California High Speed Rail is Green

Trains are way more efficient than cars and trucks when it comes to transporting people and goods, yet in North America, trains are often shunned for more wasteful transportation systems. This negative attitude towards sustainability is changing, notably California citizens voted for a high speed rail line in the state.

Opponents to economic and environmental efficiencies argued that the high speed rail line would be too expensive to build. It turns out, rather unsurprisingly, that California’s new rail system is better for everybody!

While several competing proposals are on the table for what the system will look like once it’s completed, high-speed rail promises to be more environmentally friendly in several ways. Cars and planes, for example, run on fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The extraction and refining process also emits pollutants. High-speed trains, however, run on electricity, which produces no greenhouse gases at the point of use. Pollutants become an issue for high-speed rail at the power plants generating the electricity. The plants may burn fossil fuels. However, the study’s authors note that the number of renewable energy plants, which produce no greenhouse gases, will continue to grow in California as the high-speed rail system is built. Hydroelectric power produces the bulk of the electricity for the Swiss High-Speed Rail network.

The new study’s findings track closely with research commissioned in 2009 by seven of Europe’s leading high-speed rail systems. “Generally, what you tend to see around the rest of the world is a similar pattern where high-speed rail does have a lower environmental footprint than the automobile or aircraft,” Chester said.

Read more here.

Volet Vegetal – Simple Urban Gardening

Space for a small garden can be hard to find for a lot of people in urban areas. Some French designers have modelled a new way to hang a garden from a window. Their design is simple and provides people with an easily accessible garden space and as a bonus, can help cool apartments and clean the air.

“Volet Végétal”‘ is a project that we thought for a Parisian design contest “Jardin Jardin” as an industrial product for people who are living in apartment deprived of gardens and balcony. Users have just to plug the structure on the outside of their windows. Horizontal position to enlarge a green view on the city land by trying to go further from the facade of the building and get more ornamental stand for plant. Vertical to create a shutter of light, a filter for green air and also for an easy garden upkeeping.

Find more at Core77 and in French at the Volet Vegetal site.

Boston Cleans Up the Harbour

Boston has had problems with sewage and keeping water clean, and all of that is set to change thanks to a new initiative. They are are going to increase fines on people illegally dumping sewage and use that money to clean up the waterways surrounding the city.

“Boston is entering a bold new phase as a city poised to lead the nation in clean water,’’ said Anthony Iarrapino, lead attorney on the case for the Conservation Law Foundation.

The agreement includes a penalty of $395,000, but the real cost will be much higher as the Water and Sewer Commission fixes problems that it promised to correct under the agreement. John P. Sullivan Jr., chief engineer of the water agency, said ratepayers will see increases as a result of the settlement, but he said the agency will not know how much until it performs an analysis next year.

“We were doing many of these projects anyway,’’ said Sullivan, whose assessment was echoed by local environmental groups and the Conservation Law Foundation. “Now, we have strict deadlines.”

Read more here.

A More Eco-Friendly Way to Distribute Beer

growlerLocal Toronto brewery Steam Whistle has taken another step to green their beer (previously) by using growlers to serve and distribute their beer. A growler is essentially a large bottle of beer which can be refilled – and there’s the green aspect. By using growlers people consume less resource-intensive cans and bottles (yes those can be recycled).

Throughout North America growlers are growing in popularity thanks to craft brewers who care about beer. You should see if your local brewery supports growlers!

Before bottled beer became economical and common after industrialization in the mid-1800’s, in the US if one wanted beer outside of the saloon, it was usually draught beer filled and carried out in a growler, aka a “can” or “bucket” of beer. Many different containers (including pitchers, other pottery or glass jars and jugs, etc) were used to carry beer home or to work – the most common “growler” was a 2 quart galvanized or enameled pail as seen in these illustrations. The term Growler is thought to have originated from the sound of escaping CO2 causing the lid to rattle or growl. The current North American use of glass growlers is estimated to have kept over 1 billion cans and bottles from going landfill each year.

Link to Steam Whistle

A Fossil Fuel Free Freighter

Cargo ships make the global economy work as goods need to be transported around the globe. These large ships have a large impact on the environment due to their fuel consumption and regulations around the ships can be lax.

While the global maritime industry is responsible for three percent of global emissions, it is yet to be subjected to global emissions agreements. With emission levels set to mushroom as more goods are freighted across the oceans, unstable and spiking oil prices also make for an increasingly unpredictable future for worldwide shipping trade.

If we want (and we should) a carbon neutral economy then we need to address this goods transportation issue, and companies are looking into this already. We’ve looked at the issue of cargo ships before and how a giant sail can help lower fuel costs and emissions.

With that in mind, a company, B9, has set out to create a ship that would work without fossil fuels.

“The design process is evolutionary,” Gilpin enthuses. “We’re combining proven technologies to develop a ‘future proof’ technically and commercially viable small (3,000 dwt) merchant dry bulk vessel.”

This holistic design process combines technology transferred from offshore yacht racing with the most advanced commercial naval architecture available, as well as incorporating fuel derived from food waste, thanks to B9S’s sister company B9 Organic Energy.

Read more here

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