be with us this week. It delivers 300kms + on a single charge, a beautiful ride and is filled with a lot of tech to improve the experience. For business users there are some superb tax benefits as most governments are actively encouraging companies to convert to electric, again I will cover this in a later post in my new blog (Fossil-Fuel-Free-Family) which will focus solely on our journey to live a more sustainable life. Government grants are also offered for the installation of charging points in your own home.

So, to recap, we moved to a plant-based diet to reduce our carbon footprint while eating. We sold our inefficient house and swapped to an eco-friendly home by the sea, which meant we could walk to most places locally. We then went on to sell my car and exchanged it for an Ebike. The final phase this week will be to exchange our SUV for an electric equivalent. We also focus on recycling, conscious living, and general practical ideas to help the environment. As a family, we believe that this is not our planet, we are merely short-term tenants, we need to keep it in good shape for the future tenants, for our kids and their kids, etc. It is not easy to make these changes and downsizing from two to one car when public transport is not at its optimal requires planning and all that, but it is rewarding, and it can make a difference. We hope to provide some insights and hopefully inspire others to make small changes in their lives. As a tip, moving from diesel to petrol is the first big step, it will also save you money in the future as diesel resale values are set to declines significantly.

(I have not been paid for any product suggestions. These are all brands I believe in, use or have purchased myself.)

Justin Caffrey