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[1THING] Blog: Archive for November, 2012

[ Oil Train Revival: Booming North Dakota Relies on Rail to Deliver Its ]

In the booming North Dakota’s Bakken Shale region, producers aren’t waiting for pipelines. In a reprise of the industry’s pioneering days, they’re loading oil on railroads.

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[ Car Sharing Redefines the Value of a Parking Space ]

For many cities, car sharing has presented a compelling solution to public transit crowding and traffic snarls (see related story: “Car Sharing Widens the Lanes of Access for City Drivers“). Services such as Zipcar and Car2go offer the opportunity to cut the number of cars on city streets, but a price for hosting those services’ fleets is paid in the loss of precious, centrally located parking spots.

The potential impact of car-sharing fleets on parking availability for car owners was enough to make the community of Manhattan Beach, California, pause this week before approving a deal with the Daimler-owned Car2go. City council members said that a parking study was needed before they could support Car2go’s proposal to bring the service into nine cities in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.

Ironically, taking curbside parking spots out of the general pool and dedicating them to shared vehicles is seen as part of the solution to the parking and congestion problem. It’s an idea that has met some success—as well as some complaints from residents—in Hoboken, New Jersey, one of the most densely populated areas in the United States.

Located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, Hoboken has dedicated more than 40 of its 9,000 on-street parking spaces to a car-share program known as Corner Cars. Hertz operates the program and pays the city $100 per spot each month, while charging members $5 to $16 an hour for the cars. Bright green paint marks off pairs of spots reserved for Corner Cars every few blocks.

Two years after the program’s launch, about a quarter of Corner Cars’ 3,000 members have reportedly given up their own cars or put off buying a new one because of access to the shared wheels. (See related story: “To Curb Driving, Cities Cut Down on Car Parking“)

Of course, some residents complain that they would gladly pay $100 to rent a prime parking spot—never mind the city’s argument that one spot can provide convenience to many more residents if it is occupied by a shared vehicle instead of a private car.

Some cities, on the other hand, are capitalizing on the high value of convenient city parking. Washington, D.C. has opted to auction off dozens of spots formerly awarded for free to Zipcar. Last year, the District set a minimum bid price of $3,600 per space, and drew offers from three car sharing companies. Zipcar went from having 86 parking spots to only 12 spots in the slightly smaller pool of 84 spots now dedicated to shared cars.

In San Francisco, meanwhile, securing on-street parking and charging locations remains one of the challenges for BMW DriveNow electric fleet, which launched in the city this past August. For now, says DriveNow CEO Richard Steinberg, the solution is to seek private parking locations.

On the other side of the globe, in a country with one of the highest car ownership rates of all the advanced nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Sydney, Australia, is now home to more than 9,000 car-sharing members. That’s up from 4,000 members two years ago, and by 2016 the city aims to boost car-sharing among its residents to 10 percent of all households for an estimated 15,000 members in all.

Among other forms of support for the shift, the city provides parking at curbside and in city car parks while integrating car sharing into urban renewal areas. Viewing car sharing as a “crucial complement to a sustainable transport system,” the city writes that “The availability of shared cars provides the peace-of-mind and flexibility needed for residents who have chosen to base their travel predominantly on public transport, walking and cycling.”

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[ Ford Fusion Named the Green Car of the Year 2013 ]

With two of its cars among the five finalists, Ford took the Green Car of the Year Award for its 2013 Fusion on Thursday at the LA Auto Show.

The newly redesigned, midsize sedan is offered with three different engines: gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gasoline. The base model starts at $21,700, while the gas-electric hybrid, rated at 47 mpg for both city and highway driving by the EPA, starts at $27,200.

The Fusion was recognized for its low petroleum use and low carbon dioxide emissions, as well as for its competitive pricing, reported the LA Times.

The Green Car Journal’s award is decided by a prestigious panel of judges, including environmental leaders such as Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, Global Green USA President Matt Petersen, and Ocean Futures Society president Jean-Michel Cousteau, along with car enthusiast and late night comedian Jay Leno and the journal’s staff.

“We’ve moved our brand from laggard to leader in fuel economy,” said Dave Mondragon, Ford’s general marketing manager as he accepted the award.

“The 2013 Ford Fusion approaches the market with a ‘game-on’ attitude,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of The Green Car Journal.

U.S. automakers were well represented in the group of finalists for the recognition. The Fusion was up against Ford’s own C-Max, the Dodge Dart Aero, the Mazda CX-5 SkyACTIV and the Toyota Prius c.

For its mileage, the Fusion is second only to the Prius c, which gets 53 mpg, according to the Detroit News.

Previous winners of the award include the 2012 Honda Civic GX Natural Gas, 2011 Chevrolet Volt, 2010 Audi A3 TDI, 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the 2006 Mercury Mariner Hybrid.

