Probably An Unpopular Suggestion But…

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in the Madfarmer, Transportation, Travel | Posted on 09-10-2009


by the Madfarmer


The only major downside I have discovered from living in a rural area is that I must travel long distances every day. I am not able to support my family as a full-time farmer yet so I still have a “regular” job. Considering I live in the middle of nowhere, I have a daily commute between 30-100 miles. Traveling those distances really cancels out many of my attempts at sustainable living. However, I am a country boy at heart and cannot afford to have enough land in an urban setting to do all that I want to do with my farm.


Therefore, I was forced to research my best option for fuel efficiency. Everyone knows the new hybrids get fantastic gas mileage. But not all of us can afford to shell out $30,000 for a new car. So I began looking at solid used cars to see what kind of fuel efficiency I could find. One car that I stumbled onto was the old Geo Metro. (Now let me stop right here. If you gain any of your self worth through the type of vehicle you drive you may want to stop reading this now.)


I discovered that a Geo Metro could get between 40-50 mpg. That’s better than some hybrids! I quickly began to scour the papers for a Metro. One week later, I found a 1995 Metro for $1,500. I was able to pay cash, save on insurance, and get 45 mpg. I drove the car for 2 years before it finally kicked the bucket. Inspired by this new knowledge, my next vehicle was a 2000 Toyota Echo. I am still driving this car today. I paid $3,500 cash and it gets 38 mpg.


Not everyone will be willing to make this decision. But if you are stuck with a long commute and don’t need to impress anyone, do a little research and see what you can find.


Some other suggested fuel efficient old cars*:

2000 Honda Insight (51mpg)

2001-02 Toyota Prius (41mpg)

2000-05 Toyota Echo (38mpg)

1998-02 Chevy Prizm (32 mpg)

1998 Mazda Protégé (32mpg)

1998-2000 Toyota Corolla (32 mpg)

1998-2001 Acura Integra (32)


*Taken from Consumer Reports 


And it’s too bad we don’t have many of the cars they drive in the UK  

The Next One in the Nest

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Current Affairs, Local Economy, Local Government, Nancy Love Robertson, Oklahoma City, Public Works, Travel | Posted on 16-05-2009


by Nancy Love Robertson

I love Oklahoma
City. I really do. I am a life-long resident and have watched our community ebb
and flow over the span of my 53-year lifetime.

In my life, it
seems we’ve ebbed more than we flowed for so long, and I, like many of us,
experienced discomfort when people from other parts of the U.S. would grimace
when I’d tell them where home was.

Today, however,
I sing a different tune. I defend my hometown with the fierceness of a momma
lion. I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 15 years or so.

As a community,
we invested in ourselves and made the first MAPS happen in 1992. We marveled at
our pretty new ballpark, and applauded when we stepped into the Civic Center,
Downtown Library and Cox Convention Center for the first time. It all looked good
and making progress FELT good.

We the people
stood tall on April 19, 1995 and survived the Oklahoma City bombing with
dignity and compassion. The whole world watched us in awe, and through the
profound sadness of that time, we found our voice as a community with heart.

The momentum of
the 1990s propelled us to further our city’s promise when we took a stand to
advance public education in our city in 2001. We made a down payment toward our
future by telling children in our town that they mattered when we passed MAPS
for KIDS in November of that year. “Good for us,” I thought at the time. “I’m
proud of you, Oklahoma City!”

So, that’s our
community basket of golden eggs we laid over the past 15 years. And, to
paraphrase a Joni Mitchell line from For the Roses, “Who’s to know if the next one in the nest will
glitter for us so?”

Don’t mistake my
question as doubt or as a complaint. That’s not my intention at all. On the
contrary, I have an idea on how we can produce another golden egg that will
sparkle for our city long into the future.

Oklahoma City as a micro-society is finally beginning the dialogue of what the
pressing environmental issues of the day mean to our way of life. Don’t forget,
we used to pride ourselves on being the largest city, in landmass, in the
United States. Thankfully, Jacksonville, Florida, now owns that dubious
distinction. However, in our quest to “be somebody” back in the 1950s and
1960s, Oklahoma City sold its soul to developers and thus created a scenario
that took decades to create. Now, it will take decades to unwind.

For what it’s
worth, I am throwing my voice behind my fellow Oklahoma Cityans who’ve been
calling us on our BS for the past several years about having one of America’s
most livable cities. They’re correct. If we really want to be a livable city
then where are the sidewalks? Where is the network of running trails and bike
lanes? Nothing spells “l-i-v-a-b-l-e c-i-t-y” more than a community that
encourages walking, running and cycling. 
So, what have we done to put our collective muscle to work on this
issue? First of all, doesn’t it make sense to create a world-class city for the
residents who live and work here before we cast our net to the larger world?

we’ve been blessed with the hard work of a few. A case in point: Every year,
thousands of us enjoy the fruits of the labor of those dedicated staff members
and volunteers who breathe life into the Lake Hefner Trails. I have personally
logged many hours and miles running or cycling around that lake. And, as a
birder, I truly enjoy the opportunity to connect with nature in such close
proximity to my home.

