Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

May 20, 2019 by  
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Our quest to save the world by achieving 100 percent renewable energy will unfortunately also be devastating for the environment . An increase in renewable energy means an increase in the need for batteries to power electric cars and store energy from solar panels and wind turbines. However, batteries are made from unsustainably and unethically sourced metals. A new report , released by the University of Technology in Sydney, estimates that the surge in battery production will increase the demand for metals four times above what is currently available in the earth’s existing mines and reserves. The researchers calculated how the demand for “green batteries” will rise if countries meet their Paris Agreement commitments and transition to 100 percent renewable energy and transportation by 2050. Their findings indicate that the demand will exceed the amount of cobalt that is currently available and will consume 86 percent of the earth’s lithium. What metals are needed? Phones, solar panels, wind turbines and the batteries they use to store energy all use a variety of metals. In addition to lithium, batteries use cobalt, manganese and nickel. Solar panels are made from tellurium, gallium, silver and indium. Other renewable devices also use copper and aluminum. Related: Renewable energy surpasses coal for the first time in U.S. history The impact of metal mining Metal mining is largely unsustainable and there is currently no plan for ensuring a clean transition to renewable energy that reforms the mining industry. The following metals are especially problematic and in high demand: Cobalt 60 percent of all cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the mining process causes large scale heavy metal contamination of the air, water and soil. Moreover, the cobalt industry has widely documented human rights abuses, including employing children and forcing workers to mine in highly dangerous circumstances. After extraction in rural areas of the DRC, the raw metal travels to the capitol for processing and is typically transported to China, which refines 40 percent of all cobalt. Chinese companies then sell the refined cobalt to places such as Vietnam, where batteries are produced and then sold all over the world. In addition to the atrocious impacts at the mining site, the entire industry has a massive carbon footprint . Innovators are desperately trying to design a cobalt-free battery. Elon Musk even tweeted a commitment to discovering a new way to produce batteries, hoping to distance Tesla from the environmental and human rights issues tied to the cobalt industry. Such battery technology is not a likely possibility in the near future and the demand for renewable energy will cause a spike in the need to rely on the existing cobalt market at the expense of nature and thousands of lives. Lithium Lithium is largely extracted from South American countries such as Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The mines have contaminated drinking water reserves and cause conflict with local communities. Leaders from 33 indigenous groups sued mine operators over their right to clean water, however, they are up against a powerful industry that charges everything from our TV remotes to our beloved cellphones. Copper A new technology promises a more environmentally friendly strategy for extracting copper from the ground. It involves injecting an acid solution into the land while leaving the surface relatively undisturbed. However, the technology may still contaminate land and ground water. In Alaska , an indigenous group has been fighting a proposed copper mine on the site of a world’s most highly productive sockeye salmon fishery. Despite the importance of this ecosystem , the indigenous leaders have an uphill battle against powerful corporations, rising demand and limited copper reserves. Solutions: The greening of batteries Despite the negative impact of battery materials, experts still argue that the transition to renewable energy is worth it. Energy professor, Charles Barnhart of Western Washington University, told the media: “I want to be clear that when we talk about environmental impacts, we’re not trying to decide between ‘lesser evils,’” the destructive legacy of fossil fuels is incomparable. Although metal mining may never be clean, there are a few ways to improve the problem: Demand transparency from battery and electronics companies If mining operations and electronics companies know that consumers are paying attention to their supply chains, human rights practices and environmental impacts they are more likely to do the right thing. Respect rights of indigenous communities The sovereignty and voices of dissent from local communities must be recognized and supported both legally and financially in places from the DRC to Alaska. Increase energy efficiency The world’s transition to renewable energy seems to be the path forward, however people can still reduce their need for electricity in their every day lives. For example, homes built to make the most of natural light use less electricity during the daytime. Recycle batteries The lithium and cobalt recycling industry will be worth $23 billion by 2025 and will rise with increasing demand. Major companies like Tesla, Apple and Amazon are developing battery recycling programs for their products. Related: A growing number of states are aiming for clean energy Tips on how to recycle your batteries: Single-Use Batteries Identify a collection program or event in your area by calling your town hall or using Earth911’s Recycling Search program. Store batteries in plastic or cardboard containers and cover the ends with tape to prevent energy drain. Rechargeable batteries Identify a collection program. Many home and office supply stores have recycled battery dropboxes. Remove the battery from your electronics and cover the ends with clear tape. Via Earther Images via Shutterstock

