The 2-Mile Bike Commute Challenge

The Other Mike found a story on Biking Bis where they explained that 40% of commuting is done within 2 miles of home. With that in mind, why not try using something other than a car for such short trips?

Before committing to it, I decided to figure out what 2-miles from my house looks like on a map, and here that is:

2-Mile Radius

After making my map on Map24.com, I realized that it’s easier to do on the 2 Mile Challenge website.

Here’s what I’m seeing:

– Groceries: I can bike to Cub, Rainbow, and the Seward Coop. Lunds in Highland is just past 2 miles.

– Dining: There are at least 50 restaurants within 2-miles of my house.

– Desert: There are at least 4 ice cream shops, including 2 Dairy Queens, Izzy’s, and that place on Franklin in Seward.

– Caffeine: There are probably a dozen coffee shops in this 2-mile radius.

– Hardware Stores: There are stores on Lake, Franklin, Minnehaha (pretty sure that’s still there), Grand Ave, and a Menard’s on University Ave.

And this falls within a no sweat, no special clothes, just roll distance. That’s workable.

Minneapolis is Green According to Move.com

Carly spotted an article on Yahoo by Move.com that ranked Minneapolis among the Top-10 Greenest Cities in America. The factors used to describe greenness sound pretty good to me:

The Top 10 Greenest Cities – Yahoo! Real Estate

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Named one of the top business districts in the nation for by the Environmental Protection Agency, Minneapolis is a commuter’s paradise where more than 60 percent of downtown workers use public or alternative transportation to get to the office. Free parking for registered van and car pools, an extensive bike path and bike lane system and employer-sponsored showers and locker rooms not only add endorphins but make a significant dent into auto-based air pollution. On the way to work, commuters thread their way among scores of lakes and parks and ponds and greenbelts and more than 200,000 trees. With great drinking water, active community organizations and the Minnesota State Department of Commerce nudging businesses and residents to hook solar systems up to the city’s grid, it doesn’t take Mary Tyler Moore tossing her beret into the air to let you know this is a great place to live.

This got me thinking about why city people get so worked up about suburban car commuters. If you live in a place that’s surrounded by arteries designed to enable people from outside the city to get in and out of the city, eventually you start thinking, “Why are all of these people driving alone, causing us to pay for so many lanes through the city and damaging the air we breathe? Are parking ramps and lots a good use of downtown space?”

There has to be a better way to do this.

Sustainable Quiz

Katie Weddle Langer turned me on to this sustainability quiz at from America Public Media. It’s an eye opener.

It walks you through major energy consumption behaviors together with how you deal with trash to figure out how many Earths it would take to support everyone on the world, assuming everyone lived like you.

I did well on the housing test since our house is relatively small. Recycling and use of wind energy kept me at 1 Earth through the first three steps.

But then things got ugly when I got to travel. It asked how many hours a year I fly in airplanes. I said 50, which may be a bit low. That seems to have doubled the number of Earths needed to support my work and leisure air travel.

My daily commute cost me almost a full Earth.

My dining habits cost me an additional Earth.

And my shopping habits cost me another Earth.

Here’s the breakdown:

Sustainability Score

How did you score?

Norway Bans Environmental Oxymorons

Norway has banned the use of terms like “clean, green, and environmentally friendly” in car ads:

Norway outlaws “green” cars

The rationale for the ban is simple. All cars pollute, even fuel-efficient cars, so calling a car green is a bit of a stretch. It’s like referring to filtered cigarettes as healthy. Norwegian government-type person Bente Oeverli explains, “Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others.”

Adam Stein from Terrapass thinks environmental terms have already been bastardized by marketers, so it’s not something to get worked up about.

Personally, it seems like a strange step since as long as people are not prepared to give up their cars, they may as well be able to figure out which cars are the most “clean, green, and environmentally friendly.” It’s all relative.

It seems like a better approach would be to prohibit the use of those terms in cars failing to exceed a certain mileage level.

Free Stormwater Bus Tour

When it comes to making eco-friendly buying decisions, here’s how I roll:

– When a light bulb burns out, I replace it with an energy efficient bulb.

– When it’s time to buy a new car, I consider energy efficient models.

– If I had to buy a new toilet tomorrow, I’d look for an energy efficient model, but not too energy efficient in case Jeremy stopped by sometime in the future.

I define this as making passive environmentalism. Sure, I could replace incandescent bulbs with CF bulbs right away, but that takes more work and money more up front. Instead, I let the eco choices come to me.

However, I wouldn’t make good eco choices without being aware of what’s possible.

Which brings me to this upcoming bus tour being put on by the Longfellow Community Council. The morning bus tour (and lunch) is a good way to find out what’s possible so when it’s time to make eco choices you can make informed ones.

