It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer. – Wm. of Occam
With the weather in Dallas being so wonderful this past week, I was inspired to take the DART train to work every day. The commute consisted of a 20 minute train ride between Mockingbird Station and Galatyn Park and about a 6 block walk between Galatyn Park and my office. The few car trips made were to take my son to and from school.
Calculating the 180 miles of combined train and walking with the 25 miles driven, I achieved an estimated 150 mpg with mixed-mode commuting. What an eye opener! It gives me cause to consider whether I even need a car at all. My son turns 16 in April and will have his own car then. Since I travel for business, I’m home about 10 weeks a year (plus most weekends). So, with a combination of DART, walking, and bicycling I may be able to ditch the car forever. How does ∞ (infinite) mpg sound?
- Using mixed-mode commuting is more environmentally friendly
- Walking and bicycling improve fitness without having to “make time” for exercise
- I can remove the phrases “rush hour” and “traffic jam” from my vocabulary
- I’ll save about $600 per month (car, insurance, fuel, maintenance, etc.)
- Economy won’t truly recover as long as we have trade deficit (oil and cars are large contributors)
Granted, having never been without a car for about 30 years it is a mental leap to consider the alternative. Car-free commuting will definitely take some planning and won’t be without it’s drawbacks. But considering the benefits, I think it’s worth a try. After all, if I get in a bind, my son can drive me around for a change
Have a great week!
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb
As many of you are aware, I moved recently to another loft at Mockingbird Station – arguably the first Smart Growth development of its kind in North America. Among the many reasons I chose to stay here is the walk score of 89 (walkscore.com) which is fairly rare in Dallas. I am able to walk to shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and easy access to DART - which for better or worse, is what we have for public transit in Dallas.
After moving, I was inspired to make changes to my place to make it more eco-friendly. With a few quick searches of Amazon.com, I found everything I needed: dual-flush toilet kits and low-flow shower heads for water savings, compact fluorescent light bulbs and a programmable thermostat for energy savings. Of course this is all added to the water filter already installed in the kitchen (preferred over contributing to the bazillions of plastic bottles which guck up the environment).
All-in-all it cost around $100 and an hour of labor (including programming the thermostat) to make all of the modifications myself. Honestly, I don’t know how much I will be saving in water or in energy. In the end, no real change to lifestyle and I feel good that I’m being eco-friendly. So, what small things can you do to get that good eco-friendly feeling too?
By the way, if you have or plan to get a programmable thermostat, you should consider the Energy Star recommended settings.
Have a great week!
Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. – Napoleon Hill
For the past two months, the world has been experiencing one of the greatest tragedies of our time. The British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which continues as of this writing, will have long reaching environmental and economic affects. In this brief period, we have seen calls for government involvement and investigations, the placing of blame on BP and its contractors in the region, moratoriums on new deep sea wells, and outrage from the masses. We’ve even seen party loyalists use this tragedy to bash one side or the other rather than seeking solutions. It is easy to blame BP and it is reasonable to seek government intervention. It is equally easy to empathize with the people and animals who are directly affected and express our outrage.
When we step back from the day-to-day and look at the bigger picture, we know that the deep sea gusher will be stopped, we also know that the environment and local economies will, in time, recover. The rarely mentioned elephant in the room however is our gluttonous demand for oil. Not a single one of us in good conscience can absolve ourselves completely of blame for this tragedy. We continue our habit like an addict who finds it more convenient to ignore the problem than to deal with it. The question I ask is, if you’re so outraged by the tragedy in the gulf, what are you doing about it?
Talking with my son about the gulf oil spill, the quote came to mind, “You’re either part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem.” (E. Cleaver) Whether you do it for economic, environmental, or national security reasons, we all need to become warriors for the cause of reducing dependence on fossil fuels. We might not be able head off the next oil spill or get our favorite party elected to power, but we can evolve the human condition to a higher level.
There are a myriad of options: shifting to a vegan diet, planning our cities around smart growth, using public or alternate transportation, or living more densely with less living area per person. All of these require a fundamental paradigm shift, which for many is too difficult. So, for this writing, I limit my proposition to those who own and drive cars. If you drive, you have a unique opportunity to improve the situation without any impact to your lifestyle. I’m asking that you consider not that you drive, but simply what you drive. You can reduce your demand on gasoline by 25% to 50% by simply choosing a hybrid vehicle. Now, imagine if this became the fashion and everyone did it.
