Let's see, I walk about an half hour to work, then jump in the metro for the last fifteen minutes. A yearly metro pass costs approximately $400 per year and my employer pays for it. If I feel like it, I can take a "Velib", a "free" bicycle, the yearly pass, a mere forty US bucks. When I head down to the Mediterranean for summer break with my daughter, the train, with my "enfant-plus" child reduction card (obtaining us a 50% reduction) is less than 200 euros roundtrip for a fur hour ride each way on a very nice fast speed train. I got rid of my car, saving myself thousands which I put to good use elsewhere (like all the vacation time here!)...jealous yet?
Friends are talking me into joining an organic cooperative which supports a farmer near Paris, and the price of food I have to say, have not really changed all that much. I almost always buy locally because I prefer organic produce and I buy fresh a few times a week, in small amounts. The strawberries and plums travel about an hour tops from a farm outside the city and it actually tastes like real food. We buy things that are in season (in fact, try ordering artichokes or asparagus at any restaurant in my neighborhood the wrong time of year and watch the eyebrows rise up.
My daughter and I walk to her free public elementary school (about seven minutes away), where she also attends a homework program which allows me to pick her up by 6 p.m. after work. The lunches served at the cafeteria at her school are posted weekly, and I am always amazed at how varied and seasonal the selection is each time. Her public preschool was completely organic. At the school, they have a free teacher exchange with a school in Italy so every child is also learning Italian! There is one class per year, and they average about one cultural outing a week which takes them to farms, the Louvre, Picasso's former studio, or the High Court.
Prior to this, I lived for many years in Seattle, where I actually (gasp!) owned a car! But I did not need it that often as I lived halfway between the university (where I taught) and the office where I worked. I could walk to each in around thirty minutes. Bicycling is easy in Seattle, buses run often and are clean. I had a garden and friend with gardens and liked to fish, so in the summer I was set...almost no trips to the grocery store except for wine! More and more inner city urban living centers in the US are making this kind of lifestyle possible. Think about it!
I spoke to a leader in the biofuel industry this past week and he talked about how biofuel was NOT the answer, but rather how we should all be focusing on the fact that, because grains and food prices were so low for so long, countries did not plant for their own agricultural needs, but switched to biofuel related production. This is simply wrong. Corn tortillas in Mexico should be made with locally grown corn. There was revolution in France when the price of a baguette soared. It is a primary foodstuff. There will be a push towards genetically modified plants in order to speed up production, especially in poorer parts of the world, which virtually means, we are all going to end up with genetically modified foods whether we like it or not! Next thing you know they will be feeding us vaccines in our genetically modified vegetables even ones we have not decided to take, like for the flu...just get the flu, get chicken pox...unless you have a severely impaired immune system those things do not kill you!
Take back control of your life! Live in a place which has sidewalks! And walk instead of paying a trainer or going to a gym or paying a gazillion dollars to heat your pool. Plant an urban garden patch. Trade surplus with your friends. Eat and home, throw dinner parties, learn to take the time to cook and have a great conversation with your kids.
And instead of driving to the mall, read a book, buy a hammock, make a kite, date women (and men) who don't need you to spoil them with sushi and imported Norwegian mineral water (how stupid is that?)! Meet your neighbors, invite them over, talk about what in the hell has been going on in our country for a very very long time. So long that we think that we are entitled to misuse energy in amounts which could support entire countries.
So I am glad I made this choice to live in a way I find to be sane..and you can do it in the US as well, but not by living in a McMansion and driving an SUV. That was never sustainable even when it appeared to be...was no one thinking?
The only thing cheaper for us right now... is visiting the US! Which we plan to do soon, because the one thing you cannot find enough of in Europe, are Americans talking about the upcoming election. And if you want to know who I am voting for and why, talk to my nine-year old!