Thursday, August 23, 2007

Check Out for Environmentally Sound Vehicles is LIVE!!!

Changing the World, One Car at a Time is proud to be a part of a socially responsible mission to help bring environmentally sound vehicles to market while assisting auto dealers in their sales efforts. The EarthCars mission is simple, make it easy and "cool" to drive earth-friendly transportation while proving to the auto industry that it is a viable business model to sell these vehicles to our people.

Who are we?

For the most part, we are Vermonters that have grown up or moved here to experience the clean air, wonderful mountains and the gorgeous lakes with our friends and families. Our company,, is based in the nation's #1 rated green city, Burlington, VT, and was born inside a small used car dealership called EarthCars. In 1994 the EarthCars dealership was founded with the focus on selling recycled, fuel efficient vehicles. By 1997, after having won several awards for its approach in selling these earth-friendly vehicles, EarthCars had become a local favorite to Vermonters due to its no sales-person approach and unique use of the internet to showcase inventory. In 1998, after over 1 year of research and testing its internet marketing solution, EarthCars decided to start an all new company that would soon become, a leader in automotive web marketing solutions in the USA. It is with great pride that we at bring you the all new, fully-revived and more earth-friendly than ever, website. We all hope you will join us to Be Cool. Drive Green.™

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Step #3 of Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

3. MAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION WORK FOR YOU - If more people use public transportation, the increase in demand will bring even better service.

Catherine and I use Seattle's Metro quite a bit. It's really convienent and there is a bus route a block away from our house. The 15 and 18 routes get me exactly where I need to go anywhere in Seattle. We rarely drive anywhere that we can take the bus too.


I tried to remove our name from 2 direct mail pieces today and it wasn't as easy as it should have been. I started with a free checking mailer at Sterling Saving Bank. The customer service rep didn't know how to take off my name. I was placed on hold for 5 minutes before I was informed that I was going to have to be called back. I got a call back and the CSR offered to transfer me to the number that would take my name off their mailing list. He said, 'Let me transfer me' and the line was dropped.

I called Commonwealth Finance too. Their local number asked me to leave a message. Weak...

If you're going to send out a direct mail piece, realize the consequences and what can happen if the reciepients don't want your message. If someone wants to reduce their carbon footprint and get off your list, make it easy to do so.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Step #2 of Reducing our Carbon Footprint

Step #2 is a tough one for us...

2. BIKE TO WORK It's about integrating alternative modes of transportation into your life where it's appropriate. If you have to take the kids or the car, fine. If everyone can switch to bikes or feet for just a few of their weekly trips that will make a huge difference in our collective carbon footprint.

I work from home. No commute required. The only carbon footprint I leave is my electricity usage and the food that I consume.

Catherine drives to work. She is the leader of her carpool. While the carpool could take public transportation, they choose not too.

I did call each of the direct mail catalogues we received in the mail. We have been getting two Pottery Barn pieces every time they come out with a new issue (which is about every week). I let their customer service department know that we do a majority of our shopping online and the catalogue didn't do anything for us. We were quickly removed. I also removed our name from some random yoga clothing place that we will never buy anything from via the mail.

Removing our names from these three pieces of mail took about 3 minutes. It was really easy. Every unsolicited piece of mail that we receive I plan on getting off of their list. If we can be 'junk mail free' within a few weeks, our-carbon-footprint would be reduced.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Step #1 of Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

Our current Carbon Footprint:

Patrick - 6.2 Tons of CO2 per Year
Catherine - 6.2 Tons of CO2 per Year

Our-Carbon-Footprint: 12.4 Tons of CO2 per year

Prius, Schmius! Choosing an energy-efficient car or converting to alternative fuels like ethanol or biodiesel helps, but you've got to stop driving so much to really make a difference. Check out's new Commute Cost and Emissions Calculator and find out just how much your commute is costing your wallet and Mother Earth. Commit to one car-free commute day; can also help you join or start a carpool.

Cutting down my commute is easy. I work out of my house. I know that may seem like a cop out, but I rarely drive anywhere.

Catherine is different. She carpools everyday day with Kimberly to Starbucks. Her daily commute is 10.6 miles. According to PG&E's Carbon Footprint Calculator, this commute leaves a carbon footprint of 3,012 lbs. of CO2.


