Do the Math

By Sue Carr

clockDo you ever wish you could buy more time?

What about less gas?

What if you could find a way to do both? I’d say that would constitute green living at its finest.

Our family’s fall schedule is heating up, and as I’m adding the barrage of birthday parties, sport schedules, family events, and extracurricular activities to the calendar, I find myself repeating the old adage, “something’s got to give.”

Take, for example, our Wednesdays this fall. My daughter has signed up to play basketball, which practices every Wednesday evening from 5:00 to 6:30. She also wants to participate in the school’s Christmas choir, which meets after school on Wednesdays from 3:00 until 4:30. While she’s not excited about being at the school for 10+ hours every Wednesday, she loves both activities, so we’re trying to make it work by springing her in between for a breather and a bite to eat. However…

My kids’ school is approximately 9 miles from our house. I work three miles from the school and about 7.5 miles from home. None of these are great distances, but if you drive them regularly—or multiple times in a single day—they start to add up.  So here’s how our Wednesday scenario might look:

SueCarr-mileagechart

Fortunately, my husband will pick our daughter up after practice on his way home from work, so that eliminates at least one extra back-and-forth to the school. But still.

Instead, it occurred to me that I could economize on my time and gas by subtly tweaking this routine. If I take my laptop with me, I can go to a nearby coffee shop to write after work until school lets out. I can pick up my son and run across the street to do my grocery shopping while my daughter practices with the choir. Then we’ll shoot back over to the school, pick up my daughter, grab something to eat, and return her for basketball practice before heading home.

This subtle tweak eliminates a back-and-forth trip home and will save us approximately 13 miles and 30 minutes in travel. As a result, I’ll get some writing done, my son will be able to play in the Eagle’s Nest instead of sitting in cars and buses all afternoon, and I’ll be able to cross a weekly chore off my list, thus freeing up my day off for other activities (like more writing). Not a bad little adjustment, I think.

Over the next week, I encourage you to think about ways you might economize your schedule. You may be surprised at the time and cost savings you’ll discover. And the earth will thank you for using just a little less gas to get it all done.

Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer and editor, and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.