I’m half-assed settled on a downed oak, focusing and refocusing on the clump of quills just up-canyon from me, where a porcupine is trying to take an aerial day’s rest in a notch of thin, leafless branches. A female cardinal suggests with her sharp cry the ball of prickles may be too close to a nest.
As Friedrich’s trail marchers sweat past in labored bursts of conversation, my sun-swaddled find stretches a lazy arm as I have seen my kitty do a hundred times and casually redirects her wide, velvety nose toward me. She wedges in a little deeper and settles back toward sleep.
This past weekend, I (and many, many others) took advantage of the sunshine to hit the trails at both Eisenhower and Friedrich parks — likely the only two sizable tracks of Hill Country (apart from Camp Bullis’ training yard) that won’t be scraped and paved in honor of SA’s ongoing sprawl ball.
As the Rim grows ever larger and the shops at La Cantera lure companies away from downtown, the city of San Antonio and Bexar County still speak as if they have made progress on the environmental front. But with the new San Antonians headed in droves for the planned communities in the northwest, driving into town for work and play, I’m wondering what we really have to brag about. Where are you, New Urbanism? Community gardens? Light rail?
Obviously, environmental progress is relative and hinges on the timetable one operates by. (I happen to own one of those offtune cackles seeking a carbon- and toxics-neutral city before, say, 2200.)
As part of my meanderings, I make a point to collect human industry’s evidence along the way.
More-trafficked Eisenhower appeared generally cleaner, once you got over the fact that absolutely none of these many, many others enjoying many, many leashed canines were using the free plastic bags at the trailhead to tote out Toto’s crap. (In fact, we checked and the full box of bags hadn’t even been opened.)
See (right), we don’t happen to live in one of those rich loamy territories where harmful critters are picked out and cleaned up on the way to the groundwater. Everything here passes through worm-eaten limestone karst. What goes down, eventually goes in (to the water, that is).
Remember those bleeding development projections? Just happens to be happening over porous limestone like this. More reason to join the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, so much better than that old rule-making (and breaking) Edwards Aquifer Authority.
And, no, I’m not advocating diapers for every excreting creature. I’ll gladly take parts-per-gazillion of porcupiny poo over parts-per-million of Fido plop any ‘ol day — just allow me the pleasure of watching from a distance as a gentle pincushion sleeps.
Here’s the view at the end of a Friedrich stomp:
Remember: Pack it in; Pack it out.
Just plain old live lightly.
Number One green lifechange on WorldWatch’s list is tackling that cursed commute.
Here’s the full list:
- Re-route your commute.
- Walk or bike to work and save money on gas and parking while improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your risk of obesity.
- If you live far from your office, investigate the option of telecommuting. Or move closer—even if this means paying more rent, it could save you money in the long term.
- If your streets are not conducive to biking or walking, lobby your municipal government to increase spending on sidewalks and bike lanes. With little cost, these improvements can pay huge dividends in decreased traffic and pollution.
- Buy used.
- Whether you’ve just moved to a new area or are looking to redecorate, consider a service like craigslist or FreeSharing to track down furniture, appliances, and other items, rather than buying them new. Check out garage sales and thrift stores for clothing and other everyday items.
- Use your creativity in gift giving, including making homemade gifts, donating to a good cause, or even regifting. (And gift green, in general.)
- Your purchasing habits have a real impact, for better or worse. When making new purchases, make sure you know what’s “Good Stuff” and what isn’t.
- Buy local.
- Shop at your local farmers’ market. Though the offerings can be more expensive, you can generally count on a higher quality product—and the entire purchase price goes directly to the farmer. Buying any goods produced locally saves energy by reducing the fossil fuels needed to transport food and other items across the country and around the globe.
- Start a local currency program in your town. This can ensure that money stays in your local economy, valuing local services and supporting local merchants.
- Compost your food scraps.
- Composting helps reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill, which can save you money if you live in a municipality with a “pay as you throw” system. In the process, you create free, healthy fertilizer for your garden (or your neighbor’s—or lobby for a community garden!)
- If you don’t have a yard or space for a compost pile, try indoor ‘vermiculture,’ or worm composting.
- Change the thermostat setting and install energy saving devices.
- Setting your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer can translate to substantial savings on your utility bills.
- Install low-flow showerheads and take shorter showers to save water and the energy used to heat it. Or, consider eventually installing a solar hot water heater on your property.
- Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible and use a drying rack or clothesline.
- When incandescent bulbs burn out, replace them with longer-lasting, low-energy compact fluorescent bulbs.
- With the money you save from making these changes, consider buying wind energy from your local utility or purchasing renewable energy offsets. Renewables offer our best hope for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a host of other pollutants. In some cases, “green energy” options can be cheaper than electricity from conventional sources!
- Skip the bottled water at the grocery or convenience store.
- Make your own cleaning supplies.
- Using simple ingredients such as baking soda, soap, and vinegar, you can make cheap, easy, and non-toxic cleaning products that really work! Save money, time, and your indoor air quality.
- Think twice about new electronics.
- E-waste from discarded cell phones and computers is a growing environmental problem. Mounds of electronic refuse are being shipped abroad illegally for ‘disassembly’ by workers with little protection against the mercury and other toxic substances they contain.
- Keep your electronics as long as possible and dispose of them responsibly when the time comes.
- Buy higher-quality items and don’t give in to ‘psychological obsolescence’ marketing campaigns.
- Recycle your cell phone and support good causes at the same time!
- Ask your local government to set up a responsible recycling and hazardous waste collection event.
- Add one meatless meal per week.
- While strict vegetarianism isn’t for everyone, even the most devout carnivores can cut back on meat consumption without cramping their style—and save money in the process. Industrial meat production requires huge energy inputs and creates noxious waste problems. The proliferation of factory farms is damaging the environment, and the global nature of the industry creates conditions that promote the spread of diseases such as avian flu, potentially costing society billions.
- Use your local library and other public amenities.
- Borrowing from libraries, instead of buying personal books and movies, saves money and printing resources. Consider donating the money saved to your local library.
- Be an active civic participant and ensure that the public spaces and facilities in your town are well maintained. This will promote a healthy, sustainable community.
- Bonus Action Item! Support the Worldwatch Institute and make a long-term investment in the transition to a more sustainable and socially just society.