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Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

Looking to make your mornings greener? Try these 7 tips for a sustainable morning routine

May 17, 2019 by  
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We all have our favorite ways to start the day, but how eco-friendly is your morning routine? You might be surprised to learn that most people waste a lot of energy and resources in the first few hours they are awake. Luckily, you can make your mornings more eco-friendly with a few easy steps. From drinking a more sustainable cup of coffee to saving on water, here are seven ways you can go green in the mornings. Sustainable Coffee A hot cup of coffee has become the staple of many morning routines. In fact, many people rely on the caffeine boost to help jumpstart their day. If coffee is something you cannot live without, there are ways in which you can make it more sustainable . A great idea is to start brewing your favorite beans in a thermal carafe. This will help keep the coffee warm for longer periods, which cuts down on the need to brew more later in the day. You should also consider investing in an efficient travel mug instead of disposable cups, even when you fill up at your local coffee shop. If you drink coffee on a regular basis, ditching the waste can really add up over time. You can also purchase coffee in bulk whenever possible. This will help cut down on packaging and is easier on your budget. Related: These are the best tips to help you establish an eco-friendly laundry routine Enjoy Some Sunlight Syncing your day with the sun is a great way to become more eco-friendly in the mornings. By getting up when the sun rises every morning, you are more likely to go to bed when the sun goes down. This allows you to use less energy at night because you are not relying on lights deep into the night. This, of course, is only applicable if you have a daytime work schedule and can easily adjust your mornings and evenings. If you do wake up with the sun, take advantage of the warmth by opening up the blinds and trapping the energy inside. Save Water It does not take much to waste water in the mornings, especially when it comes to showering. A lot of people wander off while they wait for the shower to warm up, which can waste significant amounts of water over time. Instead, stay close to the shower and jump right in as soon as the water is hot. If the water takes a bit to reach a desired temperature you can consider lowering the temperature of your water heater, as this will help save energy and is better for your skin. Healthy Breakfast Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, so why not make it as healthy as possible? One way to eat healthier in the mornings is to go vegan or vegetarian. Sub out meat products with fruit and veggies, tofu or even cereal. When shopping for the perfect breakfast ingredients, consider choosing items that are completely organic. Non-organic food is bad for the environment and not as healthy as organic products. You can also find great deals on organic food and should not have to break your budget to eat healthier. Switch Up Your Commute If you live within a reasonable distance from your job, consider walking or riding a bike a few days every week. Walking or biking to your place of employment will get your daily workout out of the way and make you more alert throughout the morning. This also helps cut down on vehicle emissions and traffic, which are two of the biggest concerns for cities around the world. You can also consider carpooling with your co-workers to help curb harmful emissions . If you are looking to buy a new vehicle, take a look at an eco-friendly option, such as a hybrid or a small car. These vehicles are much better for the environment and can generate considerable gas savings on an annual basis, both of which will make your eco-friendly morning routine complete. Eco-Friendly Bathroom Bathroom products are one of the worst offenders to the environment . Not only do they contribute to the growing problem of plastic waste, but they are packed with harmful chemicals that eventually find their way into our water sources. You can help curb some of these issues by choosing products that are eco-friendly. The only downside is that these products tend to be a little more expensive than their counterparts. But considering how many of these chemicals are linked to poor health, you will probably save on medical bills down the road. Related: 8 tips to make your exercise routine more eco-friendly Reusable Living One of the easiest ways to go green in the mornings is to reuse whatever you can. From coffee mugs to water containers, having something you can reuse on a daily basis can really cut down on excess waste. Reusing containers can also save you a few bucks every month. If you pack your own lunch to work, you should also consider investing in a reusable lunchbox or bag and avoid single-use plastics . It may be tempting to throw everything in a grocery bag, but these types of plastics are terrible for the environment and are filling up landfills at an alarming rate. Via Livegreen Recyclebank , The Fun Times Guide Images via Shutterstock

