Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Revenge of the Electric Streetcar

The tracks have already been laid in this section of H Street NE near Union Station. The city is hoping these abandoned storefronts will be humming with new business activity when the streetcar line launches in the spring of 2012. 
For a hundred years streetcars transported people in and around our Nation's Capital. At various times betwen 1862 to 1962 residents of Washington, D.C. enjoyed trolley service to historic neighborhoods such as Georgetown, Anacostia, Adams Morgan and even as far as Rockville, Maryland and Leesburg, Virginia.

At its peak in 1916 there were over 200 miles of streetcar tracks in the Washington area including 100 miles in the city. Now D.C. is moving forward with an ambitious effort to build 37 miles of modern electric streetcars and the tracks are being laid for the first two lines in Anacostia and H Street NE. 

The local D.C. Sierra Club chapter has been active the past three years in working with the District Department of Transportation to get the lines built as fast as possible. They recently held a happy hour event at the Sova coffee shop in the Atlas District along H Street to celebrate the progress made and talk about the next steps forward.

"People are excited about it," said Sierra Club D.C. Transportation Committee Chair Jason Broehm, who organized the happy hour event on H Street.  "It's an area that needs revitalization. Businesses are starting to move in here. We think that streetcars will bring a lot more economic investment in this corridor that really needs it."

The Sierra Club claimed two victories this past year -- successfully lobbying for $47 million in funding to ensure the H Street line begins operating in the spring of 2012; and pushing the D.C. council to pass legislation that temporarily allows overhead wires on the H Street corridor, which they hope will eventually become permanent (an 1889 federal law bans overhead wires in Georgetown and the historic center city.)

Advisory Neighborhood Commisioner Tony Richardson represents the H Street corridor and credits the Sierra Club with reviving the streetcars which had stalled a bit at DDOT.

"I live here. I'm about the community growing. I have a lot of businesses in my area. This is an up and coming area which is one of the reasons why I moved here. So to me it was a simple choice. It was logical for me to hop in and do my little part," said Richardson.

"The business people are elated. It can't come fast enough for them. They're looking forward to new customers. They're looking forward to people coming and not having to worry about parking. They've seen the studies. They've looked at other cities. They know the economic benefits to streetcar lines. So they're all aboard, no pun intended. They really want this thing to happen like yesterday."

More pictures of the H Street Corridor where a streetcar line will operate starting in the spring of 2012:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Green D.C. Headlines: August 30, 2010

Picture courtesy of CommuterPageBlog
SLUGGING & BEYOND: First Regional Slugging & Dynamic Ridesharing Meeting (Ever) (CommuterPageBlog)
Summary: Monday, July 26, 2010 was a historic moment for the dynamic ridesharing movement in Washington, D.C. when Arlington County's Transportation Services hosted the first ever regional slugging and dynamic ridesharing coordination meeting at their Rosslyn offices.

Tesla Motors Considering K Street Location (DCist)
Summary: Who says the electric car is dead? The Washington Post is reporting that California-based Tesla Motors is close to leasing space on K Street for a dealership and service station. Tesla, founded in 2003, is a maker of luxury electric cars. The company raised more than $200 million with their IPO earlier this year. Tesla told the Post the location they are considering is at 1050 K Street, NW.

New Circulator Bus Route through Georgetown (The Georgetown Dish)
Summary: D.C.'s popular Circulator bus service introduced a route from Dupont Circle to Georgetown to Rosslyn. It operates Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Shelling Out For A Chesapeake Bay Oyster Comeback (NPR)
Summary: President Obama has pledged to make good on decades-old promises to restore the Chesapeake, the nation's largest estuary, and scientists and environmental activists say he needs oysters to help him do that.

Cardin bill undermines Clean Water Act (Baltimore Sun)
Summary: As written, the bill weakens the Clean Water Act, the one tool that we know can help us clean up our impaired waterways.

Warming could endanger Va.'s mountain wildlife (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Summary: Scientists fear that many high-living animals and plants will become stranded atop mountains that are too warm.

Dulles Metro station may be moved above ground (WTOP)
Summary: The original plans had the station under the parking lot in front of the terminal, but now the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says they will consider an above-ground station that's farther from the terminal.

New ART Buses on a Route Near You! (CommuterPageBlog)
Summary: The ART bus fleet continues to improve with the recent delivery of four new buses to Arlington County.

DC's Streetcar Project Halted For Now (WUSA 9 News)
Summary: Contractors have been ordered to put the first phase of a $25 million pilot streetcar project in Anacostia into mothballs before work is complete, according to four sources close to the project.

Signs Stolen at Falls Church Bike Trail (My Fox DC)
Summary: The city leaders installed the signs on the evening of August 5. To their surprise, the very next day, six of the seven had been stolen.

It's Not Pepco's Fault the Weather is Changing (Chesapeake Climate Action Network)
Summary: Here’s the truth about the increasingly painful and widespread power outages in our region: It’s not Pepco’s fault.

TIGER II Redux (CommuterPageBlog)
Summary: The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) submitted a request for $12M USD to the U.S. Department of Transportation's TIGER II discretionary grant program for an expansion of the upcoming Capital Bikeshare service.

Graduating Green (The Georgetowner)
Summary: Many campuses in the D.C area are paving the way for future environmentalists by making their campuses green.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

D.C. Public Transit Missing From Google Maps

When I lived in Los Angeles I frequently used Google Maps to navigate the city via bus and rail. While the directions were not always as accurate or fast as they could be, it is still a handy tool for finding your way around a major city via mass transit.

That is why I was so bummed to find out that Washington, D.C. and Arlington County are not on board with Google Maps. Currently the ART commuter bus system and the entire Metro subway and bus system are not synced up, but oddly the D.C. Circulator bus and suburban Montgomery County bus systems are.

If Metro is serious about changing their image then one step in the right direction involves adding the transit agency to Google Maps. And when it comes to progressive transportation issues Arlington leads the country, which is why it is so puzzling that ART is not on Google Maps.

All the regional transit agencies should be linked up to Google Maps to provide comprehensive coverage of the entire D.C. area because you have to make it easy for people to abandon their cars for mass transit and Google Maps is one of the best tools in the arsenal for doing just that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

D.C. Mayoral Debate: Fenty, Gray Talk Green Issues

Washington, D.C. mayoral candidates Vincent Gray, left, and Adrien Fenty look over their notes prior to their debate at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue on Tuesday night. The debate was moderated by ABC-7/WJLA-TV reporter Scott Thuman, far left.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrien Fenty and his opponent, Council Chairman Vincent Gray, participated in a debate at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Chinatown Tuesday night and the first question asked of the two candidates was regarding environmental initiatives in the District of Columbia.

Here is video I took of both of their responses. If you are a registered D.C. voter this hopefully will help you make a decision about who you want leading our Nation's Capital towards becoming a greener, more bike friendly and public transit oriented city with streetcars humming along once decaying but now vibrant neighborhoods. You decide.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Biden, Chu: Recovery Act Energizes Innovation

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu unveil a report with a new analysis on the impact of Recovery Act investments in innovation, science and technology at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building's South Court Auditorium on August 24, 2010 in Washington, D.C.

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu held a press conference on Tuesday morning in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House to talk about a new report analyzing the Recovery Act's investments in science and technology breakthroughs.

The report, titled "The Recovery Act: Transforming The American Economy Through Innovation," was released by the Vice President's office and focuses on how federal seed money from the landmark legislation is spurring private sector growth in key areas related to American competitiveness in the 21st century global marketplace.

"Both the President and Vice President understand that innovation is directly tied to our nation’s future prosperity," said Chu in his opening remarks before Biden took to the podium. "It’s also hard-wired into our DNA. Throughout our history Americans have never been willing to accept that something can’t be done. We refuse to accept that any challenge is impossible. No matter what the challenge is we’ll find a way."

Chu went on to list some examples of innovation that are happening thanks to investments from the Recovery Act. They include cutting the cost of solar power in half by 2015, which will make installing solar panels on rooftops cost competitive with retail electricity from the grid; cutting the costs of advanced batteries for electric vehicles by 70% while at the same time adding "perhaps a hundred times the current energy storage capacity"; doubling U.S. renewable energy generation capacity and manufacturing by 2012; and building a smart grid "that lets appliances talk to the power grid, optimizing electricity use and saving consumers money."

"Our investments in innovation are creating jobs, creating new industries, making existing industries more competitive, and, in the process, they’re driving down costs for new technologies that are badly needed, and helping our nation reassert our place as the world’s center for inventors and entrepreneurs," said Biden about the Recovery Act report.

The Vice President explained the four investments the report focuses on. Here they are taken directly from the White House website's transcript of his comments:

1. Modernizing transportation, including advanced vehicle technology and high-speed rail;
2. Jumpstarting the renewable energy sector through wind and solar energy;
3. Investing in groundbreaking medical research; and
4. Building a platform that will enhance the private sector’s ability to innovate, through investments in broadband and the Smart Grid, by giving them the tools they need to grow.

"I want to see a day when you can pop the hood on your electric car made in Smyrna, Tennessee, to check on your advanced battery made in Holland, Michigan, or Noblesville, Indiana, and an electric motor made in Longmont, Colorado, as you recharge your vehicle at an electric charging station in San Diego," said Biden.

