A 12-Step Program for Car Addicts

By Catherine Lutz & Anne Lutz Fernandez '84 / November/December 2009
November 23rd, 2009

A 12-Step Program For Car Addicts

Twelve things you can do to loosen your vehicle's grip on your life.

1. Keep a car diary. You may be astonished to realize how many trips you take that could be combined or eliminated. 


2. Compute your household car costs. Use the calculator available at www.bikesatwork.com/carfree/cost-of-car-ownership.html to arrive at your current total car budget. Calculate the total as a percentage of your annual gross and take-home pay. Most financial advisers recommend spending 8 percent or less of your gross income on your vehicles.

3. Sell or donate your second or third car. Your second or third car may be expendable and replaceable with rentals, carpooling, or public transit.

4. Downsize your car or truck. If you can't get by with fewer cars, consider getting by with a smaller or less expensive car. Do you really need that truck, minivan, or SUV? Ask yourself how many passengers it usually carries.

5. Create a priority list for car purchases. Before buying a new or used car, list your priorities and match the vehicle you buy to your real needs. Avoid being swayed by car advertising or promotions.

6. Buy a used car. About a fifth of a car's lifetime carbon emissions are produced while it is being manufactured. Even if the new car you're considering is more fuel-efficient, it's usually greener to keep your old car than to buy a new one.

7. Buy a hybrid vehicle. Although they may not be the most budget-conscious option at the moment, they will be if gas prices rise. But if you have the money and you must buy a new car, the Prius and Highlander SUV each produces 55 percent fewer carbon-dioxide emissions than other vehicles in their respective classes.

8. Shop on the Internet. The Oak Ridge National Lab estimates that if each American family replaced just three car-shopping trips with Internet trips, we would eliminate half a million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions.



9. Walk or bike to work or errands. An hour of walking at a moderate pace burns 207 calories off the average woman and 244 calories off the average man.



10. Telecommute. The Wall Street Journal estimates that 100 million Americans were likely to have worked from home for at least eight hours a week in 2008.



11. Check out public transit. Ask at work about programs that offer tax or other benefits for employees who use public transportation. As a bonus, you'll get the average five pound weight loss known as the "public transit diet."



12. Stay informed and make demands on our politicians. Pay attention to your city's plans, or lack thereof, for expanding public transportation. Find out if your US representative takes car and oil industry money. Make your opinions known.

Photo by Mark Ostow.

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November/December 2009