About Hunter Greene

• Name: Hunter Greene Age: 33 • Family Members: Kelly Greene (sister), Olive Greene and Forrest Greene (mom and dad) • Biography: Born on April 22 (Earth Day), 1978 to Forrest and Olive Greene of Peoria, Illinois, Hunter Greene recognized his purpose in life, saving the world – one carbon footprint at a time. From an early age he began living off the grid, making alternative transportation choices and is currently studying alternative energy engineering in college. Through his studies, Hunter recognized that he couldn’t master the task at hand alone which is why he has started a grassroots effort, “Driving Change in the Heart of Illinois.” His campaign mission is to motivate the public to make better choices for themselves and the environment.

Lightless Streets

Stop LightAs I was driving home from dinner yesterday (don’t worry, we carpooled!), I literally ran into every single red light along War Memorial Drive.  I tried to speed up, but it was no use, because if you hit one, you hit them all.  Making the situation even more frustrating was the fact that there were minimal cars on the road.  I had to stop for three minutes just to let one measly car get through the intersection.  Despite the obvious (or what I thought to be obvious) safety benefits of traffic lights, I couldn’t help but begin to daydream about a world without them.

Apparently, my daydream isn’t all that far-fetched.  According to Hans Monderman, the Dutch engineer who originated the idea of shared space, “red lights and speed limits take away our capacity for socially responsible behavior on the road.”  He even went so far as to say, “When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.”

Cities around the world have begun to try out “naked streets,” and have found that traffic does become more efficient.  It makes sense; lightless streets require drivers to think and to pay attention.  With our complex transportation systems of traffic lights, yield signs and left-turn lanes, drivers are turned into robots that are not responsible for making decisions, but for following instructions.  Drivers that are made to be consistently aware of their surroundings become safer drivers.  They notice the biker on the side of the road and the pedestrian crossing the street, for example.

Another added benefit to lightless streets?  Improved fuel efficiency.  For instance, drivers might race up to red lights, stopping only when the light orders them to stop.  As we learned from a previous blog, aggressive driving is a no-no for fuel efficiency!  Drivers should drive like they are riding a bike.  “While on a bike, you have a natural tendency to conserve your energy and coast to red lights.”  Not only would this help drivers be less aggressive with the gas pedal, but also, more aware drivers are slower drivers.  And again- slower driving = better fuel efficiency!

Now, I’m not saying that we should go out tomorrow and remove the traffic light at the intersection of University and War Memorial.  Doing something so drastic without warning would cause a lot of stress, chaos and potential wrecks.  However, it is important to think outside of the box and realize that there is more than one way to design our transportation systems.

Check out the links below to see how communities across the world are re-imagining their streets!

London:

http://www.pps.org/blog/shared-space/http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/london-seeks-to-reduce-congestion-by-eliminating-traffic-lights/

http://www.wilsonquarterly.com/article.cfm?AID=1234

Portishead, England:

http://thecityfix.com/blog/naked-streets-without-traffic-lights-improve-flow-and-safety/

Auckland, New Zealand

http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/council/projects/cbdproject/sharedspace.asp

Bohmte, Germany

http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/09/11/us-germany-traffic-odd-idUSGOR14512420070911

Drachten, Netherlands; Christianfield, Denmark; Suffolk and Wiltshire, England; West Palm Beach, Florida:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html

Sources:

http://www.good.is/post/would-roads-be-safer-and-greener-without-red-lights-1/

http://www.good.is/post/goodbye-sidewalks-london-planners-break-down-boundaries-between-cars-and-peds/

http://www.pps.org/articles/hans-monderman/

http://www.pps.org/blog/shared-space/

Start 2012 off Right- 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Driving Emissions

Happy New Year my fellow clean air advocates!  I always love the start of a new year.  I feel refreshed, motivated, and ready to take on the world!  Many of you have probably made a long list of your New Year’s resolutions, and if you are anything like me, the list is overwhelmingly long.

Sometimes, our resolutions can seem unattainable and intimidating, but if we remember to be patient and understand that it is perfectly okay to take baby steps, we can all eventually attain even our most daunting goals.

As you know, my ultimate goal is to save our Earth by making environmentally friendly choices.  Perhaps this is a goal of yours too, but you just don’t know where to begin, or the task seems out-of-reach, time-consuming, expensive, etc.

Today I want to show you that you don’t have to sacrifice your current lifestyle to make smarter choices for yourself and for our environment.  Below is a list of ten simple ways to live a greener life by reducing your driving emissions.

