ImageAs of midnight on July 1, 2012, we are officially a carless family. Crazy, I know! It has been an evolution of sorts, to get to this point, and part of an overall transformation since my position at a nonprofit was eliminated in June, 2009.

Going carless has been on my agenda for a few years. My plan has been to move to the city once my twins started college. They have just finished their freshman year of college, and I am within weeks (hopefully, if the house sale goes through) of moving to the city. The biggest motivation to go carless now is that my license plates expired. In order to renew my plates, my car would need costly repairs. So rather than do those repairs, I decided it made more sense to stop using the car.

When I first thought about not owning a car, cost was not a deciding factor. However, between insurance, gas, and maintenance, owning a car is expensive. Once I live in the city, I will be able to get anywhere I need to go without a car. It’s an easy way to save some money. And I love the side benefit of getting loads of exercise by riding my bike or walking without having to build it into my schedule. When I go someplace now, I am getting a workout too!Image

However, perhaps the best reason I am going carless, is to do my part to be kind to our planet. I am very concerned about climate change. I think we are naive if we think that all the crazy weather we are experiencing is just a coincidence. There are too many natural disasters, and too much atypical weather for us to ignore what is going on. Cars are a huge contributor to this problem. I have a guilty conscience when I drive, especially when I could have gotten to where I was going without my car. I don’t know that everyone can go carless, but we can all use our cars less. So I am doing my part. Happily

I am definitely concerned about those times when I will “need” a car. On rainy days. When I have something too big to carry on a bike. Or when I just don’t feel like riding my damn bike instead of hopping in the car. But I will get by. There are car share programs like I-GO and ZipCar and rental car companies. It just won’t be quite so convenient and therefore, I won’t do it nearly as often. Which is a good thing for me and for the planet.

Note: Just discovered this post by my friend Julie Urlaub, Founder of Taiga Company: Declare 4th of July Independence from Your Car – Ride a Bike!

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Of all days, today I decided I truly cannot live without paper towels.  I have 4 cats who throw up…a lot!  I don’t have a garbage disposal so that throw up needs to get to a garbage can.  I have not figured out how to get it there without paper towels.  Rags just don’t let it go once the throw up is all over them.  So today, on Earthday 2010, I have decided that, yes, we will use paper towels.

We are pretty good on this green stuff compared to many suburban Americans.  We ride our bikes to a  lot of places instead of driving.  We use public transportation.  (I think my kids are the ONLY ones in our suburb that actually know how to ride the city bus!)  We use cloth napkins and I haven’t bought paper plates or plastic cutlery in years.  We even have 2 glass jars in each of our toilet tanks filled with rocks to use less water when we flush.  But there is so much we do that isn’t good for the environment.  Today, I couldn’t seem to get motivated to ride my bike on my errands.  So at the very last minute I jumped in the car.  It was just too cold out to ride my bike.  And as an allergy suffering family, we still haven’t given up our addiction to Kleenex tissues.  When something is really old and stinky in the refrigerator, instead of dealing with it by rinsing out the plastic container and recycling it, sometimes I just toss it in the garbage (with my eyes closed!)  I KNOW that our house is filled with leaky spots-cold air flies in during the winter and out during the summer.  I would love to fix it all, but as an unemployed single mom, I just don’t have the money.  And solar panels?  Good friends of ours just installed those.  But I gotta buy groceries for this family on what little money I get from unemployment.

Our family continues to work at becoming more green.  I continue to feel guilty about the things we do not do.  I worry about this planet and what our selfishness is doing to the innocent animals and fish and insects and plant life.  I hear my daughter’s stories about kids in her school who can’t be bothered with worrying about the environment.  I see person after person on the Chicago “el” drinking from plastic water bottles that they will likely just toss in the garbage.  I watch the news and have this sense that the never-ending stream of earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters are really of our own making.  And then I feel really lousy, thinking that I have to have paper towels or I can’t ride my bike someplace.  I know that we have to make incremental changes but I am impatient and demanding.  My emotional side wants us to do it all now.  However, my intellectual side understands that if we make gradual changes, we will have time to adapt and maintain each action.  This is what has happened.  Each month we have done more.  Over time, we have really made some substantial changes.  Some days and some changes are harder than others.  Most days, it is a daily, hourly, minute by minute struggle and I couldn’t agree with Kermit more: “It’s not easy being green!”  But it is MUCH better than what awaits us if we are not!