Tag Archives: Environmentalism

You got the mother and the kid…

… you got the guy and his date.

So sang the Violent Femmes back in the 1980s.  Well, I’ve been taking the bus to and from work for the past week or so.  I’ve been kind of anti-RIPTA in the past because it isn’t overly convenient for me.  However, with 4 new employees in our department and more people using our parking lot outside the building (because the faculty are still too lazy to walk across campus), I have to get up around the same time to get to work early and get a parking space.  So instead of driving, I’ve decided to take the bus.  I get on the 92 Green Line trolley with Susan (she takes it all the way to work) and get off at Kennedy Plaza and wait for the 55 Admiral St./Providence College bus that comes at 8:15.  It gets me right at the Huxley gate at 8:30.  In the past, I never got to work until like 8:35-8:40 (because I’m slow and lazy).  Now I get to work right on time.  The bus is quite relaxing.  I don’t have to deal with idiots on the road and I can just sit and watch the scenery go by on my way to work.  It also puts me downtown more often, which I’ve been wanting to do.  I now get to see the progress of the current projects down there.

There is a downside to the bus.  There’s nothing convenient to bring me back to Federal Hill at the end of the day.  I have to stay about 15 minutes late to get the bus at 4:47 or leave early around 4:20.  I stay late, it’s not bad and lets me get some more things done.  I get home a lot later than I used to.  When I drive and leave at 4:30 (or even 4:45 or closer to 5:00), I am always home no later than 5:10.  However, I now get home around 5:30.  Generally, I make the hike from Kennedy Plaza to Federal Hill.  The bus I would take is the 27 or 28.  They’re always over crowded and standing room only (and there are always way more people waiting).  So instead of waiting 5-10 minutes in Kennedy Plaza, I just walk.  It’s been good for my legs and weight.

I’m going to continue taking the bus until it snows.  It’s an easy and relaxing way to get to and from work.  I’m just tired earlier at night though.  I wake up about 45-60 minutes earlier because I need to get in the shower first (Susan wasn’t willing to change her schedule to accommodate my new mode of transportation).  I feel good doing something for the environment, and I’m saving us money at the same time.

Tearing Down Trees for a “Green” Building

I’m all for biking and green buildings, but Zane’s Cycles in Branford, CT has taken the cake.  They have torn down a bunch of trees to build a “green” building for their bike shop.

The bike shop has been growing over the years.  They originated in a nice storefront on Main Street in the center of Branford.  They have since moved to a larger space in a strip mall on Rt. 1 with oceans of parking.  Their new building is also going to be on Rt. 1, and because it’s not in a dense urban area, it will likely also be surrounded by a sea of surface parking.

Someone needs to inform the owners that if they truly want to be green, they would have renovated their current space or bought an existing building to renovate rather than tear down trees and add more blacktop.

Zane’s Cycles gets an F in environmentalism.

Promoting Public Transit while Promoting Environmentalism

I came across this great idea while reading through some new blogs.  It’s an advertisement on the sides of buses that promotes the bus as an attack vehicle against global warming.  It’s a no brainer really.  A full bus, or even a train or streetcar, is using less energy per rider than a car, even if the car was a carpool of 4 people.  This means less emissions, less greenhouse gases, less cars on the road, and less noise pollution.  More people using public transit will also likely lead to governments (local, state, and federal) giving more funding for transit systems.  This would lead to better urban development and less suburban sprawl.  It would reduce our dependence on oil.  There are a ton of reasons why people should get out of their cars and onto the bus/train/streetcar.

