Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Earth Day, Part 2: April 22nd

Earth Day anti-pollution rally at Philadelphia Museum of Art. April 23, 1970. Philadelphia Inquirer Photo: Lou Zacharias.

What’s lost since Philly’s amazing 1970 Earth Week," Philadelphia Inquirer

According to the article, Philadelphia was the most active community participating in the first Earth Day in 1970.  They had so much participation they created "Earth Week."

2.  FWIW, I think that April should be "Earth Month," with Earth Day still celebrated on April 22nd.  It's hard to pack everything in one day.

3.  National Volunteer Week is Sunday April 21st to Saturday April 27th.  In Utah, some organization put together a flyer listing a variety of volunteer possibilities for the week.  

I think this flyer is a great model that is adaptable.  E.g., a parks department could list a week's worth of activities.  A library system.  Or an Earth Month.

In any case, I went to a tree planting event last year for Earth Day, and it ended up getting me involved in Friends of Fairmont Park.  So that's something about Earth Day too, it can be an entry point for people to become more civically engaged in their community.

4.  Community cleanups.  The Orange County Register reports that a "14-year-old aims to clean 5 beaches in 5 weeks; he’s no stranger to helping the environment."

Clean ups are a great way to get people involved in their community ("Every Litter Bit Hurts," 2005, "Community cleanups (and other activities) as community building and civic engagement activities," 2011).

DC has Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, set up as individual Single Member Districts, united within a particular geography.  

This is up from our DC house.  And that area, abutting Georgia Avenue and commercial businesses and the police precinct tends to be pretty dirty.

Most commissioners do a bad job with holding regular meetings.  I think they should do at least one per quarter.  I suggested to an ANC4C commissioner years ago that one of the meetings should be a community cleanup.  Looks like they're doing it.

FWIW, DC is 100x dirtier than Salt Lake.

5.  Recycling versus zero waste.  Yes, there are lots of problems with recycling ("Recycling in the U.S. Is Broken. How Do We Fix It?," State of the Planet, "Recycling Reality Check: Addressing the Recycling Problems & How to Fix Them," Upper Route) in particular plastic and glass.  

Ryan Hickman, 14, walks along the surt to collect trash on T-Street Beach in San Clemente on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. At 7-years-old Hickman made national headlines when he embarked on a project collecting recyclables and donated the money to Pacific Marine Mammal Center. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Ryan Hickman became concerned about the environment starting with recycling.  

So recycling is a good thing from that standpoint.  But now it should be more about zero waste.  Which is broader than recycling, getting back to the line of "reduce, reuse, recycle."

As people drink artisan products (e.g., craft beer, Kombucha) and as plastic replaces glass bottles, there is less demand for mass production bottles, hence less demand for recycled glass.  It happens in Utah that there is an insulation plant which uses glass threads, so glass is recyclable here.  That being said, a major firm estimates that only 10% of the glass here is recycled. 

Salt Lake City puts pro-recycling, pro-zero waste messaging on its garbage trucks ("Every year Salt Lake City puts new pro-environmental messages on its sanitation trucks," 2018)

It happens that an elementary school in Salt Lake, Indian Hills Elementary, is probably national best practice for a school, and they open their programs to residents.

But there need to be more regulations forbidding the production of products that are impossible to recycle.  The EU has addressed this issue for years.  The US, given its neoliberal approach and opposition to any sort of positive environmental regulation by a majority of Republicans means the US will lag for a long time.

6.  Special opportunities with multiunit residential buildings and offices/restaurants ("Reformulating building regulations to promote sustainability," 2016).  I made the point that DC could drive best practice forward by addressing this.

7.  Watersheds.  In places with streams, I recommend "Adopt-A-Stream programs.  We have a stream in Sugar House Park and we need to address it as an element of our future master plan.  The city did a plan in 2010 that still isn't fully realized.  It's pretty clean in our park, but the banks need to be stabilized.

In DC, I argue that Advisory Neighborhood Commissions abutting the Anacostia River should have a committee on Rivers and Watersheds.

8.  Expos and Festivals.  Two weeks ago, DC had a "Healthy Homes Fair" to promote pro-environment, pro-sustainability practices for the home.  That's a good thing.  But four hours is too short.

