The Green Adventure

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Let the Game Begin! (Keeping Score)

Well, I have talked with several of you over the past week about how we're going to keep track of who's winning the game! No competitive people here! :)

So, I've come up with a solution based on an excellent suggestion given to me by a friend. Google has spreadsheets that can be shared over the web. So, I'm inviting all of you to view and edit the "Fuel Challenge" spreadsheet (in a separate email) so that you can keep track of the gallons of gas that you purchase each month. Give yourself or your family a nickname on the spreadsheet (FYI we are the "green" family) and then keep track of how many gallons of gas you buy each month for your car(s). It's up to you to choose whether to keep track of your whole family together, or if you want to compete individually (against your husband, wife, teen or whatever) feel free to enter as individuals. We choose to enter as a family even though that will put us at a relative disadvantage in the game since it is a more accurate representation of our overall footprint. And, the honor system applies here... so no cheating! :)

One more thing... don't give up if you seem to be falling behind! There will be other challenges and the overall winner will be determined based on the results of the whole game. And, if you want to invite someone else (or yourself) to the competition send me an email and I will add them (you) to the list of people who may view/edit the spreadsheet. Also, if you get a late start, please still participate, even if you can't win this challenge it will be a valuable win for the planet when more and more people decide to play the game... and you'll still have time to win other challenges! (Think of it as a chance to get a yellow jersey on the next stage of the Tour!) So, most importantly, jump in and play! The game begins August 1st! 3 days and counting!!!

Have Fun!

Coming up soon... more easy ways to shrink your footprint, and Challenge #2! Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A UVA professor! Now, I'm really mad!

I just received 2 links exposing 2 very frustrating ad campaigns that are out to discredit the science of global warming in the name of profits. They may turn out to be untrue. So, as always, verify for yourself. But, I'm posting them here since I'm angry that the "scientist" (a UVA environmental sciences professor) behind this campaign would take $100,000 in exchange for the planet's future. I'm a UVA science grad and am personally offended by his actions. I don't think that Mr. Jefferson would be very happy! I wonder if he has any kids? To all of my UVA friends: what should we do about this? and

As always, send me your ideas...

Everyone Welcome to Challenge #1!

Since my last post was filled with long, complex, probably boring analysis of a bunch of raw data that I found on some government websites, today I thought that I would lighten things up!

But first, check out today's NY Times op-ed page... Peter Doran is taking himself off of the list of scientists who dispute global warming. FYI, straight from the horse's mouth.

And, by the way, I'd just like to state that this blog is completely nonpartisan. I will happily support organizations, leaders, etc. from the right, left or anywhere in-between who will address this issue with innovative, real solutions. Though Environmentalism was once touted as a "liberal" issue, I'm pleased to report that this is no longer the case. Check out a few great Republican and non-partisan citizen groups, especially those of you in Texas, that are reaching out to Green Elephants and Donkeys everywhere!

OK, enough politcal chatter... Let the game begin (this is a "Reality Blog" after all... everyone wants to know: Where are the challenges?!)
Between August 1, 2006 and February 1, 2007: Whoever uses the fewest gallons of gas wins! Those of you with a hybrid car have a head start and those of you with SUV's will just have to drive fewer miles. Everyone can play... let the game begin! Keep us updated on your progress. There may be prizes!

Coming up... Ethanol, Biodesiel, Plug-in Hybrids, and Hydrogen Fuel Cells: What will really work?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Driving Green Saves Lots of $$$ (Green!)

Since 1960 the percentage of dispensable personal income that has been spent on driving has remained fairly consistent (between 10 and 12%) despite the dramatic technological advances in the industry that could allow us to drive further on less fuel (read: cheaper!) (
Transportation accounts for 66% of our total refined petroleum demand in the US. And we are demanding A LOT of petroleum to power our lifestyles. In 1960, Americans drove 587,000,000,000 miles; in 2004, we drove 1,715,030,000,000 miles! That is almost 3 times as many miles per year! To drive all of those miles in 1960 required 41,171,000,000 gallons of fuel; in 2004 we needed 76,208,000,000 gallons (almost twice as much fuel required!)

