Posts Tagged 'conservation'

EcoProm: My Favorite Leaders

Part of the diamond-cut life, in my view, is taking responsibility for our democracy by being politically involved. We need candidates who support sustainability. That plus my fondness for sociability and community is the reason I host a table of ten each year at the EcoProm, also known as the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) ‘s annual dinner for the environment.

Sam Adams and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

City Commissioner Sam Adams has OLCV’s endorsement (also my vote) in the race for mayor of Portland. People say he tends to hold grudges, but I found him gracious and forgiving when I forgot to let him speak last summer at a transportation-options awards meeting. (I apologized profusely.) Sam’s my man.

Jackie Dingfelder, Judy Steigler, and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Jackie Dingfelder, running for Oregon state senator, is on the left and Judy Steigler (center) of Bend is running for the Oregon house of representatives. I got to know Jackie a bit recently at a house party, and discovered she shares my passion for renewable energy, transportation options and green-collar jobs. Judy is on a similar page; they both have OLCV’s endorsement and my own.

Alison Wiley and Scott Bricker at OLCV EcoProm 2008

I first met Scott Bricker, above, when he did legislative affairs for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Now he is its executive director, and Portland, with a whopping 6% of its population commuting via bicycle and another 10% using bikes as their secondary commute-mode, just earned the first Platinum rating in the nation for its bicycle-friendliness. Scott’s excellent leadership has much to do with that.

Chris Smith and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Chris Smith (aka Citizen Smith, above) is running for Portland city commissioner, and is strong on sustainability in general and transportation options in particular. I like both him and another excellent candidate running for the same seat, Amanda Fritz (not pictured).

Katherine Arnold and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Katherine Arnold, above, is a Beaverton city commissioner up for re-election, and has OLCV’s endorsement as another green elected official. She is one of the good folks who helped approve my motion for the Leadership Beaverton program to add a Sustainability Day to its curriculum. I had the pleasure of serving with her for a time on the board of Leadership Beaverton (until my new job and commute to Salem led me to resign from that commitment).

My cool blog assistant, professional photographer Hanmi Meyer, took all these photos. Thanks Hanmi!

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Driving A Prius In The Wild West

My job in transportation options has taken me, in a new Prius, to the high desert town of Bend, Oregon (recently named by American Cowboy magazine in its Top Ten list of wild-west towns). The Prius, mud-splattered from the Santiam Pass, is now dusted with snow as well, so it reminds me of an Appaloosa pony.

Appaloosa mare running
photo by emokidsdontcryx3

Oh, don’t I wish. Horses are cool.

So my Prius (actually my employer’s, not mine) informs me it is getting 46 miles per gallon on this trip. Excellent mileage compared to SUV’s, and of course with every gallon of gas we burn creating 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, I’m saving a few hundred pounds of emissions over driving an average car. Also, this hybrid handles and performs beautifully, front-wheel drive and all. The Prius is so popular in our motor-pool that I couldn’t extend my use of it to a third day.

The downside of not just the Prius, other hybrids and actually all gas and energy conservation measures is that if we don’t stay conscious of the reality of peak oil, we can easily offset our conservation measures to some degree by then driving or consuming more carelessly. The irony of our nation’s overconsumption is that it does not make us happier. Juliet Schor, the Harvard economist, shows this clearly in her body of research.

Bearing that in mind, I am parking my Appaloosa-colored Prius this afternoon and taking a vanpool with about ten colleagues over to Redmond, saving a few hundred more pounds of emissions. Kind of like taking a stagecoach in the days of the old West. I wish.

Seeking A Diamond-Cut Life

I’m back after a break! Pulitzer prize winner Jared Diamond points out in the New York Times today that we in the U.S. are consuming 32 times more than the citizens of developing countries, and that that has to change because the earth’s resources are running out.

A little more surprisingly, he also says something I have been maintaining for years: our quality of life is not directly tied to our consumption. In other words, as research by Juliet Schor and others has shown, more stuff doesn’t make us happier. Much of the time, it’s just waste that doesn’t add value — although it hurts the planet.

All of us want to be happy. And probably we’d like to ‘do the right things’ in the process if we can. So, if you and I are average U.S. citizens, what’s the best route to consuming less? If happiness can be symbolized by a diamond that gets cut from surrounding rock, which things cut from our lives can best craft the diamond?

Here are my Top Five high-impact suggestions.

  1. Put ourselves on air-travel diets. Flying represents enormous fossil-fuel consumption. Buying carbon offsets for it, while not as good, at least brings us closer to paying the real cost of flying.
  2. Downsize our living space and make better use of what we’ve got. This doesn’t just apply to moving; we can shut off little-used rooms in winter and conserve heating fuel.
  3. Get a smaller vehicle or get rid of one vehicle altogether. Naturally this is only a viable option when public transit or carshare programs are available.
  4. Get a housemate (not necessarily a lover). Single-person households are a new fad in human history, and very resource-consumptive. This is also the best way for many single people to start saving for retirement.
  5. Put ourselves on car-mileage diets. Before grabbing the keys, think: How much is this trip really adding to our well-being?

I plan to write again on the diamond-cut life later this week. FYI, the best website I know of with good practical advice on consuming less is Wa$ted!.