lessons from seattle

If you've hung out with me for even just a short length of time, I've probably annoyed you by talking about the "right way" to do something, or criticizing something I interpret as being done incorrectly. I think some of this tendency is just, for better or for worse, my personality (working on it, always). However, when I reflect on a lot of my values, I realize they are things that I picked up during the four years we lived in Seattle. 

We moved to Seattle from Connecticut in 2008, and I lived there through my mid-20s. I went to graduate school, worked at a non-profit, had a baby, and all the while enjoyed much of what the city and surrounding areas had to offer. It was a really formative time in my life; a time of self-exploration and much personal development. That time in Seattle had a significant impact on who I am today. 

Just for fun, or perhaps to shed light on the fact it's not "just me" who's taking a stance on certain issues, I wanted to summarize some of the key things Seattle taught me:

Don't idle your car. There were signs all over the city with this message, specifically on the streets leading up to draw bridges or ferries where cars would often have to wait awhile. Just 10 seconds of idling uses as much gas as is needed to restart your car. 

Public transit is cool. So is biking. When we lived in Seattle we only had one car. People took the bus everywhere. And people biked a lot. Despite the hills and the rain, biking was where it was at. I was baffled when we moved to Denver and very few people I met took public transit. 

Know how to park! (Check out that amazing parking job of our silver Honda Civic, above.) One way Seattle has achieved such good public transit usage is that parking is expensive. We'd never drive downtown for dinner because even if you found a parking spot, it'd be super expensive. And since parking is at a premium, people know how to park. You park with only a few feet between your car and the one in front of and/or behind you. And you better be at less than a foot from the curb. 

Don't jaywalk. In Seattle, pedestrians rule. A driver senses you're thinking about crossing the street and stops just in case you go for it. Ok that's perhaps a slight exaggeration, but only slight! However, don't jaywalk. Especially downtown. The police are known to ticket.

Make less trash. When we moved into our first (tiny) apartment in Seattle, we found the trash and recycling bins out back. The picture above isn't great since it's taken through a screen, but the largest green bin in the middle was the compost bin, the slightly smaller green bin was for recyclables, and the small black tub was for trash. That was it. I don't remember it being a big adjustment for us. We just got in line. You pay by the size of your trash bin, while compost and recycling are free (well, covered by taxes). So they've incentivized creating less trash. If the city finds a significant percentage of food waste or recyclables in your trash, you get fined.

Get outside. Shortly after we moved to Seattle, I remember someone asking us what we typically did on the weekends when we'd lived in Connecticut. We were like, "uhhhhh." Seattlites are always up to something. Camping, skiing, hiking, dog park-ing, sailing... In our first few months there, we spent a lot of money on outdoor gear. Hiking boots, tent, skis, etc. And we used it.

You won't melt. The rain reputation Seattle has is tricky. It does rain a lot. But the total amount of rain isn't greater than in other major U.S. cities like Chicago or New York. But it's cloudy a lot. Like, a LOT. And the rain comes and goes. So you have to be prepared for it, but people don't freak out. Life goes on. 

Expect great food. Seattle has so many fantastic restaurants. People have a high standard for food. People care about food. It's totally reasonable and acceptable to ask where your food is coming from. I went back to visit last year and when we went out to dinner my friends had a lengthy discussion with the server about where the salmon was from. So Seattle. So awesome. 

Don't drink bad coffee. Life is too short. 

Wear whatever you want. + Shop consignment. Moving to Seattle from Connecticut was liberating. No more popped collars and pearls. Instead you could honestly wear anything. It was very freeing. Also, consignment and vintage stores were everywhere. As a poor grad student, it just made sense. Plus, check the awesome 70s vest I scored. 

It's never too cold for ice cream. I didn't own any shorts for the four years I lived in Seattle. I think I went swimming once. But despite the lack of hot temperatures, people like their ice cream. There was almost always a line at Molly Moon's.

Be progressive. Seattle is ahead of the curve on many issues. When you're living there, it's hard not to start thinking that this should be the norm...

And last, but not least: Doughnuts are delicious. No explanation needed.