Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Antidote to Despair: Moving Forward

As scientists continue to reveal new evidence of the declining state of the biophysical systems upon which we depend for our existence, the nightly news seems to reinforce the consequences of these findings. We witness an almost daily stream of bulletins about record drought, heat waves, wild fires, extreme storms, floods, extinctions, and evidence of oceans more degraded than previously thought. This knowledge of environmental degradation can lead to feelings of fear, sadness, grief and despair.

Paul Gilding, in his new book, The Great Disruption, talks about despair “as a necessary stage we must all go through when confronted by the enormity of the challenges to sustainability our society faces today. It is in fact a positive sign and an indication of coming to the end of denial. On sustainability, most people start with denial – there is no serious problem. Then comes what we’ll call ‘denial breaking down’ – a more or less intellectual acknowledgement of the science up to a point, but without fully accepting the factual implications and emotional reactions that full acknowledgement would bring. Then comes full despair, sometimes with fear and anger on the way through.”

“My conclusion,” he states, “is that feeling despair at some point means you’ve genuinely and fully acknowledged the facts.”

Gilding goes on to say, “But while despair is a stage I think we all need to arrive at, individually and collectively, it’s also one that we can and must move through.” He adds, “The easiest way to do that is to go forward. We act. We start doing things.”

Artist Chris Jordan deals with his eco-despair through his art in several journeys to Midway Island to document the effect of plastics on the albatross, but also to witness a place of great natural beauty. Don't miss his Midway Project.

Positive action, going forward, according to Gilding, is the antidote to despair and the pathway to solving the problems we face. By moving forward, we are not immobilized by feelings of grief or powerlessness. By moving forward, we don’t slide back into denial or apathy or numbness. We engage.

Part of my job involves working with 18 student sustainability interns on initiatives they lead in collaboration with various university departments and community agencies. Each has an academic mentor to guide their scientific research and each also has an operational mentor to assist with implementation of their solution on campus or in the community. Some do express feelings of fear, anger, despair and frustration with the pace of the mankind’s response to these urgent challenges. Those are the ones who understand the depth and breadth of the response that will be required to turn destruction into regeneration. Those are the ones who end up going forward and they take all of us with them.

We are recruiting the next class of sustainability interns this month, from scores of qualified applicants. They will be challenged with large, complex problems and they will find their way through. Keep an eye out for them.

In them behold the antidote to despair and a reservoir of hope for our collective future, moving forward.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Late Summer Perspective from a Mountain Pass

A mountain goat ten feet away looks up at me with curious eyes and tilted head, as if to ask, “what are you doing up here?” Behind him the horizon recedes to infinity beyond Lake McDonald, 3,300 feet below. We stand together atop Lincoln Pass in Glacier National Park, sharing a spectacular panoramic view of the Whitefish Range.

My morning hike began at the historic Sperry Chalet, a rustic stone compound that was finally opened for the summer season the day before. It had been nearly scraped off its lofty perch on Gunsight Mountain by a winter avalanche that swept an adjacent pine grove into oblivion with unimaginable force.

Fresh grizzly tracks in the snow next to mine -- perhaps left by the mother bear and her cubs spotted in the area the day before -- enhance my ability to see, hear, and smell. Every hair is on full alert. My heart and lungs labor in the high altitude. Warm sunshine takes the chill out of the breeze coming off the snowpack. Distant waterfalls, fed by hanging lakes and rapidly melting snow, whisper a background track for the bright songs of alpine sparrows and finches. Clumps of brilliant green and yellow glacier lilies push up through the snow at my feet.

No AT&T bars exist here to imprison my mind with unimportant emergencies and unnecessary information. Spared from breaking news, email, texts, and phone calls for the past few days, my mind is clear, relaxed and focused.

My surefooted companion scampers easily where I have to tread clumsily with crampons and ski poles to avoid sliding down the snowfields. His cloven hooves, evolved to spread apart and grip the snow, serve him well as he frolics in his realm without a care.

My eyes soak in a scene with infinite detail at all scales, from the luminous fractal lichens on the rocks in front of me to the layered colors of mountain ranges rolling out like waves in the distance. Some are painted with the brilliant golden light of the morning sun, while others are gently caressed by the shadows of watercolor clouds. How many thousand millennia have passed in the making of this glorious scene? No photo could ever capture the grandeur and abundance of this view. I could stand here for a lifetime and not see it all and I know it will change in the next moment.