We are going to sell my car. I drive a 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6 and it is going away as soon as I find a willing buyer. Interested? Visit my post on

Resources to help reduce your carbon footprint

Some handy resources for getting started on using these tips and otherwise reducing your carbon footprint

To view an estimate of your carbon emissions using PG&E's carbon footprint calculator visit

For information on the Kyoto protocol visit

Check out Green Emotor for cool-looking, environmentally friendly scooters at

To stop receiving ValPak coupons fill out the form online at

TreeGivers is a green gift alternative. The company plants a tree in honor of any special occasion/person, to be planted in the county, state or country of your choice.

According to, 78 degrees Fahrenheit is the best setting for your air conditioner. Initially setting the temperature very low does not cool your house faster, just uses more energy.

For more information on Energy Star appliances visit

Go green and support the troops! Cell phones for Soldiers used cell phones and uses the money to send pre-paid calling cards to overseas soldiers. 800.426.1031;

Reusable cloth tote bags made from Ecospun® (post-consumer, recycled plastic soda bottles) or unbleached, 100 percent cotton canvas are at All of their bags are made in the USA and can be printed with any logo.

Use a water filter to reduce plastic water bottles. Compare prices and features of water filters at

50 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

EVEN though industry and governments are going to have to make earth-shaking changes to cool things down, there's plenty we can to do help. The basics of reducing our individual carbon footprints are to do what Henry David Thoreau said: "Simplify, simplify." We'll all live better with less-processed, packaged and industrially produced stuff carted here from across the planet.

Then there's Wabi Sabi, Japan's esthetic ideal: Less is more. If you aren't using it, give it away or dispose of it responsibly. Before you purchase, be sure there's room for it in your home. Buy local, buy less and reuse, repair, freecycle and recycle more. You may pay more for locally produced, fair trade and organic products, but it evens out when you buy less of everything else and reduce carbon intensive activities like driving. It's not a coincidence that when you do things to save the planet you not only save money, but your life gets simpler, healthier and happier. Here are 50 tips.

1. CUT DOWN YOUR COMMUTE. Prius, Schmius! Choosing an energy-efficient car or converting to alternative fuels like ethanol or biodiesel helps, but you've got to stop driving so much to really make a difference. Check out's new Commute Cost and Emissions Calculator and find out just how much your commute is costing your wallet and Mother Earth. Commit to one car-free commute day; can also help you join or start a carpool.

2. BIKE TO WORK. Stuck for a bike route to work? has maps, or you can call or email the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition for route-mapping assistance. They also have a network of cyclists they can refer you to for personal consultations, and safety programs to help you ride safer. Corinne Winter, SVBC executive director, says 44 percent of our car trips are two miles or less and for shorter trips, even with babies on board, a bike is not slower than a car. "It's not about making every trip a bike trip," she says. It's about integrating alternative modes of transportation into your life where it's appropriate. If you have to take the kids or the car, fine. If everyone can switch to bikes or feet for just a few of their weekly trips that will make a huge difference in our collective carbon footprint.

3. MAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION WORK FOR YOU. Experiment with VTA, BART and Caltrain. There's a trip planner at Bart and Caltrain's websites have free PDA schedule downloads. If more people use public transportation, the increase in demand will bring even better service.

4. DISCOVER 'TRIP LINKING.' Plan car trips better to avoid spontaneous single trips and plan errand routes to minimize mileage. Do your weekly shopping in a multistop single trip. Instead of driving to each shopping destination, park your car between them and walk.

5. GO SOLAR. There are new California initiatives to help build a self-sustaining photovoltaic, solar electricity market. The California Solar Initiative provides incentives to convert for existing residential homes and existing and new commercial, industrial and agricultural properties. PG&E's website demystifies solar and offers good information about how to apply for CSI incentives. It also offer dozens of classes on all facets of design and installation for laypersons and builders.

6. GREEN YOUR BUSINESS. Don't have the bandwidth or bread to develop "go greener" programs? Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Sustainable Silicon Valley and PG&E offer free services that help businesses get energy efficient and plug into available subsidies and legislative initiatives. Develop state-of-the-art commuter and telecommuter programs that'll get your employees to work without their cars (again, is a good place to start).

7. HUG A TREE. It's OK. It's cool now. Better yet, plant a tree.

8. USE LESS PAPER. The third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution is the pulp and paper industry. Use paper made from post-consumer waste, and recycle your newspapers.

