Archive for the ‘carbon footprint’ Category

Suburban car culture is the carbon culprit

June 22, 2009


Props to Center for Neighborhood Technology (I-GO’s parent org) for the Chicago Sun-Times coverage today of its CO2 mapping study – which proves suburban transportation usage is a far worse carbon culprit than folks living in dense urban areas. I-GO Car Sharing gets a mention, too.

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Car Free Chicago

June 21, 2009


I recently discovered a helpful new website- www.carfreechicago.com. Carfree Chicago is a community-built resource that aims to take the guess work out of carfree living while promoting responsible transportation choices. The site is structured as a community blog; it is written by carfree Chicagoans for other carfree Chicagoans.

It’s a great site for the both the carfree and for drivers who drive out of necessity but prefer not to when possible. The site is a great resouce that covers such topics as alternative transit options (car sharing, bikes, Amtrak, Metra, Pace, etc…), carfree excursions, how to deal with going carfree with a family or when grocery shopping and many other relevant topics related to carfree living. Check it out and let us know what you think!

German suburb finds car-free life quite carefree

May 13, 2009

Have you ever heard of Vauban, a small suburb in Germany? I hadn’t until recently, but after reading an article in yesterday’s New York Times“In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars”—I’m ready to pack my bags and hop on the next plane there.

Vauban, completed in 2006, sits on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden, and Vauban’s streets are completely car-free, except for the main thoroughfare and a few streets on the outskirts of the suburb.

You may be asking yourself, How is this working out for the 5,500 residents of Vauban? Quite well, it seems. From the article:

The town is long and relatively narrow, so that the tram into Freiburg is an easy walk from every home. Stores, restaurants, banks and schools are more interspersed among homes than they are in a typical suburb. Most residents…have carts that they haul behind bicycles for shopping trips or children’s play dates. For trips to stores like IKEA or the ski slopes, families buy cars together or use communal cars rented out by Vauban’s car-sharing club.

Moreover, parents in Vauban rave about the safety that goes along with having no cars on the streets. Children can run free without their parents fearing for their safety as they would if their kids were playing on a busy street corner. Check out this interesting slideshow of Vauban.

Vauban is part of a growing suburban trend many are referring to as “smart planning.” In the U.S., the EPA is beginning to promote “car reduced” communities and experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year. Currently, most zoning laws in the U.S. still require two parking spaces per residential unit. Hopefully, Vauban’s success will lead to many more car-reduced cities and suburbs.

City of Winnipeg requires car sharing program added to condo development

May 5, 2009


Car Sharing has become the key to success for a condo development currently under way in Winnipeg, Canada. In fact, the City of Winnipeg is insisting that Stonebridge Development Corp. Ltd. incorporate a car sharing program into the development, something that has never before been required in Winnipeg, and Stonebridge Development has agreed.

Michael Robinson, a senior city planner, has said that if this car sharing proposal is successful, more will likely follow. Robinson also noted that the incorporation of car sharing programs into condo developments has already happened in Vancouver, Canada and Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s clear to see which side of the fence the city of Winnipeg falls on in regards to the growing debate on owning vs. sharing a vehicle! Hopefully, this will soon become the trend rather than an exception.

Sharing vs. Owning: The effects of car sharing

May 4, 2009


Ian Sacs, of Planetizen, recently reported on the effects of car sharing versus car ownership, and what do you know: the outcomes all seem to have positive ramifications! According to Sacs, “Surveys of members, data from existing programs, and empirical evidence from several developments have shown that when a car share vehicle is available in a convenient location, and usually combined with transit access, a significant number of people make a decision that it is no longer necessary to own a car.” He goes on to conclude that the ratio of car sharing vehicles to households that voluntarily give up a personal car is roughly six to 23. However, Sacs is quick to note that as car sharing becomes more widespread, this ratio could double.

