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Archive for the ‘Move’ Category

bicycle commutingChoosing two wheels instead of four to make your way around town goes a long way to reducing your carbon footprint. Transportation is the fastest growing sector of greenhouse gas emissions according to the Clean Air Council, with total vehicle emissions responsible for 31% of overall carbon dioxide, 81% of carbon monoxide, and 49% of total of nitrogen oxide emissions in the United States every year! Making a bicycle part of your weekly routine, whether for your daily commute or short rides around town, can make a big difference in your overall impact.

While some of us have longer commutes, studies show that 25% of car rides are used for commutes less than one mile from home, while 40% are within just two miles. The studies also show that half of workers travel a mere five miles or less to work every day. Discovery News says that if a community takes just half of their car trips by bicycle, it would reduce healthcare costs by $7 billion and result in an estimated 1,100 fewer deaths each year because of better air quality. Biking has a social justice component too: read here about how safe bike infrastructure makes our communities more secure for everyone. Studies show that biking is good for everyone, not just bikers, but for the whole community. With numbers like these, it seems that we could be doing more to support bicycle commuting for many more people.

biking for a better planet

bike your way to a better community, a better planet, and a better booty

How much of a difference could bike commuting make? Worldwatch Institute has calculated that a bicycle commuter riding four miles to work five days a week can eliminate about 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions each year, nearly a 5% reduction in the average American’s carbon footprint. The good news is that bicycling is making a bit of a comeback. Biking has been commonplace in many European cities for decades, but it’s becoming more popular — and more necessary — in US urban planning designs. Many cities are actively working to build biking infrastructure, including safer lanes and better parking access.

Want to build up biking in your community? Connect with your state department of transportation, city council and local biking advocacy groups to see what’s happening in your ‘hood and find ways to get involved. Here are some other great resources:

orange bike image from Flickr Creative Commons; bike rack image from Flickr Creative Commons

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carpooling and rideshareThink carpooling is relegated to busy parents shuffling their kids to school? Not anymore — carpooling is gaining traction as a great green weapon for your impact-reducing arsenal. Coordinating rides with friends, family, and coworkers will solidify your social networks (the real-life ones), help you save money, and reduce your carbon emissions.

Transportation is responsible for a huge chunk of the total carbon footprint in the United States — latest figures estimate about 30%. According to the smart folks at the EPA, this makes transportation the largest contributor to greenhouse gases, second only to the energy industry. But how can we reduce this huge percentage? Just like your mama taught you, the solution is to share.

Cars emit roughly one pound of CO2 per mile, so sharing the carbon weight by carpooling with even one other person will automatically reduce your impact by half! According to Rideshare, each carpool with four riders can reduce greenhouse gases by about 12,000 pounds annually, which is the equivalent of 500 gallons of gasoline. Aside from decreasing your emissions and fuel costs, carpooling offers other bonuses like decreased need for vehicle maintenance. And if you are not the one driving, you can make new friends, finish up a few minutes of work, or make up for last night’s party with a little nap.

carpooling and rideshare

Does your city have carpool lanes to reward drivers?

Check out your city and/or state department of transportation to learn about carpool options in your area. Find vanshare, rideshare, or other options to help build your commute with neighbors, or start your own car share program in your community. Most big cities reward carpoolers with HOV lanes to accelerate the journey, special parking spaces, or discounted rates for parking.

Not the organizing type? There’s an app to help with that! These carpooling and car share apps will help you jumpstart your green driving routine by connecting cars with drivers and passengers in your community:

  • Carma Carpooling: An easy app that lets users choose their carpool in cities around the world
  • Zimride: Carpool solutions for university and corporate networks
  • Carpooling.com: Europe’s most popular carpooling website, now available in the US
  • Rideshare: Carpooling and fleet solutions for office, campus and more!
  • Share rides via Lyft, Uber, Ridescout and Sidecar

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green your commuteGetting better gas mileage depends on many things, including the type of car you have and how fast you cruise around (looking at you, speed demon!). There are dozens of ways to improve your fuel economy, reduce your footprint, and save money whether your ride is new or vintage.

