Monday, June 16, 2008

Final Post

25.5 months (with a break), 213 posts (including this one), and one 160 page book of my "best" posts.

(a blog)
By Josh Cunningham

My blogging continues at

Thanks for all of your support!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Link Love part 2

A couple cool, cool ones for you...

A junk made of junk (via Cnet):

The activists wanted more people to share their disgust about plastic litter that swirls, relatively unexplored, in continent-size patches of ocean.

To that end, they have built a motor-less craft from 15,000 recycled beverage bottles, fishing nets, and the cockpit of a Cessna, and are sailing it more than 2,000 miles from southern California to Hawaii.

One word: gumption.

Also at Ecogeek


An all-electric, solar-powered speedboat, via Ecogeek...
The Dutch have created the Czeers MK1 – the first solar-powered speed boat – which will help bridge a friendship between the love of speed and the love of the environment....Reaching speeds of 30 knots and producing far less noise and pollution than its peers, this boat is 33 feet long and is covered in 150 square feet photovoltaic cells. $1.1 million.

... and Inhabitat: fully powered by the integrated solar cells. It is absolutely gorgeous; the deep carbon fiber hue, combined with the orange interiors, and the sleek form give off an incredible James-Bondian vibe. It is also, quite likely, very expensive, as no price has been given, and only a limited number will be produced.

Looks SO sexy too:

Video? Don't mind if I do...

Think about it... solar-powered speedboat. That has to be the best combination of green and fun that I'VE ever heard. First off, boats are terrible polluters and gas hogs to boot. Second, have you ever filled up a boat on a lake??? The prices are ASTRONOMICAL. Imagine something you could putter around in while it charged and then hit the "gas" on the way back.

Damn, I'd LOVE a ride in that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Seth Godin on packaging and solar the way it should (and will) be

I wanted to share a great riff Seth Godin had about retail packaging. While it doesn't directly have anything to do with transportation, I think you'll find some salient points (and, if you don't, I'll help you out). From Seth's blog:

Item 1: My Logitech cordless remote (which I like a lot) came in plastic, non-recyclable packaging that weighed twice as much as the remote itself.* The plastic was so well sealed and so thick that I actually broke a kitchen knife trying to open it. (*this is not hyperbole. I weighed it).

This is expensive, time-consuming and positions the product as extremely ungreen.

This packaging is the result of a paranoid retail buyer (the person who orders in bulk for the store, not the buyer at retail) demanding pilfer-proof packaging combined with a lazy brand manager choosing a lousy solution to the challenge presented by getting it into a retailer. "Make it pilfer-proof or we won't carry it," he says. The brand manager doesn't want to take a risk, so she packages it the way they packaged it when the device cost $1,000. Impregnable.

True story or what?

The more packaging, the more waste. Not only that, the more packaging the more material is needed and the more manufacturing goes into it. Bigger boxes means more space, more space means more trucks/planes/boats to move the stuff around. Bigger boxes means more stuff inside which means more waste and more weight and more transportation.

Now let's apply this notion to transportation. Everyday, I'm passed on the freeway by people who go to fast in cars, trucks, and SUVs that are too big for their needs. Without turning this into a bashing session on SUVs, the question must be asked: why are we moving around a bunch of extra cubic feet that aren't needed most of the time? Also, why does these cubic feet need to be moving so fast (or have the potential to [think engine size])?

Seth posed a solution to this problem:
When you buy it from Amazon, of course, a cardboard sleeve would be sufficient. The manufacturer, though, only wants to have one sku, so Amazon sells the wasteful one as well.

So, why not compromise and shrink wrap it to a cardboard backad? A simple piece of cardboard, 8 x 10, impossible to fit under your jacket, much lighter, easy to recycle, cheaper and easier to ship.

The packaging versus transportation issue seems to have more in common beyond the idea of wastefulness. Seth points out two problems: un-green packaging and shoplifting. The un-green packaging solves (does it?) the shoplifting problem but creates a new problem in the process. Seth's solution? Minimal packaging that is still oversized and, thus, harder to smuggle out of the store.

Among many other small problems, I see the big issues with sustainable transportation in a similar light. We have two major problems: a wasteful, destructive way of moving things and people around and a need to move a lot of things and people around. How can this problem be solved?

The sacrificers among us (a small minority at best) alter our needs and lifestyle to contribute to the solution as best as we can. Some of us give up cars and ride the bus/train, some take up cycling and walking and encourage others to do the same. Some blog about it, do what we can in our own lives, and give up some of our wants for the greater good. We feel good about what we doing, we offset some (if only a very tiny bit) of the waste that is happening, and our lives are possibly, because of the increased exercise, better food, and less time in traffic, just a little bit better.

But the sacrificers show us that the problem will not be solved by a sudden, global, self-less rejection of the luxuries that are available. We simply cannot depend on the good-nature and kindness of human beings, it's not an exit plan for global warming.

So, our transportation packaging needs to change.

People should still be able to buy, own, and operate large vehicles. An Expedition has it's place in society but that place is a family of 5 and enough gear for a week or 8 people in a carpool. One person commuting long distances using a V8 engine pulling 4,000+ pounds is simply ridiculous these days and will continue to increase in ridiculousness as time goes on.

One way to solve this problem is to restrict large vehicle usage. Anything over a certain weight/height has a separate speed limit and a designated lane on the freeways. This would address the safety issue of a small, light cars sharing freeway space with big, heavy trucks and SUVs.

This could help people feel more comfortable to buy a smaller car in the future or possibly buy a second used car for commuting. It makes perfect sense to own a large vehicle for your large vehicle needs and one or two small cars for running about town or traveling to work. Now, people are still commuting, everyone still has the freedom they once had, and we're still a mobile, viable economy but we're all PACKAGED different on the road. The "road environment" is different making it much easier to adopt a new way of doing things.

Another way to help this packaging issue is to promote lighter vehicles with less horsepower. One of these is the Dodge Sprinter, an ugly but useful vehicle that has become very popular in Europe.

These vans have a small, clean diesel engine with low horsepower that gets things where they need to go. They are maneuverable around the city, hold A LOT of stuff, and are very economical (30 MPG) for their size/utility.

Think about it...what packaging affects you? What are you packaged in? Can the job be done with less packaging?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

7 Days of Blog Retribution: Vehicles to know about

Green vehicles to know about

I've seen quite a few vehicle announcements that have caught my attention lately. One of them was the Fisker I talked about a few days ago. I thought I might spread the word on a few of these and set your expectations appropriately.

