We’re All Responsible For The Oil Spill

by Frugal Babe on June 26, 2010

I subscribe by email to my favorite blogs, and this morning, right beside each other in my inbox, were articles from two of my favorite bloggers, Everett Bogue and Tammy Strobel, both writing about essentially the same thing: we all have a moral obligation to drive less.  Both articles are excellent, and well worth reading.  The disaster in the Gulf happened shortly after I completely stopped reading the news, so I actually have very little knowledge of exactly what has gone on so far.  But I do hear bits and pieces from friends and family, and it makes me glad that I’m not reading about it on a daily basis… just thinking about it makes me feel sick.  And makes me even more committed to biking, walking, or just staying home.

One of my favorite free-time activities is hiking.  We’re lucky to live in a very beautiful area with lots of wilderness relatively nearby, and since I was a teenager I’ve loved heading into the hills for a day of wandering.  There was a time when we would either hike or mountain bike at least twice a week throughout the summer and fall.  But in 2008 we went twice, last summer we went once, and this year we haven’t been at all yet.  One of the primary reasons is my strong desire to drive less.  Although the wilderness areas are nearby, it’s still about a 45 minute drive to get to our favorite trails.  Getting there by bike isn’t really an option – riding there and back would be a full day all by itself, and the road to get there is a winding mountain highway with about a foot of shoulder and then a 50 foot drop into a river.  The only realistic way to go hiking is to drive to the trail head, and I’m just not comfortable with doing that on a regular basis anymore.  Don’t get me wrong – I still thoroughly enjoy the one or two times per year that we head out to the mountains for some wandering, but these days I am actively trying to structure most of my free time around things that don’t involve driving (or shopping, for that matter).

So I’ve started “hiking” around our town instead.  Our son rides in his little red wagon (it’s got awesome big knobby tires and will go over all sorts of terrain.  My parents found it at a thrift store for $8 and fixed it up for him; it’s his favorite form of transportation) and the dog walks along with us.  We usually go out for about an hour, and just go wherever we please.  Sometimes we run errands while we’re out, sometimes we just look at flowers and birds, sometimes we follow the trail that leads through the huge organic farm by our house.  No matter where we go, we have fun.  It’s relaxing to be out walking, away from phones and computers, enjoying the sunshine.  I’m not saying that the views around our town are quite as breath-taking as the ones in the wilderness areas, but the trade-off is completely worth it to me.  The great thing about hiking from your own back door is that it can be completely spontaneous.  All we have to do is put on shoes and sun hat, and we’re out the door.  No need to prepare for bad weather or bring back-up food or drive for an hour before and after the hike.  Also, since there’s no prep time or driving time, we can fit in a “hike” pretty much every day.  Another great bonus:  our “hiking” is completely free.  No gas money or special gear needed… going for a walk is about as frugal as it gets for entertainment.

The reason I’m sharing this is because I agree with Tammy and Everett that we have a moral obligation to drive less.   And sometimes that might mean giving up or cutting back on things we enjoy.  But it’s always possible to find alternatives, and you might just find that you start to enjoy the alternatives just as much after a while.  Whether your goal is to go completely car-free, car-minimalist, or just cut back your driving by 20%, I encourage you to check out the articles Tammy and Everett wrote today for a little inspiration.

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  • brooklynchick

    I know its easy for me to say as a New Yorker – but YES! I agree!

  • http://www.pigsdontknow.blogspot.com Pigs Don’t Know

    My husband wrote about this very issue on June 19th. And while our family is committed to driving less, I still have been unable to give it up as much as I would like. All morning I’ve actually been having this inner battle – do I bike the family to church 1.5 miles away or drive? It is already 85 and very humid and we’re not leaving for an hour (it will be even hotter then). We’ve biked there before this summer and I was COMPLETELY drenched, even after changing into a nicer outfit at the church. I wasn’t raised to show up at church looking like I haven’t taken a shower in days. But it seems so close it is crazy NOT to bike. Biking to church may be something we just have to do in the fall, winter & spring. We are doing other things (i.e. basically no AC, trying to grow our own food or at least buying more local, etc.), but we, as a nation, as we’ve moved to the suburbs, have become so dependent on cars it truly does take some major commitment to make biking a more central part of our lives. – Carrie

