Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Green Observations from the Road

When capitalism gets behind environmentalism, changes happen more quickly.
Two examples of this from The Great American Green Road Trip were hotels and baseball stadiums.

There is still plenty of waste in the hotel industry, mini shampoo bottles and tiny bars of soap to name just two, but there were signs of responsible living. At most of the hotels, the lighting in the room was either fluorescent or compact fluorescent lights or a combination of the two. This increases energy efficiency, reduces waste and saves money. At a number of the hotels, there were signs encouraging guests to use towels more than one day. The hotels had placards describing how much water is used washing towels and they described how to inform their maid staff of a guests desire to use the towels more than once.

Major League Baseball was another example of capitalism encouraging people to live responsibly. Every baseball park we visited on this trip had recycling containers for plastic, glass, and aluminum. The containers were highly visible and numerous. Some of the parks went beyond the recycling bins. Whether it was solar powered sign boards, re-usable shopping bag give-aways, highlighting hybrid cars in fan drawings or serving some food in reusable containers, MLB was showing it's green side. Of course, baseball, like the rest of us has many areas that they can improve to live more responsibly, but they are taking steps in the right direction and we need to applaud that.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Great American Road Trip ends

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #15

Day #15 brings the Great American Green Road Trip to an end.
(Actually, we pulled in the home drive at 5:00am of Day #16, but close enough

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library was our main stop today, as we drove the 16 hrs home. This was my first presidential museum and it was fantastic.

With the trip over, how did the Prius do?

We traveled 8,539 miles, driving in cities like Denver, Seattle, and Milwaukee and small towns like Selma, AL Greensburg, KS, and West Yellowstone, Wy. We crossed the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains twice, reaching 9,000' above sea level at one point. We cruised passed cattle ranches, corn, wheat, alfalfa and soy bean fields in the flat lands of our nation's breadbasket. All this driving took only 175 gallons for a overall average of 48.79 mpg., not a bad result.

Our 15 day road trip with hours spent behind the wheel disproved two of the criticisms of hybrids. The Prius handled like a dream and even after hours of continual driving, it was comfortable to drive.

There are many options for responsible auto selections out there and a hybrid is not the only choice. Electric, clean diesel, and flex fuel are just a some of the options. Even some of our regular gas vehicles get high mileage. Pick the vehicle that fits your personal taste and wallet, just add fuel efficiency and emission control as part of your criteria.

More green observations from the road tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #14

Wisconsin helped us raise the mileage to 43 mpg. Even the city driving in Milwaukee came in at 43 mpg.

Like all the other stadiums we visited on this road trip, Miller Park had recycling containers for plastic, aluminum and glass. In looking back over the 4 stadiums we visited, I would say that Coors Field and Safeco Field led the way in green options for baseball fans. They went beyond the minimum of a few recycling bins.

Here are a few photos from today:

Lake Michigan

The Milwaukee River

The Fonz!

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #13

We drove for 12 hrs today, visiting 6 states and having a 42.8 mpg from the Prius. I think one of the reasons for the slightly lower mileage is that the speed limit for most of the last 10 states has been 75 mph. As we get back to 65 mph, I think the mileage will go up.

Some folks have wondered if wind turbines will overwhelm the land they are on. From what we have seen across the country, the answer is a resounding NO. Farmers can still grow crops, like below or graze their cattle under the calmly turning turbine arms. In fact, in many places, farmers make extra money from leasing the land for the turbines.

Near Preston, MN, we saw the largest collection of wind turbines yet. There were hundreds of them. Their massive arms sweep leisurely and generate much energy, while leaving the land they stand on available for other uses. I must say that I see a majesty when I look at them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #12

Today, the Prius carried us up to Mount Rushmore and across the entire state of South Dakota with stops at Wall Drug and the Corn Palace with a 42.7 mpg average.

In my last post, I mentioned all the green changes Yellowstone is making. I was reminded of one of the changes when we visited Mount Rushmore.

The "wooden" steps and boardwalk are not actually wood. They are plastic lumber made from discarded plastic containers. At Old Faithful, the 30,000 square foot boardwalk uses the equivalent of 4 million discarded milk jugs.

