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Driven to shame by example
Seattle Times staff columnist
Big thanks to Kent Peterson and his family.
They have convinced me beyond reasonable doubt that I am a wasteful, consuming slug. The Petersons live in Issaquah, a land ruled by cars — but don't own one. According to Sunday's story by Times reporter Sonia Krishnan, Kent bikes to work in Seattle; his wife, Christine, walks 25 minutes to work in Issaquah; and their two sons walk to school.
I own two cars — one of them a station wagon. And I'm not hauling around the Brady Bunch or sides of beef.
Rather, my car is a rolling storage facility, filled with clothes to be donated, shoes to be repaired, bungee cord to strap more stuff in, and a folding field chair on which to place my fat butt on the sidelines.
And there's this: I drive five blocks to my running path.
"And you're willing to confess that?" asked Lawrence Axil Comras, president of GreenHome.com in San Francisco, which offers kits and products for "greening" homes. "You're a brave soul. But I forgive you."
You sure? The other night, we set out for an after-dinner walk, which meant, of course, first getting in the car.
"We're driving?" my son asked.
Who are you, I thought, Laura Ingalls Wilder? Get in the car and buckle up. Along with the gas and insurance it was costing me to go on this carefree stroll, I didn't want a click-it ticket.
But then the guilt set in, first during the new movie "Over the Hedge," which offers the forest-creature view of our unbridled consumerism.
"Wow, it's huge!" the porcupine says.
"How many people fit in there?" the squirrel asks.
"Normally," the raccoon says, "about one."
Al Gore may be on to something: "We are entering a period of consequences."
In other words, if we don't clean up our act, our kids will have to deal with it.
So I tried to remember a time when I walked everywhere. It was when I didn't have a license, which makes walking seem like child's play.
Now we don't make the time to plan a bus ride or take one. We don't think ahead on what we need to buy, or whether we could carry stuff home from the store. We just mutter "next time," and grab the keys.
Meanwhile, people like Comras are "greening" places like the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica. He persuaded them to switch to green-cleaning and recycled paper products and a food-composting system that reduced their waste by half.
I confessed to Kent Peterson that I drive to my running trail. He laughed.
"That is one of the things that my wife points out as one of the silly things that people do," he said. "Her exercise is just built into the day."
So how do I change?
"I'm not a role model, but I guess the biggest advice is that if you're doing something every day that you don't like, figure out how you can avoid that."
I already knew. Walk to run. Walk to the store. Canvas bag. Shop smart.
Thanks, I told him, and if you ever need to borrow my car ...
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.
Give up the P1800? Never.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company