Category Archives: peak oil

Day 116 thru 118: MLwC and the way things are interconnected

I’m old enough to remember when the term built-in obsolescence began to gain currency. Apparently, the movement on the part of manufacturers to create goods that would have a shorter, definitive life-span started in the 30’s (I wasn’t around then 🙂 ) and really became part of our culture in the 60’s (I was around then) and is now so common we rarely think twice before trashing something we bought a week ago, year ago, two years ago, whatever.

There was a time, really, when you bought things and expected them to last. And last a long time.

This built-in obsolescence or planned obsolescence is, in many ways, at the root of our collective carbon footprint now and I find myself thinking about it with relation to My 30 Days of consumer celibacy and how The Compact works, that was mentioned here the other day. The author, Wendee Holtcamp spent 30 days not buying anything new and chronicled the adventure. According to the Compact, the goal is to wean oneself from our consumer addicted society….

What happens in an experiment like this, I imagine, is similar to what has happened in my own experiment with urban transportation: once you break a pattern of behavior, you begin to view everything in relation to that pattern differently.

So, now I’m starting to wonder about this buy-nothing-new project that started in San Francisco by Rachel and others. It’s not some anti-corporation, self-punishing hard-core movement–it’s smart people who understand that the more new stuff we buy, the more landfill we create and the more we put into motion this global supply chain that is at the heart of an unsustainable consumer culture.

When we first bought the house we’re living in now, we had to do a lot of very necessary repairs right off the bat. Some of them involved new wood siding on the house to repair dry-rot, etc., and I remember thinking, “what would it be like to follow the production of this lumber from the forest all the way to our house?” Because it’s not just the lumber yard where you purchase it, it’s the trucks, trains, ships that get the wood from the forest (sustainable or otherwise); it’s the rubber in the tires, the steel in the chassis, the hardhats, the gloves, the dock with its hauling equipment and cranes; it’s the computerized programs that track inventory, the reports, the finance and banking; it’s the plastic ties, the labeling, the marketing and the packaging…it goes on and on.

Marley’s ghost

For some reason, it makes me think of the Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol who shows up to haunt Scrooge dragging a long line of chains and money boxes rattling behind him.

Basically, that’s what buy-nothing-new is getting at: recognizing that the mass of stuff we buy new involves a greater participation in this completely unsustainable pitch of manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and sales–unsustainable because it takes resources to create and distribute stuff, but the model doesn’t put stuff back in.

So, the Compact is focused on not introducing more new stuff into the world, borrowing or buying used, and thereby perhaps driving a market demand that items be built better to last longer. That then got me to thinking about Seth Godin’s post commented on here a while ago that he will know we’re actually gaining ground in the environmental movement when cars have LED readers on their bumpers that advertise the mileage–encouraging longevity over new, new, new.

I’m not ready to do the compact quite yet, and when I do, I’ll definitely do a 30 day trial first; but I’m really captured by the thought of reducing the massive global supply chain that goes into our consumerism–making things last longer, repairing, recycling, borrowing, lending. There’s also a wonderful network and community aspect to the Compact that is attractive.

Daily Stats (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Car: 8 (2 tasks)
Bike:7 miles
Ped: 3.5 miles
Bus:0
air: 0

PS. I have a confession to make. I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth on whether or not to include other people’s cars in my daily stats. I’ve been incredibly ambivalent about it but have this last week decided: No. This project is about My Car, not all cars. So, I’m really only looking at ways I use my car…and the possibility of living without a “my car” in the future. Thoughts?

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Day 113: MLwC and shopping celibacy

The NRDC recently published an article entitled My 30 Days of Consumer Celibacy which is a fun read about one woman’s experiment with the buy-nothing movement. The buy-nothing idea was started by an SF group known as the Compact and has inspired a groundswell of followers and fans. There are a ton of blogs about this movement, just go to google and enter compact or compacters San Francisco. Also, there are compacters in nearly every major city, international, too. Started in 06, it’s taken off like a rocket.

traffic jam

I think it’s an enormous undertaking but I like it, I like it. Not sure I could do it, I’ve got my hands full with my own use-reduction program. I am interested to read that these folks travel, use cars, etc–that they have tackled this one enormous cultural issue–consumerism–and are going to take it apart at a personal level. If we all chose just one culturally instilled mindless activity and spent a year deconstructing it…well, that’d be amazing, flat-out amazing.

Daily Stats (Monday)
Car: 14 miles (hope to post tomorrow: why I needed a car today!)
Bike: 0
Bus:0
Taxi: approx 18 miles
Air: 1700 miles

Day 100: WLwC, Lucinda Williams and Mytechvision

I was listening to Lucinda Williams’  new album “West” the other day, after talking with my partner about getting rid of my car–we’ve kind of decided that I should go one month without usage at all and see how that works before taking that step. Anyway, later I was humming along with the song Learning to Live Without You:

I’m learning how to live
without you in my life.

…and I laughed out loud: that’s how I’m feeling about my car!  It’s a learning process, there’s some grief, there’s some wistfulness but dang if there isn’t a whole lotta relief, too. Anyway, it’s a good old fashioned break-up song that took on a whole new meaning for me: I’m going to break up with my car.

Couple of speed links:

  • Great blog about all kindsa environmental activism and information all around the world. Nice job, Lazy Environmentalist!
  • World CarFree Day--not too early to check it out and join–every Sept. 22nd is a dedicated day to be free of your car–all around the globe!

Tom @ Mytechvision wrote a great comment on the Top 5 list, regarding #3 where it’s suggested you talk with your friends and everybody about your process of changing your transportation styles (ie, Learning to Live without Car). Tom tells a sweet story about item #3 (share your thoughts about alternative transportation) which I hope he won’t mind if I highlight here:

“I love point three and have living breathing example of how something like this works.
One of my students graduated from university recently and found himself out of work. When I asked what he did with his time he was ashamed to tell me that he didn’t do much. H helped his Grandmother (definitely commendable in this day and age) but not much else.
In a later class we were discussing the benefits of walking and the hassle of the car (It was like talking to a brick wall — a class of financial advisors with company cars and company fuel bills paid).
Anyway, something happened that class.
My student came back the following class announcing he had walked to school (3 hour walk)! I obviously congratulated him. I then thought nothing else about it as it was obviously a one off … right?
Wrong. He has been waking to class ever since. AND BACK!
I was very touched by this story.
Here was a student who used to drive to college every day. He now walks to and from English class (6 hours in total because he has little else to do) and he thoroughly appreciates it .
I am happy to say he has recently found a job with a marketing firm as a trainee. He mentioned that his car is going to stay in the garage. He might not be walking anymore but he will be catching the train.
This is clear evidence that “coming out” as a non car user can help others overcome their fears of not driving -)

Cool! Here’s my story: I’m not a hard-liner about driving/not-driving but I have a growing preference, for sure, which I’ve told my friends about. Tomorrow I’m having a birthday celebration with these friends and we’re all going downtown in the bus–we’re catching a movie, hanging out a little, and then back home for cake and treats and such. Our big birthday bus adventure!

Another story: my pal Bri (excellent new vid on his site, btw) is now discussing with his wife how to reduce their two cars to one and possibly make that one car a Prius. They’re figuring the logistics to make it happen and feel it could work. Also very cool.

So, the social network one creates around thinking differently about transportation –what’s your story?

Daily stats:

Car: 5 miles (2 people, 2 tasks)
Bike: 0 miles
Foot: massive yard work but not much else 🙂
Bus: 0

Day 99: MLwC and a top 5 list

Everybody loves lists so I thought I’d offer a quick one for the MLwC project and for those who might be trying to think differently about transportation in this post-peak-oil age.

Top 5 things to keep in mind (and Please! Add to this any thoughts you might have–I’m just making this list up on the basis of my experience so far)

1. The goal is to simply become more conscious of how you travel, where, when, why, with whom. That is, how many tasks can you combine in order to avoid multiple trips; how many people with tasks can you combine; why are you jumping in the car–are there other alternatives? Is the weather great and do you have a little time? If so, why not walk or bike? Just note what you’re doing–easy shmeasy.

2. Once you’re more aware, little personal contests help a lot. For example, at first I was aiming for a reduction of one day per week of no car usage–just one day. It was a very modest goal and it took a while to achieve it; it may have been a huge hurdle in retrospect. I’ve since completed two work weeks sans car usage without even breaking a sweat. Keep in mind that no car usage doesn’t mean staying home, locked up and out of action. I’ve taken buses, passenger ferries, my bike and of course, walking on my own two feet.

3. It help to let others know what you’re doing. Yeah–they’ll think you’re a freak, but if you’re reading this, you might already be a freak so who cares. Let them know that it’s a sort of game or experiment you’re doing–just to see. They’ll be curious, I’m betting, based on my own experience–and it’ll give everyone a chance to think a little differently about car usage. Especially let your signif-other in on it–who knows, you may be able to figure out some way to jointly think differently about getting around.

4. Make sure your other means of transportation are in good working order. If your bike sucks big time, it’ll be a pain (really!) to ride and you won’t want to continue. If you have to struggle with change for the bus, buy a packet of tickets or a pass–it’ll make life so much easier and you won’t give using the bus another thought. Also, I don’t know about your city, but most companies in the Seattle area do a lot to help their employees use mass transit–check it out. It’s usually the deal of a lifetime–some companies downtown offer their peeps what’s called a Puget Pass which lets you ride the train, the ferries, the buses–whatever, whenever. It’s an incredible deal.

5. This goes along with awareness, but as you move away from using your car as much, be aware when you do use your car–how does it feel? Notice any difference, a tad more sensitivity to traffic, congestion, stress, etc? Just be aware–maybe nothing in your perception will change, but maybe something will.

have great holiday weekend!

Daily Stats (Friday)
Car: 0
Bike: about 8 miles (we ended up riding to the beach for dinner;-)

foot: approx 12 blocks + approx 3 mile walk/run in the park
bus: approx 14 miles