Owning a car in the Pollution Age

Right now, it seems like owning a car is really a necessity rather than the luxury it used to be; a lot of people have a fair way to travel for work, to school, or to see relatives, where once upon a time it would have all been within walking distance, or at least cycling distance.

Some households, mine included, are really bad offenders. There are five of us, all adults, and between us we have four cars sitting in the drive, only one of which is eco-friendly. I am ashamed and appalled, but the fact is that we actually need them all. in our hectic lifestyle and 24-hour living, we don’t really want to be hanging around waiting for lifts from other people, and quite simply, we can’t afford it. Time is money, after all, and as the inhabitants of my home all have varying working/schooling hours and fair distances between our workplaces, sharing cars is simply not an option, unless we really are in dire straits.

I spent a couple of months without a car, trying desperately to find one that was fairly cheap, a bit expendable but not falling apart (it’s harder than it sounds), and it was quite hellish to have to ask for lifts on a daily basis. It would probably be prudent to point out that where I live, we need cars to get to the nearest shop (it’s about a 45 minute walk down a 50mph road with rudimentary paths, not exactly a pop round the corner), so this situation is understandable.

However, if I lived in a town, this would all be different. While I was at University, I didn’t own a vehicle. Instead I learnt the art of walking or taking a bus, and I loved it. Most things in the town were, at most, a 20 minute walk from me, sometimes 30 minutes if I wanted to go to the cinema or to a club in the town centre, which was alright if it wasn’t raining. Walking is great, though, because not only does it keep you fit, but you actually feel like you accomplish something when you get there and if you’re walking with friends or family, it’s a nice chance to chat while you go, which, in our crazy lifestyles, makes a nice change.

If you live in a city, I see utterly no point in using a car. You have to pay more tax for the pollution and you sit in the traffic for much longer than the rest of us do, so much so that you’re probably taken over by pedestrians. It is so much faster to take the underground than to be stuck in a foggy mass of engines, and though plenty of people do this, London is still plagued with pollution. Did you know that some stops between stations are literally a five minute walk away overground too? It just proves that sometimes it’s just easier to walk it. Who wants to be squished into a tiny metal tube several feet underground anyway?

With the rising levels of pollution, we are all trying to be greener for the environment, but some of us need that extra push to make it happen, so here’s a task for you. Next time you get into your car, think first. If you’re going to work, could you share a car with someone living nearby? If you’re going to the shop, could you not just walk to closer one? If you’re going somewhere quickly, is there anyone that might benefit from a lift rather than them using their own car? If you’re travelling to a party, could it be cheaper and greener to use a bus, a train or to share cars? I think my first step is probably the easiest one of all; simply learning to wait and occupying myself with something constructive, like we used to.


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