How To Be Less Dependent On Gas

I hope that by now I’ve said something to get you at least thinking about trying to use less gas or maybe even determined to use less gas.

Our dependency on gas is just one more weakness that we need to get rid of. It makes us lazy because we walk less and sit more. It keeps separated from our environment because we always have our metal bubble protecting us from the weather, animals, people and the beauty of nature. And it just releases tons of carbon emissions.

The average American uses 500 gallons of gas each year. Compare that to our neighbor, Canada, whose citizens use an average of 310 gallons each year. I know we’re Americans and it’s our right to pollute the planet as much as possible because we ‘earned’ it and all that, but geez, these numbers just seem ridiculous. I also want to show you this lovely graphic, which quickly put it in perspective.

This is a graph showing how much gas we use compared to other countries

No one is really saying it, but Sandy is probably the best indicator of our need to change. Some scientists are saying it’s too late. I’m thinking it probably is, but only because I know that everyone won’t change their habits in a day or even two and that’s what would have to happen. For now, I’ll just be satisfied for the small changes we can make.

Here is a list of 101 ways to use less gas. Everyone, every single one, of us can surely find something on this list.

It includes everything from fueling up in the mornings or evenings, when it’s cooler and the gas evaporates less, to planning all of your shopping to one trip, so you don’t go out a hundred times in one night.

I’ve decided that I am going to take the 2 mile challenge. According to the site, 40 percent of urban travel is two miles or life. I find that a lot of the time this is true. Usually, I ride to school every day, which is 2.5 miles, unless I have to go somewhere after school that isn’t within another mile from the house. I’m going to try to extend that to two. Wish me some strength if you ever find that you have a little extra.


Magical Bikes

In case you’re not interested in the whole taking a week just to mod podge a crappy ol’ bike, but you still want to make the world a cleaner place and save some cash then I may know of something that will interest you.

A magic bike. A bike that not only doesn’t give off emissions, but actually removes them the air. A bike that you could throw away, guilt free and without taking up any space in the landfill. A bike made from…bamboo. That’s right. Bamboo.

The organic bamboo is grown Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. All the other materials used are recycled and to bind the everything together Marty Odlin, founder of The Bamboo Bike Studio in New York City, hardens the fibers with flame treatment, glues the tubes together, and binds each joint, wrapping them in epoxy-soaked hemp that hardens.

Bamboo, which grow a meter a day in the better scenarios (something I’m pretty sure aluminum and steel don’t do), is known for its strength and flexibility and is said to be as strong as light steel. The bamboo absorbs the vibrations of the road and grows up to a meter a day.

The only catch is that one of the reasons to ride a bike that I talked about does not apply here. And that reason is that you don’t have get a loan to get a bike, but this bike cost $10,000. Or you could build your own for $699. I do have to appreciate the magical carbon absorbing aspect, but I think I may have to be satisfied with meager $80 reloved bicycle.–riding-a-bike-made-of-grass

If spending $10,000 for something that doesn’t even have air conditioning (although I must say sometimes, depending on how hot it is, the wind can make a lovely air conditioner) then maybe the cardboard bike may be more up your alley. Yes, a cardboard bike.

And it has its own kind of magic. Three engineers told the creator Izhar Gafni that something like this couldn’t be done. And they definitely didn’t think it could carry around a 485 pound person. And the best thing is that it’s only $90.

Liking the Bike

Today I am hoping to convince you to at least entertain the thought of at least considering the idea of getting a bicycle if you haven’t already. (If I don’t do it today then I must certainly will when I show you my upcycling project…hopefully…maybe…)

This just about says it all.

I only rode my bike for about a week before I stopped, so that I could adorn it. That took longer than expected.

I haven’t worked out the kinks in the routine that I have, but I’m sure I’ll still look bad when I say this anyway. The house I’m riding from is only like 1.5 miles using the major roads. The city’s roads are basically made for cars. The city has sidewalks, share the road signs, but there aren’t any designated bike lanes that are for bikes only (I think we may be getting some though). I choose the sidewalks. I’m so slow and I’m terrified of riding in the street. Therefore, I choose the sidewalks. Because of this choice I have to wait for the walking signs to turn green, (I’ve seen people who use the sidewalks, but go when the cars going the same direction go. Maybe I’ll start doing this.) which seems to take more than a few rounds before it’s ever my turn. It takes about 30 minutes for me to get to school and put up my bike. Thirty minutes for 1.5 miles and it takes about the same time for me to go 2 or so miles and take less busy intersections. It takes me about 10-15 minutes to drive, a few minutes to find a parking place and then about 15 minutes for me to leisurely stroll to my class. I always leave the house about an hour early because I do not want to be rushed in any sort of way and that’s why I let myself take 15 minutes to take to class.

