No cup, No car lifestyle is not easy!

Earlier this year I watched ‘Before the Flood’ and was inspired to take action to reduce my impact on the environment. In particular, I took on 2 challenges:

  1. Not using disposable drinking cups (including plastic water bottles)
  2. Going 1 day per week without driving or riding in a car

A month and a half into the challenge, a key theme has emerged:

Achieving sustainable living goals requires planning.

Choose your cup(s) carefully

I was more successful with the no cup challenge, managing to slip up only 3 days in January and 2 days in February. Based on other articles out there, I had an idea that planning would be critical, but had not thought about how to successfully practice the plan. I remembered a cousin’s angry-ish Facebook post about Tim Horton’s not having reusable cups. Learning from her lesson, I picked 2 cups at the start of the challenge that I would always carry with me: one for water and one for hot stuff like coffee and tea. My thought was that if I always had these 2 cups on my person, then there would be no temptation to use something else.

It was a good plan, but there were a few challenges. First, the cup for water didn’t have a closable lid. If I fill it with water and start walking somewhere, water sloshes out. Perhaps I should have made a wiser selection at the outset, but I really like that cup. Within a week of setting out on this challenge, I had to travel to NYC for work. The water-sloshing cup wasn’t going to work, so I enlisted a baby Nalgene. It now stays in my work bag full time, and I use the original water cup at home or in the car.

The second challenge was having the right cup on me at the right time (or being able to get to it easily). The other day I met a friend for lunch and had the water cup in the car but decided iced coffee was the preferred drink at that moment. Rather than take one for Mother Earth and drink water out of a sustainable cup, I happily sipped iced coffee out of a plastic cup. I wasn’t until I threw it away that I really thought about it. The coffee cup could also hold water, whereas the water cup wouldn’t be good for coffee due to its large size. Maybe I need to start carrying only the coffee cup…

Finally, it turns out one of the biggest challenges is my pride. There have been a few times when I didn’t want to be different, so I just got the disposable cup like everyone else. To combat this going forward, I’m creating accountability by telling more people about the challenge.

Walkability score is a thing

In January, I managed to go 4 days without a car. In February, however, I managed to go only 1 day. There were a few things that stood in the way of going without a car once a week.

First is work. My husband and I own a small electrical company. Business is booming right now, so he’s been working weekends. It’s hard to sit at home on Saturdays when I know he’s working hard, so I’ve joined him a few times, sometimes even just taking him lunch or extra supplies. This means that days when my car would normally be parked, it’s used to go back and forth to job sites.

Second is planning errands. I was humbled over the last month and a half at how carelessly I’ll just get in the car and bop over to some shop without really thinking about it. I’ve read about people who plan their errands all on one day so that they can have an entire day at home. It was also astounding how weeks where I did meal planning, I went to the grocery store only once. Whereas weeks when I didn’t meal plan, I went to the grocery store 2+ times. We live just close enough to make it an event to walk or bike there. I only walked to get groceries once during the month and a half I was doing the challenge.

The 3rd no car challenge is that we don’t live close to any of our friends. If we want to get together with friends, it’s a minimum 10 minute car ride. We have a few friends who are within biking distance, but our city is notoriously unfriendly to bikes. You may have heard of a walkability score. I didn’t realize until trying to go without a car what a big deal this is. Even if we lived in a neighborhood with a decent walkability score, we’d still live far away from our friends. I don’t want to let this no car thing keep us from seeing the people we love so am still looking for ideas on how to solve.

If you made it this far, you may be thinking, ‘hey, stop being so whiny.’ There are far greater challenges in life than trying to go without disposable cups or a car. I know, but we all have to start somewhere. I will keep adjusting the approach to conquer these goals and go beyond. This is simply a reflection at how hard it can be to change habits, a recognition of what stands in the way of changing those habits, and updated approaches to achieving a more sustainable life.

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