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Looking to make your mornings greener? Try these 7 tips for a sustainable morning routine

Amsterdam Announces Plan to Ban All Polluting Cars by 2030

May 8, 2019 by  
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On Thursday, the city of Amsterdam announced its plan to replace all gasoline and diesel-powered cars and motorcycles with electric vehicles by 2030. The plan is an attempt to address unhealthy and alarming rates of air pollution in the city due to high traffic. Currently, toxic air pollution in Amsterdam exceeds European Union standards. In 2018, the Dutch health council called on the government to develop a plan to address toxic amounts of nitrogen dioxide and particle matter, specifically in the congested cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Related: Lyft vows to help customers find electric vehicles with Green Mode “Pollution often is a silent killer and is one of the greatest health hazards in Amsterdam,” said Sharon Dijksma , the city’s traffic councilor. According to Dijksma, Amsterdam residents lose an average of one year off their life expectancy due to air pollution. The Dutch government’s goal is to replace all polluting cars, buses, boats and motorcycles with electric vehicles or hydrogen powered vehicles. The plan will be rolled out in phases over the next decade, including: By 2020: All cars built before 2005 will be banned from the city. By 2022: All polluting public buses and taxis will be banned. By 2025: All polluting boats and mopeds will also be banned. The city will also increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations in order to reach a total of at least 23,000. Although climate activists are mostly supportive of the initiative, some groups fear that this car ban will unfairly affect poor families who cannot afford electric vehicles. The loudest voice of dissent comes from the Rai Association, an automotive industry lobbying group, which argues that the ban will shut low income families out of the city. However, supporters argue that electric vehicles have become increasingly less expensive and that the price is expected to steadily decline over the next 11 years. The government also plans to use subsidies and parking permits to incentivize drivers to switch to cleaner cars. Via Ecowatch Image via Shutterstock

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Worlds first upcycled high-rise is proposed for Copenhagen

May 1, 2019 by  
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Danish architecture firms Lendager Group and TREDJE NATUR want to prove that building tall doesn’t need to come at the cost of the environment or human comfort. That’s why the two firms teamed up to design CPH Common House, a proposal for the world’s first upcycled high-rise in the Ørestad area of Copenhagen. Draped in greenery, the stepped building would be built from upcycled materials “to an unprecedented extent” for an estimated 1,174 tons of carbon emission savings in the building phase. Designed to raise the bar for sustainable high-rises in the future, the CPH Common House is a proposal commissioned by SOLSTRA Development – Bellakvarter A/S, but it was not chosen for construction. The conceptual project serves as a springboard for eco-friendly developments in the future. “With CPH Common House, we propose the world’s first upcycled high-rise building,” the architects explained. “We show how to build high and dense without losing the connection to the history, context and human scale. Strategies on sustainability and circularity are incorporated in the project from the first sketch.” The CPH Common House puts a new sustainable spin on the classic Copenhagen courtyard building by introducing a larger courtyard and a dramatically staggered design that lets greater amounts of natural light into the apartments and creates room for terraced green spaces. The architects proposed using 17,577 tons of upcycled waste to create a resource-efficient building that includes recycled tiles and concrete with brick fractures, recycled window frames reused as wood paneling and recycled wood floors. Related: Ecovillage in Copenhagen strives to meet all 17 Sustainable Development Goals To create connection with the existing urban fabric, the CPH Common House draws elements from the traditional perimeter block and activates the streetscape with 30,000 square meters of commercial space located at the building’s base. The landscaped terraces and the expansive courtyard near the base of the building create communal meeting spaces for the community, while residents would also enjoy access to private roof terraces from their apartments. Rainwater would be harvested and reused for irrigation. + Lendager Group + TREDJE NATUR Via ArchDaily Images via TREDJE NATUR

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A welcoming healthcare center in New Delhi follows passive design principles

