Thursday, December 12, 2013

Beyond Boarding

Make sure you check out the good folks at Beyond Boarding to take the pledge towards making positive change through humanitarian and environmental activisim.  I took the pledge towards awareness and education through keeping up this blog. Believe it or not, keeping this blog fresh and updated is the hardest thing for me. That's not to say that tackling my transportation issue isn't easy, but I all ready have an addictive competition to recycle, compost, and have captured the low-hanging fruit at home (that's another post). I could stand to make a capital investment in sealing my ducts (discovered during an energy audit) and it would be awesome to install solar since we have a great system where I live (I currently purchase green power through my distributor)…those things will come.

I would like to continue my efforts in research, so there you go…my pledge to keep this going. I encourage you to make a pledge! Even if it's a small one, the power of one is where it's at.

Check it out here ----->> Beyond Boarding

Final commute results…worth the effort!

I wanted to share my final results of the Commuter Challenge. I had hoped and planned on biking a partial route to work to raise awareness and offset my total greenhouse gases, but injured my shoulder... so the bike commute didn't happen. I did, however, get a chance to collect more information from local bike stores and outdoor stores that support biking and what I found was a thriving community that has produced some great educational literature and maps for commuting via bike. I would still like to bike in one day and will make sure to cover that when it happens.

The last two weeks, I honestly lost momemtum after hurting my shoulder and spent the last two weeks sulking and went back to driving. Pretty lame, but I could use the data for the final couple of weeks as a control for comparing the time that I did try commuting options. Here are the results:

Alternative Commuting (bus, carpooling, telecommuting):

Total miles traveled alone via car-406
Total miles carpooled-301
Total GHG produced-489 lbs
Total GHG saved-234 lbs
Total spent $120
Total saved $58

versus

Regular old commuting (car):

Total miles traveled via car-429.2
Total GHG produced-466 lbs
Total GHG saved- 0 lbs
Total spent $115
Total saved $0

After looking at the totals, I am considering the purchase of a hybrid or electric commuter car for my next purchase. The cost savings alone would make this a great investment, but most importantly I could reduce or offset my greenhouse gas emissions. I have to admit, it really felt great to reverse the greenhouse emissions. I could see how this action could drive some people to want to try to offset their emissions. I plan on continuing to taking the bus when it fits my schedule. Until you try something, you'll never learn. I'm very happy that the Commuter Challenge was a driving force to get me to try this and that I kept up the momentum. I wish that my crazy yoga injury would not have happened, but life happens. Just because the challenge is over doesn't mean I have to stop, so I will try biking.

I would like to encourage readers to try explore the alternatives yourself and see what you think. It may take a lot of courage and self-motivation, but you can learn something!

Keep trying!

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and all articles and opinions contained within are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or commuter challenge. Examples of the analysis are only examples as they are based on limited data. Assumptions made within are not reflective of anyone's position but my own.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Commute Update

Week #2 of the challenge has flown by! This week was a little less adventurous than week #1. I carpooled with some friends this week as we traveled for our jobs and telecommuted one day. Great ways to save money, use less gas, and improve productivity!

I stopped into one of our local bike store this weekend to ask how many of their customers commute from roughly where I live to downtown where I work. There are actually quite a few; however, most don't bike the entire 20 miles, but park at their store (~ 5 miles away from downtown) and ride the greenbelt. I wondered to myself if this was in the true spirit of commuting to work? It would burn more calories through exercise and be a nice ride, but probably not save a lot of money and maybe just a little bit on gas. According to Bicycle Universe, it take only 13 extra minutes to bike that far, so my commute time would be roughly equal. I wonder how many more lbs of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions it would save? I've thrown down a challenge to a co-worker to bike the greenbelt with me into work. We'll see if this happens!

