Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What we CAN do

Something I've been realizing of late is just how much can be done today to change the way that we as people live and the impact that we have on the world around us for our generation and those to come.

Like many I'm sure, I really thought that many of the bigger changes required money or legislation changes, of which in either case, I'd be waiting for another day. But what I've been finding is that this is simply not the case. I believe Nickie already quoted him, but Ghandi made a great statement "We must be the change we seek in the world" or something to that effect. Sustainable living is really much closer at hand than might be thought at first.

For example, let me address a few areas of our existance. Assuming it is feasible, commercialism will almost always follow consumer demand. Take, for example, wind power. According to some pretty exhaustive studies, there are enough locations ideal wind-wise and cost-wise to provide 5 times the current power demands of the whole world. So feasibility aside, wind power is something that we as consumers have the ability to demand of our energy corporations. Even our small town of Longmont has wind power tie in's so that for a meager ~4-5% hike in our electrical bill, our we are using a renewable resource for our electricity. Since companies must legally meet that demand, we the people of this country can basically move renewable energy forward by our demand.

Making it even easier for energy corporations to make this shift in supply, its remarkable how much can be done to reduce the energy needs of the average house. We've been replacing a few light bulbs each week with CFL's (compact fluorescents). And instead of relying solely on our AC as the temperatures increase, we open our windows at night and close them in the morning as it starts to warm up, and despite getting up around 90 degrees for a high we've haven't really had to use the air conditioner at all yet this season. Our electric bill this year is half what it was last year, which it wasn't particularly high then either, and that's accounting for the wind power surcharge.

Regarding the resources used in transporting food nationwide, many areas have farmers' markets within decent proximity, and sometimes organic at that. With us for example there's a farmer's market here in Longmont every Saturday starting in the spring and running pretty well into the fall. Buying local is also a very large step in reducing our energy footprint and for what you're saving on your electric bill you can afford the local organic stuff.

Speaking of organic farming... Since organic produce isn't grown using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, it basically ensures on some level that farmers use more responsible practices in order to get good crops such as crop rotation and putting organic matter back into the soil and even giving the land a break from time to time, instead of relying on commercial chemical fertilizers and pesticides to cover up a multitude of sins.

Then there's recycling and even better buying responsibly to start. Its amazing if you put just a little forethought into your purchasing how much useless packaging you can cut out of your purchases, or when you do get something with packaging making sure that its packaging that can be recycled when you're done with it. Nickie's really been the champion of recycling in our household. Between the cloth diaper system she found (Bum Genius), and just being informed shoppers and generally good about recycling, we're down to less than a small grocery bag worth of trash per week, and I recently found out that even much of that can actually be composted through our local recycling center.

Then last, but not least, is transportation. I've heard varying statistics, but we'll assume the most favorable picture for car ownership possible. If you account for a fully paid for car, plus $35 a month in insurance, plus the cost of gas for pretty average American mileage ~12,000 miles/yr. and then standard consumables, like tires, fluid changes, brakes, and the unfortunate reality that on occasion it will need a repair, say $500, you're easily talking $2,000 a year, likely much more, most stats I've read stated something closer to $5,000.

My general experience after around 7 years now of cycling more or less as primary transportation personally, is that its going to cost you around 1/10th that much once you have the gear and bicycle and its simply a maintenance state as with the car above. If you do apples to apples and compare the costs of buying new car and registration vs. buying a new bike and related gear, the balance is still pretty much the same. Some say I'm crazy tough for having commuted year round in colorado by bicycle, but these are also the same people who get up at 5am on a Saturday and drive up to the mountains only to ski in even colder temps and stronger wind chills solely for recreation... I think its simply a matter of perspective. So in this case like many so far you're saving money and saving the world and its something fully available TODAY. Nothing against the Toyota Prius, but I can pretty much guarantee you that my transportation is a lot easier to buy into for the average individual and also a lot greener.

