New Year, New Resolutions

January 12, 2014

How much has changed since we moved here in July? Let’s find out!

We’ve been in California for over 6 months now, and the biggest change is that we’ve become a two-car family, as of today, January 12th. Yes, we held out for half a year, but ultimately decided that we each needed our own car. I fought it for months, starting when the weather turned cold and dark (see: Biking to Work), although not yet rainy - apparently we’ve been having an unusually dry year, which has allowed me to bike more than I probably would have during a normal year. We’ll see what happens during the rest of the winter. At any rate, my dismal attitude toward and fear of biking, combined with the impossibility of scheduling separate evening activities with only one car, conspired to convince us that we needed to go for it. So with some reluctance we began the search, starting with craigslist and ending up at a dealership near Santa Cruz. Our actual experience with the dealership was fairly uneventful, perhaps surprisingly, given the near-universal horror stories found on the internet. Needless to say, we read up on all the used car lore we could find before foraying into the battle of car buying. In the end, we got what we wanted for roughly what we wanted to pay, so - success. We now drive an old Pontiac Vibe (“my” car) and a new-to-us Honda Fit. We like us some hatchbacks, as you can see, although we have yet to test the Fit to see if we can stow our bikes inside it like we can with the Vibe.

Where does this bring me on my resolutions of August of yesteryear?

I think we’re doing ok on the not-buying-stuff front, despite the massive purchase we completed today. We built our own bike rack (needs its own post, sometime soon), replaced our missing/stolen camera, and that’s been about it, aside from a few kitchen odds and ends. I figured out composting - I just bring it to work in Palo Alto, where they have city-wide composting. Cooking more meals has been a challenge but is one we will tackle anew, together with eating less meat. On the energy front, we turn off our heater when we leave for work, and that’s pretty much all we’ve been able to figure out how to do to save energy. PG&E in Mountain View doesn’t yet offer green energy for purchase.

One idea we’ve had to address our (now larger) carbon footprint, aside from changing our eating habits and continuing to bike as much as possible, is buying carbon offsets. Free carbon calculators are available online (eg, the EPA’s and the Nature Conservancy’s) so you can figure out the impact of your lifestyle in tons of greenhouses gases produced annually. Unfortunately, we found that the calculators can vary wildly. In our case, it seems that 60% of our emissions are due to air travel, which was probably what threw off the calculation, since the EPA’s calculator doesn’t account for air travel. In any case, once you know what you’re offsetting, you can buy carbon credits from any number of sources. Google, for example, maintains carbon neutrality as a company through a combination of green energy production and carbon offset purchases. See this delightful infographic for more information. We are considering buying offsets from the same places as Google, since the company already spends a lot of time thinking about the best ways to buy offsets. See their whitepaper for more details. Hopefully soon we’ll take some time to figure out our own offset plan.

And so, without further ado, here are my all-new, turbo-charged, high-octane, insert-used-car-words-here resolutions for 2014!

  1. Bike to work at least twice weekly. Now that I have my own ride, this has gone from a necessary evil to a Resolution. Wish me luck in the rainy season.

  2. Complete the AREs (Architect Registration Exams). A month or two ago I received my “eligibility to test” from the California Architecture Board, which means I can now start on the arduous process of taking my architecture licensure exams. My goal is to complete them all before my required internship hours are finished, and before they change the exam, both of which should happen in 2016. Wish me more luck on this one. Hopefully by making my goals public I will provide myself with some additional motivation! Feel free to remind me about this at every opportunity, as annoyingly as possible. (Unless I’m busy studying.)

  3. Continue exercising. My exercise routine of choice, aside from the aforementioned biking? Quidditch. Or more precisely, Muggle Quidditch. Yes, I now consider myself a beater for the Silicon Valley Skyfighters, a local community team that practices weekly at the park near our apartment. “Srsly?” you may well ask, in your best lol-cat impersonation voice. Indeed yes, I have an International Quidditch Association (IQA) membership card and everything, for realz. And let me tell you, this game is a workout. Go find some Youtube videos and watch if you don’t believe me.

  4. Keep up with my earlier resolutions - all those things about cooking and composting, &c.

This concludes my resolutions update, and probably all the personal information you can stand to read as well! A few concluding side notes: In addition to these formalized resolutions, I also hope to accomplish a few other things - monthly blog posts; a mini-garden on our apartment landing; finding more volunteer opportunities; etc. Perhaps if things go well I’ll provide some updates here for these side projects. I wish everyone the best in their own personal struggles and goals, and here’s to a healthy and happy 2014.