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Self-driving cars are the future, but how do they impact the environment?

Austin Wang

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Industry giants like Uber, Google, and Tesla are all investing massive amounts into autonomous vehicles. In the next decade, self-driving cars could completely populate our roads. No doubt, they’re the future of transportation. But as cars and trucks account for one-fifth of all U.S. emissions, the advent of autonomous vehicles potentially has huge environmental consequences.

Autonomous Vehicles More Sustainable on a Unit Basis

Autonomous cars are free of human errors, including accelerating too quickly or braking unnecessarily, and are programmed to take the most efficient routes. Thus, a single self-driving car should almost always be more sustainable than a regular car on a per-unit basis.

Tesla, for example, is one of the front runners in the autonomous car market and only builds electric cars.

Autonomous Vehicles May Cause Public Transport Opt-Outs

Of course, if autonomous cars became widely available, more people would choose to drive or use ride-hailing services. If people could sleep or work while their personal cars drove to them to work, many people may opt out of public transportation. Even if self-driving cars are more sustainable than regular cars, a large influx of vehicles on the road could greatly increase emissions.

Yet, autonomous cars could also lower emissions by reducing congestion. Autonomous cars could be programmed to interact with other cars to make routes more efficient. So, if every car on the road were autonomous, traffic congestion could dramatically decrease. Some have also suggested that self-driving cars could drive close together in packs to reduce air resistance. This ‘platoon’ driving could reduce vehicle energy consumption by as much as 25%.

Autonomous Vehicles Would Promote Ridesharing, Reduce Emissions

Furthermore, autonomous cars may also promote ridesharing. Ride-hailing apps like Uber could have fleets of self-driving cars picking up groups of people around the clock. And cutting out labor costs could dramatically reduce ride-hailing costs in the long run. Around three-quarters of commuters drive to work alone, so increasing ride-sharing could dramatically lower the number of cars on the road, as well as emissions.

Since autonomous cars wouldn’t need to park and wait for you to return, carpooling also becomes far more viable. A group of four people could take a single car that takes each of them to their respective offices. Individual car ownership may even decline in favor of neighborhood cars.

Consumers and Regulators Should Play a Role in Emissions Reductions

Regulations on ride-hailing apps could be vital to preventing excess emissions. If ride-hailing services were required or incentivized to use fuel-efficient and electric fleets, emissions could be dramatically reduced.

Furthermore, consumer trends play a big role in the environmental impact of autonomous vehicles. If many individuals opt for neighborhood cars, carpooling, or ride-sharing services, autonomous vehicles could actually reduce the number of cars on the road.

Regardless of their environmental impact, autonomous cars are the future. From an economic and safety perspective, the transition is inevitable. It’s up to governments, industry leaders, and individuals to ensure that autonomous cars reduce overall emissions.

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Sustainability

Ecotourism: How Marketers Can Ethically Promote Travel Amid The Climate Crisis

Grit Daily

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2020 has definitely been off to a shaky start — literally. Since January 1st, there have been over 950 earthquakes in Puerto Rico alone. But in today’s new age of climate change, natural disasters like this are only becoming more and more common. So how can the tourism industry survive without harming our environment further? The answer may involve ecotourism — an opportunity for both marketers and destinations.

Your first thought may be to simply limit travel. But we often forget that many of the countries most affected by climate change-related disasters also rely on tourism to fund their recoveries.

Take a look at the Bahamas, where tourism brings in an annual $4.3 billion — 47.8 percent of their GDP. Without their tourism industry, the Bahamas’ complete recovery from Hurricane Dorian would be dramatically delayed.

And as Australia’s wildfires have merged into a 1.5 million acre “megafire,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison petitioned U.S. leaders to stimulate tourism by downgrading the urgency of their travel warnings.

Luckily, just a few days ago, the U.S. heeded Australia’s Prime Minister Morrison’s pleas to water down travel warnings to ‘Down Under,’ which has now been set to “normal.”

The bottom line? When climate-induced disasters strike, tourism can provide necessary economic boosts.

So as climate change continues to interact with tourism, marketers have an ethical responsibility to present tourism and travel brands within the context of our shifting climate reality.

But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this. After all, we’re talking about an $8.27 trillion global industry with a compound annual growth rate of 2.9 percent. So we’re going to need some creative solutions.

