Category: Transportation

“Electric Car: Lessons Learned in a Global Movement”

By Marcie Barnes

This is a live blog post from the talk entitled “Electric Car: Lessons Learned in a Global Movement” at SXSW. Speaker is Benjamin Holland – Project Mgr, Project Get Ready, Rocky Mountain Institute.

Stimulus to support the development of batteries, infrastructure, etc. by President Obama to get more electric cars on the road is a big goal, but still only accounts for 1% of total fleet in America. Prius is an “early adapter vehicle” but considered mainstream.





Brief history:

This is not a new technology – Edison & Ford collaborated to produce affordable electric vehicle.

The discovery of abundances of oil accelerated the demand for the internal combustion engine.

Model T’s release in 1908 marked little hope for electric vehicles at the time.

Signaled growth, fueled economy but had negative consequences.

During the wars people were encouraged to drive less, share rides.

Economic costs of US oil dependence have been huge.

Now, every major auto maker in the world is planning to release an electric car of some kind.


On price:

The reduction in operational costs is the biggest feature of electric (not paying for fuel, about 1000 less moving parts).

Tax credits – federal and some in-state are available.

Batteries have 10 year warranties, are still useful after the car itself is retired, can be used for other purposes.



Range is a concern – not knowing what charging will be available. There are a lot of cities (Austin is one) that are wanting to be leaders in getting cities “EV ready”.

Data is being collected on charging stations to see how they are used, etc.

Tesla Model S can go up to 300 miles on pure electric, most people don’t drive more than 40 miles a day, anyway.

Charge time is a huge owner concern, not where to charge but how long it will take. “Fast chargers” are available, but not being implemented so much right now.

Most people are charging at home, there needs to be more workplace charging, less public charging (i.e. at rest stops or gas stations where people won’t stay for 5 hours).

Raleigh NC is a good example of a city holding events and educating people.

San Francisco is the most progressive in the US due to the progressive population, progressive utilities, and partly because Tesla is based there.



Argument: Are we replacing oil with a coal plant? In coal city WV the CO2 emissions are still less for an electric vehicle than gas, and coal plants are being retired so the grid is getting cleaner.

Since the grid demand is lower at night, it’s a perfect time to charge. In addition, windmills are more efficient at night.

Rare earth metals, plastic, etc. needed for EV: energy footprint is still 10x less in vehicle operation over it’s lifespan.

The grid:

Argument: that EVs are taxing the grid. Fact: 1M EVs = 1% increase in electricity. Adjusting charge times to off-peak hours will help balance the grid.

Smart grid, utility incentives, etc. are emerging, people need to get used to a different relationship with their utility where they may use apps or get texts, etc. in order to maximize their energy efficiency.

Battery-swapping is another idea where batteries are stored and you exchange your low batteries for full ones. Automakers need to build the cars to be compatible with this, Tesla is the only one doing that option right now.

Many new technologies on the horizon that will change the game.



One source of our inspiraton…and what green lifestyle design means

By Marcie Barnes

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “lifestyle design,” it was coined by bestselling author Timothy Ferriss about five years ago in tandem with the writing and release of his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek. You can read all about it on his blog. In short, Tim is all about choosing the most efficient paths in life that lead to health and happiness. And he’s done the research to back up everything he says, trust me.

Now those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I have been a volunteer member of Tim’s team since the very early days of 4-Hour Workweek. I actually stumbled across Tim and his book before it became a bestseller, and was fascinated and inspired by his personal case studies and writing. That said, I give a great deal of credit to Tim and his books (his most recent one, The 4-Hour Body, actually delves into more detail about why eating “green”, in particular, is also almost always the best choice for your health as well as for the health of the planet). Both books have certainly improved my life and have given me, in part, the insight and motivation to bring you this site — where we will delve more deeply into the world of green lifestyle design.

In this video, circa 2008, Tim addresses each of the major categories that we will also be addressing here — mostly conservation, food and transportation-related questions from our friends at treehugger. Most importantly, he talks about the kinds of choices we can make in our lives to be more “green” – without doing things like living totally off the grid and raising our own food. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But because, as Tim says, that would be completely unrealistic for most of us…and we agree.

Without further ado, I present to you Mr. Tim Ferriss on green lifestyle design:

(This is a 30-minute long video. For a short synopsis, go here and for an even shorter one-minute clip with synopsis, go here.)

SXSW Eco: Let’s Stop Talking About Sustainability: How Our Current Vocabulary is Failing Us

By Marcie Barnes

Panelists: Andrew Hutson – Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships for Environmental Defense Fund; Gary Lawrence – VP and Chief Sustainability Officer, AECOM; Jeff Nesbit – Executive Director, Climate Nexus; John Rooks – President and Founder, The SOAP Group; Brooke Buchanan – Director of Communications for Sustainability, Wal-Mart.

Perspectives on how to approach different audiences with a different narrative.

Nuggets from the panel:

Words like sustainability cause people’s eyes to glaze over all the time. What do we need to be doing differently? We need to be able to have a conversation. No one will use the word ‘climate’ in Washington right now. Don’t lead with ideas that threaten people’s core beliefs, etc. People seek out ideas that conform to their core beliefs. If you hear something that challenges your core belief, you tune it out or look for it’s fault(s).

You have to tell the story in a compelling way to each audience. We’re passionate but talk about it in sterile terms.

To most people ‘sustainability’ means nothing. Needs to be communicated that it’s about outcomes for humans, not the environment. It’s a great word for companies, executives, etc. but not for regular people. They understand simpler things like clean air, clean water.

The language in the national security and the ‘fundamental’ audiences is vastly different from in the environmental movement.

Wal-Mart does not plan to rate all of their products on their sustainability scale, they are working on it but there are too many.

