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Living 'Car Lite'
Here are a few things you should know about the cost of your car:
Taking steps now to reduce our car use translates into significant personal health and economic benefits, better community life, and a cleaner environment for us all.
Get Out and Walk
More than a quarter of US car trips are one mile or less, and 13.7 percent are a half-mile or less. For most of us, these are walkable distances. Find a backpack or briefcase on wheels that can tote your work items and laptop. For shopping trips, invest in a sturdy shopping cart or collapsible crate on wheels.
Bicycling is an excellent way to minimize car use and get exercise at the same time. Mounting wire baskets or pannier bags to your bicycle can extend your number of destinations by allowing for greater cargo transportation.
Eventually, you may want to extend the distances you can travel by bike. One way to go further without a car is by investing in an electric bike. With a range of about 20 miles between charges, electric bikes can be recharged from any standard household electric socket.
Also, ‘sport utility' bikes allow you to expand your bicycle's cargo limit to the point where you can carry items as large as kayaks or luggage for a trip. You can find electric bikes, sport utility bikes, and bike enhancement kits in the National Green Pages™.
Take public transportation
Many cities that don't have extensive subways or other public transportation systems nonetheless run bus lines that often go underused by citizens used to driving their cars. Get a transit map from your local bus line and resolve to take the bus once a week to someplace you would have ordinarily driven. You'll experience your city in a new way, save energy, reduce pollutants, and perhaps even multi-task if you bring a book or a project with you.
Remember to combine car trips or carpool
Coordinate with your coworkers and neighbors to take joint trips to the office or shopping center. In metro areas like Washington, DC, and San Francisco, innovative carpoolers have even established “slug lines”—areas where commuters can line up in suburban Virginia and catch a ride into the District of Columbia with drivers who were going there anyway. It's a free, grassroots bus line that also builds community.
Join a Car-Share Program
Another way that people can share cars, and even eliminate car ownership altogether, is to take advantage of fee-based car-share programs like Flexcar and Zipcar, in combination with bicycling and public transportation. Members of these car-sharing programs take advantage of cars placed throughout participating cities, paying by the hour in order to run errands for which biking or bus-riding might not be practical. Flexcar operates in the metro areas of Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, DC; Zipcar operates in Boston, Chapel Hill, New York City/New Jersey, and Washington, DC.
If You Drive: Be a Responsible Car Owner
Keeping your car in proper working order can significantly increase your gas mileage, cutting down on your use of petroleum and lowering emissions. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for every five miles per gallon you increase your car's fuel economy, you can prevent 1,500 pounds of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere over the life of your vehicle. Here are some tips:
Whatever strategies you choose to implement, enjoy the fact that you can always get where you want to go and still make choices that enhance your health, improve the environmental outlook for our planet, and have a positive impact on your community.
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