It's tiny

A few of these are in the super-sub-compact range of size. As such, tehy get FANTASTIC mileage but probably won't fit the lives of most consumers.

Via Inhabitat:

TRIAC covered electric trike
Three wheels means it's not a car so it's not held to the same safety standards (same like the Xebra). The numbers:
The 20kw electric motor can achieve a very reasonable 80mph, and will take you on travels up to 100 miles on any given charge. It takes about 6 hours for its lithium-ion battery to recharge fully and, as with most electric vehicles, it comes with a regenerative braking system. The package for all of this three-wheeled fun runs about $20,000 dollars.

I'll be the first to say it: $20K is a LOT for this little vehicle. My Element just cost $20K.

On the other hand, 100 miles is really good for something of this size and 80mph is excellent. This is about as good as electric vehicles get right now (save for the Tesla) so it makes sense that the price is so high.

The problem, if their desire is to sell a lot of these, is that they fell into a difficult price bracket with a difficult car to sell. The vast majority of people who might want to buy this will probably, because of size and range constraints, need to make it a second (or a third) car. This is obviously no good for a family and, even for a couple, there is not a lot of room to put anything and it definitely can;t be used for long trips.

I would assume that some people would buy this as their commuter car (drive an E Class on the weekends, take the TRIAC to work through the week). That's a great idea but there aren't going to be a lot of people who want to pay $20K for a commuter car. You can buy an older Civic that gets great gas mileage, holds more, and is much safer for under $2,000.

Next up, the brand I just left... this one is via Ecogeek/Motor Authority:
VW has been talking for a long time about their L1 concept, so called because it uses a measly 1 liter of gasoline to go 100 km. For us Americans, that translates to about 230 miles per gallon. Of course, the amazing mileage comes at a price. The car is tiny, more of a tobaggon than a car. The single passenger actually sits behind the driver, like in a small airplane.

200 MPG Volkswagen 1L concept

200 MPG Volkswagen 1L concept
Very interesting, this one is. First off, I HATE the idea of a toboggan and would be really irritated trying to have a conversation with the back of someone's head/my windshield. Additionally, Volkswagen likes to tease us with concepts so getting your hopes up about this thing is probably going to lead to disappointment.

Still, I have to admire the one-off-ed-ness of this strange little diesel missile. Some interesting facts can be had from Wikipedia:
There are no rear view mirrors and it instead uses cameras and electronic displays. The rear wheels are close together to allow a streamlined body. The drag coefficient (Cd) is 0.159, compared to 0.30 for typical cars.

For light weight, the car uses an unpainted carbon fibre skin over a magnesium subframe. Individual components have been designed for low weight, including engine, transmission, suspension, wheels (carbon fibre), brakes (aluminium), hubs (titanium), bearings (ceramic), interior, and so on. Empty vehicle weight is 290 kg (639 lb).

The body and frame are designed with crush zones and roll-over protection, and the tandem seating means large side crush zones, and Volkswagen claims protection comparable to a GT racing car.

The plan is 2010 for production. I'll believe it when I see it.

Last but not least, M-Benz, at it again. This one from AutoblogGreen:
This fall, Mercedes-Benz will offer a new A-Class coupe - the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY - that gets 52mpg (U.S.). In the NEDC consumption calculation, the car comes in at 4.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and emits just 119 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Those are the best ratings in the A-Class range, and the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY will still deliver 60 kW/82 hp.

Great looking vehicle, too.

Mercedes-Benz will offer a new A-Class coupe - the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY

Mercedes-Benz will offer a new A-Class coupe - the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY
This one I have high hopes for - more than the other two at least. It looks great, it's a Mercedes, and the BlueTEC technology is a fantastic innovation. Not likely that we'll see it over here though.

And now, your moment of zen...

Monday, May 19, 2008

7 Days of Blog Retribution: My New Car

Wow, it only took two days for me to completely miss a day. I'm just not cut out for the heavy blogging.

So, today, I'm putting myself on trial. I bought a new car on Saturday and, if you know me well enough (or have paid attention to key posts) then you know the new ride isn't a Corolla, it isn't a Civic, and it probably isn't a Prius.

I bought a Honda Element.

2007 gray Honda Element SC

2007 gray Honda Element SC

2007 gray Honda Element SC
First, the conversational stuff...

Yes, I love it.
This is a vehicle I've been pining over for a good 5 years or so. For all of you out there who hate them, I hated them too... HATED them. But I rode in one and the owner, a good friend, loved it to death. And then, something in my brain changed and I knew I had to have one. It's everything I want and need in a vehicle in a very unique package.

The GTI had to go.
Poor Gretchen (yes, she has a name) was running a bit rough and had me a bit scared I might be stranded on the side of the road (again). A check engine light and a funny clunk in the front (along with a few other things) made it seem likely that a few thousand in repairs were coming up soon. I drove that picky German b*tch for 9 years and almost 112,000 miles and had very few problems up until about a year ago (maybe a bit before that).

The price was right, the car was right.
This is exactly how I would spec one of these new and there happened to be one on the lot, waiting for me (got there 4 days before I did). Fate?

I guess the big question is why would a green-guy like myself trade UP in vehicle size when I could afford something much smaller and more economical (like a smart [which I briefly considered]). I'll tell you why...

This gets the same MPG.
Yup, that's right, this little guy is rated at the same MPG as my GTI (actually, one less, 23 vs. 24). It's bigger, taller, clearly less aerodynamic, and it's getting about the same. Volkswagens are typically heavier cars and not very fuel efficient (unless they try).

It's an automatic.
Automatics are notoriously better for fuel efficiency because they switch to a high gear when you're not pushing on it. Driving my mom's big SUV around town back home, I found I could squeeze about 25 MPG out of a heavy V6 just because it was automatic (and had a MPG gauge). I find I'm much less aggressive in this car and tend to be about 5mph slower on the freeway; it's just easier to drive at a slower pace.

It can actually fit 4 people.
No more taking two cars because it's too cramped. The 3 other cars I ride around in besides my own are all 2-door and, if they have 4 seatbelts, it doesn't mean 4 adults should be in there.

It takes 87 octane.
And I'm dead sick of spending the money on premium.

So that's the deal.

