It’s cool to save fuel
By Maggie Blackwell
For the Salisbury Post
With the high cost of fuel, many of us have threatened to walk, bike or take public transportation. Several local folks are doing just that.
One local woman walks 7 miles round trip to work, and picks up her groceries on the way home. A local business owner walks to work and to all his in-town errands, putting only about 8 miles a month on his car. Another fellow bicycles to work and has implemented changes at his office to make it a greener organization. His neighbor bicycles with his children to school. Ridership has increased on the city buses.
Oliver Scott, who serves as assistant to the president for special events at Catawba College, walks to work every day. Scott says she began walking 32 years ago “just because I heard it was healthy.
“I think I’ve walked to California and back several times. I wear out shoes faster than I wear out tires.”
She walks to Ketner Center after work to pick up groceries or other items, and sometimes walks downtown to shop, “although sometimes by the time I get to Queen’s, I’ve forgotten what I came for.”
She and her husband once walked to Thyatira Church, although she chuckles as she acknowledges: “We got a ride home.”
“We used to walk to Granite Quarry, where we got our car repaired. When it’s cooler, we walk to the post office and to Wal-Mart.”
The heat has been pretty oppressive, yet Scott is always portrait-beautiful. How does she keep up her look in the heat? “I try to walk in the shade. It’s pretty comfortable; there’s usually a breeze. I plan my route according to the shadows. I think about my uncle, who was asked to write for Thanksgiving what he was thankful for. He was thankful for the shady places that the trees make in the summertime. I think about that so often when I walk. He was astute enough in November to remember the shade in the summer.
“I enjoy seeing everybody, seeing the trees, seeing people’s gardens, knowing what’s blooming ó I just enjoy it. And so I’ve just kept it up. And now that gas is like it is, it’s very nice that I can walk and pick up what I need. The only time I use my car is basically to see my children in Charlotte. Many days my car doesn’t even leave the driveway. I probably put no more than 10 miles a week on my car. And now there’s a real reason to walk, with the gas prices. And I’m doing my part for pollution.”
Deal Safrit, owner of Literary Bookpost downtown, walks to work every day and to accomplish most all his errands. He does drive to the grocery store on Sundays and puts about 8 miles a month on his car. Safrit is a recognizable figure as he strides to work in the mornings, with his jeans and his gray ponytail.
He, too, enjoys seeing the subtle changes in the environment as he walks. Years ago, before owning the bookstore, he walked to his work as a locksmith with a 22-pound pack of tools on his back.
Safrit has intentionally chosen a simpler lifestyle and is proud of his choices. He saves energy in a number of ways. He is proud to assert that he actually uses a rake and broom and doesn’t own a leaf blower. He pushes a reel mower ó the type with rotating blades and no engine. He and his wife Sheila Brownlow choose not to use air conditioning in their house, and they do not own a TV.
“People think it takes longer to do things manually, but it doesn’t,” Safrit says. “The nice thing about not using a blower is the quiet. I just find the things so annoying.”
Jason Walser, executive director of the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, bikes to work and has implemented changes at the Land Trust to make it a greener organization (see box).
The Land Trust has a Yukon, a large, 4-wheel-drive vehicle that they use when visiting acreage in their work. This year, realizing how often they don’t need such a large vehicle, they sought donations to purchase a vehicle for traveling to meetings. Now, in addition to the Yukon, which gets about 12 miles per gallon, they are the proud owners of a 1993 5-speed Honda hatchback, which gets about 38 miles per gallon.
“It’s all about being good stewards of the money people donate to us,” Walser says.
Regarding bicycling to work, Walser says he does it for many reasons. “I do it for my health, to reduce my carbon footprint, and to save money at the gas pump.
“What tipped the scales was when my son wanted to ride his bike to school. It gives us a great start to the day, a time for him and me to bond. I ride with him to the school, then I bike the rest of the way to work. It’s a wonderful experience.”
Walser’s changes in lifestyle have come about in increments. “There was never an epiphany moment, an ‘Aha!’ It happened bit by bit. Every time I get in the car, I think about it. Lately I have begun to realize my personal responsibility for the first time. When we have only one errand to run, I might wait until I have another errand and drive for both of them at the same time.”
Michele d’Hemecourt, who serves as a land protection specialist at the Land Trust, agrees. “It’s a matter of being more cognizant of the impact of small trips. I’ve always combined my trips, but sometimes I make a more conscious effort to put things off until I can put more trips together.”
She has made other changes as well. “I used to take more weekend trips, to the mountains, or to Winston-Salem to run their trails. The motivation was to run the trails that show how far I’ve gone. I bought a watch that shows how far I’ve run. Now I can stay here and use my watch.”
Walser’s neighbor, Jason Huebner, bicycles his two children, Jacob and Lillian, to school, and has done so for a couple of years.
“My initial reason was not necessarily to save fuel,” he concedes. “This time is my gift to my kids. I get to spend time with them and get their bodies going in the mornings. They aren’t tired when they get to school.
“We usually stop on the covered bridge. We each drop a stick into the creek from one side of the bridge. Then we run to the other side to see whose stick won the race.”
The director of Youth and Family Ministries at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Huebner is encouraged by his synod to conserve, to be a wise steward of the earth. He feels this is one way he can do this. The kids like riding because of the things they see in nature each day. Once they caught a turtle; another day, two deer crossed the path. Last week, after the rain, they saw a heron drinking from a puddle. They enjoyed a rainbow.
“These are things they wouldn’t see from a car. Yep, if you take your time, you see God’s creation all around you,” Huebner says.
Others in town are using their cars less, according to Rodney Harrison, transit manager for the city. Although data is in for only 11 months of the fiscal year, which ended July 31, ridership was already up 6.2 percent for 2007-2008. The prior year had shown an increase of 4.58 percent.
This year’s pilot program, “Help Clean the Air with Free Bus Fare,” was a great success, offering free city bus rides on orange and red ozone days through July. This program was funded through a federal grant and will be repeated two more summers. The efforts supported the city’s goal of being greener by encouraging people to park their cars and produce fewer emissions.
Many folks make excuses that they don’t have the time to walk, ride their bikes, or take the bus. Yet these folks in Salisbury have shown it can be done.
As Oliver Scott said, “It’s become a part of my life. I am determined to keep it up.”
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