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Yukon Fool Some of the People Some of the Time

GM builds world's first LEED-certified auto plant, slows SUV production If BP went Beyond Petroleum, does that mean GM is Greening Motors? The struggling U.S. automaker recently unveiled two nuggets of eco-friendly news. Its brand-spankin' new Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan received the U.S. Green Building Council's gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, making it the world's first LEED-certified auto-manufacturing plant. The facility's eco-features -- which include waterless urinals and a lights-out section where robots will work -- are expected to save 30 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and over 40 million gallons of water during …

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Words Fail Us

Hummer propaganda aimed at kids through McDonald's Happy Meals Sometimes a story comes along that so perfectly captures a culture's pathologies that it should be put in a time capsule, so future generations ... oh, right, there won't be any future generations. It seems that, according to fast-food behemoth McDonald's, this is a "Hummer of a Summer." A new series of TV and radio ads depict happy families on their way to fatten their children and clog their arteries at McDonald's in GM's gas-guzzling Hummer. When they arrive, soon-to-be-obese boys can choose from eight different toy Hummers with their Happy …

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Umbra on car trade-ins

Dear Umbra, I'm the not-so-proud owner of an 18-year-old Honda Civic -- great car in that it gets 39 mpg, has a decent amount of zip, and generally runs well. However, it needs some mechanical work, the paint and some of the upholstery are shot, and the AC runs on Freon. I've reached the point of analysis paralysis in deciding whether to fix this car up or trade it in. At what point do you give up the ghost on an older car? And how bad would it be if I got the old car painted? Driven to distraction, Renee …

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Whole Watta Love

Small automakers roll out electric cars The climate is right for electric cars, and several automakers are rolling out new models. It's "an untapped market that is phenomenal," says the CEO of Zap, which introduced the three-wheel electric Xebra last month (yes, it comes zebra-striped). While low-speed, relatively low-price vehicles like Miles Automotive's ZX40 and the Tomberlin Group's E-Merge E-2 are hitting the road, it's the sports cars that are getting the most attention. The swanky Tesla Roadster is only the start: Wrightspeed Inc. is developing a $100,000 sports car that could go up to 120 mph and run for …

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‘Cane Do Spirit

Hurricane researchers unite in call to curb coastal development The media has made much of the disagreement among hurricane researchers about the effects of global warming on storm strength. So much, in fact, that it's starting to annoy the hurricane researchers. Yesterday, 10 prominent experts in the field -- who have disagreed among themselves about the climate question -- released a statement saying that the media should pay more attention to the real problem, about which there is broad consensus: vulnerable coastal areas of the country are being overdeveloped. Death and financial ruin are sure to follow, they say, and …

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Sprawl bribery is beating smart growth

The following is a guest essay from Joel S. Hirschhorn, author of Sprawl Kills: How Blandburbs Steal Your Time, Health and Money. He can be reached through sprawlkills.com. ----- When the small town of Warrenton in sprawl-rich northern Virginia received an offer of $22 million in cash from Centex Homes, one of the nation's largest developers and home builders, one reaction of concerned parties was, OK, sounds like an environmentally acceptable plan for nearly 300 new homes. But closer examination reveals a development plan that comes nowhere near meeting smart-growth values. It also illustrates the tactics of large sprawl developers …

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Who Pimped the Electric Car?

Silicon Valley startup unveils sexy electric car As gas prices rise and vehicle emissions nudge the planet toward chaos, a Silicon Valley startup is hyping the electric Tesla Roadster -- which goes from 0 to 60 in four seconds, has a top speed of 135 miles per hour, and costs over $80,000 (built-in satellite navigation technology and iPod dock included). "Most electric cars were designed by and for people who fundamentally don't think we should drive," Tesla Motors CEO Martin Eberhard recently wrote on the company blog. "We at Tesla Motors love cars." Financed in part by big guns from …

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New museum exhibit shows visitors how to build green

Sometimes it feels tough to get through a day without despoiling the planet. The products most of us use come through a wasteful global production chain; discarding old stuff is cheaper than repairing it; and our energy supply is inefficient and hard on the earth. Making matters worse, most of this excess centers around the heartwarming center of our existence, the home: U.S. households are responsible for about a quarter of the country's energy use. So what to do? A new exhibit at Washington, D.C.'s National Building Museum puts green living in the spotlight, providing inspiration for those who dare …

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Plugs and Kisses

Toyota considering plug-in hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles for U.S. Toyota plans to develop a plug-in hybrid vehicle, the company announced this week. Rechargeable via any typical electrical outlet, a plug-in would be able to "travel greater distances without using its gas engine, ... conserve more oil, and slice smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels," said Jim Press, president of Toyota's North American subsidiary. The technology is far from ready, and the automaker has no timeline for offering the cars for sale, but hey -- we'll give it points for pressing forward with the R&D while other companies dawdle. …

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Act Normal

Illinois mom blogs about her car-free month In some ways, Christine Gardner lives a normal life -- she's a mom, a writer, and, after all, she lives in Normal, Ill. But for July she's doing something decidedly out of the norm -- going car-free in a suburb without amenities right around the corner. Halfway through the month, she reports on bus adventures with toddlers, declares that it's possible to hand-tote an economy pack of diapers, and reflects on how cars are ruining community.

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