Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oil-Independence Plan Brainstorming

 The ocean yesterday morning during our 'Elemental' YITP

Summer is the perfect time to unplug from our computers, cell phones, televisions (if you have one!;) ) and reconnect with our community of friends, family and surroundings (for all my Southern Hemisphere readers who are enjoying winter, sorry for the Northern preference!).

Andrew listens to 'Democracy Now' via podcast while he walks to work everyday and was playing it on his computer this morning. I got to listen how there are thousands of inactive and abandoned oil wells that pose a very real threat to the ocean and our precious water source. On top of the gazillions of oil gushing out of the current BP disaster.

In the face of such huge challenges, it could be easy to feel hopeless.

At the same time- who requires the use of this oil? We do. We as a society are oil driven.

So, how do we break the habit? Summer is the perfect time to take the first (or next!) steps towards decreasing our dependence on oil.

My goal for the summer months? Whenever possible, get around the city via feet or bicycle. So far I have been somewhat successful at biking and walking places. I'm far from perfect, but instead of thinking in 'all or nothings' I'm trying small steps. Achieving gradual goals so my oil dependence becomes a manageable Life Change.

First I'll share my specific goals and achievements, then we'll see if we can brainstorm some ways for you to start breaking the oilwell habit.

Lisa's Oil-Independence Plan:
  1. Walk to and from work at least 4x a week. During the winter months I was working a 20 minute drive outside the city every Wednesday. So my 35-40 minute walk to and from work actually only happened about 3x a week. Since June, however, I no longer make that trip outside the city and I've been walking every day of the week! (and our new place is about 15 minute walk instead of 40! yay!). I will admit that walking in snow and rain storms are not very fun, but they've become a sort of adventure... and actually happen less often than you'd think. The weather must like my eco-walks :)
  2. Bicycle to Yoga in the Park each week. You'd be surprised, biking to the park actually took 25 minutes there and about 45 minutes back due to my incredible lack of leg strength and usual whiny-ness. From our new place it only takes about 15 minutes and is so much easier! Status: we've driven to the park for yoga twice only so far. Both times because of rain (although that didn't stop our yoga!).
  3. Bicycle to get groceries or go to yoga classes-events evenings and weekends. The groceries biking hasn't happened yet, even after I was gifted a kick-butt basket. Le sigh. I still hold out hope. Biking to yoga class also hasn't happened other than the Great Canadian Yoga Stretch Event. We *have* however, biked to coffee shops and just around for fun. The biggest obstacle by far has been my paranoia with locking up the bike outside of the building. I need to figure out a way around either letting go the fear of getting my bike stolen so I can actually enjoy my practice or invest in a ridiculously awesome bike lock. Thoughts?

Those are my major goals and results. Not perfect, we still use the car to go to the mall or do large errands, but this week we didn't use the car once until Saturday morning to get to YITP (in the rain).

Here are some other days for different life circumstances:

Non-children peeps who don't live far from work:
  • not walking to work yet? Choose two days a week that you'll start walking to work. You could even plan according to the weather each week to encourage optimal experience. You'll notice an immediate difference in your parking bills and peace of mind.
  • invest in a second hand bicycle if you don't have one already. Biking in the city really doesn't have to be life threateningly scary. Seriously. :) You can find a crap-o bike on Kijiji or craiglist easy!
  • Decide to bike to one even per week. Maybe this means on the weekend when you can choose non-rush hour times to bike. Or an evening yoga class. Plan your route in advance on Google (Sadly, Canada does not have Google-Bike maps... but the USA does. I am so jealous).
  • Already biking on weekends? Add one event during the week that you'll start biking to.
Eco-Yogi(ni)s sans children who do live far from work
  • choose one or two events during the evenings that you can walk or bike to. 
  • Decide that you will bicycle to one thing during the weekend. Commit in advance to this place or event and plan your timing and afternoon accordingly. You'll be less likely to punk out :)
  • Look into public transit or carpooling to work.
  • Accept that at this time you may not have a lot of carpooling-public transit options, but you can try decreasing your dependence on oil in other times and places. :)
Eco-Yogi(ni)s who have ecoyogi(ni)-lets! (ahem, children)
  • Choose an evening during the week where instead of watching TV or playing video games you're all going for a walk as a family. Summer months mean later sunsets and more time to walk. Even if it's for a short walk around the block. Maybe not choosing a goal so that it's not that big of a deal when it takes a bit longer. Less rush equals more fun and more learning.
  • Go for a family bike ride. Even if it means you're walking along side your child's bicycle on the sidewalk. These outings can also be sans-goal, allowing you to take the time your child needs to enjoy and learn from the experience. 
  • Also- talking about walking to an errand instead of driving teaches a valuable lessen to your child about vehicle use. 
  • As adults we may not really 'see' our surroundings when we're walking to a destination, but for children this experience is all about learning and exploring. It's the perfect opportunity to teach new vocabulary and language to your child (verbs- walking, running, stopping, adjectives like colours, size, prepositions, descriptives etc etc). 