  1. Accelerate Smoothly- Driving less aggressively and with slower acceleration will save you money and reduce the amount of fuel you use, which is great for your pockets and for our Mother Earth.
  2. Stick to the speed limit- I know, I know, sometimes the speed limit seems to be set at turtle speed, and if you follow it, you won’t make it to your destination until next year.  But all you speed demons out there beware- the Energy Saving Trust estimates that by travelling at 85 miles per hour, you use 25 percent more fuel than at 70.  Please reduce your speed to save money and our planet!
  3. Turn the heat down a tad, and/or turn it off 5 minutes before you reach your destination- I realize that it’s cold outside, but do you really need to create a desert-like climate in your vehicle?  Keep that heat at room temperature to save on fuel.  You can also reduce fuel consumption by turning your heat off 5-10 minutes before you reach your destination.  This doesn’t add up to much in emission reduction, but remember- baby steps!
  4. Remove roof racks- Anything that worsens the aerodynamics of a car also worsens the fuel economy, so remove your roof racks and bike racks when they aren’t in use.
  5. Reduce the weight of your car- It’s easy for your car to become a second closet.  Those golf clubs that haven’t been used since last spring?  Take them out!
  6. Check your tire pressure- Find out what your car’s correct tire pressure should be, and try to keep it at this level.  Not having your tires at the recommended pressure can make a huge impact on how much fuel you consume.  You can measure your pressure for free at most gas stations, and you can fill them up for minimal cost ($0.25 at most places).
  7. Turn the engine off when stationary- There’s no need to turn your car off every time you come to a red light.  However, if you are in a traffic jam, waiting in a long line, or expect to be otherwise held up for more than three minutes, turn your engine off.
  8. Don’t make really small journeys- Cold engines use twice as much fuel as warmed up ones.  Short journeys won’t allow your car to warm up, so plan ahead and don’t make more trips than you need to.
  9. Use parallel parking- Unfortunately, this is now a lost art.  They aren’t even teaching it in Driver’s Ed anymore.  We use 5 pounds of CO2 every 10 minutes we spend looking for another parking space.  Learn this skill and save time, money and the environment.
  10. Use more right turns- I know it sounds silly, but this does help!  Turning right is easier, quicker and more convenient, which means less time driving and less fuel consumed.

I hope this list makes all of you feel less overwhelmed about living a greener lifestyle.  Every little thing you do helps, and the small stuff does add up to big successes eventually!  For fun, why don’t you start a contest with yourself or with friends and family?  Who can reduce their fuel consumption the most each week?  Tracking your progress and being competitive about it can really motivate you to live a greener lifestyle.

Happy green driving!

Sources

http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/home/1083620/top_10easy_ways_to_make_driving_greener.html

http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/emissions-reduction-tips.htm

 

Times Square’s pedestrian makeover improves air quality

There has been a lot of talk in Peoria lately about making areas more pedestrian-friendly.  A major component of the Warehouse District project is to encourage development around pedestrian and non-motorized transportation, and the Campaign for a Walkable West Bluff has been advocating walkability along Main Street for several years.  Both of these projects cite improved air quality as one of the many benefits of pedestrian-oriented spaces, and a recent project in New York supports this assertion.

According to the New York City Community Air Survey, air quality in Times Square was improved after New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg halted vehicular traffic on Broadway between 42nd Street and 47th Street in 2009.  Initially, the idea was to improve pedestrian safety and help traffic flow more smoothly in Midtown, Manhattan; improved air quality was just an added benefit.  Levels of Nitrogen Oxide decreased by 63 percent, and levels of Nitrogen Dioxide fell by 41 percent.  These are good pollutants to get rid of; nitrogen dioxide has been shown to destroy your lungs and may be a cause of Sudden Infant Death syndrome!

If you’re interested, the video below shows Day 1 of this pedestrian experiment.  People are lounging in plastic lawn chairs while eating breakfast or working on their laptops.

 

Fortunately, the Mayor’s experiment was very successful, and the pedestrian space has been made permanent.

I’d love to see a plastic lawn chair takeover occur in downtown Peoria!

Sources

http://www.warehousedistrictpeoria.com

http://www.walkablewestbluff.org/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/arts/design/alexander-garvin-looks-at-public-spaces-in-new-york.html?pagewanted=1&sq=times%20square%20pedestrian%20&st=cse&scp=4

http://www.good.is/post/it-works-taking-cars-out-of-times-square-really-improved-the-air/

http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem.c0935b9a57bb4ef3daf2f1c701c789a0/index.jsp?pageID=mayor_press_release&catID=1194&doc_name=http://www.nyc.gov/html/om/html/2011a/pr120-11.html&cc=unused1978&rc=1194&ndi=1

Air quality at its worst

I’ve been coming across a lot of stories about the air quality nightmare that China has become. Check out these pictures from an outdoor camera in China:

The first and last picture aren’t screwed up – that’s the air! Over 200 flights have had to be cancelled due to low visibility from poor air quality.

The air quality is so bad that recent studies have shown that if the air quality in Beijing reached the air pollution levels in Los Angeles, the life expectancy of Beijing’s residents could increase by over five years! Yes, our Los Angeles, the one with some of the most polluted air in the United States. Even worse, medical experts quoted by the China Daily said that” lung cancer has climbed 60% over the past decade, even while the number of smokers has remained steady.”

On the positive side, the residents of Beijing have begun standing up for themselves and are pushing to make the Chinese government enforce higher air quality standards.

Sources:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/12/china-air-quality-catastrophe-its-back/249479/

http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/12/06/snow-falling-on-smog-is-there-any-hope-for-beijings-air/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/11/us-china-pollution-idUSTRE7AA30420111111

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-12/02/content_14206186.htm