Tradeoffs – Driving

All right, I said that I’d talk about tradeoffs that resulted from our decision to move 15 miles north of where we lived in the city. The most obvious one is driving so we’ll start there.

When we lived in Everett I worked a short 5 miles from home and so driving to work wasn’t a huge deal. Plus, I tried to ride my bike when the weather was nice and my schedule allowed. We were able to do most of our shopping, including the summer farmer’s market, within 5 miles of the house and only really “drove” to visit friends, go mountain biking, or other similar activities.

As an construction manager, Mike does a lot of driving, and always has. Most of the work that his company does is much closer into Seattle or Bellevue. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of his career. He could try to find a job further north, but he really likes his current job – he’s been with the company almost 15 years.

Now that we’re here an Arlington we do more driving even though we’re only about 2.5 miles from most services and the interstate. The grocery store is no longer just 4 blocks away, instead there’s one about 3 miles away and unfortunately the good one is more like 10 miles. My commute is 20+ miles each way. While some of our friends are now closer, the rest are further away and so are Mike’s job sites.

How are we coping with it? In a myriad of ways.

We’re both carpooling to work. Mike with a friend that’s working for him right now. Me with 2 other people that work near me in Everett – we trade off the driving each day.

We consolidate errands into fewer trips. This requires a little planning, but the flip side is that we’re more likely to do them together. Luckily I’ve been doing weekly meal planning and shopping for a few years so that’s not a change – what is new is combining the trip to the food co-op / grocer with a stop at the hardware store, the farm store and the gas station and doing all of that with Mike.

Plus, a lot of the places we used to drive to on the weekends are 15 miles closer now. Mike’s favorite fishing and duck hunting spots are just down the road. The tree farm where we like to mountain bike is only a few miles north. My favorite butcher is practically next door. We can road bike and nordic walk right out of the driveway.

So yes, we’re farther away from some things, but I’m not sure that I’m actually filling my gas tank any more often. Instead I’m just using my miles differently. I’m carpooling again and living with the compromises that brings.

I believe that in the long term living here will prove to be more sustainable for us overall – as we get better at growing/raising and preserving our own food, as we connect with local farmers, as we rely more on ourselves and less on big business, as we do not need to add on to this house the way we did the last, as we buy less and live more.