This morning, my youngest and I walked to school together. Ever since I became a parent, I don’t walk or bike anywhere. And though there are fleeting moments when I miss long bike rides and aimless strolls with my Walkman (yep, that long ago), most of the time I don’t even think about it. What I think about is: There is a destination, and I must get to it using the fastest means possible, with one or two children in tow. Feet and bikes don’t meet that requirement, and neither do buses, but cars do.
Bigger Question for today: So how about that requirement? For me, does transit from point A to point B always have to be fast and seamless and able to accommodate several people and/or large amounts of cargo? (As if driving in Cleveland Heights is ever seamless. Especially at the intersection of Taylor and Cedar around 5:30 p.m. But this is not the place for a rant about on-street parking and bad drivers.) Sometimes it does. But I know it comes down to relaxing that requirement, and planning ahead, if I want to lessen my family’s impact and consume less.
School days:My older son already carpools with a neighbor in the morning, and then walks
home after school. I always drive my youngest to school, and he’s always picked up afterward (car again.) These are habits and I don’t even think about them anymore. So here’s an idea: I usually work a later shift a couple of days a week. For a change, on those mornings – like today – I can plan ahead (very important – note the underline) and my youngest and I can enjoy a walk to school. We had a great time walking and talking together this morning. And today I happened to be able to walk up again to pick him up after school. We got rained on after a long, rolling clap of thunder entertained us, but we were dressed for it and it was all okay.
Getting to and from work: I like to wear skirts and heels to work, and I work 1.8 miles from my home. I just wrote out a litany of reasons why I can’t bike to work, re-read them, and deleted them. I really, REALLY don’t want to think about not taking my car to work. But there isn’t any reason for me not to get a bike (no, I don’t have one) or get a #32 bus schedule and do it once a week. Once a month. Okay, once…before the end of the month…and prove to myself that it’s not so bad, and then keep doing it. See how nervous I am? Wow.
One change I made a few years ago was to move closer to work in order to eliminate the 40-minute commute each way. Made things easier on my wallet, on family life, and on the environment. It’s worked out for my current job, but in the future I may not be able to live where I work, and I plan to weigh commute time in as a serious factor in any future job changes. Listening to NPR for 80 minutes a day is great, but not worth the stress of less time with my kids and high gas costs.
Other mechanized travel: My family is all over the map. I have a brother on each side of the U.S. (one in California, one in D.C.), and my mom lives in Chicago. Even getting to my dad’s place from my home takes about 40 minutes by car. In the No Impact documentary, Michelle went for a year without seeing her parents because she’d have had to drive or fly, and that was a big sacrifice for her. The Bigger Question here is: how do we align our desire to spend time with far-flung family members and our desire to minimize our ecological impact? Do we move closer together and possibly give up good jobs or living in places we love? Each person has to answer that for him or herself. So far, we’re okay with our arrangement and with occasional flights to see one another; we stay in touch via lots of free long-distance minutes on weekends and e-mail.
I thought the previous days’ challenges were tough for me, but today’s is the toughest, and most of it involved just THINKING about making changes.