Energy Diet

Full Tank… Full Trunk

The love handles on my light little car: a trunk full of stuff I don't need -- except the Whole Foods totes.

The love handles on my light little car: a trunk full of stuff I don't need -- except the Whole Foods totes.

Starting work at National Geographic had an immediate impact on my carbon footprint that had nothing to do with this diet: my commute went from an hour-long drive each way to a 12-minute walk, or about 14,000 miles driven per year to about 800 miles per year.

I loathed driving that much every day — not only because of the way it gobbled up gas and contributed to emissions, but because of the impact it had on my sanity. Still, I had no viable mass transit option to the exurban “campus” of my former employer in Sterling, Va. Only last year, construction on a Metro line out toward the Dulles airport from Washington, D.C., became visible and real. But that wouldn’t be ready anytime soon.

My solution was to telecommute as much as possible, which was terrific for the environment, but a bit isolating and depressing to do every single day when my job was supposed to be team-oriented.

Now that I have a job closer to home, I only use my car about once every two weeks, to visit my family in suburban Maryland, about 35 minutes away. I thought about using public transit for that, too, but my parents live about 10 minutes away from the metro station, and getting a ride so that I can wait alone on a platform at night is not only an imposition for them, but a safety concern for me.

Generally, I feel pretty good about how much less I’m driving, and the fact that my car is much more compact and efficient than myriad minivans and SUVs trolling around the D.C. area. Still, there are measures I can take that I’ve ignored.

I am a moderate speeder and will often accelerate to get around slower cars (an East-Coast friend and I used to joke that the streets of San Francisco were ours for the taking, as the lackadaisical West Coast driving style was no match for our type-A get-ahead East Coast mentality). I also have a trunk full of stuff that just weighs my little Mazda Miata down (with a car that size, it doesn’t take much) and has no conceivable use. So those are the two checkboxes I plan to focus on ticking off before the end of the month.


  1. clipton
    February 16, 2011, 2:18 pm

    Glad to hear that you are driving less. I agree, it is probably better for sanity that way. One thing to keep in mind is properly inflating your car tires once a month. Read more: