Friday, December 5, 2008

Pedal Power Update - November 2008

This month's "Pedal Power" update is a little different from other months. In the past, I've concentrated more on how much, or how little, I used the car - counting days of no-driving, logging car milage, etc. This pretty much created a constant competition with myself as I tried to get those numbers down month after month. The problem with that approach is that I'm not the only one that drives the car. In fact, my driving or even riding in the car is a very small percentage of its use, therefore I have very little control over how often it is driven. Basically, I have been putting a significant amount of effort to control something I can't control. Good job, Heather. That makes a lot of sense, but we all have our moments, right?

November brought with it an attitude shift, a refocus towards my overall goals.  I realized that I was missing out on opportunities with family and friends because I wanted to keep mileage numbers down. In other words, I was concentrating on one goal (being green) to the detriment of other goals (showing love and compassion to others; having fun). 

Refocused, I'm not exactly driving any more often that I was before, but I'm not thinking about it all the time. Sure, we put some mileage on Elphie last month, but I enjoyed lunches and movies with friends, dinners with family, and a gorgeous morning walk with my dog at an animal foundation charity walk in College Station. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that despite my goal to reduce my impact on the Earth (part of which though the reduction of car miles), driving isn't inherently bad. Driving can connect us with loved ones. It can mean fresh farmers market veggies even when it's cold and rainy and windy. It can be a trip across the country, making new friends and seeing new places along the way. 

Owning a car doesn't make me an environmental hypocrite, but it does require me to be mindful (well, darn it all... there's that word again). Sure, I have a car, to use when I feel I need it. BUT... I have mindfully chosen to live in an area of town where I can get by with just one car in our family. I have mindfully chosen to ride my bike to run our errands in town. I have mindfully chosen to own not just any car, but one that gets excellent milage and have low emissions. What I was reminded of last month was that you don't have to live in a cave and subsist on dandelions to love the Earth. You do have to be mindful. 

Right. Enough preaching, yeah? Let me get off my soapbox... gee, I'm pretty far up here... just a sec. 

Ok. So Pedal Power! It was an amazing month to bike. Mornings were crisp and cool. Afternoons were warm and sunny. It was wonderful to pedal around town without fearing heat stroke. In fact, there were a few mornings I was bundled up with winter coat, gloves, and boots. Winter is definitely flirting with us. 

The wind has started to pick up again. We've had anywhere from 15 to 30 mile an hour winds. That's great when you're biking to the Natural Food Store to pick up the weekly supplies - wind at my back, downhill most of the 30 minute ride. It's a whole other story on the way back, bike basket full of bulk foods like flour (can get kinda heavy), uphill most of the way, cold wind blasting my frozen little nose and ears. Just... a... little... further...

But I'm doing it. Trips to the library, the farmers market, the natural food store, the post; visits with my grandparents, lunches downtown. I've done them all on my bike. My body is stronger for it (who needs the gym); my wallet is fuller (even with lower gas prices); and though my impact my be small, I'm sure the Earth is healthier for it too.

Have a great Friday everybody, and if you can, hop on that bike to run one of your errands this weekend. Experience Pedal Power simple-green-frugal style.  


Sam said...

This was such a beautiful post.

When we began talking about getting a car, our friends started asking us if we would get one that runs on veggie oil. And I was surprised. Why would I do that? Would driving a car with fossil fuel make me more of a hypocrite somehow?

It was then I began examining the purpose of a car. If it provides comfort on the occasions when running an errand by bicycle or bus would otherwise cause hardship isn't that overall a good thing? The problems regarding the environmental concerns arise because a majority of people have chosen not to examine their lifestyle choices and not necessarily because they've chosen their lifestyle per say. Recognizing that was a big step for me. Instead of just looking down on people (which is very, very bad).

Those Texas headwinds are really brutal. I still remember wanting to doze off on the side of the road from exhaustion of barely moving for 8 hours in 30 mile headwinds.

J said...

This was a wonderful post Heather. I completely agree with you that you have to look at more than just one thing, and I'm sure you are much happier now that you have been able to refocus yourself.

You are still being mindful, but in some ways, I would say you are being more mindful as you aren't focused on simply one aspect of your lifestyle, you are taking into consideration things like other people, happiness, and what is truly feasible.

