Park51 & Other LEED Certified Houses of Worship

Here’s a good question to wake you up – Is your God LEED certified? It’s a bit presumptuous and might earn you a whack on the head with a Bible, but there’s a good case for demanding that your House of Worship be certified green.

Let’s start with Park51, better known as the $100 million Cordoba House project in Manhattan two blocks from Ground Zero, which many people oppose. But two things happened recently, which virtually ensure the project will go through.

First, President Obama announced his support for the project. Secondly, it was reported that Park 51 would be the nation’s first LEED certified green mosque.

It gives the mosque a layer of protection against critics and serves as a model (in terms of construction and design) for new Houses of Worship that are being built.

The indirect environmental impact of a green-certified Church is much more than a green hotel or a green school or federal building, considering the Church’s influence and capacity to mold public opinion.

According to the USGBC, there are only 15 LEED certified Churches in the US, as of April 2010. Many others have basic green initiatives in place, but haven’t gone in for a comprehensive green makeover or certification of any kind.

It does underline the point that there is no ‘holy green edict’ that Churches need to follow.

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Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport

Is it better to travel by car or plane? A new study claims that in the long run, air travel actually results in less warming than car travel.

The study, published in the Environmental Science & Technology Journal,  offers the following data, as far as freight and passenger transport is concerned:-

Freight Transport: Ship transport has by far the lowest climate impact: It exerts 5 to 10 to 30 times less warming per transport work than trucking.

The specific climate impact of air transport is 3 to 42 times higher than trucking, while rail transport of heavy goods has a 4 to 10 times lower specific climate impact than trucking.

Passenger Transport: Rail travel has at least a factor 4 lower specific impact and is cooling on shorter times, while bus and coach travel has 2 to 5 times lower specific impact. Travel with 2 or 3 wheelers has up to a factor 2 lower specific climate impact than car travel.

All of this is nothing surprising, but the kicker is that the study also posits that in the long run, air travel results in a lower temperature change per passenger-mile than car travel. It seems that cars emit more CO2/passenger-mile than planes, so car travel ends up with a bigger long-term impact.

Airplanes, on the other hand, create a bigger short-term impact due to their proximity to the ozone layer and clouds. As far as per passenger-hour traveled is concerned, aviation climate impact is a factor 6 to 47 higher than the impact from car travel.

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SustainableTrip.org – A Sustainable Travel Search Engine

The Rainforest Alliance has re-packaged Sustainabletrip.org from a database listing to a multi-language sustainable travel search engine.

The site is primarly useful for finding green hotels, tour operators, and restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Ronald Sanabria, VP Tourism for the Rainforest Alliance, says that “The sustainability claim of each business is verified before it is listed on the site.”

Along with the usual hotel info (room rates, amenities, contact info, etc.), each listing also includes the type of green certification.

The listings also have sections called ‘Making a Difference’ which list the number of local employees and a brief paragraph on why the business is listed as a sustainable travel option.

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Al Gore Allegations Trigger Meltdown in Climate Debate

Allegations made against former Vice President Al Gore about sexual misconduct with massage therapists in hotels now seem to be impacting the course of the climate debate in the US and the world.

Last month, it was reported that a Portland massage therapist named Molly Hagerty had filed a complaint against Al Gore alleging misconduct at a hotel in Portland in 2006.

The same tabloid that broke the news last month is now alleging that the same kind of incident occured in at least two more hotels – one in Beverly Hills in 2007 and one in Tokyo in 2008.

Al Gore, via a spokesperson, has outright rejected all the allegations. But it has taken a toll on his personal life and put Gore’s advocacy for the planet on the backburner. He and his wife Tipper announced, just before the matter became public, that they were separating.

On Thursday, the US Senate abandoned efforts to pass the Climate Bill. Last year in June, when the US House of Representatives passed the bill by a narrow 219-212 margin, it was because Al Gore sat down with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and convinced him the votes were there. The White House then pitched in to help persuade swing votes.

