Tag Archives: Environment

5 Elements of Sustainable Transport

5 Elements of Sustainable Transport

Transport is responsible for around a seventh of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Of these emissions almost two thirds are the result of passenger travel while the rest is due to freight.

So passenger travel is a big deal for climate.

In the chart above, which comes from our new eBook Emit This, we compare carbon intensity of different types of passenger transport on a per passenger kilometer basis.  Using it we can explain some elements important to the development of a sustainable transport system.

1) Fuel Economy

Our chart today compares the carbon intensity of different transport modes, per passenger kilometer.  The better fuel economy gets the lower emissions go.  If you just look at the cars you’ll see the large car (15 MPG) has emissions almost three times that of the hybrid car (45 MPG).

By improving fuel economy we can get the same mileage while generating fewer emissions.  Something that is achieved by making engines more efficient, vehicles lighter and bodies more aerodynamic.  But even then combustion engines remain relatively inefficient and produce emissions at the tailpipe, so improving them is really just a stop-gap en-route to sustainable transport.

2) Occupancy

The cheapest and simplest way to lower the carbon intensity of a passenger kilometer is to stick more people in the vehicle.  In each of the figures above car occupancy is assumed to be an average of 1.6 passengers (including the driver).  But most cars are designed for 5 people.

If you take a look at the bus examples the importance of occupancy becomes even more stark.  The local bus example has emissions seven times higher than the school bus.  While there routes may vary a little they are both diesel buses.  The main difference is that the school bus has very high occupancy.

With notable exception of flying public transport tends to have quite low carbon emissions, due largely to having relatively high occupancy.

3) Electrification

In the absence of breakthroughs in second generation biofuels electrification is the most important pathway to low carbon transport.

Electric cars using low carbon power have footprints less than half that of the best hybrid, even after you account for their larger manufacturing footprint.  Right down the bottom of our chart is the high-speed EuroStar rail which used low carbon French electricity. Though not on our chart the lowest carbon transport on earth is probably electrified public transport in a place like Norway where electricity generation is almost carbon free.

While there is a natural tendency to obsess about the electrification of cars, there are lots of interesting innovations occurring in the electrification  of rail, motorbikes, scooters and bikes.

4) Pedal power

They may be a bit low tech for some, but when it comes to carbon emissions bicycles are pretty cutting edge.  Even when you account for the foodprint of excess energy used when cycling, the humble bike is incredibly low carbon.

Bikes have obvious limitations around speed and distance, but for short trips in places with good infrastructure they are hard to beat in terms of carbon. They also have a great synergy with public transport systems like intercity rail.

5) Urbanization

Each of the first four elements we have described above refers to improving the carbon intensity of transport.  But emissions are a function of both how we travel and how far we travel.  One thing that tackles both of these issues is the trend towards urbanization.

People who live in cities have lower transport emissions.  Fuel economy may be lower in city traffic but that is more than made up for by the fact that city dwellers drive far less.  Electrification of public transport is more economic and practical in cities.  Occupancy on public transport systems is much higher.  And access to infrastructure for both cycling and walking is often better.

In 1950 less than 30% of the world’s population lived in cites, by 2010 that figure was over 50%, and by 2030 it is expected to surpass 60%. This natural trend to urbanization is a huge opportunity to for lowering both distance travelled per person and the carbon intensity of that travel.

Those are our five elements of sustainable transport: fuel economy, occupancy, electrification, pedal power and urbanization.


Why we should let Faroe islanders hunt whales

A dramatic, gory picture does not necessarily tell the whole story. (Image: Michael Heath)A dramatic, gory picture does not necessarily tell the whole story. (Image: Michael Heath)It’s one of the world’s most ancient traditions – and it does little lasting harm

In Tórshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands, I met a man who first helped his father kill a whale with a sharp knife when he was eight years old. The spouting blood soaked his hair and covered his face like warpaint.  He remembered the warmth on his skin, a contrast to the cold North Atlantic in which they stood. These days we assume that people who kill whales and dolphins must be bad. Flipper and his cousins are our friends,

If the Faroe Islanders want to eat whale, let them. So says Tim Ecott in today’s Spectator. He argues that the Faroese – who live on dramatic and remote islands in the North Atlantic – shouldn’t be victimised for killing less than 0.1% of the pilot whale population annually for food.

