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July 2009


Why It's So Important to Recycle Your Cell Phone

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Gorilla Little do most people know, there's a connection between cell phone popularity and the gorillas of the African Congo. Even though throwing away cell phones is a prime example of e-waste, one of the most hazardous types of pollution, and represents a generation of consumerism, there's even more to the problem. Part of cell phones' batteries are made with coltan, a substance extracted from deep in the forests of the Congo. Due to a boom in cell phone production, the coltan-mining business is getting out of control, destroying wildlife habitats, and increasing the illegal slaughter of gorillas for bushmeat. Simply selling, giving away, or recycling your cell phone helps reduce the need for more coltan mining.
Still buying those sales pitches for a new phone every time a fancier one comes out? Keep in mind that there may already be 500 million unused cell phones in the United States, with as many as 100 million added each year. The cell-phone boom in the last decade induced a flood of more than 10,000 illegal miners into protected parks in central Africa, and there has been a recent 70% decline in the Eastern Lowland Gorilla population.
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Get On It: How to Bike to Work with Savvy

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Commuter Biking to work is clearly better for you, and the environment than driving - but is it really do-able? Before you hop on, there are five concerns to address.

Distance: Because adding a commute, depending on it's length, can be liking starting a new exercise regimen, make sure you're up to it. An average adult can do 10 miles on a bike in about an hour, so time your departure using this figure.

Packing: Carry your change of clothes, toiletries, water bottle and tire repair kit in either a messenger bag or backpack, or place bags on a proper bike rack. See if any nearby gyms or spas will let you use their shower facilities once you arrive.

Bike Condition: Tires, gears, brakes, and lights should all get attention before each trip, especially if your bike's been collecting dust for awhile. Buying a brand new bike is a great way to motivate yourself to ride daily, but any used bicycle will do as well.

Route: The most direct way to work isn't necessarily the best. Also, mix things up once in awhile by varying your route so you don't get bored - pick routes with enjoyable scenery and maybe a friendly coffee shop. Think like a cyclist, not like a motorist.

Storage: Make sure there's a place you can securely lock up your bike outside or store it somewhere inside where it'll be out of the way, not blocking any doors or hallways.

For more from RTM, click here.


Drink for the Planet!

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7658076 Though one would think alcohol and successful progressive action aren't a likely combination, the growing popularity of very informal social networking events like Green Drinks suggest the opposite. This international, yet rapidly localizing, phenomenon is a somewhat self-organizing opportunity for anyone interested in environmental networking, which can involve anything from a casual exchange of ideas with like-minded friends to getting a green job or starting a green business venture.

These events often include people in power who can bring ideas into action, but are always a social draw for anyone looking for an outlet to express their environmentally-thinking ideas or frustrations. Those who attend or organize these events tend to make every part of their day - even happy hour - more beneficial than harmful to the environment. A cocktail or two makes the occasion something people can look forward to, and enjoy the fact that they are using their relaxation time to better the environment. Find your city's Green Drinks at greendrinks.org.

Driving to your meeting? Visit RTM's Planet Driven Section.


Skip the Plane, Take the Train

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34916022 We know that using mass transit for everyday travel will help lower your carbon footprint because you hop aboard a vehicle already going to the same destination. But what about vacation transportation? Sure, trains may have a reputation for being slow and taking dozens of hours, but from home to hotel, train passengers get to see more of the world while acting more sustainably. A shorter trip, such as from Washington, D.C. to New York, NY takes about the same amount of time door-to-door as an airplane flight would take, while emitting half the amount of carbon dioxide. Train travel tends to be way cheaper than air travel, even at the last minute!

For more train travel tips, check out RTM’s Train Section.


A Greener Oasis: Reduce Your Pool's Chemical Use

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19287144 The most environmentally-friendly pool is a chemical-free pool. Luckily, there are two non-chlorine pool systems which exist today, the ozone treatment and the oxygen system. These two systems are chemical free and do not use any form of chlorine to make their system work. Although both have their different benefits and disadvantages, they are still both better than using chlorine. These chlorine free pools are so incredibly refreshing that you will never want to swim in chlorine ever again - it feels like swimming in a bottle of water!

