A Passion for #Travel and an Eco-Conscious Nation

A Hydrogen Powered Bus

A Hydrogen Powered Bus

I blame my mother for two things. The first is my passion to travel. Her lifelong dedication to exploring new places and interacting with the locals instilled a restlessness in me that extends back to my earliest memories. The second is my ecological-consciousness. The only memories that outnumber those of travel are those that involve building compost piles and recycling every piece of junk we got our hands on. All in all, I’d say that she was sort of ahead of the game, as various green initiatives across the country have suddenly made eco-friendly tourism not just an option, but also the new norm.

Although often overshadowed by nearby San Francisco, Oakland may finally be earning some-much deserved respect with its newfound embrace of green initiatives. Rooted in a California Air Resources Board regulation that was passed in 2000, the city now finds itself with the largest fleet of hydrogen-powered buses in the nation. First launched by the AC Transit Agency in 2005, these hydrogen-powered buses were made possible by the combined effort of numerous public and private partnerships. Designed as zero-emission vehicles, the buses have been shown to reduce transit pollution by 130 tons of CO2 per bus, per year. While expensive to build compared to their traditional diesel counterparts, the success of the first wave of buses has brought calls for a fleet expansion.

How a Cogeneration Engine Works

How a Cogeneration Engine Works

Meanwhile, the city of Chicago is currently confronting its increased energy needs with a plan to change the way we think about heat and electricity production. While traditional coal-fired power plants can lose up to two-thirds of the energy they generate in heat loss, Chicago has turned to cogeneration plants to recover much of that energy. Capturing the hot steam created by natural gas combustion, cogeneration then uses that steam to power a second electrical generator while heating the building with the excess. Consequently, the simultaneous production of heat and electricity allows for reduced greenhouse emissions and plans for 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Over the last several years many of the city’s major public facilities, from hospitals to museums, have instituted cogeneration systems.

Destiny USA

Destiny USA

In Syracuse, New York, the largest mall in New York, and 6th in the World, Destiny USA, was a project that incorporated existing land and structures, allowing it to reduce its impact on the environment from the outset. Located in an established urban area, the mall avoids suburban sprawl while trying to integrate the needs of the community. To that end, a connective corridor was set up that allows pedestrians to easily walk, bike, or jog all the way from the city’s historic Armory Square district. At the same time, in retooling an existing structure, Destiny also sought to make the facility as energy efficient as possible. While numerous ideas were implemented to help make this a reality, one of the simplest and most effective was simply moving from the existing center’s black, heat absorbing roof to a white Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) one. This Heat Island Effect Roof cools the building and leads to lower costs and energy usage.

Taking a look at these projects and the hundreds and thousands of others currently underway throughout the US, I suppose I should take back what I said earlier: I don’t blame my mother. Instead, I thank her, and all the people like her, for recognizing the potential of the land we get to explore while starting us down a path to preserving it.


Cliff Barre, of Vermont, lives with wife Tiffany and teenage son Steven.  He would like to think of himself as an eco-friendly, responsible traveler who supports all things green.  He says its never to late in the game to go green and hopes that his blog posts and the help of other bloggers can spread the news about green initiatives we can all get involved with!


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