Discover Your Neighborhood: One-Mile-Radius Living

by Kathryn Benedicto   |   September 22, 2008

Neighborhood 2

I've got an idea for an experiment that will help cut your expenses, keep you physically fit, reduce global warming, and help build community, all at the same time.

It's called "One-Mile-Radius Living." And despite the name, it's not a form of house arrest!

Here's how it works. First, make a list of all the different types of places you drive to on a regular basis: stores, businesses, parks, restaurants, and so forth. Then, use an online search and mapping tool such as Walk Score or Google Maps to find out how many are available within a mile of your home address. Finally, whenever you go to one of these places, instead of hopping into your car, you walk there. 

When I tried this experiment, here are some of the things I found within one mile of my home:

  • 2 drug stores
  • 1 post office
  • 2 parks
  • 8 beauty salons
  • 3 bus lines
  • 4 banks
  • 2 clothing stores
  • 7 dentists
  • 1 bowling alley
  • Over 20 restaurants

And I don't even live in a ultra-dense urban area like San Francisco or New York City! Some places I frequent, like the library and farmer's market, were outside the boundary. But the list above was a good start.

I got the idea for this experiment from this theory that I have about commuting to work. When I was a regular commuter, the stores I knew about were mostly along my commute path, and I'd often stop by on the way home from work. But on weekends, I'd mindlessly get in my car and drive to those same stores, because they were the only ones I knew. I'd remain blissfully ignorant of similar stores that were within walking distance but that I'd never driven by. I suspect many commuters fall into the same trap.

One-Mile-Radius Living has many potential benefits for your health, pocketbook, and planet. For example, walking is a great way to stay fit, save on $4-a-gallon gas, and even eliminate the need for gym visits and membership fees. Plus, your lungs put out fewer greenhouse gases than your car's internal combustion engine. For me, though, the most unexpected benefit was discovering a whole "sidewalk community" of other walkers in my neighborhood - dog walkers, families walking to the park, joggers, and other friendly faces I never would have encountered if I'd just stayed behind the wheel.

Keep in mind that One-Mile-Radius Living is an experiment, and experiments can fail. External factors like urban planning (or lack thereof) and public safety can determine whether a neighborhood is walkable or downright hostile to pedestrians. Personal factors also play a role, like having the time to walk instead of drive. As a reasonably fit and mobile person, it takes me a little under 20 minutes to walk a mile, and my current work-at-home situation gives me time flexibility. For short distances, I don't mind spending a few extra minutes to get around, if I'm doing something good for my body and for the environment.

So give One-Mile-Radius Living a try, and report back with your findings. If it doesn't work out in your current neighborhood, keep it in mind next time you travel or relocate to a different neighborhood! 

Guest blogger Kathryn Benedicto is a long-time New Dream member, online activist, thrifty consumer, and creator of websites for nonprofits at Happy Snowman Tech.