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My Situation with Guilt

Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

My Situation with Guilt

Old 02-20-06, 12:01 AM
  #1  
CagerTools
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This is my situation.

I've been trying to be car-lite as much as possible the last 6 or 7 months. I've been doing really well. I use my bike for the grocery store, to go to University, friends places, other stores, etc. I might use my car once every 2 or 3 weeks...for a short trip for some reason. Also, I've used it to go home a few times (3 hour drive round trip). Altogether, I've saved a lot of money, put a ton less wear and tear on my car, and have helped the environment. I really do enjoy helping do my part in not contributing to air pollution. This is the main reason I am trying to go car-lite.

I don't have any sort of carrying capacity, other than a messenger bag, which sucks. I want an Xtracycle but I don't want to spend that kind of money, yet. So sometimes this is when I do use my car.

But there are other times that I use my car, and this is where I feel guilty. For instance, if its late, and I'm tired from biking alot or from biking/working out... and my friends want me to join them at a club. Most of the time I bike, but there have been a few times I have driven.

During these times that I drive, I think to myself... if I didn't have a car, then I probably just wouldn't go to the club. I think sometimes, that having a car just enables me to do alot more in life, more than I really NEED to do. In a way it just adds more stress to my life, because otherwise I would just not go out and relax.

Recently, I've been dating a girl, who actually likes to bike to most places... I never thought I would meet someone like this its amazing. So this is good, but at the same time, since she doesn't have a car, I can see how I might be using my car more. I've thought about this some... how much am I willing to budge from my car-lite attitude, with this girl? For instance she wants to go rockclimbing outdoors this week...and biking would take awhile to get there.

And now an even bigger thing is coming up in my life. I've basically decided to join this band, that is about a 15 minute drive from my place. I will probably be making 2 trips to this location a week. So thats around 60 minutes of driving a week. This would make me SO not car-lite! UGH!

I feel kinda guilty about this. Its a really good band, and I feel lucky/priviledged to be in the situation that I"m in, to play with these people... I've been playing music for awhile, and have only dreamed about being in a band... and now I feel guilty, because its intefering with my car-lite attitude.

The reason I like to be car-lite, is for the environment....but now I"m wondering how much of my life should I sacrifice for the environment? Should I just feel okay that I have to drive to this band practice for the time being, and just make sure that I bike/walk to most places that I can? In other words, should I just change my attitude, and just do my best in being car-lite when I can... and not worry about this other stuff?

I mean, if everyone in our country would bike/walk to places within 5 miles of them, they would cut out a ton of trips by car. Even if these same people made a few trips by car a week, thats still a ton less air pollution and environmental toxins.

So the guilt is still with me. I sometimes catch myself thinking... 100 years ago I probably wouldn't even have joined this band... but then I think, "Am I crazy? This is modern life, and people use cars!". So I'm having a lot of conflicting arguments.

Last edited by CagerTools; 02-20-06 at 12:12 AM. Reason: change
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Old 02-20-06, 12:11 AM
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I'm sure many many people, both here and offline, can give you their opinion on this. But you'll have to decide for yourself where your priorities lie, and whether or not you are comfortable driving more. I for one congratulate you on your concientiousness, and thank you for driving so little. I'm not, however, going to suggest that you should or should not drive more for your girlfriend, your band, or anything else - that's a personal decision. It sounds like you know the pros and cons, go with what you feel is right and/or acceptable.
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Old 02-20-06, 12:15 AM
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Well, this is a living car-free forum, and I don't actually have a car now-- haven't had one for the last 3 years-- but I don't see a problem with using a car when it's the right tool for the job. My own plan, when I do get a car (or cars) again, will be to have a biodiesel burner for long-distance hauls, an electric conversion for around town use, and ride my bicycle when it makes the most sense.
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Old 02-20-06, 12:18 AM
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Attercoppe- Thanks, yeah I think I'm going to just weigh this out, and go with what feels right to me.

Blue Order - I really like your idea of biodiesel. I think this maybe my future, with car use. I'm going to reseach more into it. I definitely wouldn't feel AS bad using biodiesel...

I'm kinda a perfectionist, so I really like to be completely car-free or nothing at all. But I think just trying my best...and biking to as many places that I can, will still help out. I'll also keep being conscious of decisions of where I live/work/play...so I can cut out reliance on the car as much as possible.
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Old 02-20-06, 12:21 AM
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Originally Posted by CagerTools
I think just trying my best...and biking to as many places that I can, will still help out. I'll also keep being conscious of decisions of where I live/work/play...so I can cut out reliance on the car as much as possible.
That's what I mean - you're doing well to be thinking about it like that. That's so much more than most people do. Remember you can always come here for moral support and solutions to specific challenges!
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Old 02-20-06, 12:39 AM
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Kiddie trailer.
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Old 02-20-06, 12:40 AM
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Originally Posted by CagerTools
But I think just trying my best...and biking to as many places that I can, will still help out. I'll also keep being conscious of decisions of where I live/work/play...so I can cut out reliance on the car as much as possible.
That's how I see it. Make the right choices, and things fall into place. No need, in my opinion, to feel guilty if you're making a minimal impact on this planet, and one of the tools you use, when it's the right tool for the job, is a car.
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Old 02-20-06, 12:48 AM
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When the system is flawed, there is only so much you can do to still have a life.

