What a Difference a Day Could Make

I know that the Gusher in the Gulf has everyone thinking about the environment and our dependence on oil. I’ve been thinking about it a lot at Our Little House.

If 9-11 didn’t start making us think about it, or the skyrocketing gas prices that hit an all time high in 2008, I think this was definitely America’s last wake up call.

Since my post about being depressed over the news, I’m sure many of us have found our own ways to deal with the disaster, to help relieve the pressure for the earth to give us  more oil.

Did you know that if every single American that drives a car could reduce their driving by 30 miles each week – in essence giving up their cars for just one day – we could reduce America’s overall consumption by 20 percent?

After reading posts on two of my favorite blogs, one being on Rowdy Kittens and the other at Chezsven, I wondered if going carless just one day a week would produce results?

Alexandra wrote on Chezsven that she wished there were a “no car” day in her town. A day when people could just take a break from the smell of exhaust, the rush of the world and appreciate the beauty of the world around us.

Tammy, over at Rowdy Kittens, gave up her car and lives a completely car-free existence. She’s an environmental hero in my book, but that’s not possible for a lot of us.

However, do we really stop and think if we need to haul our kids in gigantic SUVs to school, swim practice or their baseball games each day? Do we really need to hop in the car to run down to the grocery store for that ingredient – do we even need that ingredient to finish that meal or can it combined with another errand some other time? Even if you can give up your vehicle for one day a week, combining errands is also a very good way to reduce consumption even more.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve walking home from school, stopping at the Turner Food Store for some candy and chatting with the pharmacist at McDaniel’s Drug Store.

I know parents don’t feel safe allowing their children to walk many places these days, so why can’t they take a break and walk to school with them or meet them after school? Who knows what you would notice or who you would meet in your neighborhood taking a complete break from the car just one day a week.

Then there’s the money you would save.

There are approximately 250 million registered vehicles in the U.S. today. What if only half – 125 million – were to stay home for one or more day a week? What if 50 million of us would stop driving just for a day?

When I started using cloth bags over two decades ago, my husband poo-poo’ed my mother and I, saying two households couldn’t make a difference. When I added up the number of bags we had saved over 20 years, it came to about 10,000. Those were bags saved from landfills and that’s 10,000 bags that didn’t use oil for their production.

I would say that’s made a difference. Now is the time to do more.

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14 Responses

  1. It is heartening to read about so many others fighting the good fight!

  2. I try to drive only 1-2 days a week. Sometimes, that isn’t possible due to family demands, but I really do try to drive as little as possible … which isn’t easy since we live in a relatively remote location.

  3. Frugal Kiwi says:

    We’ve just moved to a small town and I LOVE that I can walk everywhere in town in 20 minutes or less. I can get the library and two different grocery stores on foot in 10 minutes. Or I can stop off at one of the three butchers or the green grocer on my way. This is how living should be. With us both working from home and being able to do most errands on foot, we usually only use our car when we go for adventures on the weekend.

    • That’s wonderful, Frugal. Living in NZ, I’m sure walking is the more acceptable mode of transportation anyway. Our daughter lives in Munich and doesn’t own a car. She walks, bikes or takes public transport everywhere. She loves the money she saves from not having a car!

      • Frugal Kiwi says:

        Sadly, most of NZ is tragically underserved by public transport and bike trails. Auckland is a nightmare to get around in without a car and biking can be downright dangerous. Frugal Man’s doctor was killed in Auckland whilst riding his bike.

        Wellington is the main stand out for decent public transport in this country.

  4. Kathleen Winn says:

    We are moving from the city to the country in just a few weeks. I am actually looking forward to many of the environmentally beneficial changes that I will be forced to make. Our septic system will not be able to handle garbage- so no garbage disposal. Instead, I’ll keep a composting pail on the kitchen counter and empty it every day into a composting bin. There is already a clothesline at the new house, so I’ll be hanging our laundry on the line instead of using the dryer. I will also have to limit my drives to the grocery store, which is at least a twenty minute drive (compared to the five minutes I now have to drive to get groceries.) And, as you point out Kerri, that will take better planning on my part and a willingness to think ahead about what we’ll need to stock up on. In fact, all of our errands- pharmacy, post office, bank etc., will have to be consolidated so that we aren’t making numerous trips into town. I’m not sure I’d have the motivation and discipline to make these changes if I weren’t forced to by circumstance, but I know there are many things I could already be doing in my “city life,” to conserve energy and reduce waste. If we hope to someday eliminate our dependence on oil, along with its destructive environmental, political and financial costs, Americans have to embrace change and be willing to make a few sacrifices. I believe we can do it.

