Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
July 14th, 2009
What produces less carbon emissions: Driving from Los Angeles to Chicago, or making the same trip by train? That depends — on how many people are in your car. Drive alone, and even moving in an ultra-green hybrid will be less green than taking the train. But carpool with 3 other friends and your per-person carbon footprint will actually be less than a train rider’s — even if you and your friends are in a gas guzzling SUV!
That handy number crunching comes courtesy of Trip Footprint, a new website that lets you easily compare the environmental impact of various modes of travel. Just plug in your start and end cities and the number of travelers to get the numbers displayed in an easy-to-read graph. Above are the L.A.-to-Chicago results for a solo traveler; below are the same results for four travel buddies that stick together.
Trip Footprint gets its numbers from a Union of Concerned Scientists study called Getting There Greener: The Guide to Your Lower-Carbon Vacation, which curious number-crunchers can check out for details on the methodology behind the numbers. Beyond that, Anirvan Chatterjee, co-developer of Trip Footprint, says the site does its best to calculate actual travel distances: “For planes and trains, we try to use realistic airport and Amtrak routings, and take into account the type of plain and train models used on those routes.” In addition, Trip Footprint’s numbers try to take into account the non-CO2 carbon impacts of aviation — something most carbon calculators do, according to Anirvan, but Getting There Greener does not.
Of course, while Trip Footprint’s numbers certainly provide quick, understandable data, figuring out the best way to travel isn’t so cut and dry as Trip Footprint’s bottom-line statements like “You should definitely drive. Even a typical SUV is better than the best plane!” For one, Trip Footprint’s numbers look simply at the carbon cost of the trips themselves, without taking into account the total lifetime costs of each mode of travel.
This means that the travel comparisons don’t include the carbon emissions that are created by, say, building rail lines and stations, expanding airports, or putting in miles and miles of highways that have to be constantly repaved and upgraded. If Trip Footprint included the infrastructure costs of all modes of travel, the data would likely look significantly different.
A recent study, for example, revealed that when those sunk costs are taken into account, flying can actually be even more efficient than taking the train! That study also took into account the fact that in some places, train stations aren’t ideally located — and thus ended up being extra carbon intensive because people had to drive to get to the train station in the first place — and the station has to build large parking structures to accommodate these drivers.
And as advocates of new urbanism and walkable communities will point out, there’s more to consider than simple trip carbon emissions when taking a trip. Supporting a mass transit infrastructure that lets people get rid of their cars altogether will go a long way towards creating pedestrian-friendly communities that foster more neighborly interactions and fewer unsightly freeways and cul-de-sacs.
Still, Trip Footprint certainly gets us thinking more deeply about greening our travel. To me, the application shows exactly how wasteful single-passenger car trips are. I’m ever more determined to find a carpool partner to go anywhere that requires driving!
One thing I’d love to see in the Trip Footprint is the time and money required for each mode of travel. We know it would take a Kenyan runner a whopping 3 years to get from L.A. to Chicago — but the same details aren’t yet included for the more realistic modes of travel. Since the Obama administration’s put its money and support behindnan expanded rail network, I’m hoping that we’ll see faster, cheaper train travel soon — which will get more people out of their cars and onto mass transit simply to save money, time, and stress — thus improving their quality of life while traveling green.
Popularity: 8% [?]
July 8th, 2009
Want green travel that goes beyond LEED-certified chain hotels and flight offsets? Pick up one of the GrassRoutes guides, an urban eco-travel book series put together by Oakland resident Serena Bartlett. These guides reveal the neighborhoody green knowledge that’ll let you get around town like a long-time do-gooder member of the local eco-community.
GrassRoutes: Oakland & Berkeley, for example, clues you into Frugal Foodies, a vegetarian dining society in Berkeley that’s actually accessible to visitors who want to make new foodie friends, and Lakeside Park Gardens, where you can volunteer to help build a sensory garden for the blind. GrassRoutes: Northern California Wine Country of course details the organic wineries in the area — then also lists the many places you can pick cherries in Livermore valley and provides detailed biking directions — including best spots for breaks — to inland Sonoma county.
In its listings, GrassRoutes guides go beyond simple recycling programs and vegetarian options to look at whether a restaurant or store banks locally, is known as a pillar of the community, or employs people reentering workforce. But lest you fear GrassRoutes guides are all do-gooder and little fun, rest assured that you’ll get details on the best local lingerie shop, international grocery stores, green spas, and dive bars — a number of which boast only the faintest of greenishness yet have been awarded the little “community pillar” symbol (cheap drinks will, indeed, make the locals consider your bar indispensable).
