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Material intensity

Indirect greenhouse-gas savings

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) Previously I pointed out that efficiency, doing more with less, is a key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (A lot of people on Gristmill are fans of conservation, doing less with less. I have nothing against this, so long as it is a voluntary choice, but I won't be spending a lot of time on it.) Normally, when people think of efficiency they think of direct savings -- insulating homes, electric cars, and so on. That is: make the same sort of goods we make now, but more cleverly, so they require fewer …

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


We Just Ran This Story So We Could Say “Chunnel”

Eurostar will reduce emissions, offset the rest Of trains, planes, and automobiles, locomotives already have the best rep for carbon emissions -- but one operator is on track to boost the bar higher. Eurostar, which shuttles commuters under the English Channel, plans to reduce CO2 emissions 25 percent per traveler by 2012. Without raising prices, the company will choo-choose lower-emission electrical generators, electronic tickets, recycled uniforms, local food, and efficient lighting, heating, and air conditioning. It also hopes to fill more empty seats, which probably won't require blow-up dolls; passenger numbers are up 5.4 percent from a year ago. Starting …

Read more: Cities



A couple

Here are two lists, for those of you into that kind of thing: First, Sustainlane -- which seems to produce a list every few weeks, no? -- has a list of the Top Ten Cities for Renewable Energy. That's the cities that provide citizens with the most green power. They are: 1. Oakland, CA 2. Sacramento/SF/San Jose, CA (tie) 3. Portland, OR 4. Boston, MA 5. San Diego, CA 6. Austin, TX 7. Los Angeles, CA 8. Minneapolis, MN 9. Seattle, WA 10. Chicago, IL Oakland, huh? Maybe Van's doing something right. Read the whole thing for details. Second, from …


Smart grid baby steps: smart meters (metres?) in the U.K.

Helping homeowners monitor electricity use

One piece of the smart-grid puzzle is home electricity monitoring -- allowing homeowners (and eventually business and factory owners) to track their electricity use in real time. As the old saw goes, what gets measured gets done. Simply making people aware of energy flows is the first step to helping them modulate those flows efficiently. On that note, it's fantastic to see this: soon, every household in the U.K. will be able to request a smart meter and have it installed for free. The next step, of course, is giving homeowners more automated control. One part of that is smart, …


On efficiency

There’s more room than you think

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) As almost everyone who studies the subject concludes, one key to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is efficiency. Renewable sources generally provide energy at a slightly higher market price than fossil fuels. Oh, there are exceptions: passive solar heating, wind electricity, biofuel from waste. But overall, if we get all our energy from low-emitting sources, we will spend more overall per BTU. If we can use those BTUs efficiently, our overall energy bill can be the same or lower. Suppose a well-insulated home uses only 40 percent as much climate-control energy as a poorly insulated …


Conservatives for rail transit

Um, overseas

"As part of efforts to shed its image of closeness to the motoring lobby, the party wants the government to commit immediately to key rail expansion projects ..." That's the conservative party. The dawn of hope and sanity? Yes. In the U.K.

Read more: Cities, Living, Politics


Billie Joe spends a green day rebuilding New Orleans

With Habitat for Humanity

In a recent collaboration with U2 on "The Saints Are Coming," Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day sang about a house in New Orleans. But he spent this weekend hammering soffit onto one, as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Armstrong brought along some friends and his fam to help with the project as well, and they've been blogging about the experience on the Green Day fansite. On a semi-but-not-really-related note, Green Day is continuing to work with NRDC on a campaign to Move America Beyond Oil. Below, the latest video installment on the site, this one featuring Adrienne Armstrong …

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A modest proposal: Treat bikers as human

What would we do if bikers’ lives were worth as much as auto convenience?

Great idea for a new law: Spouses and children of all traffic engineers must travel on the streets planned by their loved ones using a bike at least 50 percent of the time. What would happen then? Probably this.

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Green Knoxville?

Weird but true

Another blog that's recently become required reading for me: Mode Shift, a blog on urban sustainability from Keith Schneider, founder of the Michigan Land Use Institute. Yesterday brought a somewhat surprising post on big plans afoot to make Knoxville, Tenn. (among other places) a model of sustainable, healthy living. Y'all may or may not know that I was born in Knoxville, and went to college close to there, and I'm here to tell you that it's the last place I would ever think would get on the sustainable bandwagon. Goes to show how much things have changed, I guess ...

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The pro-enviro solution that dare not speak its name

Trains are the forgotten mode of transport, at least in the U.S.

"Because if your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down their throats." Take electrified rail, for instance. Here's a sad report from Dean Baker of The American Prospect, one of the best reporters going today: I was shocked to discover in a conversation with a congressional staffer that rebuilding the country's train system is a topic that is strictly verboten on Capitol Hill. I was reminded of this when I read that a French train had set a new speed record of 357 miles per hour. Trains are far more fuel efficient than planes. Even at much …

Read more: Cities, Politics