Category Archives: alternative energy

Day 119 thru 121: MLwC and WiserEarth.com

Traveling again this week, and really rushed for time. Time is a critical factor in selection of transportation modes. I elected to drive to the airport and park rather than risk not getting picked up by the shuttle again….Anyway, I was thinking about how much I travel over the course of the year and how much this impacts my carbon footprint. I’m a consultant and this travel issue won’t likely change a whole lot in the near future which makes my activities while at home even more important–walk, bike, bus, etc.

On Sunday, I hung out a while at Paul Hawken’s site WiserEarth, trying to figure out how it works. I heard back from Michael regarding the beta site re my sense that it wasn’t targeted well; I couldn’t figure out if it was for professional .org people or for regular people like me. He confirmed that they are still working out some aspects of the site (it’s beta) but:

“In a nutshell, it is definitely for people like you. I encourage you to check it out and make sure your favorite organizations are represented in there. And we are always looking for feedback on usability and for ideas on future enhancements to make the site more useful for your line of work. We can’t guarantee everything will be implemented (we have constraints on tech support and funding of course), but we do value community feedback.”

So , I went back to the site and created an account, and then went for a run.

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During the run I began to think about all the stuff rolling around in my head and realized (this may be a Doh! moment for some of you but it was sort of exciting for me): The Compact, my own MLwC project, Wildlife Alliance, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Critical Mass, the Backyard Wildlife movement here in Seattle and a hundred other things that I personally take an interest in, are all part of a much, much bigger movement that as Hawken puts, is as yet un-named and is potentially the biggest movement in the history of the planet. People like you and me–perhaps not doing big global projects, but doing things we care about, passionately, and that contribute to a larger common good.

And it’s the combination of all those things that is creating this massive global movement that Paul Hawken is writing about.

When I returned from my run, I went to the site and entered my first organization. I’ll follow up with others. I’m no expert on so many things out there, but I know about my own life and interests, and that’s what I can share. How the site will evolve, how it will utilize my interests, network us all, remains to be seen. How I will use it remains to be seen.

Participating is sort of a leap of faith. Take The Compact, for example. You use your big car to go shopping and buy things, much more than you really need, without thinking about alternate paths, and it’s all so easy, so fast, who really thinks about it. So the Compact has groups all over the planet finding different ways to live outside the planned path of consumerism. Once that habit is busted, these people like Rachel in SF, or myself here with my own habit-busting project, we find ourselves connecting to our city, our community, our planet in a whole new way. Rachel, just like me, just like you, is one little atom bouncing around out there amidst a gazillion atoms, changing the way atoms bounce here in Seattle, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and who knows where else.

And that, I believe, is what Paul Hawken is talking about. Bring what you have, share it, find your community, find energy, find a different path and share your map. And Hawken clearly understands the internet has made the path to sharing your map possible.

Daily stats: (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)
Car: 25 miles
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.0
Bus: 0
Air: 2400

Day 111 & 112: MLwC and the frog in the water

Green writes an exceptionally uncomfortable post about frogs in increasingly hot water. They won’t, as most know, hop out because they just get used to the increasingly hot water…until of course, it is too late and they are cooked.

Point: obvious. We will likely not make changes until it is too late, and the leadership in this country is particularly frog-like in its decision making.

I’m reading Blessed Unrest right now and the premise of the book is basically, how to not become depressed with the state of environmental affairs. Paul Hawkin speaks to audiences all over the world and found he is able to stay constructive and positive because he knows there is a rapidly growing movement of people like you and me who are determined to change the way they live.

I’ll include some thoughts from this great read over the next few days. I’m traveling again this week which is sort of a drag but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, my daddy used to say. It pays the mortgage.

Daily stats (Saturday and Sunday)

Car: 14 (3 tasks, 2 people)
Bike:0
Bus: 0
Air: 1700 miles

Day 107: MLwC, comment from B2, and the loneliness of the long distance business traveler

Supa dupa comment from B2 yesterday, if you get a chance. A snippet:

“The 2 years I didn’t own a car in the mid-90s (before I got married and had a kid), I was biking everywhere….