Like most travel guides, GrassRoutes guides include a brief history of the area, transportation info, plus sections specific to pet and kid-related activities. Unlike many travel guides, GrassRoutes guides are organized not by neighborhood, but by activity. Brunch places are grouped together, for example — separately from the lunch places, dinner spots, and take-out restaurants, all of which have their own categories.
This unorthodox structure makes the guides actually seem best suited for local residents eager to explore their town — or for newcomers who’ve moved into the neighborhoods. The Oakland & Berkeley guide, for example, includes rather detailed profiles bike shops in the area, big ups welding classes offered at The Crucible, and plugs a tool lending library — information that’s not going to be particularly relevant to a visitor.
And some of the information a visitor might want is missing. The Oakland & Berkeley book’s very bare bones maps will require that you find a separate map or fancy phone to help you get around — and walking tours of neighborhoods will have to be self-concocted since none are included. The extremely brief details lodging options — ghettoized to a few pages at the very back of the book, no less — may also leave you turning to web resources to find a place to stay.
That said, the Northern California Wine Country guide’s more helpful for the average tourist, with expanded lodging info and details on bike-fueled wine tours, olive tours, docent-led winegrowing hike and more. All this means that like the quirks of these NoCal areas the guides cover, the guides too have their quirks, with everything from a short glossary of Oakland lingo (do you know what joog means) to a sociological critique of Napa valley, about which Serena writes:
I am acutely aware of the lack of diversity, the assumption that paradise can be bought, the lavishness enjoyed on the backs of unnamed others. I wriggle and struggle to find something real in this land of façades.
For this kind of personal, locally-oriented, in-depth look at discovering the real place-ness of these tourist spots, pick up a copy of GrassRoutes guides. Both the Oakland & Berkeley and the Northern California Wine Country guides cost $16.95 each; a San Francisco guide is due out next month.
Popularity: 4% [?]
June 2nd, 2009
By Jerry James Stone, courtesy of Gas2.o
At the Eco-Aviation Conference in Washington, Air New Zealand’s Chief Pilot Captain David Morgan announced the company’s findings on a test flight from last December. Powered by a combination of biofuel and jet fuel, the test resulted in a fuel savings of 1.2%. It also cut CO2 emissions by over 60%!
While a 1.2% fuel savings doesn’t seem like much, that is over 1 ton of fuel!
The test was conducted using a commercial 747-400 fitted with Rolls Royce engines. Rolls Royce had certified the fuel — a 50:50 blend of standard Jet A1 fuel and synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from jatropha oil.
“We’ve proven the technical capability of biofuel as a drop-in replacement,” said Bill Glover, Managing Director of Environmental Strategy for Boeing. “It meets all jet fuel requirements and then some.”
The biofuel was produced from Jatropha seeds grown on “environmentally sustainable farms.” A second generation biofuel, jatropha is grown on land that doesn’t compete with food. It requires almost no care and very little water. Another major benefit of jatropha is that, due to its ability to take hold in harsh wastelands, it can be used to help stop erosion in these areas and reclaim them for agricultural production.
Popularity: 6% [?]
April 26th, 2009
Written byAmiel Blajchman, courtesy of Gas2.0
Masdar City, located within Abu Dhabi, is introducing personal rapid transit “podcars”. Basically, a cross between the convenience of grabbing a cab and a public bus; the podcars will be a component of Masdar City’s public transportation system.
As part of Masdar City’s car-free design; these podcars will be part of a network of electric taxis without drivers (!). The first of these podcars (also known as personal rapid transit - PRT) are set to debut this year.
According to Luca Guala, a planner at the consulting firm Systematica that designed the PRT network, it will:
Initially, the system will be very simple, with only a couple of stations. During this period, the system will function kind of like an elevator – you press a button and go to the third floor. Think of it as a horizontal lift. Later on it will be more sophisticated, and passengers will be able to get within 100 meters of any destination.
Since it is a prototype system, PRT is currently expensive to build. But, doesn’t it just scream “vision of the future”?
Image: Flyway Gotgatan via Flickr’s Media Commons
Popularity: 9% [?]
