Walking lightly on the earth

Walking home from my after-work chiropractor’s appointment last week I was pondering my small but consistent efforts towards saving the planet and reclaiming our lives at the same time.  I deliberately make my appointments for a time that enables me to get off the train, go to the chiropractor and then walk home as usual, just a bit later.

I am more and more disillusioned by the consumer society.  It seems that the more we have, the more we want and the less time we have.  So, we end up using the car for a trip that would take 15 minutes by foot because we want to ‘save time’.  Time for what? seems the pertinent question here.  Rather than fall victim to this relentless pursuit for more time, I am trying to slow my life down to a pace that can accommodate the use of public transport or walking to get places.  When I have to use the car, I try to plan my outing so that I can get maximum usage from the time that I will be out – and hopefully avoid having to go out again (and restart the car again) later.

Admittedly, this is easier to manage with my kids living with their dad at the moment – I only have to worry about my own timetable most of the time. However, I strongly believe it’s my role as a parent to not only pass on these principles to my kids, but to ‘role model’ them whether the kids are here to see it or not.  On the weekends and school holidays when they are with me, I try to involve them in planning and organising our trips (whether by car or walking) so that we hopefully meet everyone’s needs.

I live between a Westfield mall and a suburban village shopping strip.  It is literally a 10 minute walk into the Westfield and about 15 minutes to the other shopping option (which is my preferred option as I also have issues with mega-malls taking over our lives but perhaps that is for another post).  By walking I save wear & tear on my car, fuel, greenhouse emissions and time spent parking & idling the engine in an enclosed car park waiting to park.  I also do much to save myself from health risks such as obesity, heart disease & diabetes by conducting small but regular bouts of exercise such as walking to the shops.  My kids know now not to even ask if I will drive them to Westfield if they are heading up there to meet friends, go to the movies or shop (although I can be persuaded if it’s pouring rain).

There are times it’s not that convenient to walk of course – I have 3 teenage children and it’s not physically possible to carry home a week’s worth of food & supplies.  I largely get around this with a few strategies:

  • I have milk, bread & eggs delivered.  Yes that involves someone else driving a truck – but working on the principle of trip combining, I figure that as the truck is out and about & the engine warmed up anyway it uses less fuel & energy to deliver my order than it would for me to start the car up, drive 1km up the road, park, restart the car & drive home again.
  • I order large quantities of groceries online and have them delivered to my home – using the same principle.
  • I do ‘top up’ shopping by calling into the supermarket or fruit shop at my local village shopping strip after getting off the train from work

We’ve recently planted a small crop of lettuce, tomato and herbs in pots in the front yard (yay for glorius spring weather!) and established a worm farm and a compost bin.  We’d love to be growing more of our own food but as most of our yard is in shade for most of the day this is difficult. Already we are eating our ‘homemade’ lettuce and loving it.  I’ll try to make room for a second tomato plant in about 6 weeks, to ensure we have a continuous supply through the summer.

I’m concerned about climate change, but on a smaller scale am concerned about sustainability of my way of life, my health and my local environment.  I have to believe that by taking action on these individual, smaller, closer to home concerns, I am actually making a contribution towards solving the wider problem.