“What am I doing here? I am trying to be present in this lovely place with you, my woolly friend. Thanks for sharing your home with me.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Last Spacecraft

The last shuttle, the 1985-model Atlantis, is preparing to end an era of manned space flight when it glides back to Kennedy Space Center on July 20.

Remembering the space program that grew up with my generation, I am drawn back to Christmas Eve 1968, when millions of us were glued to TV sets to watch the first humans to leave Earth’s orbit attempt to enter lunar orbit over two-hundred-million miles away aboard Apollo 8.

We Earthlings were ready for some good news. The long and divisive war in Vietnam had taken a nasty turn with the Tet Offensive. Assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy shocked our spirits. Soviet tanks put down Prague’s move toward democracy. This was a year when we were at our worst, but we still hoped for the best.

Miscalculation of complex maneuvers to leave earth orbit and later enter lunar orbit would either create another lunar crater or catapult Apollo 8 on an endless orbit around the sun. Using computing power comparable to today’s pocket calculators along with a sextant, the crew, consisting of Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Frank Borman, attempted to maneuver their tiny craft into position with timed rocket and thruster burns while we watched and listened.

The critical burn was made on the dark side of the moon where radio signals could not reach. It was one of the most agonizing periods of silence ever broadcast. Millions exhaled in simultaneous cheers when the crew finally resumed contact, precisely where they needed to be.

Astronaut Bill Anders loaded a handheld Hasselblad with color film and snapped an image that is forever stuck in our collective psyche; a lonely blue planet rising above the cratered gray surface against the black background of space. One space capsule took a photo of another space capsule. Both were equipped with limited capacity to support life in the hostile vacuum. One was designed to do so for 147 hours; the other for eons. One had a fixed number of three passengers; the other had 3.5 billion, which will double to 7 billion sometime this summer.

As the shuttle program ends, perhaps it is time to turn our attention to the lonely blue mother ship in that 1968 image. Another 75 million souls climb aboard each year. The gauges show the temperature is rising. Water, food, and fuel limits are becoming increasingly apparent. The O-rings and the heat shields are showing some damage.

We get one chance for a course correction and it happens on our watch. While we still have a choice, will we choose our worst, or will we choose to be our best?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What is the Most Deadly Disaster Likely to Strike Indianapolis?

What is the most deadly natural disaster likely to strike Indianapolis?

Perhaps an EF5 tornado? In a few minutes on May 23, the nation’s deadliest tornado since 1947 cut a six-mile path of destruction through Joplin, Missouri, killing 151 and causing over $3 billion in damages.

Maybe the New Madrid fault will roar back to life resulting in a major Indy earthquake?

No, the most likely deadly disaster is an extreme heat event, according to climate researcher and IUPUI Professor Daniel Johnson, who spoke at the Indiana Environmental Health Summit earlier this week in Indianapolis. (Johnson's presentation available at the link above.)

Johnson defined an extreme heat event, commonly called a “heat wave,” as a period of prolonged high ambient air temperature coupled with high humidity. In a typical year, extreme heat is the number one cause of weather-related death in North America, outpacing all other causes combined.

Famous recent extreme heat events include the Chicago heat wave of 1995 that killed more than 600 residents and prompted that city to take action. A European heat event in 2003 claimed over 40,000 lives and a Russian heat event last summer killed 56,000.

A major factor in extreme heat events is the urban heat island effect, where heavily developed areas tend to be considerably hotter than the surrounding countryside, due primarily to absorption of heat by dark, heat-absorbing roofs and dark paved surfaces. In the country, vegetation creates shade and transpires moisture for natural cooling. Other factors have to do with slow-moving weather systems and domes of stagnant air with high ground-level ozone pollution. The Chicago extreme heat event of 1995 overtaxed the Chicago region’s electrical grid, causing brownouts and blackouts that shut down air conditioners and fans.

People living in dense urban environments may be more vulnerable to extreme heat if they also lack access to transportation or air conditioning or if they have illnesses or other risk factors. Risks increase for the very young and very old and for people who live alone. Part of Johnson’s research is to map these “socially vulnerable” populations in relation to urban hot spots to show areas of greatest risk of mortality. This type of mapping can be used to target areas for mitigation of the urban heat island effect and to inform emergency planning for socially vulnerable populations.