To be perfectly honest, it was a big issue to buy a new-to-me car that didn't get much better miles-per-gallon. The gas prices are atrocious but my concern is and will continue to be actual consumption, not finances. I know, however, that the difference in overall consumption between 25 mpg and 30 mpg simply isn't enough to justify big sacrifices in my own life.

From spending my own time recycling to this blog to teaching others around me and volunteering for events, I do a lot to affect as many people as possible and, hopefully, convince a few more to make responsible choices. I replaced my bulbs, I control my speed on the freeway, I reuse plastic like a madman, I take cotton bags to the grocery store (when I remember), and I just recently started carpooling with a co-worker. Environmental choices are about more than just a car.

Trust me, I thought this one through. And I'll be the first one with an aftermarket hybrid kit when a solid, tested kit comes out... that or a low-emissions diesel engine from Honda!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

7 Days of Blog Retribution: You know Audi but do you know Fisker?

First up, great news from Audi via Rueters:

Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen, will make cars with no exhaust emissions within ten years, its top executive has told a German weekly. Rupert Stadler told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday that he saw great opportunities in electric cars and expected diesel and battery technology to dominate in the coming five to ten years.

Wait, what? Ten years? Is this the same company that built the adorable and well-equipped hydrogen powered A1?

Hydrogen powered Audi A1 at the 2005 National Hydrogen Association conference in Santa Monica, CA
You really have to wonder why Audi would wait that long... and announce so early. An announcement like this can't do anything to affect current sales (which don't need help anyways). Why even comment?

Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen (am I saying that right?), is the upscale arm of that corporate juggernaut. Product offerings at both companies take into account the existence of the other. As such, it's unlikely you'll see Audi competing for the sub-$20K market, especially here in America; that's what VW is for. So this announcement begs the question: is Volkswagen planning a real push into the hybrid or electric market?

Volkswagen holds a funny place in the alternative fuel world. They have the cult (but very real) following of the TDI, their turbo diesel engine. This champion of compression and combustion has been reported to get around 50 MPG and run on biodiesel without a hitch. There's also the new TDI, reported to be a big improvement on the original in terms of emissions.

Then again, they have no hybrid offering on the market and just killed the concept that might have changed that. Current MPG figures have a broad range but average out at 25 or so, which is exactly what I got in my GTI (past tense :) guess what I bought?) that is almost 9 years old. 25 isn't bad (just as long as it's not under 15) but it could definitely use some improvement - especially these days.

I think it's going to be very interesting to see what comes out of VAG in the near future (that's Volkswagen Auto Group in case you sounded it out and become confused).


This one is via Inhabitat:
Created by noted car designer Henrik Fisker, the ultra cool Karma is a sleek, power packed eco-luxury ride. The Karma’s performance specs rev out at 0-60 mph in 6 seconds, and a top speed of 125 mph. At $80,000 USD, The car is a plug-in hybrid based on technology of Quantum Technologies. The Q DRIVE consists of a small gasoline engine which in turn charges the lithium battery packs in the car. According to Fisker, if charged properly, the hybrid would need to use no more than a fuel tank per year, quite a claim!

From the side, this thing is HOT!

Fisker Karma hybrid electric sports car, via
The front? I'm not a huge fan...

Fisker Karma hybrid electric sports car, via
Pictures are from Inhabitat, FYI.

As I've said before, I LOVE bold moves like this from the alternative fuel sector. I think the attention it grabs, the limits it pushes, and the contrarians it puts to rest are vital to making fuel economy less of a fringe issue and more of a standard.

One more picture... looks way better here (from The Car Lounge):

Fisker Karma from the 2008 Top Marques Monaco

Friday, May 16, 2008

7 Days of Blog Retribution: UPS Adds 200 Hybrid Trucks

One of my only regular commenters (in fact, my only one recently) sent me a note the other day...

yo update your blog.. wtf man.. how can i learn anything without you??

It occurred to me that it has been over a week since my last update. Not only that, the other blog has gone just as long without crisp, fresh content. I'd make excuses but that wouldn't do anything to mitigate the lack of JoshIsJosh content so I'll just go ahead and make some content. And I'm going to do it every day for 7 days. And it won't even be just 7 links posted.

Here's to you, Bridget ;)


UPS: lesser of several evils

I spend some of my browsing time on (not nearly as much as I used to, thankfully) and have noticed a marked increase in well-spoken car nuts who also happen to think what we do to the environment is deplorable. One of these nuts said something very interesting a while ago (I'm paraphrasing):
Want to do something about the environment and the energy crisis? Don't worry about the difference between 30 and 35 MPG on your compact sedan, stop buying things that need to be shipped. You're out-of-season fruit and trendy clothing made in Europe does more damage than you could ever do with your own car.

That quote stuck with me and is one of the reasons I choose local produce when I can (plus it tends to be cheaper). This quote, however, doesn't seem to occur to me when I buy electronics from Newegg or books from Amazon. If it needs electricity, stores data, and/or incorporates wires in any way, it is shipped to my door from Whittier, CA, pretty much no exception.

Like I mentioned in a previous post about career choice and green-ness, caring about the planet and where your next drop of water or electron is coming from is tied into more things than your MPG and how many CFLs your house has in it. Probably the biggest problem we're going to have with this massive social change is getting people to give up important things that don't seem to be contributing greatly to the problem - like imported goods, mail-order, and unsustainable materials.

This is going to lead to an ENORMOUS rant if I don't go ahead and jump straight to the point... which is that some companies (driven probably by monetary concerns) are doing the sustainable thing, lessening the impact that our consumer culture is having on the planet. One of these companies is Brown, aka UPS.
UPS (NYSE: UPS) today announced it has ordered 200 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) - the largest commercial order of such trucks by any company - in addition to another 300 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles for its U.S. delivery fleet.

Awesome, right?

UPS hybrid electric delivery truck... this is what the Brown does for you
But this goes beyond the drop-in-the-bucket of diesel fuel saved by a few hundred trucks running around the clock. This is MASSIVE and PRICELESS data about how hybrids hold up, what kind of technology can make them better, and how to optimize them for start-stop city driving (of the worst kind). This goes way beyond the typical Prius for the sheer fact that delivery trucks, next to city buses and taxicabs, are probably the most abused vehicles on the planet. On top of that, they're big, they have to be maneuverable (not only turning radius but acceleration), and they shouldn't be breaking down in the middle of a delivery route.