9. RID YOURSELF OF JUNK MAIL. claims that the average adult gets exactly that much junk mail in a year. You can pay them $41 to nuke it from your life or try these more labor-intensive solutions: Call whoever is mailing you stuff and tell them to stop and to not sell, exchange or give your info to other commercial interests. Write this on their envelopes and mail it to them. When you buy online or through a catalog, or buy a magazine subscription, tell these vendors the same. Opt out of credit card solicitations by calling 1.888.5.Opt-Out. Many junk mailers like ADVO and Val-Pak Coupons have online opt-outs.

10. CUT DOWN ON PRINTER USAGE. Also, don't toss old faxes, reports and letters—put them in your printer face up and print on their blank side.

11. KEEP A CLOSED-DOOR POLICY. Moms know a lot about this. Keeping your doors closed means don't have to turn the heat or air conditioning on as much. Don't set your thermostat too high when it's cold or too low when it's warm.

12. NO TRASH BAGS. Don't use specially bought plastic bags—line your kitchen garbage container with newspaper.

13. LEARN HOW MUCH ENERGY YOU'RE USING IN YOUR HOME. PG&E's website has a home energy calculator and other resources to help you figure out how to conserve. Ditto for your water providers.

14. USE THE SUN TO DRY YOUR CLOTHES. Energy-guzzling gas and electric clothes dryers replaced Grandma's clotheslines, drying umbrellas and wooden drying racks that can be used inside or out. Sun-dried clothes smell good, the sun bleaches whites whiter and you'll seriously reduce your utility bill.

15. OUTSMART YOUR APPLIANCES. If you must use then, run your dishwasher and your laundry machines only when you have full loads.

16. TAKE SHORTER SHOWERS. And use less heated water.

17. BUY ENERGY STAR LABEL APPLIANCES. It's the mark of approval from the federal government, and for once, that's not a bad thing. See the details at

18. SEAL OFF WINDOWS AND DOORS. Using weather-stripping to seal drafts around windows and doors will cut your heating and cooling expenses and reduce the burning of fossil fuels. It also protects against zombies.

19. GO SECONDHAND. Before purchasing something, ask yourself if you already have it or something similar that can be reused. Can you buy it secondhand at a thrift store or on Craigslist?

20. GET STUFF FREE. If there's something you need only once or twice, don't buy it. Borrow and return it. Go to www.freecycle .org and join a local group to exchange or borrow stuff. It's amazing what you can get for free by browsing the listings or posting a want ad.

21. REVOLUTIONIZE YOUR COMPUTER USAGE. Turn off computers and pull chargers out of the wall when you're not using them. Maximize your CPU settings, like the sleep mode, to reduce energy use. Set your printer to fast quality so you use less toner. Find responsible sellers and their takebacks at Read the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition's buying guide at

22. REFILL YOUR PRINTER CARTRIDGE. Find a Cartridge World franchise and reuse instead of tossing and buying a new one. Mailing your used cartridges somewhere uses fossil-fuel-intensive air travel. The same with gimmicky faux green products that come with a mailing envelope. Don't mail something to recycle it!

23. RECYCLE RESPONSIBLY. Be sure your e-waste recycler isn't merely collecting and selling it to brokers who'll ship it to a developing nation or a prison where it will be dismantled for salvageable parts and dumped. Go to and choose recyclers like Green Citizen who've taken the Electronics Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship.

24. DON'T DUMP. At least not on Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If it isn't nice enough for them to sell, or if it's too specialized for them to know what to do with it, they'll have to pay to trash it.

25. USE THE PUBLIC LIBRARY. There's no need to buy so many books, especially if they're published overseas and sold at a big box store. Any library in Santa Clara County usually either has the book you want or can get it for you from a neighboring library.

26. READ LABELS AND BUY LOCAL. Organic from Canada or overseas isn't as easy on the environment as locally produced products. Buying anything imported across an ocean means a container ship transported it. "Just one container ship traveling one mile produces NOx emissions equaling 25,000 cars traveling the same distance," says Anthony Fournier of the Santa Barbara County Pollution Control District. Foreign manufacturers often use carbon-intensive industrial and environmental practices that are illegal here. Many imports are made in sweatshops where people labor in dangerous work environments and aren't paid fairly. Reducing the demand for imports not only reduces our carbon footprint but also sends a message to big business that we want better for everyone.