There are far more pressing marine issues that we should be concerned about – for example the 100 million sharks slaughtered for shark fin soup, or how the EU has allowed tuna stocks to be decimated.

The problem is, many people don’t agree with him. We’ve all heard that whales are highly intelligent, social and family orientated creatures, and that severing their spines isn’t very nice. The Faroese must, therefore, be stopped.

Sea Shepherd, the environmental campaign group, has set up a campaign to raise awareness of the Faroese whale slaughter, called the grindadráp. As Ecott writes:

“The campaign is gathering rapid traction on social media, and video clips of the Faroese hunt have been ‘liked’ and circulated in their hundreds of thousands. In those clips, the sea is stained red, the flapping pilot whales are dragged ashore with ropes and grappling hooks, and they are killed with a sharp instrument that severs the spine close to the head, resulting in almost instantaneous death.”

It’s no surprise that pictures of a bloody sea, struggling whales, and a plea to ‘stop this cruel slaughter’ attracts thousands of ‘likes’. Every day pictures and petitions are liked and shared on social media by millions of people – and savvy PRs have realised that this is a good way of getting their cause into the public eye.  Someone who knows next to nothing about whales, the Faroe Islands, or marine issues at all will happily share a picture of a blood-red sea. Well, why wouldn’t you? It looks appalling, so surely it must be appalling, no?

Perhaps part of the problem is our immediate ability to be offended by things that we know little about. A similar reaction happened with the pictures released by the League Against Cruel Sports earlier this week, of terriermen shooting and then digging out a pair of foxes from a badger set. Of course the pictures look atrocious; they involve a combination of blood and wild animals. But again, people – including the media – were quick to jump to conclusions without understanding the situation, or knowing the facts.

Whether or not you agree with culling foxes to protect your Sunday roast is one thing – as is having an opinion on whether or not the Faroese should continue with their tradition of hunting any unfortunate pilot whales that get too close to shore. But immediately assuming that any picture that involves blood must be cruel is another. It may not be pretty; but looks can be deceiving, and not everything is as black and white as it may seem on the surface.

Sustainable Style: 12 Contemporary Green Home Designs


Living in a sustainable home doesn’t mean giving up yourarchitectural design sensibilities. While some are content with simple earthen Hobbit houses, fans of modern architecture can find a balance between aesthetics and green living. From a stone home built to mimic a nearby stream to an incredible cantilevered wood home in the suburbs, these 12 contemporary green home designs are both sustainable and stylish.








A shipping container costs about $2,000. What these 15 people did with that is beyond epic

1.) A shopping container doesn’t have to be a closed space.
2.) Blue container? Run with it!
3.) Open up the metal boxes and let your imagination run wild.
4.) *jaw drops*
5.) The shapes are basically the same, but wow.
6.) Utilitarian… and awesome.
7.) The best part about this one is that you know they made it out of shipping containers.
8.) This open concept was taken a step further with a sliding garage door.
9.) You don’t rob this house. Ever.
10.) Modern, yet … not.
11.) This is the kind of home that keeps a person happy.
12.) Already-made pool? Yes please.


13.) Recycled materials AND it’s good for the planet.
14.) This collection of containers is just epic.
15.) These are so inspiring.

The best part of the gallery that this Reddit user shared? The shipping containers are recycled materials, so you’re actually helping the environment if you invest in making a luxury shipping container home.

You can’t beat a base price of $2,000. What a marvelous idea; share it with others by clicking on the Share button above/below this article.

Global analysis shows that organically farmed lands contribute to climate change mitigation


Organically farmed lands emit less nitrous oxide and take up greater amounts of atmospheric methane, thus contributing to climate change mitigation.


Climate Change Impact: NASA’s 21st Century Predictions (VIDEO)

NASA has just put out a time-lapse video showing how the changing climate is expected to impact our world between now and 2099. According to models, temps and precip. will change dramatically over the next 87 years, with amounts varying per location. Worldwide land area temperatures are predicted to increase, along with areas of heavier and decreased precipitation.

How to feed the world in 2050 (VIDEO)

To achieve food security in a changing climate, the global community must operate within three limits: the quantity of food that can be produced under a given climate; the quantity needed by a growing and changing population; and the effect of food production on the climate. At present the planet operates outside that safe space, as witnessed by the enormous number of people who are undernourished. If current trends in population growth, diets, crop yields and climate change continue, the world will still be outside this ‘safe operating space’ in 2050.