And in Los Angeles! Lauren Ferree, 27, does not miss the traffic — or destroying the environment.
I was born and raised in L.A., and my mom is an environmentalist. We’ve always composted and she’s always had some sort of garden. She also never threw anything away because she could see the second life in it.
I grew into a similar lifestyle. My personal journey into environmentalism was heightened after the presidential election of 2016. The topic of offshore drilling was getting very loud and getting a lot of attention. I’ve always gone to the beach and been a big ocean enthusiast, so I knew I had to kick it into high gear. I started taking extension classes to get a certificate in sustainability at U.C.L.A., and I started assessing my carbon footprint and consumption.
As a result, I decided to give up my car for one month in May of 2017. I just wanted to test if I could do it.
If I needed a car, I was going to borrow someone’s to prove that I had the community to support this decision. I only ended up borrowing a car once, and I realized it didn’t make sense to own a car, finance it and pay for gas. So in September, I fully quit and sold my car.
It was totally liberating. A constant theme I’ve found in not owning a car is liberation. I like not sitting in Los Angeles traffic and the peace that brings. I take the train now to see my boyfriend in Orange County, and I always joked that when I used to see him on Friday nights, I’d get out of the car and be ready to punch somebody in the face because that traffic takes years off your life. Now, taking the train is so easy. There’s only one transfer. I can work. I can read. I can take my time, and I’m in such a good mood.
After I sold my car, I was able to save around $6,000 a year with the payment, gas, maintenance, tolls and everything that owning a car took, which helped me knock out a huge chunk of my student loan.
I also live within walking and biking distance to work, so that only amplified the reason to get rid of my car.
So I bike a lot. I spent a little bit of money on a bike with a big basket in the back for running errands. I figured, if it was going to replace my car, it had to be comfortable and have a good lock and a light. And I’ve learned so much about bike lanes and the best roads to take in L.A.
There’s also a Metro line that goes downtown, and sometimes I use e-bikes and Bird scooters.
I’m also lucky I live in L.A., where the weather isn’t too crazy. Sometimes though, I’ll be the person riding their bike in the rain. It’s fun. I take an Uber or Lyft if I really need to, but sometimes I’ll feel guilt or shame because I’m trying to quit all cars, not just my car.
I also fly a lot for work, and on my ticket from the travel agency, it will include how many tons of carbon you’re emitting from just your single seat, which is like a punch in the gut.
As a result, it has become habitual for me to offset my carbon emissions. There are many ways to do it, but I just found one that works for me. I calculate my carbon emissions, and go onto carbonfootprint.com and purchase an offset in the form of a donation. Some campaigns you can donate to focus on regenerative foresting and planting more trees, some are socially sustainable programs focused on educating women and children.
If we’re going to pollute the environment this much, we have to be doing something that’s going to offset the carbon in return until there’s a carbon tax, which I truly hope is where we will go next.
In conversations on sustainability and environmentalism, it’s also really important to talk about what we could see the future as, because it gets so dark so fast when people talk about climate change and how many years we have left. When we talk about the future and ask “What would it look like if everyone was cooperative? What would it look like if everyone was contributing, or just aware?”
In college, I sometimes felt lost and didn’t know my purpose or passions, and now I realize it’s so obviously this. I don’t know what the impact or the effect is of me not having a car, but I hope it’s something that I can’t necessarily see.
Lauren Ferree lives in Los Angeles. This interview has been edited.
Photo illustration by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times