Extreme Clean — Fighting Climate Change in Daily Life

The climate story of past weeks has grown all-too-familiar. The Central U.S. has been flooded by record rains whose extremity was spiked by the heat trapping gasses still building in our atmosphere. A city of half a million people was devastated by a cyclone feeding off of record warm waters. The oceans continue their rise. The glaciers their melt. The corals their dying. The fisheries their shifting. The seasons their altering. In other words, the climate upon which we all rely for so much is gradually becoming FUBAR.

warmer than normal sea surface temperatures

(Warmer than normal sea surface temperatures related to human caused climate chance contributed to a city-devastating cyclone striking Mozambique. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The story of the recent climate change related disasters could have been written a month ago, a year ago, two years ago. And ten years from now it will be the same story. Only worse. Though we have not yet entered the truly catastrophic age of climate change driven by fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas emissions, for some, the situation is already a catastrophe. Whole towns have burned from worsened wildfires. Entire islands are being swallowed by the rising sea. The heat is more dangerous, the droughts more difficult with each passing year. And new, terrible storms range the globe with increasing frequency.

In my last blog, I made an appeal for U.S. and global action in the form of a Green New Deal. Why? Because I believe this is our all hands on deck moment. The time when we, both as people and as societies, need to do everything we can to blunt the coming trouble. And true to that cause — I went dark.

Why?

(More on present day climate impacts and action.)

Well, I figured that it was time to stop simply writing about climate change and start doing something about it on a personal level. Sure, I’d already done what I could in some respects. My wife and I worked to be as energy efficient as possible. We adopted a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle (which reduces our carbon emissions by about 10-15 percent). I promoted clean energy through my work and writing. I voted for politicians who would adopt helpful climate policy like the Green New Deal. But for me, those actions were not enough. In order to be most effective, I needed to pursue the goal of a clean energy transition and a net zero carbon lifestyle for self and family and to help others to do the same. In the parlance of my military/emerging threats background, I needed to become a climate change response force multiplier.

That public effort begins today. It will be a no-holds barred description of my clean energy transition attempts. A down in the dirt expose of my successes, my struggles, and my failures. And an attempt to transfer all the knowledge gained in that process to as many of you as possible. I’m calling this effort — Extreme Clean. And I hope you join me in pursuing it.

Though the public effort begins today, the private effort started back in September of 2018. Back then, I decided that the first major goal of my clean energy transition attempt would be to purchase an advanced electrical vehicle and to share access to this clean energy system with others. Gaining access to a long range electric vehicle would not be easy. Costs, compared to the reach of my middle class income, were relatively high — ranging from around 29,000 dollars to the upper 40s. And sharing an electric vehicle would not be easy. Slower refuel times and somewhat shorter range than internal combustion engine vehicles were all also limiting factors.

Reduced emissions with electric vehicles

(Electric vehicles allow you to cut transport based carbon emissions by half or more. Image source: Union of Concerned Scientists.)

At the time, I didn’t have the money or the means or even a plan. My access to clean energy, as had been the case for too, too long, was limited. But there were a growing set of options coming from clean energy business and a new economy that I thought could help me reach my goals.

My first move was to begin ride-sharing during the time I would typically spend blogging. I planned to use the ride share money to save for an electric vehicle. The vehicle I was driving (and continue to drive) is a 2009 Hyundai Elantra. Not a gas guzzler, for sure, but a vehicle with a total carbon footprint in the range of 2-3 times that of a fully electrified vehicle plugged into the cleaner Maryland grid. One that would be even less if I could eventually get a home equipped with solar panels.

Rideshare

(My present goal: ridesharing an electric vehicle as a clean energy multiplier.)

Since September of I have completed 1,139 shared rides using the Uber rideshare application. This enabled me to have lots of chats about climate change and clean energy with riders. And I’ve got to say that many, many people out there are very concerned. These folks come from all walks of life and political persuasions. And though I did get into a few polite discussions with people of the climate change denial persuasion, my overall sense is that the vast majority of riders I picked up basically got it and shared my concern.

