Thinking of trading in your petrol-fuelled car for an electric model? Marie Claire's Editor-in-Chief Andrea Thompson reveals why she made the switch and has never looked back
‘If we’re serious about saving the planet, we need to start at home,’ or so I’m reminded by my Attenborough-adoring sons aged 8 and 5. Like mini eco-warriors, they’ve taken to checking the recycling bin after dinner and berate me with ‘what about the turtles?’ when I forget my reusable bags on shopping trips. For them, it is simple; it’s up to us, to take steps – however small – and be part of the change. And they are right.
It was, in a large part, down to them that two years ago this month we made the big ‘power shift’ trading in our regular gas guzzling estate for a purely electric car. I was tired of justifying our old car as a necessity when in fact we were contributing to the ‘toxic air’ crisis in London and other options were readily available. For me, going electric felt like a symbol of intent to do better, and do more. It said, ‘we’re not perfect, but we’re trying’. It made us as a family more determined to kickstart other eco-friendly steps in our lives.
Back in 2018, when we bought a BMWi3s, the recognisable black and white models like our one were pretty rare on the streets and drew curious looks. People often approached us to ask how it worked and looked incredulous when we told them how cheap it was to run ( £2 per 100 miles versus the average petrol equivalent of £12). Neighbours peered suspiciously at us from windows as we plugged it into our mains at night leaving a trailing wire from our letter box to the street, while friends rolled their eyes when we banged on about being exempt from congestion charges. However there was something satisfying about being able to tell the school warden who glared at us as we dropped the kids at the gate that in fact we were not adding to the toxic fume pile up that snaked down the road. We had ‘gone green’.
Today, it’s not hard to see why so many of the UK population have bought into the electric car revolution. There’s a lot to be said for being able to travel into central London’s congestion zone on a Saturday and park in Covent Garden for lunch for free.
The electric car market is growing quickly, with more than 164,100 pure-electric cars currently on UK roads. Lockdown has only accelerated this with more people now reporting an interest in making the switch. Who can blame them? Lockdown has been a period of great reflection. Many of us have found ourselves questioning the choices we have made in our lives – from our shopping habits to our career choices (hours at home within the same four walls will do that to you). We’ve taken to community forums to trade in second hand goods, swapped unused food with our neighbours and used this great pause as an opportunity to consider our overall rates of consumption and how we can do better. In a world full of uncertainty where our careers, finances and social lives are shifting daily, there is something empowering about taking control over the small positive steps you can take towards doing your bit for the planet.
For us, the car triggered a more considered attitude to the environment that has only accelerated this year. I’ve always considered myself environmentally conscious – I try to shop sustainably, take 3 minute showers, reuse my coffee cup, and avoid unnecessary plastic where I can. But like many working parents, my good intentions can be sabotaged by my frantic diary. It’s an effort when you’re busy to make eco-friendly decisions when you live your life on the hoof and cram to much into every hour.
The car made has made us more determined as parents to make considered choices. This summer, for the first time, we took our family holiday to Provence by Eurostar instead of plane and I now keep a carbon calculator on my phone. Of course I haven’t given up flying for good and still often look at the plastic wrapped products in my fridge and wince, but I’m taking steps to do what I can. Because as we say at Marie Claire, just because you can’t do everything, it doesn’t mean you should do nothing. Its tough not to be overwhelmed by how much there is to do. But we can all take a step towards positive change, so let’s get on with it.
This article is in partnership with Gumtree, which this month has launched a #20DaysToBetterWays challenge encouraging everyone to make at least one small change to help make an impact on the environment and the world we live in.