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Umbra on owning multiple cars

Dear Umbra, Your recent column suggested that the questioners sell one of their two cars, but I can't help wondering how much good that does for the environment, especially weighed against the annoyance cost of not having a second car when two people have to be going in opposite directions at the same time. I have a personal interest in this, as we have three cars: mine (a Prius, used for all errands and most weekend driving), his (for commuting), and ours (a four-wheel-drive minivan, which we use when we have too many people or too much stuff for the …

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The Little Engine That Could

Honda develops "superclean" diesel engine for passenger cars Honda Motor Co. is aiming to clean up diesel's dirty image with a new diesel engine for passenger cars that runs as cleanly as the most advanced gasoline-powered engines. In 2009, the company plans to start selling a sedan, probably a Honda Accord, powered by its new "superclean," four-cylinder diesel system; the car will be the first diesel model to meet strict air-quality standards that will come into effect in California in 2009. Diesel engines get about 30 percent better fuel economy than gasoline cars, but Americans have long avoided them because …

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A Colorado home-builder reflects on his attempt to go green

Sunshine on my solar panels makes me happy. Photos: Daniel Shaw In and around Aspen, Colo., incorporating green into the building process usually means wondering, "How much cash can I spend on my house?" After all, this valley sports some of the most energy-sucking but least-used second, third, and fourth homes on Earth. One of them, former Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar Bin Sultan's 55,000-square-footer, can be yours for $135 million. What are the utility bills? Who the hell cares! Spec homes topping 15,000 square feet are still popping up without a solar panel in sight in a place where the …

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Park(ing)

Make a parking space into an impromptu public park

Late last year there was a bit of blogospheric hubbub about Park(ing), a nifty public art/activism/event/thingy whereby a parking space is colonized and made into a temporary, impromptu public park, with grass, a potted tree, and a park bench. (It stays that way as long as passer-bys are willing to keep feeding the meter.) I love the idea, but I never got around to posting about it. And look, I blew it again! Yesterday was Park(ing) Day, and NPR did a nice little story about it, and me, well, I slept on it. Next year!

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I Know What You Did With That Last Hummer

Schwarzenegger sells his Hummers, pals around with NYC Mayor Bloomberg [See correction below.] Had your doubts that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was walking his green talk? Oh, he's walking all right -- the guv has sold his eight Hummers. It was Schwarzenegger who originally convinced then-manufacturer AM General to make a version of the hulking vehicles for the civilian market, and in 1992 he was the first person to buy one. But friends, he's a changed man. In other Greenernator news, Schwarzenegger palled around yesterday with a fellow high-profile green Republican, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While visiting …

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The New Nuisance Thing

California sues automakers over greenhouse-gas emissions California sued the six largest auto manufacturers yesterday, saying that vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions are a public nuisance and seeking compensation for damage to the state's air, water supplies, coast, forests, wildlife, and people. "Basically, what we are saying is, it's old-fashioned economics. You should pay for the damage you cause," said State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, pointing a finger at DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. The companies' vehicles are responsible for 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in California. The automakers argue that they're already working on clean cars, and say …

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The Green Expo at Highpoint

Seattle’s — possibly the country’s — coolest new neighborhood

This past Sunday, I went out to the Highpoint neighborhood in West Seattle to attend the Green Living Expo. Highpoint is extraordinary (check out this map of the master plan). When it's completed (about a third is finished at this point), it will be the largest interurban redevelopment in the country. I won't get into all the details -- check out the website -- but here's the short summary: The community will be mixed-use, mixed-income, and mixed-ethnicity. They're connecting up the streets with the surrounding grid. All the sidewalks (and one test street) are made of permeable concrete that allows …

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Search and You Shall Find

New Google philanthropy aims to build super-efficient hybrid car If you're tired of waiting for bold innovation from big automakers, help is on the way from, of all places, iconic search firm Google. The company's founders have established a controversial for-profit philanthropy, Google.org, which will focus on poverty, disease, and global warming. One of its first projects will be the development of a super-efficient hybrid car that will run on any combination of ethanol, gasoline, and electricity. Free from the restraints imposed on traditional nonprofit charitable foundations, Google.org could potentially start a company to sell the car, partner with venture …

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Hydrogen Hopes

BMW to put a few hydrogen cars on the road next year The cars of the future are here! Sorta. BMW announced yesterday that it will distribute about 100 hydrogen-powered 7-Series sedans to select drivers in the U.S. and E.U. in early 2007. The cars, which can travel about 125 miles before switching to gasoline, maintain BMW's sporty image: they go from zero to 62 in 9.5 seconds, with a top speed of 143 mph. The 7-Series recipients will be people who "have a potential impact on making a hydrogen economy happen," says a BMW spokesperson. Ooh, pick us, pick …

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Colleges and universities are learning what it takes to go green

The dawn of the new school year has brought with it a corps of fresh-faced ideas and initiatives aimed at making colleges and universities cleaner and greener. And, like any freshman class, they are all beaming with potential: Most will succeed, a handful will excel, and a few will end up disappointing their parents. Campuses are going green -- and not just with ivy. Photo: iStockphoto The greening of academe is nothing new, but it seems to have taken root in a big way. Today, it's not just about doing a few good, green things -- recycling, buying green energy, …

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