Not everyone is impressed with the accolade, which is in its eighth year.

Michael Vaughn wrote in The Globe and Mail earlier this month that, “the five Green Car finalists … are all yawners. There are glaring omissions from the list and the ones that did make it all feature worthwhile but unexciting technology that we have seen before.”

But Ford’s Mondragon called it “a great testament for Ford,” and the award adds to some of the press attention that the car, which went on sale this fall, has already gotten. By several accounts, the 2013 Fusion is a very important model for the automaker, which is entering the popular (and crowded) midsize sedan market. Ford is betting that the Fusion, which it has billed as “the most fuel-efficient sedan in America,” will help it dominate that market.

(Related Photos: “Eleven Electric Cars Charge Ahead, Amid Obstacles“)

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[ Green Cities Lead the Way ]

Green Cities Lead the Way

Some of the best green ideas are coming not from leaders at
the national or international level, but from the people right in our own
communities who know the region best. Working with government, nonprofit and
private sector supporters, people around the country are transforming their
towns for the better. EarthShare’s many national and local members
are involved in a great number of these projects.

We gathered some inspiring stories of work being done at the
local level on building a more sustainable society. What is your community
doing? Let us know in the comments section!

 

Denver, CO


Cosolar

SeaDour / Flickr

 

Denver is the first municipality to be recognized as a Solar
Friendly Community under an innovative new program designed to help bring down
the costs of solar energy.  “Denver
provides a great model on how a large city can make it easy for solar
installers to do business,” said Rebecca Cantwell, senior program director for
Solar Friendly Communities. “The streamlined permitting, inspection and
educational practices translate into lower costs for consumers and a more
welcoming climate for solar energy.” – American
Solar Energy Society

 

Baltimore, MD

Bmoretrees

A.Currell / Flickr

 

In Baltimore, the frequency of crime decreased as the number
of trees increased. Overall, a ten percent increase in tree canopy was
associated with a 12 percent drop in crime… Baltimore officials and the study’s
authors have speculated that the shading effect of a robust tree canopy both
encourages neighbors to spend more time outside and offers the impression of a
community where people take care of their surrounding and each other. – Arbor
Day Foundation

 

Philadelphia, PA

Philly

Philly Painting

 

Volunteers with Philly Painting are bringing beauty to
neglected parts of the city with a fresh coat of paint. “I love the spirit of
innovation in Philadelphia right now, from the city’s leadership
in green stormwater infrastructure
to the reclamation
of vacant lots for neighborhood green space
, from the new “front
porch” at the train station
to the city’s overall
sustainability plan
.  Philly Painting can be seen as an extension of
these efforts, and a highly creative one.” – Kaid
Benfield, NRDC 

 

New Orleans, LA

Lafitte

Editor B / Flickr

 

The Lafitte Corridor is a largely
derelict strip of land along the old Norfolk Southern corridor connecting the
French Quarter to the Bayou. Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have
been working to preserve this open space by creating a multi-use linear
greenway…  Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
and the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) developed a Greenway Ambassadors
program to train local residents on the history and greenway planning process
of the corridor, so that they could share their knowledge with friends, family,
and neighbors at community meetings and events. – Rails-to-Trails
Conservancy

 

Chicago, IL

Solarfarm_feature_0

OnEarth

 

Chicago's sprawling south side, once
thrumming with steel mills and factories, is now covered by large swaths of
weedy land strewn with the rubble of faded industries. But last year, a 40-acre
patch not far from what was once home to the famous Pullman rail car factory
sprouted a crop of 32,000 solar panels. The photovoltaic arrays move
automatically to follow the sun, a glistening aberration in an otherwise drab
and decrepit landscape. – On Earth, NRDC

 

New York, NY

Nysch88

City Farmer

 

Across New York City, gardens and miniature farms — whether
on rooftops or at ground level — are joining smart boards and digital darkrooms
as must-have teaching tools. They are being used in subjects as varied as
science, art, mathematics and social studies. In the past two years, the number
of school-based gardens registered with the city jumped to 232, from 40,
according to GreenThumb, a division of the parks department that provides
schools with technical support.  – City
Farmer News

 

Toledo, OH

ES Rain Garden 2009 001

Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments

 

In Northwest Ohio, American Rivers has been working with the
Toledo government to incorporate low impact development practices like rain
gardens and bioretention into the existing zoning code. They’ve also helped remove
barriers to using permeable pavement in parking lots. – American
Rivers

 

Davis, CA

Bikes

UC Davis

 

The California city, located 11 miles west of Sacramento,
has more bikes than cars, operates two bicycle advisory committees and employs
two full-time bike coordinators, and has bike lanes on 95-percent of its major
streets. It’s innovative approach and long-term commitment to creating and
maintaining bicycle-friendly infrastructure and policy has led many to hail the
city as the number one bike friendly communities in the United States. - Wired

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[ Giving Feels Good! ]

Giftimage2
The holiday season is about sharing and
giving, but it’s so easy to lose the spirit when we get caught up in
to-do lists and shopping crowds and other stressful activities. Want to
know an easy way to give yourself a lift and get back in touch with what
really counts? No matter what ails you – giving back is a proven way to lift your spirits and offer positive physical benefits!


