Instead of pledging money, what if you pledged to change your behavior and challenge your daily routine? That’s radical.
As a newcomer to Seattle, I’m enjoying learning about the diverse organizations and causes with roots in the Pacific Northwest. Each month, I will highlight a local group whose radical work inspires me to be more radical in my own work and daily life.
Minimizing your car use can reduce carbon emissions, ease parking and traffic congestion, and enhance community connections. Undriving is an organization that challenges residents of Seattle and the surrounding neighborhoods to “get creative about getting around” and to pledge to reduce their car use or stop using a car altogether. As part of their campaign, you can sign up to receive your Undriver’s license for a donation of $20. You can include your own photo and your pledge is printed on the card as a reminder of your commitment. Undriving envisions this movement going national, so non-Seattle residents can sign up, too.
Named No. 1 on a list of walkable U.S. cities by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, Seattle is the perfect place to make an Undriving pledge. Seattle was recently ranked as one of the top cities with the fewest number of cars per household, so we’re on the right track. If you pledge to reduce your car use, or stop using your car completely, you’ll be in good company.
Minimizing the use of your car might be more of a radical change of your lifestyle and schedule than you think. Think about how often you truly use your car. Is it one hour a day? Two hours a day? For those who sit on congested highways getting to and from work, five hours a day? A quick trip to the store might not be as convenient when you factor in waiting for a bus, catching the right one, and timing your trip properly. Add in bags of groceries or a baby and a stroller and complications arise.
I live a short 6.5 miles from the office, a quick 15-minute drive without traffic. That trip turns into 45 minutes during rush hour, regardless of my means of transportation. In an effort to reduce my footprint, I forgo my car and use the local bus system to commute. Taking the bus has resulted in other benefits in my life. I have increased my activity level during the day walking to and from my stops, I’m saving money on parking and gas, I am able to make a small dent in my current book on the way home (Ishmael Beah’s Radiance of Tomorrow, in case you are wondering), and I have noticed new things around downtown Seattle, like the street art on the electrical boxes or an interesting architectural detail on the building across the street.
I’ve started minimizing my car use in other ways, too. Instead of driving a mile to the dog park near my house, my dogs and I walk there together. If I have errands to run that require my car, I’ll plan them all on the same day so I’m not going across the neighborhood more than once during a week. These are small changes, but I like to think they make a difference.
Image credit: Press Office, City of Münster, Germany