Now that the very last remnants of ‘snowpocalypse’ are gone, I thought it would be a good time for the DJC Green Building Blog to ask “just what did we learn?”
(For those of you not in the Seattle area, a thick blanket of snow carpeted the Pacific Northwest for most of the past week and a half. In Seattle, this amounts to a once-every-15-years-event).
As a city there weren’t many surprises: we learned Seattle doesn’t really know how to deal with snow and local drivers understand how it works even less.
But as individuals did we connect to our immediate environments a little bit more? I did. I live in a very walkable neighborhood with a market, restaurants and a coffee shop all across the street. A little further away there’s a retail district and a movie theatre. I walk to these places constantly and use them frequently.
But here’s the thing: beind snowed in forced me to think about my local amenities differently. No longer did I have the choice to drive to the movie theatre. If I wanted to go, I had to walk. And if I wanted other entertainment not across the street, well I had to reconsider just how much I wanted that too. Was I willing to walk for it?
Cutting out the choices shifted my perspective. If city planners ever hope to make the car a defunct item, that’s the kind of space they’re going to need to create.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was thinking differently: all of my local restaurants were packed whenever I passed by them (even sushi.) People I know who never take the bus were doing it. Or walking to places they had never considered walking to.
The Seattle Times reported on local retailers seeing big foot trafffic. Looking back on the week and a half, it was annoying, yes. But having Mother Nature limit my choices for me was also kind of nice.
Green building is about creating a structure that gives back to its community a little bit more than the standard product. But a green building in the middle of nowhere only does so much good. Sustainable living, on the other hand, is about creating a community that doesn’t just take but gives back. In a way, the snow made me give back more to my community because it forced me to interract even more with it.
There’s a kind of momentum there, if a city could only capture it. But how is it possible to capture a forced locality, if you will, and turn it into better urban planning? It seems like there’s a great opportunity there, if only someone would step up and find a way to take it.