Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


March 3, 2010

Working from Home: Green and Productive

Category: Companies,Cool Sites,Observations,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:56 am

Energy Circle

My new home

After five years of talking about energy conservation, and all the things we have done in our house, I am now proud to report that I am officially … working the talk — I have joined Energy Circle LLC.

Energy Circle helps home owners learn how to make an energy efficient house, sells home efficiency products, and now, we’re creating a set of tools and services to help home energy efficiency professionals find customers (and home owners find them).

Now I am now working at a company with an unabashedly green mission — this is important to me. Of course this isn’t the first time I have written about Energy Circle — we have been collaborating since last Spring, and then I did some consulting last year until that was pretty much all I was doing. I am the Chief Technology Officer, and working to make a top notch website, with expanding services and capabilities, reliable, easy to find, and with a strong brand. I hope you’ll check out Energy Circle — I joined not because it was another job, but because I completely believe the mission, and know that good people are out to “do well by doing good”.

Working From Home Is Efficient

But, the company is too far away from my home to commute — so I don’t. I work from home most of the time, and I have to say, working from home is almost always a good thing. It’s very efficient.

Commuting Footprint

Obviously my commuting footprint is as small as possible (although for several years I commuted to my old job on my bike, at least when the weather didn’t suck, and I drove my Prius the short distance when it did). But there are many other benefits of working from home, and a few things I am beginning to learn. (more…)

July 10, 2009

We Love Hot Cars; We Need a New Hotness

Category: Companies,Energy Independence,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 3:23 am

Today’s Times reports that the new Camaro from GM is selling well. The base V-6 model gets a mediocre 22 MPG. A quote from the article sums it up for me, discussing

… Scott Wilbur, a 40-year-old elementary school principal who bought a silver V-8 Camaro in June.

Mr. Wilbur had not purchased a G.M. vehicle in a decade, and traded in his Honda Civic hybrid to buy the Camaro.

He even gave up his California-issued sticker to drive in hybrid-only carpool lanes to get behind the wheel of his new muscle car.

“I might not be as environmentally friendly, but at this point I don’t mind waiting in traffic to drive this,” he said.

To be fair, he says might buy a Volt next year (by the way, how does an elementary school Principal afford two new cars, one very expensive, in two years?).

But c’mon, folks — this is not what we need. We love our hot cars, and have for years. Do we need to define a new “hot”? In the 1980’s women with big hair were “hot” (for that matter, in the 1680s, women with big thighs were “hot”). Tail-fins were in then out. Pocket-rockets were in. Why can’t we figure out how to make a car that people love that they don’t love because of the roar of its internal combustion engine soaking up gasoline?

I see why GM needed to get bailed out, and I see GM changing their views on the way things are. I don’t see the American populace picking up the cues.

I am writing now from Europe. There are a lot of nice cars here, but very, very few are large. Perhaps that’s because gas costs 1.32 per liter, or $6.95/gallon. So people have made some very hot (or cool, or funky, or interesting) cars that also happen to be far smaller.

But perhaps more important, people have created better ways of travel that work (and are not cars).

March 8, 2009

Road Use Fee — A Bad Alternative to Gas Taxes

Category: Climate Change,Economics,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:15 pm

Funding for Federal and State highway maintenance mostly comes from gas taxes today. But this started posing a problem last summer when gas prices were high and fewer people were driving, and continues now when fewer people are driving because of other economic reasons. And the average fuel efficiency of vehicles used has improved.

The problem is that less gas purchased means less revenues to maintain roads.

So both states and federal agencies are considering a new way of raising revenues, based on miles driven. Some are even adding factors like the weight of the vehicle and where the vehicle is driven to the formula. (more…)

March 3, 2009

The Stimulus: Here, Now, and A Lot of Green

Category: Conservation,Policy,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 5:04 pm

In a sea of bad economic news, it’s good to see that there are jobs coming — the stimulus to states is beginning, and the New York Times published a list of stimulus projects, by state. It pretty cool to see how many of these are repairs and improvements to public facilities. When I pay my taxes, I do like to think that this is the kind of thing I am paying for. Even cooler still, many of the projects I saw on the list for my home state of Massachusetts (pdf) improve energy efficiency.

I am sure there will be graft, corruption and frivolous projects done as part of this. But judging from those on the list for my state, they are mostly just “things that were on the list to get done” but didn’t make it. And, on the radio this morning, I heard that even high-priced law firms are laying off lawyers and (gasp) reducing their billing rates. So perhaps there will be work for the poor lawyers, too.

