Living in the heart of oil country, people are often baffled when prices go up at the gas pumps, and I count myself in that demographic. However, with all the complaining people do, they seem to believe it is up to Big Oil to fix the “problem” (after all, they’re just after more money right, so why not gouge the consumer?) rather than taking personal action. No, I’m not talking about protesting, fire-bombing X Co’s corporate headquarters, or some (other) form of domestic terrorism. Rather I am talking about behaviour modification. I know this is a difficult concept, so I will repeat it: behaviour modification.
I know, I know. Behaviour modification can be difficult (though it doesn’t need to be), and besides, that “other guy” is a lot worse – why should you change when he won’t? Well first off, your pocket-book will thank you. The steam/smoke emitted from your debit/credit card could be greatly reduced. Of course, this all depends on what you drive (assuming you drive at all), how often, and how far on average. If you don’t drive at all then you’re already laughing (please drop me a note and let me know some limited details about yourself, why and how long you have been car-less, and how you’re getting by). If you do currently drive, you should know that there are options. I will discuss some of them below.
This is perhaps the most obvious option to many people. Not everyone is able to do this, such as those who drive for a living (taxi drivers, couriers, law enforcement, etc), but if you can it is an easy way to start cutting your ties with the corner gas station.
Now, I can already hear some of you complaining “If I can’t drive, I’ll just be stuck at home all the time.” I call bullshit on that, one of the laziest excuses out there. There are a variety of options available, not least of which the appendages attached to your hips (unless you don’t have legs, in which case you probably have a wheel chair and use your arms or some other method to get around). Benefits of walking include general fitness, socializing with neighbours, reducing local crime rates, and much more.
Of course, it may not be feasible to walk to work, in which case there are other options.
Seen by some as a blessing and by others as a curse, public transit (PT) is certainly a viable option. Some cite germs or “wierdos” as reasons not to use PT, and others may cite cost. However, those citing cost as a factor usually do not drive or have never driven. Fact is, using PT can save you a significant amount over buying fuel for your car/truck. It is also possible to meet some… interesting… people (both good and bad, I admit). Finally, you may get some extra reading, work, surfing, or whatever in while riding the train or bus. Or… you can try to get some sleep. Just don’t sleep past your stop (I’ve done that before and it was horrible).
This is another option that can promote personal health and fitness. Cycling is very easy, a lot of fun, and generally an excellent mode of transport. Granted the initial investment in equipment can be expensive, but compared to driving, it pays itself off in spades in a relatively short time.
Indeed, because of accessibility and speed, cycling is one of the best and most effective ways to explore an area. While many pathways in Calgary don’t really go anywhere (that is, there are no specified destinations), they do often pass through beautiful areas. Riding to work is an effective way to stay fit – some even continue through the winter months! If you’re not comfortable riding in winter conditions, I would advise riding in spring/summer and using PT through the winter.
For some people, it may be feasible to move to a location closer to where you work. If this is the case, you should be able to easily walk or cycle to work. If you’re careful about your new location you should even be able to walk/ride to the local grocer! What a great way to save money, get exercise, perhaps even have a bit of quality family time.
Be Creative & Innovative
As mentioned above, there are numerous ways to reduce your reliance on your car/truck. While moving is rarely a fun or even enjoyable experience, relocation can have some wonderful outcomes. Moving in to a transit-oriented development (TOD) can have the benefit of living near the workplace, the grocer, and many other services. The same can be said of many other walkable communities such as Calgary’s Kensington or Inglewood.
Yet another option is car sharing. More and more communities have car sharing programs available for residents. With car sharing programs you are still paying for fuel, but only what you put into the vehicle. And you only use the vehicle when you really need it.
Now, of course, there will always be people who are unwilling or unable to get rid of their vehicle(s). One way to get around this, then, is to downsize. Just buy a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. If combined with the application of one or more methods discussed above, this can have a significant impact on your personal chequebook and lifestyle. In reality, it is only such behaviour changes that reduce fuel consumption, which in turn can help lower prices at the pumps.
In a way, this operates as a carbon tax of sorts, encouraging people to buy smaller cars requiring less fuel. But if you really hate the idea of a carbon tax, it’s probably best not to think in those terms.