Posts Tagged 'commuting'

Getting Consumed By Sustainability

How do we sustain ourselves as we work on sustainability? There is so much work to do, how do we keep from being just another group of American workaholics, set apart only by a bigger vision and slightly different consumption patterns?

It’s 3:49 a.m. as I’m writing (I have insomnia). My upcoming day, my recent days, and entire upcoming summer all look packed with the Governor-backed initiative I am leading to reduce commute trips. Blogging itself, while I love it, [Read more →]

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Carpooling Is Cool

The financial benefits of carpooling, featured in a front page story of the Oregonian today, are only one reason that carpooling is cool. I’d say its coolness is embodied in four C’s: cash, congestion reduction, carbon footprint and community.

The carpool I’m in makes my commute between Portland and Salem a joy instead of a grind. But the cash part first. The Oregonian’s simple chart states that driving alone would cost each of the six of us $12,344/year (including depreciation, etc., besides gas). Parking fees would be $756/year individually, but are just $104 as part of the group. So, by carpooling rather than driving alone, my carpool partners and I each save more than $10,500 per year.

We’re also each reducing our carbon footprint significantly by carpooling, and also our role in traffic congestion. With all that virtue, you would think we are martyrs, sighing pitifully as we make painful sacrifices. But no, the opposite is true. We joke around, take naps, share news and books, debrief from work, read, grab each others’ last-minute concert tickets, team up for Pub Quiz nights. I played a great prank on them for April Fools Day that I think they’ve forgiven me for. Carpooling can be community.

Especially if public transit isn’t available to you, you should give yourself the gift of carpooling, too. Living here in Oregon, I found mine through Carpool Match Northwest. Keep in mind that joining a carpool doesn’t mean you have to carpool every day; it can be flexible.

Coming up soon: report and pictures of the EcoProm: Oregon League of Conservation Voters Annual Dinner for the Environment that just happened last Friday night.

Our Next Car: Prius Or Honda Hybrid?

With my new, longer commute we’re going to finally replace our single car, a 1993 Nissan Sentra, with a newer car. The question is: what car makes the most sense, given both that we’re thrifty and that carbon emissions are prime drivers of global warming (no pun intended)?

We sized it up last night, now that we’ve finished doing our taxes (we’re early this year). The Prius can get 50ish miles per gallon, while a Honda Civic hybrid yields 38ish, but then the Prius costs about $4,000 more. And we’re convinced gas will be at least $4/gallon for most of the car’s lifespan.

Even so, the Prius would only save us about $300/year on gas. However, it would mean we were producing 25% less carbon emissions.

Because we’re financially solid with two good salaries, we care a lot more about our carbon footprint than saving $300. But if we saved $4,000 on the purchase price, what good things could we accomplish with that money? The jury is still out, and I’m wide open to input. What do you think is the best decision?

Finally, the elephant in the room I never see anyone addressing is: what is the carbon footprint of manufacturing all these ding-dang cars in the first place? That is to say, what is their embodied energy? My hunch is that it is enormous, and dwarfs the emissions we create by driving. Please give me a link to this information.

Possibly in the global picture, the best course is to buy no new cars at all until our current ones are literally repaired to death. I realize that course would shake up the economy — but a market transformation is what it will take, regardless, to deal effectively with global warming.

The Real Cost Of Gas: $15/gallon

Last night my friend Jean gave me the first chapter of Lester Brown’s book Plan B to read. Whoa.

I learned that when the International Center For Technology Assessment studied the entire cost of the gas in our cars, including the military costs of protecting access to Mideast oil and the health care costs of treating illnesses created by air pollution, what our country is really paying for gas is not $3/gallon. It is $15/gallon.

Lester Brown is highly readable because he’s so succinct. “In order for markets to work . . . they must give us good information. But the market is giving us bad information, and as a result we are making bad decisions — so bad that they are threatening civilization”.

My takeaway here is that if we were paying even close to the real cost of gas, we wouldn’t just drive less and carpool and walk more. We would make sure we were living and working in places within reasonable distance of each other. Instead, in the past four decades our citizenry has steadily increased our commuting distances and also the sheer number of cars we own. We can be choosing differently.

As for dealing with sticker-shock around raising the price of gas to depict reality, think of the shock it was when we all left our parents’ homes where we paid no rent and got into our first apartment, complete with utility bills and groceries that actually cost us money out of our pockets. It wasn’t easy to start paying all those costs of living, but they were reality. And we all rose to the occasion and started living in reality, even though we had to live somewhat differently than we had before we moved out on our own.

Similarly, it won’t be easy to eventually start paying the real cost of gas instead of letting it be subsidized for us. But we’re adults and we’re strong enough to deal with reality.

I Won the Program of the Year Award for my work

Happy day here in Portland, Oregon: I just got the good news that my trip-reduction program — the Carefree Commuter Challenge — won the Program of the Year Award from Transportation Options Group of Oregon.

I’m receiving the award this Wednesday October 24th at the conference in Seaside.

Secret Lover, Secret Watchdog

The casual observer takes me for a mainstream professional in my 40’s. My secret identity as a passionate lover of public transit is revealed below for the first time.

My household’s single car is a well-worn, two-door 1993 Nissan Sentra. Paid for many years ago, our investment fund is now as plump as its floor-mats are thin. It sits humbly unused most days as we gallivant around on TriMet. (Our only burglary happened on a rare weekday I had taken the car on errands. The empty driveway seemed to signal nobody was home. Lesson: our car is most valuable as a watchdog.)

TriMet equals physical vitality for me. When I step off the bus or Max my legs are my locomotion to my final destination, strong and springy under my body. I am fit; I walk miles every week.

TriMet for me equals civic engagement. I brush shoulders with people from all income levels and backgrounds– and observe they pose no threat to me. I’ve logged thousands of miles using transit without incident or accident.

Most significantly, TriMet reduces my carbon footprint in the face of global warming. It lets me be a secret activist as well as a secret lover.