Statistics:

Telecommuting- 17.9 lbs of greenhouse gases saved for the week
Carpooling-we traveled 300 miles in the carpool, so rid -sharing for the trip saved 198.4 lbs of greenhouse gases and saved ~$20

Total savings for the past two weeks- approximately $60
Total GHG-333 lbs. produced
Total GHG saved-234 lbs.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I wish there was a grease bus here


Usually my mornings consist of a picturesque tour of the concrete jungle. Retaining walls, exit ramps, merge lanes, the continual hum of the engine behind my playlist of choice. Driving the interstate everyday is just depressing, no other way to put it...it's not the Appalachian Trail. Afternoon gridlock and freak-outs to get there in time is a norm that makes me visual cortisol being expelled from some poor jaundiced gland in my body. 

Today wasn't too bad. 

Yes, I almost missed the first pick-up because I had to drive to the park-and-ride and managed to hit every school zone and red light on the way, but in the end I made it on time by a hair. I had the bus to myself for the first 15 minutes. I found out that there are some commuters that work downtown that ride in. There are also a lot of students that ride the bus to the university. I didn't have to worry about anything except for the content of the book that I started. I listened to my playlist and the next thing I knew I was there...about 50 minutes later. It normally takes me 20 minutes, so yeah I lost some time; however, I got to work the same time I normally do since I left earlier. Two observations, I felt like I was transported back to my college years in some ways. Maybe it was the Greenpeace book and REM I was listening to. Maybe it was the carefree nature of not having a car and pulling the chain to request a stop and walking into work that made things feel different. Second thought was how I imagined drivers. It was almost like this western sense of "I have a car, therefore I should drive".  I also realized that I could've picked the bus up closer to my office if I would've looked up at the bus stop signs. I've been noticing more of bus and bike signs the past three days. That's kinda cool. It's like I am learning how to navigate my city for the first time. 

Final tally for today-18 lbs of greenhouse gases saved! $3.71 saved on gas, which pretty much was negated by the bus ticket price. Half a gallon of gas saved. It appears that the monthly total will tell the truth.

If you think you know your city, try something different. Change your point of view and rediscover how to navigate it aside from your norm. 

I'm going to call the bike shop. I'm pretty sure these folks have it figured out. I'm pretty sure that they have a different view than the retaining wall and the tales of the Rainbow Warrior. I want to hear their stories and to be honest I want to see this commute from that point of view.

Chillax in the tube


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's on...commuter challenge

I feel pretty good about my personal efforts for selecting sustainable products and I try my best to implement activities at home where I can conserve water, recycle, and use less energy. Transportation, I'd have to say is my weakest link.

So... over the next month I will participate in various commuting options to and from work and will be reporting my challenges and surprising finds here on my blog in an effort to improve my understanding of ecofriendly options and the cost and emissions of driving. The Smart Trips Commuter Challenge program challenges communities and businesses  to explore alternative forms of commuting that includes mass transit, biking to work, telecommuting, and carpooling.  I'm so on with this...except for the fact that I live 20 miles away from work. I'm committed to try a few different modes this month including the bus, telecommuting, and carpooling. If I can convince my neighbor down the road to bike with me... we'll give it a try. Might take all day, but I'm ready. 

This seems simple enough; however, I quickly learned that because of my commuting distance it will require some real planning on my part. The city where I live doesn't have a subway and the bus system runs within what I can determine is maybe a 15 mile radius...a problem for this suburbanite. I have no problem navigating and jumping on a subway. I've used buses in many cities in the US, Japan, and Europe, but what I found out about my city is that this will take some planning...so I walked down to the bus station to look at the schedules and discuss routes with a transit authority. I have three options, none of which involve me being picked up even remotely close to my house. I'm going to have to either drive or bike 8 miles to the nearest bus stop and then take the local in. It's going to take an hour to get to work once I get on the bus (I'm packing my Greenpeace biography to read on the way, ha). 

I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow. 

Planning!!

My eyes are already open. 