Here is the full video of Chu and Biden's remarks about the new Recovery Act report on innovation:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Q&A: Bicycle Advocate Angela Koch

Coming from the bicycling mecca of Portland, Oregon, Angela Koch knows a thing or two about spokes and wheels. But her interest isn't in how to fix a derailleur gear or change a flat tire. Koch's passion is in educating people about the joy of choosing two wheels for fun and commuting.

That's why we in the D.C. area are lucky to have nabbed her from Portland. Koch is currently the Events & Advocacy Coordinator at popular bike shop Revolution Cycles.

She recently took time out of her busy schedule for an email Q&A with Green D.C.

Green D.C.: How did you first get involved in bicycle advocacy?

Angela Koch: I've lived car-free or car-lite for the past 15 years so bikes as a solution to a lot of problems has always been one of my interests. In 2007, I got a job with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, a highly respected and effective statewide bike advocacy organization in Oregon. My title was Safe Routes to School Director, but my youngest daughter at the time (who was then 3) used to call me The President of Bicycling For Kids. I always thought of myself as just a programs person with a stronger interest in improving children's lives, but after three years in such a fantastic place, I couldn't help but evolve into a confident bike advocate.

GDC: You come from a city and state -- Portland, Oregon -- that has made great strides over the years in cultivating a bicycle culture and creating a biking infrastructure. Why did you decide to move to the Washington, D.C. area and how would you compare where this area is now compared to a place like Portland?

AK: My two motivating factors to move here were personal- moving to be closer to family- and professional- I found an amazing job with Revolution Cycles. They're doing cutting edge work as a retailer by taking on bike advocacy so directly and I wanted to be a part of that.

Comparing this area to Portland is a bit of an apples and oranges dance. Both areas are enjoying the benefits of the work of individuals and organizations that have been chipping away for years at improving infrastructure and changing policy in order to improve conditions for biking. Both areas also enjoy the benefits of very passionate people and groups who are working tirelessly to be innovative and thorough in their efforts.

The differences, I think, have more to do with the regional differences than with an attitude toward biking. In Portland, there are fewer jurisdictions that have to coordinate with each other, lower cost of living and housing costs that are better poised to support creating livable communities and an historically forward-thinking approach to planning and policy that supports sustainable initiatives such as biking. The biggest difference is mode split; Portland has a super high mode split for bikes.

DC is just plain bigger: there are three DOTs, federal land and security issues, trails managed by National Parks and a much larger metropolitan area that makes for a much larger ship to turn around when it comes to livability issues. The DC area is also a much more transitory place with people coming and going all the time so I imagine that affects our ability to make behavior change messages really stick. But, places like Arlington County are leading the way and are definitely very 'Portland' in their approach and the recent big changes in DC (bike boxes, contraflow lanes, bike lights) are incredibly exciting and right up there with Portland.

GDC: What is the biggest challenge you find in bike advocacy at the moment?

AK: Oh, don't hate me, but I think the biggest challenge has to do with the behavior of all road users and the tendency to lob grenades at each other from our respective bunkers. Seriously, every day I see people behaving badly - cyclists, drivers, pedestrians - and that makes it challenging to focus on the real issues of safety, livability, congestion mitigation, etc. It's kind of sad how quickly a thoughtful dialogue can deteriorate when you get thrown off track by individual stories of the time I saw a fill-in-the-blank do something stupid. My point of view? There are dummies out there but we shouldn't let them control the public discourse over an issue that's so vital to our community.

GDC: Do you have a particular success story you'd like to share in your work as a bicycle advocate?

AK: There are some really personal individual stories that warm my heart, but the most recent one really got me thinking about the bigger picture and the paradigm shift we're working toward. I just did a Ladies' Night event with the Georgetown GM, Katie Knight, in our store in Stafford. We had an awesome turnout and Katie and I had a blast talking to the group about how to ride, where to ride and why it's important that more women ride their bikes. Afterward, folks were mingling about and one lady pulled me aside. I was expecting a question about chamois cream or something embarrassing based on her hushed voice. Instead, she wanted to know about my life as a car-free mom of three. She shared that she's wanted to go car-free for a few years now and is trying to convince her husband. They're a military family, just moved here, and had hoped to get a place on the base so they could make the shift to car-free living. But they didn't, and she was bummed but still hopeful. I was struck by how shy she was about the conversation, as if she was admitting to a deep, dark secret. It was exciting to help her understand that there's no need to be so hard on herself, that what's important is to at least be thinking about it. Shifting your mindset to a less car-centric one is a great first step.