I don’t have a lot of time to work out anymore and when I don’t get my cardio in I don’t feel the greatest. I am not fit by any means, but that little bit of exercise does wonders. My bike rides take that problem out of the equation. If it takes me thirty minutes to get to class, no matter what, then I might as well multitask and get the most effective 30 minutes I can. I could gawk around or pick my nose at a stop light or I could get a work out. On my way home, unfortunately that’s when I’m exhausted, but I still have several hills that I must conquer first. These hills aren’t ginormous and they seem like ant hills to some, but for a newbie like myself, they’re no walk in the park. Summer tends to suck the life right out of me, so hopefully in the fall and winter they might be so bad, but for now there is nothing like being exhausted and still conquering that one last hill before I collapse and (or the first time I go to the top of that hill without breaking a sweat). I have no choice. It’s either do it or sleep in the bathroom on campus. And not being able to use my tiredness as an excuse is pretty motivating.

It is also a therapeutic exercise because you’re being connected to nature and being outside. Some don’t like the gym atmosphere where they’re running or biking, never going anywhere or staring at a wall. Running on concrete may not be comfortable, so biking provides a solution for both and it burns 500 calories an hour. And you get the added bonus of never being stuck in a traffic jam. We don’t have huge traffic jams here, but still it’s nice to be the one going while they’re stuck.

Driving a car is expensive. You have the gas, the tires, the repairs, the replacements, on and on. I save a little less than a fourth of a tank, which isn’t as much as I want, but I go home on the weekends and that’s a 2 hour drive. Still I save about $8 just for the gas.

It also saves money for taxpayers if enough people ride because they don’t have to worry about as many road repairs.

Biking is perfect if you have a co-carpooler that never wants to pay their half because then you can just ditch them and ride for free.

My favorite part is not having to circle around five times looking for a parking spot. It makes just about the whole ride, uphills and downhills, pretty worth it.

You don’t need a loan or a lifetime of savings to get a new bike and then worry about the repairs that you have to make four months later. I got my bike for $50 on craiglist. It wasn’t the prettiest bike ever, but I knew it would get me to where I needed, so I got some stuff (I’ll take about this project soon) for about $30 and made it better. So for about $80 I got myself a pretty decent bike. You can’t even get a car tire for that much.

Those are my reasons for riding a bike. For those that can’t even afford a car it also provides a reasonably priced solution. It may not be practical for everyone, but it could provide an easy solution for some.

Good Mood News

Sometimes it feels as if the only way you’re going to make out alive is run faster than the thing chasing you, so you run and run, but it seems no matter how fast you go the consequences the actions of yours and others are no match for you. Eventually they will catch up and then what? Sometimes it just feels like there is too much to do and there’s not enough people sharing the responsibility.

I live on a steady diet of pessimism and cynicism (I call it realism, but no one seems to buy that) which some think that means that I feel hopeless all the time, but I don’t. What it does mean is that I often forget that some people need some optimism in their diet otherwise they’re not going to live for very long, metaphorically speaking.  As a pessimist I have come to expect the worst of people and it helps lessen the blow of disappointments of every day, but some people just can’t live like that. When it comes the environment or really any cause that has such an overwhelming amount of problems being added to it daily, it gets a little hard for me to not get stressed out.  As drive down the street everyday and I see the dumpsters overflowing, my mind starts racing to count up the years that the things I see will take to decompose. The numbers are never good. So today I researched, for both my sanity and all those optimists out there, some good news where the work has already been done and for which we can check some semi-large problems off our environmental check list.

 Saving The Amazon: Winning the War on Deforestation

For years, the story told about the Amazon has been one of destruction – the world’s largest rainforest, a region of amazing biodiversity, key to the fight against climate change, being remorselessly felled.

In the decade between 1996 and 2005, 19,500 sq km (7,530 sq miles) of jungle was lost on average every single year. The comparison is overused, but that really is an area about the size of Wales or New Jersey each year. It reached a peak in 2004 when more than 27,000 sq km was lost.

Then, in 2004 Brazil declared war – it said it would cut deforestation by 80% by 2020.

Seven years later and it has almost reached its goal. The latest figures, released just weeks ago, show that 2011 had the lowest rates of deforestation since records began three decades ago – just over 6,200 sq km was cut. That’s 78% down on 2004, still a lot of trees – an area the about the size of Devon, or Delaware – but a huge improvement. Read More

Levi’s drops Asia Pulp & Paper due to its link to deforestation in Indonesia

BLevi Strauss & Company became the latest firm to drop Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) as a supplier due to concerns over APP’s continued clearing of rainforests in Sumatra, reports the Rainforest Action Network, a green group in the midst of a campaign against APP.

According to a forest products purchasing policy [PDF] posted on its web site last month, Levi’s will “not knowingly purchase wood and paper products from endangered forests and other highly controversial sources such as high-risk regions for illegal logging.” The clothing-maker will reduce consumption of forest resources by using recycled material, reducing packaging, and giving preference to products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to improve the environmental performance of the forestry sector.

