Monday, October 29, 2007

Five4Footprint Numero 4: Bicycling....

There are few great joys in life then self locomotion, and none is more efficient than riding a bicycle. Supposedly almost all the energy applied to the pedals is transferred to the wheels, according to Wikipedia A human being traveling on a bicycle at low to medium speeds of around 10-15 mph (16-24 km/h), using only the energy required to walk, is the most energy-efficient means of transport generally available. Given how efficient it is there is no excuse not to try to ride to work on a bicycle.

If you need a safe route, most of the Santa Clara county cities have bike maps you can pick up or order. For instance this is Mountain View's Bicycling Map available online. Use your favorite search engine.

There are some downsides, you do get sweaty. But if your workplace has a shower then you are set. Be sure to choose a bag that rides on your butt or lower back instead of your back. This reduces the sweatiness of the ride. It's no accident that the Timbuk2 and Crumpler messenger bags are the way that they are. Depending on your rig, it's probably nice to store your bike in your cube if you can.

Then there's the safety factor. The New York Times Freakonomics Blog had a post on "Will Bicycling to Work Get You Killed?" A very scary headline with some interesting facts.

Did you know that riding to work on a bike is more dangerous than driving, however if you survive the ride, you're likely to live longer. Presumably due to better health, greater happiness (did I mention riding is pure joy) or just better Karma (no not carma).

The most interesting fact from the blog is that risks of riding a bike drop considerably the more bikers there are on the road. So make bike riding safe and get on the road.

Reduce your carbon footprint and save money...

How cool is that!

PG&G, yes the electric company, is providing instant rebates on select compact fluourescent lightbulbs that make CFLs cheaper than incandescent lightbulbs. For instance I got four 100 W, CFLs for $0.99. No that is not a typo. When CFLs are cheaper than the alternative where's the excuse. To find out retailers who are offering the instant rebate built into the price visit here.

I know that some are going to say that the light isn't as clear or that it takes a few seconds to warm up. I agree, it's a sacrifice. In some fixtures that have two bulbs, I put one CFL and on regular lightbulb. You barely notice the difference when they blend together. Alternative lighting will get better, start on the path now!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

54F #3: Mass Transit

How's your 5 for Footprint going? It's almost been a month, have you been able to get one non-driving day in. Maybe you rolled out of bed and did all your conference calls in your pajamas. Maybe you made a carpool buddy and took the fast lane on the freeways. Still need some ideas?

I just got back from NYC, which is top of the heap in the U.S. for ease of Mass Transit. An aging by reliable subway system with really cool artwork. My newest favorite being Tom Otterness's Life Underground and a full picture set is available here. Mass transit here in the Bay Area (which arguably is the top of the heap for California mass transit options) is not so easy. But it is possible. Is an excellent website that provides routes for you get from one place to another. I will admit sometimes plugging in the numbers can be very depressing as what should be a very short trip can take forever. But computers aren't perfect so be sure to use as a means of finding what's possible.

For the Chardonnay set, CalTrain is probably the most utilized way for hip city dwellers unlike myself to get from San Francisco to their Techie jobs in Silicon Valley. During rush hour the frequency is sufficient, but miss that window and you may have to call a cab. Companies in Silicon Valley are running their own transit systems. Yahoo and Google both have buses for their employees.

Some tips to make your Mass Transit commute more effective.

1) Use your time to do things you normally would do. Checking email, reading the paper, etc. If you do work, see if your boss will let you count your mass transit time as part of your day.
2) Have a sense of humor. Our ability to deal with other people is a function of how much practice we get, well most of the time. You will see a larger swath of humanity than you will in a car. Observe, roll with it, realize the richness of our society in all the senses.
3) Be prepared for failure, a connection will be missed. Get over it. It happens.

I hope you'll consider taking mass transit once in awhile, be it to get to the airport, to work, to some sporting event (the buses to Candlestick are a god send). The more mass transit is used, the more it gets better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Carbon Free Close Call....

I just got back from NYC, and completely sidestepping the issue of air travel for a moment, I'd like to share my experience of getting to the airport via mass transit. Whenever possible, I like to try to get to the airport via mass transit. The benefits are many, saving on parking, saving on taxi (I mean, how's that different from your own car), not annoying your friends. Now do I do it all the time, no, but I try.

On my trip to NY, I had a dilemma. Do I allocate a lot of time for transit and be safe that I'll catch my flight, or do I trust that everything will work out ok with a risk that I miss my flight. If I decided to be safe, I'd catch the earlier bus from my house and wait a half hour at the train station. If I caught the next bus, I'd only have to wait 7 minutes. Now those seven minutes were tight since I had to walk from the bus stop, to the ticket machine, buy my ticket and get on the train. Now here's the rub, if I missed that train, I'd have to wait an hour and twenty minutes for the next train, and miss my flight. (Incidentally, my flight would end up being delayed so I could have missed the train, but then I would have waited an hour plus).

Now I hate waiting, I schedule my life around avoiding lines, so of course I went for the latter option. And what happened? My bus was late by three minutes, but thankfully the driver made it up en route. Why? Because I was the only person on the bus.

The biggest challenge to mass transit in the suburbs is frequency. If you miss a connection you are screwed. No wonder why people choose driving. Contrast this to NYC, I knew I had to leave around 3 PM, I missed a train, and in 10 minutes there was another. I caught my flight without a problem.

The internet works with lots of little packets, does anyone know of a city that has experimented with lots of little buses running all time. I know paying the drivers would suck, but hey maybe we could move some taxi drivers over. Or better yet, automated cars on dedicated lanes up and down major arteries.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Welcome Yahoo! Green Readers.

Welcome Yahoo Green readers! Thanks to Trystan L. Bass for giving me some props at this post. And from personal experience of many friends I can say that Yahoo and other Silicon Valley companies are very green. If you ride the U.S. 101 between San Jose and San Francisco you might see the Yahoo! BioDiesel bus transporting employees back and forth.

My posting has been a little light as I have been "Carfree in NYC" the past few days. I had a really interesting conversation this weekend with a business owner who is looking at different alternatives to corn for biofuels. Basically anything that makes sugar cheap is the way to go, in the old days we called it moonshine, now it's greenshine. Hope to have more to share on that as I get the deets on alternatives to Corn ethanol for gasahol production.

Back to being carbonfree in cali later tonight.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

F4F #2: Carpool

If you can't work from home once a month, the second "Five for Footprint" idea is carpooling with someone you work with, or someone who works close by. I put this ahead of mass transit in that part of the reason for pursuing a smaller footprint is understanding that the world is interconnected and understanding those connections.

By carpooling with someone you work with you foster connections within your work community, hopefully giving you a greater understanding of your workplace. Another reason that there is a benefit is that it creates a sense of "critical mass" one person sharing a ride with someone outside of the company is, well one person. Two people in a company creates a constituency, hopefully driving (no pun intended) some change. The more pairs of people, the more it seems like an expectation of those in the company.

So now the trick is to find people you can carpool with. If you have an internal email list, send a message saying that you live in this neighborhood or city and want to carpool. Put a few flyers in cubes or in your breakroom, or just ask around. You'd be surprised how many people live close by.

Another benefit of people carpooling from the same company is that it reinforces on time behavior. The same thing you desire in an airline, is appreciated by your carpool buddies. It's a great way to make sure you don't let those meetings run long.