GDC: In a recent blog post titled "Be the Change" on the website CommuterPageBlog, you recap a recent family errands/shopping trip you took for your two kids by bicycle. It looks like it was a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience. When I was living in Los Angeles I would ask people why they drove instead of walking, biking or taking public transportation, and they would always say that they don't want to drive but their jobs (many of them were actors with portable wardrobes) require them to because they have to travel to multiple areas of L.A. in a single day with all their stuff. Your story is proof that it can be done without a car. What would you say to the car-free skeptics out there?

AK: I'd say what my step-dad used to say to me all the time growing up, "Can't never could." Again, it's a mindset. If you're creative enough and diligent enough, there's a solution out there to just about everything. The only thing holding you back is your own fear or skepticism and who wants to live life that way?!

GDC: Are there any interesting projects you are currently working on to make Arlington and Greater Washington a more bike-friendly community?

AK: From big picture to small picture, we're collecting signatures for the People For Bikes campaign that Bikes Belong is leading. This is a campaign to get 1 million people to sign in support of bikes so that when transportation funding is on the table at the federal level, advocates can honestly say they represent the wishes of 1 million people who want more transportation dollars allocated to bike projects. I'd love for people to come into any one of our stores and sign your name. It's that simple.

We're leading Hub Spin rides and hosting or collaborating on other fun events with partners to encourage as many people as possible to bike for the fun of it. On August 27, I'm leading a Hub Spin to a Nationals game, September 18 we're doing a bike scavenger hunt in Crystal City, and September 26 I'm leading a Progressive Dinner Hub Spin to Zaytanya, Oyumel and Jaleo. Also, on International Car-Free Day, September 22, our Clarendon store is hosting an event for local business leaders to learn more about the Arlington Transportation Partners' Car-Free Diet.

I'm also hoping to take our Ladies' Night events and grow those into a series suitable to different demographics and experience levels to share information and resources about bike safety, maintenance and advocacy. There are some specifics brewing, but you'll just have to stay tuned a bit for that.

And on a more micro level, I'm attending the Arlington and Rockville Bike Advisory Committee meetings and I'd like to get connected to the DC Bicycle Advisory Council meetings as well. We're starting to do research in the Stafford area to see how we can effect change down there. In addition, I've initiated our own Revolution Cycles Advocacy Committee in order to educate and energize our own staff to get more involved in bike advocacy work.

GDC: What advice do you have for both drivers and pedestrians in terms of sharing the road?

AK: Drivers: SLOW DOWN. Traffic calming is one of the best ways to reduce the number and severity of crashes. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to spend as much money on traffic calming treatments because everyone just naturally slowed down?

Pedestrians: Look both ways, make eye contact and cross where and when you're supposed to. It's pretty much the same for all road users: be smart and follow the law.

Mostly, all road users should try and remove labels and remember that we're all people just trying to get somewhere.

GDC: What can we learn from other places around the world in our transition to a multi-modal transportation system with spokes and wheels a part of the solution? Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen seem like model bike-friendly areas that are able to share a lot of best practices with us.

AK: First and foremost, funding parity is critical in order to build the infrastructure necessary to support safe multi-modal transportation. What that means is that at the very least, we should spend the same percentage of transportation dollars on bikes as the percentage of trips made by bikes. It's a super simple concept that will leverage tremendous change that benefits entire communities and regions for a pretty small investment.

Next, get more people to ride bikes so that everyone is safer. It's a fact that as bike trip numbers rise, safety increases. And who should those people be? Women, families, grandma and grandpa - mainstream people using their bikes to get around and get life's work done and enjoy themselves while they're at it.

GDC: What are your thoughts on bike sharing, and particularly the new Capital BikeShare that is launching in September?

AK: I am so in love with bike share it's not even funny. Seriously, Revolution Cycles is a founding member of Capital BikeShare because it's going to get more butts on bikes, as we like to say. Anything communities can do to make cycling convenient and accessible is a step in the right direction and that is flat out what Capital BikeShare is doing. Thanks in a big way to all the electeds who supported it and made it happen.

GDC: Any other thoughts you'd like to share about bicycle advocacy in our Nation's Capital?

AK: This area is uniquely poised to make a tremendous difference because of the proximity to policy makers and power. I'm convinced that the more this region can model (flaunt?!) bikes as a viable form of transportation for a significant portion of the population, we'll reach a tipping point and it will be impossible for skeptics to continue to debate what I think is a total no-brainer issue. This is vital, exciting work and I'm glad to be a part of it!

How You Can Help Climate Refugees in Pakistan, Russia

Climate Change -- the biggest threat to survival in the history of humanity -- is wreaking havoc upon Pakistan and Russia this summer. And just as the international community came to our aid when Global Warming hit us hard through Hurricane Katrina, we have a responsibility to pay it back as the second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions next to China.