To me, this experience was pretty liberating. But even more liberating was the fact that I was able to save a good deal of money using the Uber app to put toward the purchase of a clean energy vehicle. To start taking rides in an electrical vehicle in order to multiply my clean energy impact.

So as of this point in time, I am looking at logging my reservation of a long range electrical vehicle by mid April, to take delivery of that vehicle by sometime in May or June, and to start sharing clean rides with people by that time. But before I do that, I’m going to have to actually choose a brand of electrical vehicle to purchase. And in that process, I’m going to need to look at cost, capability, maintenance, and charging. To look at what works best for me given my personal needs and my clean energy goals. It won’t be easy. I live in a condo. I don’t even have access to a garage. So for me, the bar for clean energy access is pretty high. But that’s what the Extreme Clean program is all about. Attempting to overcome difficult obstacles in order to help save our future. And I hope you all will weigh in as I go through the process of picking an electrical vehicle that’ll work for me given my situation and goals.

So thanks so much for stopping by. Thanks for taking part in Extreme Clean. And until next time — cioa!

(Want to help spread the word about personal clean energy transformation? Then please share this blog far and wide. Wish to engage in a similar Extreme Clean effort through rideshare? Then please help by using this Uber referral code: ROBERTF30288UE.)

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25 Comments

  1. Nancy

     /  March 26, 2019

    What a wonderful project, Robert! You are an inspiration to all. Your passengers must come away well informed about the climate crisis. I look forward to updates.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  2. Robert, I’m glad that you are staring to walk the talk. My commitment to living sustainably began at the turn of the century and since then I have designed and installed solar power, heating and domestic water heating systems and I have been driving hybrid vehicles since 2000. Currently driving a 2017 Chevy Volt on a $200/month lease which I consider to be very affordable. If you (and your readers) are looking for more ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint please look at this section of my web site: https://www.arttec.net/SustainableLiving/index.html

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. doldrom

     /  March 26, 2019

    I salute your pioneering zeal. May it be a harbinger of collective action soon.

    Like

    Reply
  4. Reblogged this on jpratt27 and commented:
    Time to join the ExtinctionRebellion

    Like

    Reply
  5. I missed your excellent blogs, it is one e of the best sources of information on climate change, maybe the best one . You could put your blogs together in a book. I actually write a blog myself, on a Swiss French newspaper site.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. David Gurk

     /  March 27, 2019

    If you could move your purchase of an electric vehicle up a few weeks, Robert, you’ve got until March 31 to buy a Chevy Bolt with the full $7,500 tax credit. The credit gets cut in half to $3,750 on April 1.

    Best of luck to you on your Extreme Clean project. You’re setting a great example for us!

    Like

    Reply
  7. Inspiring ! Thanks for sharing! We’ve got an important election coming up in a few years (or less); let’s do what it takes to get a Climate Change activist in office!

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  8. Marcel Guldemond

     /  March 27, 2019

    Hi Robert, this is very interesting. I’ve recently come to a similar kind of decision to this question of how to do more. I’ve decided to give up painting and devote the time I’d normally use to make art to do more about climate change. Considering the state of the climate emergency, the personal lifestyle carbon reducing changes that we’ve made, and small donations to activists, just don’t seem like enough. Making paintings for a few people’s homes, making them happier because of my art, while a good thing in and of itself, eventually came to seem like a distraction.

    I’m still in the process of figuring out the best way to use my art time to fight this thing. From my investigations it seems like the entire arts community is still figuring it out.

    One option I considered was to drop art making pretty much and make extra money on software development and use that to support climate activists. In my conversations with friends and others, they all discouraged me from leaving the art completely behind.

    So now I’m leaning towards using art in a propaganda and morale boosting effort, much like the Allies used it during the war to facilitate their war mobilizations. Which is what we need: a massive emissions reduction mobilization, as you well know. Society wide Climate despair is real, and I see it as a major obstacle to effective political climate response, so I think that’s what I’m going to work on.

    As I said, it’s a work in progress, and will probably continue to be indefinitely. I’ve been collecting many thoughts on this, and I’ll email them to you soon,

    In any case, I applaud your effort, but I would also say that if you can find a way to keep blogging, please do. Your blogging has been excellent and i think it can be an excellent mobilization tool for many people. At least blog as much as you can about your journey towards extreme clean.