With these non-chlorine pools there is absolutely no chemicals being used which means it is a natural cleaning system - one that is good for you as well as the environment. Many consumers find that these non-chemical pools are far easier to maintain and even more affordable than chlorine or salt-water pools. Chlorine pools cost a great deal when you are constantly buying large containers of chemicals to sustain water PH levels.

If you do use chlorine and are looking for an easy, eco-friendly way to dispose of the chemically treated water after swimming season's over, just uncover your pool and wait about 10 days for the sunlight to naturally dissipate the chlorine.

For extra credit, you can even have an ecological landscaper create a water cleaning system for your pool water using certain flora such as irises, cattails, arrowroot and reeds. With these plants in a gravel area next to the pool, the shallow water they grow in is purified by the natural bacteria in the roots and then re-circulated into the pool through a pump.

For more eco-friendly tips from RTM, click here.


Movies with Environmental & Entertainment Value

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Waterworld The end of the world is a common movie theme, but some movies actually focus on the environmental issues that could devastate us. These movies are good entertainment with a bit of reality behind them:

Wall*E: Set in a garbage-covered version of the Earth's future.

Madagascar: Escape to Africa: When the water supply is threatened, a valuable point is made about preserving nature.

Happy Feet: An important part of the plot involves over-fishing of the penguins' feeding grounds.

Mad Max: This 30-year-old dystopian film predicts the upset of society caused by depletion of oil resources.

Ice Age: The Meltdown: The way it's characters flee melting ice from glaciers parallels what's happening today.

The Day After Tomorrow: Epitomizes the effect of global warming's catastrophic weather.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: The Earth is ordered to be destroyed in order to prevent a catastrophe potentially caused by humans' wasteful, violent ways.

Waterworld: Set in a future where the polar ice caps have melted, resulting in a flooded planet.

Find more environmental news at RTM's Planet Driven.


Eco-Friendly Shopping: Don't Take the Escalator!

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Escalator Just another extension of our convenience culture, escalators have no real practicality. Though a passenger weighing 170 pounds, riding upwards on a 30-step escalator, will only increase the energy cost of that escalator by one thousandth of a cent, it’s best to stay off these energy hogs. The real energy waste occurs when no one is riding. According to Next American City, countless escalators churn truss rods and gears without a single passenger in hotel lobbies, office buildings, airports, and shopping malls daily. The national energy use of escalators is estimated at 2.6 billion kilowatt hours per year, which is equivalent to powering 375,000 houses (or the city of Dayton, Ohio and its suburbs); its cost is roughly $260 million.


Because installation of an escalator can cost anywhere from $150,000 to half a million dollars, the combination of installation, operation, and maintenance of one elevator is more costly than raising a child in the United States. A staircase typically goes for $30,000 or less, and could simply be expanded to accommodate large masses of shoppers (one elevator can accommodate the elderly or handicapped). Taking the stairs is also beneficial for people’s cardiovascular health – ask any early-morning mall-walker. Take the stairs whenever possible.


Not so fun escalator facts:

·         The longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere is in Washington, D.C.’s Wheaton Metro station. It is 230 feet, serving up a three minute ride.

·         The shortest elevator ride exists (astonishingly) in the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, in front of its JCPenney, at a laughable height of six steps.


For environmentally friendly travel tips, check out RTM's Earth Tones Section.


Test Drive: 2009 BMW 335d

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By Thom Blackett

BMW Shunned from most social situations due to loud behavior and a penchant for filling the room with foul second-hand smoke, not to mention an apparent disdain for cleanliness. No, we’re not talking about Cousin Eddie the Family Embarrassment, but rather diesel-powered vehicles. Sure, most everyone has heard about diesel’s superior fuel economy, yet that was prior to the introduction of hybrids like the Toyota Prius. Plus, getting a few extra miles to the gallon isn’t worth living with a noisy, pollutant-spewing diesel engine everyday. Well, it’s time to kiss that perspective good-bye, thanks to the arrival of new clean diesel models like the 2009 BMW 335d.


