Sustainability Month 2021: My Electric Bike and Public Transit

The final article for what has been my first ever Sustainability Series. To close this month, I thought it’d be fun to talk about a questionable purchase I made and my experience taking public transit as well as what I think the future of transportation should look like.

My Electric Bike and I

In 2019, I went on a bit of a spending spree. I decided to make lots of long term investments for future Mike. The tablet computer I invested in for settling down in coffee shops and writing as an aspiring Creative did not quite pan out how I expected (curse you Pandemic). And my electric bike that I would ride miles to work every day on? Has been sitting in my garage for the last year or so with one very brief ride. But it’s assembled and ready to go. In the future, I will talk about it more but for now I have nothing to say. It’s foldable, has a basket, and my God, it weighs 60 pounds. My next E-bike will be lighter and smaller; and when you think about it, folding is not as cool as it sounds. It was an experiment and I might even try the one wheel electric skateboards or an electric longboard in the future. Is E-biking better than driving? Hard to say so instead I will talk about…

Biking

Transportation for me has always followed major life transitions. I have ridden bikes throughout my life but it wasn’t until I reached college that it became something I did on a regular basis. And I should clarify, it was once I moved out of the dorms and didn’t have easy access to the campus. My Sophomore and Junior years I rode almost everyday, from home to class to the grocery store. A good three years were spent on the bike and it was great. I had flat tires that I learned to fix, a handlebar that came off during a ride and learned all about front and back lights as well as fenders for rain. I was riding with a purpose. As college became more and more crazy, I opted for walking and chose to ride my bike more selectively. It’s hard to say if I had more peace of mind walking 20 minutes to class but it was nice to slow it down.

Europe

Throughout college, I hardly ever rode our free public transit. Everything was fairly close and most of the time walking was quicker than waiting for a bus. That changed when I did study abroad. I rode the train, took the bus, and got quite used to every mode of transit that wasn’t driving. Living in a small German village was absolute paradise. The cities are designed for bikes, trains, and buses whereas the U.S. is mostly made for cars (hence why an electric bike makes sense). While the U.S. is getting better, Corvallis and Portland were American exceptions to our public transit. And these two cities pale in comparison to even the most rural German village.

Walking

Truth be told, I love walking. As far as feasibility, it becomes dependent on city. I can only walk so far and while it offers a lot of control, it’s limited by time. It is rare to live in a city that has it all. Many cities in the U.S. have strict commercial and residential codes making overlap between the two uncommon. In suburbs, there are strips of convenience among the sea of houses. If you have a car, no big deal. But anything else? It’s much harder. Where space could be used for whatever the mind can imagine, instead space is paved over for parking lots. Cities are great for walking but chaotic; lots of stopping for cars and traffic that honestly has no business being there.

Practicality vs. Sustainability

Cars are convenient and in the U.S. they are big. Why you might ask? Because our roads and bridges are crumbling, so if it’s not built like a tank, you’re in for a bumpy ride. The amount of space cars take up is staggering. In Portland, I’ve seen some retcons where two lane roads become one as bike lanes are added. As far as emissions, it’s hard to say if cars are our most pressing concern. I like the idea of going all electric and I may be in the minority, but I think electric trucks sound awesome. I also think if we want to cool the planet, we really need to innovate our roads. The pavement retains heat and makes the hot even hotter. Carpooling also might have taken a hit during the Pandemic as Lyft and Uber prices skyrocket with their rates, which is unfortunate, as the model turned a car (arguably a huge economic waste) into a sustainable option for individuals. Cars no longer spent the majority of their time in garages, sitting for the next big trip, but rather could be used to meet demand. I imagine after the Pandemic less will opt for Lyft rides and Ubers but I hope I’m wrong.

Personal Habits

Honestly, I prefer a mixed approach. Cars I view as an economic waste, even were I to buy electric. A car would be a luxury and with an E-bike I can accomplish my city needs easily at 20mph. Longer trips would suffer but a better network of carpooling would fix that right up. In cities with large populations, the cities should limit driving. Pedestrian only city blocks are becoming more popular and it’d be nice to see that arrive in Portland. If remote work sticks, it might save the commuting world. All speculation at the moment of course but it’ll be interesting to see people redefine how they travel. If you do drive, imagine a world with less traffic and more bikes. And if cities were designed so people are closer to their work as well as grocery stores? Then you have a utopia in terms of basic transit.


