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Save money and our air by carpooling

carpool signCarpooling is a great way to save money, make new friends and reduce your contribution to air pollution. Sharing the ride could save commuters $1,000 a year in gas, maintenance and depreciation costs, yet 83 percent of Kansas City commuters still drive alone. That’s a lot of missed opportunities for savings and cleaner air.

Try these tips to fill those empty seats:

  • Find carpool matches. Modern technology makes it easy to find matches. Simply sign up for RideShare Connection to find others interested in carpooling who have similar commutes to yours. Find co-worker carpoolers by sending out an e-mail or posting a notice in the lunchroom.
  • Make a schedule. Start slow. Even carpooling once a week can provide you with significant savings. Decide how often you would like to carpool and which days make sense, then schedule meeting and pickup times and locations for both ends of the commute. Choose a date to start and don’t forget to exchange phone numbers.
  • Charge non-drivers. Some carpoolers may not have a vehicle or may not wish to take a turn as driver. You can use AAA’s cost of driving rates — divided by the number of carpoolers — to establish fees for non-drivers.
  • Learn simple carpool etiquette. Communicate with your fellow carpoolers and let them know if you’re running late. Always drive safely, and keep your vehicle clean and in good condition. Respect any restrictions the carpool has agreed on, and above all, be flexible.
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Are your home devices wasting energy?

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The average American household owns 25 electronic devices which can make up 10 to 15 percent of a home’s total energy use. Fortunately, a few simple steps can greatly reduce the amount of energy your devices consume. By decreasing this energy use, you will lower your energy bill and contribute to the region’s efforts of improving air quality.

Reduce your electronic energy use though these five steps:

  • Adjust your computer settings. You could save up to $50 a year by turning on your computers’ power management settings — such as sleep mode — to lower the computer’s power consumption between uses.
  • Adjust your TV settings. Reduce your TV’s energy use by as much as 5 to 20 percent by dimming the screen’s brightness. TVs are set bright for showroom floors, but that level may be inappropriate for your living room.
  • Unplug devices. Even when off, most devices still draw energy when plugged in — up to 75 percent of their total energy use. For instance, a plugged-in cell phone charger still draws energy when it’s not connected to a phone.
  • Use a power strip with an on/off switch. You can easily turn off multiple devices at once by plugging them in to a power strip. Unlike a device plugged directly in to the wall, a power strip draws no energy from the outlet when it’s turned off. Plug in the strip to a light-switch-controlled outlet for easy switching.
  • Purchase efficient devices. When comparing electronic products, learn about the energy uses. For example, a plasma TV will use nearly six times the amount of energy as an LCD TV, and a laptop will use one-third of the energy that a desktop computer uses.
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Teach a child how to ride a bike for a lifetime of clean air

child-dad-bikeBicycling is a useful life skill, and teaching a child to ride opens the door to a lifetime of exercise and fun. It is also a great opportunity to teach your child how we can all make a difference and help keep our air cleaner.

Learning to ride a bike can be an important milestone in child development. Maggie Preismeyer, education coordinator for BikeWalkKC, says “cycling can help teach children independence and responsibility.” She sees many children learning to ride as early as age four or five.

Prepare a child to ride a bike with these five steps:

  • Find a safe environment. A grassy hill with a shallow slope and plenty of open space is ideal. The hill should be flat enough for the child to stop using only his or her feet, but steep enough to let the bike roll on its own. Grass will pad any falls and help build confidence.
  • Adjust the bike. A lower seat gives children a wider stance, making them feel more secure for the next step. If you can, remove the pedals. This turns the bike into a strider bike which kids as young as 18
    months can begin to ride. Also remove any training wheels, which may not be effective in helping children learn balance.
  • Practice coasting. With a bicycle helmet is securely fastened, let the child coast down from the top of the hill. By picking up his feet on the ride down, he will learn to balance the bike.
  • Practice turning. After your child has mastered coasting, set up some small obstacles and encourage him to maneuver around them. If learning on a bike with brakes on the handlebars, the child can begin practicing stops.
  • Readjust the bike. When your child begins to look ahead rather than at the bike, maneuver well and wear a big smile, he is ready for cycling. Reattach the pedals and raise the seat. If the bicycle has kickback brakes, begin practicing stops.

Learning to ride a bike is just the first step. Be sure to discuss traffic rules and safety with your child before riding on the street, and always wear a helmet! BikeWalkKC offers a number of programs designed to teach safety skills to new riders or for those returning riders who need a refresher course. And don’t forget to tell your child that riding a bike goes a long way toward keeping our air clean.

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Appraisers, Realtors, Builders:
Learn to evaluate green homes!