    As well, I’m happy to help you figure out which electric car to go for, since I read EV news obsessively and have a lot of opinions on EVs.

    I’m going to blog my own journey on this too, but I’m still getting my first efforts organized.

    You can see my progress on Instagram, in the meantime:
    https://www.instagram.com/marcel_g_art/

    Cheers,
    Marcel

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Marcel,
      You can definitely use your art to address Climate Change. I was deeply moved by a poster that I had in the 1970’s called: “Overpopulation” by John Pitre – it has informed my life ever since. I wrote a blog about it (with image of the piece): https://mistersustainable.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-population-time-bomb.html

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Marcel Guldemond

         /  March 30, 2019

        Thank Guy, the whole issue is what’s the best use of my time and money. Because the issue is now no longer a technical issue (we have the technology and understand the regulatory techniques needed) and has resolved to a purely a political problem, the question is whether I monetarily help activists with their direct actions, or provide underlying art support. The former might have more immediate results, but the latter is longer term and more durable.

        I’m leaning towards the latter because the arts community as a whole hasn’t figured out how to address the issue, and if we do, we might be able to push society and its politics forward, and because what might be the biggest impediment to general population mobilization is the widespread climate despair and grief that seems to be gripping our societies. The fossil lobbies have been enormously successful with their campaigns of fear and doubt.

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    • eleggua

       /  March 30, 2019

      https://www.artclimatechange.org/2019/

      ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019
      FESTIVAL ANNOUNCEMENT
      CLIMARTE’s highly anticipated ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 festival returns from 23 April – 19 May 2019.

      Since 2010 CLIMARTE has built a broad alliance of arts organisations, artists, curators, audiences and academics from across the spectrum of the arts and sciences to speak up about the grave dangers caused by human induced climate change while highlighting the path towards a fair and sustainable future. At each step along the way we have sought to engage more deeply with local communities, particularly those at the frontline of climate change and energy transition.

      Now in 2019, ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE will present over thirty curated exhibitions at leading museums and galleries in Melbourne and regional Victoria. The 2019 festival will consider ideas and concepts around art and activism, community engagement, transition and accelerated action on climate change.

      Alongside festival exhibitions, commissions, artist talks, theatre works, films screenings and keynote lectures, our public programs will bring together experts in art practice with some of the foremost researchers in climate and environmental science with prominent thinkers on cultural, philosophical and psychological consequences of climate change.

      Let us do no more harm to our blue planet and join with the artists, curators, scientists, policy experts, museums and galleries and our committed partners and demand accelerated action on climate change for a just and sustainable future – for all life on earth.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Marcel Guldemond

         /  March 30, 2019

        Thanks eleggua, that’s a very helpful link. I’ll check it out and incorporate that into my much too ponderous thinking on the subject.
        cheers,
        m

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        Reply
  9. Not sure if you are wanting current weather and related global climate stories, but plenty continues to happen. This from New Zealand, one of various counties I have lived in or am associated with: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12216808

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  10. I have gone with a fairly conservative report, but many news outlets are putting the death toll from this Iranian flood event into the 30’s: Sad whatever the figure:
    https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190328_17/

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  11. Hi, Robert, a couple of my comments on the previous thread have been stuck in moderation since mid-Feb. We did have a dispute a long time back, which is probably why I’m being “modded”, but I really would like to contribute to this excellent blog.

    Cheers, Bill

    Like

    Reply
  12. Marcel Guldemond

     /  March 30, 2019

    Robert, regarding your upcoming choices for an EV for your Uber efforts, I would like to offer some thoughts. I don’t know how much mileage you need to do in a typical day though, but I’m going to assume that the 40kwh Leaf is too limited. You’ll probably want to keep the battery state of charge between 20% and 80% to prevent degradation, which means the 40kwh Leaf only offers ~90-100 miles of useable range. You could probably push the SOC range to 15%-85% without affecting the battery that much though.