May 1, 2019 by  
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New Delhi-based architecture and interior design firm VYOM has completed the Dental Care Centre, a recently opened healthcare facility in New Delhi that offers much more than a teeth cleaning. Designed to follow passive solar principles, the light-filled facility immerses patients in a spa-inspired environment with views of nature from every room. A natural materials palette also helps tie the bright and airy building to the landscape. Built to embrace nature, the Dental Care Centre was carefully laid out on a linear site so as to avoid removing any mature trees. The thoughtful design not only reduced site impact , but also helped maximize access to shade while reducing heat load on the structure. The shaded areas also informed the team’s decision to add an outdoor deck and outdoor seating for patients and visitors, while bamboo screens provide privacy to the staff quarters. Views of the preserved canopy are swept indoors through large glazed openings and include clerestory windows , walls of glass and skylights. The most dramatic opening can be found at the heart of the Dental Care Centre, where an open-air courtyard is punctuated by a square fishpond enclosed in glass on four sides. A raised wooden roof with deep overhangs helps mitigate glare from southern sunshine while allowing natural daylight to flood the interior. Related: Light-filled dentist clinic shows how good design can calm patient fears “Addressing the functional, medical requirements while always keeping the focus on positive patient care has resulted in a scheme where the colors and materiality harmoniously enhance the spatial quality,” the architects explained of the healthcare facility, which is dressed in off-white walls and timber accents. “The Dental Care Centre is a singular and exclusive design that enhances the levels of patient care, while mitigating patient stress levels by giving them an environment which is close to nature, dynamic, cheerful and full of natural light .” + VYOM Photography by Yatinder Kumar via VYOM

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A welcoming healthcare center in New Delhi follows passive design principles

Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

May 1, 2019 by  
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A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office predicts an alarming $54 billion in hurricane and flood damage over the next few years — much of which can be avoided by spending money upfront to protect and prevent against losses. The frequency of what are called “billion-dollar storms” appear to be increasing. In 2018, there were 39 “billion-dollar” disasters around the world — 16 of which were in the U.S. Already in the first four months of 2019, the U.S. has endured winter storms Quiana and Ulmer, and each one caused more than a billion dollars  in damage to infrastructure and homes. The new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) focuses on hurricanes, which are the mostly costly natural disasters according to NOAA. Since 1980, tropical cyclones have caused a combined $927.5 billion in damages and are also the most expensive individual storm events in both financial cost and lives lost. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Of the annual losses predicted by the CBO, $34 billion is estimated in damage to homes, plus $12 billion for the public sector and $9 billion for private businesses. The direct cost to taxpayers is estimated at approximately $17 billion per year. However, the CBO report also underscores several preventive actions that could significantly reduce these costs. By some analyses , mitigation measures (such as flood prevention or watershed protection) could save Americans $6 dollars in losses for every $1 spent in preparation. Solutions to mitigate hurricane damage The following suggestions from the report include environmental and policy-level recommendations to reduce loss in infrastructure and lives from tropical storms and hurricanes. Reduce carbon emissions Hurricanes, and their rising frequency and intensity, are intricately tied to climate change . Increasing temperatures melt glaciers and cause sea level rise, which leads to higher storm surge levels and more destructive flooding. The rising temperatures have also been linked to increased rainfall. Climate change is a result of greenhouse gas emissions; therefore,  reducing emissions would slow and prevent some of the future damage caused by intense storms and extreme flooding. One primary way to reduce emissions, according to the CBO, is by expanding cap-and-trade programs. These programs incentivize companies to keep emissions below designated thresholds and allow the purchasing of emission credits between companies that pollute less and companies that pollute more. However, the CBO also acknowledges that limiting emissions may negatively impact the economy by increasing the cost of goods and services and reducing jobs. Likewise, the CBO argues that such strategies must be enforced at a global scale, otherwise corporations will relocate to countries that allow unfettered pollution. Increase funding for flood mapping The weather is changing, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is struggling to keep up. Rapid urban development in wetlands and flood zones, combined with sea level rise and erosion, are changing the landscape of flood risk. The scale of this need is overwhelming — in 2018, FEMA spent $452 million on flood mapping and data collection, but it was nowhere near enough. Expand flood insurance coverage Flood insurance agencies need accurate spatial data and maps in order to adequately provide coverage, charge appropriate rates and adequately inform the public about their specific risks. Most people simply do not buy flood insurance and of those that do, 25 percent drop their plan within the first year. More accurate data and delineated risk zones can help inform residents of their direct risks and incentivize homeowners to implement mitigation measure, such as relocating heating and cooling equipment above of the predicted flood level. Accurate risk data will also help justify changes for long-standing insurance policy holders who have been “grandfathered” into plans that grossly underestimated their vulnerability before climate science and spatial mapping were widely available. An estimated 20 percent of insurance policy holders are paying rates lower than their appropriate risk level, which is good news for the policy holder up until a storm hits and they are in need of benefits that correspond to the damage they endured. Encourage local and state governments to share recovery costs When the president declares a disaster emergency, municipalities receive federal dollars to provide basic needs and support recovery efforts. Though the federal government plans to ramp up funding for preventive measures, such as sea walls, the CBO believes that if local and state governments had to foot more of the bill, they would be more inclined to enforce important mitigation policy . For example, if local and state governments expected to have to pay for damage to infrastructure, they would be more strict about limiting new development in flood zones — something they have more power to control from a local level. The message is clear — mitigation efforts are worth every penny. The National Weather Service already predicted more severe flooding this hurricane season than previous years. As evidence piles up in favor of mitigation, the only question remaining is ‘where do we start?’ + CBO Via The Weather Channel Image via Raquel M  and Pamela Andrade ( 1 , 2 )