Johnson predicted an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, due to climate change, the most direct effect of which is increased heat. Scientists at Stanford reinforced that prediction this week announcing research that suggests permanently hotter summers are on the way. A 2007 study (PDF) by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change found a similar connection between climate change and increasing frequency and severity of heat waves in the Midwest. The Union of Concerned Scientists published a report (PDF) in 2009 with implications for the Midwest with continued warming under various emissions scenarios, including an analysis for Indianapolis (see graph below).

Extreme heat events are particularly problematic in temperate climates, such as Indiana, where the population may not be acclimated to heat, especially earlier in the summer. As if to reinforce Johnson’s presentation, one of those early season events occurred this week when Minneapolis set a record of 103 degrees, causing I-95 to buckle in nine locations. Twenty-five other cities reported record highs. Fortunately, this week’s event was cut short by a cold front.

Johnson showed maps of Indianapolis with areas of increasing heat island effects as urban sprawl spread over the past few decades, but the maps also showed areas where the effect had been reversed in neighborhoods with aggressive tree planting programs.

Other mitigation strategies for the urban heat island effect include using heat reflective or vegetated roofs, shading paved areas, using light-colored paving and preserving or restoring open space. In addition to potentially saving lives, urban heat island mitigation can also conserve energy and water, clean the air, and make cities more beautiful and livable.

These urban heat island mitigation strategies will be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, however, unless we begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically. In the future, it may no longer be accurate to refer to extreme heat events as "natural" disasters.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Arborgeddon in the Year of the Tornado

May 25, 2011, will be remembered in Bloomington for seven tornado warnings, one tornado and hundreds of toppled trees. Watching radar, listening for sirens, and heading for the basement were part of the routine here. Thirteen tornadoes touched down in Indiana. At one point a line of severe thunderstorms ran the length of the state and each had an associated tornado warning as I watched on RadarScope.

Thousands lost power and traffic was snarled the next day due to dead traffic signals and trees strewn across city streets. A tornado touched down on the southwest side of town along Highway 45 and wrecked a mobile home park, among other structures. A linear swath of severe damage went from Walmart at Hwy 45 and Hwy 37 all the way through town and through the IU campus. Amazingly, nobody was killed or critically injured. As I write this, three days later, many still are without electricity.

An estimated 300 trees were destroyed on campus and hundreds more have missing limbs.

Dunn's Woods, which fills the old quadrangle, was impassable due to fallen trees and limbs.

Student Legal Services, across 7th Street from the IMU and Dunn Meadow, took a direct hit, illustrating that street trees with limited room for spreading roots are particularly vulnerable to high winds.

This fence at the north side of the tennis courts south of Woodlawn field illustrates the force of the wind, which bent over 2-inch steel support posts.

A typical scene looking east from Woodlawn Field jogging path toward Arboretum (note Wells Library in background).

While some students who ignored the sirens reported harrowing near misses from falling trees along 10th Street, there were no serious injuries. One Campus Division employee I spoke to, who had been with the university for 32 years, said he had never seen anything like the tree damage this storm wrought. Generally, campus buildings held up well.

While not half through, 2011 is already being billed as "The Year of the Tornado." According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with records like the most severe thunderstorm wind reports on record (April 4), largest tornado outbreak on record (April 26-28 - which killed 321 people), and most tornadoes in a month (April, 875 tornadoes - previous monthly record for any month was May 2003, with 542 tornadoes). The Joplin EF-5 tornado was the deadliest since 1947 and 2011 overall has seen the most tornado deaths since 1953. For the year, we have had 1,314 tornadoes so far and the record for a year is 1,817, set in 2004. The average year sees 1,274 tornadoes.

As the May 25 storms here illustrate, we have much better warning systems in place now than existed 50 years ago. I received a cell phone warning from IU prior to every tornado warning, my iPad and iPhone both gave me push notices from The Weather Channel for every storm, TV and radio stations sounded emergency warnings, and even if all that wireless technology was not working, I could hear all of the sirens.

Many of the 132 people who perished in Joplin had warnings but lacked adequate storm shelter for a tornado with 200-plus miles-per-hour winds. If you don't have a basement, it may be worth investigating a simple storm shelter that can be placed in your garage slab or a kevlar and steel above-ground shelter that can be installed in an existing home. Our home in Evansville had an above-ground storm safe room with reinforced concrete floor, walls and ceiling, that also functioned as a spare bedroom during normal weather. Although we have a basement in our Bloomington home, I was missing that comfortable, quiet, secure above-ground room on Wednesday. Our next house will have one.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Business Case for Solar Energy In Indiana

Motoring north along I-465 on the west side of Indianapolis, you may notice a large solar photovoltaic installation on the south side of an office and warehouse at 5925 Stockberger Place. The new corporation behind this installation is Energy Solutions by JMS, which is a partnership of a mechanical contractor, Johnson Melloh Solutions, and architecture and engineering firm, Schmidt Associates.