The word happiness matters, sustainability tends to be all about risk. People like us can make a difference in the future in our species. The language problem is critical, we have to focus on the things that drive people’s daily concerns.

Correlation between evolution denialists & climate denialists – do not talk science with them, should be more about “creation care.” Recycling creates jobs, etc.

“We don’t need to save the planet, the planet will survive, we need to save us.” – Nesbit

We’ve dropped the moral argument, we need to make that argument without finger-wagging.

Empathy is very important when communicating with people who “don’t understand.”

“For the Bible Tells Me So” recommended to watch on Netflix. Unconditional love trumps all in difficult situations.








SXSW Eco Session “Straight to the Point” Community Action, Safe Drinking Water, Ending the Coal Industry…

By Marcie Barnes

Experimental Data Visualization: Leveraging Personal and Community Action

Green Maps can take on different neighborhoods, different issues. Getting people outdoors in Stockholm, biodiversity in Singapore, etc. Can help map corporate social responsibility. Many tools you can repurpose for your community.

Sol Design Lab is creating solar charging stations for bikes, cell phones electric vehicles, etc. Mission: “to create interactive and inspiring solutions for urban sustainability, public art, and design.”

Using Carbon Financing to Provide Sustainable Access to Safe Drinking Water

“Environmental health is directly connected to human health…and social health” Lifestraw is a water filter that works by gravity so it is very clean. Since people are no longer boiling their water, there’s a tangible impact on the carbon market. It’s unique because it’s a way to adapt current regulation to allow for an innovative project.

No More Coal: The Business Case for Ending an Industry

(Gil Friend, CEO of Natural Logic Inc.) Coal from a business perspective purely (not health or environmental). The global subsidy to fossil fuels is range, so say 200 billion. The market value of global coal industry = $155B. If we shut this down and used the money saved on subsidies and shut down the mines, cleaned up all the rivers, air, etc. there would still be money left over. We have a society focused on just the bottom line.

The real costs of a gallon of gas are $15-$20/gallon when you consider subsidies, military, taxes, health effects. Subsidies on fossil = 6x the subsidies on clean energy. These are political decisions, not economic decisions. Nuclear subsidies at 140% the actual energy being produced. Transitions not easy – seeing some movement on wall street – different industries have different risk in terms of carbon, health, etc. Investment shifts are getting attention.

What do we do? Zero out subsidies. Have an “unusual” coalition to take down all subsidies which will shift the favor towards renewables. Demand transparency. Most subsidized companies do not disclose the subsidy amounts (or consider environmental impact, etc.) Get CFOs into the sustainability game. They own risk & value and need to be at the table. “Sometimes the invisible hand needs an invisible foot.”

Keep Austin Neutral – Austin’s Leadership in Climate Protection

They want to be the most livable city in the country. Sustainability is in the core of their city planning, and they are planning with climate change effects in mind. Plan to be using all renewable energy by 2020, have a 100% green vehicle fleet, Austin is the largest city in the country right now buying 100% renewable energy through wind power credits. In the press yesterday because of all this:


SXSW Eco Conference Tuesday Keynote

By Marcie Barnes

Alex Steffen is “one of the world’s leading voices on sustainability, social innovation and planetary futurism” according to his website. He is about to kick off SXSW Eco with the Tuesday keynote titled “Carbon Zero Cities, Unimagined Opportunities and the Risks of Thinking Small.”

3:10: “We are pursing things with great passion…that don’t add up to what we truly need.”

3:11: “If we continue on the path we’re on we have no chance of slowing [climate change] down.”

3:13: “We need to be thinking along the lines of 100% reduction by 2030.”

3:15: “How we measure our emissions has tended to distort the picture a bit.”

3:18: “We really want access to [things we want]…we want to live well” (We don’t have a deep stake in how that life gets delivered).

3:20: “Most emissions come from burning fossil fuels…I totally support clean energy…we simply don’t have the capacities at this moment.”

3:23: “Most of the energy we use is determind by the kinds of systems we live in…the cultures we live in.”

3:25: “Denser communities use less energy.”

3:28: “We’re learning that we can…really increase the amount of people living [in large cities]” [at a profit].

3:30: “People change how they live, what they want.”

3:31: “We need to create spaces where cars understand that they share the road.”

3:35: “Technology is becoming more and more ubiquitous…we can see thing around us in a way we never could before.”

3:38: “Delivery has a much lower footprint than [people going to the mall].”

3:41: “The goal is no longer dream homes, it’s dream neighborhoods.”

3:42: “Cars are a leading cause of a lot of our health problems.”

3:44: “Active lives have true benefits…for many commutes, a slightly longer walk is better than a drive…it’s time you would have spent dead.”

3:45: “Poverty is growing much faster in suburbia than in cities.”

3:48: “Passivhaus Design…dense building have all sorts of green benefits…passive solar homes…district systems…smart metering…”

3:50: “We’ve been buying and using in ways that have been absolutely silly…they would be better used by many people.”

3:54: “Sustainable design…can be boiled down to…the designer…many impacts can be designed away.”

3:55: “We need to change the way we see wealth…there are ineffective and effective forms of wealth.”

3:56: “Many of the things we need to do are impossible or actually illegal under local or state codes.”

4:01: “We are headed into a storm of forces, we want to be the people who help our cities…”

Welcome to! is launching next week from the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, TX. We are very excited to be kicking things off in a big way from big ole Texas, y’all…so go ahead and subscribe to stay right on top of things!

Our goal is to provide a high-quality Green Lifestyle Design news source for our readers that will include investigative eco-reporting from our staff as well as some fantastic, high-quality advice and opinion from some of the world’s best “green” bloggers and writers.

Yee haw!