Where did my Bicycle come from?

Sourcemap is a super-cool tool you can use to track down the detailed anatomy of just about anything. When I typed in “bicycle” and clicked on “Generic Trek bicycle,” I got a breakdown of the raw materials in the bike — from fork to saddle — and where each of those parts originated.

Source Map for a bicycle

It then calculated the net impact (“footprint”) of my bicycle in terms of carbon emitted during its assembly, even adding the carbon emitted when transporting the item from point of manufacture to consumer.

According to Sourcemap, my bike cost the environment 36.53 kg of carbon when it was manufactured 20 years ago. Next, using information from my profile on the mileage-tracking website Greenlight, I was able to calculate how much carbon I’ve saved the environment by using my bike as a primary mode of transportation. The result: I’ve saved over 526 kg of carbon in just two years, easily breaking even. Now let’s compare that to an SUV…

Who Saved the Car Share?

Zipcar has yet to turn a profit. My local car sharing organization, PhillyCarShare, has been on shaky financial grounds for years now. Will the electric car save car sharing? Here’s my pitch.

The vast majority of car share usage is for short trips within the city. For a trek longer than  about fifty miles, you’re better off using a rental car company like Enterprise anyway. The imminent all-electric Nissan Leaf will have a range of 100 miles, enough juice to cross Philly five times on a single charge. And since the cars have their own dedicated parking spots in lots across the city, they can charge up in-between reservations, eliminating the cost and hassle of buying gas and eliminating the worry that they’ll run out of juice.  And according to this NPR interview, a lease on the Leaf would cost a consumer about $350/month. That’d pay for itself if the car was rented for just two hours every day.

Car sharing gets people to drive less. Electric cars might make the companies who run them lose less.