Tag Archives | Environmentalism

News & Notes

Dallas Covers Highway with Greenery – Cities are increasingly decking highways with piles of greenery and new development. [Governing]

I’m looking at Route 10 at Olneyville, Route 95 from Broad to Atwells, Route 95 between Garden and George in Pawtucket, Route 95 next to the State House…

Parking Management That Actually Manages Parking [Bill Fulton, Mayor of Ventura Blog]

Some shoppers have complained over the past few months that parking at the mall is free, so why should they pay to park downtown? The answer — provided by Downtown Ventura Organization board chair Dave Armstrong — is that you’re paying for access to a few hundred premium spaces. And he’s right. After all, all the mall parking spaces are far away from the stores — farther than even the most remote free lot downtown. If it was possible to drive right inside the mall and park in front of your favorite store, don’t you think the mall would charge for that space? And don’t you think some people who think it’s worth it would pay the price? Obviously, the answer to both these questions is yes.

A Portland group pulverizes pavement to make way for green space [Grist]

Newport: Making Transportation Holistic [RI Future]

On September 15th, the Newport City Council passed a Complete Streets resolution, becoming the first municipality in Rhode Island to give equal consideration to all road users in its planning rather than giving primacy to automobiles. Redesigning our streets to be more inclusive of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders will be a boon to our quality of life by improving the environment, the local economy, and our health.

Dearest Providence, why are we letting Newport take the lead on this? Step it up!

Nissan’s smug (?), cute (?), ironic (?) polar bear Leaf ad [Grist]

But let’s take a look at the claim that climate-endangered mammals will thank you for buying a Leaf — which goes on sale later this year for as low as $21,000 in California and Georgia, and slightly more in other states.

An electric car might be superior to the gas-burner you own now, except that it still takes plenty of embodied energy to produce a new car. If buying a Leaf earns you a bear hug, then hanging on to a reasonably efficient ride for a few extra years probably deserves one too.


News & Notes

California Drive-Thru Ban and the “Health in All Policies” Approach Baldwin Park, California, home of the country’s first drive-thru, has banned drive-thru construction for nine months in an effort to combat obesity. [The City Fix]

RI senators land Pawtucket River bridge money Rhode Island’s senators on Thursday announced a $2.3-million appropriation to help replace the Pawtucket River Bridge, the deteriorated structure carrying Route 95. [Projo 7 to 7 News Blog]

Q&A: How the Deepwater Wind deal works What it means for RI electricity customers []

Berlin Eyes Exotic Trees in Response to Warming Weather Palm trees in Berlin? Not quite. But the German capital is testing trees from the south as native species show signs of struggling with increasingly warm temperatures. Instead of limes and oaks, the city could soon be filled with Judas trees and Daimyo oaks. [Der Spiegel]

Jarrett Walker talks to our staff about public transport branding (and more!) [TransLink (Vancouver, Canada) Buzzer Blog]


Bigger than Rhode Island

This has been all over the interwebs this week, so I’m playing along:

This Google Earth tool allows you to lay the oil spill* over a familiar piece of the Earth to allow you to grasp the size of the spill. Here we see, it is bigger than Rhode Island.

* Notice how I can just say, “the oil spill.” I don’t really need to describe which spill do I?


January Evolution Forum: Transit in a Sustainable Rhode Island (01/28)

Kennedy Plaza Repaving Project
Photo by Jef Nickerson

When: Thursday, January 28, 2010 – 5:30pm to 8:00pm
Where: 17 Gordon Avenue, Providence, RI 02905
Cost: Admission for Apeiron members and students with valid ID is free. Admission for others is $10.

Please join us for Apeiron’s next Evolution Forum! This month we will highlight Transit in a Sustainable Rhode Island.

Panelists include Catherine Lutz, anthropologist and the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University; John Flaherty, Grow Smart RI and Chair of the Coalition for Transit Choices; and Mark Therrien, General Manager of the RI Public Transit Authority.

Come engage with experts from academia, government, and the non-profit sector to learn how Rhode Island is and should be helping to create the future of Transit in the 21st Century.

