To a brighter future

To a brighter future

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Things to Know About Getting There Green Day (Updated for 2019)

1) What is Getting There Green Day?
  • It's a way to celebrate the arrival of spring by choosing green transportation options, ways of getting around that use less fuel, cause less smog and release less carbon dioxide.
  • It's a virtual event, so instead of happening in just one place it's happening all around the world, wherever people are choosing green transport options.
  • This is the eighth year of the event. The first was 2012.
2) When is it?
  • It's on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, the first day of spring (or the vernal equinox if you prefer). At least, that's the first day of spring in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where the event originated.
  • It's on the first day of spring every year, in the northern hemisphere at least. The exact date will vary, but we'll let you know when it is each year.
3) Where is it?
  • It's wherever you're going that day, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. So don't change your plans, just give some thought to getting there green.
  • you don't have to "get there green" for the whole day -- if you have lots of trips to take on March 20th, even making just one of them green will help!
  •  By not tying it to one place we made it so that you can take part anywhere in the world.
  • We also thought that by making it a virtual event it won't have a physical event's footprint: energy, litter, wastewater and other impacts. And while a virtual event also has impacts, they'll be a whole lot smaller.
  4) How much does it cost?
  • Nothing. But you may end up saving money by saving fuel. Hope that's okay.
5) How do I take part?
  • We'd love it if you joined the official Facebook event. Find it on the Green Passport page, and click Join. And we'd love it if you Like Green Passport :)
6) Do I have to ride a bike?
  • No. A bike is a great green choice, but it may not be the right choice for everyone, or for every day.  Walking and transit are also good options, but even driving can be greened. Follow the Green Passport updates, and you'll be saving fuel and cutting emissions behind the wheel in no time.
7) May I ride a bike? 
  • Absolutely! You may also walk, take a bus, take a trolley, take a train, take a tahtırevan, run, blade, board, canoe, sail, swim, kayak, row, ski, snowshoe, ride a velo-mobile, ride a recumbent, ride a tricycle, ride a unicycle, ride a horse, ride a mule, ride a screaming goat, ride a camel, ride an ostrich, ride a rickshaw, ride a dogsled, ride a bunny sled ... whew! You may even drive, but please do it green.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Green-tinged Driving (Updated for 2019)

Okay, the first day of spring will be here in a matter of hours, but for a lot of us it's just a date on the calendar, not a bird-chipping, flower-blooming burst of sunshine. Many places are expecting cold, snowy, slushy weather. And check this out:

 That's a lot of anger towards a simple rodent, even one that looks like Mr. Burns. The point is, if you have to drive, then drive -- but give your driving a distinctly green tinge by trying one, two or all of these simple ideas.

1) Check your car's tire pressure

Don't know the correct pressure for your tires? No problem, it's stamped on the side of the tire, right?

       Not right

That number on the tire is the tire maker's recommendation. They made the tire, but not the car.

So that's a door jam. Who knew?

Please read the manual. Just this once?
 But the people who made the car gave this a lot of thought.
So you want their  recommendation, which is either on the door jam or in the owner's manual. And it might be different for the front and rear tires.

Bring the pressure.

Once you know the correct pressure, check your tires with a gauge, either the kind you keep in the glove compartment or the one built into the gas station air pump. Fill as needed, and don't forget the spare!

2) Get the junk out of the trunk

Seriously. You need golf clubs and bags of soil -- in February? And go low-sodium in the summer and leave the salt at home. Same with winter tires. They belong either on the car or in storage -- in a building, not a trunk. Keeping the cargo hold free of extra weight saves fuel. Just ask an airline.

3) Plan your trip and leave early

Simply put, if you're not stressed out as a driver you'll be easier on the gas pedal.
Instead of dashing out the door at your usual time, half-eaten bagel clenched in your teeth and a desperate look in your eye, wouldn't it be nice to stroll casually outside, whistling a cheery tune and smiling at the world? There is a way -- leave early. Nothing drastic, just 5 or 10 minutes. Of course, this will take planning, and planning is what so many of these blog posts have been about. It could mean changing your routine a bit -- but if your routine is that wild-eyed, bagel-chomping dash out the door, how is that a bad thing?

