Our big blue bin

On Monday or Tuesday night, Matthew informed me that St. Nick had brought us something extra this year.

For the last two years, we had curbside recycling pickup, and our landlord paid the low rate that the city subsidized. With the start of the city’s new recycling dumpsters in the alleys, they dropped the subsidized curbside service.

Problem was, the city is rolling out their program slowly, and while some relatively nearby alleys had their bins in November, the only info I had said that they all should be in place by March 2011. I was preparing for the reality of having to drop our recycling off somewhere for up to 4 months (and the idea of driving somewhere to recycle really rubs me the wrong way), so I was super excited to hear the news about the bin in our alley.

The only thing that kept me from running out to see it right when Matthew told me was the fact that I was comfortably curled up on the couch and the temps outside were under 20 degrees.

Despite my excitement, I would be remiss if I did not point out, as I’ve mentioned before, that recycling is only a stop-gap measure, and not an ultimate solution to our problem of over-consumption and too much waste.

Environmental sustainability really depends on us practicing the other R’s: Reduce and Reuse. I’ve also heard mention of a fourth R, Refuse (as in refuse disposable packaging, containers, etc.), which I see as being part of Reduce.

If it rains on your parade . . .

. . . climb back into bed and let the thunder roll.  Then get up and do some baking.

Sunday morning, the day of the third of four St. Louis Open Streets events, we woke to rain and thunder.  We were scheduled to volunteer as roving route marshals starting at 7:30am, meaning we needed to leave by 7:00am to bike to the volunteer tent.  We woke up early, checked the weather, ate breakfast, and decided that it didn’t make sense to head out into a thunderstorm.  Would there really be anyone on the route anyway?

Tired from Saturday’s long day of gardening, we climbed back into bed to see if the rain would let up so we could venture out.  The rain did not let up, nor did the thunder, not until 11:00am at the earliest, well after our volunteer shift passed.

We rolled out of bed the second time and started in on some baking and cooking: apple crisp, cornbread, and chili — perfect foods for a rainy day.

Though they never officially canceled Open Streets, I’m sure the weather more or less had that effect, which is too bad given the time and work that went into the event.  Also, on the tails of my awesome week at the Pro Walk Pro Bike conference, I was really looking forward to seeing large numbers of people out biking and walking the streets of St. Louis.

There is good news.  We have one more shot at Open Streets this year, the fourth and final event scheduled for Saturday, October 9th.  I’m hoping for some fabulous fall weather and a large turnout.

Driving on car-free Friday

Big Bertha interrupted my usual car-free Friday with a trip to the MO Extension Services office in Clayton for some testing.  (You’ll meet Big Bertha later,when she returns to the apartment and is ready for her photo shoot.)

Our destination was totally bikeable, and also conveniently located near a MetroLink stop.  However, there’s a reason for the “Big” in Big Bertha’s name, and the bike’s cargo carrying capacity, as well as my lack of willingness to put in the necessary walking for public transit with Big Bertha, limited our options.

I arrived in Clayton, and SURPRISE!  The Saint Louis Art Fair is this weekend (yeah, they call it the SAINT LOUIS Art Fair, although it’s in Clayton, but I digress), meaning I was immediately mired in horribly congested traffic, what with the blocked off streets and the vendors’ cargo vans and trucks clogging all of the non-closed streets.  Ugh!

If you go to the Saint Louis Art Fair (in Clayton) this weekend, please take my advice and get there by any means other than driving.  Ride your bike or take p-trans — MetroLink stops right in Clayton, and you’ll end up walking less than you would if you drove and parked really far away.

Anyway, after much ridiculousness and navigating the craziness, I found a parking spot, one with money already in the meter.  Score!  Things were looking up for us.

