Generating Necessity

This morning a friend brought my son home from a birthday party. Her sons had also attended the party and our house was on their way home, so bringing them all home together significantly reduced the carbon emissions. In other words, it was a good move for sustainability which we all value. But that isn’t why it happened. It happened because I didn’t have a car today. Sustainability born of necessity.

Let me take a step back and give some context. A year ago we were a two-car family. The same group of teen boys celebrated the same kid’s birthday and I drove the 60 minute round trip to pick up my son, because I could. Over the summer we decided to become a one-car family, largely for economic reasons. My husband and I both travel a lot, so a lot of the time we only have one driver at home anyway. But today we are both in town and he took our one car to work leaving us with a dilemma about how to collect our child from the party. So we asked for a favor, because we needed it.

This isn’t the only time our one-car necessity has reduced our planetary impact. The one-car reality, even with Uber and Lyft available as backups, has my husband pulling out his bike, my daughter riding public transit and me combining my errands into more condensed trips - all things we could theoretically have done when we were a two-car family, but mostly didn’t. Essentially, we made a decision months ago that generated necessity which in turn fuels collaboration and flexibility that is good for the planet.

It has me reflecting on psychology and culture and why we do what we do. What are the factors that help us live into alignment with our values? What are the ways in which the bigger decisions we make influence dozens of smaller choices and habits over years?

I think this idea of necessity is a significant piece. When constraints of time, finance, and space make it necessary to share and collaborate, we are far more likely to do it. As cohousers we have already begun to limit space. Most of us gave up some closets and living space when we moved into cohousing, in part because we knew we could share or borrow things from our neighbors rather than store our own.

Necessity can be a good thing, yet we live in a culture that hates to be needy. At least I do. I wonder how much more I could borrow, how many more favors I could exchange and how much less stuff I could consume if I was more willing to ask for help. Probably a lot. Living in cohousing is helping me rewrite my standards and give myself permission to ask, but it’s a slow process. I’m going to keep thinking about what I can do to generate necessity in my life, how I can become less independent and more collaborative, and where I can find the courage for that kind of vulnerability.

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