  • FrugalBabe

    Carrie – what did you decide to do? I know humidity and heat aren’t a good combination when you’re thinking about biking or walking to get somewhere. Can you take a washcloth with you, and take it into the church bathroom when you get there to clean up with before you change clothes? Good luck!
    Sarah – I don’t see a mixed message at all in Everett’s blog. He’s never owned a car, and gets around exclusively by bike or by foot. He admits in his post that he does occasionally fly, and that he uses items that are shipped by truck, but he absolutely is minimizing his dependence on oil. Being a minimalist gives him the opportunity to move to cities where he has no need for a car.
    Yes, our secondhand wagon did originally get transported to a store somewhere by truck. But buying things secondhand is the best way we have to minimize our footprint, as the production damage has already been done. That wagon was in really bad shape when my parents found it, and would likely have been destined for a landfill if they hadn’t rescued it.
    I do understand the dilemma caused by weather. Last year our first snowstorm was on October 6th and it was still snowing after Mother’s Day this spring. It’s bitterly cold here in the winter, and snowy a lot of the time. I have occasionally gotten around in the winter using snowshoes to get from one place to another in town when there was just too much snow for people to shovel. But most of the time the sidewalks are shoveled, and I just bundle our son up in lots of layers and a snowsuit, and do the same for myself, and off we go. It’s a lot more convenient to get around without a car in the summer (although the heat issue that Carrie brought up is an issue then…), but it is possible to minimize our reliance on cars regardless of the weather.

  • Sarah

    I read the posts you’ve mentioned. On one hand, the message is “we use too much oil – just stay home or go as far as you can bike.” On the other hand, the general message of their blogs (especially Bogue’s) is “be minimalist, so you can work from and live anywhere!” A bit of a mixed message, isn’t it? More fuel efficient/alternative energy transportation is key here. Even your 2nd hand wagon originally came from somewhere on a truck (if not an airplane). I live in Michigan – walking or biking is literally out of the question 5 months out of the year. Changes are needed, yes of course. But the solution is not as simple as some bloggers pretend.

  • http://liveloveworkout.blogspot.com/ Kay

    I’m trying, FB! one small step at a time.

  • http://scottishgaelic.afrinworld.com Stuart

    Another fab post, thanks, I love coming again to browse your blog via your twitter updates. I am also hoping to start my own blog soon and your has provided me with some inspiration

  • http://www.mommymelee.com Maria

    I wish I lived somewhere that made this easier. Right now it’s 100 degrees during the day. I can walk to the grocery store, but not to my son’s school. My husband can’t get a job in town so has to drive out of town for work. The only good thing is that I’m working from home, so I don’t have to leave that often.

  • http://www.pigsdontknow.blogspot.com Pigs Don’t Know

    I caved and we drove. I’ve tried the bring-a-cloth-to-dry-off-with thing and while it helped for a second I still was drenched by the time I had changed clothes and was out in the sanctuary. It is going to be a hot one in Dallas this summer – we’ve been at 100 for about the last month. Much hotter (and earlier) than usual. Just goes to show that there’s more tied up in this use less gas thing than may at first be apparent. But I’m working on it. – Carrie

  • FrugalBabe

    Carrie, no worries… there’s always next week :) I thought about you this evening while we were out on a family bike ride. We weren’t going anywhere in particular, just cruising around looking at houses and gardens. We were going super slowly – barely fast enough to stay upright! And I wondered if that might work for you guys. If you gave yourself half an hour to ride 1.5 miles, you could go at walking speed. But since the bikes would be doing a lot of the work for you, you wouldn’t get as sweaty as you would if you were walking. Plus, you see all sorts of interesting things along the way if you go that slowly. And you might want to drink a whole lot of ice water before you head out!

  • Jen

    I agree with what you are saying however walking or riding a bike is not possible in some areas. Here where I live (North East) it is a very busy place to live and people are careless. For example got cut off on Saturday night while driving when I had the right of way, was called a foul name and given the finger and this is very common and has happened before. If I would think to bike or walk to get anywhere that I would need to go it would involve busy streets and the danger of getting killed. So we are either talking highway or busy roads or back windy roads where people fly and it’s unsafe. Our area was not built for the boom of people that are currently living here otherwise it would be fine to bike. I just wanted to bring another side to the story.

    I would love to live where you do-grow trees and have a huge garden. That is my dream and eventually we will get there. But for now we live where we live and safety comes first.

  • DeeDee

    Limiting your use of a vehicle is a great idea for folks that live in cities but is absolutely useless for folks that live in the country and especially in the South where you can wake up in the mornings and it already be 90 degrees outside. It can also be dangerous if there are no sidewalks alongside the road. If I were to walk to a church a few miles down the road from my house, I would have to walk in the grass between a ditch and the road. I might also be lucky if the grass is maintained.

    I could move into the city and do my part by helping out but it so nice and quite out in the country. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • FrugalBabe

    Jen,
    It’s absolutely true that biking or walking aren’t safe or practical in all areas. But it’s also true that there are thousands of trips made by car every day in this country that could relatively easily (and safely) be made by foot or bike, and yet people tend to rationalize all sorts of reasons why they “can’t”. My blog and others like it are trying to draw attention to that problem and point out that a lot of the reasons people give are just excuses. Safety is definitely a valid point, but in a lot of areas where it isn’t safe to bike or walk, there is public transportation available. One of the drawbacks to living in a small town like we do is that there is no public transportation at all. Of course one of the advantages is that nothing in our town is more than three miles away, so there is never any need to drive.
    You’re right that some people don’t have the option to bike or walk (although public transportation should be included in the list of option too, and used if it’s available), but there are all sorts of other things that we can be doing. Check out No Impact Man for ideas: http://noimpactman.typepad.com/ A person who can’t give up their car might choose to give up all disposable products instead.
    The oil spill has just brought to the forefront a problem that we’ve had for a long time. And it’s one that very few people in America can truly say they haven’t been responsible for causing.

