We should all B-BOP into Earth year

by By Katherine

B-BOP. B-BOP? “What is that supposed to mean?” I wondered as, in my early morning fog, I slowly focused on the bus ad above my head. That’s jazz, I thought. Something to do with Charlie Parker. Maybe Dizzy Gillespie.
Slowly the words cleared. B-BOP: Bike, Bus Or Pool. Wednesday, May 21st. Free bus rides. A day devoted to getting to work without the car. A day to ride our bikes, walk, ride the bus, carpool, stay home and “telecommute” using the computer and fax machine. Even roller skate or jog! A day to pay attention to alternative means of getting to work and school. A day to be thoughtful about our environment. Caring for our Earth. In little ways. For a day.
Less than a month ago we celebrated Earth Day — again. We have celebrated Earth Day 28 times now — first in April 1970. Last month, when I saw what people planned to do on Earth Day this year, I felt sad that we were still celebrating Earth Day. After 27 years, shouldn’t we at least be celebrating Earth Month by now?
Why not Earth Year? After 27 years, is it too much to ask people to pay attention to being gentle and thoughtful about our Earth every day of the year?
B-BOP brought me up short. In many ways we are paying attention to the Earth more often than just on Earth Day. For example, the sponsors of B-BOP (Metropolitan Council Transit Operations, Minnesota Department of Transportation and other agencies) are reminding us that on Wednesday, May 21st we should consider alternatives to our usual commutes in private cars. They have been reminding us (and rewarding us with free bus rides) once a year for seven years now.
Each year in the metro area, 3 to 4 percent more people contribute to increased traffic congestion. (That implies about a 20 percent increase in traffic on our roads since 1991.) The funding we receive from state and federal sources barely covers the expenses needed to repair roads, with none left over for building new, improved roads for increasing numbers of commuters.
But even if we could get the money, do we want more roads, which encourage more traffic and thus more air pollution from automobile emissions? Do we want more land taken for roads, instead of planting that same land with trees and other vegetation to encourage wildlife?
Already metro-area residents chalk up 66 million bus rides each year. Buses in the rest of the state provide more than a million rides annually. More of us could join these riders. And not just on May 21st. We could join them once a week. Or once a week we could choose another mode of transportation for getting to work. For example, my friend Ed rides his bike over 15 miles to work from Woodbury to Minneapolis at least once a week when the weather is good. I often walk two miles to get home from work.
Now we do something else environmental we weren’t doing in 1970. Back then, recycling was something hardly anyone did. Oh sure, garage sales, Goodwill, Salvation Army and Ragstock were a form of recycling. But bottles, cans, newspapers and writing paper all were set out for garbage pickup, ending up incinerated or in dumps.
Twice a month in our neighborhood, each household arranges six paper shopping bags on the curb next to our garbage carts. One is full of newspapers; a second, office paper; a third, shiny magazines and catalogues. We have one for glass — green, brown and clear all nestled comfortably together. And one for cans where aluminum and tin share the space. Plastic bottles are in the fifth bag. Sometimes we set out a little plastic bag, tightly knotted, filled with batteries. Twenty-five years ago we were lucky if we could find any recycling services. Now the city takes care of collecting and redistributing our recyclables twice a month.
At work, too, we’ve been provided with little corrugated desk-top recycling boxes for office paper, and bigger bins in the main office for newspaper, office paper, bottles and cans and trash.
Using these bins are little actions we can take to show that we think about our Earth every day as we conduct business as usual.
There’s evidence that when you make it easy for people, they will recycle. That’s good for them and good for the Earth. But I maintain that it’s time to be more conscious every day about additional ways we can take care of our environment, starting now, so we have an Earth to celebrate one day in April each year.
Let’s keep that day (Earth Day) and B-BOP, too, each May 21st to remind ourselves and generations to come that we had to start sometime, and we did. April 1970 may have been the beginning of our consciousness to saving our Earth. But let’s make our attention to our Earth a daily practice. For starters, I’ll see you on the bus Wednesday.
Katherine Simon Frank is a Minneapolis resident and University employee in the sociology department.