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  • News

Student eyes finish line in Cork after 1500k conscious commute

Friday, 16th August, 2013 3:30pm
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Student eyes finish line in Cork after 1500k conscious commute

Hot on the heels of Cork native Robert Heffernan's momentous win at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, a UCC student is hoping to walk away with a slightly different, but no less epic outcome.

The vision? To search ‘for the places in-between’ whilst raising funds in an environmentally conscious manner for a charity dedicated to fighting blindness.

26-year-old Gregor Herda began his walk from Germany on June 21st. He looks to have made good time to make it back to Cork on this Saturday, August 17th, ahead of starting the final year of his Master’s Degree in Planning and Sustainable Development at University College Cork (UCC).

Coining his walk ‘The Conscious Commute’, he has kept an uplifting and humourous blog of his experiences as he travelled through vast swathes of Germany, the Netherlands, England, Wales and Ireland (see http://theconsciouscommute.weebly.com/journal.html).

After walking across the breadth of the UK, he has since crossed the Irish Sea via Ferry to Rosslare Harbour for the last leg of his journey from Wexford to Cork.

Gregor was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentiosa (RP), a progressive hereditary condition affecting sight, a number of years ago and became aware of Fighting Blindness last year through their project Target 3000. The national project aims to offer genetic screening to the estimated 3,000 people affected by a retinal degenerative condition in Ireland.

Clodagh Ryan, Senior Fundraising Manager with Fighting Blindness, said: ‘This walk is an unbelievable undertaking and we have been blown away by Gregor’s amazing determination and generosity in supporting Fighting Blindness in this way. We are delighted to be involved with Gregor’s adventure and looking forward to meeting with him when he returns.’

Not only does he continue to raise badly needed funds for Fighting Blindness, he has highlighted in a big way that we can all take small steps towards reducing our carbon footprint.

‘The idea of walking from my hometown Dresden to Cork where I live and study originated from an idle moment's calculation in March 2013,’ says Gregor. ‘I wanted to know my carbon footprint from taking the bus to work everyday in 2012 and compare it to the carbon footprint of somebody single-commuting the same distance by car. The answer back then was 203kg of CO2 for the 6km bus ride compared to 410kg for the car commute. Naturally, I felt fairly good about myself.

‘Then I calculated my carbon footprint from flying back home to Germany three times during the course of the same year to visit my family. Suddenly, my carbon emissions skyrocketed to more than 1.3 tons of CO2. Who was I kidding?

‘The ease and affordability of modern transport had allowed me to move 1500km away from my family, knowing that to go home would mean spending a mere 12 hours on the road whilst suffering through a few in-flight commercials. All the while, I was happily convinced of my fairly low impact life-style, walking everywhere and reducing waste wherever I could. Yet, I was fooling myself. Sometimes, numbers can be a wonderful consciousness-raiser.

‘While this walk may not make much of a dint in my carbon balance, I hope it will allow me to discover the stretches of land in-between my two 'points of commute' and gain some insight into what I may have missed due to the luxury of modern flight.’

He has kept his ultimate goal in his sights however.

‘Experiencing sight loss due to Retinitis Pigmentosa myself, I would like to use this walk to raise funds for the outstanding work of Fighting Blindness, an Irish charity with a vision to cure blindness, support those experiencing sight loss and empower patient.’

Gregor will be arriving in Cork at lunchtime on Saturday.

Those wishing to support Gregor’s journey and Fighting Blindness can do so here: http://www.mycharity.ie/event/onfootfromdresdentocork.

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