Monday, April 30, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Michael Bloomberg New York City's mayor gave an invigorating pro-environmental reform speech last Sunday on Earthday. His speech included many exciting ideas on ways that he is planning on reforming New York into the worlds "greenest" large metropolis. Among the many ideas included in his speech is one which has been in debate for quite some time now, Congestion Pricing. Congestion pricing is a flat $8 fee that will be charged for all automotive vehicles traveling in Manhattan south of 86th st during certain heavily traveled times and days. The purpose of this fee is to reduce automotive travel and force more people to use mass transit. In addition the additional revenue created from this fee will be used to increase promote many ideas included in his speech to increase availability to mass transit. This contentious idea is very interesting because it seems to be forcing sides in an rather odd fashion. Some of the pro-groups are the environmental groups and the generally more wealthy new yorkers that feel that this will reduce travel time for those who don't mind paying the additional fees. There have been some very interesting radio discussions on this subject that have given the pro & dissenting groups an opportunity to voice their opinions. To listen to the discussions click here & here.
This idea is already implemented in Singapore and London, which both have greatly reduced their congestion, smog, and increased their usage of mass transit by implementing these fees.
As somebody who would be directly affected by this fee I have strong feelings about implementing this. My against side feels that, I already live in a city that is so expensive that it makes living a middle class life tough as it is. I use mass transit 90% of the time but, the few times that I want to drive through the city why should I have to pay an additional $8 on top of the already expensive $6 I pay to use the tunnels, this on top of high gas prices makes me very annoyed. The thing that concerns me is that how long will it take for the $8 to increase to $9 and higher. New York mass transit prices have increased dramatically in the past couple years, and if I felt confident that this congestion fee would stay at $8 I could deal with it but, I know that once they start raising prices again this congestion fee will go up also.
However, my pro-green side feels that drastic problems require drastic solutions. If this congestion fee does dramatically reduce congestion, increase air quality, and also improve mass transit by properly re-investing the money into improving New York's already better than average mass transit system I don't see how I can complain.
I really feel all in all that going green is about looking forward into the future. You can no longer livefor the day but need to live for the century. I commend Michael Bloomberg on this progressive push toward making New York greener. Although I know I will be upset when I get these additional charges for driving through new york, I guess I can feel a comfort that it is going to towards a good cause, and helping a problem much bigger than me losing $8.
I just hope that in the first 3 trial years that this is implemented it is looked at carefully to actually reduce congestion and air pollution. If it does not work than please retract it, but if it does than I think eventually everyone will be on board.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Well... Yesterday was Earthday a holiday that's message has been getting more and more urgent with every year that goes by. This year great strides were made in educating the public on the importance of changing the way we interact with the planet. It seems like the media has generally embraced the importance of "going green" and of course there was "An Inconvenient Truth" which won an academy award for documentary of the year.
However, as an individual we should be forced to ask ourselves what are we going to change in our daily lives this upcoming year that will benefit the planet and every living being on it. In the same vein that we look to ourselves and ask what can we do to improve our own individual lives on New Years Day in the form of a New Years Resolution. I make the call that every individual should ask themselves on Earthday, What will be my Earthday resolution? This resolution is not a focus on internal improvement as much as one focused on external improvement that benefits not the individual but the entirety of the planet.
Here are my Earthday Resolutions for this year:
1. Replace all the bulbs in my apartment with CFL bulbs.
2. Join an organization that either takes action to help people learn how they can "go green" or takes action to replace old systems with green/efficient systems
3. Find people to carpool with at work and other places that I normally travel to by car.
4. Use more mass transit, try to implement at least 3 uses a week where I would normally drive.
I am curious about others Earthday resolutions, if your reading this post yours in the comment section so we can all get some more ideas of things to do!!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
As you probably know there is so much to cover on Earth Day and this past week, from corporate programs such as Home Depot's Eco Options, where they offered to give away 1,000,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs on Sunday ( I shop at Lowes!), to the special news programs on TV dedicated to the Global Warming crisis and then Yahoo!'s announcement this past week that they will become carbon neutral.
Personally, I think the carbon neutral thing is great but until we have two major changes the Global Warming crisis is not going away.
1. Shift from Coal supplied electricity to solar, wind, hydro, and even nuclear
2. Hybrid technology in every new car! There is no excuse for new vehicles to not have this technology - additionally - when is the cost of hybrids going to come down? When will plug in hybrids be available?