The focus here is on commercial property, so if you have some influence over this sort of this, consider taking a ride on teh Stormwater Express:

Stormwater Bus Tour: Rain Gardens, Green Roofs, and more!
Friday, September 28th
8:30 am – 1 pm

Longfellow Community Council brings you this free tour of commercial sites
around Minneapolis that have used best management practices to handle
stormwater on site. Corrie Zoll will be our guide as we view rain gardens,
green roofs, rain leader disconnects, and other practices at a mix of urban
sites from large to small. Lunch and discussion follow. Learn how you can
make changes to your property to earn credits on your stormwater bill.
Geared for businesses, commercial property owners and developers, but
open to all. Pre-registration required.

For more information or to register contact Hillary Oppmann at
hillary@longfellow.org or 612-722-4529.

Bold Environmental Legslation from Michigan’s John Dingell

The gas tax idea coming out of Michigan is interesting:

I’m changing the climate! Ask me how!

Michigan Democrat John Dingell, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by raising gasoline taxes by 50 cents per gallon and eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction for homes 3,000 square feet and up.

We’d sure see a spike in 2,999 sq. ft. homes if the mortgage interest deduction elimination became law.

Dan Kohler on Wisconsin Public Radio

My brother Dan was the guest or an hour on the At Issue with Ben Merens show on Wisconsin Public Radio yesterday talking about the environment (the archive can be found here and here is a direct like to the RealPlayer version, which may or may not work.).

Dan is the director of Wisconsin Environment, a group that works on creating policies that improve the health of our water and air. Right now, they’re raising attention about HR 969 in the US House of Representatives: a bill that would require public utilities to acquire 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from 1% in 2010.

Amends the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to prescribe requirements for a Federal Renewable Portfolio Standard for calendar years 2010 through 2039. Specifies a schedule of graduated annual percentages of a supplier’s base amount that shall be generated from renewable energy resources, from 1% in 2010 up to 20 % in 2020 and thereafter.

In Minnesota, Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, and Colin Peterson are co-sponsors of the bill. More on this legislation can be found here.

Are Carbon Offsets Legitimate?

Jeff Jarvis has an interesting post on carbon offset plans. Basically, it sounds like a lot of these programs are poorly tracked, if they’re audited at all. The concept of donating to carbon-free investments to offset the carbon burned by traveling or your home is certainly of interest to many people. However, as Jarvis points out, it will only work if people believe in this new market:

Environmentally incorrect

For sometime, I’ve been wondering when we’d see a scandal over the rush to buy carbon credits, asking who’s auditing these companies. Now the Financial Times’ Fiona Harvey has investigated and found something stinky here.

He also mentions that a company in the UK has published Google Maps overlayed with infrared photos of homes showing which homes are giving off the most wasted energy. He asks if it’s environmentally incorrect to point out the wasteful behavior of residents.

Katherine Kersten is Kinda Dumb

I know it’s not nice to call someone Dumb, but seriously, how else can one explain her writing in the Star Tribune. For example, today she goes after people who believe in God AND science:

Environmentalists have embarked on a secular crusade

“Wind turbines at Christian colleges, solar panels by church steeples and religiously inspired prairie restorations — all are fine things. Christianity and Judaism teach that human beings have an obligation to be good stewards of the natural world and its resources.

Sometimes, however, it seems something more is going on. We see it in the apparent eagerness of some “people of faith”‘ to embrace worst-case environmental scenarios. We hear it in their crusading zeal as they proselytize others, for example, to attend a screening of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” in the church basement.

Environmental issues are complex, and often involve data that are open to different interpretations. Yet in some religious circles, if you raise a skeptical question about, say, global warming (a highly debated subject), you are spurned as if you’ve committed heresy.”

I’m going to swap out a few words from the last two paragraphs to show how canned this crap she writes really is:

Sometimes, however, it seems something more is going on. We see it in the apparent eagerness of some “people of faith”‘ to embrace worst-case religious scenarios. We hear it in their crusading zeal as they proselytize others, for example, to attend a screening of Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” in the church basement.

Religious issues are complex, and often involve data that are open to different interpretations. Yet in some religious circles, if you raise a skeptical question about, say, creationism (a highly debated subject), you are spurned as if you’ve committed heresy.

Is the reasoning behind Kersten’s column is that environmentalism it’s too hard for an average human to understand environmental science, so we shouldn’t try to be experts at such complex concepts?

Yet we should ignore this same reasoning when it’s applied to religion?

What’s particularly strange about this column is the conclusion:

There are more sensible approaches to environmental problems than the environmental gospel. Without viewing human beings as inherently wicked, or environmental problems as a righteous clash between good and evil, citizens and leaders could tackle environmental issues as public policy challenges whose solution requires a careful weighing of scientific data and the costs and benefits of various responses.

That’s an amazingly refreshing paragraph found at the end of an otherwise ridiculous column. Imagine my surprise finding that there.

Welcome, Katherine, to the real world. Now, try applying the same “sensible approaches” to religious problems.