Five Important Ideas for Helping the Environment

One active category to date on Good Ideas has been the environment section. There are innovative and important ideas there that everyone concerned about the environment should be familiar with. Here are five that strike me as both surprising and consequential:

Don’t Reduce Traffic Jams

Traffic jams are actually good for the environment, mostly because they encourage short commutes and mass transit. Wall Street Journal

For Fuel Efficiency, Drop “MPG” For “Gallons Per 10000 Miles”

It’s true: “MPG” ratings don’t say much about environment impact (because big cars use a lot more gas, so a small change has big impact). We really should change how mileage is reported. NYTimes “best of 2008” idea.

To Combat Global Warming, Forget About CO2, Worry About Methane

What?! Don’t worry about CO2? The rationale for this important idea is that methane has 75% of the impact of CO2 on global warming, but has short lifespan and is easier to contain. WSJ:

Don’t Worry About Car Pollution, Worry About Ship Pollution

The fact that a small number of ships produce as much sulphur pollution as all of the cars in the world is shocking (and a bit troubling). Ships burn dirty fuel. Shouldn’t this change? Daily Mail

To Combat Global Warming, Focus on Long-Term Interventions

Bill Gates makes a very powerful argument: short-term interventions to help the environment (the current target is 30% reduction of emissions by 2025) are possible, but not very meaningful. We need 80% reductions by 2050, which requires a completely different approach.

Feel free to vote or comment on any of these ideas on Good Ideas (you can click on the idea titles above to go straight to the ideas).

Light, Health, Cleanliness: The Remarkable Two Liter Bottle

pepsiMillions of two liter bottles are used in developing countries each year. Once the soft drink is consumed, there are still plenty of innovative uses for the sturdy container. Here are a few good ideas:

1) Light

A water-filled 2-liter bottle can replace a 50 watt light bulb. Used across Asia and South America. Awesome!

2) Water purification

A billion people drink highly polluted water. Treating water by putting it in 2 liter cola bottles and setting it in the sun on a black surface for 5 hours kills 99% of pathogens. One of the world’s truly great ideas. See

3) Water filtering

Biome Solutions describes how to make a functioning water filter out of a two liter bottle.

4) Hand-washing

A device fashioned from a two-liter bottle provides hand-washing for developing countries. A New York Times “best of 2008” selection.

5) Transportation

The rRaft builds functioning boats from ~1000 recycled two liter bottles.

Wow – and certainly just a subset of the possibilities!