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A lot has been said on this subject but I’m afraid I am going to have to insist on adding my voice to the noise.

Commuting – I do it. I love it. Ok – sometimes I hate it…

I recently read an article in The Observer that struck a chord with me. Although this article was very London centric (as things often are) and therefore not exactly rooted in the reality of everyone’s lives, it was also interestingly controversial in that it promoted commuting by public transport as a good thing. An unusual standpoint considering, aside from in environmental journalism, this is probably the first real vindication of public transport use I have come across – in the media or from actual people.

Apparently, some new research (yawn) by The University of East Anglia has found that public transport commuters are happier than those who drive to work. Out of the 18,000 passengers surveyed it was found that, even when other factors that may affect wellbeing were taken out of the equation, commuters who travelled to work on public transport scored lower on feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness and sleeplessness.

Now, I don’t need research to tell me how beneficial my 90 minutes-a-day of public transport is for me – I’ve been reaping the benefits for nearly ten years, travelling cross county from Birmingham to Warwickshire via both bus and train (lucky me).

I hope my status as a seasoned public transport commuter gives my opinions some kind of weight, because I am now going to rather grandly claim that commuting makes me a better citizen. Hear me out – I’ve got a list for you:

1. The thing about public transport is that it’s all very, well, public. You’re thrust right into the path of your fellow planet-sharers in a way that you just wouldn’t be in the rest of your life, other than perhaps, say, the supermarket or, if you work with members of the public (brave), at work. So –  getting the bus actually keeps you in touch with reality. Ok yes, sometimes that reality is hearing the ins and outs of someone’s argument with their ex-girlfriend, or having a small child throw up on your shoe. But, you know, if we aren’t forced to interact with society at it’s fullest how can we be fully rounded people? I’d argue I get more of a community (ugh, I hate myself for writing that word, I apologise) from the people I see everyday on the bus and train than I do from my actual neighbours. I don’t necessarily like them, but that’s not the point

2. Catching the bus-and-or-train builds many key life skills and generally makes you a better person to be around. You are more patient (that’s alright bolshy lady, just shove past me with your many bags – I don’t mind, I am a good citizen), you can empathise, you are probably quite kind (please do take my seat nice old man)

3. If you travel by public transport you could probably embark on a career-change and become a leading Body Language expert – you have no choice but to learn appropriate personal space boundaries, when and when not to smile, when to make yourself invisible

4. These skills also come in handy on the mean streets – you are sharper than your driving counterparts. You can rate a situation / person in terms of dodgy-ness and accompanying threat level in a matter of seconds

And I do honestly believe that my commute is also essential for maintaining my mental health – here comes another list, ooh:

5. Public travel time equals thinking time. I plan most of my life from the train. I don’t know what I’d do without it. I’d probably be a disorganised mess

6. You also get time to be productive (I am writing this very blog post from the 08.22 to London Marylebone). Time to be leisurely – listen to that album you’ve been waiting to come out, read a book (books, remember those?), watch YouTube (with headphone on, please). Or, if you are a pain in the arse, talk loudly on your mobile phone and then cough everywhere…

7. Travel by public transport also means you get some physical exercise (ish) – which, say the researchers, is the crux of the benefit to your mental health

I know this is all a little tongue in cheek, but I do hope readers recognise some of the above in their own lives. Maybe we public transporters have a better sense of humour too – we have to, really, as we are faced with the ‘laughable’ incompetence of transport companies that we have no choice but to use, shedding out increasingly large amounts of cash to said companies despite, if anything, a decrease in the standards of our journey. Actually, as I type I find I am becoming less and less relaxed…

I’ve obviously been painting too rosy a picture of public transport – on the other side of the tracks (sorry) lies pure, unadulterated RAGE.

Nothing, NOTHING, can make you more angry than public transport. There’s obviously the cost. I remember when the bus cost an adult 90p, and that makes me upset. A return train ticket to work is now double the cost it was when I started.

But the real biggie is the cruel way in which public transport reveals the ugly truths of our modern society, and people in general. People are rude. Selfish and rude. A life of public transport has taught me this. As a queue-worshipping Brit, ‘pushing in’ is probably the thing that gets to me most, the thing that grinds me down and contorts me into the-irrationally-angry-woman-I-hate. It sounds ridiculous and really not worth bothering about, but I have had 30-minute phone conversations purely about something that happened to me in a bus queue.