The Pakistan Floods have killed 2,000 people, destroyed nearly a million homes and displaced over twenty million people according to Wikipedia. The moonsoon rains that caused the flooding are said to be the worst in the area in 80 years. 

Russia is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years and the hottest summer since records began 130 years ago. This is crippling its wheat industry. The government already declared a ban on wheat exports. It has also sparked severe wildfires that have cost an estimated $15 billion in damage so far and have forced President Dmitry Medvedev to declare a state of emergency.

And the poisonous smog from the wildfires reached Moscow where in addition to the brutal heat wave has caused an average of 700 deaths a day, twice the average. The smog and heat wave may have killed over 15,000 people so far. And the fires have affected areas contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster and there is fear that soil and plants contaminated by radioactive material could be released into the air and spread to other areas.

So what can you do to help? Click here for a list of relief organizations that are working hard to help the people suffering from these climate disasters. Please try to donate whatever you can.

The Dirty Truth About Big Oil: Citgo

Citgo has been on an advertising blitz of late with full page ads in every glossy magazine on the newsstand. The oil and gas company wants you to believe that they are as American as apple pie with the tagline: "As Road Trips Go, This One Has Been Rolling 100 Years." There are pictures of happy American families at the gas station in the 1950s. 

Don't believe it for a second.

While Citgo might have been born in America over a hundred years ago, it is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company -- Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., (PDVSA). That's right. The Latin American nation run by fanatical anti-American leader Hugo Chavez also runs your neighborhood Citgo.

Here are a few gem quotes from Mr. Chavez:

“I hereby accuse the North American empire of being the biggest menace to our planet.”

"Let's save the human race, let's finish off the U.S. empire."

"Israel has gone mad. It's attacking, doing the same thing to the Palestinian and Lebanese people that it has criticised - and with reason - [in the case of] the Holocaust. But this is a new Holocaust."

Arlington Installs Smart Meters

A recently installed smart meter at the intersection of Lee Highway and Harrison Street in North Arlington.
Dominion Virginia Power is currently testing smart meters in Arlington County through a pilot program. Of the 32,000 smart meters in Northern Virginia, 19,000 are being installed in Arlington. Replacing traditional meters with smart meters will be important for the coming smart power grid that will replace our outdated and overburdened electricity system to power America with 21st century technology.

This is the defintion of a smart meter from Wikipedia:

A smart meter, according to regulatory authorities, is an advanced meter (usually an electrical meter) that records consumption in intervals of an hour or less and communicates that information at least daily via some communications network back to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes (telemetering). Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system.

Arlington to Bethesda to Georgetown by Bike

Biking is a relative breeze in D.C. and the inner suburbs compared to many other cities. This was evident a couple of weekends ago during an easy bicycle ride through three very different areas in the Washington region.

From North Arlington I biked to the Martha Custis Trail, which is a separated biking and jogging trail that runs parallel to Interstate 66. The ride is very hilly but that is an advantage biking east towards The District as most of the biking is up small slopes and down long and steep grades. It is obviously much tougher taking the trip back west from the D.C. line to Falls Church City where the trail evens out a bit.

The same cannot be said for the Capital Crescent Trail, which runs from the C&O Canal towpath in Georgetown to Bethesda and then on to Silver Spring. After crossing the Key Bridge from Rosslyn to Georgetown I had to work the pedals a bit harder because the Capital Crescent Trail is more of a gradual continuous incline heading north towards Bethesda. So by the time you arrive in the downtown area of Bethesda you've gotten a decent workout.

After the 12 mile journey from North Arlington to Bethesda I had dinner, saw a movie and then headed back south towards Georgetown at dusk for the easy downhill trip. The Capital Crescent Trail is incredibly scenic with lush greenery, tall trees and amazing vistas of the Potomac River and the Virginia side. And as you get close to Georgetown there are the monumental views of the Nation's Capital and the hustle and bustle of lively G-Town.

I biked past Georgetown to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station and took my bike on the Orange Line subway to Ballston and then put my bike on the rack on the front of the ART bus which dropped me off across the street from my final destination in North Arlington.

Here are some more pictures I took of the ride on the Capital Crescent Trail:

Landmark Theatres Goes Green

A recent trip to Landmark-owned Bethesda Row Cinemas revealed that the theater chain is reducing its carbon footprint by selling eco-friendly popcorn bags called EcoSelect. This is great news for moviegoers.

Here is the press release:

In honor of Earth Day, Landmark Theatres is initiating the launch of the new EcoSelect popcorn bag in its 55 theatres across the country.