Hybrids are somewhat unproven in the public eye. People are still afraid of the technical complexity, the longevity of the battery, and the amount of computer control that is going on in a hybrid. I think this will go a LONG way towards correcting that bias.

On the subject of UPS and the environment... check out their press section detailing the sustainable work they've done. I'm very impressed!

UPS Expands "Green Fleet" with 306 Alternative Fuel Vehicles
UPS (NYSE:UPS) today announced it was adding 306 alternative fuel vehicles to its "green fleet" by placing an order for 167 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) delivery trucks while taking delivery of 139 new propane delivery trucks in North America. Additionally, the company has launched an initiative to use biodiesel fuel in its ground support vehicles at the UPS Worldport® air hub in Louisville.

Energy Lab to Evaluate Performance of UPS Hybrid-Electric Vans

New delivery trucks expected to save fuel, reduce harmful emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is collecting and analyzing maintenance, fuel economy and other vehicle performance data from 50 UPS hybrid diesel step delivery vans powered by an Eaton Corp. electric hybrid propulsion system.

EPA Unveils Unique Hydraulic Hybrid Diesel Delivery Truck with UPS, International Truck and Engine, Eaton and U.S. Army

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today unveiled the first-ever series hydraulic hybrid diesel urban delivery vehicle, which will provide dramatic improvements in fuel economy and in emission reductions. The development of the hydraulic hybrid is the result of a partnership between the EPA, U.S. Army, UPS, International Truck and Engine Corporation and Eaton Corporation.

Go Brown!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Obama Voices Biofuel Doubts

That's the headline over at the Wired Science blog.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that stays up on this topic that biofuels are looking less and less like what we need and more and more like the same problem that we have now just waiting to re-happen. It's the classic push-pull scenario where addressing one problem causes another serious one to appear. Biofuels are a very interesting sector of technology, it's a great lesson in thermodynamics to see machines (mechanical) powered by the same thing that powers other machines (biological), and 60+ MPG is a great thing but you can't mess with a necessity (food supply) to power a non-essential (sorry, but in the grand scheme of things, planes, trains, and automobiles are non-essential).

In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, the Democratic presidential candidate said "there's no doubt that biofuels may be contributing" to falling food supplies and rising prices.

That's a terrible quote ("no doubt that [it] may be contributing") but a serious implication.
"We've got a serious food problem around the world. We've got rising food prices here in the United States. In other countries we're seeing riots because of the lack of food supplies. So this is something that we're going to have to deal with," said Obama.

Ya rly.

I try to be as careful as I can be with respect to jumping on the media bandwagon with ANYTHING, green or otherwise. I want the reason why we're supposed to be thinking/acting a certain way or the concrete reason to be scared of something. I don't need abject, out-of-proportion fear based on specious evidence (if you're laughing at me because you think global warming falls under that category, please stop reading this blog).

That being said, this food thing is getting a lot of attention. Just a few links for you:

Food riots in Haiti (CNN) ["Food prices, which have risen 40 percent on average globally since mid-2007, are causing unrest around the world."]

Potential rice riots in the Far East? (Times Online)
["Analysts give warning of governments across the region resorting to a “starve-your-neighbour” policy in an effort to becalm rioting domestic populations, and the UN International Fund for Agriculture has previously said that food riots will become commonplace."]

Food Crisis > Climate Change (Guardian)

Strikes, Protest in Egypt (BBC)

A UN task force for the global food crisis (AP)

I've seen a steady increase in stories like this from all over the web but that's only really been in April. I read about the corn shortage starting last year (connected to ethanol production) but that was the only big news. Now it's a generic "food crisis" as opposed to just one particular export (though rice is getting a large portion of the attention).

The point being that if we MIGHT BE (or are) facing a food crisis then we MIGHT (or do) want to look at something OTHER than food to be powering our nation/world. Diesel from used cooking oil is one thing but ethanol from edible, now expensive corn is not a good idea.

Anyways, the cherry on top of this story (the Wired one) is this quote:
Corn growers are especially powerful in Obama's home state of Illinois, and the candidate has long been a biofuel booster -- which makes his comments on Meet the Press all the more welcome.

It's not very often that a politician will just change their mind on something, especially if it is "close to their hearts." The fact that Obama will change is mind is a very good thing, especially about something like this. All too often it seems like families, companies, countries get stuck in an endless loop in certain respects because people are too scared to say "I was wrong and now I think I'm right."

Obama in 2008, baby!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Josh is Josh - going global

This is my Google Analytics data for 2/10/08 through today. I pulled it the other day and was very surprised to see such an international following.

I'm posting this, partly because I think it's fascinating how small the world has become but also because this is a very symbolic image (and only coincidental that the color is green). This tells me that people care, people want to know, people want to learn. All over the globe, human beings are re-thinking what they considered to be the truth and reconsidering their ideas of "the good life" and "success" and "happiness." Consciousness is spreading...

Thank you to my subscribers, thank you to my friends, and thank you to anyone who learned something important on my little (very, very little) slice of the web.


Just a few quick ones today because I'm dead sick of the keyboard and mouse today.

First, post number two about a possible re-make of the BMW Isetta in EV form. Caught my attention on Ecogeek, they got it from AutoBlogGreen who got it from EDTA who got it from Lexis Nexis. Long line to get it here... thankfully SOMEONE is doing the dirty work.


A few bits of information have been leaking out here and there about BMW's plans to create an all-electric, lithium-ion two-seater for the European and American market. It seems to be possible that it will be a re-incarnation of BMW's tiny Isetta...but there are also indications that it will be co-branded with Smart.

Such a neat looking little thing... these are from omolody on Flickr:

Isetta rendering by omolody
Isetta rendering by omolody
Proud to be a green car rumor spreader!

And, again from Ecogeek, a hybrid kit... this is excellent:
A UK company has revealed a retro-fit hybrid conversion kit that has the potential to cut exhaust emissions in existing cars by nearly 40%, and improve fuel economy by 60%. The system, developed by the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA), features a removable battery pack, arranged into three portable 30kW cassettes, which upgrade existing "conventional" vehicles into hybrids.

According to MIRA, the test model achieves an average of 64mpg (up from 39mpg), while top speed and acceleration remain similar to a standard Fabia.

