Monthly Archives: May 2011

You don’t have to take it with you, but please don’t leave it in the lane

It happens in every college town at the end of the academic year. As students move out of their apartments for the summer, possessions that are no longer needed or that won’t fit in the car are left on the curb. Or in Savannah’s case, in the lane. While some of these items will be claimed by passers-by, a summer showr can render upholstered furniture, electronics and other things pretty much useless. A program underway now will help divert some of what’s left behind from the landfill to a more beneficial destination

“In coordination with the City of Savannah and Keep Savannah Beautiful, the SCAD design for sustainability program is co-sponsoring an end-of-the-year collection of furniture, clothes, appliances and other household goods from all students who live off campus. All collected items will benefit Goodwill Industries. Donate from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day until June 4 at the old Sears building on Henry Street between Bull and Drayton streets. Also, look for dump trucks that will make rounds from Habersham Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and Henry Street to East Waldburg Street.”

For more information, call the City of Savannah Public Information Office at 651-6410.

A windshield perspective on vehicle theft

Imagine, if you will, public reaction to a law enforcement press release like this:

Police are encouraging car owners to lock their cars inside their garages. A secure car is OUT OF SIGHT!!! The Downtown Pct. is experiencing a rash of car thefts. On average 5 cars a week are stolen. In the past you could simply secure your car by locking it. Now reports show 90% of stolen cars were locked. We are attempting to encourage motorists/residents not to leave their cars outside. Remember a secure car is OUT OF SIGHT!!! Keep your car INSIDE!!!

How would citizens respond? Would they perceive that the police force had abdicated its role in fighting auto theft? What about those without access to locking garages? Would they feel abandoned by law enforcement? Probably so.

TheĀ  excerpt above was taken from portions of a press release issued by the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department on Tuesday. I substituted references to cars for references to bicycles in the original, which you can read here.

Obviously there are big differences between bicycles and cars and the difficulty in storing each. And recovering them, should they be stolen. Bicycles are easier to bring inside a building, but harder for police to track when stolen. Most of the time (but not always) bicycles are less expensive to replace than cars. Bicycle theft presents a difficult challenge for law enforcement agencies and the SCMPD has tried to inform and involve cyclists through educational events that stress theft prevention techniques and bicycle registration.

Nonetheless, the department’s latest suggestion that bikes should be kept inside and out of sight won’t be much use to those who are not permitted to bring their bicycles into their residences. Or into their workplaces. Or into stores. Or into any other destination at which a person may need to park his or her bike. Take my coworker, for example. His bike was stolen from where it was locked. To a bike rack. Adjacent to his office. On a busy street. On a sunny morning. Just hours before the SCMPD press release went out. But that doesn’t matter because he couldn’t have followed its recommendation anyway.

For the recreational cyclist, who takes a bike for a spin around the neighborhood and then returns it to the garage or storage room, the police department’s advice is viable. But for people who depend on their bicycles for daily transportation, it’s undoubtedly discouraging. For such a person, the experience of having a bike stolen is similar that of the motorist, who comes out of a store to find his or her car missing from the parking lot. It severely restricts personal mobility, disrupts daily life and can cause missed classes, appointments and work shifts.

Again, the press release is an earnest effort to alert the public and reduce bicycle theft, even if it fails to account for the ways many people use their bicycles. And its central premise is 100 percent correct: A bicycle stored inside will almost always be safer than one locked outside. For those whose circumstances make it impossible for them to follow to the police department’s recommendation, learning how to properly lock a bicycle to an immovable object is essential.

Kroger brags about not using plastic bags

Early adopters of reusable grocery bags probably remember the reactions of confounded cashiers and baggers, who weren’t sure what to make of shoppers who wanted neither paper nor plastic. But the practice has become so commonplace, shoppers rarely have to ask a bagger to stop shrouding their groceries in plastic before placing them in a reusable bag. Pretty much everyone’s gotten with the program, at least from the store employee side of the equation.

On the way out of the Gwinnett Street Kroger store earlier this week, I noticed the cling decal, right, on the window. By saving bags, in this case, Kroger means not giving so many away and fitting more into the bags they do, according to the 2010 Kroger Sustainability Report.

Curious about how the 138,825 bags figure was tallied, I called Kroger headquarters and got the answer. Nationwide, Kroger claims to have saved 159 million plastic bags.

“The way we account for bag savings is pretty simple,” said Keith Dailey, Kroger’s director of corporate communications. It turns out that the 159 million bag figure is derived from some 80 thousand cases of plastic bags the company did not order, based on the previous year figures. “It’s likely they did the same calculations at the store level,” he said, to arrive at the 138,825 bags saved number for Gwinnett Street. Dailey confirmed the reduction in bag use was achieved by promoting (and selling) reusable bags and training baggers to be more efficient.

Kroger’s sustainability report also describes the company’s efforts to reduce its energy and carbon footprint, improve transportation efficiency and reduce waste. While the word “bicycle” does not appear anywhere in the 32 page document (I hoped to see bicycles mentioned in the “Enabling Customer Sustainability” section), it’s worth noting that the Gwinnett Street Kroger provides more bicycle parking than any other store of any kind in Savannah. And it’s right at the front door, not out by the loading dock or on the side of the building. Providing ample and convenient bike parking clearly enables customers to make sustainable transportation choices. They should put that in the next sustainability report.