Thursday, March 20, 2014

eco-lent: week 3

3-year-old ready for the tag-along bike!
This week's eco-challenge from the Northwest Earth Institute's "A World of Health: Connecting People, Place & Planet" suggests driving less. I must admit that since leasing a Leaf a few weeks ago, I have chosen to drive more often than I did previously, but I feel like this particular eco-challenge is an area I've been working on more than the ones from the first two weeks (plastic and home chemicals). But, there is always room for improvement!

Today I'm going to give you some lists that share the ups and downs of biking as transportation. (If you want to learn more about my biking journey and gear, check out these posts, and this one, too, and this one from way back in 2006.)

First, some of the most difficult situations I've encountered that necessitate driving:

  • Having a baby. When my kids were born, I couldn't bike them yet because they don't make rear-facing carseats for bike trailers, to my knowledge! I could walk, but that took forever.
  • Snow or otherwise frozen matter on the ground. Unless you have studded bike tires, which do exist.
  • Biking in the dark with kids. Even with good reflective gear and lights, I don't feel comfortable with my 7-year-old biking at night. Too many things could go wrong, from a car not seeing him to him not seeing a bump or other obstacle.
  • Going out of town. We live in a small town, and the roads that leave town are sketchy for bikes. I might try it alone, but I definitely wouldn't want to chance it with kiddos.
Then there are the excuses I make, which aren't really good enough, but often prevail:
  • Not enough time.
  • Sort of extreme weather (too wet, too hot, too windy).
  • Whiney kids.
  • Too many hills--will get all sweaty by the time I reach my destination.
  • Too much to carry.
  • Slightly sick.
Things I've done to make biking doable most days:
  • Just do it! I usually feel really good once I'm out there.
  • Good rain pants and coat, gloves, boots, fenders for the bike. These are a necessity in western Oregon!
  • Rain gear for kids, too.
  • A nice headlight, and adequate tail light that can switch easily from the bike to the trailer, depending on cargo.
  • Practice all the time to build up muscles and courage, and it becomes "normal" for kids.
  • Give kids a snack in the trailer, and/or bring snacks along for the destination. (This moves mountains!)
  • Go grocery shopping often so I only need a few things each time I go.
What I like about biking:
  • Being outside! Fresh air, noticing the seasons more, enjoying the scents of various flora as I pass.
  • Exercise. When I don't have time for a dedicated workout session, biking from place to place around town doesn't take much longer than driving but it allows me to get some exercise.
  • Chatting with my kids. When it's nice and the trailer is open, and once they're big enough to ride their own or the tag-along bike, we have some great conversations while biking. (My eldest also told me a few times he didn't want me to talk anymore because he wanted to "just enjoy nature." I'm not sure whether it's good he just wanted some space and knew how to tell me, or if he was basically saying, "Be quiet, Mom!") We've had some great discussions about why we bike, as well as just what's going on in our lives.
  • Creating space. If I know I have to bike, I generally don't pack my schedule so incredibly full. I know I'll need time to get from place to place, and I really think about whether it's worth it to go somewhere. 
This week, I'm going to try to get back into the habit of biking instead of depending on our car. I'm going to choose biking or walking even when it's not so convenient, unless it's overly dangerous. I'll try to combine any necessary trips out of town. I'll also keep working on the last two weeks' eco-challenges: reducing plastic use and using household cleaners that are better for the environment.

Who's with me? Who will bike or walk at least once more than usual this week?

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