I am trying to keep my pace very slow so that I don’t over-green my life too quickly. I am not only new to many of the sustainable choices I am practicing, but I am also new to apartment living. For three years I lived in the claustrophobic spaces of a dorm room as a Resident Assistant. Now I am still an RA, but I’m living in an entirely new community where I get a space to myself that is larger than the community bathroom in my old building. Some eco-choices I made were simple. I chose not to buy paper napkins and instead opted to use fabric napkins. I keep my microwave unplugged and only use lights when I absolutely need them. I take 5-minute showers (most of the time). Though I am not paying rent (thank you, University of Georgia Housing) I still chose to be very conscious of how much energy and water I am using.
My first challenge came when I realized how much I am driving. I drive to visit friends. I drive to go downtown. I drive to get groceries or eat out. I drive, drive, drive all day. And as previously mentioned, my car is not exactly the most eco-friendly model on the market. I would take the bus to the places I need to go, but it’s so inconvenient and crowded and, to be honest, I just hate interacting with other people when I’m running errands. So, my alternative is to make one big trip once a week (if necessary) to do as many things as possible and then walk or ride my barely-safe bicycle anywhere else I need to go.
I tested my new eco-choice today. I walked to the local hippie-dippie natural food store, Earth Fare. I had a pleasant but sweaty walk there, listening to some nice bluegrass on my iPod shuffle and drinking an entire Nalgene of freshly poured tap water. By the time I arrived at Earth Fare I was bright red in the face and wheezing a little due to my asthma. It was really cute, I’m sure. I took a short trip to the bathroom to splash cold water in my face, stopped by the produce section to find some veggies that were not imported from Chile, and then ended up in the frozen food section. Realizing that I had a 30 minute walk in the Georgia summer heat, I skipped over the ice cream and went straight to the bulk foods section to pour some delicious trail mixes into plastic baggies (that, if I remember, I can reuse next week). Feeling proud of myself for not over-purchasing, I went to the register to pay for my groceries, had a short conversation with the cashier about avocados, and walked out of Earth Fare with my reusable shopping bag filled with goodies.
On the way home I chose not to listen to my iPod, but instead listen to the sounds around me and take in my surroundings. There were the familiar sounds of cars passing, birds chirping and my feet lightly pounding the pavement. Not much struck me as odd (other than that frat boy blasting upbeat hip-hop music from his Jetta), until I started creeping through the windows of on-coming traffic. Almost every car had just one person in it, even the large mini vans and lifted pick-up trucks (which I will complain about in more detail another time). It boggled my mind that people were not carpooling. Yes, carpooling. The ancient concept of driving places in groups to avoid paying ridiculously high gas prices all the time. As I stared at all of the cars looking more bewildered by the second, I noticed the drivers staring back. Maybe they thought it was odd that I was walking. Yes, walking. The even more ancient concept of transportation.
My walk home was then dedicated to planning other ways to avoid using my car. Seeing so many people driving alone made me sad that a) they have no friends and b) that carpooling is such an out-dated trend. I don’t want to be another contributor to traffic or environmental destruction, but I still want to be social, well fed and clothed. I thought to myself, “Now that I have a system in place to reduce my impact, how can I reduce it even more?” Hopefully, the answer will come with time but until then I’ll be contemplatively staring down drivers during my walk back from Earth Fare each week.