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It’s Not About The Car – the truth about car-free living

by Tao Oliveto

As you know from this blog, my commuting habits are a work in progress. I’ve been journeying from Prius to biodiesel, with a lot of bicycle and a little mass transit in between. I mostly live, play and work at home or within a radius of 5 miles, making it not much of a sacrifice to get around by bicycle and bus. The most regular driving I do is to get my dogs to the trail head. My biggest mileage involves a 45-mile roundtrip one day/week to work in another town. Ouch. I don’t enjoy this trip and it’s not just the eco-guilt – being in traffic is a tense and disconnected experience – something I didn’t notice so much when I was driving regularly.

If I’ve been this happy with my car-lite lifestyle, I often wonder what it would be like to go totally car-free? Chris Balish, journalist and nationally-known lecturer on the environment, sustainable development and green living, reveals all – including the true costs of owning a car, in his best-selling book,

“How To Live Well Without Owning A Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get more Mileage out of Life.”

This book covers every topic, question and driving alternative in detail and includes resources and testimonials from others living car-free in the U.S.. The new ideas on car-pooling, car-sharing and car-rental were especially interesting. For instance, bringing home heavy garden supplies like potting soil in the Spring, runs to the Farmers Market on Saturdays or weekend hiking are the obvious times to get your friends together in one vehicle. Renting a car on a weekend for projects or trips is not a crazy idea – especially if you are sharing the cost with others. Did you know that most taxis allow pets if they are in carriers?

What expanded my view beyond car-ownership more than anything was cost. I was shown that my car that I’m so proud to let sit idle (not idling) much of the time, is costing me an average of $700/month. What? Then I did the math – it’s true.

This book covers the driving habits for everyone in cities or suburbs, of every age and income level. I found it especially fun and interesting reading the lengthy chapter on dating without a car. Chris’s list of ideas for car-free dates alone is enough to nominate him most eligible bachelor, though, a visit to his website made my head spin. This guy lives it up and gives it up for the environment.

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