Take a Seat
“Cars have been marketed as a person’s pathway to a life of luxury, freedom, excitement, and exploration … cars are a symbol of status, whereas public transportation (buses and trains) are a symbol of an individual’s limits. Every single time someone rides a bus (that is, if they are riding it out of necessity and not by choice), they are reminded of their social and economic class.”
The above insight about one of the pitfalls of public transportation, from an environmental perspective, is from environmental artist Catherine Blackwell-Pena’s blog, Riding Green. Her point is an important one: while some “green” behaviors have developed a degree of social cachet over time (think of all those celebrities driving hybrids and shopping at their local farmer’s markets), other actions – like riding a bus – have somehow not garnered the same desirable environmental status.
Blackwell-Pena is working to change the image of public transportation and help raise its green status by designing these Duv-Tal seats – environmentally-conscious, inexpensive and unobtrusive public chairs, installed on light posts commonly found at public bus stops. The Duv-Tal seats serve to add a level of “visual respect” to the Memphis, TN area where they’ve been installed (many bus stops here lack adequate seating, leaving passengers to stand or sit on the ground) and messaging on each seat reminds passengers that by utilizing public transportation, they’re serving as positive environmental role models.
To impact real positive environmental change, we’re going to have to move beyond actions that are convenient, inexpensive or popular to tackle those more complex, requiring more effort and perhaps less socially-desirable. Thanks to the efforts of individuals like Catherine Blackwell-Pena, such actions are getting overdue attention and respect.