Archive for the ‘Play’ 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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sports and sustainability how to green the games

How can we rally the passion and dedication that people feel towards sports into a passion for climate change? Working for climate change can seem pretty boring compared to a deflated football scandal or game between rival universities, but what if we we able to combine the passions for sports and sustainability? Can we harness the power and dedication of sports fans to make a positive change for climate action?

No doubt sports evoke passion, inspiring powerful emotions before, during, and after games, and can bring people of all backgrounds together, acting as a universal language. Collegiate athletic events include millions of students and fans, the Olympic Games reach over two-thirds of the planet, and the FIFA World Cup was estimated to have had over seven hundred million people watching the 2006 championship game. Seen in this way, sports are a great way to leverage collective passion to inspire change and elevate environmental awareness.

Despite this power, many sports do not coexist sustainably with the environment: lots of water is used to maintain fields, tremendous amounts of energy is used to power stadiums, and fuel is used to transport teams around the world. When I played collegiate soccer just a year ago, there were few environmental actions associated with the athletics department. We were provided with unrecyclable gear, and frequently traveled in airplanes and busses that were far from fuel-efficient.

However, many teams and groups have started to take huge steps to green their sport. For example, environmental factors are now a key component when selecting Olympic host cities, and Games are to be held in ways that “promote sustainable development in sports.” Additionally, the Seattle Mariners introduced “sustainable Saturdays” by creating an environment-related trivia contest requiring fans to check out various recycling points around the stadium. The National Hockey League recently made headlines for their environmental initiatives too. The most recent Superbowl was played under LED lights, reducing energy by 75%, and dozens of other stadiums are being powered by solar. And it’s not just at the professional levels. At Yale, student athletes created the nation’s first Green Athletics Team Certification program for teams.

Despite these examples of professional and college sports teams going green, there is still much need to recognize the dynamic relationship between sports and the environment. Coaches, players and fans need to leverage the power that sports events and team affiliates have to create a more sustainable world. Groups like Sustainability in Sport and Green Sport Alliance are connecting the passion of fans with their favorite teams.

But you can help bring sustainability to the sports you are passionate about, too! It can be something as simple as carpooling or taking public transportation to sporting events. You can create or become a part of a Green Team at sporting events, or lobby for the implementation of recycling bins in stadiums and arenas. Bring petitions to your teams, schools and community to encourage universities and team affiliates to adopt sustainability plans. Learn more using the links above to inspire your local and university level teams to bridge the gap between sports and sustainability. Together, we can share knowledge about the tangible relationship between sports and the environment, and take steps to ensure a win for us all.

Join the community of Climate Heroes: click here to join our newsletter!

Stadium image from Flickr Creative Commons

maddie wienerAbout the Author: Maddie Weiner is a writer and activist based in San Francisco. She is a recent Brown graduate with studies in International Development, Environmental Studies, Social Entrepreneurship and Spanish.

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gaming consoles are tarnishing your green lifestyleSo the holidays have come and gone, and with them a flurry of new games and consoles for the good gamers on your lists. While the diversion is delightful, it turns out that gaming consoles have a bit of a dark side too. These amazing devices are using more power than ever, which means they are costing extra money and energy each time we sit down to play. Zelda would not approve.

The New York Times reported that current gaming consoles are using about 60-80% more energy than previous models. What accounts for that ridiculous increase when almost every other home appliance and tool has become MORE energy efficient in recent years?

Turns out that the devices have increased in electricity usage because of changes to memory, larger hard drives and better graphics. The cost of running them alone is not huge (about $5-10 each year based on average 6.4 weekly hours, according to the NYT article), but most of the energy used for the console is when the device is off! According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the majority of the energy expended for gaming is from when the console is on standby mode, as the system is waiting for voice commands and keeping USB ports ready — all day (or all night) long! Simply turning off the console will reduce the energy usage by a significant amount of this vampire power. You might need to spend a few minutes setting up the console, but the trade off is immense:

“[Nearly] half of the Xbox One’s annual energy is consumed in connected standby, when the console continuously draws more than 15 watts while waiting for the user to say ‘Xbox on,’ even in the middle of the night or during the workday when no one is home. If left unchanged, this one feature will be responsible for $400 million in annual electricity bills and the equivalent annual output of a large, 750-megawatt power plant.”

In addition to the live and vampire energy use of the consoles, the whole entertainment package needs to be taken into consideration, too. Those larger-than-life TVs, wireless internet and other accessories integral to the function of the consoles mean that gaming can be a huge energy suck in the home. A large plasma screen TV can consume 250 kilowatt hours a year, about half of what it takes to power a refrigerator!

power use gaming consoles graph[image: screen capture NRDC)

This doesn’t mean you have to give up gaming or TV; it just means you need to take some smart steps in the home to eliminate these vampires of energy consumption:

  • Use consoles for gaming only: the PS4 and Xbox One use 30 to 45 times more power to stream a movie than a dedicated device, like Apple TV or Google Chromecast.
  • Let your superheros, villains and zombies sleep: Unplug the TV, internet, gaming console and all components at night and when you’re gone for the day; the gaming consoles use a lot of energy when  in standby mode, as do most other electronics.
  • Choose a device with less energy consumption. In reviews, the Nintendo Wii proved to use significantly less energy than Xbox or Play Station, using almost no power when on standby and using less during play, too.
  • Tell the company! Make your voice heard by the companies that make products you love! Share your passion for gaming AND for a cleaner climate with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, and encourage them to improve the efficiency of gaming consoles to save consumers money and be a better business for the planet!

Join the community of Climate Heroes: click here to join our newsletter!

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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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 plenty 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. Here’s 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 every day): 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 a 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 electricity bill and your water bill at the same time.
  8. Know your climate impacts: It’s said that “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!) tool at Oroeco. You can improve your impacts with personalized tips, collaborate and compete with 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!

Join the community of Climate Heroes: click here to join our newsletter!

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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