Getting Green With Transport

In the US, possibly more than in any other country, we love our cars. The space between places means that we rely upon driving to get us from one place to another and it’s difficult to find alternative modes of transport for when time is short and distances are long!

Obviously, choosing to travel on foot or by bicycle is a great way to reduce your individual impact on the environment. The thing is, we’re not in to preaching and understand you can’t simply stop using your car. Trains and other public transport are great, but they’re not always convenient, especially if you have a family with children and don’t want to be tied down to specific times.

Whether we like it or not, cars are here to stay. Even if you are a dedicated car driver, there are a number of ways to reduce your carbon emissions and make your transportation a bit greener. As with any environmental action, taking control of our individual impact on the world around us can make a huge difference.

Cars

Do you have to drive?

 Before getting in your car, consider whether you could reach your destination by another means. Walking regularly can reduce your risk of heart problems and other illnesses, as well as making you fitter. Identify your most common destinations, and investigate whether you could get there by bus, train, bike, or walking. A study carried out found that on average, people overestimate the time that journeys by public transport will take by more than 80% and underestimate the time that car journeys will take by 18%. Is it really quicker to drive? Travel to work or school by public transport, walking, or cycling once a week. You might find that you enjoy it!

How to cut emissions when using your car

The following tips have been pulled together to give you an overview of how to be more green about your transport, so you can arrive at your destination feeling a bit smug about how you got there…

Investigate the possibility of car sharing. You can register for car-sharing by going online and seeking out other people who regularly go to the same destination as you. By sharing with just one other person, you could half your costs of driving.

When you’re driving, get rid of any surplus weight, such as roof bars or bike racks. This makes your journey a little cheaper and also cuts down on emissions by losing the excess weight your car has to pull along.

Use air conditioning carefully, as this increases fuel consumption by 15% – by cutting it down where you can and opening the windows, you cut fuel costs and assist to reduce your emissions. When you are driving, try to change into a higher gear as soon as possible, to reduce the impact on your engine and cut costs. Accelerate and brake as slowly and smoothly as possible, so that you use less fuel and drive with awareness of the environment.

If you drive at slower speeds, you can reduce your emissions significantly. Obviously, the faster you go, the more gas you use!

Have your car serviced regularly – an incorrectly adjusted carburetor can waste up to 25% of fuel. Incorrect tyre pressure can increase fuel consumption too. Switch off your engine at short stops when you are idling for more than a minute, to save on fuel costs.

All these things can support you to make your mark on environmental change and get you to make a real difference on a personal level when considering your impact on the environment. If each one of us makes these small changes, imagine the collective impact we could have on reaching our targets!

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Taking Responsibility For Our Own Energy Use

More and more, we are seeing attention in the press about calculating personal energy consumption and finding ways to reduce it. With the launch of new gadgets which enable people to measure their energy use, it seems that technology is catching up with the new awareness of how to reduce our impact on the environment by cutting power consumption.

A year-long US government study has recently been released which shows that empowering businesses and homeowners to monitor their own electricity use is the most powerful way to highlight consumption and prompt people to take personal responsibility for lowering the amount they use. Over time, the report suggests that this could lead to a reduced need for building power plants.

Making savings in cost and environmental impact

The results of the research project undertaken by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the Energy Department showed that if households have digital tools to set temperature and price preferences, the peak loads on utility grids could be reduced by up to 15% a year.

Over a 20-year period, this could save $70 billion on spending for power plants and infrastructure, and avoid the need to build the equivalent of 30 coal-fired plants.

The project looked at consumer behavior and found that people responded well to having the ability to calculate their own energy use, prompting them to take responsibility of a personal level for reducing consumption overall. The study showed that it’s not simply a matter of providing the right technology to check power usage, but a psychological shift in people’s attitudes that can make a positive change.

In the Olympic Peninsula, west of Seattle, 112 homes were equipped with digital thermostats, and computer controllers were attached to water heaters and clothes dryers. These controls were connected to the internet.

The people taking part in the study could then go online and make decisions about what they were prepared to do to make changes. These included cutting thermostat temperatures, and other small changes. The response was fantastic, with people actively making changes to reduce fuel consumption.

In this way, people took responsibility for managing their own power usage, prompting a series of positive behaviors across the group.

