Category: Development & Transportation

Guest Article: Junk Your Car and Give Something Back

Below is a guest article from Daniel Frank of Giveacar, a British charity that takes donations of cars and either scraps them in an environmentally sound way or auctions off usable cars to raise money for other charities. Groups like this exist in the U.S. as well and should always be on your radar when contemplating getting rid of a vehicle.

Junk your car and give something back: how scrapping your clunker can help lead the way to a more sustainable future

These days, nearly all the choices we make in our consumer purchases – whether they are about our home (or the things we put in it), the clothing we wear, or the food we eat – have a potential impact on our future and our environment.

So too with cars. Given the environmental concerns surrounding increasing car sales, when your current car is at the end of its working life, what’s the best decision to make? Do you sell it for scrap and buy a new, more environmentally friendly model? Do you sell it for scrap, take the ultimate test, and try to live without a car at all?

Over in the UK, where – especially in urban areas – more and more people are choosing to give up their cars, one man, after being inspired by US-based initiatives, has come up with an option for getting rid of your old motor in the most environmentally friendly way possible and giving to a good cause at the same time.  With membership of car clubs nearly doubling from 64,679 in 2009 to 112,928 in 2010, who knows, perhaps people really are beginning to come around to the idea of a more sustainable future when it comes to car-reliance.

Giveacar’s founder Tom Chance started up his car donation fundraising organization – a first in the UK – after realizing two things: firstly, that there was an urgent need to address the environmental consequences of unregulated car disposal in Britain, and secondly, that the car scrap market was an untapped, potentially invaluable source of revenue for charities.

Giveacar offers a free service to its customers. They arrange for the collection and environmentally responsible scrapping and recycling of end-of-life motors. After a small deduction of administrative costs, the proceeds then go to a charity of the owner’s choice.

Over 2 million vehicles come off British roads every year, but half of these are left unaccounted for. They are not scrapped to environmental requirements, which stipulate that all cars must be disposed of at an Authorized Treatment Facility, where hazardous waste and pollutants are safely recovered or removed before the shell is sent off for recycling.

Many of the de-commissioned motors that are unaccounted for end up posing a significant environmental problem, as they are often left abandoned in driveways or by the road, leaching toxins and heavy metals into the ground, while oils and fluids are poured down sewers and drains. What’s more, some are illegally re-introduced onto the roads (after being supposedly junked by a dealer), leading to notable air pollution, not to mention safety, concerns.

Some 90% of the vehicles Giveacar receives are scrapped, and all to the highest possible environmental standards in authorized scrap yards, meaning that many heavy polluting cars are taken off the roads forever. In cases where a car has not reached the end of its life, and in recognition of the environmental costs of producing a new car, it is auctioned, thus generating more funds for charity.

Since it began last year, the Giveacar scheme has raised over $300,000 for over 250 charities, and has taken thousands of heavy polluters off Britain’s roads.

City Sound Tracks – March 27, 2010

On Saturday, March 27th, a first of its kind music / transportation festival called City Sound Tracks will be held in St. Louis. The event’s main purpose is to highlight the importance of transit in the metro area less than two weeks before a very critical vote in St. Louis County on a sales tax increase intended for maintenance and expansion of Metro St. Louis.

The Greater St. Louis Transit Alliance has created a website for the measure, called Prop A, that can be found here. All the information you’d ever need to know about the measure can be found on this site. And remember, the election is on April 6, 2010. If you’re registered in St. Louis County, please vote Yes for Prop A.

As for City Tracks, the festival will highlight the convenience of Metro by holding concerts on dueling stages in two urban neighborhoods of the City of St. Louis. 27 local bands will rock out for 12 hours starting at 10am either Downtown near Union Station or in the Central West End near Tom’s Pub & Grill. A list of the bands can be found on the City Sound Tracks website, where users can also make donations to the cause and buy t-shirts. I recommend you do both.

Whats Up Magazine, a local independent street publication sold by the homeless and disadvantaged, has joined together with Tracking Progress, KDHX, and STL Style to organize this innovative music festival.

