Posts Tagged 'work'

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 →]

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.

Carpool Survivor

I am lucky enough to be in a carpool with five great people for my two-hour round-trip commute. (I found them through Carpool Match Northwest.) We save money, save emissions and have fun. So on the morning of April Fool’s day I tossed off a prank email to them.

I wrote: “It has been such a pleasure knowing you! My new inheritance means I can now afford a new Prius. I’ll soon be driving alone to work in it with Steve Earle cranked up full blast. warmly, Alison.” I chose Prius rather than Hummer to enhance my credibility.

Still, I thought they would zing me back with: “B.S.! April Fools!” Or at least: “If we agree to play Steve Earle, won’t you stay?” But instead, I basically got a dead silence. Not good. So in the late afternoon I emailed that it had been a fraud. “Of course I’m still in the carpool. I can’t believe you believed me! I’m not a gold-digger, not with you for the money.”

It turned out that Sam had decided I was a rank poser, only having pretended all this time to care about the environment. (Have I mentioned my carpool is 67% environmental attorneys?) He was laughing by the time he debriefed with me — “This is carpool survivor!” he said, but I could see he had seriously disliked me for an entire day. Whoa. John was more vulnerable. He said that, knowing break-ups often happen for reasons other than the stated ones, he’d been convinced I’d just manufactured an excuse to dump them all. (I decided this might not be the right day to ask John about his abandonment issues.)

It doesn’t take a background in counseling (though I happen to have one) to see that a carpool can bond and take on some family dynamics. It wasn’t that funny to threaten to leave. I had upset them.

Yesterday, a gorgeous spring afternoon, I was waiting for the gang at the Agriculture building at the Mill Creek bridge. I climbed up on the bridge embankment just for fun. As Sam and John approached, I yelled, “My carpool hates me! I’m going to jump!”

“Don’t jump!” they called. I climbed on down and all six of us got into Richard’s van. We talked, read and joked the hour back to Portland, probably happier together than many families. While driving alone isolates us from others, the game of Carpool Survivor rewards us with community and I plan to be the ‘last woman standing’ in it.

The Five-Carat Commute

On the first day of my new job in Salem, Oregon yesterday, I left my house in Portland before 6 a.m. and got home about 6:4o p.m. I spent three hours and forty minutes total on the commute, including walking to and from the Capitol Mall to my building.

Ye gads. To think that millions of people around the world do this for decades of their lives in order to earn a living and provide for their families. I respect the patience and tenacity this kind of commuting takes (I have usually taken the bus downtown or worked from home).

So why is mine the five-carat commute? My five carpool partners, who keep me from doing the long drive by myself, save me money and reduce my carbon footprint. (Well, I’ve met two of them so far, since not everyone goes to Salem daily.) They are friendly and fun and make the drive go by quickly. I alternate between conversation, reading and working on my laptop. My quality of life gets to remain high due to my carpool.

To find out how much money you could save by carpooling or using other travel options use this commute calculator. Note: I found my carpool through Carpool Match Northwest.

What Is The Diamond-Cut Life?

My blog The Diamond-Cut Life is about chiseling our consumption down to the core of happiness. What do we really need to consume and do in order to have both happiness and integrity in the face of global warming?

In other words, how can each of us give legs to sustainability?

I think that joy for most human beings comes from honest work, friendship, connection to nature, sharing resources and even (perish the thought) using our bodies instead of machines whenever possible. Given that global warming is the problem of our time, my focus is on living in solutions rather than complaining about the problem. Please comment on my posts so that we are all putting our heads together.

My backgrouond? My opinion pieces have been published in the International Herald Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sacramento Bee and San Francisco Chronicle. I’ve done projects for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center, and I won the Program of the Year award for a car-trip-reduction program I led and expanded in 2007.

I have a B.S. in Sociology from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and an M.S. in Counseling Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. My wonderful husband Thor Hinckley heads the nation’s leading renewable energy program at Portland General Electric.

My New Job In Transportation Options

Last Friday afternoon I got the best phone call of my professional life, to date. It was the friendly voice of Michael Ward at Oregon Department of Transportation, offering me the job of Transportation Options Program Manager.

Starting next week that will be my new job and Michael will be my new boss. I’ll be the voice, the advocate, the ‘concept salesperson’ at ODOT — in the state of Oregon — for public transit, carpooling, bicycling and other transportation options. Why do these matter so much? The more we use these options instead of driving alone, the more we build the health of our climate, communities, bodies and bank accounts. As with renewable energy, transportation options build our future.

Thor and I danced for joy at the coast Friday night, to Peter Gabriel’s extended version of In Your Eyes. Many of you know I will dance at the drop of a hat, and even rope Thor into joining me, but this was a particularly happy dance. Why? I have wanted and worked for this kind of full-time right-livelihood position since 2002. It took a long time, and a lot of help.

Big thanks to my husband’s support and to colleagues, friends and mentors Karen Frost, Dan Kaempff, Vicki Lind and many other great people at TriMet, Metro, TOGO, W.T.A., OLCV, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and other good organizations.

The Inconvenient Truth of the Diamond-Cut Life

Bad news here for the advertising industry, but good news for human beings and all other species. Research from many countries shows that after people’s survival needs and some reasonable pleasure needs are met, consumption piled-higher-and-deeper does NOT create more happiness. Rich is not great. Greed is not cool. Working harder might be moving you backward.

Inconvenient, at least for 20th century notions of economic growth and GDP, but true.

Hence my embracing of the diamond-cut life (partly inspired by Jared Diamond, whose latest book is Collapse). If happiness can be symbolized by a diamond that gets cut from the surrounding cultural rock of over-consumption, which things cut from our lives can best craft the diamond? What are the best uses of our time?

I want to hear from other people about their experiences. What’s true for me is that I am genuinely happy, as my household consumes significantly less than the average U.S. home. The real rock we’ve cut away is the need to impress anyone on material terms. Our house is small and modestly furnished but we host lots of visitors. I buy my clothes at Goodwill and look just fine. Our only car is a 15 year old Nissan Sentra that mostly guards the house while we take the bus to work.

Think of how little control corporations would have over us if we decided to put “time management ” in service to human happiness and conserving the earth’s resources rather than doing more work in less time to make more money to buy more stuff. Which reminds me of a favorite group whose motto is “More fun, less stuff”: Center for New American Dream.