A forum for exchanging ideas
Updates to this blog will be irregular and occasional, but it can provide a resource for colleges and classes
and other groups that share our enthusiasms, concerns, and common challenges.
Our initial sustainability seminar was funded by the Mellon Foundation,
whose support has been critical to initiatives in faculty development and intellectual exchange.
How far do I have to ride my bike to pay back its carbon footprint?
By Brian Palmer
Posted Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, at 10:13 AM ET
The environmental benefits of biking to work
I'm thinking about switching my daily commute from four wheels to two. But I'm concerned about all the energy it takes to manufacture and ship a new bicycle. How many miles would I need to substitute a bike for my car before I've gone "carbon neutral"?
Perspectives of this blog originate from a travelling seminar in involving 18 liberal arts faculty members in the summer of 2011. On a trip funded by the Mellon Foundation, we visited sites and experts in Denmark and Germany, held expansive and extensive running discussions of possibilities and limits, and gathered ideas relevant to our colleges, our classes, and our larger communities. An aim of this blog is to capture and build on the ideas.
Our group of 18 faculty had an extremely stimulating and thought-provoking tour. All of us spent more time staying up late, debating energy policy, social dynamics, the nature of the welfare state, and other grand problems than we have done since graduate school. We learned from the experience of riding rental bicycles all over the cities we visited and from having guided bicycle tours from professionals working in sustainablility in Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Freiburg. We learned about the benefits (and sometimes costs) of living in close quarters in hostels. There the conversation can go on all night, in large or small groups; the energy, material, and financial costs were vastly less than in the hotels faculty usually stay in; we also learned more than we really wanted to know about who makes which noises at night. Despite those modest trials, the group was so diverse and interesting, that we had a splendid time as well as learning a tremendous amount in just 11 days.
As a starting point for this blog, we are posting summaries of our observations and thoughts on a number of themes. To begin, we are posting commentaries regarding Energy, Food, Economics, Planning, and other topics.
Our ideas were informed by the many people who shared their time and thoughts with us. We thank especially Lasse Moeller-Jensen and Lars Winther (University of Copenhagen, Department of Geology and Geography); Andreas (CopenhagenX); Stine Rasmussen, Tage Duer, and Jacob Vastrup (Danish Energy Agency); Thorkild Green, Pablo Celis, and Thomas Drivsholm (City of Århus Planning Department); and Jürgen (Freiburg Mobile).