27. REDUCE PACKAGING AND PLASTICS. Let's stop using billions of pounds of plastic which uses millions of barrels of oil to produce. Wherever plastic is manufactured the environment gets trashed and the workers and nearby residents get sick from harmful chemical emissions. Plastic bags and water bottles release endocrine disrupters like Phallates and bisphenol A, especially when they're reused or heated. So, like, don't buy heavily packaged stuff, dude!

28. BYOCSB. Bring your own cloth shopping bags. Don't use clear plastic ones for produce. You can buy cloth produce bags online, or throw that head of cauliflower directly into your shopping cart. Why does it need its own plastic bag when you're going to wash and cook it?

29. BYOCC. Bring your own coffee canister. If you buy beans or ground coffee from a coffee shop, bulk sellers will usually let you bring your own containers. Just have them weighed and tagged before you head for the cinnamon.

30. SAY NO TO INDIVIDUAL WRAPS. Choose products without individually plastic-wrapped multiple servings.

31. REALLY SAY NO TO STYROFOAM. If it's sold in Styrofoam, just don't buy it. Ask Jamba Juice and Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt to switch to paper cups and containers. Styrofoam isn't recycled; it never biodegrades; it's just no good.

32. SHOP NAKED. When you shop, don't take bags—bring your own tote bag. If you're muy macho, get a big messenger bag for errands and shopping. Unless you're buying a lot, most reasonably sized nongrocery items will fit in them. New clothes can be rolled up and carted to the car. Lots of small items can be wrapped up in a bandana, then placed in your bag.

33. EVEN POTLUCKS COUNT. Dan and Stacy Scott-Stafford and their Willow Glen neighbors stopped using disposables and bring their own cloth napkins, plates and utensils to their block's weekly potluck.

34. BECOME A LOCAVORE. When you choose out of season organic food that's from journeyed overseas instead of locally grown anything, the pollution caused by the container ships outweighs any benefit you're going to get. Locavores say eating what's available locally is healthier anyway. Cooking dinner? Make a few meals at the same time and stash them in the fridge.

35. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMER. Visit www.localharvest .org and find the farmers market nearest you. Even better, find a CSA and get your produce from a sustainable local family farm.

36. MAKE YOUR OWN SALAD. Live Earth Farm's Debbie Palmer says make your own organic salad mixes from scratch and use less bagged and precut produce because they use a lot of resources to produce.

37. DON'T BE A SLAVE TO CONVENIENCE. We'll all be paying later for using convenience foods like packaged mixed salads, because they use a lot of resources to produce.

38. AVOID FAST FOOD. Methane-producing factory farming and long-distance shipping are the heart of its business model and they're clear-cutting rain forests to graze their cows.

39. EAT LESS MEAT. Especially beef. The Worldwatch Institute says growing numbers of intensively farmed livestock are responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and account for 37 percent of emissions of methane, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of CO2, and 65 percent of emissions of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas, coming from manure.

40. AVOID TCHOTCHKES. Just say no to freebies and imported giveaways that you don't really want, need or plan on having around for awhile. Tell your employer and vendors you don't want cheap plastic imported tchotchkes. If you stop taking them, they'll hopefully stop making them.

41. GREEN COFFEE IS DELICIOUS. Barefoot Coffee Roasters' Andy Newbom says that when you buy fair trade or organic coffee you're supporting sustainable farming practices that don't clear-cut trees or use pesticides or chemical fertilizers and that makes a big difference. "Buying fair trade coffee rewards and supports sustainable farming, reducing developing nations' carbon footprint," he says. "It's easy for the first world to say let's reduce our carbon footprint, but it's harder for farmers in developing countries to do this." Buy fair trade beans whole or ground, get a press or cloth filter and make your own.

42. DISPOSABLE CUPS? Really? Do the math: Buying coffee every day in a disposable cup generates at least 20 pounds of paper a year plus several hundred megaindustrially produced plastic covers. Styrofoam cups are worse. Dr. Theo Colborn, in "Our Stolen Future," says researchers have found traces of polystyrene in 100 percent of human tissue tested, because it migrates from the cup into hot food and beverages. Yuk! Bring your own coffee cup!

43. IT'S BETTER TO BREATHE EASY THAN TO LOOK GOOD. Make fashion your slave. Don't buy something trendy that will sit in your closet. Buy clothes that mix and match with your other clothes. You'll have more choices with fewer clothes instead of having a cool pair of retro biker boots or pink Manolos that only go with one outfit. Wear clothes longer, shop secondhand, trade clothes with your friends. Buy shoes that can be repaired. After you replace heels two or three times, then toss them.

