Posts Tagged ‘emissions’

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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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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