Monthly Archives: April 2007

Day 75 & 76: My life w car

Enjoy!

Daily stats:
car: 55 miles (5 tasks, all in one planned gulp!)
bike: 12.5 miles
electric hybrid bus: 0
flexcar: 0

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Day 73 & 74: My life w car

Our beautiful planet:
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Green investing: some people are saying that we’re at a tipping point in our culture wherein we have the opportunity and the will and the ways to radically change how we lead our lives–work and personal. The technology for green energy is evolving more rapidly than ever, local energy companies are beginning to offer alternative energy, car companies are offering greener models, WOM on tax advantages of energy wise alternatives is showing up in the mainstream.

All of this leads to some investing ideas that you might want to investigate. The mutual fund field for green investing is grouped under a larger category called “Socially Responsible Investing,” but that has usually indicated companies that have progressive approaches to people issues, not green issues. Still, for your consideration, here are some ideas re green mutual funds:

Winslow Green (WGGFX)
Parnassus funds (many to choose from)
Powershares (PBW)
Sierra Fund
Spectra Green (SPEGX)
Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy (GAAEX)

Note that some of these are so new they don’t yet have a Morningstar rating but several do, and the ratings are certainly comparable (if not better) to other funds that actually invest in destructive industries. Check em out, give em a try.

Daily stats:
car: 6 miles (3 tasks)
bike: 6 miles
electric hybrid bus: approx 14 miles
flexcar: 0

Day 71 – 72: My life w car

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Oprah goes green: Going Green 101. I really loved seeing this show at the gym while I was working out, even though some of the ideas seemed really, really old. I thought: we can recycle just about anything.

Green investing: I truly believe that this will become a big deal in the near future. We’re about to be cornered on everything from energy to sustainable foodstuffs. So, one day soon, all these “wacky” alternative ideas may become more mainstream than ever thought possible.

What’s up with the bees?

Use one less paper napkin!

Daily Stats:
Car: 10 miles (two tasks, two people)
bike: 0
bus/flexcar: 0

Day 68 – 70: My life w car

So, I’m not going to say much about the heart-breaking tragedy of the VTech–who am I to say anything about something so overwhelmingly sad. I can’t imagine the grief of all the families and friends involved. I also note from the news and such that life has gone on pretty quickly…is that bad? More info comes out about the strange, mixed-up boy at the center of the story–isolated, ostracized, the usual– but after that, what’s there to say?

Unless we’re going to truly discuss guns and gun use in this culture, the impact of bullies, the impact of violent media (the snaps from Cho’s video look like a something from an a comic book villain/hero film), what is there to talk about? These kids are gone. These professors are gone. It happened so fast, and is over.

Daily Stats:
car: 34.5 miles (5 tasks)
bike: 11 miles (4 tasks)
hybrid electric bus: approx 12 miles
flexcar: 0

Day 67: My life w car

Interesting links:

Great article by Neal Peirce, long time bike rider in Washington DC wondering if biking is closer to becoming mainstream. Particularly interesting is the idea that in congested cities such as NY, Washington, DC, etc, biking is actually faster than a car.

Bicycle League, a clearing house of information related to transportation, particularly bikes, but other issues as well like transportation bills, etc.

Seattle Times Carbon Challenge: figure out your carbon footprint and starting May 1, join a thousand households as they try to reduce their energy use. Calculator and information for the asking!

Seattle Times blogger Nicole Brodeur confesses her carbon sins and seeks redemption.

Daily stats: a stay-at-home-office-work-day
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Bus/flexcar: 0

Day 65 & 66: My life w car

Yesterday, all across the country, there were peaceful demonstrations about global climate change. The purpose was to raise awarenes and consciousness. From awareness and consciousness, one hopes, comes change.

Yesterday in my home town paper, there were dozens of articles about global climate change, how we as first worlders impact it, and what we can do. Everything from incandescent lightbulbs (How many governers does it take to change a lightbulb?) to transportation (Seattle’s master bike use plan) a million small changes that add up to big cultural change at the family home level.

Exciting times. I was talking with some friends about all the stuff happening, and explained my blog–my personal transportation game–where I’m trying to become conscious of car usage, see if there’s a reasonable, workable way to ditch my car at some point in the future, and what I’m learning in the process. It seemed a good time to review some of these ideas here and also some of the conversation that ensued yesterday.

I started the “My life w car” series as a year-long plan to be conscious of transportation habits, dependencies, etc. The hope was that some day we could become a one-car family with lots tasks and travel delegated to bike, bus or flexcar. My secret hope was that it would all happen quickly and easily. Wrong.

