Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December Green Living Food for Thought: Train v. Air

I thought I might do a monthly "Green Living Food for Thought" email. This is something I shared with my colleagues at work earlier this week (we have a "green" group at work). One person already changed their travel plans from flying to train based on the discussion!

So....I have started taking the train instead of flying whenever it is remotely feasible. I originally limited it to traveling the NE corridor but over the summer took the train from NY to Pittsburgh for business travel. I found it to be a much more enjoyable trip and I did some back of the envelope calculations on tradeoffs between rail and flying (though bus is actually the best).

1. CO2 emissions: Rail emits 70-90% LESS CO2 than flying (depending on how you are counting air emissions)
740 miles:
Transport CO2 Emissions
Small Car: 152.4 kg of CO2 per passenger with 1 occupant(s)
Large Car: 306.5 kg of CO2 per passenger with 1 occupant(s)
Train: 63.6 kg of CO2 per passenger
Bus: 35.7 kg of CO2 per passenger
Plane: 204.1 kg or 500 kg of CO2 per passenger, if you account for the fact that emissions from planes have a greater effect because of altitude.

Source: http://www.transportd...

2. Absolute travel time: Flying wins by a factor of 2By air, my door to door trip is 6 hours:
1.5 hours from home to the airport by transit
1.5 hours hanging about at the airport
1.3 hours in flight
1 hour from the airport to the office by transit
Total: 5.3 hours

By train, my door to door trip is 10.6 hours (10 hour train ride, 40 min total to/from train station at each end)
For comparison driving takes 6-7 hours, unless you hit NJ at a bad time. Then it can take the rest of your life.
By bus, its 8.6 hours door to door each way (8 hours drive, 1 hour back and forth to stop), again with the NJ caveat.

*I only take transit to and from airports. If you drive, this will change both trip lengths.

3. Useful work time: train works out better along several dimensionsUnusable/lost hours:
By air, I get to work 1.6 of 5.3 hours -- 40 min on the plane, 1 hour at the airport. I've lost 3.7 hours in travel.
By train, I get to work 9.5 hours on the train. I've lost 1.1 hours in travel

% of travel that is workable (not really fair metric)
By air: 30% of my travel time is workable (1.6/5.3).
By train: 90% of my travel time is workable (9.5/10.6)

% of time that is workable over equivalent time:
By air: 66% of the total window is workable. Lets assume that I worked the the other 5.3 hours outside of travel. 5.3+1.6 = 7 hours of useful work time in the 10.6 hour block.
By train, 90% again.

For comparison, you'd get about 7.5 hours of useful work time on a bus, and 0 in a car.

Note: My work requires 100% computer use. Your experience may be different if you've got other kinds of work.

4. Convenience and comfort: train wins no contest.- No security headaches
- No packing headaches
- No waiting in long lines
- No waiting around at the station/airport
- Much more comfortable seats
- Plenty of room to meander
- Better view
- No sausage toes and other physical side effects of air travel

Basically, I arrived in Pittsburgh feeling fabulous, whereas whenever I get off a flight, I feel like I've been beaten.

5. Cost: train and flights are comparable, bus wins hands downTrain costs $180 round trip
Flights can be more or less
Bus can be as cheap as $5!

6. Schedule: Flying wins hands downThe number of trains along this and other routes are limited, where as there are an infinite number of flight options.

7. Time I spent thinking about this: priceless.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Green New Yorker Mission: We Want Your Advice!

Green New Yorkers are deeply concerned about the environment, and we're ready to do something about it right now! There are an infinite ways to encourage change, yet we have a limited amount of time and resources (hey, we're busy people!).

What do you believe our priority and mission should be?

We could focus on encouraging Green New Yorker members to be as green as possible (imagine 100 people and 0 incandescent bulbs). We could work with community leaders to make green choices (shut the doors when you're running the AC!). We could work to directly improve environment by planting trees with Million Trees NYC or cleaning up the East River.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A little neurosis to start us off...

Hello world! I've decided to document the adventures of the "No-Impact New Yorkers" Meetup group aimed at nourishing and growing a community of New Yorkers interested in spreading the word about personal responsibility towards the environment by taking personal responsibility for themselves. I'm keeping this blog private for the moment, in case this adventure goes kaput the way my "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" adventure did (3 blog posts, 2 pairs of wool socks, and a sleeping pad, but not one step on the trail itself). On that hopeful note...

It began this past Saturday. Dave and I watched the movie "No Impact Man" -- thank you, Netflix Gods -- and lamented the fact that we don't have a posse of like-minded friends with whom we can be green. Its really hard feeling like we are the most environmentally conscious of our local friends (it may not be true, but we feel that way). Being me, I decided I would not stand for this kind of thing, by golly, and I did several things.

First, I wrote an email to Colin Beavan thanking him for the excellent movie and his efforts.

Second, I started a meetup group called Green New Yorkers and spent 2 hours on the logo. I think I've ripped it off from somewhere, I just can't recall where.

I then spent the next 4 hours hitting "reload" hoping to have one, just one, member. No dice.

Third, I had drinks and dinner at Gobo with Katja and Anden and was wonderfully surprised to learn that they are quite as green as we are! Katja does the same goofy stuff we do about not going to a grocery store unless you have your own bag! How did we not know this?! Anyway, I begged Katja and Anden to be my first meetup group members, and they were wonderful to agree. Spirits raised slightly.

I spent the next two days incessantly hitting "reload", with zero members besides Katja and Anden, and the horrible feeling that, to paraphrase Calvin, my idea would explode in the hangar. After poking around Meetup, I finally realized that the group was not actually in the Meetup directory. Oh sweet relief! It wasn't me, it was them! I wasn't a failure (yet)! I promptly took my frustration out on the poor Meetup developers and let them know how I felt about the hold up. (Good job, Nidhi. Way to get in the spirit of community).

On my way to DC yesterday, I emailed Stephanie and Colin again at the No Impact Project to ask about getting my hands on their manual and about a tool to track sustainable living behaviors. And... Stephanie wrote back asking me if they could talk with me! I flipped out and called Dave right away. I somehow managed to write a sensible reply "Dear Stephanie, it would be a pleasure..."

I also cheated and emailed Kamil last night, the group owner of Vegunks (vegetarian/vegan rock climbers) to see if he would email his group about my group. Despite the email from Stephanie and Colin, I didn't think my ego could take the absence of members much longer.

And, this morning in my hotel in DC, I woke up to a new member! Hooray! Success! I threw myself a mental party, sent her a "Greeting," and continued to monitor my Meetup membership obsessively all morning. I was in meetings from 11AM onward and took the train home immediately after, so I had no chance to check my membership until I got home. On arrival I rushed to the site with bated breath... 18 members at 8PM! I am so excited!! And, its now 10PM, I have 21 members and 7 attendees to my first Meetup! Hooray!

Green living, here I come!