One year on, with the BP mess forcing Congress to at least show they’re doing something about the energy crisis, the Climate Bill started gaining some momentum. But Al Gore was nowhere in the picture this time. Without his help, Democrats caved in and said the Senate didn’t have the votes.

The failure to pass the climate bill now sets off a domino effect, with the next card being COP16, to be held in Cancun, Mexico from 29 Nov-10 Dec 2010. When governments deadlocked at COP15 in Copenhagen last year, it was Al Gore who suggested that the big decisions be pushed back to COP16.

Decisions that need to be made by the US include whether to agree to bigger cuts in emission levels (not possible unless the climate bill passes) and how much to contribute towards the $100b carbon-reducing tech fund.

Without Al Gore at the forefront, the US won’t be making the necessary concessions or contributions in Mexico, leaving China and India and other developing countries free to blame the US and let the agreement fall apart.

Some day in the not-so-distant future, a massage therapist named Molly Hagerty might end up in the history books as the one who set off the domino effect that ended up killing the planet.

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Future of Aviation – The Flying Prius

Some time in the not so distant future, you may be heading to Hawaii on a giant green wing, without having to buy offsets or get all worked up over global warming.

That – as per NASA, Boeing, General Electric, Northrop Grumman, and MIT – is the future of aviation.

This Newsweek article lists all the latest green aviation models and trends that are now in the spotlight as a result of the BP oilspill’s shocking wake-up call.

There’s a lot of outlandish and weird looking designs, but the consensus (see MIT’s Hybrid Wing Body H-Series, and Boeing’s X-48B) seems to be that the only practical way to reduce fuel consumption is to fly around on airplanes with giant wings and a 1000+ passenger capacity.

The engines would be mounted above the fuselage, instead of below the wings, thus reducing noise. The entire plane would be one giant blended wing, and would reduce fuel consumption by over 40% over conventional aircraft designs.

The 26 hour Solar Impulse flight by Andre Borschberg, powered solely by batteries and 12,000 wing-mounted solar cells, also spotlighted the possibilities of hybrid green planes with giant wings. In other words – a flying Prius.

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Green iPhone Travel Apps

Since Steve Jobs is trying to make sure that nothing in the world works unless you have an Apple gizmo, it’s worth wondering if your iPhone is green enough.

Listed below are the top 10 green iPhone travel apps, which you can use for finding green hotels, calculating and reducing carbon emissions, saving gas, renting bikes, finding Vegan restaurants, organic food and all kinds of green businesses.

1.   Green Travel Choice ($1.99)
2.   RezHub (Free)
3.   Green Gas Saver (Free)
4.   iRentBike (Free)
5.   Twavel ($1.99)
6.   VegOut ($2.99)
7.   CarCare ($4.99)
8.   Carticipate (Free)
9.   Greenmeter ($5.99)
10. FindGreen (Free)

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Responsible Travel Launches ResponsibleVacation.com

UK-based Responsible Travel has launched a new site ResponsibleVacation.com catering to US visitors and destinations in much the same way as the responsibletravel.com site works for European visitors.

Apparently an increasing number of US visitors have been making use of responsibletravel.com, and Americans now account for 10% of their total visitor base.

So they decided to offer a new site with responsible vacations and destinations designed for American travelers.

Responsiblevacation.com currently offers 1,669 vacation choices via partnerships with Gap Adventures, Explore Worldwide and Travel Indochina, and also destination partners such as the Belize Tourism Board.

Most of the options highlighted are for the outdoors, such as hiking in National Parks including Zion and the Grand Canyon, an Appalachian Trail walking vacation, and a Canadian Rockies adventure vacation.

There’s also a few nice Alaska vacations listed, including camping trips, a wilderness lodge and a tour of Alaska’s most scenic offerings. Would have been nicer, though, if they hadn’t listed Alaska as a whole new country.

Most Americans living below the 49th parallel might agree, but if Sarah Palin finds out, responsiblevacation.com Managing Director Justin Francis would be in serious danger of being field-dressed like a moose.

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The Green American Roadtrip

What’s the greenest mode of transportation? There’s no rulebook, but by choosing a roadtrip over a flight, you’re likely helping reduce the footprint of your summer vacation.

