Nick Slawicz takes a look at the environmental merits of our two most popular public transport systems.
It has been noted – often jocularly, but never without merit – that if people living in cities at the beginning of the 20th century had been able to foresee how the population would grow over the next hundred years, they would have had two questions about the future of their transport system: where will we get enough horses, and what will we do with all the manure?
Though technology swept in before equine breeders and street cleaners were stretched to their limits, a raft of new questions has emerged. Is public transport sustainable in the 21st century? What can we do about congestion? How can we reduce the impact our public transport systems have on global warming?
Britain is an increasingly urban nation: in 1950 79 percent of people lived in cities; by 2010 over 90 percent do and the figure is projected to grow – albeit slowly – until 2030 at least. Currently 11 cities in the UK have populations of over 300,000. Of these London is the one paving the way to a greener future – and rightly so.
London contains almost 8 million people, and to ensure their transportation needs are met without returning to the “pea souper” fogs of history it has had to develop some novel ideas regarding its public transport systems. The congestion charge and Boris Johnson’s bike rental scheme are widely touted as successes in the capital’s fight to be green, but recent efforts have been focused on shaking up one of the most recognisable elements of the city: the buses.
London’s bus network currently handles some 1.8 billion passenger journeys every year and runs to a fleet of 8,500, of which 100 are diesel-electric hybrids (a figure planned to swell to three times that size by the end of 2012, with eventual plans for all new buses in the city to run on hybrid technology). The city has long had a reputation as a hub of green public transport development, most notably as a result of taking part in a Cleaner Urban Transport for Europe (CUTE) trial from December 2003 to January 2007, and it’s a good thing too: around 20 percent of London’s CO₂ output comes directly from transport, and 5 percent of that comes from buses. It’s less than you’d expect if these journeys were taken by individuals in cars, but still a substantial level of emissions that needs to be brought to account if London has any chance of meeting its goal to lower its carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 60 percent by 2050.
Thankfully, the city might have a solution. Transport for London has recently unveiled five hydrogen cell electric buses on various routes around the city, and is hoping to add another three by the end of the year. As with any hydrogen cell vehicle, the buses burn clean at the point of consumption (producing only water as a by-product) and are practically silent. Assuming they continue to prove as popular with the public as they seem to have done so far, London might be making strong steps in shaking off its “Big Smoke” image and bringing public transport bang up to date.
Trains on track for a sustainable future
Though buses have a reputation – like most other petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles – for being smoky and bad for the environment, the country’s railway networks got on to the green bandwagon early, and have stayed there throughout. One of the major selling points about rail travel is its environmental value when compared with flying or driving, with the CO2 level of Virgin’s fleet of electric Pendolino trains estimated to be at least 76 percent less than cars and 78 percent less than domestic flights. Even pure diesel trains are estimated to be massively better for the environment than buses, with an average miles per gallon per passenger rating of 182 compared with buses at 98, according to figures released in 2005 (although both of these figures put short-haul flights to shame, offering as they do only 40mpg per passenger).
Virgin Trains is currently looking at twin-fuel source trains for the future – that is, those capable of running on either electricity or diesel – and while a much-lauded trial scheme in 2007 to run trains on biodiesel wasn’t picked up for application to the whole fleet, other environmentally-useful technologies that were first mass-applied to the railways are now widespread on a variety of other types of transport. The most notable of these is the system’s use of regenerative braking, which returns electricity to the National Grid whenever a driver attempts to slow down, saving enough energy in a year to power almost 12,000 homes.
As urban sprawl and population growth continue onwards, it is always refreshing to find that both industry and local government are finding new ways to deal with common ecological problems while providing valuable public services to the nation as a whole.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.
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