the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’ve been biking a lot more this year and I’m pretty happy about it. Daily commutes downtown, to stores and services like the bank and post office. To the coffee shop, to visit friends, to social events and my legs think nothing of those miles these days, which feels good, too. I’ve learned more about the right gear to get around conveniently and feel more confident.

Hmm, Confident? Cocky may be more like it. Ride a lot and you can begin to get a bit too headstrong about traffic – after all, I’m on my bike to rise above this carbon-emmitting mess, right? Well, not really. When you are on a bicycle, you ARE traffic. Although I wouldn’t say I’ve had any  truly close calls, I have caught myself taking chances for no good reason – you know, crossing at a red light because there are no cars in sight, riding through a parking lot to turn a corner, hopping onto the sidewalk and back onto the street when it seemed more convenient. Fortunately, I woke up – before I caused an accident. I now ride with my bike AND my head in the right place.

Of course, there is much that can and should be done on the driving side. Drivers education programs and testing should include important information when it comes to sharing the road – a big part of the safety equation. More and better-designed bicycle lanes, intersections and shoulders will go a long way towards creating harmony in the way we get around.

Still, there is a lot of good news for cyclists in this comprehensive article on Safe Streets, by Alan Durning, where he reminds us that not only is commuting by bicycle safer than you think, but “Not Pedaling Can Kill You”. Whether you ride now, or are considering it, this article is a must-read. Because the truth is, when you look at facts and figures, bicycle commuting is actually safer than any of us think. Statistics show that while bicycling is increasing, crashes are not. Bicycling is also safer that getting around by foot – pedestrians are 3 times more likely to be killed by a motorist per mile than cyclists.

Much of cycling safety seems to depend upon the rider – one survey shows that 80% of bike wrecks involve falling or colliding with something other than a moving vehicle. (Come to think of it, my only significant wreck was with a mailbox.) For more on this, read The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons from the Street, by Robert Hurst.

If you’re still a cycle-skeptic, or a risk-taking rider, read the full article where you can wrap your head around the information above and much, much more. It could get you into a more fit world and body and help you keep both wheels on the ground.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 244 user reviews.

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

A friend sent me a link to a video made by a guy named Matt who is traveling around the world (via a corporate sponsor) and taping himself doing a cute but goofy dance in all kinds of unusual public places. His website/videos are called, Wherethehellismatt.com. I was puzzled at first watching, but It becomes fun and even moving when random groups of people join him. The music is also nice and I admit, something about it got to me – that “oneness” thing, I suppose. Go ahead and take a look.

This is the second time he is traveling to dance and a third ’round the world trip is coming up, courtesy of Stride Gum (don’t ask me to explain that part, I’m as baffled as you are).  His site posts and answers many interesting and Frequently Asked Questions, but did not include the one foremost in my mind – what about the enormous carbon footprint of all those flights? Do you offset? I tried emailing Matt with this question but I can’t get my message out, so I’m hoping he will find me here. Besides convincing Matt to offset his flights, I have a really great idea to share with him.

Matt says that Americans should travel abroad more, though he doesn’t say why, leaving me to assume that, logically, he wants us all to experience other cultures. If so, he’s got a good point and it gave me a good idea towards that end. Here’s my letter to Matt, the guy who gets paid to travel around the world and dance a jig:

Hi Matt,
For some reason I can’t explain, your video gave me happy, teary goose-bumps, so I guess that means dancing for the sake of dancing and inviting the world to dance with you means something special and true. Namaste.

However, there is a big, itchy question nagging at me – what about all those carbon emissions spewed about flying all over the world? Do you offset your flights?

I agree that more Americans need to know and experience other cultures, but many of us are trying to cut back on travel to help the planet and/or can’t afford to do that kind of travel. So, here’s my fabulous idea –

Maybe your sponsor money could send a different person to each country to do your dance, therefore helping more people to be exposed to other cultures and spread the awareness and experience around in a bigger way. You could even have a fun contest asking people why they want to dance with the world.

Your email program doesn’t seem to be working, so I hope you find me here and send us your answer about offsetting and other thoughts and/or post my idea for discussion on your website.

Dancingly Yours, Tao

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 252 user reviews.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I met Lisa Frangipane today, resident/owner at The Flats in Carrboro, and founder of the Todd Street Community Garden. A smaller version of the flourishing spot nearby, which has already seen two bountiful harvests, this happy veggie garden is also lovingly cared for by residents and rain barrels.

Whenever I meet someone who is doing something unusual and interesting, it seems like they are doing even more interesting and unusual things. This holds true for Lisa, a teacher and avid cyclist who also commutes on her beloved two-wheels. I met with Lisa and took these photos just before she left for a Summer in MA, where she will be living off-grid with friends and building a yoga studio.

Lisa was inspired to blog about this adventure. You can catch up with her at Wicked Mad NE

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 255 user reviews.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

We were back in VT this past weekend, making more plans regarding our eventual relocation to Brattleboro. We had to fly again, and yes, I have some eco-conflict over that, but will now stick to visiting one/time per year for an extended period, making the road trip in my Hybrid and not driving when I get there. That’s an Eco-promise.