April 21st, 2009
Springtime is the perfect time to go green, so Low Impact Living is very happy to announce a new green home contest for the Midwest. If you live within 300 miles of the Windy City and you live in a green home or want to make your current home greener, you’re eligible to compete. Low Impact Living and the Hotel InterContinental Chicago challenge you to make your home as green as you can!
We’re going to reward the greenest home and homeowners with a luxurious 3-night stay at the LEED-certified, greenest hotel in the Second City, the Hotel InterContinental. In addition, the winner will be treated to an eco-friendly stay in Chicago which includes tasty local cheeses and bio-dynamic wine at the adjoining ENO restaurant, a $50 gift certificate to the green clothing boutique Pivot and a gift from Chicago’s greenest boutique, Green Heart. More on the hotel and the prizes in a minute!
Low Impact Living will identify the single family home (and its proud owners) that has the lowest Low Impact Living Index (calculated using our Environmental Impact Calculator), and we’re going to share with you what that family has done to get there. Don’t worry if you haven’t done big projects like installing solar panels or a wind turbine - as the calculator shows, many of the best green home projects are simple and inexpensive. We’ll show you how to identify projects to make your home more eco-friendly. The contest will close on June 15, 2009. So you have time to make green changes!
What you have to do to enter
1. Visit our Household Environmental Impact Calculator and calculate your base LILI (Low Impact Living Index). It will only take five-ten minutes to use the calculator and create an account.
2. Once you’ve entered all of your base inputs, move on to the “select projects” page of the calculator. Make sure you only check projects that you’ve finished (or will finish by June 15th) before you log out.
3. Make sure that you log out or save your profile before leaving — if you just move on to another web site without logging out, your inputs could be lost.
4. If you’ve already created an account through our calculator, then you need to return and, log in again. We’ve added some new features recently, and they won’t work unless you refresh your account.
5. We realize the calculator isn’t all-encompassing yet, so there may be projects that you’ve done that don’t show up. If this is true, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org describing what you’ve done. Low Impact Living staffers will review your efforts and award up to a 5% additional deduction for compelling projects.
How we’ll select the winner
The contest closes on June 15, 2009, and we will announce the winner on July 1. This will give us time to check with the finalists to make sure that they’ve completed all of their checked projects. (Past entrants to our green home contests are not eligible.)
If you are a finalist (in our top 10 lowest LILI scores), we may ask you to verify that your projects are actually completed, via photos or receipts / invoices for work performed. We’ll also ask for your address (not to be published!) so that we can verify entered information about your home. If you’re a winner, then you have to be willing to let us share your projects and process with everyone via our blog, and to provide us with the photos and project descriptions necessary to do that. You’ll become a green star overnight!
What you could win!
The greenest homeowner will receive three nights at the luxe Hotel InterContinental in Chicago (valid until May 2010). Chicago’s only Green Seal certified and Energy Star rated hotel, the InterContinental is partially housed in a historic tower built in 1929 and overhauled in 2009 with state-of-the-art, energy-saving appliances and fixtures (talk about recycling!) Located on the city’s Magnificent Mile, the hotel is within walking distance of Lake Michigan, stores, the Loop, and the Art Institute. The hotel’s historic, junior Olympic size pool is recognized as one of the best indoor pools in the U.S. and is included in Chicago’s major architectural tours.
The InterContinental is continuously improving its environmental performance through the development and sharing of best practices, training and recognition of excellence. In addition to utilizing innovative technology to conserve energy as well as reducing and recycling the waste it produces, the property is also committed to promoting effective environmental management to its key vendors and contractors. In addition, the hotel is mindful of purchasing local products and eco-friendly products to reduce carbon emissions.
ENO, the InterContinental’s chic wine, cheese and chocolate lounge, boasts organic and biodynamic wines and local cheeses and chocolates. The winner will experience the unique and artisan offerings of this Second City favorite, merely a few steps from your room.
The winner will also receive a $50 gift card from Pivot Boutique, which opened in September 2007 and is Chicago’s first boutique devoted to eco-fashion. The store’s designers use organic or sustainable materials and processes to create chic clothing, accessories and gifts.
Finally, the prize-winner will also receive a specially-selected gift from Green Heart Shop, Chicago’s only non-profit, eco friendly, fair trade store.
So, good luck, and get to greening, you Heartlanders!
Popularity: 7% [?]