Choose Ecotourism: Don’t Encourage Tourism Where It’s Harmful

To start, marketers should be cautious about where they’re sending tourists. Promoting vacation packages to the Australian Open when Melbourne is shrouded in smoke puts your customers at risk.

Yet marketing other trips could put the destination itself at risk. Take Antarctica, where several new cruise lines have popped up in the last year to shuttle tourists to Antarctica — while it’s still there.

“Climate change is a chief reason for the increased interest in visiting Antarctica,” said cruise travel planner Mary Curry. “We truly don’t know if the region will ever be as magnificent as it is now.”

According to the New York Times, Antarctica cruise bookings have seen a 53 percent spike since 2015. But cruises aren’t helping the environmental situation at all.

A Norwegian cruise ship is about to hit shore in Antarctica, where the cruise industry has seen a 53% boost since 2015. Image from http://pix-now.com/main.php.

As these cruises flood into Antarctica, they bring environmental troubles with them. A day at sea produces just as much soot as a million cars. And cruises dump toxic raw sewage into the open sea. It’s safe to say that cruises are not doing Antarctica or its wildlife any favors.

Let’s not forget to add that at other port city destinations, cruises also squeeze local economies with bullying tactics that create dependency.

So while cruises are still growing in popularity, environmentally and socially conscious marketers should look towards ecotourism and consider driving tourism where it helps instead of hurts.

Instead of Antarctica, why not promote midwinter trips to the Bahamas, where tourist money is needed to rebuild?

Or instead of a cruise, why not promote the ferry from Fort Lauderdale?

Let’s Rethink the Carbon Footprint of Each Trip

Travel marketers are in a unique position of power. They can encourage travelers to think about their trips in terms of the carbon footprint attached. In doing so, they can normalize the practice of choosing travel plans with lower carbon emissions.

Take a trip from London to Western France. A study by Responsible Travel calculates these five days would produce 183.5 kg (404.5 lbs) of carbon dioxide. That’s broken down into food (77 kg), accommodation (26.5 kg), and transportation (102 kg per flight).

The flight for a trip like this, from London to Biarritz, takes about five hours, give or take an hour depending on your layover time in Paris.

That’s comparable to a flight from New York to LA. But going by train, you can get to Biarritz in a little over 7 hours. It costs a couple of hours more — or affords you some extra work and nap time if you present it that way.

It’s a small time difference, and it saves your customer a few bucks: $121 for a train compared with $150 for a flight.

But more importantly, the train ride cuts the carbon cost of transportation in half, bringing the total carbon footprint of the trip down by 51 kg (about 112 lbs) of CO2.

It may not seem like a lot, but that saves the same amount of carbon emissions that the average US citizen produces in a normal day.

Sell Ecotourism For All It’s Worth

Now, let’s be real about something. Climate change is a much, much bigger problem than can be solved by having travelers take trains instead of airplanes.

Nevertheless, knowing that efficient rail travel effectively halves the carbon cost of a trip means that responsible travel marketers should be putting everything they’ve got into pushing rail service over flights.

It’s an easy sell. Trains are roomier. You can get up and walk around. They won’t dump jet fuel on a schoolyard full of children like a Delta flight did this week in LA.

There’s a lot to like. And better marketing can encourage the development of cleaner, cheaper, more efficient rail systems. It’s these systemic changes that have the power to combat climate change.

Tourism has certainly contributed its share to the climate change emergencies we’re now facing, and as the climate bites back, we need to rethink what it means to market travel responsibly.

People aren’t going to stop traveling. But let’s look more towards ecotourism and make sure we’re being mindful of the environment with every trip.

Note: This article was originally posted at Grit Daily by Tina Mulqueen and edited and syndicated with permission.

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Sustainability

What You Need To Know About Sustainable Transportation: Obstacles, Progress, And More

Emily Dao

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The only way to save the planet is to take the road less traveled…literally. With more vehicles clogging up streets and contaminating the air, exacerbated cases of air pollution and travel inefficiency have risen. As a result, the call for sustainable transportation has never been stronger.

The transportation sector is one of the most polluting industries in the U.S. In fact, the EPA ranked the industry as the second greatest producer of carbon emissions. The agency says the country is responsible for half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—from cars alone.

