Monday, February 05, 2007

How to Get Off Your "Would But"
and Start Doing Something

I Would But . . .

You know you should do it (whatever green thing “it” is) and you would but, well this thing and that thing and the other thing really make it impossible for you to do right now.

Welcome to Stage One Denial.

I’ve been there; every time I stop doing some green thing for awhile, I go through it again to get started. Breaking through Stage One Denial -- the "would-buts" -- is the hardest part of doing the green thing, at least sometimes.

An Example: Bike to Work Day, Just Today.

Take, for example, the green goal of riding a bike to work. Last summer I rode nearly every day to work. It was hot, but bearable. I got to wear summer clothes to work (shorts, polo shirt) so it was a fairly comfortable bike drive.

But the fact that I had to carry a laptop to work every day changed the ride. I was nervous carrying it unpadded in a backpack. (The computer case I had weighed a great deal, so I did not want to carry it on the bike.) And the backpack made me really hot. Although I rode most days in the summer anyway, the laptop-in-the-backpack became my “would-but” for the fall semester.

In the fall semester, without a way to carry my laptop conveniently, I rode a car to work every day. I would have driven my bike, but carrying the laptop was a problem. See how this works?

Over Christmas I received a really cool Jandd pannier bag. Folds up to look like a canvas briefcase, has a padded holder for a laptop, and a built in waterproof cover(!)

This week, my laptop and I drove a bike to work every day.

How about you?

What’s your bike-riding “would-but?”

For most of us it is one of these top ten:

1. “I don’t have a bike.”
2. “I have a bike, but I haven’t ridden it in years.”
3. “I’m scared of the cars.”
4. “I have to work in dress clothes, like a suit or high heels.”
5. “I work too far away.”
6. “I have to carry stuff to work.”
7. “I have kids to pick up.”
8. “The weather is too severe.”
9. “There is nowhere to park a bike when I get there.”
10. “I have bad knees/back/balance and can’t ride.”

I have used at least seven, maybe seven and a half of these personally.

We’ll deal with these Top Ten Would-But excuses in future posts. For the moment it is enough to recognize a "would but" excuse for what it is – a temporary obstacle to be overcome. And once overcome, most of these would-buts seem terribly insubstantial.

In general, though, the top suggestions for more bike driving are to get a good used cruiser bike if you don’t own one (try for a potential free bike!), or clean yours off and get it out of the garage! Drive your bike on weekends from time to time to get back in the groove; find a “Road Cycling” course online to help you understand and deal with the driving a bike instead of a car for transportation -- versus riding a bike for fun only.


COMING SOON: Puncturing the First Five "Would But" Excuses . . . .

Thursday, February 01, 2007

IDEA: Green Your Brain!

Going green is all the rage, but many still see the process as all sacrifice and conservation -- when nothing could be further from the truth.

What is wanted is a simple but complete change of mindset that allows one to make green choices without particular sacrifice, and as second nature.

The culture of waste and despoliation of the planet has been in place a long time, however, and such a fundamental change can be frightening, even daunting.

Even the mental change to so-called "conservation" can be daunting, not the least because it carries images of sacrifice and deprivation. It (wrongly) foreshadows the end of America as the land of endless everything.

Worse, mere conservation is, in fact, an inadequate response to a growing population made up of folks who each also want a growing piece of the pie.

Again, what is needed is a change of mind, as much as a change of habit.

One Example

Consider: At my house, according to the electric company, we've managed to conserve 90% (yes, ninety percent) on our electric bill last year. Even with the hottest summer on record this year and the AC running 24/7, we are on track this year to "save" 50% of the electricity we would have used in the past.

But we've made NO sacrifices. Really.
We have made a green choice that was so painless, and seems like such a no-brainer from our changed mindset, that we don't understand why most homeowners, builders and city governments haven't made the choice too.

Remember: No sacrifices.
We have only one compact fluorescent light bulb on in the house, have four TVs, five computers, and a microwave, central air and heat that runs non-stop. We have kids who leave the lights on. Our change costs us only about $40 per month, and has reduced our electric bill by 90 percent.

We have solar cells.

We didn't want the approximately 70% coal-fired electricity that our local utility offers. It didn't make sense when there was an affordable option.

Forty bucks a month -- with price rises, ever, and no coal.

And because right now we can afford to do so, we splurged and pay a tiny premium to the electric utility for wind and small hydro for our remaining electricity.

No Pain, All Gain

Although Pasadena gets nearly 70% of its electricity from coal, ours is 100% renewable, clean and green. No sacrifice. No actual conservation. No big deal.

And it is no big deal precisely because we have come about half-way 'round to changing our mindset.
Awareness of one's impact; a commitment to minimizing the impact; and, in these early decades of serious environmental change, a commitment to push past "business as usual" mindsets to get the green thing, or do the green thing wherever possible.

Green. It's all in your head, really.