The local food co-op, located downtown, was once again a source of nourishment during this trip, for both my body and soul. Here’s some highlights:

The first thing we came upon after arriving on Saturday, was The Plastic Monster – a mean-looking, definitely UNgreen man made of plastic bags, standing menacingly at the front door of the Co-op. It spoke a loud and clear message regarding our country’s Death By Plastic. I can imagine  that the patrons who forgot their reusable bags in the car were readily walking back to get them. I’m certain this creative plastic presence will plant more seeds in others. Nice.

A Co-op event on Saturday was Member Appreciation Day, where they served local beef and veggie burgers for a $1 suggested donation – the money collected going to stock local food shelves. Sweet.

On Sunday, we returned for lunch to find a group of enthusiastic and adrenalized women outside the storefront, who had ‘Baked for Obama’ – offering up the homemade treats to passersby, in trade for a donation towards his campaign support. They tirelessly engaged people in conversation, asking and answering questions from all. When Hillary’s name came up, one of the Obama Bakers showed me her Hillary button, now retired under a layer of clothing. Smile.

Strolling past again that afternoon, a creatively designed bicycle parked outside caught my eye. Making a trip for groceries with his small daughter, this industrious dad had left the car at home and pedaled down on this awesome kid-carrying bike/cart. He told me a friend from Oregon makes them. Cool!

In many parking lots throughout town, particularly at schools, there are “No Idling” signs which asked people to tun off their engines when stopped. Ahhhh

On Sunday afternoon, we found a swimming beach secluded along the River, just a short bike ride out of town. Although it was obvious that this is a popular Summer gathering spot, it was clean and free of trash. And the water was warmer than I expected! Double Ahhhhh.

On Sunday evening, we sat overlooking the River with our new VT friends, and enjoyed watching some young Brat Boys below. There, in long shorts and shirtless, they did what young men do…when Summer comes North…and the River runs. Sigh.

Some things just feel right. OM

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 193 user reviews.

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

As it usually happens, if you spend time thinking about something and you’ll soon hear more about it. This hotel business has me thinking a lot about the difference between convenience and luxury. And, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that luxury is not only wasteful, but greatly overrated.

I’m grateful for a way of life which allows me considerable convenience, but too much of a good thing simply makes many of us lazy, bored, neurotic and unhealthy. Electrical appliances and oil-dependent machines take over what was once, all in a day’s work. The consumer products “as seen on tv”, individually wrapped anything – and even things like yoga mat bags – baffle me. I don’t even have to mention the mess “convenient” paper cups and plastic bags has gotten us into.

But, back to hotels. Convenience which crosses a certain boundary becomes a luxury – something we can enjoy, but need to be wary of. Often, as a consumer, I feel ridiculously pampered. Luxury hotels (as well as restaurants and stores) pander to our desires to elevate our fragile egos to royal proportions and we buy into it – literally and figuratively. This is all part of what has made the process of hotel-greening a slow and resistant one, according to an article I found yesterday in Mother Jones magazine.

Despite my excitement over the Kimpton chain’s commitment to social and environmental practices, it turns out that it’s still only a fraction of this industry which actively engage in the process of becoming more sustainable – and, as reported by Kimberly Lisagor, Kimpton is the only chain using non-toxic cleaning supplies. Even more shocking, it turns out that the energy cost of an average single hotel room is $2, 196 per year – equal to the energy use of an average American household for the same period.

Bottom line? It’s up to us (as consumers) to ask for what we want and then be willing to get out of the lap of luxury. The Green Hotel Association recommends that travelers can and should demand green services, helping dispell the myth that standards set by an excess of amenities. Call ahead to request nontoxic cleaning products, BYO toiletries (shampoo/body bars are airline friendly), turn off the AC, heat, lights and other appliances, avoid maid service, use less water and linens.

The biggest difference you can make is to travel less when possible and opt for the “staycation” otherwise. And when you really gotta/wanna hit the road, check the links below for B&Bs, hostels and earth-friendly hotels and enjoy the “luxury” of greener travel.

For lists and reviews of greener accommodations, visit GreenHotels.com, EcoTourism.org and ItsaGreenGreenWorld.com.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 226 user reviews.

Friday, June 6th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

When it comes to vacation or business travel, we all have our own idea of nirvana. Yesterday’s post on Kimpton Hotels (see below) shows that we can love the luxury while supporting sustainably-minded practices – an important choice for frequent business travelers. As vacationers, we can also balance our getaway greediness with the more sustainable, by seeking out destinations which provide greener, saner and more authentic options of accommodations and experience.

For me, travel is most fun when a bit of challenge is thrown in. Those who love to camp have always known this. Tents, sleeping bags and mosquito nets are part of the deal – and part of the fun. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Renting a bicycle, taking the bus, eating bag lunches help keep me grounded in the experience – something that a 5-star resort or ocean cruise goes to great lengths to keep me removed from.

Speaking of experience, hostels are alive and well in both the U.S. and abroad – a logical and fun alternative to hotels altogether. Hostels are more sustainable by default since they make efficient use of space and resources and come in a surprising variety of shapes and sizes, both urban and rural. You’ll find a listing of hostels here and an even greener list on the West Coast, here.

There are more creative ways to be a conscious traveler. Consider the simplicity of becoming a “tourist” in your own area. If traveling far and wide is more your style, take advantage of organized volunteer vacations where you can give as much as you get.

It’s Summertime and the living is easy – but don’t make it too easy. Go but go greener.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 203 user reviews.



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