Soap Box

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Posts Tagged ‘one car household’

Earth Day Rant

Posted by eemilla on April 22, 2011

In honor of Earth Day, I’m hopping on my soapbox and giving my Earth Day Rant about three things that drive me crazy.

My largest pet peeve related to shopping is when my husband buys a beer or a box of beer that comes with a convenient handle, and he has to literally argue with the cashier that he doesn’t need a bag; many cashiers claim it is illegal to allow him to carry the beer outside of the store without a bag (I’ve worked as a cashier in a few different stores, and I was never required to do this).  I also get irked at the assumption that regardless of the number of groceries or items one might have a bag is requisite; nevermind that I walked through the store carrying everything I am buying without the assistance of a bag or a basket or a cart.

Earth Fare both irritated and cheered me for changing their bag donation policy; for the longest time, if you brought your own bag OR didn’t use a bag, Earth Fare would either donate $0.10 to the charity of the month or give you a $0.10 discount.  I believe it was around a year ago, they reduced the donation to $0.05, and it is only applicable if you have a reusable grocery bag (not your purse or backpack).  I don’t mind losing the discount as I always donated it, but I do hate that Earth Fare won’t give up the donation unless I put my half pound of mozzarella in a reusable bag.  They cheered me when they began requiring a donation for paper bags and eliminated plastic bags altogether (thewebsite says the donation is voluntary, but it also says if you chose not to donate the $0.05 then they give you a cardboard box not a bag).  They also sell reusable bags near the check out and at most of the checkout lines at the South Asheville location.

Along with the annoyances I have to also applaud Target for giving a $0.05 discount for reusing a bag as well as selling cheap $0.99 bags at the front of the store and at every checkout lane.  My favorite grocery store, the French Broad Food Co-op, charges for the plastic containers in the bulk room as well as selling heavy duty cotton bags and more light weight less expensive bags like those at Target.

I wish all stores would encourage customers to bring their own bags and containers either by giving a discount or by charging a fee for the bag; I also want the Coop and Earth Fare to stop providing the really thin plastic containers that are not dishwasher safe.  One of my resolutions was to stop using to-go containers for leftovers at restaurants, but unfortunately, I have failed miserably.  On the upside, we are not using new bags in the produce or bulk department when we go shopping.  Following the example set my mother and my step mother in law, we are washing out sandwich bags and  the green bags we use for produce (which purportedly keep produce fresher longer, but I like because they are strong enough to be washed unlike the freebies in the produce isle).

Secondly, I don’t want to hear one more word about how much gas costs.  I, too, hate paying almost fifty dollars to fill up the gas tank; however, we pay much lower gas rates than the rest of the world, and we generally have a choice in which vehicle we drive.  There are also many well published tips to reduce your fuel consumption (combine trips, drive less aggressively, fill up after the sun is down, carpool, or don’t drive).

Before my pregnancy we were a one car household even though we both work full time jobs with different hours.  We were able to make this work because neither of us mind walking along a busy road without sidewalks or even much of a shoulder; we live about a 1.25 walk from the bus line; and my work commute is a less than two mile walk.  Sadly, the bus runs every 1.5 hours between about 6:30a (1st run out of downtown) and 5:30p (last run out of downtown), which means we couldn’t even use it for an early night out much less a night shift commute.  I should note that there is a night route but the closest stop is about five miles from the bus stop that is 1.25 miles from our house, but again most of the five mile walk is along a five lane road with several hundred feet of sidewalks interspersed with parking lots and grassy stretches (some of which are steep banks that are difficult to traverse).  While I could walk the almost two miles from my work to my home, much of the walk is along the same five lane heavily travelled road, but this stretch contains not one sidewalk.  Fortunately much of that stretch is through parking lots, but there is a stretch that is like a goat trail which leads to a vacant lot.  Neither are generally cut so the weeds can and do hide broken bottles and various other trash (I never encountered any used condoms!)  Please note that both stretches of road mentioned above have been a part of the city for years, but sidewalk construction hasn’t been anywhere near a priority for this part of the city.

We decided that having a little one and not moving precluded us from remaining a one car household.  In the two and half years of being a one car household I can only recall a handful of times the bus was critically late, and at a cost of $0.75 per ride (if you buy the ticket book, but only $1 per ride if you pay singly), it is certainly cheaper than gas or parking.  Maybe one day we’ll return to being regular bus riders, but I cannot imagine hauling a stroller and all those baby accoutrements to the bus stop then on the bus then off the bus then all around town then repeat for the return ride.  Then again we never thought we could make do with one car for as long as we did.  Unfortunately, this will be the first Strive Not to Drive that I will not join in the past few years because it coincides with my 38th week of pregnancy.  I can only hope that you might decide to participate.

