Going Beyond The Hour for climate change | WWF South Africa

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Going Beyond The Hour for climate change

WWF South Africa caught up with attorney Eugene Botha who has really been taking the Earth Hour message to heart by ditching his car for public transport.

Earth Hour brought out many exemplary cases of South Africans taking action in their journey to becoming climate champions.
During a live Twitter chat in the run up to Earth Hour – in partnership with LeadSA – one tweet was thrown up that we just couldn’t overlook: The story of attorney Eugene Botha.

We had to know more! This is his story:
1. What led to you selling your car?
It was a few things. The introduction of Uber as a reliable service and Gautrain with its buses meant I could use the apps on my phone to get around using these different services.
The immediate benefits meant saving at least 2 hours a day to use for either working or reading or spending time with my kids. Selling my Volvo S60 T4 reduced my total monthly expenses like petrol, licensing, e-tolls and repayments by R9 000 a month, not to mention using public transport reduced my carbon footprint significantly.
I traded my Volvo for a 1000w Electric Scooter that gets me to the Gautrain station and back home every day. As a result, I ride-share and reduce the amount of carbon I release per kilometre.
I firmly believe that if we don't start taking very serious steps towards reducing our respective footprints, we are going to create massive problems for ourselves. I want to be able to look into my grandchildren's faces and say I did something about global warming.
2. Tell us a bit about how you went about the change.
Before I sold my car, I experimented by using Uber and the Gautrain systems. I downloaded the apps and studied the routes and discovered that there was a bus station only 2km from my house. I took an Uber to the bus station. I could track the bus and never waited longer than 7 or 8 minutes for a bus. It would take me to the station in about 15 minutes and then I could get to Rosebank or Pretoria on the train in another 15 minutes.
Throughout the trip, I was a passenger and was freed up to work on my laptop.
I am a commercial lawyer and have clients in areas from Benoni on the East Rand to Waltloo in Pretoria. After a month of this I spent less money on public transport than I did on petrol, so I sold my car and got a small return. The extra money went to buying the Uber Scoot 1000w Scooter. It goes 35km/hour and has a range of 18km. I live 5km from the station so I could cut out Uber and bus and use the scooter to get to the station and back, except when it rains, then I use Uber.
Gautrain stations are generally close enough to my clients, that I can get to all of them, at any time, and generally faster than if I was driving. My clients think it is sort-of Berlin-cool, so it hasn't hurt my reputation at all. Some of them are seriously considering making the switch themselves.
3. What was the hardest part?
The mental or ego element. Riding on an Uber Scoot in a suit with a briefcase is a bit silly. I know I don't look very good doing it and very often I can see people driving past laughing their heads off.
I think the hardest part was swallowing my pride and sticking to my guns. I'm not doing this because it looks cool. I am doing it for the future of our planet.
The biggest challenge was the few times my phone battery died and I couldn't call an Uber or family. Those occasions ended up in a 2km walk home, which wasn't too bad. I have learned to carry a power bank with me and it hasn't happened since.
4. What has been the best part?
I feel good about actually making a difference. I am a busy attorney so it’s hard for me to run around and physically protest against environmental damage, so I can only use social media and my own life as an example.
I hope to influence my clients, friends and family to think about how they use transport and to reduce their carbon footprint in any way they can.
I have also saved a lot of money that I used to plant an organic garden in our yard. We have enough food and spend less time traveling to the shops as a result. I have also enjoyed having more money to spend on my family. The best part is the extra time I have. Driving takes an enormous amount of time and energy. You only realise this after a month or two. You are suddenly less stressed because bad taxi drivers and traffic issues are not your problem anymore. It is incredibly liberating. 
5. What advice would you give others to inspire them to follow your example?As a busy lawyer I had a million reasons why I needed a car. None of those reasons were stronger than the need to take responsibility for our future. I am living on this planet. I breathe this air. I drink its water. I am responsible for my own quality of life. Having a nice car is not more important than being able to breathe clean air. Gauteng has a first-rate safe public transport infrastructure. Stop making excuses and do something to become sustainable.
Eugene Botha went beyond Earth Hour 2016.

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