44. DON'T BUY HEMP CLOTHING. Yet. Due to archaic anti-marijuana laws, industrial hemp can't be grown in the United States. Buying anything made by exploited slum dwellers in developing nations and carted across oceans in container ships is never a green choice. Learn more about hemp and sweatshops. Join Norml and Global Exchange. Tell state legislators to allow industrial hemp production and put unemployed redwood tree loggers back to work making hemp stuff.

45. AVOID ECO-UNFRIENDLY DRY CLEANING. Although many of the nasty chemicals they use have been banned, the ones they do use aren't good for you, the dry cleaner or the environment. When you need to dry clean, bring your own hangers and leave theirs and the plastic when you pick your stuff. If you're fussy, bring a garment bag.

46. BE A GREEN PARENT. San Jose's Angelica and Sergio Martinez went deep green after their son Marciello was born. "We started Los Antepasados to share the healthy and sustainable ways of our grand ancestors." They recommend breastfeeding, using cloth diapers like Fuzzi Bunz and making simple baby food from scratch, like smashed bananas or sweet potatoes. Give and get hand-me-downs to clothe young 'uns.

47. YOUR GARDEN ISN'T AS GREEN AS YOU THINK. Alrie Middlebrook designs and builds native plant gardens locally. She says take out your water-guzzling lawn and replace it with native plants. They use less water and nourish birds and bees.

48. AVOID CONCRETE. Another garden-design tip from Middlebrook: "If you don't use concrete," she says, "water can percolate through the soil instead of flowing away into storm drains, which conserves water by keeping it on your property."

49. MAKE YOUR HABITAT GOOD FOR HUMANITY. Use locally produced materials and buy certified sustainably harvested wood and wood composites for decking and garden projects. Plant shade trees. "For me, the lawn is a symbol of the oil culture because it's a symbol of waste, cheap energy and extravagance," says Middlebrook. If you wait for your neighbor to do something, your friends, your church or your government, it's going to be too late. You have to do something now."

50. PUSH FOR CHANGE, BIG AND SMALL. Just one idea to get you started: San Jose residents and businesses can ask the city to install bike racks on public rights of ways like city sidewalks.

Must we quit flying to save the planet?

For the hundreds of climate-change activists who have camped out near Heathrow Airport for the past week, there is only one way to reduce the carbon footprint of aircraft: Stop flying so much.

"Aviation is a luxury we can live without," said a protester named Merrick. Booming air travel, he said, is multiplying greenhouse gases just as the climate-change imperative starts to bite. "It has to be scaled right back," he said.

The protesters are also targeting the proposed addition of a runway at Heathrow. As they planned an unspecified action for today, aircraft engineers, scientists and climate experts around the world were urgently assessing if technology, taxation and rationing — or a combination of the three — are needed.

The statistics look ominous. Aviation contributes about 3 percent of global carbon emissions, but air travel is growing at about 5 percent a year, meaning numbers of air-passenger miles will more than triple by 2030. Boeing estimates aircraft numbers will double to more than 30,000 within about 10 years.

Added to this is the complication that aircraft do not just give off carbon dioxide but nitrous oxide, believed to have at least double the impact, and condensation trails, which also may contribute to global warming.

Some, including President Bush's senior environmental adviser, James Connaughton, believe the answer lies chiefly with technology. Aircraft manufacturers constantly are improving design of bodywork and engines, deriving greater fuel efficiency that reduces carbon emissions.

A British study group, OMEGA — Opportunities for Meeting the Environmental Challenge of Growth in Aviation — is looking at a range of technological and other factors, including aircraft design, sustainable fuels and open rotor-propelled aircraft that reduce fuel burn, to assess how they could mitigate aircraft pollution.

In July, Boeing unveiled the 787 Dreamliner, which it says will use 20 percent less fuel than similar-size aircraft.

However, when the International Air Transport Association — the trade group for the world's major airlines — in June called for manufacturers to produce a "zero-emissions jet" within 50 years, senior Boeing executive Mike Cave cautioned that the technology to do that is not in view.

Cave instead recommended a broader approach, with the whole industry — not just airplane makers — working to create more efficient engines and aerodynamic technology, improved air-traffic control systems, and better ground taxiing procedures. To offset any remaining emissions, he supported a global carbon-emissions trading system for aviation.