As I walked back from the bus station to work, I started noticing more bike path signs throughout the downtown and bicycles parked out front of buildings. Downtown is really biker friendly! I'm starting to think that there is a whole bike-commuting culture that I've never hung out with before! I hope to find out who these guys/gals are and that they'll share some secrets with me. We have a ton of bike shops and as an outdoor recreation, my city has great options. Question is...is suburban commuting an option? Suicidal? I'm trying the bus first. 

I get to log my mode of transportation daily on the Smart Trips website and it immediately calculates cost and emissions. This is where I hope to see how I measure up. In the two days that I've driven, it's cost me $18 and I've produced 85 lbs of greenhouse gases. Yikes. Time to get commuting. 




Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The concept of community sustainability at a ski resort

Usually around this time the year I start breaking out my snowboard boots, just to try them on, to get "that feeling". Sometime in late August, I'll even strap into my board and listen to the bindings squeak. Summer is a long wait for those that don't reside near a volcano in Oregon (so jealous of instagram pics of summer camps, y'all...) or have mucho cash to fly south of the equator.

This time of the year is also when most, if not all, of the resort maintenance is occurring. Snowmaking systems are being repaired or upgraded, lift maintenance, maybe even some lodge facelifts. So I wondered, which resorts were making upgrades or adjustments? Here's one great resort project to highlight, earlier Mountain Riders Alliance had teamed up with Mt. Abram and was deep into a project they had spent time sourcing contributions via crowd funding in 2012 to implement a model of the sustainable mountain playground-complete with solar, wind, environmental Best Management Practices, and micro-hydro turbines (maybe that was in Alaska). The approach really resonated with me, a triple philosophy of community, environment, and a desire for a sustainable winter.

First off, from a community perspective, this is a eureka moment. When people actively participate, they have "skin-in-the-game" so to speak and they take ownership to prevent failure. Investor involvement, foundational funding, crowd-funding like Kickstarter is a great way to get this sense of ownership and dollars. Community is vital in education of the environmental issues, for example how their energy and water consumption can be easily tracked, so why can't yours? Education is also communicating at the consumer level, developing partnerships that benefit the community-not only where you live, but the snow-sports community as a whole. Community and sustainability seemingly go hand-in-hand in fact. Bill McKibben makes several good points about community in his book, Eaarth that I found highly applicable to this project:

  • Scale
  • Definition
  • Connection
  • Personal use
McKibben makes a point first about how we need to think about different scale. The size of the institution should reflect the size of your project. The project we are undertaking (in his reference to climate change and hunkering down) requires a different scale-he suggests that we need to think about neighborhoods and blocks. "Is the business sustainable and demographic to support to large infrastructure investment hoping to lure a crowd or focus on local support?" Interesting...deja vu.

He suggests that we need to rescue the community and make sure it becomes a prosaic term in the lexicon. Sure enough for me, I mean I'd like to think that I was part of this bigger scene hanging out with the cool kids on Mt. Hood in the summer, but my friends are working here and riding on the lake and dreaming about snow and when season passes go on sale. My community is reality, so I should start there.

McKibben suggests that "embracing local doesn't mean abandoning the connection to something larger". Thank God! We all have to dream, right?!

Lastly and what I paraphrased as "personal use", he suggests small farms where composting and building up soil counts. I think this comes full circle to the enlightening concept of the small resort aka ski area that MRA is partnering with. Taking the mountain in Maine and having the community buy-in and support, and demonstrating the concept to a larger extended community of snow enthusiasts is a bridge in facing what the POW/NRDC report highlighted to many-economic impact and livelihood at stake. Think about it...


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Burton's Stance on Sustainability

Have you seen Burton Snowboards new sustainability website? Click here to take you to the website.

Image: Burton.com


Make sure you check it out! You can learn about their Green Mountain Project collaboration with Mountain Dew, their instagram awareness campaign with POW, a partnership with Bluesign for fabric selection, organic gardening plots at their headquarters, an award-winning pedal-to-work program, and much more!