Our Repair Economy: Are Low Prices the Enemy of Sustainability?

imageI was preparing for work one morning when disaster struck; my trusty beard trimmer wasn’t trimming. There was plenty of strange whirring but absolutely no movement of the blades. I spent a few minutes tinkering with it but to no avail. At this point, what are my options? It seemed to me that the problem was fixable. I have a two-year-old son who is fascinated with shaving; maybe he got a hold of it and dropped it, knocking something loose. If I couldn’t fix it myself, could a repair shop handle it? What would they charge me? How would that compare with the cost of a brand new beard trimmer? But maybe the biggest question was this: do repair shops for small electronics even exist any more? Continue reading

Morgantown’s People Mover

Transportation is one of my favorite topics here at The New Localization. It’s so basic and yet it’s such an economic, environmental, social, and political heavyweight. It has everything to do with the design of our cities. As late as the 1970s, we Americans were still dreaming of new and innovative ways to move people from Point A to Point B, but fresh ideas today seem a bit harder to come by.

That’s why I was pretty excited to discover this radical transportation mode operating in Morgantown, West, Virginia: Continue reading

The Economic Cost of Auto-Dependence

Two CarsRecently, Paula and I started talking about the possibility of turning our two-car family into a one-car family. In many ways, this kind of downsizing makes a lot of sense. Both of us love riding bikes and having only one car would give us the extra incentive to use them for our short trips around the neighborhood, building exercise right into our daily routine. Financially, we’d save a fairly significant amount of money on gas, maintenance, and insurance. And while it’s not always at the forefront of our minds, it’s worth noting that with automobile accidents as the leading cause of death among those between the ages of 5 to 44 getting out from behind the wheel could make us safer as well.  Yet still we hesitate. We cannot escape the fact that in a world where everything is so spread out, not having access to a car feels like living on an island without a boat. Sure we could swim to the mainland every time we need a pint of milk but frankly it’s a burden.  A hundred years ago, we lived in a compact and connected world in which the automobile was a luxury and a convenience. Today, even having just one car seems impractical. So how did we end up this way? Continue reading

A Place for the Bicycle

imageFor my birthday a few months ago my wife gave me a pannier – a bag that attaches to my bike. It was a simple gift that unexpectedly opened up my world. I had always liked the idea of biking to work but it just wasn’t very enjoyable with a heavy backpack weighing me down in intense Texas heat. Now, I’m riding to the office at least three days a week and looking forward to my commute, what used to be the worst part of my day. I’m using less gas, avoiding the stress of rush hour, and getting in some regular exercise without cutting into the precious hours I have with my son between work and bedtime. It has been a great thing for me and I think in general more bikers and fewer drivers is a great thing for any place. So how do we get more citizens on two wheels instead of four? Well here are a few things I’ve noticed in the past few months that I think greatly improve a place’s bike-ability: Continue reading

A Place for the Child Explorer

Montessori BedThis week my wife and I disassembled our six-month-old’s crib in favor of a Montessori bed, which is basically a mattress on the floor in the corner of the room next to a mirror. The idea seems strange at first, but as our son becomes more mobile he will be able to wake up, explore his room and play with his toys, discovering his own independence as he is able to do all of these things without our help. That’s an independence we want to continue to develop as he gets older. It may be just his room that he is exploring now, but there’s a whole world out there and we want him to discover it for himself. But in a society where you’re more likely to get the cops called on you than win parent of the year by letting your child roam, is this dream of ours possible? Continue reading