Thursday, July 30, 2009

CarFreeWithKids and BusChick ask: what do you do about friends in the burbs if you don't have a car?

We're actually on the other end of this dilemma (sort of). I love being in a small, locally dense, town, but to our friends in the city, we may as well be in a sprawling suburban development.

We realize that, most of the time, we'll have to do the driving to see our friends. We understand that our friends didn't count on having to make frequent trips out here when they planned their lives. When we go into the city for any reason, we try to visit someone while we're there, to get the most out of each trip. Often, we try to meet half way (literally). Drumlin farm is a favorite, but it's not really accessible without a car, so it doesn't help if your friends are truly car free. But there are some nice spots on the commuter rail that would work. Hopkington State Park is close to the Worcester line and accessible to most anywhere "MetroWest." Many of the commuter rail stops are in nice town centers where it could be fun to meet for an extended lunch.

That said, it does hurt when folks won't make the trip out here for big events. We haven't black listed anyone, but when we are in the city, looking for someone to meet up with at the last moment, we're more likely to call folks who've made the effort to come out here. It's not out of spite as much as who would be more likely to want us to crash their plans.

My philosophy with most things related to self improvement is that I'm going to start with the easy stuff. I look for changes that will make the biggest difference with the least impact on folks I care about. Cut out short car trips. Try eating 25% of the meat you used to. Set a limit ($10 a week?) on non-local produce. I had a similar philosophy when Mandy was pregnant. The stress of avoiding every last source of danger to the baby was worse for the baby than anything. Yeah, don't smoke or drink, but if one snack of raw milk cheese is going to improve your mood, it is probably worth the risk.

Stressing yourself out about your carbon footprint isn't going to hurt the environment. (It may shorten your life, which would lower your lifetime footprint.) But it may alienate folks and let them continue to see climate change as a cause for nutjobs. If you can cut out 75% of your footprint without affecting the way you interact with others, maybe you can inspire more people to make changes in their lives.

I'm all for some folks going car-free or vegan, but most people are going to see that and turn away. There also needs to be a moderate movement with less drastic changes that includes more people. That way folks who are just starting to think green, can do something positive from the outset.

Everyone changing to CFLs isn't going to save the planet, but everyone cutting their meat consumption by 75%, their car use by 50%, and their electricity by 30% (to pick completely arbitrary, but achievable numbers) just might have a huge impact.

There is a good article in the Washington Post that covers much of the same ground.