Get out to the festival, if even for just a few hours and help support the region’s transit system. It’s the framework upon which this region will grow. Let’s make it big and strong. That’s what she said.

All Things Eco Blog Carnival Volume Eighty Five

All Things Eco Blog Carnival Volume Eighty Five is now available on the All Things Eco Blog. There are some great posts in this carnival on topics ranging from Alternative Energy to Travel and Transportation. Also included is my recent post, “St. Louis County Council Places Transit Tax On The Ballot,” on efforts to raise money for the St. Louis Metro system. Enjoy the carnival.

Aftershock

In response to the earthquake and 40+ aftershocks in Haiti, CNN.com has put up a page up called “What we’re hearing via social media“. The page is streaming updates from Haiti as they’re coming in, and while the page claims to have updates from various social media everything I’ve read so far is from Twitter. That’s not the point though. The point is that the messages coming out of the ravaged country are so serious they almost seem fictitious. Here are a few that caught my attention:

  • “dead bodies are everywhere i havent seen one ambulance or any proffesionl med care anywhere in port-au-prince” From Twitter user fredodupoux in Haiti at 12:58 p.m. ET Wednesday
  • “Night has fallen..the night seems to take so long..I guess those that are buried alive in the rubble are feeling it the worst..Prayers.”. –From Twitter user RAMhaiti in Haiti at 8:55 p.m. ET Wednesday
  • “I saw a collapsed building today..it may have been 8 or 9 stories.it looked like 8 or 9 pieces of bread one on top of the other..survivors?” –From Twitter user RAMhaiti in Haiti at 9:04 p.m. ET Wednesday

Yikes. If you want to help it seems that sending cash to the American Red Cross is the best way.

You can donate $10 to Haiti relief by texting “Haiti” to 90999

I confimed the above on the website of the American Red Cross. Over $3 million had been raised by 8:00 a.m. Central Time this morning. To a see state-by-state totals of what’s been raised you can go here. Hopefully more and more is pouring in. And more importantly, I hope these dollars can be translated into help, on the ground, as quickly as possible.

St. Louis County Council Places Transit Tax On The Ballot

I just got this from Citizens for Modern Transit this morning:

The St. Louis County Council voted in December to place a ½ cent general sales tax on the ballot on April 6 for transit operations and expansion including MetroLink. Without the passage of this measure, Metro will be cutting more than 30 percent of it service to area residents – a significantly larger cut than in 2009 which had devastating effects on area employees and employers. Without the passage, these effects will be even greater.

If you would like to volunteer to help on the measure, contact info@cmt-stl.org.

The passage of this tax is absolutely necessary to the sustained growth of the St. Louis region. The train and bus system – along with other services like Call-a-Ride – are an integral part of the transportation infrastructure. These services need to be expanded, not contracted, to help St. Louis attract new jobs and maintain the ones it already has. If you have any time, please email the address provided above to see how you can help. I’m sure Metro and Citizens for Modern Transit could use every ounce of help it gets. I’m also fairly certain that you could do things as simple as write letters to help the cause.

If you want to learn more about Metro, all it has to offer and what it could mean to the region in the future, visit The Greater St. Louis Transit Alliance. Here you’ll find statistics on Metro, a list of all the organizations that support this tax and much more. This tax was on the ballot last November and failed by only a small margin. Don’t think of this as another cost during a recession but rather a small investment by each of us that will have lasting economic benefits for the entire region.

The voters of St. Louis City have already approved this measure but need the County to pass it as well to make it happen. I’m not sure what the new proposition will be called but if you’re a registered voter in St. Louis County please vote yes. Please talk to your friends and family about the measure too. If you’ve ever been to a big, vibrant city you have undoubtedly noticed an efficient and comprehensive public transit system. One can not exist without the other. Go Metro!

