Monday, January 1, 2007
Driving, you're sooo 2006
Welcome, 2007! Whether you're for or against making resolutions, it seems obvious that the first day of each new year is a convenient time to reflect, evaluate, and make a fresh start in various aspects of our lives. Many of us have already been making small but significant changes towards a more sustainable, less disposable future. And it's like a snowball, isn't it? Once you start remembering to bring your own bags, you can't help but notice how much packaging surrounds your crackers, cds, and running shoes. It always seems like there's so much more you could be doing, doesn't it? So...(can you tell I'm leading up to something big here?), let's start the new year off with a bang by attacking the biggest, baddest monster of them all: DRIVING. I don't think I need to convince you on this one--we all need to be driving a lot less, period. So, I've decided to put myself on a driving diet. Yes, a diet--a staple of the American lifestyle. We can all be very disciplined people when it comes to counting calories, resisting carbs, sticking to a monthly budget, or saving for retirement. But one area of our lives that seems to be totally lacking discipline--or any thought at all--is how much we drive. Our president even admitted that we are "addicted to oil", and as addicts, we unthinkingly rack up hundreds of miles a week and can't even account for our actions. Quick: How many miles do you drive per week? Don't know?
On average, I drive 375 miles a week, due to a long commute. The starting goal for my diet is to drive 100 fewer miles per week. To do that, I'm going to take the bus to work 2-3 times a week. (I was gleefully taking the train, but am starting a new job outside the range of the rail system, so I'll be discovering the world of the L.A. bus system!). I challenge you to join me on this diet! I'm not asking you to drive 100 fewer miles...I've already gotten used to public transportation and know that 100 miles is doable for me. Pick a number that seems like a realistic starting point for you, like driving 10 fewer miles a week. Then get creative to figure out how you can reach that goal. First, figure out how many miles you drive to work every day. Could you take the train or bus to work one day a week? Even if it's far, it's not unrealistic. I'm going to be going from Los Feliz to Santa Monica, and although it will take a little longer on the bus, I'll be able to read and enjoy all the benefits of not having to pay attention to the road. Do you live close enough to work that you could bike a couple days? Does a coworker live nearby whom you could carpool with?
Next, look at your non-commuting driving. Most of us in LA have grocery stores, banks, and other essentials within a reasonable walking distance. (If you're trying to shed those holiday pounds, you'll be killing two birds with one stone, right?) And don't assume that driving less will cut into your social life. Figure out a way to meet up with friends for drinks using public transportation--it will be an adventure! An added bonus--nobody has to worry about being the designated driver. Figure out what bus route can get you to your BFF's place for Saturday brunch. Another option is to observe a driving "sabbath" on Saturday or Sunday. Get all your errands done on Saturday, and don't touch your car on Sunday. I've been pretty faithfully observing a "no-driving Sundays" rule, and it has been great! It's amazing how relaxing it is to not fight traffic all weekend...
Although the L.A. rail system is limited, it serves some areas really well, and there's a chance you live or work near a stop and might not even know it. Check out this map. Even if you're not near the train, there are definitely buses that serve your area. Go on an urban adventure! And remember, there are millions of people in L.A. who have no choice but to rely on public transportation. There are even a few who voluntarily live without a car. If you are somewhere else, even in suburban sprawl, I bet there are stores that are within walking distance, even though you never see anyone walking to them. Your presence will remind people that, even in suburbia, there are ways to get around without a car.
So pick a number--10, 25, 50 miles, whatever is realistic yet challenging for you, and pledge to join me on this diet. Just like if you were losing weight, as you meet your goal, create another one for yourself. It's a learning process: If this 100 mile thing turns out to be easy for me, I'm going to cut my original number in half. Please let me know what you are pledging, etiher by posting a comment or by emailing me. I don't want to do this alone!! And I want to know what other people are doing! Start logging your car trips (as if it were your checkbook) so that you know exactly where your mileage is being spent. Please forward to friends and encourage them to join you on the diet. I am convinced that everyone can easily cut out at least 10-25 miles a week, and imagine if we all do more!