Or, take the
mountain bike trails at Lake Stanley Draper. In less than half an hour, my
partner, Shelly, and I can be resetting the little computers on our mountain
bikes (one of us captures time, the other distance) at the Draper trail head.
Generous people give their time and sweat equity to creating and maintaining
the patchwork trail system at Draper Lake so folks like Shelly and I can have a
getaway that is restorative far beyond the two hours we spend flying through
the woods, practicing German and playing like two little kids. For those of you
responsible for making that space the oasis that it is, I say, “Thank you.”

I am certain
there are many more examples in our city that illustrate my point. All of them
can inspire us to do more to make our city livable and sustainable. And, these
examples of what could be might be the indicators of the next golden eggs we
produce in our nest.

So, how does a
grassroots initiative get traction in Oklahoma City? In reality, it starts with
civic and business leaders.

Attention please!
Mayor Cornett, take note. Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, tune in and pay
attention. Your constituents might be onto something here.

How marvelous it
would be if the next MAPS project involved a network of sidewalks and
cycling/running trails that would be the envy of forward-thinking cities like
Portland, Oregon? We’ve had MAPS and MAPS for KIDS. How about MAPS for LIFE (Living in
Full Enjoyment)? Like two of the other three MAPS
projects, (MAPS for Millionaires was a step backwards) this MAPS project,
Living in
Full Enjoyment…of our community, of our healthy bodies, of
our scenic beauty (our sunsets have been known to take one’s breath away) and
of each other…has something in it for everyone in our community. I also like
the metaphor of a network or web of life for our city. What a gift to be
connected to people and places, via a bike trail, to parts of town that are off
of our beaten paths. How awesome it would be to figuratively stumble onto a
celebration of a culture that’s different, while running along a trail that
connects one part of town with another.

I like imaging how
this could weave together for the good of our community.

In addition to
promoting recreation, fitness, a sense of community, sustainability and
livability, there’s a pragmatic side to bike lanes, running paths and
sidewalks, and it’s called safety. Here’s what I mean, and it begins with an
image that’s burned into my mind’s eye that I never want to see again. It’s an
image borne from years of unsustainable city planning for our way of life and a
visual that would’ve been less painful to see had there been a sidewalk.

Right before
Christmas, Shelly and I were driving on May Avenue just north of N.W. 63rd.
It was a freezing cold and blustery Saturday afternoon. Against the curb as
close as they could get for safety, was an elderly couple. The man was bundled
up in a wheelchair and he had an oxygen tank in his lap.  Behind him a few paces, was an old
woman in a car coat, clutching her purse and holding onto what was left of her
dignity. In the face of this dangerous situation, both of them appeared stoic.
Shelly and I were stunned at the sight, and I am confident that the other
motorists who saw it were equally as horrified. There was so much traffic,
there wasn’t an opportunity to stop and help them, so we moved our car as far
to the left in our right-hand lane to give them as much room as possible under
the circumstances. Nothing was in the headlines the next day, so I trust they
made it to where they were going.

Now, back to
sidewalks. Is this the image we want to project as a city?  Does the scene I’ve just described
bespeak a community that’s forward-thinking, sustainable, livable?  For those whose jobs it is to bring
commerce and people into our town to expand our tax base, it might be a wise
investment of time to take a look at an initiative that has broad implications
for the common men and women in our city. MAPS for LIFE would not only promote
a healthy lifestyle for our community, therefore enhancing the quality of life
for everyone. It could also say to residents and ultimately the rest of the
country that we are doing our part to be sustainable and leave a smaller
footprint as a city. While this utopian network of sidewalks and trails isn’t
the light rail system many of us dream will someday connect our suburbs with
the city center, it is likely to come into being more quickly and for less money.
Yet the long-term benefits would be far-reaching. 

What about the next
golden egg? MAPS for LIFE could be the next one in our community nest that
could glitter for us so. 

Happy Hour

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Food and Drink, Lindsay Vidrine, Locavore, Travel | Posted on 29-09-2008


by Lindsay Vidrine

As a new mother of a three-week-old baby boy, my life has recently been upturned. When I sat down to write this post it was difficult to decide what topic to choose. There are many sustainability-related topics to explore when it comes to parenting a newborn – cloth versus disposable diapers, formula vs. breastfeeding (the ultimate organic/local dining experience), and so on.

But in the limited time I have to write this post, I’m going to focus on something I’ve been missing over the last nine months – happy hour. Before the pregnancy test displayed a plus sign, my husband and I enjoyed trying out locally produced wines and beers. Luckily for us, Oklahoma has a wide variety of producers so we were never short of new products to taste test.

Regardless of your palate for wine or brew, there’s plenty of fun to be had experiencing the places where these beverages are made. There is something about walking through a vineyard at sunset or hearing the story of the land directly from the family that owns and picks the grapes that turns a tasting into a full-bodied experience.

The same goes for local beer producers. Micro-breweries typically have intriguing background stories that bring their beer to life. In addition, their smaller size often provides an agility to produce seasonal brew flavors that the big, corporate breweries don’t bother making.