This is despite the nation owning only 30% of the world’s automobiles.

As human beings venture into this new decade, they’re already going into a world brimming with potential for the future.

From plant-based meat to biodegradable tennis dresses, it’s clear more businesses are recognizing the need for creativity in finding unique solutions in a commitment to sustainability.

So, when revamping current mobility systems, innovation will be the fuel driving sustainable transportation systems into the future.

How Technology Has Improved Sustainable Transportation in the US So Far

Already, major cities from Chicago to Washington D.C. are finding unique ways to ease people off the gas pedal. The more mainstream adoption of bike-sharing services, added bike lanes, and gradual introduction of electric buses are just some examples.

Plus, talk of self-driving cars and companies like Tesla commercializing electric vehicles, makes it seems like the future of sustainable transportation is full of promise.

With all these efforts, it seems like the numbers are reflecting a desire from the public to reduce their footprint. A study from Cox Automotive found that 4 in 10 consumers agreed transportation was necessary, but owning a car wasn’t.

However, despite this, there are still reportedly way too many vehicles on the road.

Last April, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported travel on roads and streets had experienced a 2.5% increase from 2019 to 2018. That’s an estimated 6.8 billion vehicle mile change. So, why is that?

We had the opportunity to chat with Liad Itzhak, SVP of HERE Mobility, a transit hub offering regional mobility options through a cloud-based platform that connects businesses and customers in real-time.

Liad Itzhak, SVP of HERE Mobility
Liad Itzhak, SVP of HERE Mobility

Here’s what he told us.

Obstacles in Reaching Scale

Itzhak identifies traffic and emissions as the biggest issues in sustainable transportation today. This is a problem that is especially salient in urban areas.

“Despite the decline in personal car ownership, there are too many vehicles on the roads today,” Itzhak said. “Another major factor is that the first and last miles of peoples’ journeys are often left unaccounted for and public transportation is not successfully filling these gaps.”

Itzhak says ride-sharing giants like Uber and Lyft are one major reason why cars are still blocking the roads.

He says the two corporations have dominated the market by undercutting prices for regional mobility suppliers, who are unable to compete.

Due to this, it means more cars are congesting the road. Together, Statista found that Uber and Lyft rack in more than 127 million users—and that’s just per month.

Uber and Lyft have decreased public transit reliance. That's not all good. Credit: Leon Neal | Getty Images
Uber and Lyft have decreased public transit reliance. That’s not all good. Credit: Leon Neal | Getty Images

As these ride-sharing apps become more mainstream, it also indicates a decrease in public transit reliance. The Sierra Club noted without these transportation services, 60% of Uber and Lyft users would’ve instead opted for public transit, walked, or biked.

The Need to Prioritize Time and Convenience in Achieving Sustainable Transportation

But there’s a reason for this preference. The biggest factor in determining how people get from Point A to Point B is convenience.

Although public transit is almost always the cheaper option, it’s often a lot more costly in time.

Plus, when considering conditions such as the first and last mile problem, people crowding, poor weather, this can be a much more desirable option.

According to CityLab study in Chicago, 90% of rides were faster when opting for a ride-sharing service rather than public transit.

Although many Americans value sustainability and action in combatting climate change, they also value time. Innovation is all about advancing in order to make life easier and more convenient.

So, when finding solutions, mobility providers will need to recognize this human priority.

Increased Commitments to Creating More Sustainable Transportation Options

Many other cities are becoming prominent players in the sustainable transportation space—especially Barcelona and Singapore.

These two “smart cities” have taken serious steps towards achieving more efficient and sustainable transportation within their city.

Some smart city initiatives include heavy investments in public transit and intelligent traffic management systems.

Itzhak says data-driven technology and multiple transportation options are key to achieving this “smart city” status.

Cities like Paris, Oslo, and Madrid have also been implementing new innovations in a commitment to sustainability.

For instance, strict regulations on diesel vehicles and rising gas taxes have been a part of major European efforts to one day become car-free.

To achieve this goal, many cities are investing more in making public transit more available and efficient for its citizens.

“Many cities are making strides towards sustainable transportation…and many are working on their own smart transit solutions,” Itzhak said. “With climate change and urbanization on the rise, they’re under pressure to develop smart mobility systems.”