One interesting thing that happened was that … Non-bicyclists would often strike up a conversation with me, and almost invariably I would hear two things from most of them: 1. “How far do you go in a day?” and 2. “Oh… I could never do that.”

And… I got to thinking about why people kept bringing up these 2 particular points, and here’s what I thought: their focus on physical distance is very rooted in consumer culture; the journey itself often had very little value in itself, and they were more focused on getting to a place rather than on the process of getting there, which is actually the most enjoyable part of any trip for me — probably because they were going too fast and thus were feeling too stressed to really enjoy the process of getting there. The very act of slowing down to 10-15 miles per hour on your bike REALLY makes you see the landscape differently and to realize how much of it you miss when you whiz through in a motor vehicle at 60mph.”

I think you have something there. There’s just something about being in touch with the actual trip itself that keeps you present in a way driving just skips altogether.

And speaking of trips…I am on a project in Chicago for the better part of this week. Kind of blows my stats, don’t you think? But I have long thought that I wanted to balance out my business travel, not just in carbon usage, but also in the grand disconnect when you are a body traveling through space and character-free airports, staying at business focused hotels. So, I do–by living a very different lifestyle at home.

Lots of biz people like myself will always have to travel some–there are a lot of things you just can’t do remotely. It’s just not possible, for example, to do effective team trainings, motivation, work process observations… stuff like that which is pretty hands-on. How do you think biz travel will evolve as the availability of fossil fuels become more scarce?

Of course, biz travel is more necessary now that we have massive companies with centers and sites all over the place…Makes me appreciate even more the local hardware store and the West Seattle farmer’s market. Makes me swoon with appreciation, in fact.

Okay, Daily stats: (Monday)
Car: 0 (or about 25 if you count the carpool)
Bike: 0
Bus: 0
Air: about 1400 or so.

Day 106: WLwC and how not-driving has changed my brain

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Had dinner with some pals on Saturday and the subject turned to this blog and cultural notions around transportation. My big concern with friends (and it’s happened a couple of times already) is that they may see my project and questions around transportation as an inherent judgment on car drivers. Of course I do!!

This WLwC project is all about becoming aware: aware of alternatives like mass transit, walking, biking–just thinking differently. I may get rid of my car at the end of the year…but I may not. As it is right now, I hardly drive anymore and my poor old hunka metal just sits gathering more dust every day…so it’s clear I could live without a car, but I need more info, about a year’s worth, so the jury’s out.

So, we got to talking and I was trying to explain the fundamental changes in my brain that are happening as a result of little to no car driving. First: I’m simply more relaxed–just overall relaxed. Life has become simpler. I don’t feel a great need to go anywhere and get anything (no wonder They want to keep us driving!). At the same time, I’m going downtown much more often–approx 16 miles RT.

What’s up with that? Well, it’s easier. Instead of a stressful trip, I now read on the bus, I enjoy the water taxi when that’s the transportation choice, I love the bike ride to the dock–all things that keep me in touch with the world around me, with the community and are pleasant. And I don’t have to stress over traffic, parking, gas, etc–all things that make me feel generally worse about my fellow human beings and my days in general. So I’ve removed a huge piece of stress and replaced it with something enjoyable and more worthwhile and my brain is happier.

Next, the “getting” part. This is sort of embarrassing but really, I used to think of my days in terms of getting in the car and going and doing something. I rarely thought in term of staying where I am and working with what I’ve got (which is a lot, by the way). Now, that’s addiction, pure and simple: my daily sense of self relied on my going somewhere else, getting something else and doing something other than being still. And it was as mindless and compelling as any addiction I’ve dealt with (and yeah, I’ve dealt with one or two 😉 ).

As a result I’m so much more focused and quiet–though my life is totally and undeniably richer than when I was in the “gotta-go-gotta-go-fast-gotta-get-there-and-get-something” mind set. My head is clearer. My overhead is lower. I’m just plain happier. Probably I can’t lay all this at the door of MLwC but a lot of it, for sure. My day used to be defined by going, and now it’s not. It’s that simple–and it’s that profoundly different.