  • mabinogi

    Yep, you’re absolutely right, and I know I need to be better about this. I only live 2 miles from my office, and while I bike or walk often, I still get lazy and drive much more often than I should. You’ve inspired me to look for a cheap electric bike — not as green as walking or riding a regular bike, but much greener than driving, and more likely that I’ll actually use it to run errands, too.

  • http://www.cortneywithoutau.blogspot.com Cortney

    I’ve often thought about this vicious cycle- people who live in areas that are not bike friendly- no bike lanes, no sidewalks, no “Share the Road” signs- don’t bike because it’s dangerous, but…

    If NO ONE is biking, then why on earth would any city spend money and tax dollars to build such infrastructure, when there is no visible need? So, the cities are stuck in a cycle of no one bicycling because it’s not safe, but because no one bicycles the city has no real reason to make it safe.

    Perhaps the best thing to do would be to start a non-profit activist group in such cities. Get together all the people that would bike if it was safer, and start lobbying your local government. Perhaps stage a “critical mass” event, where many people come out on bikes- there is safety in numbers- and you can raise awareness of the issue.

    Incidentally, there may be a general sea change at hand. There was quite a kerfuffle at the Transportation secretary wanting to make safe biking a priority, and give bike transport equal importance as car/freight transport. So, this might end up being a top down change. Between issues of oil dependence, pollution, and obesity and inactivity, it would be a good investment to put in sidewalks and bikelanes.

  • http://www.cortneywithoutau.blogspot.com Cortney

    Oh, and the feminist in me can’t help but say this- when it comes to going car free, biking, walking, and taking public transit, it is far easier to do this while traveling male. I lived in Dallas, and I adored DART- rode it all the time- but there is no way in hell I’d get on one of those things anytime after about 9 o’clock unless I had at least one or two other people with me.

    For women working the night shift, or having to live in unsafe areas due to lower income, it is so much more dangerous for them to wait at a bus stop at 2 a.m., or walk home after dark or before the sun is up. Yes, men get mugged, shot, attacked, etc., but women are more routinely attacked, taken, raped, killed. If I had given up my car completely in Dallas, I would also have given up any independence I had after dark.

  • FrugalBabe

    Cortney,
    I completely agree. My siblings have all been involved in lots of critical mass rides. They are absolutely a great way to raise awareness about biking as a form of transportation.
    I just read your most recent post about bears, and it made me smile… I too can been a bit of a worry-wart :) Although if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been hiking hundreds of times in very wild areas and I have seen a bear exactly once. They are pretty few and far between.

  • Kaytee

    While I completely agree on the moral obligation to reduce our impact on the planet, I just wanted to point out that simply modifying your own habits is not enough, in my opinion. Not everyone is willing to make changes unless they have to. Regulations and policy changes have the greatest effect. Just look at the effects from the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. How much oil would be saved if the minimum mileage efficiency were increased for cars and trucks? We also need to write letters/emails/make calls to our country’s policymakers and leaders to support policy and regulation changes.
    ~Kaytee

  • Ashley

    I agree. Even people who don’t live close to “town” can be a a conscious “car minimalist” We live about a 15 minute drive from the closest grocery store and town and we still (if not even more) are very aware of how much driving we do. My husband works about a 1/2 hour away and that is the only driving we do, I make him stop by the store on the way home and plan ahead and do most of my errands all in one day in one town, parking and walking all over town. We also plan activities in our own neighborhood to do, such as swimming, hiking, walking the dog, chalk on the driveway, kickball and tag in the yard, etc. I know it’s not ideal, but we make the best of it.

  • http://debtmediators.com.au/ Benjamin Bankruptcy

    I love hearing the “it’s not safe” chat. Cars were relatively rare in Australia up until the 30′s, generally business owners and farmers had them but there were still hitching posts (for horses) outside the local bar till the 1950′s. My grandfather walked to work, along country roads all his life. How quickly we’ve changed or I think how irrational our thoughts have become. More people die from heart disease because they didn’t walk than get hit by cars. Getting hit by a car is relatively unlikely. As an irregular cycling commuter I realise that safety isn’t the issue that prevents me from doing it, it’s laziness.

