by Betsy Teutsch
When we moved from Cliveden Street to Lincoln Drive in Mt. Airy, my Walking Score (walkscore.com) rose from 43 to 69 out of 100. I now accomplish many more of my errands on foot and easily stroll to restaurants and coffee shops. I work at home. My car sits in the driveway, slowly depreciating.
Last year our daughter Nomi and her partner Micah moved to West Philly. Nomi’s new job required dedicated wheels. Just around the time they realized that meant purchasing a second car, a truck hit and totaled their shared car. Thankfully, no one was injured, but now they were faced buying not one, but two cars. Yikes.
I offered Micah a car-sharing proposition; he agreed. We drew up a simple agreement, added them to our car insurance, and off went my car for a car-sharing experiment. How often do I need my car, really? My husband David has a car; he doesn’t want to plan his schedule around mine, but he is happy for me to use the car when it’s available. Let’s call this car-lite.
The first thing I did was join Enterprise Car Share; it has a car parked at Germantown Jewish Centre. I have never used it. Neighbors have kindly offered me their cars in an emergency, but so far there has been no unanticipated need for a car. We have continued car-sharing; it has worked remarkably well.
I already used the train but stocked up on bus tokens. My friend, Helen Feinberg, also a one-car householder, says she likes the way using mass transit options builds brain cells. You need to plan in advance and think about how to get places, and you inevitably walk more. The H bus runs right past my house, but I’d never been on it until I didn’t have my car at the ready.
From Micah and Nomi’s point of view, they were obviously grateful to not finance a second car. Adding them to our insurance was under $100 — they are over 25 — far less than it would have cost them to insure an additional car. When I need my car, once or twice monthly, Micah drops it off.
Recently a menacing tire air pressure gauge warning lit up. Did I head over to the gas station? I did not. I texted Micah a photo of the dashboard, and he cheerfully made it go away. Man, was I happy to offload that task. When winter snow storms hit, I will not miss shoveling my car out from under a foot of snow, either. (Sorry about that, Micah!)
Taking one car off the road has broader impacts. No embedded resources and energy for the car itself. Our combined mileage is lower than if we had two cars. Less oil and gas consumed, less car washing, fewer parts to maintain and replace. Less road clogging. Multiply that, and we can shift the paradigm.
Betsy Teutsch is a blogger, columnist, eco-activist and community organizer. In addition to her profession as a Judaica artist, she served as Communications Director of GreenMicrofinance, promoting affordable paths out of rural poverty. Teutsch launched three local chapters of Dining For Women, which supports women’s grassroots initiatives. A Fargo, North Dakota, native, Teutsch met her husband while both were students in Jerusalem. She and Dr. David Teutsch, a rabbi and professor, moved to Lincoln Drive in Mt. Airy in 1986, raising two children, Zachary and Nomi. Betsy is the author of “100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women.” More information at Betsy@BetsyTeutsch.com or 100under100.org.