Even in my Prius, averaging 17,000 miles a year leaves a deep carbon footprint. But driving is a fact of rural life. There’s no public transportation where I live, and the general store I used to walk to closed early in the century. Now, if I need milk, I have to drive three miles; if I need gas, I have to drive four. The closest grocery is seven miles north of here, but the main shopping town, where there are also bookstores and cafes, is twelve to the south.
MY FIRST CAR
I’m self-employed and work from home, so every time I leave to speak, teach, or do research, I’m driving business miles, which I keep track of for the IRS. When I add them up, I realize why I get only a fraction of what I want done: I spend a lot of time on the road.
I moved to New York City after college so I wouldn’t need a car. I owned a bicycle and a copy of Tom Cuthburston’s Anybody’s Bike Book. But when I decided to spend the summer in Vermont, I broke down and bought a car. I never moved back the city. Instead, I commuted for a year and a half, driving thirty thousand miles before I holed up in Vermont to finish my dissertation.
WORKING FROM HOME
So it is with some dismay that I averaged my annual mileage. I don’t have a regular drive to work, like Tim. He commutes eight miles each way four days a week, and drives twelve to Brattleboro and back most Thursdays. Add in the quarterly trip to the dump and a few jaunts to the hardware store, and it becomes clear why he’s only clocked 50,000 miles on his 2010 truck.
Not me. Even though I work from home, I drive all over the state to speak. Until recently, I was also driving to Brattleboro several times a week, sometimes twice in a single day. At twenty-four miles a round trip, the miles add up. And every hour in the car is one I’m not at my desk. So, I’ve made some strategic changes to lessen my drive time and lengthen my workday.
In fact, I’m challenging myself to driving to Brattleboro only once a week. This means packing all the things I need to do in a single trip by piggy-backing getting the car serviced or my hair cut with a trip to the Food Coop, Everyone’s Books, or Brooks Memorial Library.
ON-LINE AND LOCAL
Thanks to on-line catalogs, library eBooks and the internet, I can do a lot my research on-line. I can also use Interlibrary Loan from Moore Free Library, right in Newfane. Newfane Village, just three miles from home, is where I practice yoga, do my banking and meet friends for drinks at The Four Columns.
TAKING MY FOOT OFF THE GAS
Sure, I do lots of small things that make me feel like I’m making a difference, like sleeping in a 56-degree bedroom, packing my groceries in reusable bags and hanging my laundry to dry. These activities make me mindful of how even small gestures add up. But the biggest impact I can have in reducing my carbon footprint is to take my foot off the gas.
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Wendy Cooper says
I sometimes think that is the trade off with a small town-more car miles. Although I live in New Jersey my town is small with a true town center (Broadway!) with a variety of shops. However I still drive to the next town over-the much larger Glassboro-which because of having a state university has much more to offer. I find I am there sometimes twice a day. Even those 5 mile round trips add up.
peter rusatsky says
One good thing about rural commuting from Newfane to Brattleboro or Wilmington is that there is hardly a light in either direction and often, never anyone behind me the whole way. Contrast that to our full time home in Stratford, Ct. You literally hit a stop sign or stoplight every half mile or less. Thankfully, our carbon footprint is probably less going the 12 miles in either direction from Newfane than trying to go 3 miles in the metropolis we call home. It literally takes me more time to go 3 miles in Stratford than 12 miles in Vermont. Thanks for your encouragement to take each of our Carbon Footprints seriously.
Deborah Lee Luskin says
While suburbs often have public transportation to and from metropolitan centers, they rarely have alternatives for getting around locally – creating the traffic situation you describe in Stratford.