My Commuter Mug

Travelmugkhs038 This post is a little off the beaten path - it's more a savvy-consumer post. I generally take my insulated travel coffee mug with me, because I'm a tree hugger and I don't care to waste the paper cup (also, being insulated, it keeps my coffee warm longer). Interestingly, however, about 30% of the time I am given a significant discount (Starbucks sometimes just charges me 50 cents). Today, in fact, I wasn't charged at all; the server just said, "Nevermind, free refills." I'm not angling for the discount--I'm happy to pay for my coffee--but if it's offered, why not?

Pix_money_2 I think I've probably unintentionally saved at least $20 over the last six months just by having my travel mug with me. Try it yourself. Even if you're a paper-wasting environment hater, it might just save you a few bucks.

Our New Hybrid

Camry We have upgraded our car from a 1999 Toyota Camry to a 2007 Toyota Camry hybrid. I must admit that it's a nice feeling driving the new car. It's especially cool when you "start" it (nothing happens) and then start driving away with no engine running. But I have mixed feelings, too.
Hybrids are great, and our new car should get about 50% better mileage than our old car. We won't ever make a profit--even at $5 gasoline--on the incremental cost, but as an environmentalist I was taking more into consideration than that.
As a husband, I had other things to consider, too. Websters1I would have preferred the Prius, which gets even better mileage, but had to "compromise" with my wife--who preferred the larger Camry. (For those of you not in relationships, "compromise" means something entirely different than what the dictionary says.)

So this is good. If everyone made the decision to reduce their environmental footprint at inflection points (remodeling, new car, appliance replacement, etc.) and made a conscious effort to pay attention to their footprint and reduce it each year, then we would be definitely making progress.

On the other hand, even if everyone replaced their car tomorrow with a 40 mpg car or even a 50 mpg car we would still be barreling down the same road to climate catastrophe that we are on now. To avoid the worst outcomes a changed climate will wreak on our future generations, we need to reduce carbon emissions by 80%-90% over the next few decades. That means 250 mpg cars if we keep driving the same mileage we do now. And how you are you going to reduce your energy use in other parts of your life by 90%, too?

Footprint So I'll enjoy my new car, but I'll also keep trying to drive it less and bike or walk more. And keep looking for ways to reduce my climate footprint.

Reduce Mercury: Install CFLs

Here's the counterintuitive fact of the day:
Installing CFLs reduces the amount of mercury entering our environment.
It's true that CFLs contain mercury--about 4 milligrams per bulb. Article1
However, the largest source of mercury pollution is the burning of coal in power plants. Mercury pollution from power plants is also worse, because the emissions are completely uncontrolled. Once it gets in the air, we have no control over where it ends up.
This chart (from an EPA fact sheet), shows the emissions of mercury that come from generating the electricity for an incandescent is greater than the total mercury from the CFL. If everyone switched out their lights for CFLs, the total mercury emitted to our environment would be reduced by thousands of pounds.

Mercury is a significant neurotoxin and overall bad pollutant, so be sure to take care when disposing of it (BTW - a watch battery has 5 times the mercury of a CFL, and an old style mercury thermostat--which you may still have on your wall--has 400 times that in a CFL. Dispose of these items properly, too).

So it's a win-win-win-win: a no-brainer, really. Change out as many lights as possible with more efficient lighting, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce mercury and other air pollutants and save money.

80,000 Tons!!

Congratulations Arlington!

Picture4 Arlington’s design: urban villages, excellent transit, good pedestrian and bicycle facilities, make saving gasoline (and greenhouse gases) easier than most places. Many Arlingtonians are able to get to their jobs, take care of their daily tasks, visit friends and participate in community life without having to drive everywhere. Less driving means less air pollution and less greenhouse gas emissions, helping to reduce our climate change impact.

P22aTransportation statistics bear this out. In the whole Washington region, almos3421745_20eb9c1552_ot 3 out of 4 workers (74%) drive alone to work, while in Arlington it’s a little over 50%. This difference means about 80,000 fewer tons of CO2 are being emitted than if Arlington County were like the regional average—just from these commuting trips. That’s also more than 8 million gallons of gasoline being saved each year!I_walkclipart_1

Also remarkable is that more than 40% of non-work trips by Arlingtonians are made without driving—the majority of these on foot.