Choosing car-free living was a journey for our family. We didn't wake up one day and sell our car. We made a goal and set about making it happen.
At first we weren't sure if we could manage to be live completely without a car being a family of 5, including 3 children. Our goal was to ower our environmental footprint without causing stress or leaving us with a feeling of lack. It was uncomfortable at first, as any change is, but it has been a wonderful thing for us.
Here are our tips for making a transition to living car-free, or at least reducing your need for your vehicle, save money on gas and maintenance and enjoy a slower paced lifestyle, as well.
The first thing we did was examine our car usage. You can do this by asking yourself some questions:
In asking these questions, we found that most of the places that we go regularly aren't that far from us, or are near other places we enjoy or frequent, which increased our ability to transition into car-free living more often.
We also found we could shift several places we frequented to a clsoer alternative that we were just as happy with. And we discovered some of the places that are farther could be utilized less often, perhaps by buying in bulk or otherwise.
Ask yourself the same questions to discover what you will find out about your driving habits and how you might implement car-free living more often.
Do some research here to get an actual cost assessment. Look at your bank account to add up how much you are spending each month on gas, maintenance, parking and other car care needs.
Don't forget to ask yourself how much your car costs (with interest if you took out a loan). Look at how long you've owned it or plan to own it. And don't forget how much you pay for insurance and deductibles each year.
Don't forget to add value for the time you spend using or maintaining your car and whether that is an enjoyable thing for you. Your time is just as important (if not more so) as your money.
Once I added up what our car cost to buy, added in maintainance costs and divided it up into a monthly amount based on how long we had and could expect to own it, I was shocked! Car-free living became a more viable option when I saw that it was saving me money and time and decreasing my eco-footprint at the same time.
What are the alternatives that can help you live without a car or at least enjoy car-free living more often? What are others ways to get where you want to go?
You could borrow a car from a friend or relative, share a car with another person or family, bike, walk, skateboard, take buses, trains (public transportation and private lines), zip cars and other open car share programs, and even renting cars when you really can't do without is an affordable option, too.
Living without a car is more challening in a rural area than in an urban setting. But challenging does not mean impossible.
What can you do to get what you need instead of driving?
You can start by consuming less and and utilizing everything as completely as possible. You can shop online, use a home delivery, bulk buying, buying clubs, menu plan, combine trips, and share errands with friends.
All these car-free living possibilities take a little planning, but you are rewarded doubly. You lessen your impact on the earth, save money and you just may find you consume less, generate less waste and also enjoy yourself and your lifestyle more.
Driving to work is probably where most people put the most miles on their vehicle. And often these are enjoyable miles devoid of joy and peace.
There are usually other options: Public transportation is convienent to most of us. We can hop a bus or train and be driven to work, using that precious time to read, listen to music, do a little extra work or surf the web. (Many public transportation options now have thir own wifi!)
Could you bicycle to integrate more activity and health into your lifestyle? And many employers now offer incentives to green commuting, so don't hesitate to ask your boss.
Another common approach is ride sharing, easing the burden of commuting with a colleague. And more longterm solutions could be telecommuting full or part time or moving closer to work to make living without a car easier.
Being organized and creating a car use schedule helps make the transition more smooth.
Have a plan of everywhere you need to go in a week. Then comb through it, and ask yourself what can you actually leave out?
After you have nothing left but what brings real value to your life then sort them out geographically. What errands, business etc are near each other? Are there changes you can make to shift things geographically closer to each other? Maybe you can use a different shop or go to a different restaurant closer to home or other errands.
Are there any errands that you can do online just as well? Can you shop online and have it delivered? Many grocery shops deliver for a nominal charge that is generally reasonable. How many errands can you do without a car? Can you walk, bike or use the bus?
Getting a little deeper into the lifestyle, consider DIY projects that are fun, save money and our resources. For example: Home brew instead of buying a six-pack. You save time and energy shopping, sometimes even a separate errand, and you can reuse your bottles and equipment over and over.
Cooking from whole ingredients allows you to buy in bulk and shop just once a month (with a few combined errands to pick of fresh veggies), as does organic gardening. And making the things you want instead of buying will alleviate shopping as frequently. I have noticed the more we make ourselves the less we need and we are more satisfied and grateful for what we have.
Don't forget that kids can be part of this, after all it is their world too. Make it fun to find creative car-free living solutions to easing our environmental work load. Children have great ideas and often have a fresh perspective, seeing things that we missed or wouldn't have considered.
If you can't be car-free, be car-less. Use the car-free living tips in this article to use your car less often. Maybe just start by combining errands and utilizing local resources that you can walk or bike to.
For more information on living without a car or car-sharing, check out the following links:
Faith Void Taintor, a nomad and Jill-of-all-trades, has been a doula, carpenter, jewelry maker, mechanic, mother and much more. She learned the importance of loving and respecting the earth through her mother, who ran a re-use center during her childhood, and embracing a DIY lifestyle as a young punk in the late 80's. Together with her partner Than she has a design business, Golden Apples Design, which they run from home.
Transitioning to car-free living is a big step in the right direction. But even when you're 100% committed to living without a car, why stop there?
When you're ready for a few more steps check out the articles below.
Whatever step you take, remember to have fun!
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