After Big Bertha’s test (which she failed, but all is not lost), I set out to make the most of the car trip with a Whole Foods run.  I hit the bulk bins hard and fast — and succeeded in my goal to use no new plastic bags in the bulk bin aisle.  Heck, I managed to avoid using any new twist ties 🙂

Errand completed, and too much money spent, I drove to the CWE to drop off the car for Matthew.  He should be walking to the car to drive to his doctor’s appointment right about now, and I’m anticipating his call telling me that it’s not in one piece anymore.  Or maybe that it’s in one severely dented piece.

See, I realized too late (i.e., after paying the meter) that my sweet parking spot on Kingshighway was in a highly dangerous position with high potential to get rear-ended by merging traffic.  Yep, I picked the spot where what was previously a lane of moving traffic turned into a lane of street parking.

After parking and paying the meter, I resisted the strong temptation to just stand there with the car, staring down any potential rear-enders, ready to jump out and protect the car if necessary.  Quite ridiculous, but as much as I don’t even particularly like owning a car, repairing or replacing an accident-damaged vehicle would be less fun.

As it was, I managed to make myself walk away so I could make the next #95 bus and get home for some lunch.  The bus ride was soooo relaxing and pleasant after a morning navigating traffic — what a refined way to travel!

Greening the Festival of Nations

Thanks to our BYO everything (water bottles, utensils, plates) strategy, we produced just one piece of trash on day 1 of the Festival of Nations last weekend.  I spent way too much time debating weather to trash that cardboard serving dish or recycle.  The sign on the recycling said they accepted cardboard, but this was dirty cardboard, despite our best scraping efforts (we don’t lick our plates clean in public), so I reluctantly deposited it in the trashcan.

Props to St. Louis Earth Day’s “Recycling on the Go” program for providing recycling at the event.  And by “providing recycling,” I don’t just mean setting out the bins.  They actually had people (volunteers?) walking around and removing recyclable items from the the trashcans to place in the recycling bins (don’t worry, they were wearing gloves for this activity) — really taking it to the next level!

Although I didn’t attend, the LouFest Music Festival (also last weekend) really pushed the greening theme, and I would love to see Festival of Nations implement a few other key programs, a water station for refilling water bottles being the main one.

Bike parking also makes the wish list, although this item is for Tower Grove Park in general, not specifically the Festival of Nations.  I heard through the grapevine that Tower Grove’s excuse for the lack of bicycle parking is that bike racks “don’t fit the Victorian theme of the park.”  Wha???  Of course, all of their accommodations for motor vehicles are perfectly in keeping with that time period, because there were lots of cars around in the Victorian era. Yeah.

Cycle chic, kind of

So there’s this whole “cycle chic” thing, basically the idea that you should look stylish while riding a bike.  Beautiful people, riding around on bicycles, laid-back and having fun, what’s not to like?

I’ve long been a fan of Girls and Bicycles, a blog that embraces the cycle chic ethos.  I love reading about Sarah’s adventures up in Canada.

The problem?  It’s a lovely idea, in theory, but in practice, it doesn’t really work out for me.

For starters, I do not consider myself particularly stylish, nor is that necessarily an aspiration of mine.  If I don’t wear heels, or other cute, toe-smashing, unsupportive shoes to start with, why would I put them on just to ride my bike?  My footwear is certainly not chic, and the ankles on up aren’t much better.

The cycle chic movement emphasizes “style over speed,” which is another issue for me.  I see my bike as an efficient (and fun) way to get from Point A to Point B.  I like to ride fast.  My cycling shoes help me do that, as does my bicycle style.

The Cycle Chic Manifesto includes the following [ridiculous] guideline:

“I will endeavor to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle.”

Excuse me?  Perhaps the total value of ALL the clothes in my wardrobe exceeds the value of my bicycle, but a single outfit?  Not close, nor do I ever aspire to wear a $900 ensemble.  (And if I had such a thing, would I really wear it on my bicycle — the thing with dirt and grease on it?  Please.)

But the fact that I’m writing about this indicates that there is at least some tiny part of me that admires these chic cyclists, that wishes I could be one of them.  And so I bring you my attempt at chic cycling from the Festival of Nations this weekend.

Perhaps more Sporty Spice than cycle chic?