Archive for Eco-travel
June 5th, 2013
Cars are a necessity for many of us. They get us where we need to go. Cars also pose a set of interesting issues. As a driver and an environmentalist I tend to give a lot of thought to the environmental impact of driving a car, but I’ve never really given much thought to parking.
Parking a car creates a whole subset of issues. Parking spaces take up more space than buildings, parks, or industrial complexes. They’ve been called the single biggest land use in any city. Did you know that the US has an estimated 3-8 parking spaces for each car? That’s a lot of wasted space.
The Environmental Impact of Parking Garages
Parking garages are usually built in denser urban areas and are designed to house many cars in a relatively compact space. Because they are open-air and high-density, garages are greener than other parking modes. However, they also contribute to urban heat islands and often use a lot of electricity because of lighting-level requirements, during both day and night.
The Environmental Impact of Urban On-Street Parking
When I lived in the North End of Boston I would circle the blocks sometimes for up to a half hour looking for a spot to park my car for the night. Cruising — the practice of circling the block until a spot opens up — has serious environmental impacts. Because it can add, on average, 10.6 stop-and-go minutes (in New York City) to 11.5 minutes (in Cambridge, Mass., ibid) to the time of each journey, it increases air pollution in cities.
The Environmental Impact of Surface Lots
Think of those big lots surrounding a shopping mall or an office park-that’s a surface lot. These big, sprawling lots are guilty of something called “runoff”-they increase storm water volume and speet up to 16 times over a similarly sized meadow. Runoff not only physically reconfigures the shape and velocity of streambeds (bad for fish and vegetation), it also introduces oil, metals, and soils into waterways and prevents the recharge of aquifers (bad for our potable water supply). In large metropolitan areas, unsustainable parking lot design may be responsible for up to 132.8 billion gallons of waste water each year (enough to supply 3.6 million American households).
Also, when natural vegetation is replaced with a parking lot the asphalt retains heat and makes lots up to 30 degrees hotter. This “heat island” effect creates higher demand for air conditioning in surrounding buildings.
Light pollution is another issue created by parking lots. If you drive by a mall parking lot late at night you’ll notice the lights are still on to increase safety.
What can be done?
In a recent report released by MyParkingSign.com they found that city landscapes are changing based upon which parking signs are selling. They found that many lot owners are now looking for a diverse set of parking signs, which indicates that the public is looking for more organized parking.
The report suggests a few solutions:
Create shared parking lots. In this model, nearby buildings with different patterns of parking needs utilize a single lot. For example, offices have highest demand from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., while residential buildings need their spaces from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., so areas with mixed-use developments can use one lot to serve two different communities of drivers.
Redesign the lots. For example, you can hide parking lots behind buildings rather than putting them out front. Another design alternative that actually somewhat reduces the amount of asphalt is space differentiation. organizing lots to accommodate different types of vehicles , such as motorcycles (several of which could fit in a standard 18-by-9-foot space) and compact cars (which require 20 percent less space than their full-size cousins and grow ever more popular with consumers).
Here’s an infographic filled with more information on the financial and environmental impact of parking.
Do you think about parking and it’s impact on the environment?
photo credit: tymesynk via photopin cc
Disclosure: I am being compensated for this post. The opinions in this post are my very own.
April 24th, 2012
In my everyday life I work hard to care for my little corner of the earth. I’m not perfect, but I try to make a difference. Whether it’s recycling, eating organic foods or supporting companies that share my views, I continue to plug along-taking baby steps towards making the world a better place.
Being green on vacation takes effort
I just landed from an incredible family vacation. Incredible in the sense that we just spent 10 days hanging out, eating well, watching the sun set and doing a whole lotta nothing-together. What I noticed on this vacation is how easy it was to place most of my efforts to make the world a better place on hold.
Being green on vacation seems to be counter-intuitive. Vacation is for relaxing and letting go of all effort. So why does it take so much more of an effort to be green and make eco-friendly choices?
I think it comes down to being outside of our normal routine. Also, I’m relaxed and just plain lazy on vacation. Isn’t that a sign that the vacation is doing its job?