  • Jen

    What someone feels is safe others would not. Where I lived before I was married I did walk everywhere from the post office to the grocery store or would take my bike. It was a very nice neighborhood with sidewalks and access to public areas like grocery stores and such. And yes, no public transportation and then I moved…

    As far as safety now, I called 911 last Thursday because there was an accident down the street from my house. The intersection that road leads to used to be an old country road but is now a very busy 2 lane road w/ no stop light. The speed limit is 45 MPH which no one drives and there is a small ditch btween the guardrail and the cars. Forgive me but I’m not going to hull my 6 month pregnant self to walk down that road epically since it would go nowhere. Call any of us lazy but opting not to walk in 100 degree heat (w/ or w/o humidity) to a grocery store or other public area 1 1/2 hours (the time it would take to walk) away is not lazy when there are no side walks, high grass and so on. There is also no public transportation here that I could easily get to and if I were to walk in that direction, I would get to a 4 lane road leading into a bad city to get to public transportation. My husband will no longer let me order Chinese food at my favorite restaurant down that road because of safety and last time he took his gun along when we picked it up. He has made me promise him several different times that I will not drive down there on my own to pick up food. So walking there for a bus is out of the question. As I mentioned this is a small area that got swallowed up by more people moving to the area-the farm land is now developed and all of the small towns have merged together and are now very close to a undesirable city. As for the crime rate that city it is in the mid 80′s out of 393 cities according to the 2009 C Q Press City Crime Ratings data. The exact number is withheld to protect my privacy.

    Call me lazy if you want but my loving husband would feel it’s not safe to walk here and as well and he is less lazy then I if you were to call me lazy. Would you prefer I quit my job and collect (and be lazy that way) so that I can concentrate on walking long distances to save a bit of oil? I work at home btw and use my car only on the weekends.

    Also, as far as cars and safety are concerned, safety concerns go beyond a car accident. There are also abductions, rapes, robberies, and of course car accidents to name a few. The world is not how it used to be. Although most of us imply that our safety concern is walking down the street and avoiding a moving automobile, safety concerns also span into other areas. A single young girl walking down a street in a iffy area for one. If I had the chance to live in my old town mentioned above I would be walking everywhere. Now I live in a different area with different concerns. I have a husband who wouldn’t let me walk down any street besides in my neighborhood because he loves me and wants me safe not because he thinks I’m lazy. So don’t call any of us lazy. I believe we all have valid reasons based on where we live traffic wise and crime wise and no one should be judging one another or have to stick up for themselves. If there was a way that some of these posters could walk over drive then they should be walking if the only thing holding them up was laziness. Frugal Babe has a valid point about our dependency on oil which my husband and I have talked about but as far as walking over using our car locally-sorry that is out of the question. There are other ways one can contribute….buying locally and gardening, working from home (an option for some and I do), not flying, using patriolliam free products (dish soap, plastics, baby oil ect), buying used or thrifting instead of buying items shipped from China… which I do all of the above.

  • http://www.pigsdontknow.blogspot.com What Pigs Don’t Know

    I think both Benjamin and Jen have very valid arguments for both sides of the coin. I agree with Jen that if you live out in the country, or in a dangerous town, you probably can not walk or bike. But as for the laziness factor, I think many of us fall into that category. While I am very aware of safety, where I live it is possible to bike to at least 3 grocery stores and sundry other retail shops that are attached to said stores. However, unless my husband is home, that means I need to get three kids ready to head out, attach the bike trailer to mine so my youngest can sit in it, navigate the neighborhoods while keeping the older two (including one who just learned a month ago) from killing themselves, lock up all the bikes when we get there (of course there are no official bike spots, it’s just locking them up to whatever won’t walk away!), buy the groceries, load them up in the trailer, and continue to watch the kids like a hawk while heading back home. Sometimes it just seems too tiring (and inefficient) to literally take 1 hour to do something that with a car I could complete in less than 10 minutes.

    However, I am keenly aware that at least for me, some of it is due to laziness, and I believe what Benjamin says about more people dying of heart disease b/c they didn’t exercise than of getting hurt on a bike is completely true. Since marrying I’ve gained weight (I NEVER thought I would be “that person”), and for me it often comes down to laziness. Kids wear me down!

    So it is something I have to be aware of and continuously strive towards naturally moving myself from point A to point B. No matter how I am feeling, especially if I am kid-free for the moment, I just need to hop on that bike to run what errands I can. I always feel better about it (both mentally but especially physically) when I am done. In fact, my husband saw an article on cnn.com just yesterday stating something to the fact that, at least for a woman, biking only 5 minutes a day will make you lose like 2 pounds a year. Just 5 minutes! My heart will thank me for it, and so will the air I breathe.

  • http://www.cortneywithoutau.blogspot.com Cortney

    FrugalBabe- Thanks for understanding the worry wart syndrome :) And we didn’t see a bear, just a female moose and lots of chipmunks.

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