Speaker Biographies:
Catherine Lutz- Catherine is an anthropologist and the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University. With her sister, Anne Lutz Fernandez, she has been studying the car system in the United States, focusing on its financial, social, and health impacts on families and individuals. Their book, Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and its Effects on Our Lives, is out with Palgrave Macmillan in January (

John Flaherty- Grow Smart RI, Chair Coalition for Transit Choices

Mark Therrien- General Manager, RI Public Transit Authority

Schedule of Events
5:30 to 6:30 – Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks served
6:30 to 7:30 – Presentation
7:30 to 8:00 – Question and Answer session and mingling

Co-sponsored by the RI Coalition for Transit Choices

Bus Directions from Kennedy Plaza:
Take Bus #11: Providence to Broad City Line Outbound. Depart Kennedy Plaza at Berth F. Ride for approximately 18 minutes. Get off the bus at Stanwood Street. Walk north on Broad St toward Saratoga Street. Turn right at Saratoga Street and walk to the first intersection. Turn right at Baxter Street. 17 Gordon Ave will be on your left. Look for a sign that says Gordon Avenue Business Incubator.

For more information and to register visit


Ontario introduces green vehicle license plates


The province of Ontario in Canada has introduced a new green vehicle license plate for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. The province describes the plate and the benefits associated with it:

Ontarians have voted for a new vehicle licence plate that will encourage consumers to switch to environmentally-friendly cars and trucks.

The new plate will have green lettering on a white background with the picture of a trillium in the middle. It was selected from four choices in an online vote that ran from July to October.

Drivers sporting these plates on a plug-in hybrid or battery electric vehicle will be able to:

  • Use Ontario’s High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes until 2015, even if there is just one person in the vehicle
  • Access recharging facilities at GO Transit and other provincially operated parking lots
  • Use designated parking spots at the University of Toronto and private companies such as Walmart Canada.

StreetFilms at COP15

Tens of thousands of people from nearly every nation on earth have descended on Copenhagen this month for the UN climate summit. As the delegates try to piece together a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they’re also absorbing lessons from one of the world’s leading cities in sustainable transportation. In Copenhagen, fully 37 percent of commute trips are made by bike, and mode share among city residents alone is even higher.

Come see “the busiest bicycling street in the Western world”, and lots of other you-gotta-see-them-to-believe-them features including bike counters (featuring digital readouts), LEDS, double bike lanes (for passing) and giant hot pink cars.

Copenhagen wasn’t always such a bicycling haven. It took many years of investment in bike infrastructure to reclaim streets from more polluting, less sustainable modes. Last week, I was able to squeeze in a whirl-wind tour with Mikael Colville-Andersen, the bike culture evangelist behind Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic, to get a taste of the city’s impressive bike network and cycling amenities. Watch this video and see how Copenhageners flock to the streets by bike even in December, when average temperatures hover just above freezing.



This water tastes delicious!


Photo (cc) Cayusa

A report by the Environmental Working Group ranks Providence’s municipal water as second best (of metropolitan areas over 250,000 people) in the country. EWG compiled information from water utility tests going back to 2004 in 48,000 municipalities in 45 states. Arlington, Texas beat us out for the top spot. The only other New England city in the top ten is Boston at number 5.

More reason for us Providencians to give up the bottled water habit.

View the full report here.

Via Yahoo! Green Blog and Po-Tee-Weet?.


1577 Westminster, for realz!

1577 Westminster Street, rendering Kite Architects

The WBNA has been working hard for some time now to build their green building at 1577 Westminster Street. Delays have been caused largely as a result of putting together financing for the project. I’m told that WBNA and their partner, SpurwinkRI, now have a building permit in hand and construction could begin as soon as December 23rd. If the winter construction season cooperates, the building could be done by next fall.

The building will have many green features including solar panels, insulation made from recycled newspaper, and flooring made with corn oil instead of petroleum. It has 7 apartments above that are supported living for folks with developmental disabilities, and the ground floor is still planned as Urban Greens’ new retail space with a full range of local and organic veggies, dairy, meat, and dry goods.

We’re looking forward to this excellent project finally coming of the drawing board and getting built.


Festivals last weekend

A few photos from last weekend’s Street Painting Festival on Westminster Street:

Providence Street Painting Festival 2009

Providence Street Painting Festival 2009

Providence Street Painting Festival 2009

And one of the giant solar panel from the Sustainability Festival in Burnside Park:

Providence Sustainability Festival 2009

Photos by Jef Nickerson


Why is environmental devastation so often so beautiful?

Sydney dust storm.

Photo (cc) jtinaustralia

Eastern Australia is being impacted by a large dust storm turning the skies over Sydney red. The storm is certainly not good for the lungs of Sydneysiders, but the images are undeniably stunning (and scary).’s Big Picture has a collection of photos here.
The Sydney Morning Herald has extensive coverage.

And here are some more photos from Flickr:

IMG_1783 - Dustday in laundry2 (23 September, 2009)

Photo (cc) Mezza

Dust Storm - Opera House

Photo (cc) NSW Maritime

Red Dust Luna Park

Photo (cc) iansand


Photo (cc) Nic Hanson

More from Flickr.


