Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I will be car free for the first time in my life.
Yup, you heard that right. Car free.
I don’t actually consider it “losing” a car, so much as a conscious decision to move away from my dependence on the automotive lifestyle and my subsequent use of fossil fuels. It’s my next step in “walking the walk” of being an environmental activist. Literally.
“But”, I can hear you saying, “you don’t live in New York City, or Portland, or any major city… How in the world are you going to sell your car and still get where you need to go?”
Well, here’s how. I am fortunate in that I do live in a city, small as it may be. We have some pretty cool advantages, and I plan to take advantage of them all.
1. Walking and biking:
I live a little under a mile from the heart of downtown, and biking distance from most everything in the city. By walking a mile or so, I can get to at least one small grocery store, the farmer’s market, the library, banks, shops, government offices, several pharmacies, a plethora of amazing restaurants, and… the central transit station.
2. Public Transit:
Charlottesville has a small but functional public bus system. Charlottesville Area Transit covers the city, the University of Virginia campus and a small piece of the county just outside city limits. A bus pass will get me to my part time job and pretty much everywhere I want to go within the city. There is also a free trolley that runs from downtown to the University, where there is… a ZipCar program.
There is a ZipCar program associated with the University. There are a number of different paid plans that you can sign up for, a great phone application that you can use to reserve a car, and a program that has cars in cities across the US. I haven’t decided quite yet whether to sign up, but it’s nice knowing that there’s another option besides renting a car or taking a taxi, if necessary. Hopping back on the free trolley, I pass by… the train station.
I am a huge fan of the rail system in Europe, and have started utilizing Amtrak here in the states. (There is also a Greyhound station close to downtown.) I can walk to the transit station, hop on the free trolley, get off at the Charlottesville Amtrak station (CVS) , and six hours later find myself in the center of Manhattan. How cool is that?? Since when I visit New York City, I spend most of my time eating, that brings me (somewhat clumsily) around to… food.
5. Relay Foods:
One of the absolute coolest things about living in Charlottesville is a growing service called Relay Foods – I can shop from my computer (in my pajamas if I so choose) any time during the week, day or night. With over 50 farms and vendors (and growing), I have no reason to brave the aisles of the grocery store. I simply place my order online by midnight of the day before and go get my groceries the next day at a convenient pickup spot. How much easier does it get? (And, if you click on that link above and place an order, you’ll get a coupon and I’ll get $5. Sweet.)
The Added Benefits:
Approximately a quarter of my spending this past year was car-related. Between the car payment, insurance, gas, taxes, upkeep and the like, it takes a huge chunk out of my income to just keep the car sitting in my driveway. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to start paying off some debt with the money that was going to feed the beast.
By walking and biking instead of sitting in a car, I am improving my overall health and wellness. Charlottesville is a fairly temperate city (except for the occasional Snowpocalypse that brings 2 or so feet of snow), so walking around shouldn’t ever be too difficult.
Ever notice how you tend to stop and say hi to more people when you’re walking around? Funny how you can’t really do that in a car. Today, I ran into a good friend as I was on my way to the Clerk’s office – had I been driving, I would have missed that opportunity to catch up with him. By ditching the car, I’ll be more connected to my city.
My Challenge To You:
I realize that not everyone lives in a city, and not everyone has the desire or ability to live without a car. However, if you are feeling up for it, I would like to challenge each of you to find ways to reduce your own dependence on an automotive lifestyle.
Plan your trips so that you can combine errands; make one less trip a week; carpool with a friend or coworker to get to your next destination.
Walk or bike somewhere instead of driving, if it’s an option; check out your local transit options; see if there’s a car sharing program near you.
Create some awareness of how we utilize the fossil fuels we’re consuming. Chances are, you’ll find that making other choices will be healthier for both the planet and for you and your wallet!
I have no idea how this experiment of mine is going to pan out. That being said, just writing this post has made me really excited about the possibilities that it will bring.
Car free, here I come!