Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

How to Green Your Vacation

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce

How do you take a vacation and still protect the planet? Driving is the easiest vacation option, but it is getting more expensive and is one of the leading causes of climate change, generating almost 20 pounds of carbon emissions for every gallon of gas used.

Air travel seems more efficient, since more people travel for less time. However, a single transatlantic flight for a family of four creates more carbon emissions than that family will generate at home in a year.

Consumer Reports points out that a flight from New York to Los Angeles can produce from 1,924 to 6,732 pounds of carbon depending on the carbon calculator you use, and such variables as a plane’s fuel efficiency, passenger load, and air traffic. Air travel’s devastating effect on the environment is leading many conscientious passengers to resort to carbon offsets.

According to TerraPass, offsetting a flight from New York to LA would cost around $10. Your ten bucks is invested in clean energy and efficiency projects, such as wind farms, that result in verified reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The most fuel efficient way to travel long distances is by train, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In a recent report, the DOE states that Amtrak – on an energy-consumed-per-passenger-mile basis – is 18 percent more energy efficient than commercial airlines.

Here are a few ways to save fuel costs and emissions this summer:

–Take a local vacation and explore the places you haven’t been in your own community. Set aside a week of local family fun, and schedule a different museum, farm, or small town for each day. Plan your stops according to the route of a train or bus to maximize your efficiency.

–Explore the rail trails in your area by bicycle. Most communities have rail trail projects connecting larger towns and cities. Explore your area by riding five-mile segments each day.

–Stay in a green hotel when possible. If you strive to be green at home, why not on vacation as well? Check and

–Travel with friends, and share the costs and carbon of each car trip. If you carpool and then share a vacation rental, including meals, you form tighter friendship bonds, use less gas, and eat out less.

–Stay with friends or camp. Hotels are very resource intensive, from air conditioning, cleaning, and disposal of trash. When you stay with friends, you lighten the environmental and economic costs.

–Consider a working vacation and volunteer at an organic farm in a place you wish to visit. Many countries also have programs for whole families to spend a vacation working as part of a relief effort. and

–Indulge in roadside attractions by visiting the places near home you secretly always wanted to see, but never got there. You know, the ones advertised on giant billboards on major highways such as caverns, zoos or some other unique place you really should get to at least once.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Adapting to Global Weirding

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Many scientists agree that we have waited too late to address climate change and are now suffering some consequences. What is debatable is how severe, and long-lasting those consequences might be.

We still have a chance to act now to reduce the impact on our children and grandchildren. It is only a matter of time before a carbon cap is legislated, and we begin to reduce emissions. Atmospheric carbon can have up to a 100-year lifespan, so even if we stop all emissions today, we will still have an impact on climate for the next century.

So how can we adapt to our changing climate and prepare our communities for the weird weather we are enduring? Adaptation at a local government level begins with reducing emissions then preparing for drought, or deluge (depending where you’re located), rising sea levels, changes in agriculture and growing seasons, and the loss of livelihoods. There is an organization that helps local governments learn where they are vulnerable, and to take steps to reduce the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

ICLEI (which doesn’t have an acronym) is an international agency that thinks globally but acts locally to help communities. Annie Strickler, ICLEI communications director, suggests that “you can’t just choose mitigation or adaptation strategies; they go hand-in-hand. While we’re working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many if not all communities need to prepare for impacts that are currently happening or will happen in the years and decades to come.”

Strickler also notes that it is much cheaper to adapt now, than try to catch up later or pay to clean up the consequences of not adapting. To help local governments, ICLEI cooperated with the Climate Impacts Group and King County, Wash., to produce a free guidebook.

The guidebook “takes the mystery out of planning for climate impacts by specifying the practical steps and strategies that can be put into place now” to help communities adapt.

One ICLEI success story is Keene, N.H. Keene is in a low area that is experiencing terrible flooding. In 2005, more than a third of the city was submerged, causing massive evacuations.

Scientists are predicting more frequent extreme precipitation for the Northeast, and so, Keene got proactive and worked with ICLEI to assess how to adapt now to avoid catastrophes.

The process engaged all city department heads, medical, social, and emergency personnel in brainstorming and goal-setting. What they discovered is a need for better storm water management, green building codes, and a way to feed the community when all the roads are washed out by flooding.

Some of the adaptation ideas included:

–Providing loans to companies that might be affected by a warming climate, such as the ski industry, snow plowing, and maple sugaring industries.

–Supporting local farmers to increase local food security by 20 percent, so that when droughts and floods disrupt outside food supply lines, local farms will be able to feed the population.

–Building stronger roofs to handle wetter, heavier snow in the warming winter.

–Using porous pavement to prevent stormwater runoff, and improving infrastructure such as storm sewers to handle a higher flow.

Keene has forged a path that other cities – including Fort Collins, Colo., and Fairbanks, Alaska – are following, too. Keene City Planner Mikaela Engert points out that “this is something that can be replicated, whether you’re a community of 1,000 people or 1.5 million, it doesn’t matter. You can do this. Ultimately we’re talking about protecting people property and our community.”

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Orange County, N.Y.