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Curb your carbon, green your rides


April 22, 2012 – Introducing the Unlitrike. The electric tricycle takes its name from the words “unlimited” and “tricycle.” While the Unlitrike runs, it recharges its battery, eliminating the need to plug into any power source.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Earth Day Network Philippines Inc. (EDNPI) are set to launch the “Unlitrike” on Earh Day, April 22.

“That takes away carbon emissions,” said Roberto Guevarra, EDNPI chair. An electric vehicle (EV) like the Unlitrike runs on energy stored in batteries. These batteries can be charged using solar, wind, or hydropower. As a result, EVs don’t burn fuel and have no emissions.

Electric vehicles (EVs), like this e-jeepney in Makati City, run on energy stored in batteries. © AC Dimatatac

In contrast, all motor vehicles burn oil and emit carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere; it helps bring about global warming. This means that each time we use a motor vehicle to get from Point A to Point B, we contribute to climate change.

So on Earth Day and beyond, let’s think of ways to green our rides, which is good for the planet, our wallets, and our communities. Let’s make it our Plan A, because we have no Planet B.

Here are three steps we can take to curb our carbon emissions. They are adapted from the “Avoid-Shift-Improve” approach to sustainable transport.

1. Avoid (and reduce the need to travel)

Malou Buenconsejo has found the perfect way to avoid long and stressful commutes. “I work from home all the time,” says the freelance editorial consultant. She need only take a few steps from her bedroom to her computer.

She has occasional meetings at her clients’ offices. “I schedule these meetings on a common day,” says Buenconsejo. “So, on the average, I go out two to four times a month.”

Buenconsejo enjoys working from her home. She saves time and money. She avoids the hassles of commuting back and forth: the expense, the crowded vehicles, the traffic, and the dirty air. She works steadily, free from the idle chatter that inevitably takes place in the work place. Best of all, Buenconsejo spends quality time with family members and her “extended family” of cats and dogs.

Ask yourself:  Can I shorten my trip or work from home?  Can I skip the trip?  Take action!  Make a case for telecommuting.  Ah, the joy of going to work in your shorts and slippers, grabbing a cup of coffee, and sitting down to the computer. Who wouldn’t want that?

Alas, the decision to work from home may not be yours alone to make. Your manager has to approve the arrangement. Lisa Quast offers useful tips in “So You Want To Telecommute? Here’s How To Convince Your Boss.”Let your fingers do the walking.You can avoid many trips by going , picking up the phone, or having goods or services brought to you. As a result, you save time and cut your carbon emissions.

Need a copy of your birth certificate or have your new passport picked up? No need to line up at the concerned agency. Instead, use Citizen Services. Teleserv will, for a fee, get your official documents and deliver them to you.

Have to meet with coworkers and business partners? Thanks to Skype and Google chat with video, you can still talk business with them without going to where they are.

Get services such as massages and some diagnostic tests done in the comfort of your own home. Even checkups at home can be scheduled through Home Health Care.

The company sends spets to the patient’s home; this saves the patient and his or her family the trouble of organizing a trip to the hospital. They need not lose a day’s pay because a family member had to take a day off, hire a taxi, and endure the long wait.

2. Shift (Choose more efficient transport modes, such as walking, cycling, and taking public transport)

Nico Carlo Villanueva enjoys walking. The creative spet works at the tourism office of Angeles City in Pampanga. He believes “citizens deserve a good sidewalk.” Villanueva’s wonderful photo shows how much fun it can be to walk, if there are enough trees around and a friend to walk with.

Gerry Gabriel believes the family that bikes together stays together. The cable TV consultant, his wife, and their three kids did their “bisikleta iglesia” during Holy Week. “We biked all the way to 14 different churches,” says Gabriel.

bikings_1Photo: Gerry Gabriel (in red) and his family did their “bisikleta iglesia” last Holy Week. (c) Gerry Gabriel

Robert Alejandro likes taking public transport. In Metro Manila, the graphic designer often takes the MRT, where he says he does some of his best thinking. When abroad, he enjoys riding buses and trains.

Ask yourself: Can I walk or bike?  Can I take public transit?

Take action!

Work to make your city more walkable.  Walking around Metro Manila is no walk in the park.  The sidewalks are narrow, there are few shady trees, and the air is dirty.

As a result, few people walk around the megacity. Only one in five trips per day are done on foot.

The lack of exercise has led to Filipinos getting fat. Seven out of 10 Filipinas are overweight; one out of 10 Filipinos is obese. These were the findings of the seventh National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute. Obese Filipinos are at risk of developing diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cholesterol problems.

It’s time we worked together to make our cities more conducive to walking. Let’s write our mayors and point out the locations of these problem areas.

Another option is to join the Metro Manila New Mobility Now Network on SeeClickFix. Then, you can report issues, such as cracked sidewalks and idling vehicles that dirty the air. Click here for more information.

Learn how to bike safely.  Wait! Don’t just get on your bike and go. Take the time to learn safe cycling skills first.

How will you deal with reckless drivers? Where can you securely park your bike? Are you allowed to bring your bike on the MRT or LRT? (For the answer to the third question, read this article.)

These are just some of the useful tips you can learn from groups that promote cycling in the metropolis. For more information, contact the Firefly Brigade or the Tiklop Society of the Philippines.

Know your rights as a commuter; complain if they are violated.The jeeps, buses, and trains in Metro Manila may not be the most convenient in the world. Still, they can be efficient because they carry more passengers than a car occupied by one or two people.

There’s good news for commuters in Metro Manila: The Department of Transportation and Communications has issued a “passengers’ bill of rights.” DOTC invites commuters to inform the agency if the operators of public transport violate these rights. It has an complaint form.

3. Improve (Opt for clean fuels and technologies)

May Agno is a lung spet. She finds it difficult to take public transport from her home to the hospital where she works. “The time I will lose waiting for a taxi would be time lost for my patients or an extra hour or two for sleep,” she says.

To lessen her carbon emissions, Dr. Agno drives a car with a small engine. It consumes gasoline efficiently.

Ask yourself: Can I carpool with my fellow students or my colleagues?  How can I drive more efficiently?

Take action!

Start a carpool.  Sharing a ride with friends or colleagues can be fun and convenient. Setting up a carpool requires a well-laid plan. You’ll find helpful tips here.

Learn ecodriving.  Do you automatically reach for your car keys when you want to take a short trip? Think again. On short trips, the engine does not reach its optimum operating temperature, says Ecodrive.org. This increases the wear and tear on you car.

You’ll find more smart and safe driving tips at http://www.ecodrive.org/en/home/.

Dinna Louise C. Dayao is a freelance writer and editor. Her motto is “Saving the world from jargon and unclear language, one sentence at a time”. She is also the media relations consultant of the “Catalyzing New Mobility in Cities” project of the Ateneo School of Government. You can reach her at dinnadayao@gmail.com.