Mandatory recycling coming to Providence

Recycling is Beautiful

Photo (cc) Scott Ableman

ProJo reports today on a new recycling effort for the city of Providence.

Starting Nov. 2, any resident who doesn’t separate paper, glass and cans will not have their trash picked up, Cicilline said. Residents have an option, however: they can purchase the bins for $5 apiece, or they can label their own trash cans with recycling stickers.

The city plans to embark on a comprehensive recycling publicity campaign, called Green Up Providence, through mass mailings, informational stickers attached to garbage cans, public service announcements and outreach through the public schools.

Excuse me, the city plans to launch a publicity campaign about the fact that your trash will not be picked up starting November 2nd? November 2, 2009? Plans? Launch? Really?

Oh Oh! The other part, the goal is to get the recycling rate to 20%. Really? So, if I don’t separate my trash, you won’t pick it up, but your goal is to only get 20% compliance? What happens to the other 80%?

Oh oh!! I have another idea! How about you pick up the recycling people already put out today. My recycling sits out for weeks at a time until I finally give up and throw it all in the trash bins to get it off my sidewalk.

TWENTY PERCENT? As the ProJo reports, state law requires municipalities to be at 35% by 2012, which is like, not that far away.

Can you tell that I am just so annoyed that it is 2009 already, and this city can’t seem to suss out simple city things like recycling and overnight parking? If you’re going to launch a recycling campaign, your goal should be 100% compliance. How in creation can you say that your trash will not be picked up, but then have a 20% compliance goal? Your publicity campaign should be well launched before you hold press conferences on the matter. Go ahead, Google “Green Up Providence.”



Bike Sharing is coming to Boston

bike share in Barcelona reports that a bike sharing program is coming to Boston with plans of expanding to Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline.

According to Inhabitat

The new system will be very similar to infrastructure already in place in cities like Montreal and Paris. Riders can pick up bikes at one of the 290 stations with a swipe of a credit card, ride it wherever they need to go, and dock it at the station closest to their destination – no heavy locks and chains necessary. In Montreal, people can pay abut $78 per year or $5 per day to participate, which is quite a bit more economical than owning a car.

This sounds pretty awesome. I can think of several times when I’ve gotten off the commuter rail in Boston and thought, “If I only had a bike…” Although, then I usually come to my senses and think, “…I’d get killed by a car.” I hope that in addition to adding more convenient bicycles to the street, more bike lanes and signage are added as well. Simply adding bikes to the mix of crazy Boston traffic doesn’t seem like a complete answer to me.

However, in my opinion, adding more bike sharing programs to cities and towns across the country may be just what we need in order to improve the way bikes are accepted as a form of transit in our auto-centric society. Too often I hear horror stories about people getting practically run off the road by angry/distracted/ignorant drivers. That’s not to say all drivers are bad, but enough people seem to think that roads are only for cars, and bikes are only for recreation (just see some of the comments on the article).

I applaud Boston for trying this program, and I hope more cities, Providence included, are soon to follow.

Do you think a bike sharing program like this one could work here?


RI lags behind neighbors on percentage of income devoted to gasoline


The Natural Resources Defense Council has released a report on Americans’ oil vulnerability. The report ranks states based on what residents spend as a percentage of their income on gasoline, Rhode Island ranks right about in the middle at 27; spending 5.40% or $2214.95 per year on gasoline. Meanwhile Connecticut ranks 50th (or in this case best) at 3.24% – $1824.58 and Massachusetts ranks 48th at 3.66% – $1856.18 (NY, who we have a water border with is 49th, 3.44% – $1654.17).

So all of our neighbors are doing better than us when it comes to spending on fuel. Why is this? Part of course may be that our income levels are lower than in CT, MA, and NY so as we make less, a larger percentage of our income goes towards fuel. However, our actual dollar spending is also higher than our neighbors (in fact, in New England, only Maine spends more dollars on fuel than we do, and Maine is a much larger state).

As a small state with a dense population, we really should be way out in the lead here. Rhode Islanders utter fear of driving any more than 15 minutes in any direction should be enough to move us to the front of the pack, but it is not. Where are we all driving to that is making us spend more on fuel than our neighbors. Do they walk more, do they have closer access to what they need than we do, is it because we are all the time driving to Seekonk to save money on sales tax? Connecticut has a huge population of people who commute to work in New York via train, Boston has very high levels of transit usage due to a robust transit system, is our transit system not up to snuff enough to get people to commute on it?

There is good news, according to the full report Rhode Island is 13th in the Solutions rankings, meaning we are doing better than most on moving towards reducing oil dependancy.

