Tips for Car-Free Living (All or Just Some of the Time)
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.
1. Examine Your Car Usage
The first thing we did was examine our car usage. You can do this by asking yourself some questions:
- Where do I drive regularly?
- How far away are those places?
- How often do I go there?
- What is the purpose of going there?
- How many other people are going to that same place?
- Are my common stops nearby other stops?
- Does going there fulfill a need or support a goal?
- Or does it bring your life greater meaning or joy?
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.
2. Assess an Accurate Car Costs
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. It's helpful to look over the course of a year to get a better estimate of any unplanned costs that are easy to overlook in our final total.
Don't forget to ask yourself how much your car cost you to purchase (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.
And remember 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.
3. Assess the Alternatives
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 from time to time as neeed, 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 often a more affordable option, too.
Living without a car is more challenging in a rural area than in an urban setting. But challenging does not mean impossible.
And 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.
4. Commuting Alternatives
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 their 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.
5. Practical Transition Tips for Car-Free Living
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, businesses, 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 for any of them?
Getting a little deeper into the lifestyle, consider DIY projects that are fun, save money, and our resources. For example: Home brew instead of running to 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, 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.
Can't Be 100% Car-Free?
If you can't be car-less, try being less-car. 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.