According to the experts, there is an
underlying biology to the effect. While it’s not completely clear how
giving can lead to mental and physical changes in health, studies
suggest that altruism may be an antidote to stress.


If you need a pick-me-up this holiday season, we hope you’ll consider giving through EarthShare.
Just one gift can help all of our member charities accomplish amazing
things, and give you a lot to feel good about. Just click here:

Onetimegivebutton
Here are just a few
examples of the accomplishments our supporters have helped make
possible
:

  • Secured 70,000 square miles of protection for
    Pacific Leatherback turtles
  • Helped raise fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg
    by 2025
  • Fought for a moratorium on uranium mining in the
    Grand Canyon

 

Want to know more? Here’s a message from an EarthShare donor and board member about why she gives through EarthShare.


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[ A silver lining in a nightmare cloud ]

When Superstorm Sandy plowed through the Northeast in October leaving behind a battered electrical grid that left millions without light or heat for weeks, there were no thoughts of silver linings.

But as in most nightmares, Sandy also offered up a potentially positive lesson, this one about the resilience of clean energy. Turns out wind farms from Cuba to New Jersey survived more or less intact, and were up and running shortly after the storm.

It’s hard to deny the obvious potential of renewable energy to avert mass blackouts in the future.

Our current electricity grid relies on large power plants delivering power to a large geographical area. Fuel deliveries to large plants get interrupted and floods and storms can take these power plants down for days at a time. And in widespread disasters like Sandy, there simply isn’t enough backup power to pick up the slack. Not so wind turbines, which are constructed to withstand hurricane-force winds (120-135 mph and sometimes higher). Most shut down automatically when gales reach certain speeds, and the blades are tilted (feathered) so wind can pass through instead of engaging them. In other words, the very systems designed to harness wind are also built to withstand it.

And so in the uneasy pre-Sandy hours, wind farm operators up and down the East Coast switched their turbines into “hurricane mode” and hoped for the best. It worked. If more electricity had come from wind power in Sandy-ravaged states (currently at only 3,700 megawatts), chances are far fewer communities would have gone dark, or been back in business sooner.

There’s another thing to consider. Most climate scientists agree that the increasingly destructive force of storms like Sandy is linked to climate change, which is largely driven by rising heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels. Our warming world means rising sea levels and more coastal flooding. It also means more water vapor in the atmosphere, higher precipitation, and probably greater storm intensity. In other words, Sandy is likely a harbinger of more extreme weather to come — if we don’t take steps to stop it.

Ironically, the biggest stationary source of heat-trapping gases is coal-fired power plants, which account for an astonishing 40 percent of total U.S. global warming pollution. But wind energy has no such problem — the source of power is unlimited and pollution-free. More wind power means less warming, not to mention more great jobs and less dependence on foreign energy.

The good news is wind power is growing in the U.S. It now totals 51,630 megawatts (enough to power 13 million homes and businesses) and accounts for more than 35 percent of all new generating capacity since 2007.

But there are challenges. If Congress doesn’t renew the wind Production Tax Credit that is due to expire this year, all that growth in wind power will come to a screeching halt.

Sandy was a blunt-force wakeup call. A choice. We can continue as we’ve done for more than a century, or embrace a clean and secure energy future with wind power.

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[ Car Sharing Widens the Lanes of Access for City Drivers ]

City dwellers are expanding their options for mobility with peer-to-peer car sharing. Can “accessing” replace “ownership” in the love affair with the automobile?

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[ A greener holiday ]

Can you  have a white Christmas and a green Christmas at the same time?

Why not?  Amidst all the hustle and bustle, try to keep Mother Earth in mind.

Here are some tips to help get you started.

1. Lower your carbon footprint by buying local.  It’s not just for Small Business Saturday. Check out the Dane Buy Local business directory. It features more than 600 independent businesses, who remind you to “think local first.”

2. Become a locavore. Pick up a copy of the 2013 Wisconsin Local Foods Journal, a guide to sustainable eating put out by the REAP Food Group.

3. Give experiences instead of gifts that just add to clutter. Why not give a lift ticket or trail pass to the outdoor enthusiast, or concert tickets to a music fan? A family membership to the Madison Children’s Museum or the Aldo Leopold Nature Center is a gift that give all year long!

4. Get a real tree! Even though a fake tree is used year after year, they’re bad for the environment. Most are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). which is a petroleum product. And since almost all come from China, their carbon footprint is enormous. Click here to find a Christmas tree farm near you.

