Cities

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 …

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.

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 …

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 slower speeds than this new French train, service across the Northeast and between the Midwest and Northeast can be very time competitive with air travel, after factoring in travel times to and from airports and security searches. It is remarkable that politicians don't even have trains on their radar screens. And, if you haven't seen the video of what an electrified train can do, check this out.

X Marks the Pot

X Prize Foundation offers $10 million prize for creator of eco-friendly car Wanna win a cool $10 million? Read on. The X Prize Foundation is launching a contest to see who can design the best mass-producible, low-emissions vehicle, cheap enough to sell 10,000 units a year, with a fuel economy of at least 100 miles per gallon — about five times the U.S. average. “The [automotive] industry is stuck, and we think a prize is perfect to disrupt that dynamic,” says Mark Goodstein, executive director of the Automotive X Prize. In 2004, the foundation awarded $10 million to a team …

Green building and architecture, all in one place

In one of his vintage ginormo-posts, Big Gav at Peak Energy rounds up seemingly every cool story on green building and green architecture published on the web in the last few months — along with other bits and piece of interest on micro-wind turbines, optimistic green books, efficient air conditioners, and more. You could spend two hours just browsing this one post, I’m telling you. Beware.

CO2's lowest hanging fruit?

We’re inside it

We all know buildings are part of the global warming problem, but many people don't recognize how central they are to the solution. A recent UNEP report -- "Buildings and Climate Change: Status, Challenges and Opportunities" -- shines light on how relevant and accessible building-related climate change solutions are. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: By some conservative estimates, the building sector world-wide could deliver emission reductions of 1.8 billion tonnes of C02. A more aggressive energy efficiency policy might deliver over two billion tonnes or close to three times the amount scheduled to be reduced under the Kyoto Protocol. The International Energy Agency estimates that a total global switch to compact fluorescent bulbs would in 2010 deliver C02 savings of 470 million tonnes or slightly over half of the Kyoto reductions. We have to ask what the hurdles are -- if any -- to achieving such positive low cost change and set about decisively and swiftly to overcome them, if they exist at all. I realize Kyoto is not our final goal, but the point here is the potential for harvesting carbon reductions from buildings is immense, and most of solutions are 1) with us already and 2) relatively low-cost to deploy. The challenge is largely changing practices. But as Achim notes, the hurdles in the building sector, unlike some other sectors, may not be very substantial.

What's wrong with sprawl

Ten things

I doubt we have many sprawl-lovers in the audience, but just in case you need the comprehensive case against sprawl in one convenient location, check out “Ten Things Wrong with Sprawl” by James M. McElfish, Jr., director of the Sustainable Use of Land Program at the Environmental Law Institute. Here are the ten things, in highly condensed form: Sprawl development contributes to a loss of support for public facilities and public amenities. Sprawl undermines effective maintenance of existing infrastructure. Sprawl increases societal costs for transportation. Sprawl consumes more resources than other development patterns. Sprawl separates urban poor people from jobs. …

The adults in my community

Americans spend 95 percent of their lives indoors

I was recently working in the front yard on one of those warm days that sporadically appear in March and April. Patricia came by, walking her bike up the hill and still wearing her bike helmet. She has watched my daughters grow up and always asks about them. Patricia is a thinking person and I always enjoy chatting with her. The topics included status seeking (my favorite), electric bikes, her present job, an article in The New York Times about global warming, and her ninety-something year-old multimillionaire mom. Patricia signed off when the neighborhood drunk bellied up. What village or town would be complete without one? Turns out he's on the wagon and I wished him luck. My family has watched him stagger back and forth to the liquor store for almost two decades and he has taken way too much interest in my oldest daughter lately, who made the mistake of washing a car out front in a bikini last summer.

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