EWKC event blog artResidential Green Description Made Easy: Tools and Approaches to Valuing Homes with Green Features

August 28, 8:30–4:30 p.m.
Mid-America Regional Council
Board Room,
600 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.

$40 (Continuing education credits for appraisers pending.)
Lunch will be provided.

Register now!

Residential appraisers, real estate agents, builders, energy analysts and lenders are seeing green construction increase around the country. This seminar will help you understand how high performance, energy-efficient features add value to homes and how to convey that information to potential buyers.

This seminar will focus on the description of green and energy-efficient residential properties, using the Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum, which describes the home features in a way that the lender, underwriter, appraiser, buyer or agent can use to value the property.

Participants will walk through the addendum and learn why it was developed, how to use it and become familiar with resources to complete the details. They will also learn about solar panel valuation challenges, how they impact reporting and ways to find comparable sales.

Instructor Sandra K. Adomatis, SRA, is an active real estate appraiser, instructor, course developer and consultant. She is a frequent national speaker on the topic of green valuation. She wrote the courses “Case Studies in Residential Green Buildings,” “Description of Residential Green Buildings Made Easy,” “Residential and Commercial Valuation of Solar” and spearheaded the development of the “Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum.”

This program was developed by the Appraisal Institute and being underwritten by EnergyWorks KC with funding from a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. For information, contact Roger Kroh at rkroh@marc.org, 816/701-8280.EWKC-event-blog-logos-600w

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Don’t start your engine — outfit your bike instead

bike-69078_1280_edit_webSometimes there is nothing more enjoyable than a recreational bike ride on a nice day. However, bikes were invented for utility purposes. Today, more and more people are using bicycles to transport cargo and commute to work. With the right setup, you can bike with everything from groceries to computers, and even extra passengers like children and dogs.

Vehicles emit a higher rate of pollution when warming up as compared to the rest of the trip.  By using a bike for short errands — and therefore reducing the number of vehicle starts — you’ll help improve our air quality.

The easiest way to get your bike cargo-ready is with bags, racks and trailers, which can be mounted on most existing bikes. If you’re transporting a heavy load, you may need a small electric motor installed on your bike to help you up hills. These motors can be installed on nearly any bike, and charge up in just a few hours.

Many major bike manufacturers now sell cargo bikes, some with extended frame bikes that can haul up to 200 lbs. However, since most bikes can be converted into cargo bikes, there’s no need to buy new — a used bike will work just as well. Local bike shops are great places to find used bikes, as well as cargo holders, electric assist motors and bike tools.

If you need any inspiration using your bike for cargo, see how much fun people in this community have using their cargo bikes for school commutes, work trips and everything in between.

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Wrap Up: Missouri River Charette

This is a part of a series of posts for attendees and blog visitors interested in the fall 2012 Missouri River Bed Degradation Charette.

Thanks so much to all of the stakeholders and staff that stuck with the charette all of last week. It was, at times, a tedious process, but the outcome was agreement on an abbreviated time and money-saving study. In fact, charette participants committed to a savings of one year and $1.4 million.  Here is an attempt to summarize the outcome.

The team is assuming that the Mobile Bed Model, developed by John Shelley (USACE), will not require any significant modifications upon review, and therefore, it can be used now to model alternative modifications to the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project (BSNP) structures. USACE engineers are developing three scenarios, for modifying the BSNP to attempt to arrest or slow degradation, of which one will rise to the top. The best scenario will then be combined with other potential measures and modeled with a final array of alternatives identified July, 2013. This is the next major milestone for the study. This will be the time for a public and agency scoping meeting.

What does this mean to stakeholders? The abbreviated timeline means that, in order to provide the necessary match for a faster moving PDT, we will have to agree on an expedited fundraising schedule for the $260,000 required in FY 2013. Here are the targets that we’re looking at:

  • January, 2013 — $60,000
  • April, 2013 — $100,000
  • July, 2013 — $100,000

I do have an idea about how we can achieve this and will be in touch with each of you individually to discuss it. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts.

Several of you have asked about availability of presentations from the charette, as well as some of the working documents (ie. decision log). These will be available on the web soon and I will let you know when they are.

Thanks again!

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Day 3: Missouri River Charette

This is a part of a series of posts for attendees and blog visitors interested in the fall 2012 Missouri River Bed Degradation Charette.

You may have noticed that these posts are a day behind, and basically that is because I’m basing the post on the morning recaps that summarize the previous day’s discussions.

