Some July resolutions for a serious environmentalist


July 01, 1992|By Susan Mcgrath | Susan Mcgrath,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

It's tactless of me to bring this up, I know, but did you make any green resolutions last New Year's Day? How are you doing on them?

If you did make some, this is a great time to review them. If you're doing well, you can give yourself a pat on the back. If you've forgotten all about them, you still have six months to make a little progress.

Don't panic. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll review my green resolutions, and you'll be so inspired by my shining example that you'll become a monument of environmental virtue hereafter.

OK. Here goes.

Number one: Get the rest of the storm windows up.

No, I haven't done that one. Now it's time to take them down, of course, and I don't imagine I'll get around to that, either.

Number two: Weatherstrip the house. No, I didn't do that either. I did use a rolled-up old towel to block the gap at the bottom of the back door, but I don't suppose you'd be willing to call that weatherstripping.

Number three: Drive much, much less.

A smug smile settles over my features.

Yes, thank you, I am driving much, much less. You see, we sold one of our cars, and now we are that rare bird, the one-car family.

I have to confess that this New Year's Resolution was rigged. When I wrote the column, we had already decided to try to get by on one car. But it was such a big move, I wasn't sure we could pull it off.

If any household could be expected to get by reasonably comfortably with one car, it is ours. Take a look at our vital statistics:

We live in a pedestrian-friendly, in-town neighborhood. A grocery store, a hardware store, a bakery, a gift shop, a bookstore and the public library are within easy walking distance. My daughter's nursery school is less than a mile's walk through a beautiful city park. There is frequent, fast bus service to downtown. The bus stops a block and a half from our house. My husband's job is flexible enough that he can almost always commute on his bike. I work at home.

We are all as strong as oxen. We love to walk and bike. We own three bikes, a wagon, a backpack, a jogging stroller and a bicycle trailer. And, when we're really in a bind, we have a friend who will lend us her car with only a modicum of sighs and cutting remarks about environmentalists.

Gee. Maybe we should sell the other car.

The new regimen is working surprisingly well. The big adjustment is planning ahead of time who needs to be where, when and either negotiating for possession of the car keys, or scheduling a little extra time to walk, bike or bus. I have heard that some families are actually organized, and know where they're going to be ahead of time, so perhaps this wouldn't be a hardship to most people.

We've sacrificed a little dignity, too. It's not considered terribly grown up, in this country, to ride your bike to work, though in Europe, kings and prime ministers do it. And there is nothing dignified about pushing a giant 5-year-old (piled high with bunny, sheepskin, quilt and lunch basket) to school in a jogging stroller. Worse is fielding the jocular cracks from passers-by as I push the empty stroller home.

I console myself with the thought that I'm being paid rather handsomely to look a little undignified. Forty-five hundred dollars a year. That's how much experts say we can expect to save by owning only one car.

So far, so good. Can we keep it up? I don't know. You'll know for sure next winter, though, if at the top of my list of New Year's Resolutions is Buy a Car That Gets Great Mileage.

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