So, 5 or 10 minutes. That means setting the alarm clock 5 or 10 minutes earlier: you get that. But here's the key part: don't do anything else that you didn't do before. This isn't an extra 5 or 10 minutes to do yoga/make pancakes/watch one more cat video -- this is time you've reserved for leaving early, and that's it. Those other things are worth-while -- so many cat videos, so little time -- but if you want them too, get up even earlier.

Leaving early means saving fuel, cutting stress, perhaps better digestive health. That smile and cheerful whistling keeps the neighbours guessing. And you'll find the peace in your heart to forgive the groundhog -- he's just the messenger, after all.

Care to join us? It's simple, fun and free!

Sign up for Getting There Green Day 2019

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Planning for Getting There Green - Part 3 (Updated for 2019)

Planning is useful: you should plan a week ahead

I know, you think that'll never happen. "A week?!" you say, "I can't even plan breakfast!" Fair enough, but you've at least been able to plan things like going out to a movie. Or a week-end at the cottage. Or getting married. Planning for one day when you don't take the car is really not a big deal! Especially if you make it a habit.

You've already started building this habit. Let's recap what you're doing so far:
  1. measuring your fuel purchases and mileage, using a booklet or your receipts
  2. keeping a shopping list and an errands list
  3. checking the weather forecast
Now some motivation. What can planning one day per week when you don't drive do for your wallet and the planet?

 Let's say you drive to work every day, five days a week, in a car that uses 5 L/100 km of diesel. Your commute is 25 km one way, so 50 km per day and 250 km per week. This gives you:

  • 12.5 litres of fuel burned per work week
  • $16.25 spent on fuel per work week (at $1.30/L for diesel)
  • 33.75 kg of carbon dioxide emitted by your diesel-burning car per work week
Over a 50 week work year your commuting (and only commuting, not personal driving) means:

  • 625 litres of fuel burned
  • $812.50 spent on fuel
  • 1 687.5 kg of carbon dioxide emitted (more than the car weighs)
Actually your numbers could be more like double these ones. The car in this example is a scary-efficient diesel Golf; most vehicles do a lot more fuel burning, dollar munching and CO2 spewing than this. But to follow through on the example, getting to work by bicycle -- just to pick an alternative -- even one day per week would mean cutting those numbers by 20%. So you save:

  • 125 litres of fuel
  • $162.50 on fuel
  • 337.5 kg of carbon dioxide
Just by commuting one day per week by bike. It's even better if you can bike more, but I won't be greedy!

So, how to decide which day? Glad you asked!

Where's that shopping list?

Somewhere, probably the kitchen, you've been keeping a list of items you need to buy and errands you need to run. Can't find it? Okay, we'll use mine.

The trick is to break the list down into things that need the car, and things that don't. Or, to turn the idea around, what items could you NOT carry in a shopping bag on foot, or on the bus? In panniers or a backpack on your bike? Now for errands. Which ones can NOT be done on foot, by transit or by bike?

Mark the items/errands that need a car with an  *.  Or circle them, underline them whatever works. But I'm using an  *. You probably get this  >>>

So an oil change, a kitchen sink and garden soil (even one bag is heavy). Could you take care of all three on the same day,  even the same trip? Yes? Oh, I definitely hear "yes"!  But which day? Which day will be your for-sure car day?

We don't know yet: we need to check the weather.

What's the weather doing?

That habit you have of checking the weather forecasts twice a day? Good idea. Here's where it pays off. Even if you don't take screen shots like I do.

This is the 10 day forecast for Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where I live. It's from Foreca.

I've outlined in red any day where it looks like you might get cold, wet and slushy if you walked, took the bus or rode your bike. I looked at the Details for each day to see what to expect in the morning and afternoon commutes: Monday and Thursday look poor enough for red.

A day outlined in red could be a car day, so that means that we may want the car on Monday and Thursday. The others are potential walk or transit or bike days. You've only planned to leave the car at home one day per week, so take your pick. Wednesday is looking so good it's even circled in green!