To make these giant numbers useful to you and me, let’s take a look at the average number of miles per year that cars drove in 1960. That number was 9500 on 14.3mpg average fuel efficiency. Today we’re driving over 13,000 miles per year with an average car averaging just over 22 mpg. Imagine if we were all driving cars with 50-60mpg fuel efficiency (such as a Honda Civic Hybrid or a Toyota Prius), then each of us would need about 236 gallons of gas each year to drive our 13,000 miles. At today’s gas prices, about $3.00 per gallon, that would cost us about $700 per year. But, because of the cars that we’re choosing to drive instead, we’re paying an average of almost $1700 per year for fuel. If you have a long commute or drive a car that gets less than 22 mpg fuel efficiency your costs are even higher. So, by buying a hybrid car, each of us would save an average of $1000 per year in fuel costs!

Even more importantly, if each car used only 236 gallons of gas each year versus the over 550 gallons that we’re currently using we would need to import much less oil. In 1960, transportation related petroleum use accounted for 64% of our domestic petroleum production. Currently that number is over 184%. That means that we use a lot more oil than we produce in the US for our transportation needs alone (that doesn’t account for our home, business or other power needs.) In 1960, we imported a million barrels of crude oil per year; currently we import 10 million barrels of crude and 3 million barrels of other petroleum products. That’s more than 10 times the number imported in 1960. But, that is just not necessary with today’s technology. If starting today everyone were to drive a car that gets 55mpg avg fuel efficiency (even if we still drive 13,000 miles each per year and have as many cars on the road as we do today), then we will actually be consuming over 2/3 fewer gallons of fuel than we did in 1960 (driving 9500 miles per year.) So, we would need even less oil today than we needed in 1960 to meet our increased driving mileage needs. Instead, we are reaching the point where the US is running out of oil. We produced over 7 million barrels per year in 1960 and produced only 5.42 million gallons in 2004. Worldwide, we are now using over 4 times as much oil per year than we did in 1960. We must find another way to power our future because even without the threat of global warming (which is very, very serious) the Earth is simply running out of oil.

So, the bottom line is that if you’re going to buy a new car this year… consider the fuel efficiency! (Check the ratings at,, and As a planet, we MUST get this number up! For the past 6 years, the average fuel efficiency for passenger cars in the US has stayed virtually the same. That is just not acceptable. We have the technology to change that now! (I highly recommend against buying an SUV in all but a few cases… see for reasons why.)

OK, so now you’re saying, “I’m just not able to buy a new car this year, so…”

What can I do with my current car?

Keep tires adequately inflated (check monthly)
Savings: 250 lbs of carbon, $840 per year (

Check air filter monthly
Savings: 800 lbs of carbon, $130 per year (

Carpool when possible
Savings: approximately 790 lbs of carbon, and hundreds of dollars per year (

Consider public transportation, biking or even walking when possible. Join Cheryl in Houston in her strong support of functional bike trails in that city!

If you own 2 cars, drive the one that gets better mileage on weekends/ longer trips.

Have only 1 car per family.

Drive fewer miles.

Change oil regularly.

Take some of the junk out of your trunk (every 100 lbs costs an extra mile per gallon.) (

Drive the speed limit. Each 5 miles above 60 costs an additional 10 cents per gallon (think about that the next time you look at the cost of filling your tank.) (

Drive nicely. Aggressive driving can lower your gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds. (

Only use the AC when it’s REALLY HOT! (IMHO summer in Texas counts as really hot!) Operating your car’s air conditioner can increase fuel consumption 20% in city driving. ( However, it may actually be more fuel efficient for highway driving due to the increased drag on your vehicle (sorry, I don’t have a source on that one… let me know if you see one somewhere.)

Now the ball is in your court… tell me what you’re doing about your driving carbon footprint. I want to hear how it’s shrinking and how much money you’re saving!!

Stay tuned for our greener driving adventures…

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Rules of the Game

As I discussed in my initial post, I'm hoping to make a big impact on the enormous problem of the impact of global climate change. But, in order to gain some momentum on this project we'll have to start with the rules of the game...

Think of this as a "reality blog." It's like a reality TV show in that you will get to see the drama that will undoubtedly unfold as my family takes steps to lower our fossil fuel consumption. At times, you will surely find our adventure to be exciting and rewarding, and at times it is likely to be a struggle and call for sacrifice.

In the upcoming posts I will detail all of the information that I can find, one subject at a time, that we can use on our quest. My goal is to keep the information simple to follow, useful and evidence-based.