Levi Strauss & Co. also said it would favor paper products processed without chlorine to reduce pollution, and would develop a training program for employees on forest stewardship and environmental sustainability.  Read More

Swedish Cities Close to Building a Bicycle Superhighway

With all the handwringing over aging infrastructure, rising energy costs, high speed rail and other public transportation projects that are spiraling in costs, cities and towns could look at solutions that can improve mobility and do not the bust the budget: bicycles and bicycle paths.

Now Sweden’s transportation authority has approved a four line bicycle superhighway (or a bicycle-bahn?) between Malmö and Lund, a nearby university town. The 10.5 mile link would be for the most part adjacent to rail tracks, feature exits but no intersections and offer wind protection from hedges. Bicycle service stations would also be included on this link. The proposed highway would also have links to bicycle and pedestrian paths to other towns in this southern tip of Sweden. Read More

California orders hike in number of super clean cars

California, long a national leader in cutting auto pollution, pushed the envelope further Friday as state regulators approved rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and put significantly more pollution-free vehicles on the road in coming years.

The package of Air Resources Board regulations would require auto manufacturers to offer more zero- or very low-emission cars such as battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles in California starting with model year 2018.

By 2025, one in seven new autos sold in California, or roughly 1.4 million, must be ultra-clean, moving what is now a driving novelty into the mainstream.

The board also strengthened future emission standards for all new cars, making them the toughest in the nation. The rules are intended by 2025 to slash smog-forming pollutants from new vehicles by 75 percent and reduce by a third their emissions that contribute to global warming.

The new rules also call for a reduction in pollution by 75 per cent from 2014 levels, as well as increased support for the commercialization of hydrogen fuelling stations for fuel cell vehicles. These FCV pumps are sparse in California now, and virtually non-existent in Canada. Read More

Judge orders Florida water pollution limits

A Southwest Florida conservation official is calling a federal judge’s ruling on clean water limits a total victory for the environment.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling in Tallahassee on Saturday ended years of delays in setting and enforcing specific limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer contamination in Florida waters. The rules must take effect March 6, Hinkle ruled. Read More

London restaurants launch ‘straw wars’ campaign

Restaurants, bars and hotels have joined forces to try and reduce the routine and ‘unnecessary’ use of plastic drinking straws.

They disappear in thousands from fast food and takeway outlets every day and, discarded in similar numbers, have become a litter pickers’ nightmare and a scourge of Britain’s beaches. Now some of London’s top restaurants, bars and hotels have joined forces to try and reduce the routine and “unnecessary” use of plastic drinking straws, urging the entire hospitality and fast food sector to follow its initiative.

The restaurants behind the launch of the so-called “straw wars” campaign are to stop automatically handing out plastic straws to customers, and only hand them out when requested. Plastic straws can, theoretically, be recycled. But the campaign organisers argue that they rarely are recycled by individuals eating fast food “on the move” and that there is rarely any dedicated waste collection for restaurants, pubs and bars, which means they end up in landfill. Westminster City council, for example does not accept plastic straws for recycling from corporate users. Read More

Bicycling and Walking Benchmarking Report 2012: Bicycling is on the Rise

The Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report shows that bicycling is getting more popular as a method of transportation; the number of commuters who bicycle to work increased by 57% from 2000 to 2009.

The report also highlights bicycle and pedestrian safety issues and the economic benefits that are derived from these activities. This information is worth bearing in mind since this week, the House plans to vote on the approval of a new $260 billion transportation bill, part of which would eliminate bicycle and pedestrian programs – flying in the face of bicycling and pedestrian trends. Read More

(On a side note, my city has just noticed or has just decided to care about the fact that we have no side walks. And by no side walks, I mean NONE. The ones we do have are pretty much destroyed.  I don’t know what they’re planning on doing about because they only educated us on the problem without offering any solutions or a plan which I thought was kind of mean.)

European Carbon Regulation for Airlines Takes Off

2012 started with some good news. On Sunday, the European Union began charging all airlines flying into and out of Europe for their carbon emissions. Covering a third of all global flights, this new scheme is one of the widest-reaching measures adopted lately by any country or regional bloc to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Given all the hurdles and protest it faced, the fact that this scheme actually began is not just an incredible accomplishment for the EU, but also a bit of a miracle.

The new scheme will make all airlines flying to, from or within the EU liable for their CO2 emissions. They will receive tradable carbon allowances, covering a certain amount of CO2 emitted each year, based on historic data. Carriers that exceed their limit will be able to buy allowances from other carriers that have emitted less than allowed. The EU believes this cap and trade scheme is the fairest way to cope with aviation’s contribution to global warming and incentivize airlines to reduce their footprint, which represents about 3 percent of global CO2 emissions. Read More

For more happy news go to