So are we done deciding on which day to leave the car at home? The day where you'll save 2.5 litres of fuel, 6.75 kg of carbon dioxide and $3.25 you can now spend on good coffee? Just a thought, but Wednesday, 20 March, Getting There Green Day, looks like it's worth the risk!

Dave K
Click here to join us for Getting There Green Day 2019.
It's easy, it's fun and it's free!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fuel Consumption: What To Do With the Numbers (Updated for 2019)

If you know your numbers you'll want to make them better.

Last time I showed you a cool technique for measuring fuel consumption. Now we play with those numbers, which is even more cool, because who really does enough math? But I have to warn you: some images may disturb sensitive drivers. You're about to figure out how much fuel you burn getting around and how much carbon dioxide you leave in your wake. Now for the faint of heart! The good news is that seeing these numbers will probably inspire you to cut down on fuel and CO2 so that we all get a happy Hollywood ending.

To recap, you've been:
  1. filling the tank each time you buy fuel
  2. writing down litres bought, total mileage and trip mileage each time you buy fuel
  3. resetting the trip counter before you leave the gas station, every time
Nice work. Let's get calculating!

You've been writing this stuff down, somewhere.

 We'll start with the basic one, fuel consumption. When I do this I work from the receipts, which I always keep. You may just as easily be working from that driving log booklet you keep in the glove compartment. What matters is that you have
<<< this info:

If you've made a boo-boo and forgotten to record your trip mileage, all is not lost. You can get it by subtracting your total mileage from the total mileage on the receipt from the fill-up before this. Good thing you're writing it down!

Got the calculator ready? Divide the number of litres you bought by the trip mileage. Now multiply the result by 100.

A simple example, from the Land of Easy Math.

Done! You've just calculated your vehicle's fuel consumption between this fill-up and the one before, in

litres per 100 kilometres.

Just like the example  >>>

So after doing that, "are you frightened? Not nearly frightened enough!" (it's from some movie) Perhaps your number is really low, like the example, which is from my diesel standard-shift Golf. Lots of vehicles will give results between 6 and 10 L/100 km. Below this range your vehicle's fuel use could be called  Really Quite Good; above it, would be, well ... Really Not So Good. I'm being somewhat arbitrary, and maybe a bit smug --  diesel standard-shift Golf  -- so if you'd like to make comparisons try Natural Resources Canada or

But if, as Aragorn said, you're "not nearly frightened enough" by that number let's try another one. Carbon dioxide is the second-most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, and being number two it tries harder: it's becoming more abundant over time due mainly to anthropogenic sources, Your vehicle, and mine, are anthropogenic sources. So let's figure out how much CO2 our vehicles emit, starting with mine.

My Golf' may not have feet, but it has a carbon footprint.

To turn the fuel consumption number for my diesel Golf into carbon dioxide released, simply multiply it by 2.7 ... as in diesel engines typically release about 2.7 kilograms of carbon dioxide per litre of fuel burned (2.7 kg CO2/L). >>>

Gas-buring vehicles have a carbon footprint too.

Now it's your turn. If you managed to get the same fuel comsumption of 5 L/100 km, but with a gasoline-burning engine, your numbers would look
<<< like this.

Except you probably wouldn't get those numbers. Diesel engines release more CO2 per litre, but they use a lot less fuel, roughly 65% of what a comparable gas engine uses. So between diesel and gas, diesel is usually the better choice for a smaller carbon footprint.

Is the math over yet? Not quite -- one more conversion for you. A magical way to turn fuel consumption into fuel economy, to make you fluently bilingual in both litres and mpgs.
Do you speak mpgs?

The two slides spell it out. If you were born and raised in L/100 km but want to converse in miles per gallon, go here >>>

It takes longer to say it in L/100 km.

And if your first tongue is mpgs but you want to speak litres like a native,
<<< go here.