Your job is to let me know how you are applying the information that we'll be learning along the way, and to let me know if you have learned complementary or conflicting information from other sources.

Additionally, I strongly encourage you to spread the word about this blog and its goals to everyone that you know. I recently heard of a blog where a man bartered from a paper clip up to a house. It was a cool and interesting story, but far less important than this one. So, if this blog can generate as much interest and excitement as that one then I believe that there is hope for our children, grandchildren and beyond to survive the energy consumption habits of us, our parents and grandparents. Previous generations did not know the effect that their lifestyle was going to have on future generations. But, we do know now, and it is essential that we demonstrate that those of us who are aware are taking the steps that will preserve the future. It will not always be easy, but it will be a Green Adventure!

Join us!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Adventure Begins

The idea for this blog flowed from an email I sent out to a large list of friends the other day. My husband and I watched a show about climate change on the Discovery channel, and learned that the potentially catestrophic effects of this environmental phenomenon could have significant effects on the ability for humans to survive life on this planet. I guess I'd known that for awhile. I'm reasonably aware and care about Environmental causes. But, I was shocked to learn that the impact of global warming will begin very soon. By the time my daughter is my husband's age, she may have to struggle to survive our generation's dependence on fossil fuels. When I made my friends aware of this scary fact, right away I got an overwhelming response. Many of them (also aware, educated people) are concerned about this issue, but have no idea how to address it in their busy daily lives. So, our family has decided to become the prototype. We will be the researchers, testers and motivators. We hope to show over the next year that our actions will make a difference in our carbon footprint, and may also present us with some exciting opportunities as well. Please join us! I'd love to hear how others are joining us on The Green Adventure! I hope your kids will join in as well. Check out the old children's book, If Everybody Did.
Anyway, this is the email that got it all started:

Dear Friends,

Recently, Mark and I watched a show about climate change on the discovery channel. Despite considering myself an “Environmentalist” (hey, I contribute to the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy) and feeling reasonably up on current events, I was very surprised by some of the details of the science in this area. And, being the perpetual grad student that I am, I proceeded to do a lot of research checking out the ideas presented on the show.

The most shocking idea presented on the show was that Dr. James E. Hansen one of the premier experts on global warming said that if we continue down our current road of carbon emissions (using energy at the same rate that we currently are, that is generated by fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal) by the time Little A is Mark’s age, 50% of animal species around the world could be extinct and thus, humans will be struggling for survival as well.

Well, I must admit that that time frame took me off guard! That means that most of us will be alive (and old, YIPPEE! no beaches to retire to, we get to retire to Canada where it will only be 120 degrees in the shade… not fun!) Worse, that means that our kids will be literally struggling for survival, and even worse… why would they bother reproducing knowing what they will by then. So, GREAT!... I thought that the reward for raising children was supposed to be grandchildren! So, I’m going through the terrible two’s for NOTHING!

All kidding aside, this is serious stuff. And there is plenty of published information on the details of the science that I recommend that you read. (Some websites to check out…)

So, knowing all of this… what should we do? Fortunately, even the scientists that are knee deep in studying global warming are optimistic that humans have the capacity to take on this problem. We just need to get on it… NOW!
So, Mark and I are doing a few things by starting with our own carbon footprint. You can figure out yours at There are lots of others out there, but this one is pretty simple to do without looking at your energy bills. Secondly, we’ve decided to start a company to be a part of the solution to this problem. Since, right now, based on our footprint… we’re part of the problem! Our business ideas are only in the embryonic stages, but we’ve spent enough time in “the real world” to know that really people just don’t care much about saving the earth unless it will make them money! So, we’re trying to figure out if we can do both!

Anyway, this email is long enough! So, spend some time this week and learn a little more about this issue, figure out your carbon footprint, and check out some of the organizations locally and nationally that are working on this problem, and very soon you’ll be getting an email from me, full of ideas for minimizing climate change from the very simple to the very elaborate. Feel free to send this on to your friends… the more people that are helping the better. And, truly, you will see that little things will help A LOT! (Not to mention they may save you some money!) Let’s all talk about and work on this together. We really don’t have a choice if we want our kids to have a chance at a full life. If you found out today that your kids would die of cancer as adults wouldn’t you try to figure out how to save them now?

Take care,