I’ve often asked people why they don’t choose hybrids with responses ranging from price to status to size. Many people don’t realize how many options are available now. A quick check of www.Edmunds.com yesterday shows 46 hybrid vehicles (25 cars, 18 SUVs, and 3 trucks) with options across the style and economic spectrum. If you want to buy American, Ford has options; if you want luxury Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus have options; if you want an SUV or a big truck there are several options as well. It is amazing to me that with so many options for fuel efficient cars that, as a country, we still average less than 20 MPG overall. We can debate for years the merits of hybrid vehicles, but you can’t argue the fact that even a 10% reduction in fuel demand nationally would have huge benefits both environmentally and economically.
So, join me in turning the gulf oil spill tragedy into a seed of benefit. Make your personal commitment to do something about it. The easiest thing you can do is to get a hybrid. Write down your commitment. Add to it the feeling you have about the gulf oil spill and how you will feel knowing that you’re a part of the solution. Post it on your refrigerator, share it with family and friends, blog about it. Who knows, maybe one simple act can catch on and exchange a gulf of despair for a sea of benefit.
I leave you with one final thought from H.G. Wells, “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”
Have a great week.
A simple, yet powerful analogy offered by Ernest Holmes, author of The Art of Life and several other books, describes the mind as a garden. The idea of it is that everything in our lives, all of our experiences are caused by what gets planted in the garden of our mind. To carry the analogy further, there are plants and weeds. The plants are those things which are constructive – fruitful, flowering, beautiful. The weeds are the things that can inhibit what we want and in extreme cases can overtake our garden.
To clarify a bit, plants would be what we want to manifest in our lives, our being. Things like: I am a good father, I am a successful consultant, I am abundantly healthy, I am a light to my friends, etc. The weeds are the things on our mind which we don’t want like: I’m not good at math or I’m afraid to speak in public. The point is, things get planted in our garden by our thoughts – either consciously or unconsciously – and whatever gets planted will grow, and manifest in our lives.
The beauty of this is we can, by conscious choice, plant our garden and remove the weeds. We do this by choosing who we want to be, by visualizing what it would be like and connecting with that vision emotionally. We can also consciously protect our garden by denying and dismissing thoughts which are not constructive.
A caution, whatever gets planted in the garden will grow. It is non-judgmental, it just works. So, if we believe we are sad, for example, then sadness will manifest in our lives. On the other hand, we can “flip a thought” and choose to be happy. When we visualize being happy and feel inside what it would be like – the seed is planted, and happiness will manifest. Not by hard work, not by concentration, but because the garden works.
Some call this call this the power of the Holy Spirit – our personal connection to the omnipresence of God. Some call this life. Whatever we call it, it is a force of nature, a force of good beyond religion, beyond race, beyond anything which divides us, and we can use this power to improve the human condition.
Live consciously. Be a gardener.
Yoda from Star Wars is famously quoted as saying, “Do or do not… there is no try.” For everyone who tries and rarely accomplishes, this is valuable advice. What it gets at is a mindset. Trying leaves room open for not accomplishing. So, it is better to just do it. But, I suggest that doing in itself is incomplete. It is a sort of a half-measure. There are several people who fill their time with deciding what to do and doing who aren’t living the life they want. What needs to happen is another paradigm shift from doing to being.
When we choose who we are, when we can visualize it and connect with this vision emotionally, what we do is a natural outcome of our being. Let me expand on this a bit. I’ve always been interested in the environment. Because of this interest I’ve done recycling, driven high-efficiency cars, and designed environmentally friendly homes. I have done many things which are environmentally aware. If you ask me however who I am, I might tell you consultant, speaker, innovator, engineer, father, etc. Nowhere in this description am I “environmental leader” or “harmony with the environment”. Because of this, I do not connect with the outcome. As such, I am still free to do things which have no connection to being environmentally friendly.
When I choose who I am, then it really isn’t about deciding. For example, if I choose to be an honest person, lying would be inconsistent with who I am. If I choose to be peaceful, then hurting someone would be inconsistent. So, when we choose who we are (not decide, see post on Choices and Decisions), what we do will naturally be consistent with this.
Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. Notice, he didn’t say try to be the change or do this to change…
Have a great week!
Recently, I was listening to an interview with Michael Moore about his new movie. There was something about it that didn’t sit well. He was making his case against capitalism – which has become a bad word for many in the midst of a deep economic recession. There are so many stories about CEOs being paid too much, about taxpayers having to bail-out the large corporations, about a continuingly increasing gap between the middle class and the wealthy. I think what bothered me is that while being against capitalism, he never really characterized what it is that he is for.
I learnt long ago that being for something is ALWAYS a more powerful position than being against something. This is exemplified in the groups that are for “clean air” instead of “anti-pollution” or for recycling instead of against waste, etc.
