Learn. Choose. Change.

I pledge to learn the true cost, to people and the planet, of what I eat, wear, drive, use and do every day. I choose to consume justly and to increasingly change my habits.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Just "Choose": Bikes, Hikes, and Public Transit

A few years ago we bought an old Mercedes wagon and committed to using biodiesel.  Not long after, we bought our house located right "in town" (think 1950s era main street - grocery store, bank, movie theater, etc.) with the intention of walking instead of driving when it came to running most of our errands.  Not surprisingly, we started off great, savoring our walks in the lovely Pacific Northwest summer, happy to not have to find a parking space amongst all the tourists.  But, it didn't take long after the rains started for us to just grab the car to make a "quick run" to the store, bank, etc. justifying that it was such a short distance, and we were using biodiesel, after all...

Fast forward to this past summer when our trusty car started acting weird, dropping into a low gear for no reason or never getting out of first when we started it.  Luckily, my husband is super handy, and he and his friend took a look at it. Unluckily, it was the worst case scenario, and it looked like we would need a whole new transmission.  We were in the unfortunate spot of probably investing more into the car than what it was actually worth.  So, instead of just rushing to fix it, we thought about it.  Because it was summer time, the kids and I were off school/work and could somewhat manage without a car, mostly walking or using the bus.  My husband often rides his bike to work anyway.  Friends that were on vacations offered the use of their cars while they were gone, so we were able to borrow one pretty easily if we needed to.

Then, school started.  We still hadn't come to a decision about fixing the car, and were even discussing biting the bullet and buying electric.  However, we haven't had a car payment in about ten years and are not super excited to take one on again (debt feels icky to us).  My husband was pretty sure we could actually manage without a car for a little while longer to give us more time to make a decision.  I wasn't so sure, because this meant I would probably have to ride a bike.  Like, every day.

We just wrapped up our second week of school, and I have to say, it's not as bad as I thought it would be.  Granted, I thought it would be horrible, but it's really not.  My oldest two ride the school bus to and from the middle school and can walk or get a ride to extra-curricular activities.  My youngest usually rides the school bus, too.  This week she joined me one day on the Metro bus one day (it was going to be 90 degrees and I didn't think I could hack that!), and actually biked with me on another (I work at her school).  And, I will admit, biking together was kinda sort of fun.

I'm sure we will get another car soon, but I can say these two weeks have changed me.  Riding a bike somewhere, especially to work, has become my default.  I sincerely feel I will only resort to using a car as a last resort, and even hope to one day live without one again.


  1. I would love to know how you guys use biodiesel. Does the car take it normally or is there a transition you have to do before using? I don't believe I've been told the details of it!


    1. Mae, when we owned a bookstore we carried a great book on using biodiesel (http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781569756249). Of course, there are lots of resources online, too. We were lucky enough to be able to buy it from an independent gas station right here on the island. Even though we took the precautions of switching grades in the winter (and our winters are mild), using it may have contributed to the downfall of our transmission. However, I think it is worth checking out.