A Look Forward

It’s easy to say the road to fighting climate change will be a long and bumpy one. However, by employing more innovative solutions prioritizing time and convenience, there’s still hope for a cleaner, more eco-friendly world.

This means that repeating the same patterns isn’t going to cut it anymore. In order for real change to be enacted, it will involve creativity and innovation. With thriving smart cities like Singapore and Barcelona as inspiration, it’s clear advanced technology is the right route to go.

For the human race, time is the most important, nonrenewable resource. As the issue of climate change becomes more urgent, it just goes to show that now is the time to act.

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Business

JetBlue Airways Will Become Carbon Neutral By July 2020, Making It The First In US History

Avery Maloto

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jetBlue promises to become carbon neutral in July 2020.

This year, JetBlue Airways Corporation may become the first large U.S. airline to go carbon neutral.

As the quickest way around the world, the airline industry engages with over 4 billion individuals each year. However, it is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Shockingly, a singular commercial flight produces more carbon dioxide than the amount that some citizens produce in an entire year. Taking note of the situation, environmental activists are putting the travel industry under fire and calling out its contribution to climate change.

However, amidst all of the criticism, JetBlue is choosing to step up to the challenge.
In order to do so, the company is set to invest in eco-friendly projects across the globe.

JetBlue Goes Green With Fuel Choices

In a press release publicized on Monday, JetBlue vowed to mitigate emissions and go carbon neutral by July 2020. With expanding efforts, JetBlue can offset 15 to 17 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This is equivalent to removing 1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road each year. 

As the leading project in its initiative, the company will be beginning to use sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco. Fortunately, the fuel is already fully compatible with the existing jet engine technology.

JetBlue commits to using sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco.
JetBlue commits to using sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco.

Sustainable fuels, or biomass fuels, are any fuels derived from a once-living matter. For example, wood, corn, and other waste from agricultural crops are used in its production. This provides a sustainable solution to fossil fuels being popularly used today. 

As of 2018, airplanes produce 11% of all CO2 emissions in the world and significantly contribute to climate change. However, by utilizing this alternative, JetBlue says that they can reduce each flight’s fuel carbon footprint by 80%.

JetBlue Makes Becoming Carbon Neutral A Group Effort

On top of its sustainable fuel swap-out, JetBlue stated that they will continue to partner with Carbonfund.org. As a U.S. nonprofit organization, Carbonfund.org focuses on reducing carbon emissions and creating climate solutions.

The airline company and the nonprofit have been working together since 2008. In the last 10 years, the two have already mitigated more than 2.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.

On top of this, JetBlue now has new carbon offsetting partners. Adding to the list, EcoAct and South Pole are working with the company to promote carbon-neutral travels. 

Airline Goes Green On Land Too

As part of its carbon offsetting program, the airline company is engaging with projects around the world to mitigate the overall need for jet fuel. Focusing on areas that will opt for eco-friendly, renewable resources, JetBlue is striving to lower emissions in the atmosphere when possible. 

Currently, JetBlue announced support of carbon offset projects such as:

  • Forest conservation by declining plans that will convert forests for other purposes.
  • Promoting landfill gas capture (LFG) and converting it into renewable energy resources. 
  • Developing solar and wind farms to replace the need for fossil fuels like coal, diesel, and furnace oil.

JetBlue did not disclose the cost of any of its sustainable programs.

Collaboration Pivotal in Becoming Carbon Neutral Industry-Wide

According to JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, the solution to this problem is a community effort. 

JetBlue CEO wants other airlines to join in the fight to become carbon neutral.
JetBlue CEO wants other airlines to join in the fight to become carbon neutral.
Credit: Lori Hoffman/Bloomberg

“The airline industry is one of the few industries that has collectively committed to an international emissions reduction goal,” said Hayes. “Air travel brings so much good to the world and JetBlue has always been about making our essential industry better. Carbon offsetting is a bridge to, not a silver bullet for, a lower carbon future. Reducing and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental aspect of our business plan and our mission to inspire humanity.”

Hopefully, JetBlue achieves its mission and inspires others to do the same. If several other companies follow JetBlue’s environmental initiatives, the future of airline travels may be promising.

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