The U.N. International Panel on Climate Change says perennial improvements have made planes 70 percent more efficient than they were 40 years ago. An additional 40 to 50 percent improvement can be expected in the next three decades, the panel says.

The problem, climate experts say, is that current projections indicate air travel will grow 400 percent in the same period.

"Efficiency is only set to improve at 1 or 2 percent per year at best, while the number of passenger [miles] is growing at 5 or 6 percent," said Peter Lockley, head of policy development at the Aviation Environment Federation, a British think tank. "So emissions are going up steadily in the gap between the two."

There are alternative fuels. Concepts such as hydrogen-powered aircraft are considered to be decades away. But serious work is being done on biofuels as an alternative to kerosene in aircraft. Entrepreneur Richard Branson promised last year to funnel all profits from his air and rail companies into a new business, Virgin Fuels, that would pay for development of biofuels.

In April, when Virgin Atlantic ordered 787s, the airline also announced an environmental partnership with Boeing that includes a joint biofuel project aimed at developing sustainable fuel sources.

Scientists are skeptical, though, of the potential for operating jets on biofuels. And there is the amount of land required to produce fuel in sufficient volume. Environmentalists already are concerned at the way rain forest is being destroyed to make way for palm oil, a biofuel crop.

Lockley said one study concluded that supplying the U.S. commercial fleet with a 15 percent mix of biofuel would require planting an area the size of Florida with soybeans.

Given the limited prospects for a technological solution, a growing body of opinion is arguing for efforts to manage demand for air travel. "What matters is the next 10 to 15 years, and technology can do very little in that time frame," said Kevin Anderson, of Britain's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. "The principal issue is to reduce the rate of growth of air travel."

Experts point to several options. Europe plans to include aviation in its emissions-trading plan starting in 2011. The hope is to show the rest of the world, chiefly China and India, where aviation growth is surging, that concerted efforts can make a difference.

Airlines will receive a limited number of carbon-dioxide permits that can be traded; top polluters will have to buy additional permits, hurting their bottom line. The idea is to give airlines incentive to operate cleaner aircraft.

But experts note that caps will be set fairly high, weakening the imperative, and ticket prices are expected to rise only slightly, if that. Thus, consumer behavior may be little affected.

An alternative is direct taxation. John Stewart, chairman of AirportWatch, a British movement opposed to aviation growth, said that without a radical price change, it will be impossible to change the mind-set of a generation that thinks little of hopping cheap flights for weekend pursuits. Some people have lobbied for cigarette-style health warnings on ads for air travel, but Stewart argues that the only way to change behavior is to hit the pocketbook.

He noted that 45 percent of all flights in Europe are less than 310 miles. "The French and Germans are showing that if you invest in good railways, you can persuade people to travel by rail and not by air."

But it's not only about leisure travel. Business travel makes up, by some estimates, 40 to 50 percent of all air travel. One element of the British OMEGA project is a study that looks at how business can reduce its aviation carbon footprint.

Keith Mason, who is leading the study, said it involves persuading businesses to measure the carbon they consume, choose flights that are not just the cheapest but are least environmentally damaging, use rail when possible and make greater use of videoconferencing and Internet solutions.

"We are aiming to come up with a range of practical tools that will help companies start managing their carbon consumption," Mason said. He noted that one company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, has introduced an internal "carbon budget" whereby its 1,000 top travelers must reduce their CO2 footprint by 20 percent.

Some experts think similar personal carbon budgets — rationing — may be the solution.

"It's too late for voluntary mechanisms," Anderson said. "Carbon allowances are the only fair way to deal with this."

Gas or charcoal? Reducing carbon footprint is tricky business

Recently, the Home & Garden section reported ("Going green with holiday grilling takes a few backyard adjustments," June 30) that grilling outdoors using propane released less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and thus possibly contributed less to global warming, than grilling with charcoal.

But, like all things relating to your carbon footprint, the gas versus charcoal debate is not as straightforward as it may seem.

The Sierra Club came to its pro-gas conclusion with the help of calculations made by carbon-cycle expert Tristram West, a researcher with the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory Environmental Sciences Division in Oak Ridge, Tenn. West assumed that each type of grill - gas, charcoal, electric - would put out 35,000 British Thermal Units per hour, the amount of Btu most manufacturers say their grills will produce when all burners are turned on for one hour.