**NB: I think the key for increasing walking and biking with families is to choose times where you accept that it will take longer to accomplish the event. Less time-limitations will allow for you to enjoy the experience for what it is: a learning experience for your child.

Also- please recognize the physical limitations of children and how much walking their little bodies can handle. They are not adults and heat can have terrible physiological consequences. I shouldn't have to say this- but hats and sunscreen are essential even on cloudy days and Hot Yoga is not appropriate for a 4 year old. :)
Container ship that looked like a floating island in the fog... very cool.

Any other ideas on taking small no-car steps?

Blessings !

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. The photo of the container ship in the fog turned out AWESOME!

    All of your suggestions are GREAT! Diego and I have a Tuesday evening walk to get groceries date every week. It is nice to walk together but it is also for the 10% student discount he gets! ;) I am also PUMPED for biking to YIP, the farmers market and Chocolate lake for some swimming!

    I though of another suggestions...if you can afford to, choose to buy a house or rent close to your work so you can walk/bike or on an easy bus route. I love walking to work every day and was a big component of our decision to buy the house we did.

    Thanks for all the great tips! We will have to ride together sometime! :)

    PS. I will call you tonight after the GAME!

  2. *does happy little I-have-no-car dance*

    I do have a tv though (but only one) :)

    In Cambridge where everyone has bikes not cars there are so many awesome children carriers for getting your kids about before they are old enough for their own bike. I will send you some pictures if you like.

  3. These are all some excellent suggestions, and I like how you provide various levels of commitment at each stage.

    I ride my bike a couple of times a week, and I'm also trying to reduce my dependence on petroleum products like plastic and cosmetics that contain petroleum. It's almost impossible to completely eliminate, but plastic use can definitely be reduced.

  4. great thoughts...although i'll be a pest and say this is actually gasoline-independence, rather than oil altogether. very important, but the oil we are addicted to as a society is part of our manufacturing and distribution systems. so things like growing your own garden, buying local via farmers markets, and minimizing purchases of products made out of the country, anything made from plastic, etc. :)

  5. I saw a mum in Christchurch the other day, with a home-made trailer she'd made for her bike. It reminded me of No Impact Man's trailer in NYC, and made me think maybe I can make something similar for my bike here in Dunedin.

    Well, not make myself. I'm going to hunt out the workshop at the Polytech, and see if I can sponsor some students to make a trailer for me, if I provide the materials :-)

    I reckon they'd do it for me!

    So yes, it's winter down here, but that doesn't mean we can't plan for summer! And yes I have kids, but that doesn't mean I can't prepare my own bike for becoming more useful :-)

  6. Thanks for the tips and ideas : ) every little bit helps!

  7. @Alli: I know!! I wasn't sure after I took the picture. :)

    I agree- when we were looking for a new place it was essential that we didn't have to drive to work. that being said- not everyone will be able to afford that. It doesn't hurt, though, to keep it as a priority when looking. :)

    @Rachel- You are awesome... haha. you know that :)
    Halifax is definitely a car-dependent city, especially compared to other European cities. Hopefully it's changing!

    @Diana and EcoGrrl: Yep plastic was my next step in the "Independance Plan" lol :) Was a bit vague in the post!
    You're right of course, it's extremely difficult to eliminate plastic... but it is possible to decrease. Fantastic that you're taking those steps!
    Also awesome that you're biking a few times a week! :)

    @Leanne (Daharja): yes a trailor!! I forgot about that. I see them a lot around the city- the little tents being pulled by bicycles. very cool! I look forward to reading about it!

    I've also seen these little bicycle seats that sit directly in FRONT of the parent- instead of behind. I really like that idea as you can have your arms around your child and be more aware of them while biking.

    Hmm- maybe I'll do a post on bicycles and children.... Any suggestions?

    @Jamie: You're very welcome! I hope so :)

  8. The photo of the sea looks great!

    I'm with Rachel on the "I-have-no-car dance". It certainly cuts down on my driving time when there's no car readily available.

    I also think back to when I did have a car and the shameful ways I'd use it to go up the street, when I could have easily walked or taken the bike. It's amazing how we can tell ourselves that we're tired or the weather isn't nice and excuse ourselves for being lazy!

    Australia is also very car dependent, but there's a strong culture of cyclists and lots of wonderful bike paths in Melbourne. We've even just got our first share bikes in the city!

  9. I recommend investing in a granny cart (aka a little cart on wheels that fits 3 - 4 bags in it) so you can carry more groceries on foot.

  10. Hi, I came across your blog today because I'm starting my journey to oil independence. Just thought I would leave you a link to a bike lock that I use which I think is practically indestructible. Someone would literally have to get a cutting torch to get this thing off.



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