A freestanding aluminum frame angled toward the sun supports the array of Onyx solar panels, which will soon be manufactured in Columbus by NuSun, Inc.

Central Indiana receives an average 4.2 hours of sunlight per day, allowing this 100-kilowatt capacity solar photovoltaic array to produce 132 mega-watt-hours of electricity per year, which is more than this 12,000 square-foot building uses. Excess energy produced on sunny days can be sold back to IPL for credits that can be banked for times when the sun isn’t shining. No batteries required.

According to Mike Gardner of Energy Solutions (formerly Vice President for Operations at Butler University) the system cost approximately $500,000 installed. After the owners take a 30% Federal tax credit and a special accelerated depreciation for solar renewable energy, the net cost of the system is about $220,000. These tax incentives will expire at the end of this year unless extended once again.

Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) is offering $0.20 to $0.26 per kilowatt-hour feed-in tariff for excess electricity sold back to the grid, but Energy Solutions declined that arrangement, which would have transferred their right to sell solar renewable energy credits (SRECS) on the open market to IPL. SRECs are currently selling for about $0.30 per kilowatt-hour. While there is no guarantee that SRECs will hold that rate, Energy Solutions sees it as a good opportunity to gain experience in this market to better guide their customers and they think these rates may increase substantially. They can also sell excess power back to the grid, thanks to net metering offered by IPL, an arrangement that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is considering for other public utilities in Indiana.

“The bottom line,” according to Gardner, “is that the system will pay for itself in about five and a half years.” After that, Energy Solutions pays nothing, but they may still be able to sell about $40,000 worth of SRECs per year and also enjoy 132 megawatt-hours of free electricity per year, for at least the 25-year warrantee period of the panels. As electricity prices continue to climb, this idea will only shine brighter.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pedaling Into the Friendly Future Together

What unlikely 19th century invention can help fight obesity, traffic congestion, climate change, and our dependence on foreign oil?

On a typical day, about 1,800 of these human-powered vehicles head to the Indiana University campus from points all over Bloomington and its suburbs. Hundreds more ride bikes on campus and park in over 3,400 bike rack slots. While many of these cyclists are students, about 10% of faculty and staff also ride bikes to work at IU. About 70% of faculty, staff and students live within three miles of campus, which is a pleasant 15-minute fat-burning commute by bike. If these 1,800 people drove their cars, four Henderson parking garages or 14 acres of surface parking would be required, and the streets to campus would receive a parade of cars six miles long.

Most of the new buildings on campus are designed to accommodate bicycle commuters with secure bike parking, showers and changing rooms. IU Bloomington’s new Campus Master Plan outlines recommendations to improve campus bicycle circulation along with associated amenities.

The 61st running of the Little 500 is next weekend and it’s hard to go anywhere without encountering a colorful bike team in training. The Academy-Award-Winning movie that celebrated Bloomington’s love affair with the bicycle, “Breaking Away,” will be featured this month at the fabulous IU Cinema.

Against this backdrop, it is perhaps no surprise that Indiana University was one of the first 20 universities in America to be selected as a Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists. The campus follows the lead of the city of Bloomington, which was the first Bicycle Friendly Community in Indiana.

Representatives of the League of American Bicyclists, including Bill Nesper, Director of the Bicycle Friendly America program, will visit Bloomington next week to celebrate our collective bicycle friendliness. Around since the dawn of the two-wheeler in 1880, the League promotes bicycling, educates cyclists and motorists, and advocates on behalf of cyclists with legislators across the United States. Its Bike Friendly America Blueprint provides guidance on engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation to improve bicycle transportation.