Rather than subsidize multi national companies that don’t even pay taxes on their billions in annual profits to begin with, we need a New Deal type program that gets the unemployed constructing sidewalks, repairing bridges, and building rail.  Public transit eases congestion, and for those of us that like to go out and knock a few back, it provides a much cheaper alternative to a taxi (which allows us to spend more money knocking a few back and eating a good meal).  Transit jobs cannot be outsourced, and public transit encourages private investment along its corridors much like roads.

Happy Earth Day.

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Missed Anniversaries

Posted by eemilla on November 13, 2010

Well, I’ve almost been away for two entire months.  It’s not because I don’t enjoying complaining about public transit and transportation and talking up my favorites restaurants, but I’ve been really busy reading hardcopy books.

It appears that I neglected to celebrate our second year of being a one car household in an area that really doesn’t do much to encourage regular use of public transit. I’m more than irked that ATS has decided to undertake increased marketing efforts rather than spend money on expanding service.  People know that the bus service exists, but it is under-utilized because it isn’t convenient.  I want it to be easier to buy passes; currently, one can visit the transit center with cash.  Why aren’t there refillable cards and self-service kiosks that accept cash or credit, even if they are isolated to the transit center?  It is cheap, and it is safe; however, when many routes end service before 7:30 how can anyone use ATS to have a dinner out or catch a movie or go to church?  If you don’t work first shift (or if you work first shift on a Sunday), it is very likely that you won’t be able to use ATS to commute to and from work, even if you live well inside city limit.  On the other hand, I am thankful that we live about a twenty minute stroll off the bus route and that my husband can get to and from most of his work shifts.  We’ve made it work these past two years because we believe in the good of public transit and the benefits of walking (with or without sidewalks on busy five lane highways or quite neighborhood streets).

The next milestone is our four year wedding anniversary. We opted to celebrate on a Wednesday night rather than the actual Monday our anniversary fell on, and we decided to revisit The Market Place.    I don’t recall the exact year of our last visit, but we were completely unimpressed with every aspect of our meal, especially the steep prices on the wine list.  Due to the passage of time and new ownership (even though I thoroughly respect Mark Rosenstein for all he has done and continues to do to support local food and farms), we decided to give it another go.   We were seated in the back close to where we sat at our last visit, and our server, Denise, was attentive and knowledgeable of the menu.   I opted for the edamame, because I cannot seem to eat enough edamame, and it was the only vegetarian appetizer that held any appeal (sorry I’m a bit too cheap these days for a $14 cheese plate); the chili soy glaze was pretty sweet, and it really detracted for the sublime simplicity of soybeans.  My husband enjoyed a generous serving of duck confit spring rolls that really looked pretty tasty.   For my entree I chose the agnolottis because again it was the only realistic vegetarian option since a local vegetable plate just seemed a bit boring.   Then again, how cliched for the vegetarian entree to be a pasta dish; however, cliched or not, it was good and filling and just what I really wanted.  Apparently we were in need of comfort food as my husband went with the pork chop entree. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to enjoy all of the juices because the food runner poured a good portion of them down my arm; the part he did enjoy was very satisfying, even if he really wanted more carrots and brussel sprouts.  Getting to wear his dinner was really were our experience fell flat (and my shirt is now ruined).  When it happened I requested a bar towel not a treated napkin that really does nothing to absorb liquid, but of course I received seltzer water and a cloth napkin (I should’ve demanded the bar towel).   The staff was apologetic, but rather than comp his entree or mine for that matter, they offered to buy us a dessert and two glasses of champagne, which we weren’t interested in anyway.   We ended up taking a boxed up a cappuccino chocolate torte, which was a nice after work treat the next day. Personally, I prefer the ambience and food at Cucina24, but this visit didn’t rule out future visits (although they are not likely to happen in the near future).

