What an unbelievable week we had! Respecting my children’s priorities in going green, I tried to respond to the questions that had bothered me for a while: how to have eco-friendly commute? What sustainable commuting ideas are easy to start with, considering my little ones? It also seemed to be a priority as to our carbon footprint. Achieving eco-friendly commute was much more challenging that I had thought, and it shook our little world!


During my initial brainstorming about sustainable commuting ideas, I had set some very ambitious objectives regarding eco-friendly commute, such as “no more driving in the village within a 5-km radius.” But the final list of sustainable changes we introduced to our lives was much more moderate:

1) Using Park-and-Ride (P&R) possibilities to have sustainable commuting, at least once per month when going to Geneva with my family and at least once per week when going alone to Geneva

2) Taking the stairs instead of the elevator (when I am going less than five stories up and have no stroller)

3) Buying a bike as a way how to have eco-friendly commute. I went to GO SPORT shop nearby where I found this beautiful electric bike that I also present on one of the featured photos of this blog post.

4) Proposing car-sharing for children’s activities

5) Taking my kid to childcare by bike if it is only for one kid and in the village, except when it is cold or raining

6) Walking or biking to school to pick up kids once per week to have green commute

7) Biking to my yoga and gym classes and to my kid’s baby gym unless it is cold or raining

These are all easy ways to start moving towards sustainable commute, yet be ready for surprises!


Breaking my electric bike and falling with my kid

On the next day after I had bought the bike, I was taking my middle son Max to his first gym class. My electric bike broke, and I later fell with Max – thankfully leading only to little bruises! What made the anecdote even more unbelievable is that the bike broke in front of the bike shop. In this sense, we were pretty lucky!

Yet Max never made to his first gym class. I was about to start to hitchhike with Max to get back to our village, when somebody told me to go back to the shop and insist on using a replacement bike to get home. As our village is unfortunately not well-connected with public transport, I took the advice and got a replacement bike. However, when we reached the front of our house and I stopped to take Max down from the bike, we lost balance. We fell, me absorbing the shock by putting myself between bike and Max.

On top of it all, in the bike shop I had realised that I had not brought the lock with me! It was a reflex I still did not have and thus I had to buy another one. Fortunately we were in the bike shop!

how to green your commute: falling with bike

Another broken bike – school pickup turning into an adventure

The adventures related to how-to-green-your-commute did not end in this way. Fuelled by my kids’ wishes, I had this ambitious plan to achieve sustainable commute by going and picking my three boys up from school by bike. As my husband brings them by car in the morning on his way to work, this complicated the enterprise. He tried to fit my oldest boy’s bike into the car, but it did not fit. Then he and our neighbour tried to attach a special bike holder and succeeded in getting Lev’s bike and Max’s scooter to school. Max is not yet mastering biking with a two-wheeler, so the scooter is the vehicle he can move fastest.

So when I got to school by bike, where I also got my baby from my nanny and put in the baby seat on my bike, our odyssey home started. After less than 200 meters, Lev’s bike broke, and despite our repairing efforts, it was not usable. Lev’s friend’s mom offered to help, but I refused, hoping that my husband could come to save us, so she went home.

But I could not reach my husband, and so we locked up Lev’s bike and continued with him running beside us. Yet Max was soon too tired and refused to continue with his scooter. As I also had 3 bags, and my bicycle with Rick on it, I decided after another 200 meters to abandon my bike. I was then walking beside Max and carrying Rick who was ready for his nap. So in 30 minutes we finally made it home, all exhausted. This was thus not finally so easy way to achieve green commute for us.


Escaping dog

how to green your commute: bringing back escaping dog

On top of these two bike adventures, when I started to go to my yoga class by bike, my dog Fleur freaked out for some reason. When I opened the gate, she started to run away towards the center of our village. She has never seen me on a bike, and I guess she got scared or something. So Max and I ran after Fleur, trying to catch her. We succeeded in 500 meters and brought her home, yet I was significantly late to my yoga class.