I have shouted at people. Actually shouted. Pushed and barged. I regularly swear aloud to myself and at others. Is the stress of public transport pushing me to do things that are out of character? Or is it actually revealing what’s inside of me?

So we’re a split-personalitied bunch, but at least we public transport users are eco friendly. (Although probably not on purpose.)

Bet those researchers are glad I wasn’t in their study group.

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Recycling. I think we can all agree it is a crucial and moral act we must all make some effort to incorporate into our daily lives, however small.

Whether it’s putting your empty cardboard coffee cup into the correct bin at Pret A Manger.

Or donating that Steven Seagal DVD to your local Age Concern, brother, hated work colleague etc instead of just throwing it away.

This is all our duty, right? Apparently I was wrong.

I will admit upfront that I am not exactly a recycling evangelist – I am very aware that I could and should do a whole lot more saving-the-planet-wise.

I do wash all my clothes at 30 degrees. However, I buy most of said clothes from the High Street, and not often from the pricier sustainable organic cotton range…not that organic cotton actually is all that sustainable anyhow…but more on that later.

But I’ve got my basics covered. Paper (no matter how small, scrappy and incredibly irritating when you’re trying to shove into the recycling bin), appropriate plastics, tins and cans all get recycled, and I make sure to donate any of my unwanted stuff.

I’ve done so since childhood and as a result it is ingrained in my psyche. Recycling is in my code.

So I just cannot believe it when I see people throw their newspaper in the bin, or worse, on the floor (aargh littering! Separate issue).

I just can’t believe every other person on earth wouldn’t make the effort to put something in the recycling bin instead of the regular bin. It’s not even an effort now, is it? It is so damn easy to recycle with facilities available in the street, in shops and cafés, at your home – you almost have to go out of your way to not recycle. There really is no excuse.

Which is why my wrath knew no bounds when, last year, the recycling facilities were withdrawn from our apartment building.

Why the hell would they do that?! I hear you ask. Can they even do that? I don’t know. But it happened and, a year later, I am still having to travel three and a half miles (in the car – sorry Earth. It’s too much stuff to carry and I’m not sure travelling with rubbish on the bus is acceptable. Even on the 50) to use the recycling bins in the car park of the Asda supermarket I used to shop in when I actually lived in that area.

The apparent reason for this outrageous removal of services was because the recycling bins were being abused by residents.

Now bear with me here because I can imagine why you’d struggle to understand how and why a recycling bin could be abused, but I’ll try my best to explain.

People – grown men and women – were dumping their normal rubbish in the recycling bins for paper, glass and cans.

I know of other residents who would argue this is actually an improvement on alternative behaviour witnessed, which is to simply leave the rubbish – not always even secured in bags – right there on the floor, just next to the perfectly acceptable bin. Sometimes, not even in the designated bin area at all – just out in the street. A number of times in the hall. One time even in the lift. But I digress.

Unfortunately this confirms for me that I am forced to share my living space actual idiots. Here we have grown adults, who have worked hard enough to be able to afford to buy or rent a city centre flat, who are unable to dispose of their waste in a socially acceptable manner. How can they go about the world with such little pride in themselves and their surroundings? Life shouldn’t have to be like this.

It is, of course, frustrating when others do not share the same standards and vision of a happy social balance as you. I suppose it is one of the common problems of modern life in the city. Sharing your space with ever increasing numbers of people. Increasing numbers of whom are leaving their manners behind when they leave home. You just have to become resigned to it. Accept thy inconsiderate neighbour – otherwise, you may just kill them.

Are plain basic good manners an abnormality now? Not even good manners – just ok ones…

It may just be me getting older, and a city dweller to boot, but I can’t see what hope social responsibility has if a person will spit in the street, leave a used nappy in a public lift, or dump their general waste in a paper recycling bin before they will swallow, or before they will remove their child’s nappy in their own home a matter of feet away. Before they will use a recycling bin.

I hope the cynic in me is wrong. Maybe as soon as people start recycling old-fashioned manners, the rest will follow.

We all have to face up to the fact that we can’t go on living in and with such waste. We can’t get away with it forever. Something has to give. People have to give. Even if we won’t be here to see the impact we make, and it’s our old curtains that are getting taken away by end-of-life recyclers.

And on the subject of fabric, I must take this opportunity to mention The Ecologist Guide to Fashion, one of an amazing series of books WHICH YOU MUST READ. You could be forgiven for considering the fashion world simple and frivolous and a world that plays no impact in your life – but it is a complicated business that affects us all. This book will open your eyes to the real cost of the clothes you buy and wear.

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