Only through proper urban design can a car-free life be not only healthy and inexpensive, but convenient.
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Old 02-20-06, 11:13 AM
  #9  
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My opinion is that the ideal is zero car use in urban centres (car as in personal use motor vehicle). That being said, the big problem is with people commuting to and from work every day - if you can avoid that, you are already making a huge difference. One of our local TV news anchors is a big advocate of this - she lives out in the 'burbs, but drives to the nearest bus station and takes the bus in to the city.

It does sounds like a bike trailer would help you out a lot.
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Old 02-20-06, 11:50 AM
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can you bus? car-free doesn't have to equal a) biking or b) completely vehicle-free... it can mean walking, running, rollerskating, bussing, etc.. even carpooling (i.e. getting others to pick you up when they're going that way anyway) is a valid way of being car free, in my opinion.
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Old 02-20-06, 11:54 AM
  #11  
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CagerTools, I think that some of the problem is with the way cities are set up these days. People shouldn't have to drive in the city, but this is a difficult goal in most cities in the US, Canada, and many other countries.

In your case, there should be feasible public transportation -- busses or trains that run frequently and reliably, all night long. We should have easy legal mechanisms for setting up car sharing cooperatives and partnerships. For example, the band you're in should be able to purchase a van cooperatively without going through all kinds of red tape, but I bet you can't.

I don't know how we'll turn all these shoulds into realities. I think we might have to wait for enough people to join us in demanding (and paying for) sane alternatives to private car ownership.

Meanwhile, I think the most important "should" is for people like you and me to continue to think imaginatively about our own alternatives to cars. That's what I mean by my sig below, "Think outside the cage." It sounds like you're already doing that, you're actually quite diligent about it, and I take my helmet off to you as the "Hero of the Week." I'm sure you'll continue to come up with creative solutions. Good Luck!
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Old 02-20-06, 01:34 PM
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Sounds to me like you are taking yourself a bit too seriously. I used to have the "all or nothing" philosophy. As I get older and have more experiences I am realizing that nothing in the world is black or white. As a result, I am slowly becoming more skillful at making compromises without losing my core beliefs or driving myself mad.

Also, there is a lot more to minimizing your footprint on the Earth than car fumes. Maybe by taking a look at your overall life decisions driving an hour or two a week will be a smaller percentage of your polluting (on all levels) and you can feel a little better about it. Just my 2 for what it's worth.
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Old 02-20-06, 03:38 PM
  #13  
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I am car-lite. The Bike has its place(short to medium travels), and car(longer ones), too or I use long distance trains/buses, depending on where I need to go. Rock climbing in a remote place, or if you're carrying tons of equipment over long distances will obviously need a car. Get a very efficient one, like those hybrids, if you feel guilty about owning one, or ditch the car altogether and just rent.
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Old 02-20-06, 04:18 PM
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What are you driving? If your car was built within the past 15 years and you've been keeping up on maintenance (replacing emission control components as they fail, as will be indicated by the check engine light), I wouldn't worry too much about the pollution aspect. Ontario's Drive Clean program has demonstrated that modern cars with functioning emission control components actually produce very little pollution.

If it's an older car, or one that isn't cleaning its exhaust as it should, then you can alleviate that guilt by either a) replacing the car, or b) replacing the failed emission control component(s).

In either case, both the bike and the car are simply modes of transportation. I would use each as the situation dictates. I know I certainly would rather relax behind the wheel of a car rather than pedal a bike after a day of rock climbing! The car is also preferred for more...intimate situations. On the other hand, I prefer my bikes for quick and light trips, as well as for exploring new trails and routes. I hope to add commuting on nice days to that (rather short) list.
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Old 02-20-06, 05:21 PM
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What are you driving? If your car was built within the past 15 years and you've been keeping up on maintenance (replacing emission control components as they fail, as will be indicated by the check engine light), I wouldn't worry too much about the pollution aspect.
To some extent you're right. But one of the reasons I try to minimize car use is carbon dioxide emissions.

No matter what measures engineers take, if your car gets 30 miles per gallon of fossil fuels it's emitting quite a bit of carbon dioxide every time it drives 30 miles. This is one of the reasons I consider Honda and some other companies to be deceiving us somewhat: a super-ultra-low-emissions-vehicle like the honda accord actually puts out more carbon dioxide than an economy car which fails to get a "low emission vehicle" rating.

In my city there's a kiddie trailer for sale on craiglist.org - maybe in your city too. Would that make it possible for you to go to your band practices on a bike?

I used to bike around with an acoustic guitar and a violin in a camping backpack sometimes. Still don't have a trailer, though.
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Old 02-20-06, 06:03 PM
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what do you play in your band? i play bass and i have a gig bag with backpack straps so i can ride my bike to practice; i'm lucky, though, that there is already an amp where i practice. is there any way you can leave your gear, or at least the bulky gear, where you play?
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Old 02-20-06, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cerewa
To some extent you're right. But one of the reasons I try to minimize car use is carbon dioxide emissions.