I’ll still be mulling this over and again, who knows how this project will end. I can say that my partner is becoming more interested in the possibility of different forms of transportation and possibly ditching the second car but we’ll see…have to give this a year of observation. Another friend and his wife are considering ditching both cars to get a prius. There’s lots to think about….

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Daily Stats (Saturday/Sunday)

Car: 0
Bike:0
Foot: approx 6 miles
Bus: 0

Day 105: WLwC, John Doerr at Ted

John Doerr’s talk at this year’s Ted conference is heart-felt and intelligent. His 15 year old daughter challenged him and his friends to fix the problems his/our generation has created. His bottom line: there is a time when panic is appropriate and that time is now. He doesn’t believe we can do enough to change the course of climate global change we’re on.

For me, to hear Doerr touting WalMart’s recent green changes was a challenge in itself. And a refreshing challenge. His questions are excellent and the talk is worth listening to.

He calls out the stupid behaviors in our culture (such as bottling water in Fiji and shipping it to Sacramento, California, or traveling to a store in a two ton hunk of plastic in metal to buy a quart of ice cream).

His focus on the importance, the absolute necessity of governmental participation in policy–local and national and global.

I sort of agree: none of this is enough, but it’s encouraging to hear the long list of changes that groups of interested people are putting in place and the good its doing. Take the good where you can find it.

Daily stats (Friday)

Car: 0
Bike: 0
Foot: 1.5 miles
Bus: approx. 15 miles

Day 102 & 103: WLwC and doing more, not less

Seth Godin has a recent post about global climate change and marketing. I hate it that the two are inextricably connected, but they are. His point: don’t ask people to do less, ask them to do more. We, as humans (at least in this hemisphere and on this continent), are hard-wired for more–we don’t like less.

I agree with the more idea and think we can expand it endlessly, whereas less can be sort of a dead-end discussion.

In fact, I think that’s what we’ve been discussing here for the last few months–do more! Walk more, recycle more, compost more…and in its own systemic way, those actions will lead to less. No muss, no fuss.

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For example, compost more. At our house, a few months ago we began taking advantage of Seattle’s compost program wherein you can put veggie/food scraps in your yardwaste bin, which then goes into a massive composting process and becomes the basis for gorgeous flower and P-patch beds all over the city. We’ve done it big-time: recently when taking the garbage out, it seemed almost empty…and it was! The only thing in it was a couple of bags of cat-sand. We’d managed to compost and re-use almost everything during the week.

So, do you think Godin’s onto something when he says do more, not less and what kinds of good-more are you seeing in your neck of the woods in response to climate change?

Daily stats (Tuesday and Wednesday)

Car: 0
Bike: approx 10 miles
Foot: 3.5
Bus: 0

Day 99: MLwC and a top 5 list

Everybody loves lists so I thought I’d offer a quick one for the MLwC project and for those who might be trying to think differently about transportation in this post-peak-oil age.

Top 5 things to keep in mind (and Please! Add to this any thoughts you might have–I’m just making this list up on the basis of my experience so far)

1. The goal is to simply become more conscious of how you travel, where, when, why, with whom. That is, how many tasks can you combine in order to avoid multiple trips; how many people with tasks can you combine; why are you jumping in the car–are there other alternatives? Is the weather great and do you have a little time? If so, why not walk or bike? Just note what you’re doing–easy shmeasy.

2. Once you’re more aware, little personal contests help a lot. For example, at first I was aiming for a reduction of one day per week of no car usage–just one day. It was a very modest goal and it took a while to achieve it; it may have been a huge hurdle in retrospect. I’ve since completed two work weeks sans car usage without even breaking a sweat. Keep in mind that no car usage doesn’t mean staying home, locked up and out of action. I’ve taken buses, passenger ferries, my bike and of course, walking on my own two feet.

