Category Archives: sustainable transportation

Day 138: MLwC and who’s afraid of Big Green?

In my other life, I work with companies on issues that usually involve change. Sometimes the change is big, such as introducing wikis and blogs as alternatives to KBs and KM systems. While these alternatives are of significant interest and use to frontline tech help agents and online customers, they are not viewed in a welcoming light by IT or, often, by the owners of the existing KM infrastructure. Why? Because the new stuff means the end of the old stuff and the old stuff has a million built-in benefits that those teams would like to hang onto.

Why do I bring this up? Because the same problem can be seen in the case of our current administration and e-pluribus-unum (that would be us, you and me).

So, for example, you’ve got a post out today on postcarboncities that discusses the amount of money–good old money!–that can be saved by instituting changes that also, at the same time, all together now, reduce pollution and the collective carbon footprint. He’s pretty detailed and specific about changes that could be made. And he has some good examples of changes that have been made that not only make systems more efficient but also are good for the planet:

  • In 2005 the city of Stamford (CT) earned a Climate Champion Award at CA-CP’s New York City conference following the release of their emissions inventory. The award celebrated actions that reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent — curbing global warming and saving the city more than $1.1 million in annual energy costs.
  • In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Local Law #86 of 2005, which sets green building standards for certain capital projects. The law affects approximately $12 billion in construction, including $5 billion in new schools, over the City’s 10-year capital plan. It requires most new and substantially renovated City buildings costing more than $2 million to be built according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standard or other equally stringent standard.
  • Keene (NH) is looking into hiring an Energy Service Company (ESCO) to retrofit city buildings using a performance contract in which the ESCO is paid solely through the resulting energy savings. Keene expects to save a minimum of $30,000 a year through the retrofits.
  • In 2006 the City of Pittsburgh (PA) was awarded $300,000 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to integrate biodiesel in its entire diesel fleet. The City’s plan, developed in partnership with Steel City Biofuels, will displace 30% of Pittsburgh’s petroleum diesel with locally-produced biodiesel .

The list could undoubtedly go on but here’s the thing: the people are now clearly leading the leaders and the leaders are not budging and will not budge because it is not in their interest to budge. Utilizing all these new systems and applications means less business for the old school, the boys in the back room, Big Oil, Big Industry and the like.

Protectionism runs deep. But here we are, the people leading the leaders, and we will continue to demand change because the change makes sense. And here’s the most important thing–it’s like some companies I know of that have thousands of active wiki internally but officially have none, yet–when we make changes in our own small circle of influence, that change ripples outward. It cannot help but be so. It is what Hawken’s is talking about when he talks about our global immune system. Interesting times, indeed.

Daily Stats for MLwC: (Monday)

Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.5 miles
Bus: 0
other: 0

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Day 124: MLwC, the hundredth monkey and a global immune system

I’m into the second half of Hawken’s book in which he discusses the varied organizations that in hundredth-monkey ways are tackling the many issues of our day: poverty, corporate abuse, pollution, disease, and dozens of other concerns. Through the interconnectedness of the wired world today, these organizations can share best practices, learnings, energy, inspiration and sweat equity to move en masse towards a more equitable, safe, healthy future.

He suggests that these organizations can be seen as the antibody response of our planet to the threatening disease of pollution and environmental degradation. It’s really a cool idea, and it makes sense too: a growing number of us sense the threat we face, understand the very personal toll that pollution and diminishing resources are taking on us, and we are making choices that correspond to the way the body wards off infection and viruses. It’s the Gaia philosophy expanded out even further…and it makes sense to me. We are an organic part of an organic system–as much as we often like to think the real world really is composed of the shiny new products we create. I welcome the idea that a growing majority might be compelled to respond to the potential crisis we face in a naturally evolving fashion–albeit with urgency.

Some examples of the localized antibodies that are collecting at the margins of our global culture (Hawken’s names names in his book, a list that is too lengthy for me to go in to here but I suggest you watch the video for more, if you can’t get the book):

the list goes on and on, and includes very powerful, very well known billionaires , ex-presidents, and celebrities, as well. It is a coalition of every level–from the margins of our society, working like antibodies to fight the many threats to our environment. There are more of us all the time.

Daily Stats (Monday)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0
internet: all over the place

Day 123 thru 125: MLwC, fast breeds faster

I’ve been using my car more than usual the past week and I think I know why.  But first, it’s just interesting how a change in your normal day will cause changes down the line and unless you’re paying attention, that change can become habit.  I noticed this a lot when I worked in a regular office–the things that I used to do regularly, commute on my bike, get outside, grow my own vegetables in the summer–all sort of fell by the wayside after a while.  And I didn’t notice until other habits had overwhelmed the things I loved doing that things had changed.

