Forget about a tree falling in the forest when no one's there to hear it. What I really want to know is: Would anyone drive a $60,000 automobile if no one was there to see them in it? (Clearly the folks at Esquire would.)
Fortunately I was born without the vanity gene. That has saved me a lot of money over the years, and it has made it easier for me to live a little lighter on the planet. It means I tend to reuse, reduce and recycle, with total disregard to what the Joneses might think of me.
I couldn't care less, for example, about the appearance of the car I drive. I drive sparingly, maintain my vehicles faithfully, and get every ounce of life out of them, no matter how people might laugh and stare when I drive by in my 20-year-old, 200,000+ mile Toyota pickup. Leave your vanity parked at home whenever you go shopping, particularly for a big ticket item like a car.
And also join me in leaving your car parked at home for at least one week during this season of Lent. Go car-free for a week? Heresy -- if not a metaphysical impossibility -- I know. But let's think about it and give it a try.
According to the AAA, on average it costs almost one dollar to drive the typical car one mile. That's after factoring in the cost of the car/depreciation, gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, parking, tolls, traffic tickets, etc. The average American spends almost 20% of their income on their cars, and spends about 20% of their work week sitting behind the wheel ... much of it to get to and from work, in order to earn that 20% of their income they need to pay for the trip! At about a buck per mile, just think about how much you'll save by going car-free for a week.
And if all that driving is killing our household budgets, it's also killing our planet. How would you like to be stuck at a railroad crossing, waiting for a 50,000-mile long train to pass? According to Environmental Defense, you'd need to burn all the coal that train could carry in order to generate the CO2 emissions generated by U.S. cars and trucks in a single year. That's about 314 million metric tons of CO2, and the train would circle the world, twice.
So for at least one measly week during Lent, let's give up our cars, shall we? Let's try carpooling to work, taking public transportation, walking or bicycling. Or tell your boss about your car-free-week resolution and see if she'll let you telecommute for a change. For additional tips and insight into How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, see Chris Balish's terrific book by the same title.
As E.B. White once quipped, "Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car." For at least one week out of the year, let's choose otherwise.
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