Ship Me Some Words

My writing is grinding to a near halt. I’m at 22,477 words, which is not that much further than I was last time I checked in. I aim to do some catching up this weekend but I fear that 50,000 word by the end of November is out of the question at this point. Only time will tell if I achieve the goalbut I will not consider my NaNoWriMo experience a failure under any circumstance. I have almost half of a book already written, which is quite amazing in and of itself. I’m not saying it’s any good but still, it’s written. Go me.

The time for buying lots of crap is upon us. I was thinking about the cost of shipping good versus going to the store to buy them. Tell me if this makes sense. Isn’t it more efficient for someone already out making deliveries to add one stop to his route instead of a consumer making a special trip to the store to buy something? I’m thinking that if goods are already being shipped from Point A to points B1, B2, etc . . . what’s wrong with adding Bx to that list? I live in a 100-unit condo building. The UPS guy is there every day. Is it more efficient for him to stop in front of my door in addition to the other dozen or so units he visits or for me to get in my car and drive all the way to Best Buy to get something?

I know I’m not considering the packing and freight implications but the merchandise still has to be shipped to a destination, whether it be a retail chain or a residence. Granted, shipping in bulk to Target is more efficient than individually delivering packages but what’s missing from that equation is that the goods are of no use if they stay in Target. It takes thousands of people in thousands of cars driving and increasing traffic and parking and idling to complete the chain.

We need to make packing more efficient and environmentally friendly, to be sure. But, if we can make delivery vehicles greener then I can see home delivery of goods paralleling public transit. My home would be just another stop on a daily traveled route. This logic holds up more in urban areas than in suburban and rural areas but hopefully you can see my point. Why if I live in a dense area that’s already served by shipping companies would I create more carbon monoxide by firing up my car? And, the more the UPS guy delivers in my building, the higher his “packages per gallon of fuel” becomes.

Quantity Over Quality & Dancing To Keep The Lights On

Twenty one thousand, three hundred and thirty nine words. See how I added more words than necessary? The irony in this writing exercise is to scribe as many words as possible while trying to maintain some semblance of terse writing. Clearly the former has to give to the latter to hit the 50,000 word goal, at least for the first draft.

I read a very interesting story yesterday about a group of people who’ve gotten together to form the Electricfication Coalition. The group recently published a road map to the electrification of the United States, the primary objective of which is to make at least 75% of automobiles run on solely electricity by 2040. Personally, I’d like the target percentage to be higher or the target date to be sooner. Given not everyone will want or be able to convert come the deadline, I would recommend pushing to date up to 2030 or 2035. Let’s do this people.  I’ve downloaded the report and plan to flip through it at least; it’s one hundred and eighty pages (see, I did it again!).

The electricity the automobiles will use to charge batteries will come from somewhere, and part of this task is to make those sources more renewable. No oil, no gas and for mother nature’s sake, no coal. Let’s use the sun and the wind and the waves to power our movement. There’s already technology being tested to make nanotechnology-powered personal battery packs that will recharge just by moving around. Wouldn’t it be great to have our exercise equipment tied to a smart grid such that people could earn money by working out and generating power in surplus of their daily use? There are endless possibilities, the simplest being charging your mobile phone while walking. The mid boggles at the possibilities.

Slow Words, Slower Traffic

My writing pace has slowed considerably but I’ve allotted some time this weekend to catch up on my novel. I crossed the 14,000 word mark last night but should really be somewhere north of 20,000. A short work trip earlier this week really skunked it for me. That being said, the novel is progressing better than expected. The plot is coming together and feels neither formulaic nor trite, yet. I need to keep the momentum going though as Thanksgiving and its associated activities will surely lessen my production. 50,000 here I come.

While on my business trip earlier this week to our fair neighbor to the north, Chicago, I made a terrible, terrible mistake. I took a taxi from downtown to Midway airport when trying to get out of town and got every bit of the torture I deserved for not using public transit. To make sure you understand the stupidity of my decision I should also tell you I lived in the Chicago area for five years and know exactly how to use the City’s transit system. The trip took over 45 minutes as well, a good quarter-hour longer than the train would have taken.Traffic was unbelievably bad and I was made car sick by the constant stop and go. If you think I’m exaggerating about getting sick you would be wrong. I posted my mistake on Facebook and within hours was chided by friends and family for the dumbness of my decision but was also provided with stories of people actually having to pull over and vomit during the very same trip.