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Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

New York City passes landmark bill to cut carbon emissions of big buildings by 80%

April 22, 2019 by  
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New York City just passed a landmark bill to cut carbon emissions. City council members overwhelming voted in favor of a historic law, called the The Climate Mobilization Act, which will reduce emissions of buildings larger than 25,000 square feet by 80 percent over the next 30 years. The most significant portion of the bill will require these buildings to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent over the next decade. By 2050, these buildings will have to cut emissions by 80 percent total, greatly reducing overall air pollution in the Big Apple. Buildings of this size, including Trump Tower, represent a tiny portion of the city but cause about half of building-related pollution. Related: New York vows to ban plastic bags statewide in 2020 The new law comes on the heels of a study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that linked building emissions to climate change. Researchers with the IPCC concluded that carbon emissions in the United States grew by a little over 3 percent in 2018. Large buildings were a major contributor to the jump in emissions, and the study called for tighter restrictions in the building sector. New York City’s new initiative will undoubtedly help lower those numbers. The plan will also create jobs for thousands of New Yorkers. Lawmakers estimate that the law will put around 20,000 people to work, mainly in the construction industry. With the bill being beneficial to the environment and economy, city council members voted it in 45-2. “The Climate Mobilization Act is a down payment on the future of New York City — one that ensures we lead the way in the ever-growing fight against climate change ,” Costa Constantinides, a member of the city council, shared. Constantinides added that he hopes the new law will encourage other cities to enact similar legislation. Apart from curbing building emissions, the bill includes measures to boost energy efficiency in utility plants, encourage green roofs and various forms of renewable energy  and make it easier for individuals to receive wind project permits. Despite the positive outlook on cutting carbon emissions, the bill was met with considerable resistance on behalf of several real estate firms in the city. Via Climate Nexus Image via Bruce Emmerling

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Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

April 16, 2019 by  
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New research shows that European diets are linked to deforestation  in tropical countries. Scientists from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology tracked carbon emissions that are produced from tropical deforestation and found that one-sixth of the harmful emissions are related to European diets. “In effect, you could say that the EU imports large amounts of deforestation every year,” lead researcher Martin Persson shared. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa Persson noted that the European Union needs to address the issue of deforestation if it wants to meet previously announced climate goals. The study showed that deforestation contributed around 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a four-year span, from 2010 to 2014. Most of the cleared land was used for crops and pastures, with cattle and oilseed farming leading the way in production. A good portion of the deforestation was driven by international demand. The researchers estimated that anywhere between 29 to 39 percent of the carbon emissions could be traced to trade, which is directly linked to consumption in several EU nations. Fortunately, some countries in the EU are cracking down on imports tied to deforestation. France, for example, initiated a plan to discourage such imports over the next 10 years. Investors have also issued warnings to companies that produce soy, criticizing them for participating in deforestation for the sake of making money. Although some countries are fighting back, Persson and his team do not believe the efforts will stop companies from clearing land. Part of the issue is that there are few regulations that actually prevent countries from importing products that are linked to deforestation. Persson also believes that nations should provide better support for local farmers who are practicing sustainability . Moving forward, Persson hopes more studies will be done that expand on his work and show stronger links between imported products and deforestation. With more data to support their conclusions, Persson believes that countries can work together to put an end to deforestation before it is too late. The study will be published in the journal Global Environmental Change in May 2019. Via Mongabay Image via Shutterstock

