Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Low-Hanging Eco-Friendly Fruit 5: Getting Around (Plus Climate Change!)

[Without getting too political, this issue, more and more, is in OUR hands. If it's going to happen in the US, it will be we, the people, who make it happen.]

A few weeks ago, about 9 pm on a Wednesday night I was walking up the sidewalk to my house (in the dark) and decided to check on the tomato plants that had just exploded in the last few months. It was very dark outside, but I was comfortably wearing a short-sleeved shirt. I shined my relatively-smartphone-flashlight on the plants and found several new green tomatoes.

Green Tomatoes (in the dark)

So I headed to the porch and saw a tiny, newborn gecko scurry across my path. To recap - mid-November, short sleeves, new tomatoes, newborn tiny reptile. I realize that I live in a place known for crazy weather, but steadily warmer has become the new norm. And the new norm is happening a lot faster than most climate scientists had predicted. The climate is changing quickly and we are responsible for making it happen.

Temperature Rise Graph - thanks, Nova!

We are throwing more and more carbon into our atmosphere and we are taking away the natural buffers that have protected us in the past. It's a bad, bad combo.

So, what's a Mesquite Hugger to do?
  1. Find ways to stop releasing more carbon (by reducing our consumption of gasoline, diesel, coal, and natural gas.)
  2. Strongly encourage others to find ways to stop releasing more carbon. Stat!
  3. Pursue ways to restore some natural buffers (like composting and restoring native plant life to barren areas
So, let's look at getting around.

Here at Mesquite Hugger, we love tiptoeing around on the smallest carbon footprint possible. Lubbock, however, is a place that does not always make it easy. So, I am a big fan of walking, of biking, of e-biking, and electric cars. I am also fond of Citibus - our local public transportation.

[OK, I'm back. My brain just daydreamed off to a place where my tiny garage had a nice pair of hiking boots, a commuter bike, an electric cargo bike, and a Citicar parked happily together.]

So, dear reader, here is what I will ask of you:

  • Please analyze each trip you are about to take and choose the least harmful mode of travel available.
  • Please analyze all of your trips collectively. See which ones are unnecessary. See which ones can be combined or changed.
  • See if it's time to find more efficient methods of travel.

Riding the Bike

I write a lot about bicycles. I write too much about bicycles, but there's a big reason for it - bicycles (and electric bicycles) are some of the least damaging vehicles on the planet for short trips. And most of us take a lot of very short trips. Add in the fun factor, the super low cost, and the health benefits, and the bike becomes a bit of a miracle machine.

Taking the Bus

A bus traveling by itself is not a very efficient vehicle. It's large, heavy, and cumbersome, but the math changes when you put people inside the bus. The more people you haul, the more efficient the bus becomes in terms of carbon released per person, especially when compared with the carbon release of that many people riding solo in cars. If you'd like to try it out in Lubbock and fight hunger, this week is the week to do it:


Not many things are sadder for the eco-conscious than the number of single-occupant cars on the road. But here, that single occupant vehicle is deeply ingrained in the culture. The next time you are near a busy intersection, do a little survey - how many cars around you have only one person in them? (We won't even jump into how inefficient each of those vehicles is.) If you have co-workers or neighbors who can share a ride, you can divide your carbon footprint by the number of people in the car. As much as I am not a fan of big SUVs, I have to admit that four people riding in an SUV is more efficient than four people riding in four sedans. (But four people in one sedan makes even less pollution.)

Electric Cars (and Plug-in Hybrids)

I spend too much time talking about electric cars too, but for a culture so deeply addicted to the car, they make a lot of sense (and cents). The advantages can be huge. Imagine cutting your fuel costs by about 75% and cutting your maintenance costs by about 75% too. Imagine not having to go to the gas station and not being worried about the cost of gas going up. Imagine driving in a vehicle that does not promote asthma, lung disease, or cancer. Imagine a vehicle fueled by locally produced energy. No, a fully electric car won't cover each driver's needs, but it will cover most drivers' needs. And a plug-in-hybrid will cover most of the rest. (And it's not hard at all to find a late-model, low-mileage electric for around $10,000.) They make an excellent second car.

Trains, we don't have no stinking passenger trains around here.

Gasoline/Diesel Cars and Trucks

These are by far the most dominant form of local transportation, and the most damaging. If you do find yourself stuck in these, please do what you can to limit your pollution:
  • Keep your vehicle in good tune and keep the tires at maximum inflation.
  • Do your best to stop idling. Skip the drive-thru and go in.
  • Carpool.
  • Plan efficient routes for your travels.
  • For multi-car households, drive the most efficient car in your driveway as much as possible.
  • Slow down.
All of these things collectively can lighten your eco-load.

Regardless of what you drive, strive to be courteous to others, There's enough stress and frustration out there - please don't add to it with the way you get around. And please, watch out for that dorky blogger on the bike!

May you tread lightly and may we all be better for it.