We opted to postpone our anniversary dinner due to a doctor’s visit, which would leave us with either great news or less than great news.  We got the great news, so we were a bit on cloud nine, and I just wasn’t able to demand a free entree nor was I able to enjoy anything alcoholic because earlier that day we had seen our baby’s heartbeat.  We also confirmed that I was about five weeks pregnant, and I’m now almost twelve weeks along, which is why I’ve been reading, reading, and reading some more about pregnancy and childbirth.  I am not suffering from morning sickness per se, but I am suffering from an incessant desire to eat edamame, eggplant, and pretty much anything else with bread and cheese as long as artichoke hearts, raw garlic, and pesto aren’t included.  My nausea is triggered by not eating enough (i.e., about every couple of hours) or eating too much at once (hence, I was truly not able to eat dessert at dinner).  Additionally, my eating idiosyncrasies have multiplied, and although they aren’t as bad as they were before I met my honey, they are irritating and frustrating.  Last week, I couldn’t stand the thought of eating roasted root vegetables (butternut squash, celeriac, and beets) and goat cheese, which normally, I would devour.  Therefore, I will not be posting anymore restaurant reviews until I feel normal about food again.  I do think I will continue to complain about public transit and the dearth of sidewalks even in parts of Asheville that have been annexed for years and years (here’s looking at you, Hendersonville Rd); now that it is dark around six p.m., I won’t be walking home, which means I have to pick my husband up from work since the last bus to our end of town runs about five to six hours before he gets off work.  Then again, since we’re planning on caving in and buying a second car rather than deal with a wee one and one car, I guess I won’t have as much to complain about public transit.

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A Quick One While He’s Away

Posted by eemilla on September 16, 2010

So by the time anyone reads this it will likely be past the deadline (22 September 2010), but here goes.  My favorite cause is to whine about the lack of mass transit and multi modal infrastructure so if you too enjoy doing so (and if you don’t you really should), please take a moment to peruse the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization‘s Long Term Transportation Plan then take the survey.  Come on, at the very least browse the projects then take the survey!

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Oil spills and more roads

Posted by eemilla on June 19, 2010

From Governor Perdue’s weekly email:

North Carolina’s Response to the Gulf Oil Spill

Gov. Perdue on Tuesday joined officials from the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard to discuss the state’s ongoing preparations in the event oil were to reach North Carolina shores.  A briefing in Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh was held for state legislators and another session for local elected officials, local government managers and public safety officials from coastal counties.

Gov. Perdue stressed that experts, including the Coast Guard and U.S. Environment Protection Agency, believe there is only a remote chance that any oil will reach North Carolina shores.  If any oil were to reach North Carolina, the state is prepared.  North Carolina had a plan in place to deal with an oil spill long before the situation in the Gulf, and that plan is being updated to handle the current situation.  Gov. Perdue reminded participants that North Carolina beaches are clean and open for business this summer season.

“I believe North Carolina has the best emergency management team in the country. We have proven over and over we can handle whatever emergency comes our way,” said Perdue.  “No matter how small the chance that oil could reach North Carolina, my goal, as always, is for us to be prepared.”

Additionally, the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety has launched a web page dedicated to providing information and useful links regarding the Gulf oil spill.  The page is located at the department’s home page at www.nccrimecontrol.org and can be reached by clicking on the Gulf Oil Spill tab.

Support Grows for Mobility Fund

Broad-based and bipartisan support for Gov. Bev Perdue’s proposed Mobility Fund continues to grow across the state, as evidenced by the number of resolutions passed by local municipalities and other organizations. Twelve groups have already signed resolutions supporting the innovative transportation funding legislation, while four others are pending. They include the:

·         City of Goldsboro
·         City of Charlotte
·         City of Concord
·         City of High Point
·         Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
·         Durham Transportation Advisory Committee
·         Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Org. Transportation Adv. Comm.
·         NC Joint Regional Forum (League of Municipalities and the Assoc. of County Comm.)
·         Centralina Council of Governments (nine counties in the Mecklenburg area)
·         Cabarrus-Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization
·         North Carolina Regional Councils
·         North Carolina Turnpike Authority

The Carborro/Chapel Hill/Durham Metropolitan Planning Organization and the cities of Archdale, Rocky Mount and Thomasville have approved resolutions and expect to have them delivered soon.

The Mobility Fund was proposed by Gov. Perdue in her budget as a new way to finance projects of statewide or regional significance to help reduce congestion and improve mobility. It sets aside funding for priority projects, the first of which would be widening I-85 north of the Yadkin River bridge on the Davidson/Rowan County line.”

The fund is being considered by the General Assembly as part of the FY 2010 budget.