If anyone in the Chicago area is looking for business ideas I think selling saltine crackers (or something stronger) on the side of the Highway 55 South would net you at least $100,000 a year. If you’d rather not pace up and down a highway, perhaps you’d fancy opening a brake shop. One thing I know is that a tremendous amount of gasoline is burnt unnecessarily when traffic is jammed. This is the brilliance of eletric/gas hybrid technology. While it’s only a bridge to the future of individual transportation, which is pure electric automobiles, it helps reduce the massive waste of fuel and wear and tear on engines caused by idling.

Myself, More Sustainable

I’ve made progress on the plot of my soon-to-be-written blitz of a novel. I’m trying not to think of it too much as recommended by previous NaNoWriMo participants and the founder of the whole torturous exercise so as to not become overwhelmed by details. ‘nuf said, else I’ll be overwhelmed by details.

Took a minor road trip from work today to visit the site of a new project I’m working on. The location, while decent in and of itself, is so incredibly far from the center of the city that it blows my mind people live there. We drove by entire other cities to get to this place, and if you asked people there where they were they would have said St. Louis. Bullshit, you are not in St. Louis.

As you can see, I’m trying to be freer in verse.

The best news from a sustainability perspective I’ve heard all week is that Fisker Automotive is going to build an eletric car facility. It will be in Delaware . . . did I mention it will be a facility that builds electric cars?! I suppose the screen door factor was losing its luster. I kid . . .

I’m going with a few people (wife and others) to a tea cupping tonight. Man alive that sounds dirty. Numerous people have commented that it might as well be called a tea bagging. “NO!” I say. One definition of tea bagging is very sexual in connotation and the other has to do with the demonstrations of conservative wing nuts, who for some reason could not think of a better name for their ill-conceived protests. Tea cupping, if you don’t know, and I didn’t until I read about it, is a tea tasting. Hopefully I learn a little somethin’ somethin’.

I’m enjoying the new free form green | rising. The underlying theme of what I post will still be sustainability but with less focus on the science and policy of it. One of the many definitions of sustainability I’ve read reads, “to keep up or keep going, as an action or process”. In the most general interpretation of the word, this applies to everything and everyone, from society to myself. The NaNoWriMo endeavor I’m about to embark counts toward this. Writing a book is something I’ve always wanted to try, and by making an effort (and hopefully succeeding), I will be making my own life more sustainable through risk taking, accomplishment and perhaps even failure.

“Super” Centers

I spent some time in a “super” center today. You know what I’m talking about – a warehouse the size of a city block that offers everything you could ever want except automobiles and health care. From an efficiency standpoint, I understand the attraction. These behemoths offer one-stop shopping. Need underwear? Check. Need Bananas? Check. Hell, I could see the bananas from the underwear section. Yikes.

So what’ s the problem? I suppose it’s that these stores are very imposing and poorly integrated into communities. They’re surrounded by massive, non-porous parking lots. Yes, I know, how else are people going to get everything they’re buying home if not in their automobiles . . .

What if these things were built underground instead of on land? While the battle of massive chain stores versus independent retailers wouldn’t be resolved, at least society would benefit from a planning perspective. Could you imagine acres of housing and community space existing above a one-stop shop? Man alive that would be great. Just hit “S” on the elevator and the door would open into the store; carry your supplies upstairs in reusable bags and you’re set. When you’ve finished changing underwear or eating bananas then you could go outside into a community park and walk the dog or catch up with neighbors.

I dream of places that do not yet exist. Nothing practical stands between my imagination and reality but the unwillingness of people to change and adapt. Let’s take these closed car dealerships and factories and turn them into vibrant, environmentally-friendly miniature cities. Let’s start tomorrow.