    • I know we CAN do it, Kathleen, but will we? It still amazes me how many people, especially in our area of the country, don’t think twice about hopping in the car 3, 4 or even 5 times a day to do errands that could all be combined.
      Yes, you will have to think and plan ahead. One thing about being in the country is that unless you want to spend every dime of disposable income or at least a half day everyday driving, you learn to make lists and do all of the errands in one trip! It’s exhausting, but at least you don’t have to do it but once a week! 😉

  5. Alexandra says:

    Thanks for the mention! I have discovered that spreading the word through blogging helps, as does bringing up these topics with my B&B guests. It makes people think more about the society we have created and what can be done to improve it.

    My thing right now is toxic chemicals in the environment, ever since I read Slow Death by Rubber Duck and heard a rep from the American Chemical Council insist on NPR that BPA is not bad for people. Ha! We do not have to submit to toxic chemicals in the environment simply because the government has not set new rules. Government lumbers along. The online community moves fast. Maybe we can influence some of the slow-moving legislators and get them to understand support for corporate America will no longer work if they want to be elected? Start by calling your legislators and urging them to support the Safe Chemicals Act, now in Congress. Eliminate plastic. Drive less. The country does still want change. Remember Change we can count on? Let’s all create those small changes in our own lives and get people around us to make them, too ….Yeah for the ripple effect!

    • I hope blogging and spreading the word helps, Alexandra. I saw a segment on the national news about this the other day and you would be surprised (or maybe not) of how many people they polled who said they wouldn’t give up their car for one day. Not couldn’t, as in they need to get to work each day, but wouldn’t. We look forward to staying home at least one day each week (Dale’s been working 6 days a week and has to have the car on Sat.) and not driving. It’s actually freeing.

  6. V Schoenwald says:

    I have been doing the same as Kristi has done at the farmer’s market. I sell my over abundance of produce from my garden, and I grow herbs for culinary use. In order to get people here to do anything, you must show them, so I have compiled recipes to use for the week’s farmer’s market and take my herbs and the other’s produce to make weekday and weekend meals. I have been helping to sell more herbs and helps the others to sell what they have, plus telling people about local food grown with love and health, and supporting the local business and not the big box that does not care about you and your family.I also use cotton and hemp shopping bags, and boy, talk about a stir in my town when you do this, I have heard the word” hippie” several times, but that’s ok…
    I also bike, though my town is not bike friendly, and is very spread out to shop effectivly, I bike to my local store one a week for staples, and take our local handy bus to get my mail at the UPS store. Unfortunatly, I have to have my mail delivered to a box as my neighborhood is very bad and you cannot have mail delivered as it is usually stolen so I have to resort to this method, and it does cause some stress, but I make up by shopping one a week. I am shooting for a goal of once a month.
    I have cut back on fuel by planning my trips around the day I shop, so, groceries, mail, errands, and such are planned and I have cut my fuel by over 60% by just watching what I have done, I have been doing this for quite a few years but I have really stepped up to really cut back. I would love to give up the car period, but I have elderly parents I care for and I cannot do it at this point in time.
    Anyway, Kerri, great post as usual, I just do not have answers to such monster problems, and I again, sometimes, just have to shut it off for a while, but it does not mean that I have shut out the thought as to how to make a difference.
    Also, (I’m ranting, Kerri, sorry!) people need to also realize you just sometimes just have to make change in your life, it is hard, very hard, but you can do it, its like when I am at farmer’s market, people say to me, “I work, and I just don’t have time to cook”, I generally tell them, you need to slow down at least once a week, and make a day or evening of it. It is a habit that must be developed over time, and cannot be done overnight. I try to give tips as to prep produce when they get home, and have it ready to throw into the pot or my fave the Crockpot and you are on your way. I think that people need to realize you cannot tackle lifestyle changes overnight, but by little baby steps and moving forward. (Sorry for the rant, Kerri, 40 lashes…..)

    • Rant on, V! 🙂 I know I’m preaching to the choir here. I’m sure many in our Living Large community are living an even more sustainable life than we are. You all give me some good ideas too! We’ve already cut our errands to once a week and I’m working towards cutting them to every other week too. Just need to get the cash reserves to buy two weeks of stuff all at once and the organization to plan that far ahead!

  7. Kristi says:

    I totally agree. I can’t effect big changes until I make the small changes that I am in total control of. You never know who you are inspiring and where that ripple effect might end. I got involved with the Farmer’s Market here in our town, not because I want to make money, but because it allows me to preach the gospel of eating locally and in season. And, if people see that someone like me, who is not radical, can make an attempt at locavorism, then maybe they can make a few adjustments to their routines.

    Keep on sending the message in a friendly, non-threatening way. Showing how small, painless changes can add up. You go girl!