Okay, math time is over! This is a starting point for reducing your fuel use, a real-world handle on part of your environmental impact. Reducing it not just by driving more efficiently, but also by making non-car choices. Now that you know your numbers you can do something about them. Sort of like cholesterol.

Dave K

Join us for Getting There Green Day 2019?
It's free, it's fun, and it's wherever you are!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to Measure Your Vehicle's Fuel Consumption (Updated for 2019)

To use less fuel you should know
how much you use now.

Fuel consumption numbers for your vehicle are something you could look up on a site like Natural Resources Canada or Those are the official Canadian and U.S. government sites for fuel efficiency ratings. But why use the government's numbers when it's much more satisfying -- and accurate -- to measure this yourself?

Earlier I suggested that when you drive, you should record your mileage and fuel purchases: this helps you to plan more and drive less. Today we refine your record-keeping and add to it.

Fuel consumption & fuel economy: cousins, not twins.

Now before we get all calculating, I'll be clear. We're looking at  fuel consumption, how much fuel you use to get around. That's related to fuel economy or fuel efficiency (they're, ahem, ... "reciprocal quantities") but not the same thing: look here >>>

Why do you want to know how much fuel you use?

Once you know your vehicle's fuel consumption, you can really commit to lowering it. The numbers make it real: measuring, recording and crunching the numbers makes them yours, so it's personal! Also, once you know fuel consumption you can convert it into fuel economy measures like mpg (miles per gallon) and mpg-imp (miles per imperial gallon). That helps you compare your vehicle to others in cases where they don't use L/100 km.  Plus it gives you another way of looking at how you use fuel. It puts your fuel use down on paper and motivates you to cut it back.

How do you do it?

First of all, keep recording your daily mileage and fuel purchases with that pen and paper (or booklet) you keep in the glove compartment. It's an on-going record of fuel use that lets you figure out your long-term average fuel use (such as a full year), zoom in on a specific time frame (like your summer vacation) or serve as data back-up if you mess up the cool technique I'm about to describe. The cool technique takes discipline and tight control over your vehicle's instrument cluster. And you have to keep your receipts. Are you ready for that?

I hear yes.

Cool Technique for Measuring Fuel Consumption

Start here.
Next time you buy fuel, fill 'er up. Do this every time you buy you buy fuel, forever.

Fill 'er up. Every time.

Now do this...
On the back of the receipt write down how many litres of fuel you bought and your total mileage. In this example total mileage is 141 577 km. Now look at the other number, 415.0 km. That's trip mileage, and the first time you do this it's meaningless: you can't use it. But you'll need it every time after this, so starting next time write it down too.

Total mileage is 141 577 km. Trip mileage is 415.0 km.

 then do this ...

 We need to reset the trip counter to 0 so it can start measuring how far you drive. This usually means holding in the long button next to the display until the number goes to 0.

Reset the trip counter to 0 by holding this button in.

... and you're ready!

From here onward, every time you buy fuel remember these points, in this order:
  1. Always fill the tank.
  2. Record how many litres you bought, total mileage and trip mileage. Either on the receipt or in the booklet.
  3. Reset the trip counter after you get the mileages, and before you leave the gas station. Every time.

So that's the cool approach to measuring fuel consumption, and we're done for now. Next blog I'll explain how to use the numbers you wrote down. You'll be a fuel consumption Jedi!

Dave K

Btw, there's still time to join us for Getting There Green Day 2019.
It's free, it's fun and it's for a great cause!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Planning for Getting There Green - Part 2 (Updated for 2019)

Planning is useful, and we should plan more. 

I promised to give you some tools to make trip planning a habit, to replace the habit of just driving everywhere. Here are three.

Tool # 1: Keep a driving log
    Write down your mileage & fuel purchases.
  • this can be a booklet like the one in the picture (bought at Staples) or just a piece of paper that you promise not to lose. Keep it in the glove compartment, along with a pen or pencil.
  • write down your mileage at the end of each day that you (or someone else) drives that vehicle. Starting mileage and finishing mileage are even better, but at least finishing mileage, please. Remember to put the date :)

  • write down how much fuel you buy, and your mileage when you buy it. And the date.
  • keep a separate log for each vehicle you drive. Label them so they don't get mixed up. 
  • Mobility Geek option If you like, write down every cost associated with each vehicle you drive, and the mileage when each of those costs occurred. Everything from new wiper blades to oil changes to the loonie you paid to put air in the tires. Note: this is optional, but if you're into details you'll love it later on.

