Earth Day: Our Tips on Becoming a One-Car Household

Earth Day 2022 arrived amid high fuel costs and inflation, so why not make a change that benefits both our planet and your pocketbook?

Transportation is the largest and fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, making up for nearly one-third of the country’s total GHG emissions.

Burning one gallon of gasoline creates about 8,900 grams of carbon dioxide, so a typical passenger vehicle with average fuel economy and mileage emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons emitted by vehicles contribute to global warming and climate change.

While we need vast structural changes in order to drastically ramp down transportation emissions, nearly everybody has at least one opportunity each day to contribute to the solution. Many people now work from home, eliminating the need to commute. Others are driving electric vehicles, which don’t release harmful tailpipe emissions.

Employers can also make a big impact by offering supportive programming that makes active commuting more accessible. Here at Verdis Group, the firm pays for employees’ bus fares, bikes, biking and walking equipment, Heartland B-Cycle memberships, and all the equipment we need to successfully work from home. Verdis employees who actively commute also have access to free emergency rides home when needed, and our building has secure bike storage and EV charging.

Another option is becoming a one-car household. It can be challenging but the majority of our team is or has been in a successful one-car household. Read their stories and tips below!

Daniel Lawse | 3 drivers sharing in Omaha, NE

We decided to become a one-car household for many reasons, the biggest ones being saving money, saving the planet, and staying active. To make it work, we chose years ago to live in Midtown Omaha, even before ORBT and the streetcar. We appreciate the walkability and bikeability of our neighborhood and our proximity to multiple bus routes.

Sharing a car is challenging when my wife, teenage daughter, and I all need to travel farther away, so we make arrangements and juggle schedules. I often walk, bike, or ride public transit to work and meetings and I’ll take a rideshare or ask a neighbor to borrow a car if we are in a pinch.

The best parts of being a one-car household are that exercise is built into my day and that I see parts of the city at a more human pace so I can enjoy the architecture and blooming flowers in spring. I can stop and chat with neighbors or businesses I frequent. I would summarize all of these benefits as connection; I am more connected my health, the planet through changing seasons, and the people of my community. To be honest, my family’s quality of life is much higher without the stress of owning, maintaining, and fueling a second car. We probably save about $10,000 per year, and we also inspired my in-laws who are empty-nesters to do the same. It was inspiring to see them make the switch.

My tips for the one-car curious:

  1. Try it! Try switching one trip per week to walking, biking, transit, or a combination. See what you like, see where the barriers are, and then try again. We didn’t learn to drive overnight and we won’t learn to be a multi-modal active commuter overnight. Have some compassion with yourself as you’re learning something new. If it keeps working, you may eventually realize you can go without a car.
  2. If you have activity goals or a steps goal, getting around without a car will help you achieve them. Enjoy the journey and the steps or miles you are getting as you reach your destination.
  3. Think about your trip time — not just drive time. It may be a 10-minute drive from home to work but do you spend another 10 minutes looking for parking and walking to your office? If a bus trip is 25 minutes from your front door to your office, the trip time is only five minutes more.

Brian Harmon | 2 drivers sharing on Bainbridge Island, WA

We decided to become a one-car household for several reasons: It aligned with my personal beliefs, it reduced our costs, and it freed up space in the garage. We found it helpful to still have other modes of transportation available. My spouse commutes to work by riding the bus, taking a ferry, and walking. Instead of driving, I work remotely. When I need to drive, I first ensure that I am right-sizing my transportation needs. Selling my car allowed me to purchase a RadWagon e-bike, which is just way more fun than driving and can carry both of my kids. I often ride the e-bike instead of our car for on-island errands such as taking the kids to school or going to the park.

Sharing one car is most challenging when we have more than one place to be at the same time, but we overcome that by planning ahead, prioritizing trips, and using other modes. While there are times when we can’t do everything we want, it’s very rare that we can’t make a plan that suits everyone’s needs.

The best part of being a one-car household is that we make the journey part of the story. The kids look forward to taking the e-bike, we see more on our commute, and we share our experiences with other folks who are interested in our e-bike. I can’t think of a single time someone approached me about my car but it’s very common to hear questions about our e-bike.

Grace Thomas | 2-3 drivers sharing in Omaha, NE

My partner chose to pay off his student loan debt rather than purchase a car after college, then selected a job on a bus line. When we bought our home, living on a bus line and our budget were our top criteria. Being a one-car household also fulfills our personal value of reducing our carbon footprint. 

Sharing one car is most challenging when we have conflicting schedules but we overcome that by compromising and using public transit. We found it is helpful to sit down at the beginning of the week and determine who needs the car and when. Taking the bus is my favorite way of commuting because I walk more, have more interactions with my neighbors, and see things in my city that I otherwise wouldn’t. I found my favorite arepa restaurant by taking the bus and can also squeeze in 10 minutes of answering emails instead of driving. We also ride our bikes and have a group of friends that we carshare with when running errands or going to social events. 

There are so many benefits of being a one-car household: saving money, not having to stress about where we will park, fewer trips to the mechanic. We actually get to see each other more because we commute together. Or, in some cases, it pushes me out into nature and my community. 

My tip for others is to just try it out for a few months. One of my friends first tried being car-free by parking her car in our garage for a few months so she wouldn’t be tempted to use it for last-minute trips. Sometimes it takes really diving in to know whether it will work for your lifestyle. I also think having a few reasons for why you want to make this change is helpful. For me, taking the bus requires waking up a little earlier, so I’m frequently reminding myself I’ll be healthier, happier, and more connected to my community if I don’t hit the snooze button. 

Olabimpe Airiohuodion | 2 drivers sharing in Omaha, NE

We decided to become a one-car household because one of our cars was getting old and we realized that we could still be functional without it. Sharing one car was challenging when spontaneous events come up, but when that happens, one of us used Uber for long distances or walked for short distances.

To make it work, we communicated and prioritized essential travels to places like work and grocery stores and planned ahead. The best parts of being a one-car household are saving money on gas, becoming a better planner, and most importantly, reducing your carbon footprint.

Arnaud Manas | 2 drivers sharing in Omaha, NE

We became a one-car household about two years ago, mostly for financial reasons. The savings from not paying for insurance, maintenance, gas, and a monthly payment for a second car really add up.

Making it work just takes a bit of scheduling and flexibility. I’m able to work from home when I want, so the car is available to my wife when she needs it. It usually just takes a two-minute discussion on the weekend to plan out who will have the car on what day the following week.

Using public transportation is also a great opportunity to enjoy commuting differently. I used to live in Florida, close to the train line which allowed me to get to work quickly and easily. I really enjoyed not stressing out about traffic and accidents on the highway, and instead using my time on the train to close my eyes or call my family. The best part of my day was always my walk between the train station and the office, which was a unique moment to gather my thoughts and enjoy my surroundings.

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