Thursday, April 23, 2009
I’ve been getting various responses to my announcement that I am giving my car a break for one month and taking public transportation, carpooling, walking or riding my bike. Several have said something to the effect of, “Cute idea, but you’re not really going to follow through with it are you?” One of my friends actually burst out laughing when I told her, then caught herself and said, “No! Really?!”
In many cities around the world, walking or riding the bus does not have any social stigma. Using public transportation is not indicative of a drunk driving conviction or of a lost job or of a decrepit car that simply can’t make it out of the driveway anymore; it is simply a means to get to-and-from work. Respectable people do it all the time. Not here though. I’m already getting funny looks from people, and that’s before I’ve even embarked on my little journey.
Which is probably why my son flat out refused to walk to school last night. He didn’t want to be seen walking…and with his parents, no less. He doesn’t care about the environment. He doesn’t care about getting fit. He just doesn’t want people to think he’s a loser. Eventually, he went, though he made it a point to walk far ahead of my husband and me, as we strolled the 1.3 miles to school.
It was a pleasant evening, so the walk was very nice. It’s been a while since I held my husband’s hand. We got there in about 15 minutes or so and found a line of cars waiting to get into an impossibly crowded parking lot. There was a surge of people in the lot itself, with kids frantically darting from idling cars in an effort to get a seat at the orientation while their parents made a futile effort to find a space. Those who were not yet committed were trying to back out and go someplace else; and, in the end, many of them were forced to park around the corner and walk…just as we did but with a lot more headaches. I noticed none of them were holding hands.
Of course it was the same scene in reverse when the orientation was over and everyone ran to their cars only to sit in a stagnant sea of chrome and steel. Interestingly enough, my son was willing to be seen walking back home with us; so we got a chance to chat and laugh and just be together on the stroll home. It was, as the commercial says, PRICELESS.
This morning, I spent most of my time going through the Orange County Transit Authority's website, a hideously complex and user-unfriendly site, trying to find routes to and from my various appointments this coming week. I ended up calling one of their customer service reps, who proceeded to give me the longest possible bus route, involving three transfers and a thirty minute (uphill) walk to get to one destination. After looking at the online bus routes again and then comparing them with the streets on Mapquest, I realized I could get there with one bus, though I would still need to walk uphill at the end of the line. Even so, an hour bus ride is better than an hour-and-a half bus ride (though neither compares with the 15 minutes it would take me to drive my car).
The rep also told me to be sure to be at the bus stop 10 minutes ahead of time because, if I miss the bus, there won’t be another along that route until the next hour. As I listened to her, I thought of walking onto the subway station in New York, knowing I’d catch the next train within 15 minutes. I could go virtually anywhere I wanted to go in the city, day or night, as long as the subway was running (and, as far as I know, it never stops).
Not every place in Orange County has bus service; and those that do are often two or three transfers from the route that runs by my house, which means that what would ordinarily be a 15 to 30 minute journey will take anywhere from an hour to two hours to get there by bus and by foot. Not only that; but, if I want to go someplace late at night, I’m out of luck. The busses stop running after 10:00 pm in my town.
After pouring over maps and routes and schedules, I have come to the conclusion that, if I live within 10 miles of my destination, I’m better off riding a bike than trying to take the bus, though that is certainly not an option after dark. I know there are people who ride their bikes after dark around here, but I've seen too many near misses between cars and bikes to be one of them.
So now I’m looking at my calendar again and re-evaluating whether or not I really need to go to all of the events I have penciled in. I’m certainly not going to be able to attend back-to-back meetings in different cities via bus or bike. One thing is for sure: I’m going to have to re-evaluate my business as usual routine and find another way of doing things.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
“Going Green” is big business these days. It’s politically correct and, with our current economic crisis, it’s a popular course of action. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes easier said than done. For example, many authors, hoping to publish their “best seller,” find it difficult to find a publisher with environmentally friendly practices. This is a big issue because books use paper … lots of paper. And why is paper use a big deal? Here are some interesting facts:
A million copies of an average 250-page book takes approximately 12,000 trees to produce the paper required for this single title.
