Archive for the ‘Environment & Climate’ Category

Reducing eco-impact in the daily commute

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

I want to reduce my gas consumption and my carbon footprint. But little by little, I’m getting talked out of my bike commuting plans. Several people in the past few weeks have expressed concern over the lack of shoulder in several places on the road I’d be riding along with the speed of traffic on the road, particularly relative to a (slow) cyclist.

I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that, dammit, they’re probably right.

So now I’m left wondering what I want to do about my commute. Besides commuting by bike, I’ve decided to catalog the options I’m weighing, and see if anyone has any other suggestions:

  • I was willing to trade off lots of time (a daily three hours of bike commuting vs. 50 minutes on average by car on the highway) in order to get to zero, so I should be willing to make the same or similar concessions if I can lower my ecological impact. For example, if I were to buy a hybrid car, it would mean shuffling around some financial plans to accommodate it, but that should be no less inconvenient, in some ways, than the bike commute would have been.

    On the other hand, I was actually looking forward to the quiet time on the bike, whereas I’m not so eager to spend ~$20K on a new car. On the third hand, I do rather like being alive and don’t want to risk life and limb just to be stubborn about being a zero-carbon commuter.

  • Carpooling is a possibility. Unfortunately, no one I work with lives in my neighborhood, so there are no obvious arrangements. A few of my neighbors work in the same suburb I do, so I could pursue sharing rides with them if we can compromise on work hours. And some of my coworkers live on the east side of town, which is easy enough to get to. We’ve tried a few times to have Karsten drop me off at a designated meeting spot, like a gas station en route to the highway, and that’s been reasonably successful, but all of the carpool options do require conforming to a work schedule that may or may not suit my day-to-day needs. On the other hand, bike commuting would have been even more restrictive, since my choice would be to ride during daylight hours, and that means much shorter workdays than I’m used to. Not at all a bad thing, but a big adjustment either way.
  • Another option, albeit one I have less direct control over, is to try to work out a telecommute arrangement with my employer. I have experience with successfully introducing this arrangement in other workplaces, and there is sort of a precedent for it here — we have associates in remote locations already, so it’s not as if we don’t know how to get our jobs done when we’re not face-to-face. But this doesn’t seem like an easy sell and it probably wouldn’t be an immediate change, even if all parties agreed on the terms of a telecommute arrangement.
  • Finally, so as not to ignore obvious options, I could always quit my current job and find work closer to home (or freelance and work from home full-time). But I like what I’m doing, so I’m not ready to explore that option — especially not before I’ve explored the telecommute option.
  • I suppose another obvious option that should be stated is to move closer to work. This, however, is simply not going to happen. Karsten and I love our house and our neighborhood; our remaining happy in Nashville is heavily contingent on feeling as if we’re in a charming urban oasis in a sea of strange Southern suburban sameness. It’s one thing to work in the suburbs — exurbs, even — but living there would make me go postal.

    Other than that, I’m out of ideas. Anyone out there have any novel approaches for reducing ecological impact on the daily work commute?

  • Get a car off the road AND get a great workout? Sure!

    Sunday, July 20th, 2008

    My planned bike commute route, and first attemptI’ve only done one practice ride and I didn’t even make it all the way, but I think it’s still feasible enough to say it out loud: I may become a bike commuter.

    Mind you, my commute route is 18.14 miles long (according to Google maps), over hilly middle Tennessee terrain (according to my legs). It’ll be one hell of a workout. But on the plus side: it’ll be one hell of a workout! I’ll never have to visit a gym again.

    Except, of course, that part of the logistics involve visiting a gym every morning. Part of what makes this possible is that the Cool Springs YMCA is mere blocks from, so I can shower at the Y and coast downhill to work.

    My next step is to try another test ride, this time with some of the gear I might use to commute. If I go through with this plan, I’ll need to invest in:

    • lights and reflectors to be safe on the ride back after work
    • panniers to carry change of clothes, laptop, and miscellaneous stuff
    • neon-bright bike wardrobe that protects against leg chafing — definitely an issue yesterday

    Me at the farmers marketAnd yes, I probably want to buy a new bike. I love my fun and adorable cruiser for riding around town, but I gather that a road bike would make the long ride much easier and more efficient. But I want to be sure I’ll actually do this before I invest in a commuting bike.

    Because there are several other considerations: I’d also want to try to adjust my schedule so that I leave the house as early as daylight will allow and leave the office while there’s still enough light left to avoid riding home in the dark, at least for now. If I do this through the winter it’ll be pretty tough to avoid riding in the dark, since it’s already pretty dark by 5 most days in December. Not to mention what it might be like to ride that far in the cold.

    But December is a long ways away, and the conditions now are pretty much opposite: plenty of daylight, and too much heat for comfort.

    Still, I’m excited. I really want to do this. If I could manage to do it five days a week, I’d be riding 180 miles, saving 175 lbs of CO2, burning 8,460 calories, and saving almost $40 in gas costs each and every week.

    Any one of those numbers would be incredibly motivating, but all of them together? How could I not give this a go?

    New bikes!

    Greening Nashville

    Monday, June 23rd, 2008

    I sure hope this comes to be:

    The mayor has called on the committee to identify goals and develop a plan of action that would help Nashville to first become the greenest city in the Southeast, and later one of the greenest cities in the nation.

    As the article points out, there’s plenty of work to be done, from outdated stormwater infrastructure (as evidenced by the turrets of water that run down our street when it rains) to sorely lacking mass transit options, with recycling and air quality in between — but it all seems manageable in the long term. I’m glad to see attention being paid to the gaps that need to be addressed.

    Now if they would just get moving on a mass transit option that would take me from Nashville to Franklin. I’m getting a little tired of these $60 tanks of gas.

    Tree-friendly reads for Earth Day

    Thursday, April 17th, 2008

    We’ve just launched a promotion on that spotlights titles printed on recycled or sustainably harvested paper. Earth Day wasn’t originally on our seasonal marketing calendar (silly oversight) so we pulled this together on very short notice, and I’m proud of us for making the effort.

    Environmentalism vs. economics as personal responsibility

    Friday, August 24th, 2007

    Reading over the thread at Music City Bloggers about mortgage foreclosures and such, I’m struck by a disparity I notice in the voices of the regulars there and in other online fora.

    Why does it seem that so many of the people who get most passionate when it comes to matters of personal financial responsibility and conservation of fiscal resources are not equally passionate when it comes to environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources?

    If these people can applaud and embrace the concept of budgeting dollars and curbing consumption when it is out of scale with the economic resources available, why can’t they applaud and embrace the same principle when it comes to things like water, oil, clean air, trees, etc?

    Is it because they don’t think of it as a personal responsibility? Is it because no one has told them convincingly enough that it’s the right thing to do?

    You know what I think we need in the U.S.? We need a pro-environment activist who speaks from a conservative / Christian basis. Sort of like — no, scratch that, exactly like the Dave Ramsey of environmentalism.

    In case you didn’t believe that Al Gore loves trees…

    Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004

    This is right by my boss’ boss house, where Karsten and I house-sit and dog-sit and occasionally kid-sit (we’ll be doing that again next week).

    We’d noticed the tree in the road and wondered what was up with it, but believe it or not, we didn’t realize Gore and Frist both live on that street. Interesting.