walking

My Sister, Car-less Linda

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

My sister Linda was feeling left out recently because she never makes it into my blogs. And really, she is quite deserving. After all, she gave up her car more than two years ago. As in no car. As in buses and bikes and walking and car-sharing. Oh, and her husband’s car for late night trips to the hardware store.

Only 5 percent of adult Americans live without a car. I venture to say most of them live in New York City, where only half the people own cars. Which makes Linda, who lives in the almost urban suburb of Brookline, an anomaly.

According to government statistics, we in the US are the densest car-owning population in the world, except the tiny country of Monaco. And the countries right behind us are Luxembourg and Lichtenstein.

Linda came by this way of life when she traded her old wagon to a contractor in exchange for construction work. He really, really wanted her vegetable oil car. And she was sick of worrying she would destroy the thing by pumping regular gas instead of diesel.

So Linda admits she uses a car sharing service about three times a week at $7.50 to $9 an hour. And that this may amount to as much as owning a car. (I kind of doubt it.) But she is still committed to the beauty of this carless life.

“I don’t want to figure it out because it might be more expensive this way but it makes me happier,” she said.

Like the other night, she considered walking the two minutes to Cypress Street to get a car to go to Jamaica Plain for takeout Cambodian food. Then she nearly changed her dinner plans to avoid the drive. But in the end she jogged around Jamaica Pond for her dinner and came back smiling.

“I was in the best mood. It was snowing and it was beautiful,” she reported. “But if I had a car I certainly would have gotten in it and that would have been that.”

Furthermore, said this mother of a ninth- and fourth-grader, “The kids even talk more if we’re walking.”

And to justify the economics, Linda has a foolproof fallback thought.

“The other day when I was speed walking I thought, you know, I really don’t have to go to a gym, so I am saving money there. I am getting so much more exercise.”

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Walking Today for a Healthier Tomorrow

By Lina Younes

As I mentioned in an earlier blog this year, I had decided that 2012 was the year that I was going to incorporate healthier habits into my daily living. I have not only made a conscious effort to eating healthier, but I definitely have become more active. So when I got an email at work about a “Walk to Wellness” event, I immediately signed up for it.

Just last week, we had our Walk to Wellness event at EPA in collaboration with other federal agencies. Over 100 employees came together to enjoy some outdoor activities and walk. We had a nice 1.5 mile route established for us from EPA headquarters, through the Ellipse, near the White House, and back. Although there was a possibility of rain, we were lucky to have an overcast day with temperatures that were just right. Not too hot, not too cold, just perfect for a nice walk.

Walking is an excellent way to get energized without having to go to the gym. You can actually walk anywhere. Since I’ve been trying to increase my daily activities, I got a pedometer to measure my progress. I look for any opportunity to just get up and walk. Need some suggestions? How about walking over to your colleague two cubes down to ask a question instead of simply shooting an email? How about going up or down a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator? Once you take simple actions like this, you realize that those steps start adding up.

If you’re going to engage in outdoor activities, remember to check the Air Quality Index. Even when it’s overcast, use sunblock or a hat to protect yourself from dangerous UV rays. You can even check out the UV index forecast in your community to reduce the risk of overexposure while exercising outdoors.

It’s all part of getting healthier. Have you done anything special to become more active lately?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Active Aging Depends on Community Design

By Kevin Nelson

My grandfather lived to 97. He was a dynamic orator, frozen-food pioneer, and avid golfer. While he believed that professional success required mastery of a typewriter, he would attribute his long and prosperous life to a good brisk walk each morning. Wherever he lived, on the south side of Chicago or in a suburb on the fringe of the city, he sought out places to live that had ample sidewalks and walking paths to travel on foot to various destinations.

People, like my grandfather, had the desire to walk, run, or ride to keep active, but just as important is the ability to do each of things – that is, whether sidewalks or paths exist to provide safe places for activity. In other words, the infrastructure needs to exist—and be maintained—to give older Americans opportunities to stay active as they age.

Thankfully, there are many programs and national initiatives, such as the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, the National Complete Streets Coalition, among others, that promote walking and biking for all people and in all parts of the country. These organizations provide resources and tools to communities to help them assess the design and layout of their communities to learn whether their sidewalks and streets safe, convenient, and pleasant for all their residents to use.

It is crucial to build and design communities that accommodate a variety of users. Walkable neighborhoods have many environmental and health benefits such as improved air quality and reduction of physical injury and disease. These places can improve residents’ health by giving them opportunities to walk and bike to their destinations instead of driving. Not only does being active improve the health of the walkers and bikers, but the reduced driving reduces air pollution and traffic congestion, which benefits everyone in the community.

A new publication, “Making Healthy Places: Design and Building for Health, Well-being and Sustainability” (2011, Island Press), and website provide research about the connections between public health and community design that includes opportunities for people to stay active as they age. Our neighborhoods need to be designed with all users in mind, and this book provides information that can help communities build places that help seniors and everyone else to stay active.

Although my grandfather is no longer walking with us, he would be pleased to see that there are efforts nationwide to ensure that Americans of all ages have opportunities for that brisk walk each and every day.

About the author: Kevin Nelson, AICP is a Senior Policy Analyst at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities. He can be reached at nelson.kevin@epa.gov.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.