EcoSelect popcorn bags are made of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified natural fiber—up to 50% of the energy used to produce the natural fiber is sourced from hydro power and renewable bio-fuels. The bags are printed with water-based inks on natural, chlorine-free paper and are 100% biodegradable.

“Our customer base not only loves independent film but are also environmentally conscious and this is one more way we feel we can connect with them in a positive way,” said Landmark Theatres’ CEO Ted Mundorff.

“Landmark Theatres sells almost 2 million bags of popcorn every year. It’s important to make improvements where you can and this is just one step in an ongoing effort,” said Damien Farley, Landmark Theatres’ Director of Concessions.

What's Swedish For Green?

The answer is IKEA of course! Those big box yellow and blue suburban home furnishing stores are doing what they can to instill environmental values into everything they do.

Some lament that the super retailer has displaced local furniture stores around the world and there is also the little fact that founder Ingvar Kamprad was a member of the far-right fascist political group New Swedish Movement as a teen until 1948.

But I tend to look at the positives. And IKEA has come a long way in terms of treating employees with respect, community involvement and of course being a steward of the environment.

Here are a couple of pictures I snapped from the College Park, Maryland location on a recent trip.

And here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on IKEA's environmental initiatives:

Environmental performance

After initial environmental issues like the highly publicized formaldehyde scandals in the early 1980s and 1992, IKEA took a proactive stance on environmental issues and tried to prevent future incidents through a variety of measures. In 1990, IKEA invited Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of The Natural Step, to address its board of directors. Robert's system conditions for sustainability provided a strategic approach to improving the company's environmental performance. This led to the development of an Environmental Action Plan, which was adopted in 1992. The plan focused on structural change, allowing IKEA to "maximize the impact of resources invested and reduce the energy necessary to address isolated issues." The environmental measures taken, include the following:

Replacing polyvinylchloride (PVC) in wallpapers, home textiles, shower curtains, lampshades, and furniture—PVC has been eliminated from packaging and is being phased out in electric cables;

minimizing the use of formaldehyde in its products, including textiles;

eliminating acid-curing lacquers;

producing a model of chair (OGLA) made from 100% post-consumer plastic waste;

introducing a series of air-inflatable furniture products into the product line. Such products reduce the use of raw materials for framing and stuffing and reduce transportation weight and volume to about 15% of that of conventional furniture;

reducing the use of chromium for metal surface treatment;

limiting the use of substances such as cadmium, lead, PCB, PCP, and AZO pigments;

using wood from responsibly-managed forests that replant and maintain biological diversity;

using only recyclable materials for flat packaging and "pure" (non-mixed) materials for packaging to assist in recycling.

introducing rental bicycles with trailers for customers in Denmark.

More recently, IKEA has stopped providing plastic bags to customers, but offers reusable bags for sale. The IKEA restaurants also only offer reusable plates, knives, forks, spoons, etc. Toilets in some IKEA restrooms have been outfitted with dual-function flushers. IKEA has recycling bins for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), energy saving bulbs, and batteries. In 2001 IKEA was one of the first companies to operate its own cross-border freight trains through several countries in Europe.

In August 2008, IKEA also announced that it had created IKEA GreenTech, a €50 million venture capital fund. Located in Lund (a college town in Sweden), it will invest in 8–10 companies in the coming five years with focus on solar panels, alternative light sources, product materials, energy efficiency, and water saving and purification. The aim is to commercialise green technologies for sale in IKEA stores within 3–4 years.

Kimpton Cares About Environment

Last Thursday evening the meet-up group Green Drinks Arlington held a mixer event at the Hotel Palomar in Rosslyn. The hotel is located near the Orange Line Metro Station with spectacular views of Georgetown and Downtown D.C. across the Potomac River.

A spokesperson from Kimpton Hotels, which owns Palomar, explained the company's green initiatives to the attendees enjoying their happy hour beverages. Some examples of their eco-friendly products and practices include:
  • No styrofoam or disposable cups
  • Paper recycling containers in all meeting rooms
  • Environmentally safe cleaning products
  • In-room recycling program
  • Organic food and beverages in honor bars
  • Elimination of phone books
  • Water-saving shower heads, faucets and toilets
  • Energy efficient lighting
Kimpton is a shining example to other companies in the hospitality industry that going green can be done without sacrificing quality or the bottom line.

Green D.C. Headlines: August 23, 2010

Va. submits high-speed rail request (Washington Post)
Summary: Virginia has submitted new applications requesting federal funding for high-speed rail, including more than $50 million for the I-95 corridor between Richmond and the District, the commonwealth said yesterday.

Arlington expands HOT lanes lawsuit, discrimination claims (Washington Examiner)
Summary: Charges of race discrimination are a big part of the Arlington County Board's high-occupancy toll lanes lawsuit against Virginia and the federal government, which accuses several federal and state transportation officials of civil rights violations.