Some of my rules around this transportation game: no single use trips (unless it really really can’t be avoided); multi-passenger use whenever possible (task combos); at least two days of non-carbon based transportation per week; improve bike mileage by 10 miles minimum per month. Obviously, the rules won’t work sometimes–last week was sort of a bust. But they work more often than not, for sure.

After 65 days, what I’ve learned: I’m not a big car person, I don’t really drive a ton or put a lot of focus on my car and I really don’t have an attachment to it. But even with my limited dependence on a car, I have found, after 65 days, that limiting one’s use of a car is dang difficult. Our entire culture is built around cars, about zipping here and there, about the luxury of simply not having to plan, think, or consider one’s dependence on cars at all.

Now, if we are really expecting people to reduce their automobile usage, combine trips, use mass transit, or bikes, there’s going to have to be some serious-ass change in our culture. A willingness to revise time and access across a lot of channels to make this work. Mass transit has got to be better than it is, biking has to be safer, and jamming schedules with non-stop action and to-do lists will have to lighten up. I’ve done it, to a degree, and while it’s been hard, I have to say: I’m happier for it. But the point is, this is a massive change on a massive scale…but it will all start at home, in your own backyard.

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Upshot: after talking about these learnings with my friends, and coming to the conclusion that it would be very difficult to jettison one’s car in the near term, we turned our attention, each of us, to how we could reduce our daily car use by one or two days a week. Carpooling, bus, combining trips to reduce trips, planning ahead…all the things I’ve started to incorporate into my thinking on a regular basis.

We are learning creatures (nice article here): it’s what we do best, and on a continual basis. Not saying we learn good things, just saying we are constantly in “adapt” mode, which means learning. This key feature may be what saves is in the end.

(One among us who is clearly lagging behind on the learning curve, however, is discussed here. Oh, Dear Leader! Once he’s outta the way, though, maybe we can actually begin to build a future instead of destroying it)

Daily Stats:
days without carbon trans: 0
car: 18 miles (multiple tasks, two riders)
bike: 0
bus/flexcar: 0

Day 64: My life w car

I love this idea discussed by Web Worker and based on an article in the New Yorker regarding the personal cost of commuting in America. Lots of people have studied the issue and impact of commuting, but one, Harvard Politicial Science professor Robert Putnam, has actually come up with an easy rule of thumb for thinking about the impact of commuting: Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten per cent fewer social connections.

(A side note here that the one of the people Nick Paumgarten interviews in his article about commuting notes that she has tried every available commuting option including the bus–which she found “depressing.” Why are buses depressing? I find them so myself, even though I don’t want to. What am I missing?)

Web Worker discusses Putnam’s idea that the farther spread out our Work-Sleep-Shop triangle is, the less happy we are. The closer, the happier. So, if you commute 2 hours to work and back every day, that’s going to hit your happy-quotient. If on top of that, you have to travel a long way to get groceries, etc, that will also hit the quotient. Putnam’s conclusion: “…the bigger the refrigerator, the lonelier the soul.”

As Web Worker notes, there are real advantages here for the biz-at-home worker–that person would have to be pretty happy because the triangle is smaller by quite a lot. But wait! What about social isolation because you really are working all by yourself, day after day??? She offers a number of antidotes to isolation: conf calls, IM, blogging, twitter (which I just tried and didn’t quite “get” on the first go-round). I would also add that it’s nice to step outside for a few minutes or a few hours and work in the yard or walk through the neighborhood. This offers lots of chances to feel more connected with your own hood, and that’s a good thing. Even feeling more connected with your yard, the birds, the fresh air, helps to alleviate isolation. Yesterday I took a break from the desk to spiff up the driveway garden some and of course, a couple of neighbors stopped by which brightened my mood considerably.

So, one side of my work-sleep-shop triangle is pretty short (when I’m not commuting to El Salvador or some other place on a regular basis) and that also allows me to do a lot of my tasks/shop stuff by bike, which also postively impacts my health, energy and the environment. And as Martha would say, that’s a good thing.

Daily Stats:
Car: 0
Bike: 2.5 miles
Flexcar/Bus: 15 miles (Bus)

Day 61 thru 63: My life w car

Couple of things on bike, traffic, time, and space. Not space, like outer-space, but space on the road.

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Mayor Nickels of Seattle last week announced that he wants to spend millions to make space on the road for bicycles. More bicycles–the answer to global warming.

Personally, I got the broader message here, and appreciated it. But the next day on the local public radio station here, it sounded like some people, both cyclists and drivers, were pretty skeptical of the initiative. Cyclists because it was a lame proposal in a few key respects: bike lanes don’t mean cyclists are safe or that drivers will take up biking any time soon. For example, more cyclists are nailed by right turning cars into bike lanes than just about any other situation.