A Btu is the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. Any fuel burned for heat has a per-pound Btu rating - propane is about 15,000 Btu per pound while charcoal is about 9,700 Btu.

West based his calculations on the use of common charcoal that contains coal and other additives, not pure wood lump charcoal that has a Btu rating of about 13,000.

Using this equation, West did the math on the carbon emissions for each type of fuel and determined that gas spews 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour, while a charcoal grill puts out 11 pounds. West pegged electric grills as the worst carbon offenders - even though they do not emit any carbon on-site - after taking into account the emissions created in the generation (mostly by the burning of coal and gas) and transmission of electricity - a whopping 15 pounds.

Case closed, gas wins. Right? Well, not exactly.

West concludes that burning charcoal made from wood completes the carbon cycle begun when the tree it came from sprouted, thus making it "carbon neutral." Advantage, charcoal. But why?

Gas, on the other hand, comes from nonrenewable fossil fuels. They can't be replaced. When gas is burned, although it produces less carbon dioxide than charcoal, its emissions do contribute to the ever-escalating carbon imbalance just like your, say, Cadillac Escalade.

"When a tree grows it takes up carbon dioxide. When we burn that wood it's releasing that same CO2" and another tree takes it up, West said. He also points out that charcoal, being 90 percent waste wood, would be burned anyway. "Nobody's going to cut down trees to make charcoal because that wood's too valuable," he said.

Not surprisingly, Kingsford briquette spokesman Drew McGowan agrees with West's conclusion but takes issue with the way West calculated the emissions.

"It's important to calculate the carbon emitted per cooked item, not per pound of fuel consumed," said McGowan. "In other words, we need to compare emissions created per cooking event, not per hour or pound of fuel. People barbecue until their food is cooked, not for a specific weight of fuel."

It turns out West agrees with McGowan and would like to re-do his calculations for charcoal based on the amount of briquettes used and what's being cooked.

But it gets even more complicated. That's because West would also like to consider the particulate matter emitted into the atmosphere when burning charcoal. He notes that in the making of charcoal in kilns, 310 pounds of particulate matter per ton are produced.

"My guess is you'll get some more when you burn it in your backyard." Then again, particulate matter is heavy and comes down to earth rather quickly; C02 can stay in air 100 years, said West.

Another factor is the fuel used to burn the wood to make charcoal. If it's a fossil fuel, that would cause charcoal to lose its "net carbon emitter" status, said West.

West admits that the amount of carbon your grill emits is insignificant. He's determined that for barbecue-grill carbon emissions - both gas and propane - to equal the 5.8 billion tons of carbon emitted by the United States in 2000, all the 60 million grills fired up on a typical July 4 would have to remain lit every hour of every day for the next three years.

When it comes to your carbon footprint, whether you use charcoal or gas "makes very little difference - it's .0003 percent of U.S. carbon emissions."

"It's clearly not the thing to be focusing on if we're going to be reducing carbon emissions," said West. He does, however, concede that the charcoal versus gas "green" debate is an "educational tool for people to learn about different types of fuels they're using."

So, now that you're armed with plenty of ammo, no matter what side of the charcoal/gas grilling carbon footprint debate you're on, relax and throw another shrimp on the barbie - Labor Day's right around the corner.

IBM forms 'Big Green' think-tank

Helping the environment and business profit are not mutually exclusive goals, and through its new think-tank, Big Green, IBM is pioneering new technologies and new management models to combine the two.

Peter Williams, chief technology officer for Big Green, explained how IBM has been a company with roots in environmental awareness for well over 35 years. Years ago, IBM came up with manufacturing technology that reduced the amount of perflurocarbons (PFCs)--a greenhouse gas much more damaging than carbon dioxide--and gave that technology away to the industry.

"Big Green came out of strategy 2.0, the World Innovation Jam. We took a question, 'What are the innovations that matter to our company?' and we threw that question out to every IBMer, their families and their clients," he explained.

Over 140,000 "IBMers", as they call them, participated in the innovation jam and 40,000 ideas for Big Green were put forward. These were later moderated down to just 10.

One project was to leverage IBM's expertise in network integration and water management. Another was to use IBM's semiconductor expertise to make better, more efficient photovoltaic cells and desalination membranes. Other projects include better energy transmission, carbon management, all in all a delightful mix of pure technology and ICT at work for the betterment of the world we live in.