My wife and I describe cycling for transportation as a win win win win win win. We do good for the environment and diminish the potential impact of peak oil, we stay fit without going out of our way to do so, we have fun getting to our destinations, its an adventure with Samuel which he enjoys far more than the car, bikes are infinitely simpler than cars and negate the frustation of shop time for the car, and last but not least, it saves us a lot of money each year.

So what are you all waiting for, there's so much we can all already be doing :) Isn't that great news? :)

Trike Dialog

Eco Soccer Mom

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tires to go the distance...

This may seem a mundane post to many, but bicycle tires are whats on my mind these days. Between riding to and from work, general errands rides and riding with my family, I'm generally doing around 160 miles a week, and at present I'm getting a flat tire seemingly every couple days.

This is by far a record for me considering my latest tires (Michelin Krylion Carbon's) are supposed to be a durable puncture resistant road tire. I must say, neither is really the case. I've put about 1,400 miles on them now and they are showing significant wear, and I've already commented on the puncture resistance :P

Good news is that I've found out that Schwalbe, an awesome tire manufacturer out of Germany who specializes in real world tires now makes a tire called the Marathon Plus in a 700 x 25c which should fit on the Steelman Stage Race I ride. I'll probably have to modify the fenders where they clear the fork and brakes, but considering these tires are called "flatproof" by some and built to last 4,500-7,200 miles its well worth making them fit :)

Schwalbe Marathon Plus on Schwalbe's site

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Starting him young...

Samuel and Dadda working on the bike together...

A More Personal Note

It just occurred to me that I'd managed to leave out the most exciting bit of news in the last few days. Nickie had her 20 week ultrasound yesterday and got to see our beautiful new baby....BOY! Somehow knowing the gender just makes the family dynamic easier to picture which just ups our excitement and anticipation for this new addition to our family. But this also means now we need to start thinking in earnest about a proper name for the little guy.

Stay tuned...

My little family thus far (Samuel was less than a year old here. He's now almost 2)

Hybrid Human/Electric vehicles in suburan America

First off, this is my first post to the blog (Anthony here).

Nickie and I have been talking a lot about solutions presently available to make a carfree lifestyle possible with a family. I've been in practice living carfree for about 7 years now, having sold my car back in college and bought a nice road bike to get around instead, and my wife minus during the transition from being just a married couple to being parents has generally done likewise. Well things do get a little more complicated with this transition but I think we've still been finding some good solutions.

We bought her a tadpole trike (two wheels in the front and one in the rear) a little bit ago for a few reasons. They are quite comfortable for one, more aerodynamic than your average riding position on a road bike, can be ridden while pregnant, which she is, and ridden year round since they have such a low center of gravity and three wheels, snow and ice are much less treacherous. The other added benefit is that a newborn can't be adequately supported in a trailer for awhile 6-12 months depending on who you talk to, while in a trike without the concern of tipping over she could wear the baby in our baby bjorn sport strapped to her chest while riding.

Now coming back to the title of this post, this also all means that on average when my dear courageous wife is toodling around town to do errands she's always toting at a minimum an extra 55lbs of trailer, child, diaper bag, emergency gear, and not all things are as close in proximity as we'd like. So of late I've been researching some electric assist options that we could mount to the trike effectively augmenting her power to the point of being on par with my typical range and speeds (30-40 miles any given day at 18-22mph average) even with towing all the extra weight. This would make trips to grandma and grandpa's house all the more feasible without falling back on the car. Besides the fact that the total amount of energy (besides Nickie's pedaling power) that's required to move my wife, child, trailer, stuff :), is VASTLY less than moving a 3500lb car too, we also get our electricity from windpower, so recharging at home means the extra energy is coming from a renewable resource.

We'll see how it goes, but having tried one out this last weekend we're both in agreement that the question is not, if, but when. So we'll start putting our pennies together and hopefully get her setup in the next couple months so we can take some of the extra burden off of her in the move to a carfree lifestyle.

On a side note we're also in the process of selling our VW Eurovan and getting a more fuel efficient vehicle for the times when we do fall back on the car.

Lastly since we haven't joined the multimedia era by posting any pics yet, I thought I'd throw up a photo of my trusty steed that takes me to and from everyday.