IU students, faculty and staff, with a common interest in safe and convenient bicycling, are forming a Bicycle Friendly University Steering Committee. There’s much work to be done in all five of the E’s mentioned above, but this award provides some tailwind and a roadmap. The campus team can also draft behind the success of the city team as they ride to a safer, cleaner, healthier, less congested community together. Let’s ride!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Own a Piece of the Sun

Tensions are rising in the Middle East as oil-powered dictatorships unravel. Gas prices at the pump are the highest they have ever been this time of year. The new coal-fired Edwardsport power plant may drive up electric rates by double digits over the next five years. Extraction, refining, shipping and combustion of fossil fuels degrade our health and the regenerative capacity of the natural systems that keep us alive. If only we had an alternative to our deadly addiction to fossil fuels.

Enter the sun, a fusion nuclear reactor safely parked 93 million miles away that each hour bathes the earth in enough free energy to equal all the energy used by man in a year. The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the planet each year is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the Earth’s non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas and mined uranium combined.

You can grab your piece of this free energy bonanza with off-the-shelf hardware to power your home and electric automobile. For about the cost of an in-ground pool or cinema room or speedboat bobbing at the marina, your home and car can become your own power plant and vehicle fueling station.

Solar photovoltaic panels convert sunlight into electricity with no moving parts and they are typically guaranteed for at least 25 years. Electricity from a solar array can be used in the home and any excess can be sold back to the utility company at the same price you pay for it. Your utility provides a credit for excess power you produce that can be applied to months when the meter is spinning in their favor. Lincoln Heritage Public Library’s 2400-square-foot Chrisney branch library, in Spencer County, is completely powered by the sun and it produces about 1800 kilowatt-hours more electricity than it uses each year with its 8.9-kilowatt solar array. They have never paid an electric bill. The all-electric building is heated and cooled using a ground-source heat pump with two vertical wells.

A well-insulated, energy efficient three-bedroom home with ground-source heat pump can be designed in Bloomington to be net-zero-energy with an 8.5-kilowatt solar array with enough extra juice to charge an electric vehicle, like the Nissan Leaf, for 12,000 miles per year.

The electric car would require about three 200-watt panels, which would add about $2000 to the system. Compare this investment to the cost of fuel for a conventional compact car driven an average 12,000 miles per year getting 30 miles-per-gallon at $3-per-gallon and you get an annual fuel cost of $1200 for a conventional vehicle, not including oil changes. In other words, sometime during the second year, you would break even and your fuel is free for the next 23 plus years of the guaranteed life of the solar panels. If gas stays at $3 per gallon for the next 25 years, you would realize $30,000 in fuels savings and smile past the gas pump over 1000 times.

Net cost for a net-zero-energy home and car solar power system described above would be about $47,600 after the 30% federal tax credit. This example would allow you to sell approximately $2200 worth of solar renewable energy certificates and keep about 14,500 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year.

Solar panels may not be as sexy as that swimming pool, cinema room or speedboat, but the payback on investment is much greater and the peace of mind you will experience for the next 25 years of energy independence will be priceless.

One Million Electric Vehicles by 2015: Good News or Bad?

More than twenty manufacturers are poised to offer plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, like the Chevy Volt, and plug-in battery-electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, in 2011 or 2012. A few of these cars are beginning to roll off dealer lots into the electrified garages of early adopters, assisted by tax incentives of up to $7,500. The race is on to see which country will dominate this new transportation frontier. The Obama administration set a goal of one million plug-in electric vehicles on U.S. highways by 2015.

This may be good news for energy security if electric cars can ease our dependence on imported fuel, which currently accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. supply. If the U.S. takes a leading role in the development of electric vehicles, Indiana could see a rejuvenation of its manufacturing sector, which includes a number of electric vehicle assembly and component manufacturers. In concert with a smarter grid and cleaner sources of electricity, electric vehicles hold the promise of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Most electric vehicles chargers are designed to delay charging to coincide with off-peak hours and many utility companies offer lower off-peak rates to encourage this behavior. Smart grid technology combined with smart vehicle and smart home technology may make it possible to utilize this extra nighttime capacity and may also provide the option for vehicle-to-grid flow of electricity during peak times. Used vehicle batteries, which retain about 80% of their capacity, may also provide storage for alternative energy systems like wind and solar power to further level the peaks and reduce the need for new power plants.

Battery-only electric vehicles have zero emissions at the bumper. The emissions occur at the point of electricity generation. Charged by electricity generated with the average national fuel mix for electric power generation, which is slightly less than half coal, these cars have significantly less overall emissions than gasoline combustion vehicles and even conventional hybrids like the Prius.