I'd love to be an importer for this.... hrmmm.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

San Diego Earth Day 2008... meh

Like any good green-type would do, I attended the San Diego Earth Day 2008 event on the 20th of this month (4/20, get it?). It was held in Balboa Park along the museum walk, a beautiful place to have any type of outdoor event. I heard about it from a friend who described it as a popular San Diego event that was not to be missed (not those exact words). The girl and I decided to spend a bit of our minimal free time mingling with the locals and seeing what this whole E-Day thing was about. By the end of it, we were glad to get out of the house but the whole thing was basically a let-down.

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - Stilt Walker
We got there right about when it started so, thankfully, we missed the bulk of the crowds (and the parking nightmare). There was a parade gearing up with all sorts of things ranging from cute little kids dressed in random, unrelated costumes to the stilt-walker above (a early-teens girl who appeared to have unnaturally long legs to begin with). We made our way down the promenade and saw booth after booth with everything ranging from organic lotion to investment options to window coverings. I was immediately struck by how unrelated to the earth and the green movement that these booths were. To give you an idea, check out this list of Earth Day exhibitors that were at the Park that day. Just a few generally non-green-related groups were:

AIG Financial Advisor
Animal Protection & Rescue League
Animals Asia Foundation
Atheist Coalition
B "N" B Kettle Corn
Back Country Land Trust
Baha'i Faith

Listen, I like atheists and kettle corn just as much as the next guy but they really have little to do with Earth Day.

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - a strange succulent plant that I affectionately nicknamed the cockplant... but I digress...

We made our way down the promenade and ended up in front of the MoMA. We paused for a moment, just long enough to be accosted by the "are you registered to vote" crew. I gave my rote "..mumble, mumble..." and moved on.

EDCO waste management had a neat eye-catcher...

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - mini EDCO garbage truck
San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - mini EDCO garbage truckAfter chatting with a nice woman about some premium acai juice (bottled deceptively but creatively in wine bottles), we decided to make our way toward the west end of the park, hoping to run into the friends we were supposed to be meeting. On the way, a big, colorful sign caught my eye. No surprise that this happened because it was the same old "shock and awe" anti-choice assholes with that tired picture of the mutilated baby's head held with tongs (I tried to find the image but then I realized that I didn't really want to link to their site). Truth be told, this was the second ridiculous display of poor taste we had seen that day in just 30 minutes.

With no booth and no tact but an equal right to be there, a group of anti-choice sign-holders had invaded the Earth Day event. Holding giant images of late-term aborted fetuses in an attempt to sicken everyone into making a social and political choice is a boring, asinine way to make an unnecessary point. I'm really going to fly off-topic here so I'll say this: they were not harming anyone and they were not screaming and shouting but there should have been some kind of exhibitor restriction. If they want to spread their message they need to do so with their own booth, not upstaging the efforts of the people around them who are working towards a different cause. Maybe we could have a "Ban Legal Medical Procedures Day" and they can show up and wave their silly signs at like-minded people.


Right after that, we stumbled upon the San Diego recycling department who had this hilarious recycling bin costume on display (but no one to wear it... Anna said no):

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - San Diego Recycling department recycle bin costumeI had a few questions about residential recycling and talked to a very helpful guy who explained the process and how it's going to be mandatory in 2010 for all housing units in San Diego to have recycle bins. What I didn't know is that landlords have to pay to have recycling picked up. I thought the materials that get picked up were finally as valuable as the cost required to pick them up. It shines a light on the reason why we don't have recycling bins (our landlord said that before we moved in, our apartment complex [of 12 units] had "lost the privilege of having recycling bins because people were throwing away the wrong things." hrmmmm). I guess that's yet another bill to look forward to when we have a house.

After that we made our way past a few more anti-choicers and security guards who were trying their damnedest to thwart their plans; the whole scene was ridiculous.

We signed a petition to raise diesel truck efficiency (relating to interstate transport), saw a neat both on green remodeling, and then made our way to the Aircraft/Automobile museum section. I was expecting a really great display of eco-vehicles, both home-made and manufactured. After our experience that day and my disappointing volunteer experience previously (at the Automobile Museum), I'm not sure why I had my hopes so high.

There were things to see, no doubt, but it was maybe 9 or 10 vehicles, most of which did not have their owners/builders nearby. There was nothing from Zap/Zebra (one of which attended the previously mentioned event), no Smart car dealers (there is one in San Diego) and no plug-in hybrid exhibits (like the one at SDSU and the Santa Monica event I went to).

I liked the blue Toyota converted to all-electric...

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - Toyota truck converted to electric drive EV
San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - Toyota truck converted to electric drive EV
... and the German-built "Twike" was very interesting...

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - German-built Twike vehicle
San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - German-built Twike vehicle
San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - German-built Twike vehicle
San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - German-built Twike vehicle
...and I had to have love for an EV rabbit convertable ("Da Lectric Spidey")...

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - VW Volkswagen convertible Rabbit converted to electric drive EV
San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - VW Volkswagen convertible Rabbit converted to electric drive EV...but the others were just unremarkable. A "bamboo van" (powered by bamboo somehow, I guess)...

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - bamboo van
San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - bamboo van... an electric-converted relic...

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - old school car converted to electric drive... and this:

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - strange space-craft looking thing
San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - strange space-craft looking thingPhoenix showed up with a little utility truck that was neat:

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - Phoenix utility truck... but it was really a let-down.

Events like this are a perfect way to get the attention of a big group of people. Not just any people, though, people who might be open to changing their lifestyle a little (or a lot) to make the right choices for our planet. This is a VERY important opportunity, one that shouldn't be taken lightly. The event was set in a great location and the turn-out was really big, even in the morning. But, in the case of sustainable transportation, people were left empty-handed. There is no action to be taken, nothing to do about it, nowhere to go. There were a million and one products to buy but nothing you could do to change your MPG or method of transportation (that's not entirely true... there was an MTS booth as well).

It's hard to say who to blame for this - if that's what needs to be done. Maybe EarthWorks busted their butts trying to get people out there with no response. Maybe they trusted someone else would do it. Maybe they did nothing. Whatever happened, this was a lost opportunity. At the very least I would hope a few green-conscious car dealers in the area would be available to ask questions and hawk their hybrids or sub-compacts. Instead, there were a few tinkerers and their projects drowning in a sea of exhibitors that may or may not have anything to do with saving the environments.

All I know is that I came there for the green cars and left with a few fliers, a sample of Sun Chips, and a nice tan.