When you bring negative energy to something, it is like a complaint. You may have people who feel the same way as you, but it is unlikely that there will be many followers. When you are for something, you bring a positive energy to it. It is a more powerful position. Recently, I changed my diet to raw vegan. Honestly, I believe everyone should be vegan – whether you choose to be raw vegan or not. I could be like PETA and come out against killing animals, or like the environmentalists that come out against global warming; rather I choose to be for abundant health and living in harmony with our planet. Now, isn’t that something you could get behind whether you agreed with being raw vegan or not?
Years ago, in a previous life, I took one of those “take control of your life” types of courses. Not that I would recommend this course to anyone, but there were a couple of things that I took away and which have stuck over fifteen years. One that keeps coming back is a simple but powerful distinction between choices and decisions. If you think about it, the human condition is that we are in a continual state of choices and decisions. What will I wear? Who will I date? Where will we go for dinner? It’s almost a constant barrage of things. The reason this stuck with me is quite simple: choices come from our subconscious – who we are, and decisions come from our thinking about things.
A Quick Story
About ten years ago, a friend of mine was moving to Seattle. When I was helping her find a place to live, we must have looked at over ten places in one weekend. Being engineers, our instinct was to create a decision matrix, give priorities to different features and come up with an ordered list of which place would best meet our criteria. You may have guessed, in the end she chose the place that she liked – decision matrix be damned.
So, a choice is what we like and it doesn’t have a rationale. A decision is filled with evaluation and criteria and when someone asks “why a over b” then we are armed with our explanation of how we arrived at that decision. The point is, we have a tendency to evaluate too much and to explain too much. My mother, who I love dearly, will have an explanation for everything.
The problem with decisions is that often we will rationalize ourselves out of doing the things that we want. For me, it used to go something like this… “I want a fulfilling career”, “I can’t right now, because I have to make money to pay bills.” Sound familiar?
Of course, I’m not saying that we never compromise but you will find that a whole world of possibilities can open to you if you learn to live more by choices than decisions. So, choose to live consciously or not, but don’t decide that it is too hard for you.
I recently became Raw Vegan on my doctor’s advice to get my energy levels back after recovering from a liver infection… Prior to this I would call myself a vegan “when convenient” (when you travel a lot, it isn’t always possible to find purely vegan fare).
Most of you who know me, know that I am passionate about the environment and how we can live more harmoniously with our planet. When fuel prices were rising there was a lot of discussion about getting the big gas guzzlers off the road, and incentives built into gas prices greater than $4 per gallon. What isn’t discussed is that the because of the greenhouse gasses created by livestock due to the practices of industrial meat producers, eating vegetarian has a greater benefit to the environment than switching from an SUV to a hybrid.
There is also the fact that you could feed eight people for the same energy used to create one serving of meat. So, when you couple the benefit to the global food supply with the environmental benefits it is a compelling case to reduce or eliminate meat in the diet.
There are additional benefits to eliminating all animal protein from the diet. This means no more milk, cheese, butter, eggs, etc. I became vegan after reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. In the study that spanned nearly 30 years, they found a strong correlation between animal protein (of any kind) and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
In addition to environmental issues and limited food supplies, individual health is one of the greatest issues facing us today. Eating a plant-based diet can have huge benefits in terms of individual health.
Finally, Raw Vegan
Raw Vegan was a bit of a stretch since I like the cheese-less veggie pizzas, pastas, etc. Having made the decision to go ahead with raw vegan, I decided to treat it like an adventure instead of a “constraint”. For example, I now carry a cutting board, peeler and pairing knife (checked in, not carry on) while I travel so I can load up at the Whole Foods Market wherever I am. There’s always the search for the best salad, and I’ve found a few restaurants which offer Raw Vegan on their menus… This led me to a wonderful book called Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis… amazing! There are so many really tasty recipes you can make with Raw Vegan! Check out the pictures in this Blog entry http://discoveringraw.com/2009/09/07/one-lucky-girl/
In my research i’ve seen discussions about not cooking allowing us to consume live enzymes, etc. Maybe there’s something to that, but I think the main benefit is that your cutting out all the processed starches and sugars… sorry, that Starbuck’s blueberry muffin doesn’t make the cut…
Beyond this, my father was worried about my getting enough protein. So, I’ve been careful to get enough green veggies, seeds and nuts to balance out the fruits.
- I’m about 90% raw vegan (if i eat at someones home, they don’t have to worry)
- I’m never hungry,
- I haven’t eaten anything I don’t like,
- I feel better than I have in years,
- I’m not judgmental of anyone who chooses to eat differently, and
- I lost ** 15 POUNDS ** in the first 3-weeks of being raw vegan and have maintained my weight!
Next steps will be to get a VitaMix once travel season slows a bit… Seems an essential for most recipes.
Hope this is interesting and helpful.