3. It help to let others know what you’re doing. Yeah–they’ll think you’re a freak, but if you’re reading this, you might already be a freak so who cares. Let them know that it’s a sort of game or experiment you’re doing–just to see. They’ll be curious, I’m betting, based on my own experience–and it’ll give everyone a chance to think a little differently about car usage. Especially let your signif-other in on it–who knows, you may be able to figure out some way to jointly think differently about getting around.

4. Make sure your other means of transportation are in good working order. If your bike sucks big time, it’ll be a pain (really!) to ride and you won’t want to continue. If you have to struggle with change for the bus, buy a packet of tickets or a pass–it’ll make life so much easier and you won’t give using the bus another thought. Also, I don’t know about your city, but most companies in the Seattle area do a lot to help their employees use mass transit–check it out. It’s usually the deal of a lifetime–some companies downtown offer their peeps what’s called a Puget Pass which lets you ride the train, the ferries, the buses–whatever, whenever. It’s an incredible deal.

5. This goes along with awareness, but as you move away from using your car as much, be aware when you do use your car–how does it feel? Notice any difference, a tad more sensitivity to traffic, congestion, stress, etc? Just be aware–maybe nothing in your perception will change, but maybe something will.

have great holiday weekend!

Daily Stats (Friday)
Car: 0
Bike: about 8 miles (we ended up riding to the beach for dinner;-)

foot: approx 12 blocks + approx 3 mile walk/run in the park
bus: approx 14 miles

Day 97: MLwC & SP, baby, SP!

Solar Power!

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We’re considering installing solar energy modules on our roof–nothing I would ever have expected to consider here in the mostly soggy northwest, but the technology has improved so much that it’s becoming a viable option.

Here’s an article about a standard installation; it describes the process of installing these new super thin and unobtrusive modules on your roof. The article also discusses the outlay of cash, and the homeowner’s reasons for going ahead and doing it.

The outlay of cash, by the way, is offset by massive tax deductions–both federal, and likely, local (nod to Senator Cantwell). Then, if you’ve got it set up right, and you continue your energy efficient ways, there’s a very good chance you can put excess energy back into the grid–making your meter run backwards, in effect–and actually make money on the deal. This made headlines during the rolling brown outs of the Enron age in California and highlighted an attractive plus to the alternate energy source. This chart shows the rapid increase of alternative energy into the grid during that time (2001-02):

Solar energy on the grid

So, here in Seattle, we’ve got a small start up company that installs these systems. We’re going to have them out to evaluate our house and see if we might be able to install a system, cost, long term picture, etc. They charge $80 for the evaluation but they’re a small shop and the evaluation is extensive, about a half day’s work with a written plan afterwards. We haven’t sched’d the eval yet, but we’re getting ready to.

I mean, you know it’s coming. It’s just a matter of time.

🙂

Daily stats (Wednesday)

Car: 0
Bike: 0
Foot: 3.5 walk/run
Bus: 0
Internet: 4 countries and many states.

Walking, and how to think about “transportation”

Tom followed up yesterday’s piece on walking with a great entry of his own–with gorgeous snaps of his daily route through Lisbon–including time, transportation mode (mostly walking) and some thoughts about the added benefits of not driving. It reads at time like a poem, at other times like a mini-travelogue.

Jodene followed up this morning with a comment on her own walking method and a tangential thought about the long term (very nice nod to investment strategies!) benefits of walking–intellectual, physical, emotional, environmental.

So, I got to thinking: how cool would it be to get feedback from anyone/everyone who actually shakes it up in the transportation department. Those who are doing something other than the regular single-car/single-passenger-moving-through-urban space routine–and what you think about it. What does your transportation method allow you that you would not get from driving?

This would be more than a survey with radio buttons. This would be postcards from the urban-travel edge. We’ll see, maybe it could work.

Day 91: My Life w Car + SBUX’ benevolent self-interest

Starbucks has created an online VR game for learning about carbon footprint, alternative transportation, etc. It’s called Planet Green Game and like all VR games, you choose a personality and then head out on your “adventure.” You choose your transporation options, you go to different places and then you get points (or demerits) for your actions and choices. Kinda dull, but I do recommend going to the Movies as soon as possible–they’ve got some indie shorts that are pretty good and worth watching.

