by Meg O’Brien

Recently, my family participated in the NWEI EcoChallenge with the goal of reducing our driving.  My initial suggestion to my family to go “car-free” for two weeks was not wildly popular, so I settled for cutting our driving in half.   Though I thought we could be a bit more ambitious, I agreed to the compromise goal and hoped this small step might lead to something bigger.   I was confident the EcoChallenge would convince my husband that we could in fact, manage with one car.  And I had high hopes for converting my car-loving children into young champions for alternative transportation.  I imagined that they would come to realize that biking or bussing is more fun, interesting and freeing than being driven everywhere and that our efforts , no matter how small do matter.

How did we fare?  Well, in terms of our primary EcoChallenge goal of reducing our driving, it was an absolute success!  We found that with a little more biking and bussing, and a lot more coordinating of rides, we could reduce our driving by 60%!   The weather cooperated perfectly – we had sun for most of our bike commutes and bus rides and rain to cancel the long-distance baseball games.  Soccer games happen rain or shine, so we relied on a lot other families for rides to games.

My plan to become a one-car household was furthered by the timely demise of our station wagon.  For months it had been emitting a nasty plume of exhaust each time it was started and the repairs cost more than the car itself.  So once the engine light went on, we knew it was only a matter of time before it landed in a scrap heap.   But by that point, we’d nearly completed the EcoChallenge and were confident we could continue to choose more alternative forms of transportation and make one car work.

As for the third hope of converting my children into champions for alternative transportation- well, it may be a bit too early to say. There was a fair amount of grumbling about the extra busing and biking, but once it was over, my daughter (the most vocal grumbler) allowed that she really didn’t have to do that much.  No kidding!  And my son, who remarked during the EcoChallenge that he wished he could just have a normal family, recently gave me reason to hope.  As we biked home from his soccer practice the other night, we passed a teammate who lived, no joke, two blocks away from the park and was being driven home.  Owen looked over at me and said “that’s pretty silly, isn’t it?”

So, all in all, two out of three of my EcoChallenge goals were met.  And realistically, the third goal of raising eco-conscious kids is going to take a lot longer than two weeks.  So I’m not at all discouraged, after all, I have many more years of EcoChallenges  left to whip my children into shape!

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