No matter what measures engineers take, if your car gets 30 miles per gallon of fossil fuels it's emitting quite a bit of carbon dioxide every time it drives 30 miles. This is one of the reasons I consider Honda and some other companies to be deceiving us somewhat: a super-ultra-low-emissions-vehicle like the honda accord actually puts out more carbon dioxide than an economy car which fails to get a "low emission vehicle" rating.
The CO2 emissions are what make biodiesel a superior choice. Of course, biodiesel also emits CO2, but the difference is the biodiesel is not emitting fossil carbon. It's the net increase of carbon to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels that is causing global climate change. With biofuels, you're still emitting carbon, but it's carbon that was recycled from the atmosphere last growing season, meaning you're not adding to the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere.

Tha'ts why my goal is to have a biodiesel-fueled vehicle for longer trips, an electric conversion vehicle for around town trips (when a bike just doesn't cut it), and a bicycle when it makes the most sense. Heavy emphasis on walking and cycling, public transit when it makes sense, and zero-to-low emissions vehicles when I need them.
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Old 02-20-06, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by joesmohello
Sounds to me like you are taking yourself a bit too seriously. I used to have the "all or nothing" philosophy. As I get older and have more experiences I am realizing that nothing in the world is black or white. As a result, I am slowly becoming more skillful at making compromises without losing my core beliefs or driving myself mad.

Also, there is a lot more to minimizing your footprint on the Earth than car fumes. Maybe by taking a look at your overall life decisions driving an hour or two a week will be a smaller percentage of your polluting (on all levels) and you can feel a little better about it. Just my 2 for what it's worth.
+1
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Old 02-20-06, 08:35 PM
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Thanks for all the great replies.

I'm really not sure it would be feasible to bike to practice, as I think I would have to take the highway there for awhile...thats the problem. I could look into it I guess...it would be a LONG bike ride, and I do have a backpack acoustic guitar case, so I could make it work. I'll have to google and check the route.

I'm not sure of the bus routes either, as I never have to travel somewhere by bus, everywhere I go I just take my bike... but I can look into that.

I'm driving an early 90's camry xle. Its maintained really well.

I'm going to look into some more stuff and see what I can do.
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Old 02-20-06, 09:23 PM
  #20  
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I have also had quite a few concerns about my "car-lite" experience, particularly these last six months in Calgary.

In Toronto, I do have use of a car, which I drive about 1000 km a year in the city (+ another 3-4000 km driving on average per year to Montreal, the Maritimes, Chicago, Boston, etc various trips over the years).

I drive to work about once a month (round trip - 3km), and to the supermarket maybe once every two weeks (also 3 km - with three other people in the vehicle).

Driving this way, while it does generate pollution (including CO2) is definitely a lot lower than the average emissions for USA/Canada.

If you are concerned about carbon dioxide, there are a lot of things that you can do, and driving less is definitely one of them. I don't think you need to beat yourself up over the idea that you do drive sometimes. Try drying your clothes on a clothesline or drying rack - you'll save the CO2 emissions for a short car trip (plus ca$h), or buy efficient appliances (the fridge is a big power hog).

Ride whenever it suits you and be proud that the bike is your primary (even if it's not your only) means of transportation.

My $0.02

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Old 02-20-06, 11:28 PM
  #21  
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you should only feel guilt if you live in a semi-bike friendly city. i live in a town where there are 20,000 people and usally i'm the only one that commute it was tough not to just drive my car on a 20 degree morning. i have a burly nomad to get my grocerys and i don't have any guilt, it just took a commitment. is there a indoor gym around for climbing? i have to drive 30 min to the gym. i respect your passion for the environment and general concerns.
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Old 02-21-06, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by cerewa
To some extent you're right. But one of the reasons I try to minimize car use is carbon dioxide emissions.

No matter what measures engineers take, if your car gets 30 miles per gallon of fossil fuels it's emitting quite a bit of carbon dioxide every time it drives 30 miles. This is one of the reasons I consider Honda and some other companies to be deceiving us somewhat: a super-ultra-low-emissions-vehicle like the honda accord actually puts out more carbon dioxide than an economy car which fails to get a "low emission vehicle" rating. . . .
This is a good point. Add to that the energy used to build cars, and the pollution produced in that process. i live in a city with several auto plant, and this place stinks!

Another problem is disposal of cars. In some countries, those who make cars are also responsible for disposing of them. This law enables and encourages recycling, but here in the US, many parts of a car end up incinerated or in a landfill.
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Old 02-21-06, 12:44 PM
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The CO2 emissions are what make biodiesel a superior choice.
Absolutely. Now if only those bicycle motor kits came in a diesel version.
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Old 02-21-06, 04:16 PM
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They already come in electric, battery powered versions. In fact, I have one installed on my only bicycle that I have converted for utility/commuter use.
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Old 02-22-06, 12:46 PM
  #25  
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They already come in electric, battery powered versions.
Yeah, but I think my electricity comes mostly from coal, and switching to a wind supplier (which my electric company allows) doesn't seem like the best use of my environmentalist bucks to me.
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