The site also offers Starbucks itself as part of your virtual city adventure–and I sort of thought: not only are they on every corner, now they’re on every virtual corner, too. But hey. Starbucks does a lot of good, green stuff so I give them some points for this–credit where credit is due. They, in turn, gave me about 3500 points before I signed off and called me a Journeyman–not sure what that meant or if I could have been more if I’d stayed on longer? Maybe kids would like it–it’s sorta fun, so check it out.

Tom over at Mytechvision has an interesting article about new solar power plant project that use mirrors and water towers. The mirrors reflect the sunlight back into the tower heating the water to like 400C or so which creates enough energy to heat 6000 homes. This makes me think of something off the wall: a 1987 movie named Bagdad Cafe–great flick, see it if you haven’t. Anyway, one of the characters paints these desert scenes wherein a blinding light radiates from the horizon; the main character, Jasmine, thinks this is a mystical light but in the end it’s revealed that this light is actually from a solar power plant. So my question is: has this technology been around for a while?
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Finally, a review of hard-nosed reasons big businesses might be compelled to go green–nothing new here, and that’s what’s news. The same practices that are in place in the best companies will find an affinity with green initiatives: eliminating waste, how to leverage price differentials, market share through leadership, new studies showing environmentally sound companies are more efficient and well run overall–and tend to attract a better hiring pool. Interesting opinion piece here.

Daily Stats:

Car: 0
Bike: 0
Bus: approx 15 miles
f/c: 0

Day 87: my life w car plus Big Blue Goes Green

IBM is investing a billion a year in figuring out how to utilize alternative energy resources for their systems–from cooling mechanisms to software. The company promises higher CPU without any more energy use. Sweet!

read more | digg story

Also, a friend (sorry Yo, now you’ll really have to do that site ;-))and I had coffee yesterday in Pioneer Square and discussed the issue of.. well, Web 2.0 and knowledge management–though I wince when using the Web 2.0 term. It seems hackneyed, yet what can we call this internet wave that’s upon us? The one where we are increasingly in touch, sharing info at such a massive level–truly a big tent community with all the noise and chaos of a bazaar. At every level, corporate and personal, the sheer amount of information out there is mind boggling yet at every moment has the potential to organize itself organically and pretty doggone effectively.

My point was, how can you deny that information sharing is morphing right before our eyes when companies like Dell are forced to change their ways by the popularization of a term to describe their dysfunction on a single customer blog–the blog heard round the customer experience world?

A side note on Dell–Dell himself. How come these guys get big money? Thanks for this, Yo!

Daily Stats:
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Bus: 0
Flexcar: 0
Run through Park along waterfront: approx 3.5 miles

Day 73 & 74: My life w car

Our beautiful planet:
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Green investing: some people are saying that we’re at a tipping point in our culture wherein we have the opportunity and the will and the ways to radically change how we lead our lives–work and personal. The technology for green energy is evolving more rapidly than ever, local energy companies are beginning to offer alternative energy, car companies are offering greener models, WOM on tax advantages of energy wise alternatives is showing up in the mainstream.

All of this leads to some investing ideas that you might want to investigate. The mutual fund field for green investing is grouped under a larger category called “Socially Responsible Investing,” but that has usually indicated companies that have progressive approaches to people issues, not green issues. Still, for your consideration, here are some ideas re green mutual funds:

Winslow Green (WGGFX)
Parnassus funds (many to choose from)
Powershares (PBW)
Sierra Fund
Spectra Green (SPEGX)
Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy (GAAEX)

Note that some of these are so new they don’t yet have a Morningstar rating but several do, and the ratings are certainly comparable (if not better) to other funds that actually invest in destructive industries. Check em out, give em a try.

Daily stats:
car: 6 miles (3 tasks)
bike: 6 miles
electric hybrid bus: approx 14 miles
flexcar: 0