For more information about the Mobility Fund, visit www.ncdot.gov and click on “Governor’s Proposed Mobility Fund” under “Latest News.”

While North Carolina may have a disaster plan in the event the  oil or tar balls from BP’s spill heads our way, Governor Perdue doesn’t mention anything about offshore drilling off the North Carolina coast .  Many North Carolina residents still support offshore drilling, even after the BP fiasco.  However, Governor Perdue hasn’t issued a press release committing herself to any position either for or against.  In September 2009, she signed Executive Order 23 to study offshore energy (which to Governor’s Perdue’s credit does support wind energy), but since BP’s Gulf spill her press releases have been isolated to the response if any of the spill comes ashore in North Carolina.

The irony comes in the next paragraph were the “mobility fund” is once again promoted; as I stated last week, I have no problem with the increase in vehicle registration fees, but the emphasis on where the funds will go is my problem.  Building more roads eases congestion for a few years, but as long as the population grows the decreased congestion will quickly return to its previous levels just across more roads.  I haven’t spent much time in Raleigh and its outward belts, but I did live in Atlanta for a year in which I witnessed eight lanes congested on I85 and I285 as well as the local roads (e.g. Ashford-Dunwoody, Peachtree, Hammond Dr, Roswell Rd) from 7 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 6 pm every weekday.  The long term solution is to decrease the number of single occupant vehicles.  Mass transit provides that option as well as providing jobs that cannot be exported.  I’d love for Buncombe County and the City of Asheville to support Governor Perdue’s Mobility Fund with the caveat that public transit receive priority over increasing the road supply.


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Strive Not to Drive 2010

Posted by eemilla on May 17, 2010

Although I don’t recall if last year’s Strive Not to Drive challenge began on a Saturday, I was perplexed by the decision to begin on a Saturday considering Sunday is the one day of the week that Asheville Transit does not run.  Are the organizers trying to encourage participants to think about options other than transit, or is their goal to highlight the absurdity of thinking of our transit as a viable alternative to a vehicle when its coverage (both in time and territory) is severely limited?  Regardless, I joined the pledge.

Sadly, I repeated last year’s mistake by oversleeping (Sunday nights at the Hanger rock!)  My plans are to walk to work tomorrow and Thursday; for Wednesday, I’ll forgo the car for both the morning and evening commutes, and on both Friday and Saturday, we will both forgo the car.  Last’s year event pushed me into more morning bus commutes; even though I feel ridiculous riding the bus for all of a mile, it saves me much sweat and allows me enough time to change into work attire before the office opens.

Wednesday night is our main issue; the last run from downtown to our bus stop is at 5:30.   Route 36 runs much later, but it stops about five miles short of our stop (I think I may have mentioned a few times about the lack of sidewalks especially south of I40).  While it is true we could bike it, my fitness level would render me a bit unsafe.  I understand that bus fares do not provide a significant source of revenue, but our household would be more than happy to pay more money for evening rides to help fund expanding service.

Get on the bus!

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Weekly Green Challenge (triple dose)

Posted by eemilla on November 4, 2009

Last week’s challenge was to give your car some loving, and below I’ve given couple of simple and obvious suggestions.  Check out the honor roll for more ideas.

With the time change and checking your smoke detectors’ batteries, you should also think about getting the car a tune up.  In addition to saving gas money, routine maintenance will either help you over the 200,000 mile threshold or help you get a better trade-in credit.  Of course keeping the air filter and oil changed is important, but also be sure to have the tires rotated and their pressure checked.  Proper tire inflation helps with their wear and your gas mileage.

Our household is into our sixty-second week of being a one car household!  With our one year milestone and our return from walking hilly San Francisco, we decided to park the car one day a week.  If you have public transit, use it!  Not only will it reduce your footprint, but you are also providing a good job to someone in your community and decreasing the congestion for someone else.

This week’s challenge to have zero food waste is second nature for me, thanks to my mom’s super frugal habits.  Dinners’ leftovers became either lunch or a late night snack, and I carry on the tradition in our home.  If I don’t eat it, my husband will most likely throw it in a burrito wrapper with cheese to finish it off.  My biggest problem with food waste are those ingredients I buy to make special recipes then fail to incorporate into our weekly meal plans.  This week I have a portion of cream cheese left over from the super awesome peanut butter chocolate cake I made for our wedding anniversary, but other recipes include my favorite golden sesame tofu that leaves me with pineapple juice or the plethora of recipes that call for just egg whites or egg yolks.