What do you think Rhode Island should be doing and needs to do to reduce our dependancy on gasoline?

Via Providence Business News


Living Bridges


Photo from Atlas Obscura

In the depths of northeastern India, in one of the wettest places on earth, bridges aren’t built – they’re grown.

In the southern Khasi and Jaintia hills of northeastern India, bridges are grown from rubber tree plant roots. The bridges take 10 to 15 years to go and some of them are said to be over 500 years old.

Perhaps RIDOT should take a look at these, the Barrington bridges have been under construction for 10 to 15 years haven’t they?

More photos and information at Atlas Obscura.


“The area commonly known as the Promenade Green Corridor”


alterisThe city announced today that Connecticut based Alteris Renewables will be opening an office in Providence.

The company’s finance department, a call center and regional staff will be located at 28 Wolcott St., an award-winning net-zero building in the city’s growing Green Corridor. The office spaces are Rhode Island’s first and only net-zero office environment, including heating and electricity provided by the sun via Alteris Renewables’ solar systems on the roof. (The Alteris wind business headquarters will remain in Bristol, RI).

This of course is great news, jobs, green jobs, a building getting a tenant, a company believing in Providence… good, good, good.

But this struck me as… odd:

In recent years, new and expanding “green” business has been occurring along the Woonasquatucket River Corridor, in the Valley and Olneyville neighborhoods. This area is commonly known as the Promenade Green Corridor.

I’m out there, I talk to a lot of people, but I have never heard anyone refer to this area as the Promenade Green Corridor. The Valley, the Promenade, even Olneyville (though it is not Olneyville), but Green Corridor, no. I think it is all well and good to move towards perhaps branding it that way, but stating as fact that it is a common appellation, I don’t know, that seems a little 1984 to me (a little).

Projects there involve: remediation and restoration of historic mill buildings; retrofitting of existing buildings for energy savings; green businesses in areas such as design and architecture; land reclamation projects; and purveyors of organic foods. Examples include the 50,000 square-foot Box Office commercial office building, the United Natural Foods headquarters at the Alco site, the Steelyard non-profit and for-profit businesses along Sims Street, the 39 artist live-work spaces at Monohasset Mills and the Wolcott Street Eco-Office where Alteris will be housed.

Ok, there are a number of green and greenish projects in this amorphous ill-defined area. But there is no concerted effort on anyone’s part to make that happen as far as I can see. These disconnected entities just happened to develop green or greenish projects in a tight geographic area. It is mostly a matter of world events conspiring to make being green a valid business choice (to save money and attract talent) and also like minded (green) people being attracted to the same area. If we want to see this area ‘commonly known as the Promenade Green Corridor’ then the city and state should actually do some work to make that a true goal, not just a happy coincidence that the city can then co-opt (and not do things like revoke the historic tax credits that made the renovated mill projects possible to begin with).

Make this area north and west of Route 6 into a green overlay district. Incentivize green development in the area, then create an actual brand around this green zone to go out and recruit new businesses to settle here.

Although, really, shouldn’t the whole city be green? Why should we have a Green Promenade? We should have a “Green Providence.”

Oh, and one more thing. If the Valley/Promenade were green, there would be more than a handful of diverted Route 26 buses running through there (on a Kennedy Plaza-centric commuter schedule), public transit is green.


Site tour: Providence Career and Technical Academy

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Wednesday I had the opportunity to tour the new Providence Career and Technical Academy on Cranston Street. Some info about the new school:

The PCTA is a brand-new, state-of-the-art career and technical education center. PCTA will be the region’s finest physical plant, designed to provide integrated academic and technical instruction in the areas of general construction, HVAC, electrical, plumbing and pipefitting, carpentry, culinary, cosmetology, automotive, and graphic communications. PCTA boasts the following amenities:

  • Wireless academic classrooms, technical laboratories, and related theory classrooms, all equipped with ceiling-mounted LCD projector, smartboards, and wireless voice amplification;
  • Three computer labs, including a graphic communications lab equipped with professional-grade hardware and software;
  • Comprehensive technical labs, all fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment reflective of industry standards.

From its physical and conceptual roots, PCTA was designed to serve a broad educational clientele. The building includes co-located adult employment services and a health clinic. In addition, the physical layout has separate entrances and security features that allow for safe, simultaneous use by both adults and children.

Electrical lab with mock-ups of wood and metal-frame rooms for students to work in. Each lab has a leaning suite adjacent to it.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Printing presses in the design studio. Design and print services will be available to the general public.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Media center. Shelves will contain periodicals, students will be able to check out laptops to use in the Media Center. The school does not have a traditional library.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

Science Lab.

Providence Career and Technical Academy

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