“I was astounded at times at the response we got from customers,” said Robert Pratt, a staff scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the program director for the demonstration project. “It shows that if you give people simple tools and an incentive, they will do this. Each household doesn’t have to do a lot, but if something like this can be scaled up, the savings in investments you don’t have to make will be huge, and consumers and the environment will benefit.”

The households in the demonstration project on average saved 10% on their monthly utility bills. The only downside to the project is that the technology behind it won’t be readily available for a while.

“What they did in Washington is a great proof of concept, but you’re not likely to see this kind of technology widely used anytime soon,” said Rick Nicholson, an energy technology analyst at IDC, a research firm.

The Impact of Climate Change in Gabura, Bangladesh

Oxfam just launched an interactive documentary about the impact of Climate Change in Gabura, Bangladesh – oxfam.org.uk/gabura. It contains extraordinary footage of cyclone Aila as it hit, plus snapshots of village life. It allows the user to choose the videos they wish to explore.

They also launched an interactive Climate Change Challenge Game where players can test how much they know about CC and complete through Facebook. The game features a host of celebrity supporters and is designed to raise public awareness. Click the image below to take a look.

Oxfam

Love Letters to the Future

Love Letters to the Future is designed to raise awareness about climate change. They are putting out a call for people to create messages for the future and upload them to www.loveletterstothefuture.com.

A time capsule is being built to preserve the 100 most popular messages voted on by the public at the loveletters’ site. It will be sealed at a live event in Copenhagen, to be re-opened in 100 years.

Their goal is to collect a critical mass of love letters and present them to the world during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on December 13, 2009. Check out the quick video below for more info:

How Painting Your Roof White Can Help Save The Planet

Another post for you, written by Ben from Big Green Smile. This time he talks about painting your roof…

“Drive smaller cars, install efficient light bulbs, insulate our lofts, plant trees and don’t fly. Most of us are familiar with the dos and don’ts of climate change but here is something new for your arsenal in the fight. Paint your roof white. A little bit ‘out there’ perhaps but this is the vision of Hashem Akbari, a US scientist based at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Ben

“The Greeks have been doing this to their beautiful villages for centuries of course but Hashem Akbari believes that painting the grey and let’s face it rather dull buildings of our own towns and cities white will have a tangible benefit in curbing global warming. White/light roofs reflect approximately 50% of the sunlight whereas on black/dark surfaces this is just 10-20%.

“Akbari calculates that a mass movement to paint our roofs white could result in 0.03% additional sunlight being bounced off the earth; enough to cancel out a tremendous 44bn tonnes of CO2, which is the projected increase for the next decade.

“With carbon emissions still rising, painting everything white is not the only answer, by Akbari’s own admission. The idea needs mass contribution for it to be effective but compared to other measures it is relatively simple, does not need protracted long negotiations for it to be effective and is relatively cheap.

Big Green Smile

“Studies in Los Angeles have shown that replacing two thirds of rooftops and road surfaces with reflective surfaces would cool the city by 2-3C. Although the UK does not have the hot climate of California there are benefits to be had anywhere that has need of air conditioning, and that certainly counts London. Akbari would ultimately like to see his idea included in carbon offsetting schemes and has calculated that every 10 square meters of re-painted reflective surface is preventing the release of a ton of carbon dioxide.

“Time to get the painting clothes on then.”

Tonight (In The US) CBS Journeys To The Bottom Of The Earth

I received belated notification of this, so sorry for the short notice. Since Monday through to today (Wednesday) CBS Evening News reporter John Blackstone has been taking a journey to the bottom of the earth, for an in-depth look at Antarctica.

Tonight Blackstone will go inside the hut of explorer Robert Scott that was built in 1901 and remains exactly the same today. He will also examine the issue of garbage in a country that brings recycling to a whole new level.

On Tuesday he explored scientific factoids about Antarctica from ice bubbles that are samples of the earths ancient atmosphere to scientific gadgets drilling down to detect particles from space that travel right through the earth…and may reveal how the universe was formed.

It is also worth noting that since the last time he trekked to the Arctic (9 years ago), the average temperature has dropped four degrees. Watch it all on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric at 6:30 PM EST.

If you do get a chance to watch it then let us know what you thought.

Journey to the Bottom of the Earth