Okay, enough spouting off for now. So what did I do this weekend? Well, I was inspired by some debate over at Pittsblog about this article on Pittsburgh becoming more like Vermont. While I think Pittsburgh becoming Vermont (YEEAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!) is a major stretch, I do think the outdoor amenities of the Pittsburgh region are very under-appreciated. So, I was inspired by the article and debate so I finally made it over the Ohiopyle state park with my wife to check out the park and Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous building, Falling Water. The building was amazing to say the least, and the country side, river, and hills over in that part of the region were breathtaking. The beauty of the trip this Earth Day weekend is that we still have places like this where we can go to escape the smog, soot, noise and congestion that has become a part of our daily lives here in and around the city.
Another beauty of this Earth Day weekend is how all the media attention is converting non-believers and skeptics, or just your normal person who really never considered the environmental impact of their daily actions and rituals. Today, my wife, who initially thought I was crazy about this blog and environmental activism, bought some neat stackable recycling bins from Lowe's, a company I am proud to support and own stock in. We still have a lot work to do but we are finally getting on the recycling bandwagon....now I just have to hope to get her to switch all of our bulbs over to CFLs. Our next major green goal is to purchase a hybrid SUV. We drive SUVs because we have two VLDs - very large dogs (English Mastiffs). Because of these two beasts, a Prius is not an option for us, but hopefully the price of hybrids drop when we are ready to purchase a new car in the next year or two.
"GRRRRRRREEN IS GOOD!"
Posted by Schultz at 8:57 PM
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
.........or else face a backlash from consumers, not just today's green consumers but your typical consumer who is still in the process of learning that Green = Good and Ignoring Green = Bad. According to the Marketing Green blog, brands that ignore green initiatives and environmentally responsible business practices will be labeled as socially irresponsible, a label that is hard to shake (ask GE - people still talk about them dumping PCBs into the Hudson, that happened before I was born!).
From the Marketing Green blog's post titled Green Branding Imperative:
"Emerging green consumer purchase behavior suggests this scenario:
- Despite the real threat of global warming, consumers will continue to spend on the things that they want and enjoy
- Demand for green (or greener) products will increase over time as attitudes and social norms evolve, new product choices become available and information that enables consumers to make informed purchase decisions (e.g. green labels) is introduced
- Consumers will start to shift spending to greener brands within a category
- Consumers will increasingly prefer to purchase from companies with a brand that is perceived as green, regardless of whether or not the product that they ultimately purchase is one of the company’s “green” products"
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
If you ask the average person what is the greatest contributor to greenhouse gases, they will most likely say cars and other vehicles used in transit. This may also be because there is a lot of press pertaining to alternatives for the current oil burning automobiles most people use. Of course, this transition to more green and efficient transportation is a very good and necessary thing but, we can't overlook what may be the largest polluter of them all...Buildings.
A new study by the Bloomberg administration in New York says that buildings are responsible for 79% of New York City's greenhouse gas emissions. In addition even though New York is a massive polluter because of it's size it comes in much lower per ca pita at 7.1 metric tons per person compared to the national average of 24.5 metric tons per person, as mentioned in the New York Times.
This shows that greenhouse gas emissions from buildings is probably a huge problem nationwide. The fact that they get a fraction of the press that automobiles do as polluters is doing us all a huge disservice. It is also much easier to construct buildings to make them more environmentally sound, than it is to change our bad polluting habits with transportation. Everywhere you look new homes and buildings are being constructed at an alarming rate, it is easy to institute new technologies into this construction if it is a priority.
Hopefully after this study which came out today, the focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by changing heating, construction, and other habits pertaining to buildings will be greatly increased. In an article that came out last October, it mentions..
“The architecture and design profession is the only profession that can slow green house gas emissions down,” he said. “Architects have been complaining that they’re losing status . . . Well, that has changed. Now we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the world.”
We are hopeful that those involved in building and home construction will take this information seriously and lead the way to greener future.
