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Nicole Brodeur has been a Metro columnist at The Seattle Times since 1999. A New Jersey native, Brodeur has written for newspapers in California and North Carolina, and spent the best years of her life waitressing. She lives in Seattle with her 14-year-old son, needs to walk more, take the bus, stop microwaving tea water and consider turning her second car into a composting container.

May 23, 2007

By the numbers

Posted by Nicole Brodeur at 05:50 PM

As if I need any more convincing that my car is doing me harm than good, there's this:

It costs me $191.05 every month to commute to work alone. That's $2,292.60 a year.

BUT, if I found one person to put in my car, that annual cost would be half -- $11,46.30.

I don't know what else I need to convince them that all this independence is slowly eating away at our bank accounts and environment.
But I get the picture.
And so I got onto and got me a commuting buddy.
Her name is Stephanie and she lives two blocks away from me. Works two blocks away, too.
I picked her up last Friday morning like we were old friends. I had driven past her house countless of times. Now I know who lives in my neighborhood. People just like me.
We drove along, talking about what Seattleites do: Housing prices.
I dropped her off at her office and in moments, was at mine, feeling like that much less of a slacker.
At 5 p.m. sharp, I met her at the same corner where I dropped her off.
"Hi, honey, how was your day?" I joked. She got in my car like it was half hers. Which it is. Sorta. On Fridays, anyway.
This could be the start of an air-clearing friendship.
Now, was that so hard?

May 16, 2007

Road rage.

Posted by Nicole Brodeur at 11:15 PM

When I was pregnant, all I saw were other pregnant women. They were everywhere. This was comforting; made me feel like I was part of something big, of planting new seeds in the garden of humanity, and hoping for a happy, healthy bloom.

It's the same thing as I try to cut back on my carbon footprint -- but darker. Instead of seeing other guilt-bloated, going-greeners like me, I see nothing but offenders. And it's starting to scare me.

This morning I was in a parking garage behind one of those humingous Ford F-150s, the kind that make that meatgrinder sound when you're both stopped at the light. My eye instantly focused on the driver's side: There was a woman driving. But did she have a passenger? Nope.

Instead of passing her, blocking her in, pulling her down out of the cab and giving her a good talking to ( and facing assault charges) I found myself making excuses for her. Maybe she had just dropped off her horse at the stables in Woodinville. Maybe she had to pick up 4 tons of cinderblocks after this. Or maybe she was just one of those people who loves a truck and pays for the gas and doesn't think so far into the future.

Ah, but she does. We all have to. It's like starting any new routine. Sometimes you have to rethink what you love, and make huge sacrifices, in order to make your entire life more meaningful.

Kind of like having kids, right?

May 10, 2007

Get Smart

Posted by Nicole Brodeur at 10:55 PM

"So," my friend asked. "You still driving that carbon-spewing machine?"

You mean the station wagon that drives like a sports car? Yes, sir, I am. But I'm not exactly loving it, now that I'm challenging my carbon output.

There's a way out of all this self-loathing, though, for me and anyone with $99.

At www.smartusa, you can reserve your very own, very dandy new 2008 Smart fortwo for $99 _ refundable at any time.

The cars start at under $12,000 for the smart fortwo pure, and for under $17,000 for the smart fortwo passion cabrio, a topless number with side roof bars that can be removed and stowed in a special compartment in the tailgate. Cool.

The pack quite a punch: Standard safety features "usually reserved for luxury vehicles," according to the site, along with something called the "protective 'tridion safety cell'." There's also an anti-lock braking system and four airbags.

I rode shotgun in one of these cars while in Paris last fall. The streets are full of them, buzzing along like little bees, and parked on the streets like dominoes.

You get inside and look around and wonder why you're driving your big honking car after all ... that American cars are like the pretty living rooms we never sit in.

And they're so small that I didn't realize that the 80-year-old man beside me had his hand on my knee for reasons other than fuel economy.

That put a whole different spin on "going green."

May 04, 2007

Radio daze

Posted by Nicole Brodeur at 07:45 PM

Looks like we have a little competition going. I was on KMTT's Mountain Morning Show with my friend Marty Riemer on Wednesday. He's been following the challenge and wants in. So we're having a "Carbon Off," if you will.

Marty's carbon output is already FAR below mine ... he drives a Prius, for crying out loud. BUT he also has a baby girl, so his diaper output has got to be killing something, somewhere. And he's a gadget nut ... I think I said on the show that he was "more wired than Robin Williams before rehab." (I'll try to get link of the segment on here for you to listen).

I'll be checking in with him over the course of the month to see how both of us are doing. What do the wise recovery people always say? The first step is admitting you have a problem ...

To do this weekend: Put everything in the house on power strips. So instead of turning things off with the remote and continuing to drain power, you click off the power strip and stop the flow.

Every little bit.

April 14, 2007

That little voice in my head? That's Al Gore

Posted by Nicole Brodeur at 11:37 AM

Hi, my name is Nicole and I am destroying the planet.

I have two cars, often drive alone, haphazardly sort my trash, receive too many of my statements on paper and, worse, know full well I am not doing enough. How can any of us NOT know? Every day, we're reminded of what's at stake: That layer of something hanging around Mount Rainier. The hot stench of traffic. The snow that never lasts very long.

That little voice in my head? That's Al Gore.

We buy containers for our recycling, for our compost, but that's also part of the problem: We still buy, buy, buy. We consume. We waste. We don't pause to think of the ripple effect our actions have not only on the near future, but the lives of the others we're trying to build.

I don't want to be one of those people any more. I want to be an every-little-bit-counts person. Day by day, week by week, I am going to try to change the way I use this planet, in the hope of adding more days to those who come after me.

What is the rule for those who climb the mountains we so love? Leave no trace. I'd like to live every day that way. And if I leave anything, it's green.


June 2007

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