February 4, 2009

WalMart: Environmental Hero (recovering villain?)

Category: Companies,Save Fuel,Sustainability,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:45 pm

wmlogoHow it pains me to say this, but WalMart, indeed corporations as a whole, may not be villainous scalawags. At least not completely.

WalMart has beaten their goal of reducing its internal goals of increasing fleet efficiency by 25% in three years. And with the introduction of a fleet of new hybrid and not-just-diesel fueled trucks, they claim they’re on the way to their goal of doubling fleet efficiency, right through to (drum roll) sustainability.

Well damn, I am as cynical as they get, but even I can see that this is a pretty great thing. And I take credit. No, not full credit, but all of those of us who formerly reviled WalMart for their environmental turpitude guilt-ed them into helped them understand that they were leaders and what they do matters. A lot. Michael Moore and his ilk might have had a little more influence than I, but I am in better shape.

Oh, sure, WalMart still treats their employees like crap (more…)

November 21, 2008

Got AAA for your Car? Here’s a Better (World) Option

Category: Companies,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 2:47 pm

AAA with a Conscience

AAA with a Conscience

I have had a Automobile Association of America (AAA) membership since I had a car, but I just switched to BetterWorld Club — same service and price but better environmental objectives.

Have you ever read the magazine that AAA sends every month? Yeah, most of it is promoting their services, vehicle safety, insurance and all, but they also report on their legislative lobbying agenda. As far as I can see they are on the wrong side of a lot of discussions.

I am sure they are nice folks, and mean well and all, but they have a mission to advance the use of cars. Here’s a quote from a Sierra Club report:

…the organization is now a major force in pushing for more highway spending, fewer pollution controls and less money for mass transit. As investigative journalist Michael Rivlin has written, the 43-million-member-strong organization “is on the record against virtually every proposal for cutting automobile pollution.”

While that was from several years back, it’s clearly true that AAA’s direction and mine have diverged.

BetterWorld Club provides pretty much the same services, discounts, at the same cost as AAA. They offer a Hybrid discount, and they even offer roadside bicycle assistance. But instead of lobbying for automotive agendas, BetterWorld advocates for an environmental agenda. What’s not to like?

November 4, 2008

Amazon Reduces Packaging (They Took My Advice)

Category: Companies,Cool Sites,Household,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 6:33 pm

Personally, I take full credit for Amazon’s new “Frustration-Free” packaging, as it was I who came up with a list of environmental suggestions for Amazon this summer. Today they announced a new multi-year initiative. They made a fun video which shows some of the benefits.

In short: all of the incredible packaging created only to make products good for store retail are removed and replaced with packaging optimized for shipping. (more…)

October 17, 2008

Energy Independence, Global Warming and the Economy

Category: Climate Change,Conservation,Political,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 1:24 pm

As the US Presidential election draws near, I have renewed hope that we’ll finally get serious about energy independence. In a moment of (uncharacteristic) optimism, I also think it may be the case that the financial crisis will provide the opportunity for us to take exactly the right kind of actions to address energy independence and a host of other issues.

(Of course, it could go the other way)

As I have argued before, energy, global warming, the economy, consumption, conservation, and even the Iraq war, obesity, disease, global food, and water issues are not separate. In so many ways, these issues are all linked. (more…)

October 3, 2008

Start a Walking School Bus

Category: Fun,Household,Save Fuel,Take Actions,Tips,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:49 pm

A walking school bus is a simple idea. One or two parents sign up to be drivers, routes and times are set, and every day, our kids walk along to school.

An industrious parent in my daughter’s elementary school organized ours. She found leaders and started four routes last week; I have been “driving” one. We have about 10 kids in our route, and I think the others do as well.

Of course all I care about is that it’s “green” :-) But there’s so much more.

It’s convenient for parents — they just drop their child at a stop at the appointed time and say goodbye.

It’s fun for the kids. Friends who didn’t know they lived close to each other have met. Several kids who were a little uncertain at first are having a blast.

It’s painless for the driver. (more…)

June 17, 2008

A Car that Runs on Water (Alchemy makes its grand return)

Category: Companies,News,Technology,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 3:51 pm

Reuters is reporting a water powered car by a company called Genepax. Almost every source I could find left it at that: you pour in some water (any kind will do) and its generator will separate hydrogen from water, then use the hydrogen to power the vehicle. Just pour in more water to make the car go further. Just like the press release says. Nothing more.

Phew — our energy problems are solved!

(Oh, except for one little thing. Pesky annoying laws of physics. (more…)