Preventative maintenance can improve your fuel economy in a dramatic way.

  • Fat tires: Keep your tires fat and happy by maintaining the proper pressure. How happy will this make you? The EPA says you can improve gas mileage by 3% with properly inflated tires, enough for a free tank of gas per year. Bonus: it makes your tires last longer and safety improves with properly inflated tires.
  • Tune it up: Basic tuning can improve your costs by about 4% a year, and bigger fixes make a bigger difference: replacement of a faulty oxygen sensor can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.
  • The right stuff: Choosing the right oil and fuel for your car can improve fuel economy by 1-2% each year.

Head back to basics and learn to drive better to reduce your emissions and save money. Here are some ways to make your drive time cleaner and greener:

  • Slow it down: It might not be as fun as speeding around town, but the US Department of Energy says that every 5 mph over 50 mph can lower gas mileage by 7% or more.
  • Anticipate traffic flow: Choosing slower, steadier driving (for both town and highway routes) reduces the need to accelerate and brake quickly, which helps you anticipate danger too — because the greenest car is the one that doesn’t need to be replaced!
  • Smooth and steady: If you have a manual transmission, listen to the revving of the engine and be sure to shift at the right time (not too soon or too late, both of which increase fuel use). If driving an automatic, make sure the RPMs don’t rev too high by choosing slower accelerations.
  • Don’t idle: Forget that old school rule about warming up your car in the winter, it’s just not true. Be sure to turn your car off when you’re stopped for more than a minute — no need to burn fuel while your friend is fetching your latte.
  • Too much junk in your trunk: Aside from safety items like jumper cables and a spare tire, who needs to carry around extra baggage? Not you, green machine!

fuel efficient driving techniquesNeed more tips to become a greener driver? Here are some great resources:

Graph from Government of Canada, key image from Green Garage

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Climate-Saving Resolutions Time to ring in the New Year with resolutions to be healthier and happier humans. We here at Oroeco can’t help you get to the gym or eat less chocolate (which we consume in copious quantities). But we DO have a few climate-saving resolutions that make it easy to save money AND save the planet this year, leading to health and happiness all around!

Did you know the average household can save over $1,000 each year while reducing climate impacts by 20%? Here are 10 easy-to-implement climate-saving resolutions that cost little to put into action but can make a big difference for the world, your wallet and your waistline. Ready to awaken your inner climate champion? Take any of the actions below and you’re on your way to a better year already!