Unfortunately, that math doesn’t work in Indiana where approximately 94 percent of electricity is generated by coal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nearly half of Indiana power plant coal is imported from other states, mostly Wyoming, relying on diesel fuel for mining, processing, disposal and transport. Both of these high-carbon fuels are subject to rising global supply and demand concerns, rapidly rising costs, increasing risk of carbon legislation, and detrimental health and environmental consequences.

According to a recent study by an expert panel commissioned by Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a 2007 joint study by the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Resources Defense Council, a conventional Prius gas hybrid would currently trump an all-electric Leaf in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in Indiana and a handful of other coal-dependent states.

To realize the full promise of electric vehicles and the smart grid, and to secure its future, Indiana must move aggressively to diversify its renewable energy portfolio. Major wind installations are a good start, but Indiana will need legislative incentives, at least as robust as surrounding states, to encourage renewable energy development and reduce its exposure to the significant health, environmental, economic, and compliance risks associated with having all of its energy eggs in one coal bucket.

While we await progress on this legislative imperative, it is currently possible to have a home in Indiana powered completely by renewable energy, with the extra capacity to charge an electric vehicle. See my next column to learn how to supply your power, heating and cooling, and transport needs at home with current technology.


Sidebar: An expert panel, commissioned by the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, spent the last year surveying the electric vehicle horizon. Their timely 80-page report, Plug-in Electric Vehicles: A Practical Plan for Progress, released earlier this month, addresses the barriers to the million electric vehicle goal and associated interrelated strategies that would contribute to success.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ten Strategies to Beat High Gas Prices

Some experts, including AAA and the US Department of Energy, warn of a potential summer rerun of July 2008 gas prices, when the national average reached $4.11 per gallon. Remember outraged citizens demanding suspension of gas taxes, prosecution of oil companies, and the call to “drill here, drill now?” SUV sales plummeted along with the stock value of their manufacturers. Toyota Priuses were snapped up with long waiting lists, while Hummers became white elephants and eventually were discontinued. Rural housing demand dropped as shorter commutes became popular.

Many have apparently already forgotten 2008. The Washington Post reported that sales of mid-size sport utility vehicles jumped 41 percent in the first 11 months of 2010, led by vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which average about 18 miles per gallon.

A number of signs indicate, however, that the days of cheap gasoline may be over. In 2010, Chinese auto sales rose nearly 50% to 13.6 million vehicles and China became the world's biggest auto market by units sold and the second largest importer of oil, behind us. The 2010 IEA World Energy Outlook noted that global conventional oil production peaked in 2006. Generally speaking, when demand exceeds supply, prices trend upward.

Consider these ten actions you can take now to reduce your risks of higher fuel costs while also reducing environmental impact, improving your quality of life, and enhancing national energy security:

  1. Trade for a fuel-efficient, alternative-fuel or electric vehicle. Surviving manufacturers have ramped up their offerings of vehicles that get more than 30 miles per gallon. Check out
  2. Move closer to your work, school, and essential services. Evaluate potential locations using, transit maps, and bike route maps.
  3. Carpool. If you can’t move or you don’t want to trade your Yukon Denali, carpool with friends. If you attend or work for a university or a large corporation, they may have a carpool program with perks like special parking spots and free rides home for family emergencies. For students, faculty and staff at Indiana University, carpools get a discounted parking pass and a marked spot near the door, and you can find a carpool match with
  4. Drive less. Consolidate trips. Plan ahead.
  5. Let your fingers do the driving via your computer keyboard or cell phone. Sign up for online bill paying and banking.
  6. Slow down - each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas.
  7. Service your vehicle regularly. Keep your engine tuned, your filters clean, your tires properly inflated and use the recommended grade of oil. This could save you 10% of your fuel bill.
  8. Enjoy the bus or shuttle. Text or read safely while somebody else drives. IU students, faculty and staff can get a pass for the entire campus/city bus system. K-12 students get a free ride in those cool yellow buses. Teach your children how to ride the bus or walk or bike to school. Bloomington Shuttle buses operate on a regular schedule between Bloomington and Indianapolis International Airport.
  9. Telecommute. Ask your employer about their policy. Utilize online virtual meeting software or conference calls to cancel some of your road trips.
  10. Use muscle power. Bike, walk, jog or skate and enjoy the great outdoors in better health. Get your workout and your commute done at the same time, for free. Progressive employers provide perks like secure bike storage, showers and changing rooms.

Learn to thrive within your means, while others curse forces they deem beyond their control.