Moreover, adding car sharing vehicles to a development can significantly reduce demand for parking and, in turn, reduce construction costs. Although, Sacs also points out that simply “sprinkling car share vehicles nearby or even on-site is typically not enough to realize an appreciable reduction in private vehicle ownership. Rather, the developer must market car sharing as a feature” and include incentives to join—such as reduced membership costs, driving credits and so forth.

One of the less studied, yet equally important, effects of car sharing versus car ownership is the effect it has on the total number of trips a person takes each year. If you own your own car, the more you drive it, the more value you get out of it. Whereas when sharing a car, and paying per use, you are more likely to consider the true cost of taking a car versus public transportation, biking or walking.

While Sacs does not ignore the fact that car sharing is currently only found in, and seems to be most applicable in, urban areas, he does appear hopeful for expansion of the industry into suburban areas as well. To illustrate this point, he highlights the number of suburban families that own a second or third car that they rarely use and insists that adding a car sharing vehicle in these suburban areas may “significantly reduce the total number of vehicles needed in that community.”

Has the availability of car sharing in Chicago convinced you to ditch your wheels? To drive less? Let us know your car sharing experience!

Scotland hopes to lead the drive towards all-electric vehicles

April 29, 2009


The city of Glasgow is striving to become ‘Electric Motor City’ under an ambitious $250 million dollar plan to create, encourage and spread sustainable transportation options throughout Scotland. Glasgow has been selected as one of five urban areas in the UK to pilot the use of electric vehicles over the next two years. A plan to test 30 electric vehicles in Glasgow has just been given the go-ahead and the government also plans to give drivers who buy new all-electric vehicles a substantial tax break.

Electric vehicles are powered by battery-driven motors and therefore produce none of the polluting emissions that traditional cars produce. They also operate much more quietly than traditional vehicles. However, their range is limited without being recharged.

Environmental and transportation groups have applauded the plan, although they highlight the importance of using renewable and clean energy sources for the charging of the vehicles. Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, warns against using coal or nuclear sources of energy, and instead argues that, “We can use renewable power from the wind and tides.” Seeing as Irfan Rabbani, executive member for the environment, has publicly announced the City Council’s goal to make Glasgow “one of the most sustainable cities in Europe,” this just may happen!

Want to check out an all-electric car for yourself? Check out this video on the new Chevy Volt, which will debut to the public in 2010.

Climate Cycle: A fundraising ride to install solar panels on Chicago area schools

April 26, 2009


Own a bike and free on Saturday, May 9th? If so, you should join us for a bike ride along the lake! Climate Cylce, a non-profit working to reduce global warming, is kicking off its inaugural bike-a-thon along Chicago’s southern lakefront. The event will raise money to install solar panels on local public schools. Solar energy will help save both schools’ and taxpayers’ money by reducing schools’ energy costs and also reduing their greenhouse gas emissions, the primary cause of global warming.

The event will feature two courses (a 12 mile and a 22 mile course) to choose from, both routes hug the lakefront and will be closed to vehicle traffic- not a bad way to spend a Saturday, huh? On top of the beautiful ride, there are some awesome prizes up for grabs- including free burritos for year from Chipotle!

According to Cimate Cycle, most schools spend more money on energy costs than computers and textbooks combined! Installing solar panels on local schools will save money, reuduce emissions and introduce a new generation to alternative energy and the importance of sustainability.

Click here to register today! All participants will recieve lunch, a t-shirt, goody bag and snacks. Hope we see you there!

As the worm turns: Kitchen compost made easy

March 22, 2009


Have you heard about composting with worms (vermicomposting) before but been afraid to give it a try? Worried about making a mess or just not liking the idea of worms in your house? Or would your kids love to learn all that worms can do to green your household? We’ve got the workshop just for you!

Urban Worm Girl, who just happens to be a ChiTown Rewards Member, is hosting a “Worm Composting Workshop” in Lincoln Park on Saturday April 4th from 1 – 2 p.m. Don’t miss this special, hands-on opportunity to learn all about the process of composting with worms. You will also have the opportunity to buy supplies and set up your bin on-site: your worms will be ready to start working when you leave!