Oh, and a picture of a Rolls Royce parked on Park Ave with a bottle of Grey Poupon in the console. Bravo!

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - Rolls Royce Grey Poupon

San Diego Earth Day 2008 at Balboa Park - Rolls Royce Grey Poupon

Friday, April 25, 2008

Do this please

After you're done reading the very informative interview below, please take the time to fill this little guy out.

This IS the scientific community (episode 2)

Hey, look! I talked another professor into doing work for me! I guess it's only appropriate since I'm doing work for him, right?

Dr. Laurance G. Beauvais, Assistant Professor of Inorganic, Bioinorganic, and Materials Chemistry

Dr. Beauvais is my research adviser at San Diego State and I've been in his group for almost a year and a half. The research is concentrated on creating crystalline solids that will, hopefully, assist in gas storage (particularly hydrogen).

The (virtual) interview:

What is your honest opinion regarding the state of our environment and the existence of global warming? Do you believe that this is a serious issue to address or a misinterpretation of data?
Wow, that is a very broad question. Regarding the state of our environment, I would say that we (meaning the United States) have made great strides in some areas but we have a long way to go. For example, recycling programs are ubiquitous and we do a good job on metals and paper, but too many plastics are not being recycled. Combine the poor recycling of plastics with the use of plastics in packaging, and that generates a large amount of waste. We need to either re-use more plastics, most of which are produced from fossil fuels, or move to renewable plastics made other sources. I think that we have done a good job reducing sulfur and nitrogen oxides but we have not done enough to reduce mercury emissions.

Regarding the existence of global warming, I would have to say that all of the reports I have seen from credible scientists and scientific organizations has supported global warming. I am not a climatologist, so I am not ready to argue the minute details of global warming. However, I can do a quick calculation of the amount of CO2 released from gas combustion in this country per year and the number is staggering. The US consumes 400 million gallons of gas per day which results in the release of 884 gigagrams of CO2. Consider that CO2 cannot be removed from the atmosphere rapidly and that the carbon obtained from petroleum sources has been sequestered underground for millions of years. Thus, we will increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by burning oil. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Add these facts up, and global warming does not seem so far-fetched. Therefore, I consider global warming a serious issue.

What is the most important thing that the average earth inhabitant can do to improve or avoid any current or future environmental impacts? Is there anything you do personally?
Are you considering wild animals, pets, and other living organisms as inhabitants or only humans? For now, let’s focus on humans.

Of course, there are many things that people can do to reduce their environmental footprint. I recycle as much as possible, I purchase locally produced items/foods whenever possible, I have a 10 minute commute, I carpool, etc. Consider the 400 million gallons of gasoline that are used everyday in the US. A good portion of that must be devoted to transporting manufactured goods, food, commodities, etc, and a good portion is probably transported by trucks. The more efficient means of moving goods is by rail, but the rail system in this county has deteriorated. If people purchased locally sourced items, we could reduce fuel consumption while at the same time improving local economies. Why do people want to live an hour away from work? Sure, I understand the desire for more space and bigger homes, but do you really enjoy sitting in traffic and paying $20 a day for gas? In most of the county, we do not even offer commuter trains that parallel major highways.

I would love to install photovoltaic cells on my house, but the prices are too high and the efficiency too low. I believe that we should see improvements on both of those factors in the next few years as alternatives to silicon-based systems are commercialized. If a large portion of the country generated their own power, it would go a long way to reducing one of our major sources of various emissions and fuel consumption–power generation.

How important is a move toward sustainable transportation, in your opinion? Do you think it is worth the effort that it will take? Is it a waste of time or an absolute necessity?
It would be great to retrofit our sprawling cities with mass transit systems. However, I do not think that works. You really need to have the transit in place at the same time you are developing a city. As an alternative, I think it worth the effort to produce cars that are as fuel efficient as possible and to target cleaner fuels such as hydrogen. Ignoring the environmental issues, we need to find an alternative transportation fuel to replace gasoline for reasons of national security. Our dependence on gasoline means the continued support of repressive totalitarian societies, such as Saudi Arabia. In addition, as people in China and India seek a lifestyle similar to that of the developed world, the demand for oil can only increase.

In terms of research, where do you think the most money and time should be spent? Are there any important global problems that you believe should be addressed immediately?
We need to determine how we want to address the future energy needs of our country and the world. We can estimate how much energy we will need, and we need to have a plan for supplying that energy. We will have to revisit nuclear energy because it has zero emissions, as long as we have the correct regulations and a permanent waste storage facility, but there is a limited supply of uranium. Ultimately, we need to improve photovoltaic cells so that we can generate power at the point of use and reduce the need for large power plants. We need to couple the power generation from solar cells to a power storage mechanism because solar power is limited to specific times and places. For example, use solar energy to pump water uphill during the day and recover the power at night by using hydroelectric generators. Or, use solar power to split water to generate hydrogen and then use internal combustion or fuel cells to generate electricity.

If you had the power to do so, regardless of your opinion on the state of the environment or petroleum, what technology would you pick to power our society? Why?
Solar power. It’s clean and renewable. Power can be generated where it is needed or converted to a storage medium. But, we need to develop solar cells with better efficiencies and costs. It would be nice to not need silicon because of the energy required to generate pure material. The solar cells will need to be flexible and easy to integrate into building materials.

If you could do one thing to improve the state of transportation in America, what would you do?
Get rid of the upper speed limit on highways and apply a well-enforced minimum speed limit.

Or, increase the average fuel efficiency by 10 mpg.

Do you think that public transportation development is important for major cities? What do you think about the system in San Diego?
Public transportation is important but I think it is nearly futile to build systems in cities like San Diego, LA, Houston, etc. The cities are spread out, land is expensive, and the resulting transit systems take too long for most uses.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Beauvais!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Update on VW diesel hybrid

An unfortunate update to a previous post. Autoblog says:

The word came down yesterday from Auto Motor und Sport that the Volkswagen TDI hybrid Golf concept that debuted in Geneva wouldn't make the transition to production. According to the print edition of the German rag (translation courtesy of TTAC), the "forward-looking diesel-hybrid is already a thing of the past." That came as a surprise considering how well the concept was received and rumblings we heard from VW's people on the floor that the 69-mpg (European cycle) Golf was destined for the road. We shot off an email to a Volkswagen exec here in the States who responded by saying that, "It was just a concept. No plans to produce were announced." Too bad. Guess we'll have to make due with the gasoline-hybrid Golf that's due out in the next few years.