Regarding the reclaimed or recycled challenge, I did go for Marcal’s Small Steps because it was half the cost of the Seventh Generation pack, and I don’t mind it (and my honey hasn’t complained yet either).  Thanks for your thoughts!

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Climate Change

Posted by eemilla on October 15, 2009

The facts supporting climate change have been widely reported across numerous media outlets; I wanted to post this to add one more blog to the list in support of making drastic changes to our lifestyles.

Climate change is just one of the many ills our society suffers because of our addiction with fossil fuels.  Looking for purportedly cheap coal, we send fellow citizens to work in coal mines; once the vein dies or becomes too expensive, we raze the mountains and dump the top into the surrounding valleys creating wastelands in lieu of forested habitats.  Those stream beds supply someone’s water somewhere in the chain are then filled with poisons and waste from the mining, and during rainy years like this one the fills can create huge landslides (which if it doesn’t kill you isn’t covered under a homeowner’s policy).

Our love of the automobile has lead us to build massive expanses of blacktop.  The power of the car has allowed us to move further and further from work and commercial centers which leads to more traffic congestion then demand for less congested roadways.  The fuel for these vehicles will not last forever, and even if it did, its exhaust is killing us.  Furthermore is the fuel worth the national security risk; what would the economy do if for whatever crazy reason OPEC decided to stick it to us tomorrow?  Public transportation was squashed by domestic automakers, and many people still argue public transportation will never be self-sustaining (thanks for a good jab, Doug Gibson!).  Funny how the sweetheart lease deals we make with big oil doesn’t impugn them.  However, as our population grows the stress on the current roadways will increase while the demand for housing increases, and no one wants to live near the noise and smell of major roadway.

Our food is tied closely to energy prices because almost everything Americans eat is soaked in oil starting from the time the seeds are delivered from Monsanto to their drive to your home in plastic bags in the back of your car.  If you are eating processed foods then you have even more oil on your hands not to mention the spare tire around your middle.

Even if our elected officials refuse to act, we can each do something small like grow some food, bring your own boxes and bags to the store, do without the car, or insulate your home.  These little things when compounded will help, but a phone call or email to elected officials can’t hurt.

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Forty-Five Weeks!

Posted by eemilla on July 9, 2009

We are at forty-five weeks with the one car household, and we are going strong.  We are now trying to decide how to celebrate the upcoming one year anniversary, and this week’s Change the World Wednesday Challenge from Small Footprints at Reduce Footprints is to park the car for twenty-four hours.  With our household, the car normally doesn’t get parked that long unless we are out of town.  My hope is that we can both use alternate means of transportation at least three times in the upcoming calendar week.  The humidity and no showers at work make this difficult, but if we ever hope to have a better public transportation system we have to use what we have and demand better.

Change The WorldButton

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One Car Household Week 40!

Posted by eemilla on June 5, 2009

Frankly, I am a bit shocked that we have made it this far without seriously thinking about buying another car.  We have not had one conversation about even looking at cars aside from some day dreaming in which we get some fast and nimble little car that I can haul ass up and down back country roads (and in this fantasy I could so without endangering anyone, getting a ticket, or  wasting gas).  From the onset my honey has sacrificed the most by riding the bus and walking more than I have, but this week I have walked and/or rode the bus in five out of eight commutes!  My calves are singing in that good muscle building way, and I like to think I am getting less winded than when I started around Strive not to Drive.  Another benefit is that the stress that builds in my shoulders, arms, and wrists from typing all day seems to disperse by the time I get home; I don’t know if it is the endorphines or increased blood flow, but I certainly appreciate it.  I even walked home in the rain and stayed dry (although I have yet to try Beth’s bubble umbrella idea).

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Strive Not to Drive Progress

Posted by eemilla on May 13, 2009

Monday: I failed.  The rain kept me from walking, and I didn’t get any bus tickets.  Although we are almost a mile from the bus stop so even cutting the trip in half leaves a good bit of walking in the elements.

Tuesday:  I had half success.  While I did not get out of bed early enough to drive to work on time much less walk, I did roll my slacks up and walk home.  The weather was great this afternoon, and I really enjoyed the sunshine.  With the rain reprieve, everyone seemed to be mowing their yards so I sneezed most of the way home.

Wednesday looks good, but the rest of week has rainy evening forecasts.

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