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New study predicts mass extinction in 140 years

February 25, 2019 by  
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A new study suggests that the old saying about history repeating itself is absolutely true. In this case, history repeating itself pertains to none other than the topic on everyone’s minds— extinction. Researchers believe it’s taken 56 million years for earth to face another mass extinction that can occur in as little as 140 years.  The research, released last Wednesday and published in Geophysical Research Letters , compares conditions in the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) period with our planet’s present warming condition. Back in PETM days, carbon dioxide shot up, increasing Earth’s temperatures by 9 to 14 degrees. The tropical Atlantic heated up to approximately 97 degrees. Land and marine animals died. It took 150,000 years for the planet to recover. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Unfortunately for us, carbon dioxide emissions are rising ten times faster now than they did during the PETM. Back then, wildfires, volcanic activity and methane wafting from the seafloor and permafrost were the culprits. Today, it’s down to us. Last year, emissions in countries with advanced economies rose slightly after a five-year decline. At this rate, the study predicts Earth’s atmosphere will be comparable to the beginning of PETM in 140 years, reaching a peak in 259 years. The result? Mass extinction. Philip Gingerich, the study’s author, did a literature review of previous studies on PETM and the rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Based on eight studies published between 2009 and 2018, he used models to project future emissions caused by humans. Gingerich is an emeritus professor in the University of Michigan’s earth sciences department. He directed the university’s Museum of Paleontology for nearly 30 years. “[It’s] as if we are deliberately and efficiently manufacturing carbon for emission to the atmosphere at a rate that will soon have consequences comparable to major events long ago in earth history,” Gingerich told Earther. As he states in his study, “A second PETM-scale global greenhouse warming event is on the horizon if we cannot lower anthropogenic carbon emission rates.” Via Earther Image via nikolabelopitv

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Lyft vows to help customers find electric vehicles with Green Mode

February 14, 2019 by  
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Lyft is making important strides to decrease carbon emissions in the ride-hailing industry. The company just announced a new initiative called Green Mode, which will make it easier for customers to find electric vehicles (EVs) through the platform. The company, which was the first of its kind to get a carbon-neutral label last year, is planning to introduce a score of electric vehicles in 2019. Putting thousands of EVs on the road will offer a more eco-friendly alternative to customers while putting more money in the pocket of its employees. According to Lyft , the Green Mode program will eventually be incorporated in cities around the world. The company hopes that introducing electric vehicles to cities will significantly curb carbon emissions and reduce the number of gas-powered vehicles on the road. With electric vehicles producing half as much greenhouse gases as their traditional counterparts, Lyft’s program is promising. Lyft will introduce Green Mode in Seattle first before branching out into other cities in the United States. Other locations have yet to be announced. Once the program is widespread, customers will be able to use Green Mode in the company’s app to filter electric and hybrid vehicles . The Green Mode program is also beneficial to drivers. Individuals who use Lyft are always looking for ways to decrease fuel costs, and providing electric vehicles would be a major step to make that happen. That is why Lyft plans to offer an electric vehicle rental service, in which drivers can rent EVs without worrying about mileage or maintenance costs. The company would also pay for the insurance. Lyft will incorporate the rental costs into the driver’s weekly rate. Because electricity costs much less than gasoline, this will put more money in the pocket of drivers who use electric vehicles. In fact, the company estimates that its Green Mode initiative will save employees thousands of dollars every year — and that only accounts for fuel savings. + Lyft Image via Lyft

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