Tool # 2:  Make a list

Each week, take a piece of paper (junk mail printed on only one side works well) and draw a line down the middle. Label one half  Shopping list and the other half  Errands. Keep it in the kitchen, or anywhere in the house where a) it's convenient and b) it won't get lost or forgotten.  Don't keep it in the car: you need it to be close at hand.

Make a shopping list. Seriously.
The shopping side is not just for groceries, but anything you need to buy, from any type of store.

The other side is where you list errands that require driving -- or that seem to require driving (hint!).

The division may not make sense yet, but that's why  we have future blog posts.

Tool # 3: Check the weather forecast
Five days good, 10 days better.

You want to get an idea what the weather will be like over the week, not just today. Most sites, such as  AccuWeather , Foreca and  Wunderground, look at least  5 days ahead (that'll do) but go for a 7 to 10 day forecast if you can. It's also helpful if the site offers hour-by-hour predictions for the next 24 hours.

Get used to checking the forecast every day, even twice a day: as part of your wake-up routine, and then later when you're winding down. We're building habits here.

So there they are. Three basic tools that help in  planning for getting there green. They're part of a broader decision-making matrix, but if I 'd said that at the beginning you might have left to watch pointless cat videos on YouTube. Future posts will look at how to use what you write down or look up, but it never gets very complicated. Start recording your mileage, making lists and checking weather forecasts. Class dismissed!

Dave K

Click here to join us for Getting There Green Day 2019.
It's easy, it's fun and it's free!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Planning for Getting There Green - Part 1 (Updated for 2019)

Driving is useful, but we drive too much.

It's a general statement, true. There are people who don't drive, by choice or circumstance, but so many of us do. And for those who do, driving can become an "excuse engine", churning out all sorts of reasons why we should take the car: 

I'm running late. 
It might rain.
It might snow.
It's an oven out there!
It's freezing out there!
It's a beautiful day to have the top down.
It's too far.
I need to run to the store for a few things.
I need to run to the store for a few more things (that I forgot the first time)!

Sound familiar? They are to me ... I've used them all (well, not the "top down" one, but close). And sometimes they're valid. Maybe it is too far. Maybe you don't want to get soaked in a downpour. They just come to mind so easily that we use them to justify taking the car when we don't really need it. We're so used to having cars available (or trucks, SUVs ... pick your motor vehicle of choice) that they're not just useful, they're essential.

Or so we think. We don't often consider the question -- should I drive or get there some other way? -- so driving becomes the automatic choice. The easy choice. But still a choice.

I'm not against driving; I like it (I used to love it, but that's another blog post). I'm also a very informed driver. For years I taught standard shift driving for Young Drivers of Canada, so I had to know my stuff: it was a job requirement. That gave me a unique point of view on how we drive and depend on driving, which leads me to repeat

Driving is useful, but we drive too much.

Taking the car is a habit for so many of us. Not always a bad one, but perhaps a lazy one because we don't give much thought to alternatives. And on the surface the alternatives, like walking, cycling and transit, may not look as good. But scrape away that surface and their value starts to shine: less fuel, less carbon, less expense, better health, better streets, better communities. In order to get that value we need to make driving just one of several choices. Right now, it's our choice by habit. And habits can be changed.

A great way to change a habit is to replace it with a better one, like planning. Here's a thought:

Planning is useful, and we should plan more.

It's hard to plan, though, isn't it? That means thinking ahead; looking things up; even writing things down! Yes it does, but planning is also a key part of making better choices about how you get around. So in the next post, Planning for Getting There Green - Part 2, I'll give you the tools to make it happen, by making it habit.

Dave K
     Click here to join us for Getting There Green Day 2019.
    It's easy, it's fun and it's free!