An incremental approach for shifting from the vehicle, and adding walking into your everyday.
When I first started working Downtown, I wasn’t sure where I would park my car. I live about 5 miles away, and could bike or bus but the challenges of coordinating daycare and school pickups and drop offs were a hard puzzle to figure out (you can read about one way we accomplished this in my post Commuting with Kids). Since that proved to require quite a bit of coordination, I needed a different, more immediate solution.
How I started…
My husband told me about a location about a mile away from my office, on the outskirts of downtown, that had free on-street parking. I decided to give it a try. I left home about 20 minutes before I would have if I were parking in the heart of downtown, in one of the paid parking garages. I parked in the free on-street spot, plugged in my headphones, and set off on foot.
I LOVED it.
As a mom of two small children, contemplative time is rare. Those magical moments in the morning and evening proved to be very therapeutic for me.
In the morning, the walk provided time for me to gear up for the day. I spent my time walking in listening to inspiring podcasts or thinking through how I would start my work day, prioritizing projects.
In the evenings, the walk served as a wind down from the day. Plus, the opportunity to stretch my tired muscles from the day spent staring at a computer screen.
Hitting the “easy” button
My first job downtown offered a free parking pass to the garage right above my office. It was so EASY. And it was FREE. Why would I not use it?
I read this interesting article talking about taxing this employee benefit. In the article the author mentions how employee behavior is changed based on this perk. I knew this first hand. I was totally okay walking into work from the distant free parking, but I chose not to do this because of the FREE benefit that was provided to me.
When I shifted into a new job without this perk, I was excited to try and figure out a different solution.
Where to Park?
After I figured out that I liked walking this short distance (it was about a mile). I drew a one mile radius around my office building to find the places I could park that were closest to my drive in. That way I could also shorten my drive time. I found this really helpful.
I am not a fan of driving, so being able to shorten my drive time made me happy. I started thinking about what that would mean over the long term. What benefits are there from this small change?
My car gets about 30 miles to the gallon. If I drive one less miles to and from work each day, that 2 less miles per work day, and 10 less miles each week. Over the course of a year, that adds up to approximately
I drove 522 less miles each year
At 30 miles per gallon, thats 17.4 less gallons of gas purchased. If gas is in the ballpark of $3/gallon, I just saved myself $52. If your vehicle isn’t as gas friendly as mine, the savings would be even higher for you. That may seem like small potatoes, but that’s just one of the “car” perks. It also meant:
- Less Carbon Emitted
- Less Ware and Tear on my Car
To me though, what I discovered was that the biggest benefits came on the health side of the equation.
I added 4,400 steps each day
While less than the 10,000 that are recommended, this was more than I would have achieved without this small change! Getting physical activity that is separate from and outside my normal routine is just not easily achievable at this point in my life. I am scheduled to the max with my young kiddos and my volunteer projects.
By leaving for work 20 minutes earlier than I would normally, and arriving home 20 minutes later than normal, I added physical activity without throwing my normal schedule out of whack.
I added 40 minutes of physical activity each day
The last thing I’ll add is the benefit to mental health. Like I mentioned above, as a mom of small kids time alone with my thoughts is a rare treasure. I found this setup as an attainable way for me to get a good set of benefits.
I would encourage everyone give it a try! You might like it!