Why $4+ Gas is a Good Thing

Gas is expensive.  That’s a no brainer.  Most people are bemoaning the increased prices in gasoline and pushing the government to do something about it.  However, I don’t have a problem with expensive gas.  Now before you go and accuse me of being one of those people who doesn’t drive and takes public transportation or walks everywhere, that’s not me.  I drive to work everyday.  Yes, you read that right.  I live in the same city in which I work and I drive to work.  It’s about a mile and a half each way, but I drive.  Why do I drive?  Easy.  I’m lazy.  I don’t like mornings.  Driving gives me the opportunity to sleep a little later.  Why don’t I just take the bus you ask?  Another easy one.  The bus is not convenient in Providence unless you live downtown or live and work on the same bus route.  Susan takes the bus everyday for a couple reasons.  The first is that we live on the same bus route as the one that goes to Brown.  The second is that there’s a waiting list for a parking space at Brown, which would cost $400 per year and would likely be the same distance as if she walked halfway to work.  So long as she’s working at Brown, she will never drive to work.  If I could easily take the bus, I would.  But I can’t.  I don’t walk because I live and work on a hill, but there’s a valley in between and a 4 lane “super highway” is the only reasonable route to walk.  I also sweat a lot, and we have a ridiculous dress code at work (one that no other college I know of has).  Now that the PC gym charges, I can’t just stop there and take a shower at work.  It would take me about half an hour to walk to work, it would actually take me a little longer to take the bus.

Now, why is $4 (and rising) gas a good thing?  Because it forces people and the government (federal, state, and local) to rethink things.  Public transit ridership has increased greatly across the country.  People are moving closer to work.  More people are telecommuting when possible.  All this adds up to less pollution, less congestion on the roads, and less suburban sprawl.

With all of this, there is good reason for people to petition their local and state governments to increase public transportation options and increase the money they spend on public transportation.  Local governments should enforce good urban design and help create walkable neighborhoods.  There is no reason that the United States should not have a quality extensive, inexpensive railway network across the country connecting all the major cities.  People in Europe travel almost exclusively by train, public transportation, walking, or bicycles.  It all depends on how far they’re going.  There is no reason people in the United State shouldn’t be doing just that.  However, we do not have an extensive railway network.  We do not have the extensive public transportation options of Europe.  Aside from our major cities and some smaller village centers, we do not have walkable neighborhoods.  The 50’s and 60’s and the new “American Dream” of white pickett fences, expansive lawns, and large houses in the suburbs killed all of that.  We have taken cheap gas, something Europe has never seen, for granted.  We are now paying the price of the suburban dream.

Time has a great article called “10 Things You Can Like About $4 Gas”.  It’s worth a read.  Maybe I’ll attempt to ride the bus to work sometime this summer.  If it’s not as bad as I expect it to be, perhaps I’ll do it all the time.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to drive.  I have stopped coming home for lunch to save some gas.

Only in CA… a big case of “HUH?”

As I was doing my regular reading through CNN.com, I found a strange article that caught my attention.  The link on the front page said “Man wins right to sun: judge orders trees cut“.  I assumed it would be an article about someone pissed off that his flowers weren’t growing and got a judge to order his neighbor cut down a tree.  I couldn’t have been wronger.  It was actually a case where a man had installed a $70,000 solar system on his house in the shade of his neighbor’s redwood trees and brought his neighbor to court under a CA law that requires that your trees not block the solar panels on your neighbor’s house.  I can understand that to a degree.  Solar energy is a good form of renewable energy.  We should all strive to use it to help offset the power we get from the grid.  However, trees are, in my opinion, just as important.  They help cool the area around them and absorb harmful gases, like carbon dioxide.

This case gets weirder, though.  The guy with the trees planted them before the solar panels were installed.  The guy who installed them wants the law to be strengthened and said it protects his $70,000 investment.  I don’t know about you, but if I were installing a solar system on my home, I’d be sure that I wasn’t installing it in the shade of any trees.

Renewable energy is very important, but so is protecting our natural environment, and that includes any “nature” we’ve added.  I wonder how much of the solar guy’s yard is covered with trees.  My guess is not much.  Trees are far better for the environment than an open lawn.  I’d also be willing to bet that he wastes water to irrigate it and that he puts down lovely chemicals to keep it nice and green.

More on the CA Solar Shade Control Act at UCAN.