Eco Living

Save Fuel With Your Smartphone

Aug 22nd, 2013 | By Laura Waldman

Fuel economy is obviously very important to American drivers, and yet many drivers have no idea that poor driving habits can reduce fuel economy by as much as one-third. Drivers typically evaluate vehicles by their fuel economy, but simple actions like strong accelerations, abrupt braking, and idling can stand in the way of taking full advantage of a vehicle's efficiency potential. And guess what, there are apps for that. Here's a look at several that help save fuel.
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The Falling Costs of Electric Vehicles

May 27th, 2013 | By Amy Leibrock

What if you could drive an electric vehicle for virtually nothing? In some states, this is actually possible, as a recent Wall Street Journal article reports. Several car companies are offering discount leases this year, the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit, and several states offer additional credits and incentives. Learn how Georgia resident Bronson Beisel, fared on a lease for a new Nissan Leaf, and what other companies are offering.
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Eco Living

Anti-Idling Laws Around the Nation

Apr 19th, 2013 | By Aubrey Yee

Americans waste some 3.8 millions gallons of fuel every day simply by idling their cars. Several states are trying to combat this polluting trend by passing anti-idling laws. You may be shocked to see the fines that exist where you live.
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The U.S. Is Importing Less Oil

Apr 15th, 2013 | By Aubrey Yee

China surpasses the U.S. to become the world's number-one importer of crude oil and petroleum products.
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Eco Living

Connected Commuting

Jan 11th, 2013 | By Aubrey Yee

Innovative new apps for your smartphone are revolutionizing the way people use social media to improve their commuting experience.
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Sewage to fuel

Jun 7th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

Exit the 405 Freeway at Euclid Ave and you’ll find the very first hydrogen fueling station that is converting sewage to fuel. This fueling station is located at the Fountain Valley sewage treatment plant, part of the Orange County Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment system.

On opening day in August of 2011, director of the program Scott Samuelson called it “a paradigm shift” explaining that “We’re taking an endless stream of human waste and transforming it to transportation fuel and electricity. This is the first time this has ever been done.” (source) The fuel comes from ‘digesters’, bacteria that break down the human waste into a biogas.

With shiny, new white and green gas pumps, the station is capable of fueling 30 cars a day currently. It also produces some 250 kw of power for use by the wastewater treatment plant. The on-site nature of the system takes any transportation logistics out of the equation making it a truly sustainable alternative.

As part of California’s goal to create a ‘hydrogen highway’ the station is part of a 3 year demonstration project. If it goes well, you can expect to see these rolled out in more locations across the state.

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The Clean Car Calculator

May 25th, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

Until now shopping for a high fuel efficiency car, like an electric or hybrid vehicle, could be confusing with overwhelming amounts of data to digest and compare, but students at The Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at The University of California, Santa Barbara have just made it seductively simple.

Enter the Clean Car Calculator: an elegant online calculator that allows the consumer to compare any two high fuel efficiency vehicles on the market, providing a financial and environmental analysis of the cars and even recommending other vehicles to consider given the user’s criteria. The calculator allows the user to adjust for as many or as few variables as desired, like the car’s primary use, percentage of highway miles driven, government tax incentives, etc. One of the most valuable aspects of the calculator is that it determines how long one must own a high fuel efficiency vehicle for it to make economic sense in fuel savings.

The idea for the calculator was inspired by a homework assignment. Project manager Kate Ziemba explains:

The Calculator resulted from an assignment in the Energy and Resource Productivity class taught by Dr. Sangwon Suh at the Bren School that challenged students to understand the return on investment for businesses and consumers to implement energy saving technologies. Students compared lifetime costs and emissions of conventional gas versus high efficiency vehicles. The graduate student developers were surprised to find that hybrids not only paid themselves back in fuel savings, but also that newly released vehicles, such as the Volt and the Leaf, were smart purchases even without a government subsidy.

There you have it! There is more data everyday to show that electric cars and hybrids make sense for the environment and the consumer. But don’t take our word for it - check out the calculator and have fun comparing a few of your favorite green dream cars.

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Eco Living

Six Ways To Help

Apr 15th, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

The image of the family farmer holds a special place in the hearts Americans. Fifty years ago a small family farm would probably have been passed down from one generation to the next, or sold to another small family farmer. These days it’s much more likely that the land will pass into the hands of a large scale farm. According to the 2010 Family Farm Report, of the two million remaining farms, large scale farms (annual sales of $250,000 or more) account for 84 percent of the value of US production. Large scale farms have more resources and tend to be more willing to ship their produce further to increase the number of markets available to them. (source)

Aside from our national admiration of small family farmers, there are solid environmental and economic reasons for supporting them. They have a vested interest in the community and the environmental health of their family and neighbors, not to mention the fact that they put their income back into the local economy. But big farm or small farm, the more we can buy from the farmer next door rather than the farmer across the country, the less shipping is done in the process. The more we limit shipping, the less fuel we use, and the less our country is dependent on limited oil resources. In a world of rising fuel and food costs, not to mention food waste, it makes sense to focus our attention and buying power on the farmers in or near our own communities.

Here are some ways you can help your local family farmer.

1) Shop at your local farmer’s market or purchase a CSA share.

Find a local farmer’s market with Sustainable Table’s Eat Well Guide

Find a CSA farm near you


2) Volunteer at a farmers market.

Most farmers markets have volunteer positions available. Volunteers are integral to helping farmers markets operate smoothly, from answering questions at information booths to unloading farm trucks. The next time you make a trip to the farmers market ask about volunteer opportunities.


3) Eat seasonal foods

This goes hand in hand with shopping at CSAs and farmers markets. There are all sorts of resources for seasonal recipes. Martha Stewart has a whole section on seasonal produce recipes on her website hereSustainable Table offers recipes and information on eating seasonally. Two great recipe blogs that categorize by season are 101 Cookbooks and Smitten Kitchen. If you want to go one step further, preserve a favorite local food for the winter. Check out The National Center for Home Food Preservation for tips.


4) Get to know your local farmer and thank him or her when you buy food at the farm stand, farmer’s market or CSA.

The more respect farming gets as a profession, the more young people will be drawn to the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the EPA, about forty percent of the farmers in this country are over 54 years old, which doesn’t bode well for the future of local farming unless young people start picking up the torch.


5) Ask your grocery store manager to supply foods from local farms.

Many grocery stores are open to suggestions, particularly if a few customers ask for the same thing. Be prepared to provide a list of local farms and dairies the manager could contact. If the manager says he or she isn’t authorized to make those kinds of decisions, ask who does and call or write to that person.


6) Help establish a relationship between local farmers and your school.

Feeling really ambitious? Download Farm Aid’s Farm To School 101 Toolkit. It provides you with the tools you need to start or expand a Farm to School program in your area.

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