Posted by J. Ross at 11:05 AM
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Last month I posted about NuRide and the lack of action on the part of regional groups to bring a viable ride sharing program to Pittsburgh. The other day I actually met with two representatives of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission at their office in downtown Pittsburgh. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss NuRide and ideas on how we can bring them to Pittsburgh, but it quickly became apparent that is was just a meeting for the sake of having a meeting so the bureaucrats in charge could say that they lee into NuRide but couldn't "see any benefit" to bringing them here. Basically - NuRide is a new idea and bureaucrats hate anything new that threatens the establishment. Below is an excerpt of an email I sent to Mike Madison over at Pittsblog.
Subject: The Region is Doomed
I had a meeting with two individuals from the Southwestern PA Commission's transportation committee. The SPC is responsible for planning and prioritizing the use of all state and federal transportation funds allocated to the region. The topic was the current ride sharing program and the idea I had to bring NuRide to the burgh. What a disaster. The guy across the table from me was a classic Pittsburgh bureaucrat. He couldn't see any reason why we should bring an incentive based ride share program to the region. He thinks that their web based ride share program, which has approximately 250 people sharing rides, is good enough. I told him I've never heard of their program because it isn't advertised anywhere but their website. I was supposed to conference call the CEO of NuRide in on our discussion but the bureaucrat WOULD NOT LET ME CALL HIM. He wouldn't let me call the CEO! "We're here to talk to you, we'll call their CEO on our own if we want to.".
Following the meeting Rick Steele, NuRide's CEO, said the reason they have not tried to come Pittsburgh in the past is the fact that he heard dealing with the bureaucrats here is "a nightmare." We're going to focus on our energies on getting corporate sponsors for NuRide because it is obvious the SPC people feel threatened by a better ride sharing program. I might send the one guy a copy of "Who Moved My Cheese" for Christmas. Anyways, it was a good experience for me because as I try to get things to change around here I am sure this is exactly the response I'm going to get from all corners of the burgh - "It won't work", "Too risky", "I don't see the benefits". I'm going to post on it some more but first I am waiting on NuRide to send me some case studies and statistics on their initiatives in DC and a few other metros.
So, it was a tough sell for me because I did not have all the facts and statistics, which were going to be provided by NuRide's CEO had I been allowed to call him. During that meeting I was told that the SPC's commuteinfo.org has roughly 250 individuals signed up for ridesharing. 250!! The goal of incentive based ride sharing programs is to change behavior. NuRide has attributed 60% of total riders in its markets to those individuals who would not have carpooled in the first place. It also mentioned it was signing up about 500 new riders each month in some of its markets. True, Pittsburgh is no DC or New York when it comes to commuter volume but I think we can do much much better than 250 participants. More to come on this as I receive more data but I expect us to try to get some corporate sponsors involved rather than relying on an organization such as SPC.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Yet another bad ass competition designed to change the world. The RE:VOLT competition is all about using renewable strategies such as wind and solar to come up with the most innovative ways to power an imaginary city block. Entries will be judged on the following criteria: Sustainability and Reality of Intent - 33% Affordability and Constructability - 33% Innovation and Originality - 33% Judges discretion - 1%
The folks that brought us the X Prize, the $10 million dollar competition for building private space craft, now bring us the Automotive X Prize, a race to build the most practical and most efficient production capable vehicle.
Joel Makower of Two Steps Forward is participating as an adviser to the competition and has a great post on the AXP over at his blog.
The beauty of this X-Prize is that its not just another competition where some MIT rocket scientist can design an ugly, unmarketable, and impractical "concept car" that achieves the 100 MPG floor set by the competition. We've been seeing hyped up concept cars at the auto shows for years. The competitors are judged on vehicle performance but the feasibility of mass production and the marketability of their entry are probably just as important.
The fact that a prize of several million dollars awaits the winner should motivate some of the brightest engineering minds from all over the world to enter the competition. I truly believe this could set the stage for a revolution in the automobile industry. The question is - will it be enough to wake up Detroit? Doubt it.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Nearly a month after my initial request for their services, I was finally contacted by the solar panel vendor SunPower. The person who called from their sales department was clueless. I told her she was about a month late since I left the company a few weeks back. Since I was no longer with that company I gave them the contact information for the other individual that was championing the project with me. Then I mentioned that there would be a need for consulting services, which they said they did not provide unless the installation was over 1 Megawatt. I said we were not sure how big of an installation we would need since we would need a consulting firm to give us that information. They also mentioned that they did not have a partner in PA that could help with the assessment.