According to the EPA, the 335d should deliver 23 mpg city and 36 mpg highway; we averaged 29.7 mpg in mixed driving. To put that into perspective, similar figures are tied to the miserly Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, though with an as-tested price of $49,020, you could buy a Civic and a Corolla for less than the price of one BMW 335d. In exchange for that hefty sum of greenbacks, you’ll enjoy a slew of luxury features, top-notch materials, and generous head room. However, we were curious about the lack of a navigation system in this pricey sedan, and continue to lament the absence of proper cupholders and simple, clearly-labeled radio buttons.


Nevertheless, BMW has provided plenty to like about the 2009 335d, a nominee for Road & Travel’s 2009 Earth, Wind & Power Car of the Year Award. Many eco-conscious car shoppers may like the fact that instead of awkward styling and badges that scream GREEN CAR from every conceivable angle, the only telltale sign of this BMW’s treehugging tendencies lies in the 335”d” designation. Drivers will undoubtedly appreciate the effortless acceleration that makes merging, passing, and scooting through traffic an absolute joy, especially when fuel is being burned at a snail’s pace. On the other hand, folks who hop behind the wheel with the simple goal of getting to Point B will want to skip the optional Sport Package and its decidedly harsh ride.   



Test Vehicle: 2009 BMW 335d

Base Price: $43,900

Price as Tested: $49,020

Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder diesel

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

EPA Fuel Economy: 23 mpg city/36 mpg highway

Road & Travel’s Observed Fuel Economy: 29.7 mpg

NHTSA/IIHS Frontal Crash Ratings: 4 stars / Good

NHTSA/IIHS Side Impact Ratings: 5 stars / Good

Also Consider: Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec, Volkswagen Jetta TDI


For more information see Road & Travel’s BMW Buyer’s Guide or visit bmwusa.com. See for yourself how BMW does diesel.


European Hilton Hotels Care About Going Green

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Menu_bg What started as a plan to cut escalating energy costs within Hilton's European and African hotels became an environmental cultural initiative called Hilton We Care. At the program's launch, a "Green Box" was sent to all hotels within the two continents, containing all of the program's information, materials, and training resources. Their environmental policy focuses on energy efficiency, waste reduction, water efficiency, and eco-friendly chemicals, four big environmental factors for any company.

The program inspires employees to take concrete action around the hotel, helping to reduce energy waste, identifying areas of improvement, focusing more on environmental related issues - becoming more proactive instead of relying solely on the hotel engineer for such initiatives. It also sets goals in percentages to reduce consumption of water and energy.

If you're planning on doing some European travel, but want to stick with a name you know, any Hilton is a good option for supporting eco-friendliness in accomodations. The Hilton website even provides guests with tips for "taking home" the green lifestyle.

For more about eco-friendly travel, go to RTM's Earth Tones Section.


Another Way to Green Your Pool For The Summer

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Poolwd Heating for your pool is one of the biggest energy hogs - so anything you can do to decrease its use of natural gas, propane or electricity will have a huge impact on your pools eco-friendliness (and your bills).

One pool alone emits three to 10 tons of carbon dioxide each swimming season. Eliminate that and it’s like not driving your car for a year! Now that switching to solar power is practical, why not do it? The average cost of installing a solar system for your pool can run between $2,000 and $3,000, but since solar is basically maintenance-free, that upfront cost is pretty much all you’re going to pay. Heating the traditional way can easily exceed $2,000 a year. So, the investment has a huge return! You may even qualify for rebates and tax returns for making the change. Go to Find Solar to find an installer.

For more information on eco-friendly recreation, visit RTM's Earth Tones Section.