Thursday, June 26, 2008

One tiny step in the right direction

Stephen Covey's 1989 book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, was, for a time, the guiding text for my life. I remember reading the book, back in the early 90's and being attracted to its positiveness, its hopefulness, its common-sense approach to becoming a better person.

In particular, the first of Covey's seven habits, Be proactive, involves defining one's circle of concern, and within that, one's circle of influence. A quick definition of the concept is this: rather than focus on worries over which one has no control, focus on actions one can take that may effect those worries.

For example, one may worry about global warming and environmental degradation. But, Covey argues, it is far more effective to focus on taking steps that might have a positive impact on these issues. Nothing new in this idea, right? Just common sense. That is one of the most attractive aspects of Covey's book: it illuminates concepts that one immediately recognizes as true through one's inherent human wisdom.

Well, I'm happy to say that I've begun operating within my own circle of influence with a few small actions aimed at addressing a number of worries in my circle of concern. Namely, money worries, global warming, and environmental degradation.

First, the stats: My daily commute to and from work is approximately 50 miles. My car gets about 23 miles per gallon. Therefore, to get to and from work by driving my car requires that I burn 2.17 gallons of gas. Aside from the obvious destructive emissions associated with burning fuel, at $4.25/gallon in Portland as of today, the monetary cost of getting to and from work using my car is $9.22. To quote Tony Montana: Tha's no duckwalk.

So, one action I have taken within my circle of influence is to make an arrangement with a coworker, wherein we will carpool two days/week. I'll drive one of the days, and he the other. That reduces my weekly commuting costs by 20% per week right off the bat.

Then, I have negotiated with my employer to arrange a work-from-home agreement, wherein I will telecommute one day per week. Another 20% off my commuting costs.

Lastly, I have pulled my bicycle out of the basement,and bought a book of Trimet bus tickets. At least one day per week, I ride my bike to downtown Portland, catch the bus that will take me down the interstate close to my work, and then ride the last mile or so. Each Trimet ticket is $2.50, and my commute will require that I use 2 per day, for a total of $5....slightly more than half the cost of driving myself.

Now, given that I must commute to work 5 times per week, the cost-effectiveness of my new habits become apparent:

Drive myself:
5 X 9.22 = $46.10

1 X 5.00 = $5.00 (bike/bus day)
1 X 0 = $0.00 (carpool ride day)
1 X 0 = $0.00 (telecommute day)
2 X 9.22 = 18.44 (drive days)
Total: $23.44

Now, if I persist with this arrangement, in one year's time, my financial savings will be $1178.32! Of course, this doesn't account for vacation time, and holidays, and other times when I will not commute, nor for those times when other factors will require that I drive. Nonetheless, that's a nice little chunk of change.

Good ol' Trimet
And I'll be contributing less to general environmental degradation, and wear and tear on our infrastructure, to say nothing of the wear and tear on my car. Plus, the biking will give me another boost in getting into better shape physically, and will arm me with another positive factor in my struggle against depression.

These are small steps, granted. But, as the ancient Chinese proverb tells us: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And I do believe that the preponderance of individual human actions will be the biggest determinant in the fate that awaits us all.


Eclectic Dilettante said...

I applaud your efforts to cut back.

Dan Binmore said...

Fantastic stuff Dade, that's the way to do it.

Meghan said...

I may be a tree hugging environmentalist, but it's cold hard cash that gets people to break their habits.

If I had to drive downtown every day, the gas is one thing, but parking is the worst. The $45 a week I would have to spend just to park the darn thing was more than enough to get me using my bike.

If you ever need a "bike buddy", drop me a're on my way into downtown!