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The Green Myth About Electric Cars

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The statement that electric cars are not green may make great headline bait, however it is poor math.  The following is how the argument goes, over and over again.

There are higher manufacturing emissions on electric cars than there are regular cars.  In addition, electricity is used by electric cars, which has a footprint of its own.  When these two factors are put together they form a ‘dirty little secret’ where any climate benefit that electric cars enjoy are negated.  Look at this recent piece from Wired.

So once and for all, let’s clear all of this up.


The juice is what it is all about. 

One of the more irritating things about the articles that discuss electric car emissions is due to how it is always portrayed in a very black and white manner.

There is the ‘zero emissions’ team in one corner and the ‘worse than combustion’ gang in the other.

However, real life, as always, is shades of grey.


Even after the larger manufacturing footprint that an electric car has is taken into account, it is still centres around the fuel mix of whatever power is used.  In other words, ‘the juice.’

Nothing is done to help cut emissions when electric cars use coal powered electricity.  When natural gas electricity is used, it is a top hybrid that uses low carbon power.  This results in less than 50 percent of total emissions from the finest combustion vehicle, including manufacturing.

In a recent study entitled ‘Shades of Green: Electric Cars’ Carbon Emissions Around the Globe,‘ electric car emissions that were grid powered were calculated in twenty countries.  However, there was data for a number of other countries that weren’t included.

So let’s break down the data so that this thing can be put to rest.

Electric Car Emissions Mapped

The map compares carbon footprints for electric driving that uses average grid electricity in approximately 40 countries.  The electricity’s actual carbon intensity that you might use is different than what the national average is for several different reasons.  However, it does make an excellent starting point.

The results are given in grams of the equivalent carbon dioxide per kilometre of a vehicle (g CO2e/km).  Every estimate includes grid losses, upstream fuel production, power station combustion and emissions from automobile manufacturing.

The specifications are based on a complete electric vehicle, which is similar to the Nissan Leaf.  It used each country’s average fuel mix for 2009.  For every country, it has assumed that vehicle manufacturing emissions were 70g CO2e/km, which was based on several studies that the report detailed.

EV Emissions Per Country

Out of the 40 countries that this map covers, emissions vary.  In India, which has heavy coal use, it is 370 g CO2e/km, while in water loving Paraguay is is 70g CO2/km.  Canada’s average is 115g CO2e/km, China’s is 258g Co2e/km and in the US it is 202g CO2e/km.

“In Paraguay nearly all emissions come from manufacturing vehicles, since power is very low carbon.  In India is breaks down as 70g on grid losses, 30g on fuel production, 200g on power plants and 70g on vehicle manufacturing” according to Ian Beevis of Traders Insurance.

The colors from the legend split up the countries into five separate groups, which is based on their carbon intensity.  As can be seen, even once vehicle manufacturing has been included, carbon intensity from driving electric cars differs 5 fold depending on the juice.

For reference purposes, the average gasoline vehicle in the U.S. is at around 300g CO2e/km.  Once fuel production, fuel combustion and vehicle manufacturing is included, a new hybrid may manage 180 g CO2e/km.

Compared with combustion vehicles

Since grams per kilometer is a strange metric it’s very nice converting them into results that are more familiar.  When we work backwards from this data we are able to estimate what kind of regular vehicle (if any) might produce similar emissions.

Let’s refer to this as ‘Emissions equivalent petrol car,’ for lack of a better phrase.

EV emissions equivalent

It is much easier now to get a good grip on the figures.

In coal heavy South Africa, Australia, China and India, electric cars utilizing grid power are similar to typical gasoline vehicles, and are within the 25-30 MPGUS range.  In Italy, Japan, Germany and the UK, they are as good as the finest petrol hybrids, and within the 45-50 MPGUS range. However, in low carbon supply countries like Norway, Switzerland, Brazil and France, they are in an entirely different league, and average well over 100 MPGUS equivalent emissions.

It’s very important to keep in mind that the electricity that you receive may not match what the national average is and there could be several different reasons for this.  The night time intensity may vary, you may have solar panels or you might live in a country such as the United States, where in actuality the grid is really a group of separate grids.  In Colorado, for example, an electric car that is grid powered is equivalent to around 30 MPGUS, while in California it is around 70 MPG.

In the map, for all of the comparisons, the vehicle manufacturing is only 40g CO2e/m for a gasoline car.  For electric vehicles, on the other hand, it is 70g CO2e/m.  That is due to the fact that we have accounted for an electric car’s lower lifetime mileage and greater manufacturing footprint.

Check the full report out if you would like to know more about the details.  Included are comparisons with diesel vehicles, vehicle performance, sensitivities to manufacturing and breakdown of all figures.

Electric vehicles are as green as the juice is

Electric car critics love putting the horse before the cart and talking about manufacturing emissions.  However, they don’t ever appear to offer better solutions ever.  If they happened to be going on about joys of bicycles, electrified public transport or urban densification, than perhaps their critiques might ring true.  However, that isn’t what you hear.

In terms of commercial scale, electric cars are fairly new, and must deal with issues such as charging speed, range and cost.  Improving batteries can help all of them.  Despite that, great hope is offered when it comes to limiting noise pollution, making improvements to local air quality and reducing carbon emissions.

Electric cars are definitely not perfect.  There are numerous ways that they can be critiqued in a valid manner.  However, when it comes to carbon emissions, a gasoline vehicle will be unable to compete with electric cars.  There is no contest.

If an electric car is given the right juice, it will crush combustion engines.

Environment

Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness

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Connect With Nature

Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.

How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature

Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.


While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.

When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness.  Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.

4 Practical Ways to Disconnect

If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Switch to a New Phone Plan

It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.


One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.

2. Get Rid of Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).

If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.

3. Create Quiet Hours

If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.

4. Build Community

Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.

As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.

Untether Your Life

If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.

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Environment

6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move

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Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.

6 Tips for a Greener Move

Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.


1. Maximize Each Trip

When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.

If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.

2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep

The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.

3. Reuse Moving Boxes

Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.


4. Get Creative With Packing

Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.

5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies

Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.

6. Forward Your Mail ASAP

Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.

Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.

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