That is all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Social Action Through Career Choice

My last post on Friday (Introduction to Link Love posts with examples) had an article on MSNBC/Careerbuilder about "green collar jobs". I would like to, again, reiterate the fact that I am rue to link to anything on Careerbuilder but you're not likely to be inundated with spam by simply clicking on the link (like you will by signing up for their loosely titled "service") so I'll make an exception.

First off, it's important to point out that this article is about as far from me, with respect to intent, as it could possibly be. The point of this article is to point out that there's this great new sector that's likely to grow based on sound-bites from our presidential candidates. The article says nothing about personal responsibility, purpose in life, or altruism through self-sacrifice. Careerbuilder is certainly not going to help you find meaning in your work by guiding you in a direction to make a difference in any way. But I digress; this post is not meant to inaugurate "Bash CB Day."

The article talks, first, about the possibility of new jobs appearing based on forward-looking statements by Obama, Clinton, and McCain. I'll just quote the one that makes any difference whatsoever:

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama -- "We've also got to do more to create the green jobs that are jobs of the future. My energy plan will put $150 billion over 10 years into establishing a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades."

Brilliant! Hopefully it's clear to you why I'm excited about that but why should you care?

I have seen an interesting phenomenon with my own eyes time and time again and have even participated in it myself. People find it quite easy to remove the responsibility of their own participation in an industry or company by simply explaining to themselves (and others) that "it pays the bills." What can you do? You're working for the man, they pay your rent, it's not really your responsibility to ensure that your job is environmentally responsible or kind to humans and animals or even legal. Does this sound familiar? Is this logic rational? Do you even think about what you actually do at work and what you're contributing to?

Just so we're clear, if I'm pointing any fingers, there are certainly a few pointing back at me. At my last job, animal testing was done on-site. I found myself in a very uncomfortable moral and financial situation, one shared by a colleague. It all came to head (sorta) when a company memo was circulated that advised employees to be aware that animal rights activists might show up on-site. I asked myself if I could casually walk past a group of like-minded people picketing my building and report to my job. I knew the answer was no and I'm no longer employed there (for other, more pragmatic reasons as well).

Your contribution(s) to the job you hold play(s) a part in the success of whatever entity to which you belong. Your good job, good ideas, and hard work will, generally, have a positive effect on the structure above and below you. If this innovation, perspiration, and motivation is sold to a corporation/company/person who strives for environmental sustainability, community improvement, and/or financial equality than you also own a piece of those good deeds. If, on the other hand, your great work belongs to a company that exploits both people and nature, you, in turn, own a piece of that victimization. It's only fair that it works both ways.

As usual, there is an obstacle to making a career choice like this. There always will be ethical ambiguity in all the choices we make and actions we take. Maybe you decide to take a job with Ford Motor assembling Hybrid Escape SUVs. Every bolt you put in, every battery you connect, and every gauge you install moves this vehicle closer and closer to helping someone fulfill their desire to use less gasoline. On the flip side, every Hybrid Escape sold puts money in the pocket of a company named as one of our country's biggest polluter. What's a conscious citizen to do?

Adding "the fate of the known world" into your considerations for a career is a pretty heavy burden to absorb; you're not going to reverse global warming because you chose a company with fleet cars that had better MPG. You're also not going to feel very socially conscious if after talking up your new Prius purchase you have to admit the monthly payments come from Chevron's pockets.

My overall point is this:
Every choice you make has a potential social, cultural, and environmental impact. The first step is being truly aware of this, the next is actually doing something about it.

From the article, here are a few green career options that have my stamp of approval:

- Furniture making (there are some amazing examples of sustainable furniture designers out there)
- HVAC (if you pick your company wisely)
- Green landscaping (something I'm planning on really getting into when I buy a house [soon] and something that I imagine to be very fulfilling and relaxing)
- Green building (again, you have to be company conscious
- Part-time Chemistry student, part-time marketing coordinator, part-time freelance Technology Coach (not sure I would recommend this route).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Link Love

Link Love is when a blogger can't/won't come up with original content. At the expense of losing momentum he or she might have, they post links to other blogs and sites of note to make it appear as though they're so busy researching the next post that they can hardly be bothered with the current one.

This technique might, on the surface, appear to be creeping laziness but, upon closer examination, the value is clear.

You, the reader, can't be bothered with following all the other great blogs out there about your topic of interest. We, the bloggers, understand the position you are in and make it our responsibility to go out there and get that info. We're on so many different sites throughout the week that it's hard to cut everything away and post the really interesting stuff (or at least the stuff we have something to say about). Sometimes, there's just too much stuff that we want you to know about and we have to take some time to recover from the information overload.

Let me give you an example (to illustrate my point, nothing more). A good Link Love post from joshisjosh,com might look like this:


Hey everyone!

Lots of stuff to get to so let's jump right in!

An article on MSNBC/Careerbuilder about "green collar jobs" was just posted today. I'll ignore the fact that Careerbuilder is the WORST place to go to find a job in ANY SECTOR and just say that the article is interesting. I'll write more about it on Monday... stay tuned. is looking to remove your car from you. They have a few ways of going about it:

8 reasons to start cycling

What is pilgrimage circa 2008?
A promising trend

Thinking about a new car? I am and, fortuitously enough, Ecogeek is trying to convince me to wait until 2010. By then, I might be able to avoid financing (I know, buying a new car in cash is blasphemy in this country)!

Speaking of great new cars, this little Fiat posted at is AWESOME! 56 MPG diesel and a stunner in the looks department:

And, no link love for my blog would be complete without a few from Inhabitat, one of my favorite feeds out there. I'm considering moving up to San Fran just to write for them (just kidding, Anna):

Biofuel from algae
Strange-looking but neat little cube from Toyota, the Hi-CT
Just in case you thought that transportation HAD to be inefficient as a rule


And that, my friends, is what a Link Love post looks like. This example was short because I didn't want you to think I was ACTUALLY posting a Link Love. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis of this trend and others like it.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Transportation ZENN

What does Zen mean to you?

I recently took a (somewhat challenging [surprisingly]) course in Chinese Philosophy recently and was introduced to the true and original idea of Zen. Not to imply that I'm somehow better suited to write about this than someone else; you could get the same information from wikipedia.

But I digress.