A river in New Zealand is the first test bed for IBM's integrated water management solution. Big Green deployed 259 sensors along a short river to monitor, learn and predict water flow. This information is processed along with weather forecasting and then fed to farmers. The weather forecast by IBM's super computers is very fine-grained, down to a one square kilometre grid. Further information on soil and crops is added to the model and what comes out of this system is a recommendation for the farmer of what to plant and when.

While information on the pilot project was made available online, it could just have easily been printed and handed out to farmers in rural Thailand.

Further work is being done along the Mississippi, Amazon and Yangtze rivers.

Reducing the carbon footprint for data centres is also a major issue. But how is reducing carbon different from reducing energy? For Big Green, the innovation is in the models and in providing tools to do what-if analysis with business decisions when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions.

"If we can align green with the economics motive, then everyone wins. There are many things that we can do to reduce carbons, but there are other things like improving customer service that might or might not reduce carbons. We need to help business manage these trade-offs and provide information to those who make decisions so they consider carbon," he said.

IBM has for a long time been looking at the carbon impact of the packaging of each computer it sells. All things being equal, less packaging means more can be put into a freight container and the carbon footprint drops. But if the packaging is reduced too much, then there will be breakage and the carbon footprint of repairs needs to be added.

So while carbon cutting is today very closely aligned with business as usual, some aspects are causing people to re-think their business processes. For instance, a modern automotive factory using just-in-time manufacturing processes is a very carbon-intensive process. By adding buffer stock, the number of trucks, buses and trains making deliveries could be lessened. But that buffer stock has to be illuminated, heated and that in turn increases carbon emissions.

In the power arena, Big Green has two projects. One is to use IBM's advanced semiconductor technology to create better, more efficient solar cells.

"It's not about using a 45-nanometre process or the latest 300 millimetre fab. We can do it with normal silicon; we can improve the layers, the way connectors are made. We have a silicon process that will lower the cost of manufacturing," he explained. "The ultimate expression is the multi-junction cell. By using multiple layers of different materials that are sensitive to different wavelengths, we can allow the cell to get much higher efficiency."

Today's best solar cells return around 18 to 19 percent efficiency. Williams says that the silicon in IBM's labs can produce significantly more power and at the same time be much cheaper to produce. How much more efficient and how much cheaper? Williams said he is not allowed to give figures just yet, but his enthusiasm suggests we may be in for a pleasant surprise.

Big Green is essentially an incubator of ideas which will be later handed over to the various IBM business units to develop and sell. The core Big Green team only has five people on it, but more than 25 other IBMers have been given permission to help with half of their working time on the project.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Now and in the future a key ingredient in the role of the transport manager in the UK will be the need to reduce the environmental impact of his fleet.

Failure to do so will result in both cost and operational penalties. The Freight Transport Association has recognised this need and is to supply a range of services designed to help the industry with these new challenges. The latest cycle of the FTA Transport Manager seminars for 2007 will cover the first steps.

From February 2008 London will operate its Low Emission Zone (LEZ), restricting free access to the area within the M25 to vehicles meeting certain emissions standards. Those failing to meet the standards will be charged £200 per day to operate in the Greater London area. In addition, the central London congestion charge zone will, in future, make charges relative to emission standards - cleaner vehicles will be charged less to enter the zone. Where London leads, other cities and towns are sure to follow.

FTA’s Transport Manager 2007 seminars will offer practical advice on how to reduce the environmental impact of fleet operations; how to measure emissions and where to target actions so as to manage them downwards; how to deal with the London LEZ and the options for vehicles which do not comply. The seminars will also look at fuel efficiency, the prospects for delivering improvements including vehicle specification and design, driving techniques and journey planning.

FTA’s Policy Director, James Hookham said, "There is no doubt that the pressure on our industry to reduce its impact on the environment will be growing stronger and more specific in the coming years. But it is certainly not all bad news.

"Measures designed to improve environmental performance usually have a positive effect on cutting costs, whether by improvements in fuel efficiency or smarter operating practice. FTA’s new seminars demonstrate how to combine green policies with economic benefits. Save the world and save money all at once!"

FTA’s 2007 Transport Manager seminars run from September to December at locations throughout the country. Other subjects covered on the agenda include driver licensing, workplace transport safety, the safety and security of loads, delivery access issues, the management of shifts – how to avoid driver fatigue, and engine technology.

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