How to Live Without a Car


I recently got rid of my car and am trying to be car-free for at least the summer. This is the second time I have gone an extended period without a car; the first time was for 6 months. A few things that I learned about the process:

Step 1: Prepare for everyone to feel sorry for you.

“Oh, you’re going to WALK to downtown? Do you need a ride? Just let me drive you, it’s so far to walk…” As much as love how people care for each other in Indianapolis, I live 1.5 miles from my office, downtown and a max of 3 miles from practically anywhere I want to go. In most major cities, people walk 20 minutes to the subway or their bus stop. I know it’s foreign in Indianapolis, but I promise you, I can walk and I will survive. Not having a car is part of my expressing that more people should walk/bike/car-share. We do live in an urban environment, after all. In addition, when I choose walking or biking over taking a car, I am choosing not to contribute to carbon emissions. So you are actually doing the planet a favor by letting me make that decision.

Step 2: Make a plan for grocery shopping and only buy what you need for the week.

There were certain things that I had to set in place to make my grocery shopping work. First, I do have a Kroger near my house that I can walk to and I can get most of my essential food items there. This is very convenient place to shop. However, being a vegetarian, there are certain things that Kroger doesn’t carry, such as tofu, other meat-free foods, and some organic products that I want. For Kroger grocery shopping, I walk two blocks and I had a little metal cart that I can roll with me to pile my goods into. For the items that I need from somewhere else, I bike to that location. I usually go once a week to a specialty store, whether it be Pogues Run or Marsh or somewhere where I can have more organic and vegetarian options. This forces me to be strategic when I go to those places, because there is only so much that can fit into my backpack. So make a plan for what you need to buy and think about just the next week only. Part of what makes small living work is that you don’t store up for the “just in case” scenarios, you live much more with a day-to-day mentality. Don’t over buy. Buy what you need for that week.

Step 3: Plan to borrow a car for things like doctor’s appointments.

The nice thing about doctor appointments is that they are usually during the day when everyone else is working. So it makes it fairly easy to ask a friend if you can borrow their car while they are at work to make it to your appointment. Take the time to fill their gas and maybe vacuum out their car as a thank you.

Step 4: Anything that can be delivered should be delivered.

There is an incredible amount of options for things being delivered to your home. And if you can’t get something delivered, keep recommending it and that company may eventually consider it. I do most of my shopping online, especially for specialty items, and I get my dog food delivered to my house. This will save you driving time, extra hassle and is usually free or very low cost.