How To Drive Less: Small Steps To a Complete Carectomy

No one expects you to change overnight. For many of us, going completely car-free is a lifestyle change on the scale of switching from big city living to farming in the boondocks; from bone-crunching carnivore to raw vegan; from sinner to saint. It’s major, and best to begin your transformation by taking baby steps.

Here’s a roster of ways to reduce your driving, overhaul your lifestyle, and get you miles closer to car-free.

Consolidate Your Car Trips:

Do you really need to drive across town to pick up that carton of specialty chow mein, or can it wait until Saturday, when you’ll do most of your shopping? Simplify your travel by doing all of the errands that are more easily made by car in one fell swoop. This is far better than making superfluous, isolated trips to satisfy midnight cravings or pick up something you must have at that very moment. I make an effort to do all of the errands made easier by car in one trip, two or three times a month. I’ll also try to streamline trips by the region of the city I’m traveling to, especially if it’s in the far-reaches. Consolidating your car trips is an exercise in smart planning and self-control. Apart from saving you time, it saves money on fuel—and the planet from your excessive carbon emissions.

Beware the Car-ma Police

Yeah, you took the car. So, whatsit to ya? Don’t get defensive; play devil’s advocate. Ask yourself: could you have traveled to your destination another way, without your wheels? Act as your own car-ma police.

Bring A Friend:

Whether you’re going to the grocery store or a game, it’s likely that someone in your circle of friends needs to get there, too. Make the effort to coordinate with friends, family, and others in your community to carpool and car-share, so you’ll reduce the overall number of car trips and cars on the road.

Be Experimental:

If you’ve never used a car-sharing service like ZipCar, treat yourself and try it out. Same goes for any alternate mode of transportation: the bus, the subway, your bike, or your own two feet. If none of these appeal, revive your rollerblades (stashed in the closet since 1995?). The bottom line: enjoy something different. Ditch your killing, car-reliant routine and smell the roses. People-watch on public transportation. While riding the train, read that book you’ve been meaning to crack since Christmas. Reward yourself with a new pair of sneakers or some sparkly streamers. Revive your routine and revel in a novel experience.

Cap The Gas:

The news media is rife with photos of Americans wincing at the gas pump. Why not set some boundaries and save some dough by allowing yourself to fill up a limited number of times per month? If you know you’ve got to ration gas like it’s gold, you’ll be more likely to reduce the number of car trips you make and use alternate modes of transit, instead.

Tap The Backyard:

Why drive clear across town or sit in traffic on a clogged freeway when whatever you need is at your fingertips? Shop locally or online and avoid unnecessary trips by car. The delivery person is driving anyway, and chances are good that he’s making other stops in your neighborhood. If you’re shopping within a small radius of your home, you’re investing in the local economy and giving business to the little guys (more eco-friendly than the Big Box boys), which is always a boon. Same goes for conducting business: maybe you could conduct your meeting via web or phone, instead of driving to the bad buffet lunch? (The bonus? You don’t have to wear a tie.)

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