EarthTalk: Short of massive efforts to build a public
transportation infrastructure, which doesnt appear
likely anytime soon, what is being done to address traffic
congestion, which is reaching absurd levels almost everywhere?
-- John Daniels,
in the U.S., road congestion now causes commuters
to spend an average of a full work week each year
sitting in traffic. Pictured: Traffic going in and
out of New York City.
© Antonio García Rodríguez, courtesy
congestion has gotten way out of handand not just
in developed countries anymore: Traffic jams and smog plague
dozens of cities in China and in many other parts of the
developing world. Here in the U.S., road congestion now
causes commuters to spend an average of a full work week
each year sitting in traffic, according to the Texas Transportation
Institute. While alternative modes of getting around are
available, most of us still opt for our cars for the sake
of convenience, comfort and privacy.
The most promising
technique for reducing city traffic is called congestion
pricing, whereby cities charge a toll on entering certain
parts of town at certain times of day. The theory goes that,
if the toll is high enough, some drivers will cancel their
trips or opt for the bus or rails. And it seems to be working:
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reports that Singapore,
London, Stockholm and the three largest cities in Norway
have reduced traffic and pollution in downtown areas thanks
to congestion pricing.
New York City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to push for congestion
pricing to ease traffic in Manhattan. The latest proposalrejected
by the State Legislature in 2008called for an $8 toll
to enter Manhattan between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., with monies
funding public transit maintenance and expansion.
Another way to
reduce rush hour traffic is for employers to implement flex-time,
which lets employees travel to and from work at off-peak
traffic times to avoid rush hour. Those who must travel
during busy times can do their part by carpooling. Employers
can also subsidize employee mass transit costs, and/or allow
more workers to telecommute (work from home) so as to keep
more cars off the road altogether.
Some urban planners
still believe that the best way to ease traffic congestion
is to build fore roads especially expressways that
can take drivers around or over crowded city streets. But
such techniques dont really keep more cars off the
road; they only accommodate more of them. Forward-thinking
city planners, knowing that more and more drivers and cars
are taking to the roads every day, are loathe to encourage
more private automobiles when mass transit options are so
much better for people and the environment.
are getting it. According to EDF, public transit usage has
steadily risen since 1995, with Americans taking 10.7 billion
public transportation tripsthe largest number in a
half centuryin 2008. Light rail, hybrid buses and
other promising options are working their way into some
U.S. cities. To this end, the Obama administration has committed
some $7 billion in stimulus dollars to help transit systems
increase capacity and upgrade to more efficient technologies.
complain that such funding is a drop in the bucket compared
to the $50 billion committed to roads, bridges and highways,
and that transit authorities cant use any of it to
fund maintenance and operations, meaning that jobs must
be cut and routes shut down. EDF is calling on Obama to
include significant funding for transit operations in the
jobs bill now being debated in Congress.
Transportation Institute; EDF.
I have a new linoleum floor, which I chose partly for its
eco-friendliness. How do I clean and maintain it without
using harsh or toxic chemicals?
-- A.J. Maimbourg,
starting to get a little scuffed down here!"
Real linoleum is one of the greenest flooring options
out there today -- and there are many safe, non-toxic
ways to keep it maintained so it will last for decades.
© Steven Luscher, courtesy Flickr
Whether you chose
linoleum flooring for its no fuss functionality, the soft
feel underfoot, its distinctive look, or its green attributes,
you definitely want to take care of your investment in an
eco-friendly way for the sake of maintaining it for as long
as possible while protecting the indoor air quality in your
distinct from synthetic versions or vinylis made from
all-natural materials, including wood flour, rosins, ground
limestone, powdered cork, pigments, jute and linseed oil.
As such it is one of the greenest flooring options out there
today. The GreenFloors.com website reports that old linoleumincluding
scraps and remnants from the production processcan
be recycled to create new sheets of the stuff. And given
that it is made from natural materials, linoleum is practically
carbon neutral, and the energy created by incinerating it
at the end of its useful life is almost equal to the energy
needed to create new linoleum.
Given how green
linoleum is, cleaning it with harsh synthetic chemicals
and maintaining it with polymer-based waxes just wouldnt
be right. Luckily there are alternative ways to help keep
your linoleum floor looking good for decades without compromising
the environment or shortening your own life span in the
of the green lifestyle website Care2.com recommends sweeping,
dust-mopping or vacuuming your linoleum floor frequently
in order to cut down on the amount of abrasive dirt around
that can build up and mar the finish. As for actual cleaning,
she says to use a damp mop with a mild all natural liquid
dish soap and warm water. Adding a half cup or so of vinegar
to the rinse water will increase shine if thats the
look youre going for. To get rid of scuff marks, Breyer
suggests dipping a sponge in jojoba oil and rubbing lightly
before wiping up completely. Pencil erasers can also work
wonders on linoleum scuff marks.
As for what to
avoid, Breyer says to stay away from solvent-based products
which can soften and damage linoleum. Typical floor cleaning
solutions will leave a sticky residue behind, so sticking
with something like Ivory Liquid dish soap is the best bet.
Also, the best way to deal with tough stains is not by scouring;
instead make a paste of baking powder and gently wipe with
a wet rag until the stain fades away.
In terms of wax,
there are several greener varieties now available. Livos
BILO is a paste wax designed for wood, cork, tile andyou
guessed itlinoleum. It is derived from beeswax and
linseed oil and produces a semi-gloss finish after buffing.
Like all Livos products, BILO is made from organic ingredients
and is 100 percent biodegradable and safe for humans, animals,
air, water and soil.
For those willing
to commit to periodic occasional maintenance, linoleum flooring
should last decades if not longer. And given its relative
low-cost and ease of installation, some consider linoleum
the green flooring for the masses.