I did start to wonder if God or the Universe is trying to let me know that maybe I should not bike…and that maybe it is not yet the right time to explore how to have eco-friendly commute for our family..

Logistical metamorphosis

Introducing biking into our lives led to a logistical metamorphosis in many ways. Now, I always have to think about: what clothes do the kids and I have? What type of bags are we carrying? Do we all have helmets? Do I have all necessary keys and locks? How much time will this trip take by bike? … and so on.

Be careful of what you preach – it can come back in unexpected ways!

In addition, when I was sharing my idea about going to Asia for our winter vacation, my husband did not agree. He challenged me, asking if I knew what the carbon footprint of all five of us flying there would be.


Yet not all of this week’s changes were so dramatic. When I asked two other mothers of my kids’ friends to take turns bringing our kids to their activities, one agreed right away. Now I have only to drive there every second week! I do need to get my car cleaned, though, before picking up these other kids. Thus in this area I was able to reach greener commuting!


how to green your commute: use P&R

When we looked to buy a house in French countryside, one of my main criteria was that I could travel to Geneva by P&R. I have to admit, though, that this was not fully for ecological reasons, but I was scared to navigate by car in the city, being rather new to driving. Our house allows us to do that. When we first moved, both my husband and I were commuting by P&R and taking kids to childcare in the city.

Recently, though, I have rarely opted for that. First, I started to drive more into the city because the usual P&R parking did not have enough parking places for latecomers (those who park after 9 am). My driving skills also improved with time, and I got more comfortable going by car… And for sure we opted for the car when going with all of our kids—we felt much more able to control the situation, with the kids buckled into their car seats.


So when we returned to going to Geneva with the kids by train last week, the first thing I thought was: “Help, where are the seat-belts?” My kids were excited to travel by train as they had not done that for a while. My 4-year-old and 1-year old loved running around, leading to some annoyed looks. I do think that seat belts in trains would be great idea. The second thing that came to my mind was: “Oops, my children are so noisy!” We constantly had to remind them to turn their volume down in public transport. In general, this was a great experience to repeat—but only sometimes!


I had little butterflies in my stomach when I went to buy an electric bike. For many years, I had not used a bike, and never the electric kind. I got this same feeling when I return to skiing after a long break, like happened with my two pregnancies. A part of my brain always wonders whether I still remember how to ski—or in this case, to bike.

The shop assistant was rather annoyed as I had many questions that for a seasoned bike-lover might appear stupid: can I put two kids on an electric bike?, Will my older one be able to follow me with his bike?, etc. Yet once I got on the bike, it felt like I had done that all my life. I had acquired a solid foundation while biking daily at 16 years old. All that biking, sometimes more than 30 km per day, paid off!

Walking to pick up the kids from school also went well. Some years ago, I used to pick up my oldest son from school this way regularly. Yet when I had two kids at school, plus a baby, I opted for easier way out and used the car almost exclusively.


The joy of re-discovering biking

This was an amazing experience – my first trip after so many years, biking back home, helped by the force of the battery! It felt like I was flying, with the sun and warm wind caressing my cheeks. My heart was singing and filled with pure joy – like when as kid, after many attempts, I finally managed to ride my bike all alone. I still experience this feeling, though perhaps not as intensely, every time I’m on a bike! Despite all my struggles this week, I will continue to bike, but I’ll also respect my limits. While biking alone or with one kid in the village is fine, picking up my three boys on schedule after school is too much for me, at least at the moment.

Going BACK to Green

I got a sense that for me, in many ways, the journey will be about going BACK to a greener lifestyle, something that I practiced without realising it during my childhood in the Soviet Union. More than half of the tips that I plan to implement this year are things my grandparents and parents already do daily out of respect for nature and to save money. For instance, using clean water sparingly, mostly walking and biking, buying secondhand and repairing clothes, as well as growing and cooking their own food are part of their daily lives. I also discuss this in my blog post on recycling water at home. My main lesson learnt of this week is thus:

• Apply my parents’ and grandparents’ wisdom about sustainable living and respect my own limits.