Drivers were mad because they didn’t want to see that much money going to something that wasn’t going to make their commute any better. Traffic in Seattle is horrendous–it typically rates around 3rd or 4th in the top worst cities to drive in. So, drivers were mystified by the apparent message from Mayor Nickels: ride a bike instead.

To me the message was muddled. It should have been a lot more inclusive, rather than aimed at cyclists: Every bike on the road means one less car on the freeway or street or thoroughfare. Bless those rugged souls who have taken one small but real step towards actually reducing the traffic!

Still, biking is a tough business in lots of ways, which brings me to today’s topic: time. It takes time to ride places. Duh, you say. But really–it takes a lot of time, and time is one thing most people don’t have much of. As we careen into a new world order, one less endowed with the natural resources we’ve come to rely upon, our ability–so taken for granted–to jam pack our schedules with a million back-to-back events and meetings–while still living in the outskirts of town–will be mightily challenged.

I used to work downtown at Amazon where lots of people biked to work. But as I moved up the chain of command, and clothing/presentation, and back-to-back meetings starting early in the morning became regular requirements, I have to say my commuting habits changed significantly. I wonder how we’ll all deal with that in the future? Will we relax time and appearance requirements enough to allow for transportation that goes slower than 25 miles per hour

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So, finally: Daily stats. I’ve had a lot of things to do in the last few days that have required me to drive a lot more than usual. And another one coming up tonight. Good news: few trips were solo, and fewer still were single task. I can say that this practice for the last couple of months has indeed helped me change some of my habits. But the past few days have still brought home the fact that biking takes time–and sometimes time is simply not available.

Daily Stats:
Car: approx 36 miles, multiple tasks, two people
bike: approx 4 miles
flexcar/bus: 0

Day 59 & 60: My life w car…and a note about elearning

Is elearning effective? I’ve wondered that for a long time…personally sometimes it works, like for short topics with clearly identified skill goals, and sometimes it doesn’t work, especially for conceptual learning. IMHO, It’ll never work for teaching customer service handling skills, for example–that’s a practice and mentoring issue.

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But I was reading Design for Living this morning and was captured by her idea of rolling several other layers into traditional elearning–blogging on the subject matter, for example, being able to share one’s experience or understanding of the subject matter, adding to it, filling it out, making it more vital to the individual or community–and that made a lot of sense to me.

The biggest problem for me with elearning is how “flat” it feels–it forces me into such a passive role and I get antsy in about now time at all. Anyway, this idea of adding several community creating layers to elearning is just great–and the elearning company could potentially use the information to vastly improve their content on an ongoing basis. win/win.

On the car front: after tax time, I’ve pretty much realized that I can actually call my car a 100% business related expense since anymore I’m doing all my tasks, errands, etc on my bike. This helps me see my car in a more limited way–and I really like that.

Daily stats:
Days without carbon based transportation: 2
Car miles: 0
Bike: 6.5
flexcar/bus: 0

Day 58: My Life w Car

Mexico gets it!!

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One of the last gray whale “nurseries” in the world–in San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico–has received a huge boost in protected lands, as reported by NRDC. 109,000 acres of federal land surrounding this habitat will be set aside for conservation…by the Mexican government. This spoils the plans of several companies to use this area–such as Mitsubishi, Essa and others, which is a great victory!

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Now if Mexico can just limit the amount of tourist travel, marinas, high end resorts etc, maybe this gem can remain a sanctuary for not just whales, but for an entire natural system. I’m not so sure that Mexico is aiming for this; even Costa Rica, a country committed to its natural bounty, is running right on the razor’s edge of selling its crown jewels. But there are models, it can be done at least to a degree–we can limit access and still keep people happy and able to visit. It’s a constant struggle for Hawaii or the Grand Canyon, for example, but with smart limits, it can be done.

Daily stats:
Days without carbon based transportation: 0
car: 3.5 miles
bike: 0
flexcar/bus: 0

day 54 thru 57: My Life w Car

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Fabulous news today: Bush is a self-serving corporate lapdog and the Supreme Court busts his chops!

I love Justice Stevens:

The high court specifically rejected the Bush administration’s “laundry list of reasons not to regulate.” They include the assertion that the new U.S. auto regulations “might impair the president’s ability’s to negotiate with ‘key developing nations’ to reduce emissions.”

“While the president had broad authority in foreign affairs, that authority does not extend to the refusal to execute domestic laws,” Stevens wrote.

And note the coy use of the past tense: “while the president had broad authority….” I think there’s a wink and a nod there to the coming end of an era.

House of cards, baby! It’s only a matter of time.

Daily stats:
Days without carbon based transportation: 2
car: approx 5 miles
bike: 10.2 miles
flexcar/bus: 0