Traffic lights for bikes? (Washington Post)
Summary: An experimental project has had traffic signals added on New Hampshire Avenue to shepherd cyclists across 16th Street, and if it's successful, more lights for cyclists could be on the way on U Street.

Washington region bike-sharing network to start (Washington Post)
Summary: Cyclists can sign up for the region's new bike-sharing network, Capital Bikeshare, which is scheduled to debut next month.

Falls Church to end George bus service amid grim budget forecast (Washington Post)
Summary: Falls Church is terminating its local bus service after eight years because of a bleak budget forecast.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Energy Efficiency Shopping Spree

I wasn't planning to buy energy efficiency products, but at a recent visit to Target I was so excited that this massive chain store was selling this technology that I couldn't resist. And plus they were all selling at clearance prices so who could turn down saving money up front, saving money on energy bills long term, and of course helping save the planet by reducing electricity use from dirty coal-fired power plants.

The first items I purchased were Energizer rechargeable batteries and an Energizer battery charger. The charger juices up any AA and AAA batteries which of course means less batteries ending up in toxic landfills. And all the chargers are Energy Star certified.

The next items were all from a company called Practecol. Here is the company info from their website:

"Practecol is the first home sustainability brand with a cohesive collection of superior, simple-to-install-and-use products that promote sustainability. Our company equips consumers with the tools needed to reduce their environmental impact at home while saving money. Even our packaging is eco-friendly. Each Practecol product is packaged in an eco-friendly Prac-PacTM and is recyclable, recycled or biodegradable. The paper is made of 80% post consumer waste and is printed with renewable, soy based inks. All plastic packaging is partially made from pre-consumer recycled plastic and is 100% recyclable.


A new movement toward an “eco-frugal lifestyle” is sweeping the country as consumers seek opportunities and solutions to save money while also preserving valuable natural resources. In response to the growing number of consumers who want to save money and protect the planet, Practecol offers a one-stop holistic solution to finding and evaluating products designed to optimize energy consumption, weatherize the home and conserve water.

Mission Statement

Our mission is to be the first home sustainability brand to provide consumers with a cohesive collection of superior, simple-to-install-and-use products that promote sustainability. Our focus is to reduce environmental impact, consistently adopt green manufacturing practices and deliver a compelling economic value to our customers through rapid payback.


Save and Sustain. Simply."

The Energy Monitoring Consumption Meter is a great way to start to take control of your energy use. You just plug it into the wall outlet and then plug the appliance into the device and over a 24-hour period it monitors how much energy is used so you can find out where the energy hogs are and reduce or eliminate them. It tells you the kilowatts used per hour, the total price at a default of twelve cents per kilowatt hour (this can be changed to reflect your actual electricity rate) and more.

The Refrigerator Kit reduces electricity wattage through a temperature gauge for an optimal 36-38 degree environment, an alarm that goes off when the door is open for more than one minute since this wastes valuable electricity, and a dirty coil cleaner.

Lastly, I purchased a couple of Simple Switch Outlet Adapters which helps stop wasted standby power. You just plug in the device and then plug the appliance into the device and when the appliance is turned off you flip the switch to eliminate vampire energy suckers when the appliance is on standby mode. The website claims that you can save $40 a year by flipping the switch to eliminate standby power each time you turn off your TV.

And there are many products that will soon be available nationwide at Target and other retailers such as water saving devices, weather sealers and more.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Videos: Russia Launches new HSR and Global Warming FAQ

Russia has launched their second high speed rail line that will travel at speeds of up to 250 kmph and whisk passengers from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

Five frequently-asked questions about global warming, covering sources, the influence of particulate pollution, the impact of the sun, and possible solutions.

Green Headlines: August 11, 2010

MWAA considers moving Dulles Airport Metro stop (Greater Greater Washington)
Summary: The Washington Post reported today that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is building the Silver Line, is considering moving the proposed Metro station at Dulles Airport away from the terminal.

New Contraflow Bike Lanes Installed At 16th and U Streets NW (DCist)
Summary: Cyclists now have a legal lane beginning at T Street which they can use along New Hampshire Avenue to safely and orderly access U Street and 16th Street.

U Street block planning to go green (Washington Examiner)
Summary: A prominent U Street block has been selected to go green with the help of a Colorado nonprofit.

The car is still king of D.C. area commute (Washington Post)
Summary: Nicholas Ramfos, director of the Commuter Connections service, wants to help people find the best way to get to work while imposing the least stress on the D.C. region's transportation system. He couches this goal in the language of commuters: "It's all about time and money."

