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1 TRACK YOUR TRANSPORTATION ENERGY

This action focuses on the first step to reduce transport energy: tracking how much energy is used for different tasks.

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why?

All forms of transportation use some type of energy. In cars, it is gasoline, in planes-jet fuel, in trucks-diesel, and when walking or biking we are burning the fuel of our own bodies in the form of calories.

Tracking the energy we use throughout a typical week in different units of measure can give us a new perspective on how much energy goes into different modes of transportation.


how to do this action:

For the purposes of comparing how much energy is used in each form of transportation, a gallon of gasoline can be easily converted into British thermal units (BTU), mega joules (MJ — a measure of petroleum energy), or kilowatt-hours (kWh — a measure of electricity). A gallon of gasoline contains about 132 MJ which is equivalent to 125,000 BTU, 36.6 kWh, or 31,700 food calories as seen below:

chart 1

Based on these equivalents, it is possible to compare how much energy is used with various modes of transportation.

The typical unit of measure in transportation - miles per gallon- is converted in this action and many others in this section to the following units of measure: gallons per passenger mile, MJ (mega joules) and food calories. An explanation of each is found below:

Gallons Per Passenger Mile

When calculating transportation energy, it is important to take into account the number of passengers who take each mode of transportation along with you. For example, although a city bus may use 0.1961 gallons of gas per mile, it is transporting up to 40 passengers. In this way, each passenger is only responsible for a ‘share’ of that energy (0.0049 gallons per mile per passenger). This is known as passenger miles. ‘Passenger miles’ are also an important consideration when dealing with personal automobiles. A car getting 40 miles per gallon with only one passenger uses 0.0250 gallons/mile, but if the same car is used to transport 4 passengers, the ‘gallons per passenger mile’ is only 0.0063- close to that of the city bus! Be sure to enter your car or truck's miles/gallon to make sure the chart’s outcomes are accurate.

Mega Joules

The second unit of energy is mega joules (MJ) which is a very common unit of energy measure and can be used to compare across many categories.

Food Calories

While most forms of transportation use gasoline or diesel fuel, walking and biking energy (in calories burned from our bodies) can also be converted into these same units. We tend to associate calories with food, but this unit can apply to anything containing energy. Food calories on a package are actually kilocalories (1,000 calories= 1 kilocalorie). In the interest of general understanding, a kilocalorie will be referred to as a food calorie. A kilocalorie contains 4,164 joules.

Converting to food calories creates an interesting metric because it is more commonly understood. As most people are aware that a typical American diet should consist of around 2,000 food calories, we can use this unit of measure to understand the huge quantities of energy which are used to transport ourselves with personal vehicles as well as other forms of transit.

For this action, and many of the following actions in this section, the following series of conversions are used to convert miles traveled/week using various modes of transportation into these different units of measure equivalents: gallons of gas, MJ (mega joules), and food calories. The example shown below is how miles per gallon of a conventional diesel bus is converted into these units of energy:

chart 2

To track your transportation energy track each mile of travel each day, making sure to note what kind of transportation was used. The following example shows how one week of transportation data might look:

chart 3

This example shows a daily car commute (single passenger) of 20 miles per day 4 days per week. One day of this week, the example participant took the bus both ways. In addition, on the weekend, some errands were run using a different car (truck) for 10 miles and a few errands were done by walking (3 miles). It is interesting to note some of the numbers. The 10 miles driven in the truck running errands exceeded by five times the energy needed for commuting twice that distance by bus. Also, each day commuting 20 miles used half a gallon of gas, whereas the day taking the bus used only 1/10th of a gallon.

While this action does not require participants to actively reach a certain goal, the process of tracking different types of transportation and the resulting energy consumed is a powerful tool for gaining awareness of what energy your lifestyle consumes.


what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How does tracking your transportation energy affect the consumption of transportation fuels?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of tracking your transportation energy affect happiness, convenience, health, and cost?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (T1_BASELINE) to track the mileage you travel by each mode (bike, walk, car, bus...) daily.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (T1_BASELINE) as it relates to your current commute:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Use the corresponding spreadsheet (T1_QUANTITATIVE) to track the mileage you travel by each mode (bike, walk, car, bus...) daily.

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria, every IMPLEMENTATION day on the spreadsheet (T1_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. Has an awareness of the energy you use transporting yourself (in gallons per passenger mile and MJ) changed how you travel? Why or why not? What surprised you about tracking this energy? What didn’t surprise you?


resources

ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

T1_Track Your Transportation Energy Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

T1_BASELINE
T1_QUANTITATIVE
T1_QUALITATIVE