For over twenty years I’ve been making pancakes once a week. Lately we’ve made a small adjustment in our long-standing ritual: we have had to move the weekly habit from Saturday morning to Friday evening. Well, “had to” is a bit overstated; our one remaining daughter at home, Eva, goes to work early on Saturday morning and I prefer to sleep in (till 08:30), so nowadays “Saturday breakfast” just works out better at dinner-time Friday. So, late this afternoon I was getting our meal together in the kitchen: buttermilk pancakes made from scratch, sausages, bacon, fruit salad, coffee, Canadian maple syrup, etc.
Whenever I work alone in the kitchen I tune the radio to BBC World Service. Radio is such a wonderful media for anyone who works with their hands and needs only short bursts of concentration. The program this afternoon included a piece called “The Bicycle Diaries” and today’s episode was about newspaper delivery boys in Delhi. What really struck me was the genuine affection some of these boys felt for their bicycles: how they would care for them, give them names, and recount their heroic exploits in language sing-song to my ear.
I like my bicycle too. His name is Øvind; Renata’s matching female bike is Ingar Marie. They are named after a Norwegian couple whom we knew ages ago but somehow lost track of. Actually our bikes are Swedish Army bikes that were part of a lot bought up by an entrepreneur when the Swedes didn’t want them anymore, repainted in bright colors (ours are Swedish blue), and sold online. They are big, heavy, durable, one-speed, back-pedal braking, perfect bikes for Amsterdam. We added a crate to the front of each to increase the cargo space and have used them daily for almost ten years now.
These bicycles are part of a way of life that I like to believe is fairly “green” in environmental terms. Certainly by North American standards I believe this to be so.
With regard to transport, we do not own a car and have most of our local transportation needs met by our trusty bicycles. Sometimes we fall back on public transport, and in fact one of the considerations which led us to rent the apartment we have is its proximity to a bus station. About once every six weeks or so, on average, we borrow a friend’s car for trips we can’t make any other way, generally hauling items we can’t get on the bikes.
Our apartment itself is fairly environmentally friendly too. It has three bedrooms but is only about 100 square meters (less than 1100 square feet), has double-glazing throughout, radiator heating fired by a high efficiency natural gas furnace (“use as you go” type). We have no dishwasher, no clothes dryer, no hot water tank, and all our electrical supply is guaranteed to be 100% generated from wind energy. Almost all of our glass and paper is put back in the recycle bin.
Pardon me as I pat myself on the back. How green can I get!
But then…. I have to face some of my habits that are completely un-green. In the last 25 years I have made a good number of flights across the Atlantic, and many more shorter flights elsewhere. Airline travel produces an ever growing share of total annual greenhouse gas emissions, so that’s a big minus for me. (I really don’t know how some of these Christian mission organizations can justify the frequent air travel of their personnel. Okay, if you are a company executive serving the almighty dollar and don’t give a snort about what God created, I can see it. But how to reconcile such excess with Christian discipleship, I wonder.)
Also, our computer is basically on during all waking hours – there’s always at least one of us who wants to use it. Agreed, it is only using electricity from wind energy, but I’ve got to think there are some sort of nasty emissions coming from having it on all the time. Ditto the printer. And then there’s all that natural gas I’m going through having a shower, heating the home, making pancake dinners.
In honesty, I may share their passion for the lowly bicycle, but compared to those Indian newspaper delivery boys, I’m not “green” at all.