Day 3 of the charette (Wednesday) consisted of participants in small groups discussing the next major planning decision – the development of an array of potential solutions. Groups were asked if there were any potential measures to be screened out initially and if any alternatives immediately rose to the top. Four groups reported the following points, summarized and compiled:

There is some dissent among engineers and non-engineers. Some engineers felt comfortable that they could come up with an array of solutions with a bit more time. Others felt that, while the intent of structural solutions can be understood fairly immediately, we don’t know their level of performance or how they will work together – synergistic or in opposition.

Once the model is operational, different solutions can be tested – BSNP adjustments, reduced dredging and other structural solutions. The model will help with answering level-of-performance questions. There is still a lot of work to do. As of now, no alternatives have risen to the top.

There was much discussion about performance measurement – what does success look like? A recognition that a return to pre-degradation levels may not be feasible, but a return to some level of equilibrium might be.

The main efforts for day 4 are focused on development of the decision management plan and the risk register. If you don’t remember – Friday is the other important session for stakeholders to participate in, or at least listen in on, if possible. Otherwise, I’ll post one last entry before the weekend.

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Day 2: Missouri River Charette

This is a part of a series of posts for attendees and blog visitors interested in the fall 2012 Missouri River Bed Degradation Charette.

Day 2 began with PDT members (CORPS technical staff) presenting quick overviews of their work thus far. Most stakeholders have already seen these presentations in even greater detail than they were presented here at the charette. John Shelley presented the mobile bed model and the data that shows degradation as a more recent problem, coinciding with recent flooding and recent increases in dredging.

Alan Schlindwein presented his work studying the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project (BSNP), the series of dikes and other structures constructed to narrow the channel for navigation. Adjusting the BSNP to allow for river widening continues to be a potential solution for degradation.

Brian Kelly, United States Geological Survey (USGS), presented groundwater impacts of degradation. USGS modeling is quantifying these impacts and indicates preliminarily that 93 percent of wetlands in the Kansas City area are showing an increase in depth to groundwater. Essentially, wetlands adjacent to the Missouri River are drying up. Ground water wells are at risk, as are collector wells, where filter packs are shrinking and increasing the potential for contamination.

The remainder of the morning focused on questions and discussions about these PDT presentations. Many of the questions indicated that many participants did not read the materials provided by the local district, so the afternoon was dedicated to examining the summary report, linked here on mobeddeg.org.

The facilitator provided a brief summary of the day’s discussions as follows:

  • Project Re-scoping: Consensus around study scale, and to NOT shift to a watershed study that would include a systems/sediment study.
  • Study Authority: Emphasized 216 authority, which is to study existing federal infrastructure, in this case the BSNP. There was a lot of discussion that clarified to study reviewers that even though local interest is protecting local infrastructure — and the study may look at impacts to local infrastructure — the federal interest does not include modification to local infrastructure.
  • Goal of Study: There was quite a bit of consensus to add to the goal of the study an emphasis on NOT causing adverse impacts down or upstream.
  • Future Without Project: More technical work is needed to determine this.
  • Root Cause of Degradation in Kansas City Reach: Understanding completely the root cause of degradation may not be necessary to develop appropriate solutions.
  • Other Missouri River Studies: Reviewers asked about these other studies. Corps staff is putting together a short list of relevant studies to share.

Here is a link to some cool river model videos that we watched this morning.

Any thoughts?

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Day 1: Missouri River Charette

This is a part of a series of posts for attendees and blog visitors interested in the fall 2012 Missouri River Bed Degradation Charette.

Day 1 consisted of stakeholder presentations from WaterOne of Johnson County, KCP&L, Missouri Department of Transportation, Kansas Water Office, Holliday Sand & Gravel and city of Kansas City, Mo. All presenters communicated very clearly their interests in the study and provided real costs already incurred to modify infrastructure and operations to deal with bed degradation.

After lunch, charette participants took a tour of four sites on the Kansas and Missouri rivers to get a first-hand look at infrastructure impacts.

All participants are encouraged to comment or ask questions in the comment section. So far, it is moving pretty quickly and I’ll try to post another update today.

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Charette Morning Briefings

This is a part of a series of posts for attendees and blog visitors interested in the fall 2012 Missouri River Bed Degradation Charette.

Beginning Tuesday, November 6, at 9:00 am stakeholders can tune into morning briefings in person or remotely. Tuesday morning will feature Corps technical staff, who will give an overview of study elements.

Morning briefings will last approximately one hour and will include a recap of the previous day and an agenda for the coming day.

Conference information is as follows:

Phone Number: 888-675-2535
Access Code: 9738730
Security code: 415161
Web Meeting Address:  https://www.webmeeting.att.com Meeting Number: 8886752535 Access Code: 9738730
See you all Monday!

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