Today I’ll cut right to the chase: car free cities are thriving in Europe. Awesome.
A quarter of households in Britain – more in the larger cities, and a majority in some inner cities – live without a car. Imagine how quality of life would improve for cyclists and everyone else if traffic were removed from areas where people could practically choose to live without cars. Does this sound unrealistic, utopian? Did you know many European cities are already doing it?
Vauban in Germany is one of the largest car-free neighbourhoods in Europe, home to more than 5,000 people. If you live in the district, you are required to confirm once a year that you do not own a car – or, if you do own one, you must buy a space in a multi-storey car park on the edge of the district. One space was initially provided for every two households, but car ownership has fallen over time, and many of these spaces are now empty.
Vehicles are allowed down the residential streets at walking pace to pick up and deliver, but not to park. In practice, vehicles are rarely seen moving here. It has been taken over by kids as young as four or five, playing, skating and unicycling without direct supervision. The adults, too, tend to socialise outdoors far more than they would on conventional streets open to traffic (behaviour that’s echoed in the UK, too).
Read the full article at the Guardian.
Toyota has received a lot of criticism over the production process of their Prius because the production process is quite awful for the environment. Toyota has reacted by designing new flowers to absorb bad air from the production facilities.
Toyota has created two flower species that absorb nitrogen oxides and take heat out of the atmosphere.
The flowers, derivatives of the cherry sage plant and the gardenia, were specially developed for the grounds of Toyota’s Prius plant in Toyota City, Japan.
The sage derivative’s leaves have unique characteristics that absorb harmful gases, while the gardenia’s leaves create water vapour in the air, reducing the surface temperature of the factory surrounds and, therefore, reducing the energy needed for cooling, in turn producing less carbon dioxide (CO2).
The two new plants are part of a wide-ranging plan to reduce the impact of Prius manufacture on the environment. Since 1990, the plant has reduced CO2 emissions by 55 per cent.
Read more at Drive.
Can you help save the planet by eating your dog? Maybe.
Two researchers from Victoria University have published a new book Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living. In that book they compared how much carbon a pet produces compared to automobiles and they conclude that it’s best to keep pets that you plan on eating (if you don’t eat meat then I guess you can keep being awesome).
In a study published in New Scientist, they calculated a medium dog eats 164 kilograms of meat and 95kg of cereals every year. It takes 43.3 square metres of land to produce 1kg of chicken a year. This means it takes 0.84 hectares to feed Fido.
They compared this with the footprint of a Toyota Land Cruiser, driven 10,000km a year, which uses 55.1 gigajoules (the energy used to build and fuel it). One hectare of land can produce 135 gigajoules a year, which means the vehicle’s eco-footprint is 0.41ha – less than half of the dog’s.
They found cats have an eco-footprint of 0.15ha – slightly less than a Volkswagen Golf. Hamsters have a footprint of 0.014ha – keeping two of them is equivalent to owning a plasma TV.
Professor Vale says the title of the book is meant to shock, but the couple, who do not have a cat or dog, believe the reintroduction of non-carnivorous pets into urban areas would help slow down global warming.
“The title of the book is a little bit of a shock tactic, I think, but though we are not advocating eating anyone’s pet cat or dog there is certainly some truth in the fact that if we have edible pets like chickens for their eggs and meat, and rabbits and pigs, we will be compensating for the impact of other things on our environment.”
Read more here
The new German government has begun a process of asking the American government to take their nukes out of Germany.
Time has the scoop
“We want the last nuclear weapons that are stationed in Germany to be taken away,” Westerwelle said at the conclusion of the coalition talks on Saturday. The U.S. doesn’t disclose the exact number of nuclear warheads it still keeps in Germany, a legacy of its Cold War policy that dates back to the 1950s, and which made western Germany the frontline of its Soviet containment strategy. But German sources estimate there could be as many as 20 nukes still in the country.
Germany has also changed some of its taxation policies to help get through the global economic hilarity, but the rich are arguing that their taxes should be raised.
The BBC knows what to say about this.
A group of rich Germans has launched a petition calling for the government to make wealthy people pay higher taxes.
The group say they have more money than they need, and the extra revenue could fund economic and social programmes to aid Germany’s economic recovery.
Germany could raise 100bn euros (£91bn) if the richest people paid a 5% wealth tax for two years, they say.
Good news everybody! Your old pants could be worth more than you thought!
Students at University of Memphis have been collecting used denim for insulation in housing for Habitat for Humanity. So hang on to your old clothes so you can make somebody else’s house a little warmer.
“It’s a project called ‘Cotton: From Blue to Green,’” explained Angie Dunlap, advisor for the student group. “The denim actually gets recycled into insulation that’s donated for housing for rebuilding communities.”
Many of those communities were hit by Hurricane Katrina, and many of the homes will be built by Habitat for Humanity, explained Brad Robb, vice president of communications for the Cotton Board.
“[The recycled cotton] is environmentally friendly,” said Robb, whose organization works with the program. “Not only is it just as good as regular insulation, you don’t have to use gloves. It’s not itchy, so that’s a plus.”
He said recycled cotton adds up to a lot of insulation.
“[It takes] roughly about 500 average size jeans for an average size house, around 1600 feet,” Robb explained.