How To Drive Less: Small Steps To a Complete Carectomy

No one expects you to change overnight. For many of us, going completely car-free is a lifestyle change on the scale of switching from big city living to farming in the boondocks; from bone-crunching carnivore to raw vegan; from sinner to saint. It’s major, and best to begin your transformation by taking baby steps.

Here’s a roster of ways to reduce your driving, overhaul your lifestyle, and get you miles closer to car-free.

Consolidate Your Car Trips:

Do you really need to drive across town to pick up that carton of specialty chow mein, or can it wait until Saturday, when you’ll do most of your shopping? Simplify your travel by doing all of the errands that are more easily made by car in one fell swoop. This is far better than making superfluous, isolated trips to satisfy midnight cravings or pick up something you must have at that very moment. I make an effort to do all of the errands made easier by car in one trip, two or three times a month. I’ll also try to streamline trips by the region of the city I’m traveling to, especially if it’s in the far-reaches. Consolidating your car trips is an exercise in smart planning and self-control. Apart from saving you time, it saves money on fuel—and the planet from your excessive carbon emissions.

Beware the Car-ma Police

Yeah, you took the car. So, whatsit to ya? Don’t get defensive; play devil’s advocate. Ask yourself: could you have traveled to your destination another way, without your wheels? Act as your own car-ma police.

Bring A Friend:

Whether you’re going to the grocery store or a game, it’s likely that someone in your circle of friends needs to get there, too. Make the effort to coordinate with friends, family, and others in your community to carpool and car-share, so you’ll reduce the overall number of car trips and cars on the road.

Be Experimental:

If you’ve never used a car-sharing service like ZipCar, treat yourself and try it out. Same goes for any alternate mode of transportation: the bus, the subway, your bike, or your own two feet. If none of these appeal, revive your rollerblades (stashed in the closet since 1995?). The bottom line: enjoy something different. Ditch your killing, car-reliant routine and smell the roses. People-watch on public transportation. While riding the train, read that book you’ve been meaning to crack since Christmas. Reward yourself with a new pair of sneakers or some sparkly streamers. Revive your routine and revel in a novel experience.

Cap The Gas:

The news media is rife with photos of Americans wincing at the gas pump. Why not set some boundaries and save some dough by allowing yourself to fill up a limited number of times per month? If you know you’ve got to ration gas like it’s gold, you’ll be more likely to reduce the number of car trips you make and use alternate modes of transit, instead.

Tap The Backyard:

Why drive clear across town or sit in traffic on a clogged freeway when whatever you need is at your fingertips? Shop locally or online and avoid unnecessary trips by car. The delivery person is driving anyway, and chances are good that he’s making other stops in your neighborhood. If you’re shopping within a small radius of your home, you’re investing in the local economy and giving business to the little guys (more eco-friendly than the Big Box boys), which is always a boon. Same goes for conducting business: maybe you could conduct your meeting via web or phone, instead of driving to the bad buffet lunch? (The bonus? You don’t have to wear a tie.)

Bike Racing Team Lightens Car-Load

The CLIF Bar Development Cyclocross team is doing things a little bit differently, and hopes to set a trend in the process. In addition to doing their best to win races and have a successful season, they’re greening up their act.

New for 2007, the team is utilizing a waste vegetable oil powered school bus to transport all of their bikes and gear between races and to shuttle the team around whenever possible. Because most of the racers are in school and the events spread all over the U.S., the kids still need to fly to many of the races. However, the new team bus is a step in the right direction as it requires minimal gasoline, forgoes the need to ship gear, and serves as the team’s own “mass transit” at races.

The CLIF Bar team competes in cyclocross – a fall and winter cycling discipline most akin to steeplechase. Courses combine road, dirt, grass, sand, mud, and barriers which force competitors to run with their bikes. Part of the Boulder, Colorado-based team’s mission is to groom some of the nation’s top boys and young men (aged 13 to 22) into the next generation of professional cyclists. But Team Manager Ben Turner also hopes to educate his racers to become thoughtful, responsible, environmentally-aware role models for their peers and their communities.

Although riding a bike has a well-deserved reputation as an environmental pursuit (it’s the most efficient form of transportation we have), bike racing is a very different story. The bikes and components are built for speed over durability, and the materials used are resource intesive (aluminum, carbon, titanium, etc.). Cycling teams typically are continually flying and driving all over the country, and are constantly consuming in the process.

Turner set out to change this model, and to show the cycling world how to lessen its environmental impact.

Turner:

Typically bike racing is like: consume-consume-consume, use up resources, throw shit away, and really give no regard at all to the environmental impact of being at a race… a team contributes an obscene amount of resource consumption and waste production.

The team also spearheads a zero waste initiative with Eco-Cycle to utilize composting and recycling at events, and to keep as much material as possible out of landfills. They eat local, organic foods when they travel, use public transport or carpool when the bus is impractical, purchase carbon offsets through Native Energy, and push their already environmentally-minded sponsors (CLIF BarPedrosStonyfield, Patagonia, et al) to get greener.

(Disclaimer: The writer has volunteered as an environmental consultant with the CLIF team).

