Walking the Talk
As indicated in my 2007 resolutions, I am making a serious effort to reduce my fossil fuel usage this year. I have relocated to Aberdeen, Scotland, and this is giving me a chance to implement some changes I have had in mind for quite a while. It’s not like my energy usage was excessive before, but I saw some places that I could reduce. What I am really trying to do is to see how low I can go without making drastic changes (like moving into a cave).
Let me first say, “It ain’t easy being green.” Well, some things are and some aren’t. For instance, take walking instead of driving. I have been doing that for almost all of my trips since arriving here. I did without a car for the first 8 days I was here, and I walked everywhere. One day I walked about 10 miles. When I run out of groceries, I walk half a mile to get some more. Obviously, this limits the amount of groceries I can purchase at one time. So, while I have lowered my fossil fuel usage, it is not nearly as convenient (especially in this weather). Which is of course why we are so dependent on fossil fuels: We love the convenience. We like to drive anywhere, any time we want.
After being here for 8 days, I did rent a car until I can arrange to buy one. I rented a Peugeot 207, which was classified as a mini, the smallest car you could rent. I haven’t had to put gas in it yet, but my guess is that it gets around 50 miles a gallon. It took me only a day or so to get accustomed to the left hand shift and right side steering wheel. Those have also helped me to remember to drive on the left. I have only turned into the right lane once (and drove the wrong way down a one-way street another time). All things considered, I think that’s pretty good.
I wasn’t able to get a house that had public transportation both to my job and to the kids’ new school. So, we compromised on location. I am only about 4 miles from work, and if I leave very early (6:30) I have no traffic coming in to work. The worst thing is that the road is incredibly narrow and winding. There are portions that are so narrow that I cringe when someone passes me. I have asked a couple of people about riding my bike in on that road, and they just laugh and ask if I have a death wish. I do not, so biking is probably out. In fact, I don’t feel particularly safe in my small car on this road, so I drive very slowly. We are on the bus route for the kids’ school, though, so we will be able to keep our trips to a minimum.
Regarding the house, I was looking for energy efficiency. The house we got into has a lot of southern exposure, and it is very well lit. There is a very large skylight upstairs, which really minimizes the need for lighting. There is a programmable thermostat that controls both the hot water and the heating for the house. Right now, since I am alone in the house, I have the hot water coming on just before I get up in the morning, and then back off just as I leave. Ditto the heating for the house, except I also program it to come back on just before I come back home. I should have known that this was the house for me when I walked in and there was a copy of Twilight in the Desert on the coffee table.
We have curb-side recycling for paper, plastics, bottles, and cans, and there is also a recycling center near by. This is much easier than many places in the states, where you often have to go well out of your way to recycle.
Overall, I am pleased at the progress I have made in reducing my fossil fuel input. Due to the high gasoline prices here, there is also a significant cost savings from minimizing fossil fuel usage. I just have to keep the momentum going when the rest of the family arrives. We are going to have to break the habit of leaving lights, PlayStations, and computers on when not in use. But other than some inconvenience, I have managed to greatly lower my fossil fuel consumption without too much trouble.
Incidentally, I do not have Internet at home yet. That is going to be at least another week, so it may take a few days to answer responses or e-mails. The only access I have is from work, and I want to limit that to my lunch period.