Now that I’m home I thought I would take a moment to reflect on my eco-errors and make a list of all the things I could have done to make this vacation, and all vacations, greener. I’m bringing this list with me next vacation!
How to have a green vacation
Bring reusable bags
There’s always enough room in the suitcase for a few reusable bags. We did a lot of grocery shopping this trip and it would have been nice to have my arsenal of reusable bags on hand.
Pack reusable water bottles
We all know that you can’t bring liquids through security. The solution is to pack a few empty reusable water bottles for the family. When you arrive at your destination fill them up and use them for the duration of the trip. Say goodbye to those plastic water bottles that are calling your name in every airport.
Conserve those towels and sheets
Many hotels have sheet and towel cards asking guests to consider not having sheets and towels changed every day. I don’t change my towels and sheets every day at home so why would I need that service on vacation? What a simple way to conserve water and energy.
Our room didn’t have any recycling options. It would have been simple to designate one of the garbage cans as a recycling bin to use throughout our stay. There were recycling bins on the grounds which could have been used to dump the recyclables from our room.
Bottom line: Vacation is a lot of fun, but we all have to work a little harder to keep it green.
Are you as green on vacation?
Photo courtesy of my groovy husband, Joel.
September 5th, 2011
I’m at the tail end of my wonderful staycation and already looking forward to the next. Maybe next time I’ll take a vacation to a far off exotic (or maybe not so exotic) place. As a self-proclaimed “greenie” it has been at times challenging to find ways to make my travel eco friendly. Over the years I have gathered travel tips that have helped reduce my carbon footprint while on the road.
Here are my 10 Green Family Travel Tips which I shared with my friends over at Practically Green.
When you’re finished reading the post be sure to take a look around Practically Green’s site. Take the Practically Green quiz to see how green you really are and discover what your next green steps could be. Let me know what you find.
What are your tips for greener travel?
[Photo used under Creative Commons from Abdallah/Flickr]
March 16th, 2011
I’m headed to Utah to get in my last days of Spring skiing for 2011. Hope everyone is doing something eco-fabulous this weekend. See you back here on Tuesday.
January 10th, 2011
Ski season 2011 is in full swing. Here on the East Coast there is a mixture of natural snow and the man-made stuff, making the conditions perfect for any skier or rider. Skiing truly is a great way for a family to spend quality time together in the great outdoors.
Wherever your skiing adventures take you, there are many ski resorts to choose from. Most of us choose a resort based upon location, but know little about the individual ski areas’ environmental practices and policies.
The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition put together a guide of the Top 10 and Worst 10 Western U.S. Ski Resorts based on the resorts environmental policies and practices. It is their mission to provide ski areas with a standard on which to improve.
They used 4 categories to rank the resorts:
- Habitat Protection
- Protecting Watersheds
- Addressing Global Climate Change
- Environmental Practices and Policies
Here are the 2011 Top 10 Environmentally Friendly Ski Resorts:
- Squaw Valley-California
- Park City Mountain Resort-Utah
- Alpine Meadows Ski Area-California
- Aspen Mountain Ski Resort-Colorado
- Aspen Highlands Ski Resort-Colorado
- Buttermilk Mountain Ski Resort-Colorado
- Deer Valley Resort-Utah
- Jackson Hole Mountain Resort-Wyoming
- Sundance Resort-Utah
- Bogus Basin Mountain Resort-Idaho
According to Norma Ruth Ryan of the Colorado Wild (the umbrella organization for the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition), for the time being they have no intention of expanding their report card into the Midwest or East Coast.
So I am starting my own Top East Coast Environmentally Friendly Ski Resorts list:
- Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, Maine is a wonderful family mountain. It has a long list of green initiatives, making it appear to be very eco-friendly.
Disclaimer: I didn’t use the same method used by the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition to make this determination. We ski at this mountain on a regular basis and see first hand how conscientious the mountain truly is.
When planning a family vacation-choose your ski resort wisely. By making eco-friendly choices, you can encourage the improvement of environmental business policies and practices at ski resorts.
Know any other great, green resorts that should be included?
Interested in the list of the the 10 Worst Ski Resorts-click HERE.