Pedal Powered Car Case Laughed Out of Court

A couple months ago we had news of a pedal-powered car being pulled over by the Toronto Police. Artist Michael de Broin had designed the car as part of an exhibit, and had stripped the car (a 1986 Buick Regal) of “superfluous devices” including the engine, suspension, transmission and electrical system. The headlights were even replaced with candles.

On Thursday, Trevor Baldwin, who was driving the car when he was stopped for “operating an unsafe vehicle” had his day in court, and the charges against him were dismissed.

From CBC News:

As the Crown prosecutor tried to make his case Thursday, the court erupted in laughter, and the charges were thrown out.

Baldwin’s legal representative, Terry Fox, said the arresting officer never should have pulled the car over.

“Where’s the evidence it was illegal? There was no objective standard here. Just his opinion is what it was, and that’s not good enough. It’s speculation he based it on,” Fox said outside court.

Pedal Powered Snow Plow

Be green while clearing the fluffy white! That’s the idea behind Kevin Blake’s pedal-powered snowplow. Rather than burning gas and spewing fumes, Blake’s design relies on your quads. Must be a good way to stay warm on cold and snowy winter mornings.

Unlike some of the hair-brained (but really fun) bicycle-lawnmowers, this contraption actually does the job. Blake works as an engineer for Wisconsin-based bicycle manufacturer Trek. Check the cool news footage to see the pedal-plow in action:

PlowNewsFootage Pedal-Powered Snow Plow

As Blake told C3K News:

This started off life as a riding lawnmower, and I took the rear wheels and the gear box and the seat and the front wheels and the steering section up in the front all from the riding lawnmower. “I built the frame, this welded steel frame myself, and bolted everything to it, and then I got some old bike parts. This crank came right off an old bike.

The blades are made out of two separate shovels that I cut and nestled together to make the ‘V’ shape. This handle is actually from one of the shovels so I can lift and lower the plow.

The pedal-plow won a runner-up prize in Specialized’s Innovate or Die program. Other entries included MIT’s pedal-powered supercomputer and the Aquaduct mobile water filtration device.

Via Treehugger.

Australian Cyclists Save Millions in Health Care

A recent report entitled Cycling: Getting Australia Moving indicates that by improving their health, cyclists saved about $227.2 million Australian per year.

Dr Rob Moodie, Professor of Global Health at the University of Melbourne’s
Nossal Institute and author of the report, said “this report demonstrates the considerable benefit offered to individuals and governments by cycling. Addressing the barriers preventing more Australians from cycling will deliver substantial savings to both government and the community.”

Other economic benefits of cycling include a reduction in congestion which saves about $63.9 million AUD and $9.3 million saved by limiting greenhouse gas production and other “externalities.”

The study also makes recommendations about how to encourage more Australians onto two wheels and looks at some of the barriers. While cycling numbers in Oz are on a sharp incline, particularly in Australian cities, “Approximately half the Australian population is insufficiently active, which significantly increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. A lack of physical activity also increases the risk of breast and bowel cancer, depression and anxiety.”

Cycling is a safe activity relative to other sports. Participants are seven times more likely to be hospitalized playing football than riding a bike. The report also echoes the Safety in Numbers phenomenon we’ve covered here before: the more people that ride, the less likely that each individual will be injured.

Australia is increasingly looking to bikes to improve its citizens health and quality of life. Peter Garrett, Environmental Minister, announced a $45,000 grant to develop a national cycling training scheme, to encourage more people to choose two wheeled transportation over four.”

Photo via flickr by Charlie Bubbles.

Tokyo’s plugless plug in hybrid bus

While hybrid buses take a good thing (i.e. mass transit) and make it better by improving efficiency and limiting pollution, plug-in hybrids represent the next step in improving that technology. By allowing buses to get more of their juice from the grid, and less from diesel, emissions are drastically reduced. This fact holds true even when dirty coal is used as the power plant’s energy source – but the beauty of using electricity is that other, greener sources could also be incorporated.

The limit to any plug-in electric or hybrid that is supplemented by grid-power is the plug. Even in the case of the hybrid that can rely on diesel firepower when the batteries run low, maximum efficiency occurs in electric mode. Rather than needing to constantly run back for a recharge,  Hino, the heavy-duty vehicle subsidiary of Toyota, has developed a rather ingenious solution: wireless recharging.

Hino’s new fleet of buses is currently undergoing a two-week testing period at Tokyo’s Haneda airport where the buses cover a 4.2 kilometer route.From Japantruly.com:

Charging a large amount of electricity quickly without using cords enables the bus to provide longer distance services. For the next two weeks, it will link Haneda’s first, second and international terminals three times in the morning and again in the afternoon, covering a distance of about 4.2 kilometers. Since the bus uses only electricity, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by about 60 percent compared with regular buses.

Thanks to AutoblogGreen for doing the grunt work and deciphering some of the Japanese explanation of how the charging system works.From AutoblogGreen:

Now, about that cordless charging. Apparently it is using an electromagnetic inductive charging setup. There is a coil on the bottom of the bus and also one embedded in concrete. The efficiency and speed of the charging system is not stated and I couldn’t tell whether or not it employs magnetically coupled resonance.

That’s some cool tech that allows mass transit to run on established roads (with chargers added in) but performs similarly to an electric rail. Seems to me that a fully-electric, rather than a hybrid model, shouldn’t be such a big leap.