Trees pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. They are a terrestrial source of air, taking in vast quantities of carbon dioxide and, through the process of photosynthesis, converting it into clean, breathable air. This helps prevent global warming. There have been recent studies that indicate that trees have the ability to change weather patterns and create wind.
42% of the global industrial wood harvest is used to make paper. Many of the worlds most endangered forests, including those in Northern Canada, the southeast United States, Indonesia, and South America, are feeling severe impacts associated with book and newspaper publishing. Forests are being either cleared or altered, many times illegally, with devastating effects on the people and wildlife that depend on them.
Paper production requires large quantities of energy. The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries.
Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste (and one third of municipal landfill waste).
So, you see, going green in print isn’t simple! It is, however, possible. Here are some ideas:
Check out The Green Press Initiative. It is a valuable resource to authors. In addition to form letters, encouraging your current publisher to adopt sustainable practices, it includes a list of publishers who have either signed a Book Industry Treatise, or have strong environmental policies.
Consider an e-book. Here’s what award-winning author David Pereda has to say about e-books:
E-publishing makes sense because it's cheaper, it's accessible online, and it's green. I see the e-publishing phenomenon much like TV was in its inception, when it blasted onto the scene and started competing with the powerful radio broadcasting companies...Kids nowadays feel much more comfortable with technology than we do, regardless of our computer savvy. Later generations will not know any better. For them -- excuse me, for those of them lucky enough to develop a taste for literature -- the latest version of Kindle will be infinitely more attractive, cleaner, more transportable, cheaper, and less damaging to the ecology than a dirty old book.
My suggestion to your writer friends wanting to go green is to research e-publishers as a viable option for their manuscripts.”
Search the internet with the terms “sustainable publishers”, “sustainable publishing” or “sustainable book publishers”.
Take a look at environmental books and contact the author (they usually have a website with contact information). Ask them if their book was sustainably published and, if so, by whom.
Contact publishers and ask them about their environmental policies … I’m a firm believer that if we all ask, companies will be motivated to accommodate us.
As an author, one has a real opportunity to impact the world … in an environmentally friendly, positive way.
Small Footprints is the author of Reduce Footprints, a blog about easy ways to walk a little gentler on the earth. She has been passionate about environmental issues for most of her life and in July, 2008, took that passion to the "blogosphere", sharing tips and ideas on "green living."
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
The irony of emitting excess carbon dioxide in order to promote a book about environmental and economic sustainability is not lost on me. Of course, I could always opt to buy a carbon offset to make up the difference for my own emissions; but, frankly, that seems a bit like cheating. So I’ve decided to try to walk-the-walk, so to speak, and offset my own carbon emissions by giving up my car for one month, starting on Earth Day (April 22nd).
Terrapass calculates that my car emits over eleven thousand pounds of CO2 each year. I’m not sure if that’s bad or not, but I am intrigued by the question: Can a professional living in the greater Los Angeles area get by without a car?
Frankly, I don’t know the answer. I live in the OC. I’m not sure how many personal cars there are in this area, but I know that traffic is horrendous and the smog is even worse. Why? Because you can’t get around here without your own personal carbon-emitting, air-polluting, traffic-clogging machine. Or can you?
My goal is to see if I can get by on foot, by bike, via public transportation, or carpool. Barring emergency, I will be as carbon neutral as I can be, at least from a transportation point-of-view.
Some may say the whole point of clean tech innovations is to make this kind of self-sacrificing conservationist mumbo jumbo a moot point. After all, if we continue to develop non-fossil fuel technologies we will be able to drive anywhere we need to go without ruining the environment. I couldn’t agree more. Progress means taking a step forward, not backward. But I think, before we can move forward, sometimes we just have to move, to try something different, maybe even a little crazy, to see the world from a different perspective. In business, we call this “thinking outside of the box.”
So, I’m going to walk outside of the box. Between going to work, meeting with friends and business associates, getting the kids to-and-from school, shopping for groceries, and who knows what else, I may not get very far; but I’m going to see how far I can get. Maybe I will surprise myself.