5. Get creative when wrapping gifts. Wrap cooking items in a new holiday themed dish towel. Reuse old newspapers, or old maps to make unusual wrapping. And when the holiday is over, recycle the paper. Just flatten it out and throw it into the recycle bin! (Foil wrapping paper is not recyclable, however.)

 

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[ Student Conservation Association Helps Young Vets ]

Young Vets Serve Country in Fire Corps Program

Fire

Photo: Student Conservation Association

 

James Love enlisted in the Marines right out of high school,
11 years ago.  By the time he reported
for duty at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as assigned, on the
morning of September 11, 2001, the world had already changed forever.

After eight years in uniform, including two tours of Iraq,
Sgt. Love is continuing his service to our country through the Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) Veterans Fire Corps, an
innovative career preparedness program that trains young military vets in
wildfire fighting and mitigation. This program and many others like it are made
possible with the support of federal and military employees through the
Combined Federal Campaign each year.

SCA, an EarthShare member organization, conducts the
Veterans Fire Corps in partnership with the US Forest Service, employing
protocols familiar to those in uniform to aid the transition back to civilian
life.  Love says that for him, it’s made
all the difference in the world.  “I was
interested in the Veterans Fire Corps because it was specifically geared
towards recent era military veterans, meaning I would be working with fellow
veterans that have had experiences and general customs similar to my own,
unlike 95% of the young college kids I am surrounded by in school,” he says.

Love’s unit works the Kaibab National Forest outside
Williams, AZ.   “I’m surprised by how
serious everyone takes fire in northern Arizona,” he observes.  “It probably has to do with the fact that the
city is literally surrounded by the forest.” 
His crew alternates between preemptive prescribed burns and thinning
operations.

Davon Goodwin earned a Purple Heart with the Army Reserve in
Afghanistan before signing on with SCA. 
“I didn’t think being a wildland firefighter was this physically
demanding and stressful,” states the 23-year-old Pittsburgh
native.  “But I like that
we are still giving back to our country by restoring and improving the
conditions in our nation’s forests.”

In addition to their work with SCA, both Love
and Goodwin are pursuing their college degrees and agree that their experiences
at Kaibab are invaluable.  “I
am not only fulfilling my internship requirements for college,” says Love, “but
I’m providing a service to the environment and giving back to the local
community.”  Adds Goodwin, “As a biology and botany major, this work can really tell you a lot
about the current ecosystem.  My career
goals are to become an agronomist and help to make agriculture sustainable for
the world.”

Other corps members note that if they are able to mount a
career with a federal resource management agency, their time in uniform will
count toward their government pension.   “’All
labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken
with painstaking excellence,’” says Goodwin, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr.  “I have served my country in war and
this program gives me the ability to serve my country in a whole new way.”

Click
here
to learn more about the Veterans Fire Corps
.

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[ Recycle your cooking oil and holiday lights ]

It’s holiday recycling time. Madison residents have the chance to recycle cooking oil from their Thanksgiving feast and non working Holiday lights and extension cords at the Streets Division’s drop off sites.

“We know that there are many people who have lots of oil left over after frying their Thanksgiving turkey,” Madison recycling coordinator George Dreckmann said. “We are very excited to be able to offer them a chance to turn that old cooking oil into fuel for cars and trucks in our area.”

Madison residents who wish to recycle their cooking oil must bring it to one of two Streets Division drop off sites. The sites are located at 1501 W. Badger Rd. on the west side and 4602 Sycamore Av. on the east side. Special cooking oil collection tanks are available at both of these locations.

“Every year thousands of gallons of old cooking oil is tossed in the landfill or flushed down the drain. Since we began our cooking oil program we have recovered over thousands of cooking oil” Dreckmann said. “Now we can recover this resource and use it to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and cut air pollution.”

Cooking oil must be brought to the 1501 W. Badger Rd. or 4602 Sycamore Av. It should not be taken to the waste oil sites.

“We know that many residents are changing to new energy efficient LED holiday lights and have lots of older light strings they would like to dispose of,” Madison recycling coordinator George Dreckmann said. “We are happy to provide them a recycling option for their old lights.”

Madison will accept any light strings as well as old extension cords as part of the program. Residents who have older lights with large bulbs are asked to remove those bulbs. There is no need to remove bulbs from strings of mini lights.

“We will recycle all of the old lights through our electronics recycler Cascade Asset Management of Madison,” Dreckmann said. “We will have a specially marked electronic collection container at the sites for the lights.”

The sites at Badger Rd. and Sycamore Av. will be open the weekend of Dec. 1 and 2, 2012, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Beginning Monday, December 3 the sites will be open winter hours M-F from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Information from the City of Madison Recycling Department.

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