*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Planetlight
December 12th, 2010
By now you’ve heard about Bisphenol A (BPA), the hormone mimicking chemical linked to cancer. It has been found on dollar bills, canned foods , and cash register receipts. According to The New York Times , there’s more bad news-another carcinogen, formaldehyde, could be lurking in and on our wrinkle-free products including: clothing, curtains, sheets and pillow cases, crib sheets, and baseball caps.
I can still smell the formaldehyde from my high school biology class-preserving that creepy tarantula in a jar. Formaldehyde is used to make clothing wrinkle-free and stain resistant by either soaking the fabric in formaldehyde or exposing the fabric to formaldehyde gases, and then baking the fabric at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It prevents the fibers in the fabric from wrinkling after being washed.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Miss Karen
Wrinkle-free clothing is offered by almost every big retailer- a dream come true for the traveler and for those of us with iron phobia. Big names such as Nordstrom and L.L. Bean offer many no-iron options.
A recent study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of congress, investigated the levels of formaldehyde in 180 different types of products. They found that over 5% of the products tested were treated with an unacceptable amount of resin that releases formaldehyde. Most of the items in the 5% were wrinkle-free products such as sheets, shirts and pants.
So why the $%^&*@# is formaldehyde on our clothing and in other household products?
The scary truth is that the United States does not regulate formaldehyde levels in clothing, most of which is now made overseas. The government has no requirement for any sort of disclosure to the consumer when formaldehyde is used.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF FORMALDEHYDE?
According to the National Cancer Institute, Formaldehyde has been classified as a human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Formaldehyde produces toxic fumes which, even in small amounts, can cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritations. Long-term exposure and high concentrations of formaldehyde can lead to cancer.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO FORMALDEHYDE?
- Don’t buy wrinkle-free or “ready-to-wear” anything. FYI Men’s shirts had some of the highest occurrences of formaldehyde.
- ALWAYS wash clothing, bedding and curtains before using.
- Avoid buying furniture that has been glued with formaldehyde-based glue and is painted with formaldehyde laden paint.
- There are companies out there that don’t use formaldehyde-contact manufacturers directly to see if they use it and support those that don’t.
- There needs to be a requirement for the disclosure of the use of formaldehyde in our clothing and other household products just as much as we have the right to know the ingredients in our food. Time to put on the ol’ legal hat and start writing to those that can make a difference. Anyone care to join?
For now, I’m thinking about busting out that iron and getting to work. My kids have only seen an iron used with Perler Beads.
If this post helped you, please share. And don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook!
*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Boujiandnouna
October 7th, 2010
Photo used under Creative Commons from Nancy JonesFrancis
Most of us think of dental floss as one of those relatively insignificant bathroom products. A forgotten toothbrush on a trip is always replaced; forgotten floss can wait until we get home. But the bottom line is that flossing can extend your life and improve your gum health-yes it can! Brushing your teeth without flossing is like cleaning 70% of your body. Everyone should be flossing-if you have teeth you should floss.
The amount of dental floss sold in the US each year could span the distance from the earth to the moon and back four times! As a result, the production and disposal of dental floss have a tremendous impact on the environment.
The dangers in dental floss?
- Petroleum-Most dental floss is made from nylon, which is a petroleum based product. Nylon, like most petroleum products, has a very slow decay rate and will sit in landfills for a long time before decomposing. It shouldn’t be flushed down your toilet-it could cause a blockage in the sewer pipes.
- Teflon-Most floss is coated with a type of Teflon-yes, think non-stick cookware-called PTFE. The EPA has found these coatings to be highly toxic-causing all sorts of health issues including various forms of cancer.
- More petroleum-Waxed floss is generally coated with petroleum based synthetic wax.
- The containers that house the floss are also petroleum based-plastic.
Safer solutions-natural dental floss
- Lessen your impact by choosing floss that is not coated with petroleum derived products
- Use less floss
- Reuse your floss-not so sure about this one.
- Find brands without PTFE-Teflon
- Choose floss coated with a natural wax or no wax
- Look for minimal or recyclable packaging
Here are some natural brands to check out:
Remember you don’t have to floss all your teeth-just the ones you want to keep!
Have you tried any of the natural brands?
Disclosure: If you order floss through the Amazon links I will receive a few pennies. Thank you!