“NASHVILLE — In this family, we are not new-car people. My husband and I buy used vehicles, and we keep them until the cost of patching them up far exceeds their value, a time-honored practice known as driving a car into the ground. We don’t drive a lot, either: My husband works a mile and a half from our house, and I work from a home office. I kept thinking about electric cars anyway.
We didn’t actually need a new vehicle when we started shopping. My 2006 minivan was working fine, and my husband’s 2001 minivan was working fine, too. But it was 2019, and our youngest child was a junior in college. We had long since aged out of the minivan cohort.
Meanwhile, evidence of the growing climate calamity was becoming clearer and grimmer with every new study — and with every wildfire, every drought, every hurricane — even as the Trump administration kept rolling back environmental protections at a breathtaking rate. I felt a rising desperation to do everything possible to reduce my own carbon footprint, to foster as much biodiversity as I could on my own little half-acre plot of ground.
The earth cannot be saved by personal actions alone, but there are many practical ways a person can help the environment anyway: lowering the thermostat, buying organics, eating less meat, skipping the lawn-care chemicals, planting native shrubs and trees, buying carbon offsets, subscribing to a renewable energy program, eliminating single-use plastics and other disposables. All of those changes, and many others, are important because they mean treading a bit more lightly on a suffering earth.
But the single greatest change we can make is to change the way we get around. “Transportation is the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases in the United States today, and the bulk of those emissions come from driving in our cities and suburbs,” as Nadja Popovich and Denise Lu noted in a feature for The Times last fall. According to their interactive map, total greenhouse emissions rose 88 percent in Nashville from 1990 to 2017, and that’s not simply because of population growth. Per-person emissions were up 9 percent in the same time frame. Never mind the environment: At this rate, Nashvillians will soon find it difficult to breathe.”
“. . . Biking and walking are the most ecologically sound ways to get around, of course, and taking public transportation is second best. But if, like my family, you live in a place with a profoundly limited public-transportation system and few pedestrian-friendly streets, driving is a necessary evil. If you have to go somewhere, an electric vehicle is the third-best way to get there.” (They bought an electric Nissan Leaf. It drives like a sports car.)