I've always been a fan of Montgomery County's GreenFest.  This year it's April 27th.

These type of events can also be entry points into citizen involvement.

9.  Urban neighborhoods, especially rowhouse neighborhoods, use less energy than suburban houses.

OTOH, as people get older their mobility can become more constricted.  E.g., I never thought I'd have to use a cane and can't bike (I hope this will change after my course of treatment but I don't know).

But encouraging the people to use sustainable modes when their mobility isn't constricted is a good thing.

11.  Electric motor vehicles sales dropping.  Electric motor vehicles are experiencing a serious fall off in sales ("E.V. Sales Are Slowing. Tesla's Are Slumping.," New York Times).  Although much of the drop is a cratering of sales by Tesla.  

Still, from the standpoint of "diffusion of innovation" (also see "Crossing the Chasm"), I am not surprised at all.  The early adopters have bought.  There are still too many pain points for an average person:
  • The upfront cost of an EV is much higher than for a ICE vehicle.  Even with tax credits and a lot of times, tax credits aren't available
  • Software problems with the vehicle
  • Range is an issue, depending on how much you drive
  • Charging in the field can be difficult.  Not enough chargers, expensive, and often broken ("Why America's EV chargers keep breaking," Politico).  Plus some conservatives are a* and block access ("‘Don’t be this guy’: Experts say electric car haters feel ‘threatened, inferior’," Drive).
  • If you want to power up your vehicle at home you need special connections that also cost money.
  • If you live in a multiunit building, maybe they don't have enough connections
  • If you live in a rowhouse, what do you do?  (Some cities are working to create charging options in such neighborhoods)
  • Cost and complexity of repairs
  • Battery failure and high cost of replacement; Tesla voiding of warranty when using third party
  • Poor quality of Tesla customer service
The point about the adoption of new products is that they are supposed to be easier to use, not harder.  Although traditional motor vehicles went through a similar technology improvement process in the 1900s-1920s.  The thing was a car then was so much better than a horse or transit for so many people that they could overlook the difficulties.  

Now people don't need to, so an electric vehicle needs to be competitive on that basis and it isn't.  Companies were smart to focus on high end buyers, who cared more about the environment or status,
and didn't mind the hiccups.  The mass market isn't so forgiving.

12.  But EVs aren't that great.  Electric bikes are better.  The problem with EVs is that they are what I call "next generation asphalt nation."  Sure they lead to less use of gasoline, in fact it is predicted that this year or next might be the peak of oil consumption, which will then start to drop off.  But they are often powered by coal, also natural gas, and sometimes wind and solar, when it comes to power generation.

With electric vehicles, people don't drive less, and remain dependent on automobility, and automobility and sprawl waste a lot of resources.

Electric bikes can extend the distance that people are willing to bike, especially for commuting.  And every trip shifted to an e bike from a car is a big plus.  An electric bike trip versus an electric automobile trip is significantly better for the environment ("The Environmental Impact of Bikes and E bikes," Environmental Protection, "Why aren’t more big bike firms tracking their environmental impact?," Guardian).

Carbon Dioxide emissions per kilometer
Regular car Electric car Regular bike Electric bike
220 g/C0₂  160 g/C0₂ 25-35 g/C0₂  21-25 g/C0₂ 

Not dissimilar to the pain points with electric automobiles, there are some pain points with electric bikes too ("If you're going to promote electric bikes at scale, there needs to be complementary investment in secure bicycle parking and charging"): 
  • Cost
  • Need for secure parking, especially because e-bikes are more expensive
  • heavy
  • charging 
  • heavier bikes can be harder to transport within multiunit residential buildings up to the room, unless secure parking is provided
WRT cost, some cities and states have e-bike rebate programs.  Generally, they provide more support for low income users.  But the programs are oversubscribed.  No one seems to be addressing secure parking, which should be addressed regardless of e-bikes ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 2, building a network of bike facilities at the regional scale").  And charging options beyond home are hit or miss.  

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At 7:10 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Washington state parks have free entry on Earth Day

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...


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