Archives for December 2010

Is Bicycle Freight Delivery The Solution For Reducing In-City Congestion And Pollution?

I’m not 100 % sure about this but it is an interesting idea – deliver freight to distribution centers just outside of the city and let bicycle-powered couriers bring it in the rest of the way. Grist.org has a full article about this idea and offers some bicycle based examples of trash pickup, food and flower delivery in other metro areas. Moving furniture via bicycle in the city is probably not an option but using bikes for smaller deliveries will reduce pollution and congestion.

As in other cities, Seattle has its share of bicycle taxis and they could be the foundation for bike based deliveries. But I have to tell you, some of these possible couriers might produce as much exhaust as a small delivery truck. I didn’t think a person could chain smoke while carting three adults up a hill. [Grist.org]

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What is “The Fun Theory” Campaign?

The best way to describe the idea behind “The Fun Theory”, initiated by Volkswagen, is to use their description:

[The Fun Theory] site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.

I’ve heard about some of “The Fun Theory” finalists but the latest winner, “The Speed Camera Lottery” brought me to the site. Kevin Richardson developed the idea as a simple way to motivate and reward drivers who drive at or below the speed limit. Each time a driver goes through a specific intersection, a picture is taken of their car and license plate. If they are at or below the speed limit, they are automatically entered into a lottery with a cash reward. If they are above the speed limit, the driver is issued a traffic ticket and its payment will fund the reward/lottery.

My guess is that they’ll only allow one entry per vehicle for the lottery but the citations are unlimited. Here is the video of the “The Speed Camera Lottery” in action:

[youtube width=”425″ height=”239″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iynzHWwJXaA&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Be sure to check out “The Fun Theory” site and see some of the other ideas and finalists.

So what works best – the stick or the carrot? With “The Speed Camera Lottery” example, you have both and it’s up to each driver to make their choice. I think it’s a great motivator; especially when our usual options are stick or no stick.

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Fiji Water Closes Plant To Protest Tax Hike And Then Re-Opens It 48 Hours Later.

Inspired by an article on Greenbiz.com.

Fiji Water closed their water plant this last Monday and then re-opened it 2 days later after agreeing to a portion of the Fijian government’s tax hike request – it’s now at $.08/liter. The tax goes into effect in 2011 and will generate $12 million in additional tax revenue for Fiji. Fiji Water has been a huge target for the anti-bottled water movement and they’ve responded with their own facts about the importance of Fiji Water to the nation of Fiji.

Fiji Water has gained a following by positioning their product as a premium bottled water and in my opinion, it’s up to you whether you buy it or not. I personally think it’s crazy to consider paying $4-5 per liter for water that is shipped from a country that I’d like to see but can’t afford to visit; especially when all I need to do is turn on my tap to get the nutritional and taste equivalent at a fraction of the cost.

Here again is a hilarious video from Penn & Teller “The Truth About Bottled Water”.

[youtube width=”376″ height=”300″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiem5EJaLus&feature=related[/youtube]

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What Are The Results From China’s 2008 Ban Against Free Plastic Bags?

Only in China could a free plastic bag ban be so easily enacted. As posted in Good and later in Treehugger, China passed a law in 2008 making it illegal for stores to give out free plastic bags. They can only sell them at a price higher than the bags cost and store owners could pocket the difference.

The results? According to a Hoaran He, a researcher from the University of Gothernburg, the ban against free plastic bags has reduced China’s consumption by 40% or the equivalent of 40 billion plastic bags. That’s a huge number and hard to verify. Nevertheless, I’m sure the law reduced plastic bag consumption in China by a number in the billions and that is significant.

What’s more amazing to me is how quickly China’s government can act without the interference of lobbyist and special interest groups pushing them and buying them to vote another way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure corruption is rampant in China, but their ability to act and respond to a problem and develop a nationwide resolution is something to marvel at. It’s no wonder a recent report by Ernst Young stated that China has a clear lead in the pursuit of renewable energy.

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Science&Sons Phonofone III Or Ceramic Coffee Cup?

Ok, the Phonofone III is a great idea. It’s a self-powered ceramic iPhone 4 speaker that kicks out sound in much the same way as the old gramophone wind-up phonographs worked. Your iPhone 4 sits in a base with its speakers pointed down and the audio is channeled, amplified and sent out of the cone shaped speaker. According to Science&Sons’ website, the Phonofone will amplify your iPhone’s audio 4x’s elevating it to 60 dB without the need for electricity. The Phonofone is currently being sold directly by Science&Sons for $195 + shipping.

Done deal – let’s buy one, right? Not really. Gizmodo, one of my favorite sites, always encourages visitors to post comments about the article they just read and the Phonofone III had its share. One of the recurring themes in the comments pushed the idea that the Phonofone III is cool but can be easily duplicated by putting your iPhone 4 in a ceramic coffee cup. I had to try it myself and not surprisingly, it worked great. I didn’t measure how much the audio amplified in the coffee cup but it was a obvious improvement. Changing the angle of my iPhone 4 in the coffee cup also tweaked the bass and treble levels.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like the Jubbling built into the electricity-free Phonofone III but I’m just not in a rush to go out and buy one. Maybe a smaller and less expensive version that also worked as a coffee cup might be enough to justify my purchase. Or maybe Science&Sons could create a version that was clear and let your iPhone 4 sit behind magnified glass – then you could amplify your audio and magnify your video. Or maybe I should just stick with the coffee cup for now.

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