Friday, May 25, 2007

90% Where We Are Now - Gasoline

I don't have all of our numbers, but I do have a few.

Gasoline usage: average American uses 500 gallons per person, per year. Trying to be fair, and not underestimate, I think we're at about 125 gallons per person, per year (approximately 10000 miles a year including vacation driving). Our usage has been up about 25% because my grandfather died and we drove an extra 2000 miles this spring. Goal is 50 gallons per person, per year. For us, with our current vehicle, that would be driving about 4000 miles per year, or 333 miles per month.

How we can reduce gasoline usage:

We can walk or bike all errands within a 5 mile radius. Sometime this involves changing a bank, pharmacy, or health care professional to one within your comfort zone, which we have done.

We all have bikes, and we have a bike cargo trailer. We also have a large beach cart that we use for groceries when we walk.

We can shift our food choices in terms of eating meals out. The most obvious change is to eat out less. Then next change is to choose locally owned restaurants, and to limit ourselves to restaurants within biking or walking distance.

We can get better at combining errands, especially out of town errands. If we choose to drive 60 miles round trip to visit relatives we need to think of everything else that could be done in that area or along the way. Is there a place to buy local food? Is there a great thrift store? Can we spend time in nature?

We can take the train to visit some family, although we still have to drive to the station in another town. We are getting involved in the campaign to bring light rail to our city.

Combining local errands is important too, especially if we are driving. I think it helps to choose one day per week that can be a car errand day, and limiting all other trips during the week to people-power only. It is so easy to hop in the car and drive to the yarn store one day, the thrift store the next, etc.

One issue we have is our homeschooling support group. The group that best fits our needs is 30 miles away from us. We can combine the trip with visiting relatives, appointments with one specialist I see, local organic food available nearby on Wednesdays (I just got a tip, so I have to research this), and a natural foods store on the way home. Still, it looks like there will have to compromises, such as not going every week, and not taking advantage of every field trip.

One exercise we did about a year ago was to visualize all of the local businesses that were within walking distance. By changing a few things we found that we could walk to the pharmacy, the credit union, the local grocer, the pet food store, the library, the post office, the movie theater, the doctor's office, the dentist, and many other small businesses. Within our biking range we have at least 5 thrift stores, many grocery stores and a health food store, a hobby shop, and many chain stores.

The amazing thing is that we live in southern California, queen of car culture, and noted for her dearth of good public transportation, yet we were already at 25% of average gasoline consumption. I think that's a great starting place.

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