From Car-Love to Car-Friendship

Living a 1930’s lifestyle is quite a lesson. As soon as the pandemic hit, we all knew we were in for a taste of thrifty 1930’s style Depression life. To prepare for a life of thrift, almost 20 years ago, our family took the urging of Adbusters magazine’s incredible “Buy Nothing Day” campaign. Spending a day spending no money taught my kids and me a lot and to this day, we use it. But with the economic collapse of these last months, I am herein instituting for myself and urging you, dear readers, to join “Drive Nowhere Days.” Try to get your week’s car use down to nothing. Or next to nothing.

I’m closing in on only four short trips a week. I think next week I’m going for three. My ultimate goal? Using my car only one day a week.

And why not? This COVID-19 time is the perfect time to not only drive less often but also consider never driving again. The American romance with cars is ridiculous. Most of us cannot afford a Tesla or even a Prius at this point. And we’re wasting our money on our standard make cars. I went from spending $280 a month on my fat, 11-year-old sedan to spending $73 month instead. Same car, different attitude.

How did I do it? Well, Zoom helped, of course. All those former meetings in different cities hours away ended in the snap of a finger. My kitchen table became my desk. Next, I negotiated a lower lease for my shared office and decided to go in every two weeks to use some of the equipment there when no one was around. Safer and cheaper. Then I began to curtail my life as a consumer.

One day is for buying groceries, going to the Post Office, doing my banking. Another day, I use the car to take me to a hiking trail. The third day, I go out for stuff I ran out of or forgot on the first shopping day – seed for my many birdfeeders, or a box of sanitary gloves or gardening items or another trail head I want to find. The rest of the time, I walk. So those are my fiscal reasons for slowing down my car use. But there are other, more pressing reasons I am re-inculcating in myself. These are reasons I long held dear and now I am ashamed I had lost. But it’s time to take them back.

Pollution: When an environment, any environment – oceans, soil or the atmosphere – is contaminated, that’s pollution.1  Clearly, the biggest polluter in your household is your car. A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric TONS of carbon dioxide per year.2 Whether or not you can actually picture that dark, odious cloud in your mind, you know in your heart of hearts that 284.5 million registered cars in the US spitting out 4.6 metric tons of pollutants cannot possibly be a good thing.3

COVID19 has brought much suffering. And in this suffering we must take its powerful learning as well. Before the pandemic, an average American suburban family of two adults and two children, often was the cause of as many as ten or more car events a day. Consider an ordinary day with an ordinary family – two adults raising two young children. One adult is freelancing from home. The other works in The City. Here’s their daily car trip calculation including all ignition events:

Parent 1 takes child 1 to school (1st trip). Parent 2 takes other child to school (2nd trip). Parent 1 drives to work (3rd trip). Parent 2 drives home (4th trip). Work materials are delivered to Parent 2 (5th trip). At end of day, Parent 1 picks up one child, takes that child to extra-curricular event and then home afterward (6th trip, 7th trip, 8th trip). Parent 2 picks up other child and they drive to grocery (9th trip, 10th trip). They drive home (11th trip).  

A significant amount of carbon emissions. COVID has forced us and perhaps taught us that there must be changes made in our lives to change our trembling, caustic atmosphere. 

Wars & Terrorist Attacks:  The US policy to control Middle East oil has created both horrible numbers of deaths and constant threats of future danger. This is the result of two erroneous ideas. (I am speaking to the choir, here. I know) Idea One is that our government feels we much always have enough oil for our military to keep managing wars worldwide. Idea Two, we want to always have enough oil for our cars to keep running at a price we like.4 And yet, as the Congressional Budget Office has shown, the War in Iraq alone has cost us $2.4 trillion or $6,300 per US citizen. And it is estimated that 600,000 Iraqi citizens and about 5,000 Americans have died.5 This is how much we pay, and make others pay, for being able to drive anywhere we want, anytime we want. 

Accidents: 33,000 people die every year in motor vehicle accidents.6 Need I say more?  I am certain that the number killed or injured in 2020 will be far lower than last year and all the years since reporting began in 1913. Isn’t giving up your car a few days a week worth that sacrifice?

You once fell in love with your car. You gave “her” a name. You drove her everywhere whether you needed to or not. You, as the saying goes, “Loved that car.” But now it’s time to make your lover, your friend. 

  1. Green Matters, Stephanie Ozmanski, April 2020.
  2. “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle,” EPA Website.
  3. “Car Purchase Studies for 2019,” Statista and also Hedges & Co websites.
  4. “How America’s Energy Obsession Wrecked the Middle East” Eugene Gholz, MIT & Foreign Policy Research Institute, Big Think lecture series.
  5. Congressional Budget Office Report (July 2007), Richard Sammon
  6. Fatality Analysis Reporting System of US Dept of Transportation,  www. FAHRS.NHTSA.dot.gov

Mary Ann Maggiore

Mary Ann Maggiore is a former Mayor of Fairfax elected on an environmental platform and founder of the Affordable Housing initiative and Youth Advisory there. At the same time Mary Ann served as the Executive Director of Girl Scouts Save the Bay serving 55,000 girls. Mary Ann's work has been honored by the CA Senate, CA Assembly, Working Solutions Community Innovator Award and the City of San Francisco. Today Mary Ann continues her commitment to youth as ED of LAUNCH!, Guiding Young People 18 to 30 to Meaningful Work.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Sandra Luna

    I, too, have enjoyed driving less. I can’t avoid it with my business but making one trip to the grocery store every 2-3 weeks, instead of every 2-4 days is nice. Staying home & cooking, leads to much more time at home and less time on the road. I’ll never forget how clean the air was in late March 2020, when cars were off the road.

  2. Lori Goldwyn

    From your mouth to god’s ear, Mary Ann! Having the luxury of being able to hunker down has indeed enabled me to drive less frequently, and I too have limited and consolidated my trips. May the lessons learned and differences experienced stay fresh in our minds and hearts for the duration.

  3. Ellen Williams

    I have learned to appreciate my home, having time to take better care of it. While I ache for others, I have found great peace and trusting God to take care of them. Home sweet home has never been sweeter. This is a gift for people of my age. I am thankful for all those years I spent dedicated to fulfilling my contract with the school system. I don’t take it lightly that a check is automatically deposited while others are scrapping to survive. My daughters who are doing the same thing now, fulfilling their contracts is a lot more dangerous. I pray for them and others constantly. My car stays parked.

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