  1. Kill the vampires: This tip is perhaps the easiest of them all and doesn’t require anything beyond a little brain power: simply unplug your electronics when not in use, or turn them fully off with a powerstrip. Most electronics suck ‘vampire power-’ which means they use energy even when turned off! Unplugging appliances when they’re not in use is the best way to slay these vampires. Some, like the oven, might be impossible to unplug, but others, like TVs, DVRs, stereos and wireless routers should be accessible and easy to unplug or switch off with a powerstrip.
  2. BYO-Everything: Carrying a silverware set, a reusable/washable napkin, a cup and even a small container with you to parties, to the office and elsewhere might seem a little daunting at first, but it has a lot of rewards. Cutting out the need for plastic and paper supplies goes a long way to reducing your footprint and virtually eliminating your use of styrofoam and plastic to-go containers. Bring your own takeout container to restaurants to save even more.
  3. Reduce your food waste: Here’s another freebie tip: by simply reducing your food waste you can eliminate about 2,200 pounds of CO2 each year and make a ton of other impacts! All the energy used to grow, transport and chill that wasted food can be saved each time you make conscious purchasing decisions. How to reduce your food waste: plan your meals ahead to avoid overbuying, serve smaller portions (which is also good for your waistline), freeze foods if you can’t eat them soon enough, and turn less-than-perfect veggies into soups or pasta sauces.
  4. Choose transportation wisely: Bike, walk or take public transport whenever possible. Or, choose a rideshare program to get you where you need to go without having to own a car. You can save up to $10,000 each year if your forgo four wheels to support cleaner transportation!
  5. Try Meatless Monday (or everyday): Reducing the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a huge difference in your daily carbon footprint, even more so than choosing all local and organic foods. Eating less meat saves money and improves your health at the same time!
  6. Make your home brighter with energy efficient bulbs: LEDs are super energy efficient light bulbs and are great investment for your home. The initial cost will be quickly offset from immediate energy savings. How much can they save you? A typical 60 watt incandescent can be replaced with a 6 watt LED! That’s a huge decrease in energy usage, and with LEDs now costing less than $5 per bulb they pay for themselves in energy savings very quickly!
  7. Reduce your water use: Low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators are easy to install and can reduce your water use immediately by half or more. This means less energy used to heat your shower and sink water, dropping your electric bill and your water bill at the same time.
  8. Know your climate impacts: It’s said “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” but it’s easy to track the climate impacts of your spending and lifestyle choices with our fun (and FREE!) software at Oroeco. You can improve your impacts with personalized tips, collaborate and compete with your friends, win prizes and engage your community to scale your personal actions into bigger change. Sign up here to start tracking your impacts and begin changing climate for the better this year.
  9. Clean up climate with carbon offsets: Supporting pollution reduction projects by purchasing carbon offsets is the only way to fully eliminate the climate impacts of your lifestyle. Unfortunately there’s not yet a global tax on carbon pollution, but you can start paying your carbon cost now to make a real difference for climate and communities. You can subscribe to monthly offsetting through Oroeco to make sure you’re treading on the climate as lightly as possible. Your offset purchases fund clean cookstove projects in Africa, supporting healthier forests and families through our partnership with Impact Carbon, and you can even gift offsets to your friends and family.
  10. Share your climate love! Each change we make as individuals has a positive impact, but we encourage you to amplify your impact by sharing these resolutions with friends and family. Perhaps the biggest change we need to make is to shift the culture around climate action, so that climate-friendly living is the new normal. The only way that’s going to happen is if we talk about climate with everyone we respect and care about. Let your friends and family know why you’re passionate about climate, and how you can support each other to change climate for the better this year. We’ve built Oroeco to make these conversations a bit easier, and we’re on Facebook and Twitter, so you can share the climate love with us there too!

Got some other climate resolutions for the New Year? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Hope your year is off to a grand beginning, and sign up here for even more tips to change climate for the better in 2015!

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andrea head shot circleAbout the Author: Andrea Bertoli helps to spread awareness of personal climate impacts via social media, blogging, advertising and community outreach for Oroeco.

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A sneak peak at Oroeco's spiffy new Dashboard, which automatically tracks your personal climate impacts, compares you with your friends, and gives you personalized tips for saving carbon and money.

A sneak peak at Oroeco’s spiffy new Dashboard, which automatically tracks your personal climate impacts, compares you with your friends, gives customized tips for saving carbon and money, and rewards you and your friends for taking action.

Earth Day 2014 is upon us! We’re marking the auspicious occasion with the launch of Oroeco BETA, the world’s first service that automatically tracks your impacts on climate change, then rewards you and all your friends for taking actions that lead to a happier, healthier planet. The journey has really just begun. Oroeco’s team, advisors and intrepid beta testers have put in long hours to get us where we are now, but Oroeco is still only scratching the surface of the transformative tool for sustainability we think it can be. We’ll always remain a work-in-progress, as we hope to be adding a LOT more functionality and improving your user experience for many years to come.

Whether or not Oroeco puts a dent in climate change really depends on you. We’re only as powerful as the number of you using us, the amount you decide to take meaningful action, and the friends you encourage to do the same. So go ahead, sign up to take us for a spin; then invite all your friends. If you don’t have one already, you’ll also have to create a (free) Mint.com account to get started, and our About page and FAQ will fill in some details about how and why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’d also love to hear your feedback about what you like, what you don’t, and what we should add next to make Oroeco as awesome as can be!

