Stumbling Toward Simplicity

We hit a wall. The subaru’s mileage was ticking up toward 300,000. We knew a new car was not far away. We wanted something greener. What to get?

I favored a biodiesel vehicle.  Heck, might even let us “reduce, recycle, and reuse” a Mercedes Benz. Posh ecology. My husband James leaned heavily toward a hybrid, which claimed similar mileage and better likelihood of operating in all weather conditions. He argued it would be much easier to fuel up on escapes for skiing, backpacking, kayaking and other adventures that were — after all — a prime reason we had a car.

It was one of the first big negotiations in our new marriage, too significant to ignore or blindly compromise. We collected data. We weighed benefits. We found the courage to tell each other difficult truths. (Mine was I CANNOT BEAR to spend $25,000 on a car.) We had to listen. More mulling. More hard conversations.

Along the way, a new option arrived through a city incentive, The One Less Car Challenge, romancing residents to sell a car in exchange for driving credits in a car sharing program. This offered a middle road, as it were: instead of a decision that neither of us would be happy with, we’d spend six months using a combination of bike, bus, and car-share, then see what kind of car we wanted next.

It’s now been three years and we are blissfully satisfied. I don’t know that either one of us would have embraced this choice initially, but after sizing up lofty and ambitious alternatives, we set our boots on ground that we like, we can handle, and we believe is responsible to the earth. Simplifying came to us from grappling with choices while remembering our values. Thank God for all the people who worked to make these choices available to us.

The rightness of this decision somehow energizes me to deal with the problems that accompany it — like how to be fashion-forward after biking to work in the rain or remembering to reserve the car with the forest pass several days in advance. It points the way toward future choices in simplifying with satisfaction: face reality, dig up choices, dare to debate, remember values, and be open to unexpected solutions.

Hey if YOU want to be tempted, here’s a link to Zipcar, the world’s largest car-sharing program:



  1. Eric Rasmusen · · Reply

    Hi, Beth. I tried out a Segway 2-wheeler last weekend on a Chicago tour, and that’s the vehicle I wish I had an excuse to buy now.

    1. Gosh they look like fun! When I worked at Pacific Science Center, my ace presenter, Jeremy, lobbied heavily to get one. He’d put in MILES running across the campus to pick up equipment for our special demos: lab coat, extension cord, liquid nitrogen. Hmmmm. Maybe that would need a special trailer.

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