It’s sort of like invasive species, how they take over.  Nowadays, I work with different companies and lots of different people and I notice that there are people who make sure they hold on to things that are important to them…and they’re usually kind of quiet about it.  Like they’re flying under the radar in a way.  I admire them and wish I’d had that kind of awareness back a few years ago.

So, returning to why I’ve been driving more the last couple of weeks.

The current project I’m working on sort of came up unexpectedly, as is often the case, throwing my whole schedule into disarray. As a result of being gone and spending a total of one work-day in the air going to and returning from Chicago (not to mention sitting in airports waiting for delayed flights), I come up short at the end of the week in the time-available-to-d0-everything-else department. Downstream from that situation, I have found myself resorting to using my car to get everything done that I need to get done…simply because I don’t have enough time.

Diana commented the other day that it’s tough for a working Mom to get all the things done in a day with a kid and full time job and etc, etc. On top of that, where she lives in Idaho, public transit just isn’t an option. It’s virtually non-existent.

We pack a lot into our days and our transportation of choice–cars–allows us to pack even more. For lots of people, doing less is unthinkable, and for me in the past few days, just getting the required tasks done without a car has been unthinkable. I’m looking forward to not using my car for the rest of this coming week, since on top of trying to get a lot of tasks done, I’m really sick of traffic and irritated by the cumbersome nature of driving, parking, etc etc.
Daily stats (Fri, Sat, Sun)

Car: 21 miles (6 tasks, 2 people)
Bike:
Ped:
Bus:
Air:

Day 116 thru 118: MLwC and the way things are interconnected

I’m old enough to remember when the term built-in obsolescence began to gain currency. Apparently, the movement on the part of manufacturers to create goods that would have a shorter, definitive life-span started in the 30’s (I wasn’t around then 🙂 ) and really became part of our culture in the 60’s (I was around then) and is now so common we rarely think twice before trashing something we bought a week ago, year ago, two years ago, whatever.

There was a time, really, when you bought things and expected them to last. And last a long time.

This built-in obsolescence or planned obsolescence is, in many ways, at the root of our collective carbon footprint now and I find myself thinking about it with relation to My 30 Days of consumer celibacy and how The Compact works, that was mentioned here the other day. The author, Wendee Holtcamp spent 30 days not buying anything new and chronicled the adventure. According to the Compact, the goal is to wean oneself from our consumer addicted society….

What happens in an experiment like this, I imagine, is similar to what has happened in my own experiment with urban transportation: once you break a pattern of behavior, you begin to view everything in relation to that pattern differently.

So, now I’m starting to wonder about this buy-nothing-new project that started in San Francisco by Rachel and others. It’s not some anti-corporation, self-punishing hard-core movement–it’s smart people who understand that the more new stuff we buy, the more landfill we create and the more we put into motion this global supply chain that is at the heart of an unsustainable consumer culture.

When we first bought the house we’re living in now, we had to do a lot of very necessary repairs right off the bat. Some of them involved new wood siding on the house to repair dry-rot, etc., and I remember thinking, “what would it be like to follow the production of this lumber from the forest all the way to our house?” Because it’s not just the lumber yard where you purchase it, it’s the trucks, trains, ships that get the wood from the forest (sustainable or otherwise); it’s the rubber in the tires, the steel in the chassis, the hardhats, the gloves, the dock with its hauling equipment and cranes; it’s the computerized programs that track inventory, the reports, the finance and banking; it’s the plastic ties, the labeling, the marketing and the packaging…it goes on and on.

Marley’s ghost

For some reason, it makes me think of the Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol who shows up to haunt Scrooge dragging a long line of chains and money boxes rattling behind him.

Basically, that’s what buy-nothing-new is getting at: recognizing that the mass of stuff we buy new involves a greater participation in this completely unsustainable pitch of manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and sales–unsustainable because it takes resources to create and distribute stuff, but the model doesn’t put stuff back in.

So, the Compact is focused on not introducing more new stuff into the world, borrowing or buying used, and thereby perhaps driving a market demand that items be built better to last longer. That then got me to thinking about Seth Godin’s post commented on here a while ago that he will know we’re actually gaining ground in the environmental movement when cars have LED readers on their bumpers that advertise the mileage–encouraging longevity over new, new, new.

I’m not ready to do the compact quite yet, and when I do, I’ll definitely do a 30 day trial first; but I’m really captured by the thought of reducing the massive global supply chain that goes into our consumerism–making things last longer, repairing, recycling, borrowing, lending. There’s also a wonderful network and community aspect to the Compact that is attractive.

Daily Stats (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Car: 8 (2 tasks)
Bike:7 miles
Ped: 3.5 miles
Bus:0
air: 0

PS. I have a confession to make. I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth on whether or not to include other people’s cars in my daily stats. I’ve been incredibly ambivalent about it but have this last week decided: No. This project is about My Car, not all cars. So, I’m really only looking at ways I use my car…and the possibility of living without a “my car” in the future. Thoughts?