So the next time you find yourself standing in a liquor store aisle trying to find the perfect pairing for dinner, pick up an Oklahoma wine or beer in addition to that old favorite, or even better, make a date to check out a local winery. Many host harvest festivals and a regular line up of events and musicians in addition to tours and tastings.  

Follow these links for more information on Oklahoma wine and beer:
Order a free Oklahoma Wineries brochure, and while you’re there, check out the Land Bounty brochure as well for U-pick farms and other local agritourism experiences.

A Locavore’s Dilemma

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Food and Drink, Locavore, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Travel | Posted on 18-08-2008


 by Shauna Lawyer Struby

The ribbon of highway stretched before us, the corn was as tall as an elephant’s eye, and the hawks were definitely making lazy circles in the sky. While strains of the famous lyrical creations of Woody Guthrie and Rodgers and Hammerstein were making busy circles in my head, my family and I weren’t in Oklahoma or Kansas. We were actually in Iowa City, Iowa, a happening little burg, home to the University of Iowa, and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. I’d just completed a heady week-long workshop on novel writing held the last week in July, and my family and I were heading out in our gas miserly Toyota Prius to explore Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Black Hills of South Dakota for our summer vacation. Wisconsin 053

 As avid locavores (a snappy word two ladies out in California came up with for those choosing to eat locally grown or produced food), we prefer whenever possible to cook or dine on locally produced food at locally owned establishments. At home here in Oklahoma City, we eat as much as possible from the OSU/OKC Farmers Market, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and our own garden and seldom eat at chain restaurants, believing we build stronger, more self-sufficient communities by keeping it local.

Given typical American road fare consists of wave after wave of McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, and gigantic truck stops with rows of empty calories ripe for the picking, we knew doing the locavore thing on the road could well prove to be an order taller than the proverbial corn in Kansas in August. But during my week in Iowa City I’d already dined on several delicious meals made from wonderfully fresh ingredients sourced from local farms, scarfed down some fabulous pastries and cookies from the weekly farmers market, and there were plenty of Buy fresh, buy local signs scattered throughout the town. The luck I’d had so far with chowing local goodness made me think perhaps my family and I could tackle the rest of the trip with the locavore principle.

First night out in Madison, Wisconsin, we tracked down a restaurant called Harvest using a Wisconsin culinary guide. Later we found out Harvest was named by Organic Style magazine as one of the top 20 restaurants in America, and most recently named one of America's top Farm-to-Table restaurants by Gourmet Magazine.

While Harvest was a little pricey for our budget, since we’d been saving for the vacation, we decided to splurge. I’m happy to say it was worth every penny. From delicate slow-roasted beets, to the succulent Lange Family Farm pork loin, to the artisan cheese tray, this stumbled upon dining experience was total flavor-filled pleasure, a sensational treat for the taste buds.

Wisconsin 050 The next day we headed to Eau Claire and happened upon a roadside farmer’s stand where we picked up beautiful fresh cherries, blueberries, a couple of creamy Wisconsin cheeses, a fresh-baked crusty baguette, and spicy salami. Picnicking like this from farmer’s stands, cheese shops, and small retail food cooperatives was budget friendly, and turned out to be our lunch strategy for the rest of the trip.

After the luck we had in Iowa City and Madison, we went on to sample similar tasty local dinner fare at The Deep Water Grille in Ashland, Wis., and The Craftsman Restaurant in Minneapolis, Minn., cooked a dinner ourselves one night from a bevy of fresh stuffs picked up at the Chequamegon Food Co-op in Ashland, Wis., and later the Saint Peter Food Cooperative and Deli in Saint Peter, Minn. became yet another local food oasis on our journey.

We didn’t quite manage to source every meal locally on our vacation, but in the end we came a lot closer to solving the travelling locavore’s dilemma than I’d ever dreamed possible, all of which seems to prove the sustainable food movement is not only very much alive, but thriving and growing. I can even imagine a day when we’ll be able to make a trip in our plug-in hybrid cars or onboard a roomy train, when every meal means dining on fresh, healthy, local and sustainable food. Wouldn’t that be a trip? Minnesota, south dakota, badlands 001

What about your summer vacation? Have any recent experiences or tips for solving the travelling locavore’s dilemma you’d care to share?

Tips for eating locally on the road:

•    Check out for grocery stores, farmers markets, farms and restaurants.

•     Before travelling, browse your destination state’s tourism Web site for dining recommendations. Most offer a searchable dining database, free travel guides, and many now feature agritourism destinations like u-pick farms, farmer’s markets and other local harvest destinations.

•    Wherever you travel, take time to chat with the locals. Employees at independent bookstores, locally owned gift shops, and food cooperatives are a great source of local food and dining knowledge.

•    If at all possible when road tripping, take the back roads. Not only do you avoid the unpleasant truck juggernaut and concrete jungle of interstate travelling, but you’re much more likely to find farmer’s stands and locally owned restaurants with delicious homemade fare.