So, while I doubt SunPower will follow through and I doubt that my former company will get their act together, I do recognize the huge business opportunity for a company that bridges the gap between solar panel, or wind energy manufacturers and the commercial marketplace. A lot of organizations recognized that "going green", as one VP my old firm said "is the thing to do these days." Unfortunately, most companies do not have the time and expertise to do the financial evaluation and cost benefit analysis for a large solar installation. Most manufacturers I have been in touch with are too busy trying to fill their large backlog of orders, and have little or no consulting services, and a very weak partner network.
For now I plan on using www.mymave.com to market my consulting services but I may eventually form an LLC and bring on a few partners to start up a consulting firm if there is indeed a very high demand for these types of services.
Sounds like a great idea for a new business school major! From Trendhunter.com (very cool site by the way!) - "If 'Green Business' (by any other name) means business embracing the concepts of environmentalism, then Enviropreneurship (ENVP) means environmentalists learning the concepts of business. ENVP is about “bringing market principles to resolve environmental problems.”
I love it. Love live Environpreneurship! This brings me back to a few posts I made last month regarding getting my company (former company!) to adopt solar power. More on this in the next post but check out my profile at mymave.com where I am now an official "green" consultant for businesses looking to get their act together.
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Wednesday, April 4, 2007
San Francisco is currently looking to mandate the use of biodegradable plastic bags in it's local stores. This would ban the use of the regular plastic bags most people are given by retailers when the shop. Is this a good idea? The problem points to a much bigger issue with our local and federal governments. This is that legislators don't seek the input of researchers and scientists when creating environmental legislation. They are looking for voter support instead of instituting real change. On the outset this plastic bag mandate seems like a good step forward however, it's based on old information and really only a band-aid not getting at the real problems.
Here are "FACTS" that show that bio-degradable bags cause many new problems inherent in their usage. In addition the banning of plastic bags outright causes stores to go back to using the paper bags which also contain many pollutants.
The answer is buy inexpensive reusable sacks and bags when shopping. Most of the time these bags are only necessary for grocery shopping. More commonly we use plastic bags to carry the items we bought from the store to the car parked only several yards away, this is unnecessary!!
Here is one of many sites where re-usable bags can be purchased.
On another note if you are a pet owner as I am, this brings upon a whole new problem. As a pet owner you should never throw out pet waste without first putting it in a bag that is tied. If pet waste is thrown out in newspaper or with the other garbage it gets mixed into the drinking water once it dissolves from the transition from garbage to landfill. I don't know if these bags advertised here will be subject to the same problems as other bio-degradable plastic bags, but until more information is available it seems like a good idea.
Here are some more articles to read about the San Fran Bag Ban & other disposal articles:
San Fran Eco
Film & Bag Fed
Good Audio Discussion Link
Posted by J. Ross at 2:24 PM
Monday, April 2, 2007
The cleverly titled blog post "How Many Green Marketers Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb" over at the Marketing Green blog lists a few ways that marketers of the energy efficient bulbs can overcome the consumer's resistance to changing to CFLs. While I do believe that the higher cost of CFLs is a potential hurdle for marketers, I think the folks at Marketing Green are way off in their recommendation for a solution where the consumer doesn't pay for the bulb up front but "pay later through installment payments that are tied to energy savings. " Read the rest on their blog because I think their plan is too ridiculous to even continue discussing here.
The problem with CFLs is the light quality or light brightness. The situation in our household exemplifies this point. We often leave two of the manual lights on in our basement. Noticing that these lights were on more than any other in our house it made sense to switch those two incandescent light bulbs to CFLs. The problem is that the light is not as bright as the old bulbs, and although my wife has switched out one of the CFLs for an older, brighter bulb, and I have tried to switch them back, this is not a battle that I am going to win. She prefers brighter light over cost savings and saving the polar bears, so I lose this round. We now leave only the one CFL light on and have to turn off the brighter incandescent bulb since leaving it on too long will burn it out within a month.
Yes, I know, hard knock life. But my point is that if CFLs could emit light quality at least on par with incandescents this wouldn't be an issue. CFLs would be the easy choice. I am sure a lot of people have tested a CFL or two over the past year or so and while the brightness is much better than the earlier fluorescent bulbs, their lack of penetration in most US households is proof that CFLs still have a way to go.