I do not own a car, but if the weather is bad, or I want to go see someone and it is pretty far, I hop on the bus and don't feel bad about it. Buses use oil and pollute too, and I try to get where I need to go on my own accord, but it would take me over an hour to walk to work, and then another hour to walk home from work each day, and to me, that doesn't seem feasible. So I get on the heated bus and read while someone else drives me to work. :-)

You are doing far more than most people, and you understand why and are doing it for the right reasons, you should be proud.

Anonymous said...

Your spot on Heather. We often have to rebalance our values so we don't risk focussing on one goal at the expense of others. I'm the same as you. I would prefer to not use the car, but we recently did a huge roadtrip around California. Yes, we chewed some miles, but I did it because I wanted to show my Mother a different part of the world. I'm glad I did. She called yesterday (from Australia) and she's a changed woman. She sounds so happy and inspired. If I'd stuck to my goals of frugality and being green, I never would have flown her out here and we wouldn't have had this amazing experience.

hmd said...

Beany - It really is a tough call. I mean, I think it's important for each of us to continually challenge ourselves - for personal growth, to become better. Maybe it would be cool to have a car that runs on veggie oil. Maybe I should have bought a 2nd hand Prius instead of a new one. We can always second guess ourselves, but rather than look back and say "maybe I should have"... perhaps it's better to make the best decision we can with the circumstances that surround us and keep moving forward, challenging ourselves in other ways, making better and better decisions each time, growing and evolving.

Am I just justifying car ownership in my mind? I honestly don't know. I can see it both ways.

Jennifer - Thanks! Oh how I wish we could go car free. I really do. Maybe if we were living closer to the university. We've talked about it.

We have a bus system but believe it or not, the city bus doesn't run on nights or weekends AT ALL. And the closest university bus stop is a 30 minute walk. It certainly doesn't make it easy. But if the economy continues to go down, perhaps better public transportation efforts will be made as a result. Wouldn't that we wonderful!

LivingMyRichLife - I know what you mean. In less-green years I was taking a couple European trips a year. How I afforded this while only working part time still amazes me, but I did it. I loved every minute of it. I wouldn't change it for the world. I am a better person because of it.

ttammylynn said...

In spite of your efforts to do the "green" thing, I am glad you took Elfie to the Farmer's Market this morning(oh and your hubby too). Richard said his thermometer read 23 degrees this morning out in his yard. It was an amazing market today. I sent the snow peas and apples your way because I wanted you to get a taste of the snow peas I've had for almost two weeks now(not many, but I eat a few while picking them every few days, plus stir-fries). And, I had to clear the way for new apples on the 10th. I ordered a fresh batch because I decided I prefer the larger apples for the gift bags that I'll do for Christmas...I eat apples every day now, but I would prefer to give more of my appetite to the oranges and grapefruit that arrived a few days ago. I probably ate 30 pounds of apples personally since the order came in early last month--I'd give Kelsey a run for her money on organic fuji eating, to be sure.
Anyway, that, tomatoes everywhere-three vendors had tomatoes, two had kohlrabi, I saw beets, various greens, lots of eggs, broccoli, spinach, radishes, turnips, green beans, onions, gorgeous and strange shaped potatoes, peppers, winter squash, a few summer squash, beets, carrots, all kinds of baked goods, jellies, salsas, pickles, pecans, gift ideas, lemons, cabbage, plants including some pretty Christmas cactus, mistletoe(ok-she gave me the mistletoe), several different kinds of coffee including, drum roll please--two organic varieties. I bought a bag of pecans, a loaf of banana nut bread, organic coffee, eggs, spinach, broccoli, carrots, several tomatoes, beets, summer squash, onions, potatoes, green beans, carrots, salsa, cabbage and a gift tin containing orange marmalade and a garlic sauce.
Gee, this local eating is so tough this winter, ain't it? We could starve to death at this rate. I swear, I barely even shop at the grocery store anymore.
!Hasta maƱana, mi amiga!

Jena said...

Hi Heather! Just wanted to pop over and let you know I think you deserve the Lemonade Award, so I'm giving it to you. If you'd like, you can check it out over at my blog. Congrats and keep up the great work! :)

hmd said...

Tammy - thanks again for the snow peas and apples. It really was a wonderful market, especially considering how few vendors and customers there were last year. You're right. The whole local eating stuff sure is hard, huh? How do you choose what to eat first :)

Jena - That's great. Thanks! I'll try to put up a post in the next couple days :)