And if you dig Oroeco BETA, stay-tuned for our first awesome mobile app, launching soon(ish)! OK, we’ll get off our self-promotional soapbox now…

We’ve been a bit delinquent about blogging while diving neck-deep into Oroeco’s web app, but we’ll be reentering the blogosphere soon. We’re planning to delve deep into the nitty gritty scientific details of personal sustainability, but we could use your ideas for what you’d like to see us research and write about. So tell us, what burning climate conundrums keep you up at night? Paper or plastic? Trains, planes or automobiles? Cow-fart collectors? We are at your blogging disposal!

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A sexy green Tesla Roadster won’t save you $, but plenty of other eco autos will.

Need a whiff of new car smell in your life? Wondering how auto options shake out for both your pocketbook and the planet? Well, your tax dollars have funded a handy tool to help you green your wheels. Coming courtesy of EPA and DOE, fueleconomy.gov allows you to compare how different models stack up in terms of operating cost, gasoline consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The site includes electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, so you can see that an all-electric Nissan Leaf will cost about $600 per year in fuel, compared with ~$1200/yr for a Toyota Prius hybrid, and ~$1,600/yr for a basic Honda Civic (based on average US gas prices and 15,000 miles per year, which you can personalize). Greenhouse gas emissions are a bit trickier to compare for electric vs. gasoline guzzlers, since there’s wide state by state variation in carbon emission intensity for electricity. So a Leaf may be neon green in Seattle (which gets most of its power from hydro and other renewables), but turn a much muddier color when driven in West Virginia (which still relies almost exclusively on coal to make electrons flow).

Don’t want to drop bling on a new ride? Fueleconomy.gov includes used cars too, so you can see how your old pickup performs alongside that sweet vintage Mustang on craigslist. Or, if you’re happy with what you’ve got, you can also check out tips for improving gas mileage (and saving money), like driving more efficiently and keeping your tires inflated (which can save $0.10 per gallon).

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Must every flight lead to a warmer world?

Ever wonder if it’s better to fly or drive to your destination? The plane certainly wins on speed, and often cost, but what about planetary impact and climate change? Turns out those wispy white contrails are looking increasingly dirty, bad news for lovers of in-flight movies and mile-high mischef. While planes, trains and automobiles all spew out carbon dioxide emissions (that contribute to climate change), airplanes tend to be the least efficient of the bunch (due to higher speeds and energy it takes to get to altitude). But recent research is showing that CO2 is only part of the story. Planes also emit high altitude NOx, water vapor, and particulate matter, all of which also contribute to global warming. So jet-setting to far off places may be anywhere from twice to more than quadruple the impact of driving the same distance, based on the latest science.

Depending on which numbers you believe, air transport makes up anywhere from 4% to 9% of current climate forcing. But these figures are likely to increase, as air traffic has been growing at over 5% per year for much of the past decade, with some projecting aviation’s impact to more than triple by 2050.  There are certainly some very cool electric-, solar-, and human-powered aircraft out there, as well as hypermiling conventional planes, but substantial efficiency improvements in commercial aviation aren’t likely anytime soon, due to limits in conventional technology.

So what’s a globe trotting adventurer to do? As we’ve blogged before, cutting back on air travel through telecommuting, teleconferencing and staycations can help. But it’s a wonderful world out there, and we know that the only efficient way to get to much of it starts on a runway! There are plenty of creative solutions out there that need not leave you entirely grounded. If you’re flying to an exotic locale for work, try to get in your annual vacation fix in the same trip. In general, take fewer trips that last longer (to compensate), and choose closer destinations when you can. If you’re in need of tropical paradise, Mexico or the Virgin Islands probably require a lot less carbon to get to than Bali. Flying coach also emits less than business or first class (because you’re taking up less space), so saving money also equates to saving carbon. Check out Careplane to see how your flight emissions options stack up on your travel site of choice (Kayak, Hipmunk, Orbitz and Bing are all supported).

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