Green Guilt.

by Elizabeth Horn


Going “green” is the social mandate of the times. Everywhere you look, there’s advice about how to reduce your carbon footprint, reuse items and save energy. All worthy pursuits.


One common thread in all the advice is to stop or radically reduce your driving, walk or use public transportation. Consolidate errands, do more activities at home and get a smaller car is also frequently dispensed advice.


There’s also a lot in the media about living as a one car family. People do it every day, and though it might require some sacrifice, it can be done. However, if both parents work, having only one vehicle might not be so realistic.


Because, I need to do my part for the environment, I tried to imagine what our situation would be like if we had only one car. I live in the South, and mass transit isn’t the same as it is in other metropolitan areas. We don’t have commuter trains in too many places, and the bus is the main option for public transportation.


My husband has a farther commute than I do, and he picks up the kids in the afternoon, so I’d have to be the one to take the bus to work.


He is a teacher and he has to be at his school the same time as our kids have to be at their school, so I take our kids to school. If we only had one car, he’d have to start taking them and we’d have to leave the house before sunrise to get everyone where they needed to be and him to school on time.


If I rode the bus, I’d have to get a ride to the bus stop since there’s not a bus stop in walking distance from my house. If we only had one car, we’d all have to leave the house at the same time and I’d have to be dropped off there.


Only a couple of buses arrive at a time where I’d realistically end up at work on time, so I’d have to be sure to be there to get one of them no matter what was going on at home in the morning.


To get to work, I’d have to ride the bus 45 minutes to downtown, wait for another bus and ride the next one for about 20 minutes in order to get to my office. I’m not wild about the reverse scenario, having to wait for a bus downtown after dark on the way home, but I could do that, people have to do inconvenient things every day.

But, as a working parent, life and my schedule aren’t always that tidy.

What would we do if one of the kids got sick at school? How would everyone get to practice and other after school activities? My father is getting older and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if I had to leave work suddenly in order to do something for him, and I would need a car at work with me.

So, even though people talk about “going green” by becoming a one car family, my situation doesn’t really allow for that right now.

So, what can we do to join the cause? We took the small step of buying reusable grocery bags.

Now, if we could just remember to put them back in our second car for the next use instead of shoving them in the pantry.


I've run the public transportation scenario and it would crash and burn for us within two days as well. I do have on my list to start recycling. I have a friend who is going to help set it up and explain it to us.


We should all do what we can feasibly do. Realistically i think that our efforts are better spent lobbying for large scale changes by the government. Tighter regs on large polluters, more environmental programs, requiring manufacturers to make more efficient cars, implementing incentives to cities to install better public transportation, etc. Once those changes start to take place it will make personal lifestyle changes much easier.