And that’s it for Sustainability Month 2021! With this, my blog is fully realized. I am talking about everything I want to talk about in a way I want to talk about it. The support for this month has been amazing and I’m excited for next year! Next month, I’ll be testing out a month vacation from the blog and will rejoin the world come September. Until then, enjoy summer and remember that being sustainable doesn’t mean having to compromise!

Sustainability Month 2021: My consideration of going vegan

This is not a confession but rather a musing. Full disclaimer: I am not a health expert. Over the last year, I’ve been focusing on healthier habits in my life and thus warrants exploration of going vegan. Another disclaimer: I eat meat. I enjoy a good steak every now and then and chicken? Well, I actually eat that quite often nowadays. Take the time now to gasp if you feel the need.

David Attenborough

David Attenborough raised a good point in ‘A Life On Our Planet’ His argument was simple, that being a carnivore in nature is tough. So how is it that we, coming from hunters and gatherers, have become the largest consumer of meat on the planet? That point raised one eyebrow in mild interest, as he continued to describe how the apocalypse and end of the world would unfold (great documentary if you haven’t watched already).

People

Before the Pandemic, I talked to people quite often. Some of those people were vegan and thus brought enlightenment of what could be. I think I am now more curious to try tofu than I have ever been before. My brother eats it and I have had it in miso soup, so I’m wondering if it could remove some of the urgency to eat meat. I would have to run the numbers but the little research I’ve done has shown being vegan to be healthier than strictly meat diets as red meats can be linked to some cancers.

The Cows

In my old age, I’ve grown bitter towards the cows. Where once I would run around merrily thinking milk had given me super powers, I now only see evil. Cows produce methane and they are killing us. Your McDouble may taste good, but at what cost? At least chickens are still our friends, right? The future will hopefully shift towards smaller animals with less of a carbon footprint and I will put my faith in chicken. Goodbye steak. In college, I took quite a few sustainability courses from Sustainability 101 to Environmental Economics. In Sustainability 101, we went into great detail concerning factory farms and the current demand for food. That stuck and while it has been many years later, I do truly think we need to eliminate cattle factory farms. Smaller farms might work but honestly I think it is better to shift the societal mindset of a mostly vegan diet with the occasional meat.

Community Gardens

In High School, I was a part of Students for Environmental Action (S.E.A.). I would collect cans around the school to help fund the club and we would meet every week to discuss environmental topics. A decade later and most of those issues haven’t changed, they’ve only grown more concerning. As part of S.E.A, we created a community garden out our High School. We grew carrots, beets, tomatoes, and many other veggies as well as fruit. I would bring food home and the rest would get donated to our local feedback. That was a more wholesome point in my life and I love the idea of gardening. Going vegan could be the chance to really get joy from what I eat, rather than simple consuming. There is more satisfaction in cooking something you grew.

What would it Look like?

For me, it would be a casual affair. My main driving factor in my decisions is my health. I want to have energy and not feel like, pardon my French, shit. All our food nowadays is designed to kill us. You drink a bottle of Coke, it tastes great. You get Diabetes from drinking too much Coke? Not so great. A bag of chips is filled to the brim with salt and eating meat everyday is not all that healthy. If you eat fish more than you eat meat, then we are talking. As I do more research into the subject the more excited I get, which typically does not happen with food. So for me, it is about a sustainable balance. I will actively try to eat less burgers and steak as I do not want to support industries that have grown in excess. If I do eat meat or cook, I will try more chicken dishes. The economics make sense and who knows, when Sustainability month roles around next year, I might just have something to talk about for my journey.


And that’s it for this article! With Sustainability Month, I’ve finally achieved a level of satisfaction with the blog that has pushed it beyond simply writing poetry, short stories, and the occasional article. In truth, I looked up the term and the diet I’m looking at is more a pesce-pollotarian diet than vegan. Fish, chicken, and veggies. Thanks for reading!