Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

Our country’s attention is currently focused – and rightly so – helping people left in dire straits after Hurricane Katrina. I’m hoping that everyone reading this has made some effort, somewhere, to help, through donations of clothing, food, labor, or money, or prayers. Our neighbors need all the help we can give them.

We’re also seeing the effects of Katrina’s devastation in the form of increased gas prices, and I suspect it’ll get worse. As I sat at a sidewalk café this morning, I saw a young couple drive up to the curb in an enormous SUV, jump out – and leave the motor running – while they ‘dashed’ into the café for 10-15 minutes, blocking the traffic lane. A plan emerged. Well, to tell the truth, it emerged after I squelched the desire to write rude notes on the windshield with lipstick.

It’s time to decrease my gas consumption, and not just because of cost. It’s time [perhaps even way past the time] for me to use less so that others can have what they need.

Call it what you will: enlightenment, altruism, whatever. Personally, I suspect it has more to do with being more at peace with myself, which seems to be translating into being better balanced and less ‘needful’ of things. This ‘needfulness’ has shown itself over the years as overspending, overeating, over-whining, and other less-than-pleasant characteristics.

So, what’s the strategy? Not leaving the engine running is obvious, as is figuring out how to combine trips. But it’s also a golden opportunity for adding more exercise. Riding the bike around town for errands, or walking with a rolling cart to carry some of the shopping is high on my list right now. And as I went through my day today, I kept asking myself ‘Is this trip really necessary? Can I do without it?’

So, after running Mom around this morning on errands [using a sort-of efficient route], my afternoon was spent on my bike, instead of in the car! I biked two miles to a friend’s house so I could let her dogs out while she enjoyed a day trip with her son and some friends [they took one car!], and then rode another two miles to get my nails done. This was followed by an afternoon break at the local coffeeshop, curled up with a small pot of tea and a good book, and then the 4 mile ride back!

This saved less than ½ gallon. But, at three times a week, I’ll save a bit more than a gallon per week, 5- 6 gallons per month, 60-72 gallons per year. It’ll add up, right along with the benefits of exercise. And if others join in, we’ll make a difference.

5 thoughts on “Fuel-efficient living

  1. Lissa says:

    Funny you should post this. I live in a small town in Indiana and go to a small college, and I’ve just started commuting to school this week via a rickety old bike I acquired from a good friend.

    A good bit of the motivation is fiscal (driving one mile per trip is hard on a car, plus the soaring gas prices), but a good bit of it is also health-related and “enlightenment” related. I bought my car so I could run errands for the campus newspaper I’m the editor of, not so I can be another put-putter on the road every day when I live a measly mile from campus. Other people need the gas so much more than I do.

    Add to that the fact that my typical workouts are substantially abbreviated now that school’s back in session, and it’s all good motivation for biking.

    I hope others do take up the movement, as it could be one of those things that chips away at health problems.

    I mean, just think–if we get to the point where commuting via bike is considered normal (rather than a workout or something we immediately think of when counting calories or calculating metabolism), then even if it’s just 4 or 5 miles a day, we’ve elevated our basal aerobic conditioning and strength without even giving it much conscious thought at all. It becomes one of those standard things like parking further away from stores and such.

    Wow this is a long comment… sorry…

  2. Erin says:

    Honestly, I wouldn’t call that enlightenment. It’s common sense. I expect that even those who could not care less about conserving resources and lightening their footprint on the earth (and sadly, that seems to be many) are now starting to use less gas — because it’s affecting their pocketbooks directly.

    Oh well. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes, and I’m glad that you’ve discovered that you’re an overconsumer. I do feel a little bothered by your “call it enlightment,” though.

  3. Mary says:

    Jane,

    I loved the way you turned the gas-guzzling pair’s jerky behavior into something positive. So often we tend to let our anger build to the point where it immobilizes or desensitizes us. Those little lifestyle changes can and do add up (see juju’s column on ‘turning the ship around’). Think I’ll take my bike for a spin (okay, after I dust it off) tonight when I get home . . . .

    Mary

  4. Mercury says:

    I just wanted to add that when we see “jerky” behavior, it’s much more positive to use that to improve our own behavior rather than judge the offender (though of course the judging is a lot more fun). Many people are jerks, but you can’t know that from one chance encounter.

    A friend of mine was in a really terrifying car accident, and afterwards, the only car she felt safe in was a Hummer. Now, she drives very rarely, so her gas consumption is actually pretty low. This doesn’t prevent strangers from regularly giving her the finger, or, in several instances, keying her car. Yeah, you really struck a blow for the earth there. So don’t be the first one to cast a stone and all that.

  5. Thomas Bailey says:

    I have been biking regularly for 17 years. I have biked to San Francisco 16 times, to San Jose countless times, to Gilroy twice, to Half Moon Bay, San Leandro, and Santa Cruz once each, and have even biked to Sunol on one occasion. I have even biked to Sausalito once, 65.4 km from home. I would not be surprised if I gain San Benito or Contra Costa County.

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