Zen is short for Zen Buddhism (or Chan Buddhism), a collection of principles of thinking devoted to letting go of all pre-conceived notions and, basically, going with the flow. By accepting Zen into your life you move past emotions and hang-ups and stress and worry in order to find a universal flow. It's a beautiful way of thinking but one I find myself very far from when I am cruising down a 6-lane freeway in SoCal. There is not a lot of Zen to be found on I-5, trust me.

One company, however, is looking to change that idea. Enter ZENNcars.

Here's a pic of one I saw at the Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo:

ZENN stands for Zero Emissions No Noise and is poised to be the first mass-produced, usable, and widely-available electric car manufacturer to come to the states. Their brand credo:

Since we first began to walk, we have loved the feeling of movement.
To get around and see the world.
To be free.
Cars have given us mobility.
But with the heavy costs of pollution and oil dependency.
ZENN is about returning to the purity of that original feeling.
ZENN may look like a car, but it refuses to act like one.
You'll experience the simple joy of moving freely.
With silent, exhilarating acceleration
ZENN will quietly change the way you think about getting from A to B.
The air is clean and your conscience is clear.
ZENN is a car that, while it runs on electricity, is fueled by optimism,
The belief that individuals can make a difference,
That we can do better.
ZENN is enlightened mobility

That's... that's beautiful. Can you give me a minute?

OK, I'm good.. something in my eye... eyelash or something *sniff* I'm cool.

If anything, they have excellent copywriters, that must be said. The proof, however, is always in the numbers, particularly with cars. So what's the low-down?

I guess I should note thte vehicle I'm talking about. If you're messing about on the ZENNcar website, you're probably seeing the regular ZENN car with a 25MPH speed limit and a 35 miles range. While that's fine and dandy, the car I'm referring to is their upcoming subcompact, the cityZENN. Red Ferret has the skinny:
What’s even more interesting are reports that the company plans on releasing a ‘proper’ highway legal electric vehicle next year called the cityZenn, based around EEstor technology. We’re talking 80 mph and 250 mile range, rechargeable in less than 5 minutes. Yeah yeah, I know, believe it when we see it, but hey, these guys seem kosher and have actually invested substantial money in the EEstore company. We’ll see, eh?

That sounds like the EV silver bullet we've all been waiting for, IMHO. It certainly begs an important question: why does it take an hour or more to charge my cell phone but these guys are claiming a 5-minute recharge? Capacitors, son!

From Cleantech:
"We need to move away from chemical battery technology to a whole new way of storing energy for electric vehicles, with a solid infrastructure to support global roll out," said Ian Clifford, CEO of Zenn, at the company's annual general meeting.
"Through their massive improvements on energy storage and power density, EEStor will virtually eliminate all of the shortcomings of existing and proposed chemical battery technology."

Don't worry, I'll do a Green WotD about it soon.

Before I realized that the car promoted on the ZENN site was not the same as the one that is coming out next year, I built one. MSRP is $19,445, specs area here.

I'm all about the EV. I wasn't always but I am now. Electricity is something that humans are always going to need and in increasing amounts (assuming that the population increases or stays the same). The global energy crisis we're facing/seeing/fearing/blogging about includes, for the time being, two different components: transportation and everything else. The more we understand these two things to be the same, the better we understand the problem as a whole. Our energy problem is a global problem despite borders and wars and obfuscation through vocabulary. Energy is energy and however we get it now or in the future, we're going to need a lot of it. The most renewable options - widal, wind, solar, biomass - are all means for generating electricity and that electricity, in whatever form, will need to go towards powering our vehicles.

That is all.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Green Vocab WotD #004: LEED Certification

This post is part of an on-going series. The first three can be found by searching "WotD" in the search bar above.

It's been a little while but I'm back with a new one...


First, a pinch of insider knowledge.

When I first saw this term I thought "that looks far to easy to actually pronounce the word, I will, instead, say each letter to appear as though I'm in the know." That worked great until I met an architect who just said "leed." So, it's pronounced "LEED," not "el, ee, ee, dee."

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a designation given to buildings that are built and function according to certain standards. This badge of honor is basically a rating system for how "green" a certain commercial structure is.

Wikipedia weighs in here:

[The] (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Since its inception in 1998, LEED has grown to encompass over 14,000 projects in 50 US States and 30 countries covering 1.062 billion square feet of development area. The hallmark of LEED is that it is an open and transparent process where the technical criteria proposed by the LEED committees are publicly reviewed for approval by the more than 10,000 membership organizations that currently constitute the USGBC.

Having a LEED certification doesn't just mean you recycle water and use some natural light, it means that sustainability was a critical piece of the design process. It means that you either set out to achieve the designation or re-designed at some point in the process to incorporate important changes.

There are four different ratings a structure can achieve. Each rating corresponds to a point total and the points are earned a number of different ways. You receive points for air quality controls, water reuse, energy efficiency, and pollution reduction. The rating levels are as follows:

LEED certification badge
LEED Certified: 26 - 32 points

LEED Silver certification badge
LEED Silver: 33 - 38 points

LEED gold certification badge
LEED Gold: 39 - 51 points

LEED platinum certification badge
LEED Platinum: 52 - 69 points

Points are assigned through an elaborate sporting event involving misshapen plaster-of-Paris "balls" and unflattering kevlar padding.

Only joking.

The points are awarded by the LEED committee in many different categories. The categories are as follows (from here, PDF file FYI):

Sustainable Sites
Water Efficiency
Energy & Atmosphere
Materials & Resources
Indoor Environmental Quality
Innovation & Design Process

Each category has from 5 to almost twenty subcategories. It's very interesting seeing how a building can qualify for this mostly because it highlights a bunch of stuff people have simply ignored for a long time (or the technology was not available until now). Most interesting one? Light Pollution Reduction.

So, that's LEED in a nutshell.

Because buildings are enormous contributors to pollution and global warming, this kind of certification is an excellent how to promote sustainable construction. Not only does it attract attention to the problem but it evokes human competition which GETS STUFF DONE. Why go for Gold certification when there's a Platinum just within reach?

The LEED badging system sets an official standard of rating green buildings and contributes towards a new standard of construction. Not only that, it is, as a side-effect, inspiring some beautiful construction projects...

First ever Platinum Certified house by LivingHomes.

The Genzyme Center in Boston

The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) (pic from Inhabitat)

High Line 23 in New York