3 U.S. Cities for Biking

Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is just one great place to go by bike in Walk Score's third most bike-friendly city.

Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is just one great place to go by bike in Walk Score’s third most bike-friendly city.

For a sustainable — and just plain enjoyable — way to get around, look no further than a bicycle. You can cover a lot of miles with just two wheels, but you won’t be making the carbon footprint you would be on four wheels. Here are the top three U.S. cities for biking, according to WalkScore.com.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Bike Score: 79

Perhaps it’s the frigid winters that bond the bike couriers, road racers, BMXers, and recreational cyclists in Minneapolis, Walk Score’s winner for bikeability in the United States. If you’re visiting, the Grand Rounds trail nearly circles the entire city, while the Mississippi River Trail follows both sides of the river, to name just two big routes. Learn more about the bike scene in Minneapolis here.

Portland, Oregon
Bike Score: 70

Often considered the cycling capital of the U.S., Portland is a leader thanks to bike lanes, low-traffic bike boulevards, off-street paths, bike parking corrals, and a very lively bike culture. While you’re there, combine two of Portland’s loves — beers and bikes — with a Brewcycle tour (a 15-seater bike contraption that goes from brewery to brewery) or a Pub Peddler Brewery Tour from Portland Bicycle Tours.

San Francisco, California
Bike Score: 70

One of the must-do activities while in the City by the Bay is to rent a bike along the waterfront and pedal across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. The views both approaching the bridge and from among its orange-hued towers are spectacular on a clear day (and the good news is that the wind cooperates with you on the way back, so it’ll be comparatively easier pedaling). Try San Francisco Bicycle Rentals or another of the many shops around town for a good cruising bike.


No More Stuff: A Consumer Detox Q&A

Wildlife rescuer Carly Wilson has pledged not to buy any stuff for 90 days. Photo by Jonathan Mao.

Wildlife rescuer Carly Wilson has pledged not to buy any stuff for 90 days. Photo by Jonathan Mao.

Starting in January, Queensland, Australia–based wildlife rescuer Carly Wilson committed to a 90-day pledge not to buy anymore stuff, on the heels of trying out month-long no-buying stints last year. As she writes on her blog: “As I’ve talked about a million times, an excess of stuff does more harm than good. It clutters up your home and (for me at least) your headspace. It also costs you financially (more than you realise) and worst of all, it is so damaging to the planet.”

We caught up with Wilson to see what exactly a consumer detox entails, how she’s faring, and what lessons she’s learned along the way.

Dolphin Blue: What inspired you to try a consumer detox?
Carly Wilson: About two years ago, I started reading through personal finance blogs as a way to learn about money and pay off some debt. The personal finance blogosphere ended up leading me to the frugal living and minimalism blogospheres, including The Everyday Minimalist and Dave Bruno’s The 100 Thing Challenge. I became inspired to cut down on my consumption of things as a way to save money and also conserve planetary resources. I work with wild animals for a living and understand that all the crap we buy has to come from somewhere — and that “somewhere” is usually at the expense of our world’s habitats. I think it’s really important that we start learning to live with less.

DB: What rules have you set for yourself?
CW: For three months, I can only buy the essential items like food and toiletries — no clothing, no music, no books. Basically, no non-essential things. I’m still allowed to go to movies and out to dinner and things like that, though, because those things don’t involve “stuff.”

DB: You’re in it for 90 days this time. How’s it going so far?
CW: It’s going pretty well. I did end up having to buy a few pieces of clothing for work because I just started a new job with a mandatory uniform that they don’t provide. I felt pretty bad about that, but aside from that, I haven’t broken any rules! I’m two months into my challenge now and the crazy thing I’m finding is that the further along I get with it, the less I am interested in buying stuff. In fact, I’ve donated a lot of what I do have. It feels great to live lightly, and I actually have saved quite a lot of money too!

DB: Why do you think not buying things is so challenging?
CW: I think that our culture is addicted to the thrill of the next purchase. It can be exciting to covet something, and our culture surrounds us with subtle advertising to make us believe that owning certain things will make us feel a certain way — but at the end of the day, chasing that lifestyle drains our bank accounts, clutters our homes, distracts us from what’s important in life, and pollutes our planet.

DB: What have you learned from your efforts to not accumulate more stuff?
CW: I’ve learned that it is really freaking amazing to have a clutter-free wardrobe and that you actually dress better if you have exactly what you need instead of piles and piles of mediocre [clothes]. This experiment has been a very liberating one, and I feel much lighter as a result. I don’t have the burden of clutter or the burden of debt and that’s an awesome feeling. As a wildlife advocate, I also feel great knowing that I am doing my part to lessen my impact on the planet.

DB: Would you recommend a consumer detox to others?
CW: Definitely! It’s amazing to step outside of our society’s consumerism culture for a short while and realize how little you actually need to be happy.

To learn more about Wilson, visit her blog at www.carlywilson.com/blog, where she writes about wildlife and non-consumerism, and follow her on Twitter @carlycreature.


Creative Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Running OutsideThis year marks the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, and although much progress has been made since those early days, the earth is still in need of our appreciation, support, and protection. (To learn more about how Earth Day started, check out our post on Denis Hayes, the coordinator of the first Earth Day.)

If you’re looking for a good way to celebrate this year, consider these ideas:

Get outside. Participating in an outdoor activity is a great way to enjoy nature’s bounties. Earth Day walks are held in cities of all sizes, but you don’t have to be part of an organized event to enjoy the fresh air — go for a stroll, or make your workout for the day alfresco. Health and fitness expert Stephanie Mansour recommends skipping those plugged-in treadmills and ellipticals and instead hitting the great outdoors. “Nature has a calming effect on us and helps bring us back to our center — the sun, plants, and even bodies of water and land help us refocus and regroup without the distractions of other people on man-made workout machines next to us or music over a loudspeaker,” she says.

Turn trash into treasure. You’re probably in the habit of recycling paper, plastic, and cardboard at your home and office, but think outside of the box on Earth Day. Nonprofit Second Chance Toys is holding an Earth Week drive to collect unwanted plastic toys and distribute them to children in need.

And, remember, recycling only truly works when we “complete the loop,” meaning, when we purchase products made from the materials we’ve placed in the recycling bin. Check out www.dolphinblue.com, where all our products are made from post-consumer recycled materials and in the USA.

Educate yourself. The Earth Day Network recommends organizing a screening of an environmentally themed documentary, such as King Corn, Blue Vinyl, Who Killed the Electric Car?, Earth Days, The Blue Planet, or The 11th Hour.


How What You Eat Affects the Environment

SaladFood is a part of everyone’s lives — and it affects many different things, including your individual health, the health of the environment, and the health of animals. If you want to see how your diet scores on these three factors, click here. The considerations that go into each score include:

Health: saturated fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber, calcium, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, correlations of foods with cancer, and heart disease

Environment: air and water pollution from manure, cattle belching, production and overuse of fertilizer, depletion of groundwater, unnecessary use of land to produce feed grains and soil erosion, and over-grazing

Animal welfare: castration, hot-iron branding, debeaking, detailing, cramped cages and feedlots, cattle feed high in grain, and inhumane shipping and slaughterhouse practices

Also on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s site is the Eating Green Calculator, which is a more simplified look at what you eat each week. It gives you stats on what it takes to fuel your diet — like how many acres of grain and grass are needed for animal feed, the pounds of pesticides and fertilizer used, and the amount of manure created by animals you eat.