Come out and learn how to keep composting in the home easy, clean and fun for all. Call (312) 399-4725 or email Stephanie to reserve your spot today!

Emissions Accomplished?

March 11, 2009


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently considering reversing a Bush administration decision which prevented California (along with 13 other states) from enacting stricter air-pollution standards for motor vehicles. This is great news, not only because of the positive environmental effects the stricter rules would bring about, but simply because it might actually happen!

California has been leading the fight to enact these stricter CO2 regulations for years now and has seen little help from the federal government. However, that was under the Bush administration. Things seem to be changing since Obama took office.

On January 21, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he review the EPA’s denial of California’s waiver request, stating, “California and a growing number of farsighted states have sought to enforce a common-sense policy to reduce global-warming pollution from passenger vehicles, which are the source of 20 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Regulation will not only reduce these emissions, but will also save drivers money and reduce our nation’s dependence on foriegn oil… Your administration has a unique opportunity to both support the pioneering leadership of these states and move America toward global leadership on addressing climate change.”

A mere five days after Governor Schwarzenegger sent this letter, President Obama directed federal regulators to review California’s and 13 other states’ request to set automobile emissions and fuel efficency standards. According to the Clean Air Act Section 209 – State Standards, the EPA must grant the waiver unless it finds that California:

-was arbitrary & capricious in its finding that its standards are, in the aggregate, at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable federal standards;

-does not need such standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions; or

-has proposed standards not consistent with Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act

The 13 other states joining California in this fight are: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Help make this happen – sign the petition urging the EPA to grant the waiver!

Blagojevich’s carbon footprint

January 28, 2009

Many Illinoisans have long suspected the under-siege guv of being a gasbag. But while Hot Rod is providing fuel for columnists, political blogs, talk show hosts and SNL, has anyone thought about the gas he guzzled, and the CO2 he emitted, during his recent trip to NYC for that whirlwind PR blitz?

Look, sometime pols have to travel on the public dime. But jetting off across the country (and I doubt he traveled coach) just to brandish your shining helmet of hair for Larry King (look for the moment when he thinks he’s off-camera and tries to sneak in a quick hair fix) not only cost Illinois taxpayers for his travel expense reimbursement, it also unnecessarily contributed to carbon dioxide emissions — something Gov. Nim-Rod presumably is against, since he’s backed legislation to compel state agencies to buy flexible fuel vehicles that partly use ethanol and biodiesel. (Though the scientific jury is still out on ethanol’s big-picture advantages.) Then again, the Guv did cut public transit funding and subsidies last year, while still expecting the CTA to let seniors ride for free, so his promotion of sustainable transportation for all seems about as schizo as his attempted media makeover.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong. But judging from my own whirlwind Google search today, travel expenses for employees of the State of Illinois are administered by the Illinois Travel Regulation Council, which in turn falls under the purview of the Illinois Dept. of Central Management Services. (Ah, bureaucracy. So lovably Orwellian.) I may be misinterpreting the legalese here, but the council’s rules on “official travel” do include this no-brainer stipulation: “It is the policy of the State to reimburse employees for reasonable authorized expenses incurred by them in the performance of their duties.”

Obviously they aren’t going to authorize hair spray or teeth whitening dental procedures, but who out there among the electorate would consider Blago’s pandering on The View (“Come on, Governor, do your Nixon impersonation! Say ‘I am not a crook’!”) a “reasonable authorized expense”?

And let’s not forget that Rod apparently detests Springfield so much he’s long chosen to govern from his lovely Ravenswood Manor home. So when he’s compelled to head downstate, hasn’t that also been a completely avoidable travel expense (not to mention, environmentally obnoxious) for which taxpayers have to pick up the tab?

Emissions accomplished, Governor.