Here's another example that our recycling efforts do make a difference.

Here's an example of re-using, every year the city of Mitchell, SD rebuild the facade of the Corn Palace with fresh corn cobs, stalks, husks, etc. Ok, so it really isn't reusing, but it is a pretty cool use of corn.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #11

We crossed the Rockies, reaching the height of 8500ft above sea level. We drove around Yellowstone National Park and across the entire state of Wyoming at 42.7 mpg, another good day

This is Yellowstone National Park:

Old Faithful



Lots of Bison

This also is Yellowstone:

All over the park are recycling containers like these for glass, plastic and aluminum, but Yellowstone hasn't stopped at adding a few recycling bin. In 2008, Yellowstone recycled:
119 tons of newspapers, office paper and magazines
22 tons of aluminum and steel
318 tons of glass
44 tons of plastic containers
278 tons of cardboard
13,000 small propane cylinders, using a machine developed by a Yellowstone park employee and
funded by Yellowstone Park Foundation
150 tons of tires

They have added 17 hybrids to their fleet of vehicles. All of their diesel powered vehicles run on a 20% blend of industrial grade vegtable oil and deisel and 40 employees participate in a Ride-Share program.

They have installed solar panels and are using greener techniques in the building of the new Visitors center.

It is great to see our nation's first national park leading the way in responsible green living.

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #10

Crossing the Cascade Mountains and driving across most of Montana and the Prius still got 42.4 mpg. I was talking to the clerk at our hotel in West Yellowstone, MT and she told me that her parents get 60 mpg on average there. I think if I were used to driving in the mountains, I might be getting better mileage, but 42.5 mpg is still good.

Here are a few photos to demonstrate what we are trying to protect.

This is just a glimpse of the wonderful country we have and what we need to protect. Even the smallest actions count.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day # 9

We are holding fast at 42.5 mpg while driving around the hilly area around and in Seattle. Still good numbers

36% of Seattle residents ride their bicycles for recreational and 4,000-8,000 residents ride daily. Seattle is making a concerted effort to promote biking. Below you see one of the bike stands the city is placing around the city. Seattle has about 28 miles of shared use paths, 22 miles of on-street, striped bike lanes, and about 90 miles of signed bike routes. The folks that do the biking in this city are truly dedicated because it is extremely hilly, so I take my hat off to Seattle and it's bike friendly ways

The Seattle Mariners, like the other major league parks we have visited on this trip have their fan friendly plastic bottle recycling bins that you see below.

But leave it to Seattle to take the idea of recycling further. Below is a photo of a recycling garage that accepts plastic, paper, aluminum, and compost items

Seattle seems to be one of the greenest cities we have visited so far.

Day 8 photos

The Hood River

Public transportation in Portland

At the Portland Saturday Market:

Jen gets a henna tatto
Eric gets cheesecake on a stick!

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #8

Crossing the Cascade Mountains had similar results that the Rockies produced for the Prius, 42.4 mpg. I like having this car, esp. since gas prices here in Wash. are around $2.90.

The Hood River that runs along the WA/OR border is a strong river and the area seems to have strong winds, which is probably why there were hundreds of wind turbines on the hills on either side of the river. These pictures are not the clearest, but you get the idea.

Day 7 photos

Breakfast plates at the Iron Skillet
Laramie, Wy

Prairie dogs are fun

Wyoming is awesome!

The Great Salt Lake, Utah

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #7

Crossing the Rocky Mountains today brought the lowest mileage yet of the trip: 42.7 mpg. I think 42.7 mpg is pretty good mileage for driving through Wyoming, visiting the Great Salt Lake in Utah and ending up in Idaho.

One of the alternatives to fossil fuels is wind power. Here are a few shots of wind turbines in Wyoming. These things are huge, but rather than ruining the beauty of the surrounding area, they are majestic additions. Wind power won't replace fossil fuels, but they can help reduce our use of fossil fuels and we should be looking for all possible alternative sources.

Day 6 Photos

We're enjoying the Garden of the Gods

Rock formation that looks like praying hands

"Take us out to the ball park."

The Rockies beat the Rays