Empire State Building going green (Physorg.com)
Summary: The Empire State Building is being converted into an eco-friendly skyscraper, transforming the landmark into a "green" architectural marvel as part of a multimillion-dollar upgrade.

Green Transition Scoreboard™ Tops $1.6 Trillion in 2010 (Ethical Markets)
Summary: The Green Transition Scoreboard™ from Ethical Markets, the independent global multi-media company, tracks total private investment in companies growing the green economy since 2007. The mid-2010 update shows a rise to $1,646,719,228,993 from $1.24 trillion at the end of December 2009.

50 Best Twitter Feeds To Stay On Top Of Green News (Top Online Engineering Degree)
Summary: With the green movement consistently gaining momentum thanks to the passionate efforts of activists worldwide, those interested in learning more about its philosophies and applications desire to dig up as many news stories as possible

Biotech offers promise for producing fuel (LA Times)
Summary: The announcement of an altered bacterium with fuel-production abilities is the latest breakthrough in the fast-expanding field of 'synthetic biology.'

USPS Goes Green (Alternative Energy)
Summary: In strict adherence to guidelines released by the Department of Energy, the United States Postal Service gets on a fast track to reach the goal for energy reduction. Green roofs, green buildings and an optimally efficient management system of energy consumption form part of the energy-reduction strategy.

As the green economy grows, the 'dirty rich' are fading away (Washington Post)
Summary: Big business is more divided on energy and the environment than ever before, and the growing rift reflects major power shifts in the economy.

New Penn Station Can't Come Soon Enough

New York City's Pennsylvania Station -- the busiest train stop in America -- is the ultimate symbol of our nation's shameful neglect of rail travel over the past sixty years.

As opposed to the impressiveness of historic Grand Central Terminal or the efficiency of modern European and Asian high-speed rail stations, Penn Station is the forgotten stepchild of transportation hubs.

Right now Penn Station is a mess. It is cramped, ugly, hot, smelly and forces passengers to huddle around the big arrival and departure board to wait for the gate announcement at literally the last minute before a mad scramble to crush each other while trying to get down the one escalator to the train tracks. It is not the way people should arrive or exit the greatest city in the world.

In fact there are third-world train stations that are easier and more pleasant than Penn Station. And like rubbing salt in the wound, Shanghai, China's high-speed rail station has installed a massive solar-power system. From the UPI story:

"The project is the world's largest stand-alone integrated photovoltaic -- or BIPV -- project, reports China's state-run news agency Xinhua.

Using 20,000 solar panels, the 6.68-megawatt system covers an area of 73,000 square yards.

The system, which started transmitting power to the grid in Shanghai Sunday, is capable of producing 6.3 million kilowatts hours of electricity each year, supplying power to 12,000 households in Shanghai.

The solar-powered train station has produced 300,000 kilowatts of power since it began operating in early July. It is expected to reduce coal consumption by 2,254 tons and cut carbon emissions by 6,600 tons."

But Penn Station hasn't always been such an awful place. Before the controversial construction of Madison Square Garden that started in 1963 demolished it, the old Penn Station was one of NYC's finest landmarks with its grand Romanesque architecture. It represented America's golden age of rail travel.

But thankfully there are plans in the works for a new Penn Station and while there have been many delays, it appears that the project is back on track again thanks to an injection of federal stimulus money. The original plans were initiated by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The station would be built across Eighth Avenue at New York's General Post Office, The James Farley Post Office. From Wikpedia:

"On February 16, 2010, $83.4 million from the federal government's TIGER program was awarded to the Moynihan Station project, which together with $169 million from other sources allows the first phase of construction to be fully funded. New construction plans include two new entrances from West of Eighth Avenue through the Farley Building, doubled length and width of the West End Concourse, thirteen new "vertical access points" (escalators, elevators and stairs) to the platforms, doubled width of the 33rd Street Connector between Penn and the West End Concourse, and other critical infrastructure improvements including platform ventilation and catenary work. On July 30, 2010, the New York state government approved the plans; as a result, construction is expected to begin in October 2010, with completion of the first phase scheduled for 2016."

GPS Reduces GHG

Getting lost or taking a longer route while driving has real consequences for the environment. That is why installing an in-car global positioning system (GPS) is important for those who get behind the wheel frequently because it helps drivers stay on course and navigate the fastest route to their destination -- saving fuel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

And now there are many GPS devices that include real-time traffic information so there is the ability to not have to sit in congestion with the engine idling, thus further reducing tailpipe emissions and the need for more fuel.

Many commuters live in places or work types of jobs where public transit, walking or biking is simply not an option. So GPS is a great option for frequent drivers concerned about reducing our addiction to oil and lessening our own pollution.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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