Monthly archive: October 2009
Since leaving DR and moving to the San Francisco Bay Area I’ve mostly stayed within BART range of everything I’d like to do, so I’ve had little need for internal combustion engines.
Just because a trip doesn’t involve a car or bus doesn’t mean it has a neglible carbon footprint. Unfortunately, It’s difficult to gauge the carbon footprint of 20 mile round-trip journeys into downtown San Francisco from Berkeley.
Now I’ve started working in Cupertino, which is 50 miles away. My regular commute is much longer and I feel guilty about the extra ecological impact I’m having. It would obviously be a huge ecological improvement to move closer to work, but that’s not viable for my partner, so for now I’m taking the bus.
Happily, Apple provides a daily shuttle bus from right near my house. I asked the bus driver about the bus’s fuel economy. It gets an astonishing (to me, at least) 10 mpg. So, I thought I’d try to compare the footprint of my share of the bus’s daily energy use to someone driving to work.
Depending on the day, the bus carries 30-50 people. Passenger miles average out at something like 4000/day. Unfortunately, the driving doesn’t end when the bus driver drops us off. The bus is returned to San Carlos for refueling and maintenance every day. Total daily miles are 80% more than the distance of benefit to passengers.
All in all, the bus uses 18 gallons of fuel for 4000 passenger miles, or 222 passenger-miles/gallon. I’m using 100 passenger miles per day, so my share of the daily fuel used is approximately .45 gallons.
If I drove a 50 mpg Prius and drove a daily commute, I’d use about this much gas if I lived 12 miles away.
Of course, if I lived 12 miles away I’d probably bike a lot more often!
Can we uncover some key parameters for making better initiatives that inspire more people and get more done?
I’ve been delving into the Living Building Challenge over the past year. I’m encouraged by the inspiration it has lit and the great reception the challenge has received around the continent. For those unfamiliar, the Challenge is the next emerging green standard after LEED, which is much closer to true sustainability in buildings (and soon neighborhoods and communities). Instead of checklists, it has 16 standards, most of which are simple in definition (e.g. zero energy, and all development must be previously developed sites) and all of which have to be met in actuality (not just in modelling).
Part of the elegance of the challenge is its simplification (as compared to LEED or other green standards out there) of green criteria to far-reaching core issues. It does not bother worrying about smaller details, assuming that if someone’s going for the big picture then a) that’s what matter most anyway; and b) if they care enough to tackle the biggies, the smaller details will usually be included anyway.
Given my history, of course this approach immediately reminded me of the Ecological Covenants of Dancing Rabbit. Looking at both of these together helps to draw out a pattern that might be applied to other projects.