    The Chevy Bolt and Leaf Plus (62kwh) would be viable options, both having decent back seat room with long range. Useable range is probably around 130-160 miles with these 2. Leafs are generally very reliable, and have a large trunk. However, you need chargers nearby that are reliable enough, and with amenities nearby so you can go do something while you’re charging, and Plugshare doesn’t seem to show enough of them in your area with CCS or Chademo plugs. (I’m assuming here that you’re not able to get a Level 2 charger installed at your home, and stringing extension cords from your house to the parking lot wouldn’t work.)

    This charging issue then makes Tesla Model 3 the winner, as there is a 12 stall supercharger located close to you. Once Tesla installs the V3 chargers there, you’d probably be able to recharge from 20-80% in ~20 minutes.

    The Standard Range Plus seems like the best value in Model 3 versions, and is only about $5K more than the base model Bolt and Leaf Plus. If you’re good at haggling with car dealers though, you might be able to get a better deal on the GM or Nissan, but the charging issue seems to be the kicker.

    As well, the Model 3 will probably much more impressive to your clients, so it would be a better ambassador for the cleantech revolution and GND.

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    • Marcel Guldemond

       /  March 30, 2019

      I forgot to mention that there are also used Model Ss available for $40K or under, so that might also be another option. They don’t charge quite as fast as a Model 3, but might also be a viable option.

      Like

      Reply
    • billski

       /  April 2, 2019

      Hi, Marcel,
      As an owner of a 24 kWh 2013 Nissan Leaf with 48k miles/ 77k km under its belt I am very puzzled by what you say about ensuring the amount of charge stays within 20% and 80% of capacity. Can you provide some references?
      There is certainly evidence that leaving it fully charged for extended periods leads to significant degradation, but beyond that I have found very little information beyond the fact that, yes, there is a gradual loss of capacity. In addition NIssan now offer replacement 24 kWh battery packs for about $2,800, so I might well go for that option, perhaps around the time of my car’s 10th birthday.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Marcel Guldemond

         /  April 3, 2019

        Hi billski, the batteries degrade fastest from high heat and/or high voltage. Since charging to 100% means that the battery has been charged to the maximum voltage allowed by the battery management system, then charging to 100%, not just leaving it at that SOC is a factor in degrading the battery.

        The study referenced in the following article found that cycling the test battery from 100% to 20% achieved 1000 cycles, whereas cycling from 80% to 20% achieved 3500 cycles.

        https://pushevs.com/2018/04/27/battery-charging-full-versus-partial/

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
      • Marcel Guldemond

         /  April 3, 2019

        Sorry, hit reply before I was finished.

        I guess since the study was pushing the batteries to a full 100%, and all EVs protect the batteries by limiting charging to 95% of capacity, you could probably achieve the same result by keeping the charge between 85-15%.

        since 90%-10% achieves 2000 in the study, in an EV that would translate to 95-5% on the dash, so keeping the SOC between 90%-10% on the dash would probably achieve over 2000 cycles.

        On a 40kwh Leaf, that would get theoretically get 240km * 0.8 (80% usage) * 0.85 (degradation from 100% to 70%) * 2200 cycles = 350,000km.

        That would be assuming no heat damage from high temps.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  13. Great initiative Robert. Are you able to buy 100% renewable electricity in your area?

    Like

    Reply
  14. West Baldimore

     /  March 31, 2019

    This reminds me of a funny story. About three years ago my husband, tired of ending up in SUVs, contacted one of the rideshare apps to ask them if a customer could request a “green” car. They responded that no, you cannot request a specific color of vehicle.

    Hopefully they’ve figured out what he meant by now, and are rolling out that service.

    Switching gears, I missed these emails. Welcome back.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  15. Becky

     /  April 1, 2019

    I admire your decision to become vegetarian/vegan. It can be a difficult transition for some. If people are going to continue to eat animal products, I suggest you go to localharvest.org, type in your zip code and find many farms near you and information on what they raise and how they raise it. Don’t buy meat in supermarkets. Some small local farmers humanely raise their animals and don’t give them antibiotics or growth hormones. It is a small step in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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