Listed below are a few more tips to help you get started on The Green American Roadtrip.

1. Fuel Efficiency - There is no way your roadtrip is going to be green unless you have a hybrid or at least a car that’s not a fuel-guzzler. If your car doesn’t figure on Yahoo’s top 100 green cars list, then you need another vehicle.

Travel light, check your air filter and tires (3.3% improvement on gas mileage), and drive below the speed limit (every 5 mph over 60 is equivalent to paying 20 cents more per gallon).

2. Green Destination - Choose a destination where they understand what responsible tourism means and are committed to making sure that your visit won’t harm the environment. Check out the SustainLane US City rankings.

3. Trip Planning - A little bit of planning goes a long way towards greening your roadtrip. For starters, you won’t get lost and end up in Canada. Secondly, green hotels aren’t advertised on roadside neon.

But they are listed by the Green Hotels Association and on official state and city tourism websites. Ditto for organic restaurants.

4. Offset - Inspite of everything, you’ll still end up with a sizeable carbon footprint. To offset your roadtrip emissions, use Moblu’s Gas Cost Calculator, which not only tells you your gas cost and carbon impact, but also

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GSA Shoots Own Foot-Print

At the USGBC Federal Summit held last month in Washington DC, Martha N. Johnson, Administrator of the US General Services Administration, took aim at the federal government’s giant energy footprint, beginning with her own agency.

She said (see video) “The federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings; operates more than 600,000 vehicles; and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods, systems, and services. GSA plays a prominent role in that, managing over 350 million square feet of space, operating a third of those vehicles, and overseeing a vast flow of goods and services via our schedules program, contracts, credit cards, travel services, and more.”

And Johnson aimed high - “we at GSA are embracing a zero environmental footprint goal. We are setting our sights on eliminating the impact of the federal government on our natural environment.”

To be noted that this is not the Obama Administration’s stated goal, which instead calls for reducing federal greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2020, equivalent to 205 million barrels of oil, or taking 17 million cars off the road for one year.

Also to be noted that ZEF has started looking like a realistic goal after Bill Gates got into the act. The GSA has submitted its 100 page ZEF plan to the White House. No word yet on what the White House thinks about the GSA shooting it’s own foot-print.

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FIFA World Cup’s Carbon Footprint – 2.75 million tons

The 2010 FIFA World Cup begins June 11 – July 11, 2010 in South Africa. With hundreds of thousands of fans and tourists flying in and millions packing the stadiums, it promises to be an extravaganza in every respect, including the carbon footprint.

 

As per a feasibility study for holding a carbon-neutral world cup commissioned jointly by the Dept. of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in South Africa and the Norwegian Government, the overall carbon footprint for the event is expected to be around 2.75 million tons.

A major share of this 2.75m ton carbon-fest goes towards long-haul air travel (1.85m tons or 67%), with energy usage for lodging and accomodations pegged at 340,128 tons (12%) and inter-city transport between games another 484,961 tons (18%).

Even if you forget 67% of the emissions attributed to int’l travel due to the remoteness of the venue, the rest of the carbon footprint is still 8 times bigger than the estimated footprint of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

So the South Africans haven’t really gone overboard about cutting down on emissions. What about the offsets? Again, not so impressive – They don’t have a comprehensive offset plan covering the entire event, because they left it too late.

The govt put out a tender in Nov 2009 calling for proposals that would generate carbon credits. 4 projects were shortlisted, but none can be implemented on such short notice.

Each venue and stadium has now been left to come up with its own plan for sustainability. Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town are planting trees to offset the impact of the games, and the new stadiums have been designed to reduce waste.

But the overall management – FIFA and the South African government, are abysmally un-green and out-of-touch.

Unlike the Olympic specific offset help provided by VANOC for the Vancouver Olympics, there is no World Cup specific green guide nor a carbon offset help page on either site (FIFA.com & SouthAfrica.net) for travelers who want a green stay in South Africa and would like to offset their own travel and consumption.

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