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Greening Neighborhoods promotes, educates, and supports
neighborhood efforts to conserve our natural resources, save
money, and reduce dependency on nonrenewable resources


The first worldwide agreement to curb the consequences of climate change is now a fact.  However, before we go dancing in the streets, the governments of the world must take action to leave coal, gas and oil in the ground in order that the agreed upon 1.5 degrees Celsius limit to global warming actually happens. 

Fortunately, because the price of oil is now so low, it is unprofitable to extract hydrocarbon fuels from some of the largest reserves in the world, such as the tar sand deposits in Alberta, Canada.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is pumping oil at a rate that keeps global prices low, perhaps as a way of limiting competition and getting as much of its reserves to market as soon as it can.  Unfortunately, enormous amounts of capital have already been invested in extraction of high cost fuel and lobbying efforts continue to insure that our government will favor a return on those investments. In the U.S. all of the Republican candidates for president are climate change deniers, as are the majority of the members of Congress that are needed to enact legislation guaranteeing that COP21 goals are met. This does not bode well for the success of COP21.

However, as individuals concerned with climate change disruption, rather than wait and hope that world governments take measures to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5o C, we can do on our own what governments must do.  We can completely compensate for the gas, oil, and coal we use for transportation, home heating and cooling, and home electrical energy.  We can limit our personal carbon foot print well below the targets agreed upon in Paris.  Here’s how.

We can purchase Renewable Energy Credits or RECs to offset our fossil fuel use.  A REC is the equivalent of offsetting 1,000 kWh of electricity use.  The REC we purchase is guaranteed by the Environmental Protection Agency to offset hydrocarbon fuel used by new wind, solar, or biofuel produced energy.  Every REC purchased is unique and cannot be sold to anyone other than the individual who first purchases it.  The money goes toward building new, green, energy producing infrastructure such as wind turbines.


There are a number of organizations that make RECs available that are listed on the EP­A web site.  Some sites such as Terra Pass have calculators so we can determine our carbon footprint and purchase the number of RECs to offset our use.  Others such as Sterling Planet have simple-to-use approximations of the fossil fuels we use both for home and travel along with monthly purchase plans.

For around $20.00 per month most of us can offset our use of fossil fuels and make sure we have done what the world’s governments must do to ensure the future of our planet.  (It makes a great holiday gift for our planet.)

If you were thinking of taking advantage of Georgia’s $5,000 tax credit and leasing an Electric  Vehicle, (EV) you had better hurry.  After June 30th the credit will be no more.  Thanks to House Bill 170 (see Section 5-1) lead by State Representative Chuck Martin of Alpharetta, the tax credit will be discontinued at the end of June

Tanking Up

Representative Martin’s argument for discontinuing the program is that the people who benefit from the credit are “a narrow group of in-town citizens” who are being supported by Georgia tax payers.  He argues that it is unfair “to let a select group of 10,000 or more individuals drive a particular type of car for free or almost free.”

Martin also claims that it is costing $50 million per year to support the 10,000 EV owners.

When I spoke to Representative Martin he told me that the intent of the new bill is to use the $50 million savings for much needed statewide infrastructure improvements for roads and bridges.  One mechanism for doing this, he says, could be by redirecting the savings to pay for 20-year bonds that would fund more than a half-billion dollars of improvements.  For now, however, the $50 million will rest in the general fund.

A further provision of HB 170 will impose an annual $200 road use fee on EV drivers to offset fuel taxes that are not paid.  Martin feels that a use tax is necessary but the amount is excessive.  (The average American driver logs 13,500 miles per year. At 26 miles per gallon times the new 29.2 cent excise tax per gallon, the average fossil fuel driver will pay $150 per year. (13,500 / 26 = 519 gallons x 29.2 = $150), that’s $50 less than the non-polluting EVs will be assessed. GH)

The principal argument for having a tax credit is that air quality improves by replacing fossil fueled cars with EVs, and government support for the common good is warranted.

Furthermore, according to the Union for Concerned Scientists, because Georgia has to import all fossil fuels from other states, some of the cost of that fuel ($1.7 billion in 2014) is saved.  A study by The Georgia Department of Economic Development (DED) found that the fossil fuel savings per individual EV amounts to over $2,000 per year, or 80% of the tax credit.  This savings is reinvested in the Georgia economy.

It is true, as Representative Martin argues, that with the $5,000 tax credit, leasing an EV is close to driving for free, especially when gas prices were hovering around $4.00 per gallon and business trips in an EV are tax deductible.  In this regard the question is, should folks who conserve our natural resources and, as a result, save money be penalized over those who waste natural resources by using fossil fuels for their homes and cars?

It is not true that EVs are solely for “a narrow group of in-town citizens” when, statistically, 90 percent of Americans drive fewer than 50 miles a day.  Since the range of  EVs is over 75 miles, this makes owning or leasing an EV a viable option for most motorists.

 Some Good News

There are still federal tax credits of up to $7,500 if you lease or purchase an EV or hybrid car.  This amount is deducted from the list price — still a good deal.

For Nissan LEAF owners, Nissan has just announced a $5,000 discount if you purchase your leased car before June 30th.  Taking advantage of this offer will mean a total savings of $17,500 on a car that lists for around $29,000.

I asked Victor Akan, the finance manager at Auto Nation Nissan in Lithia Springs, Georgia, what Nissan’s motive for making this offer could possibly be.  “It’s simple,” he told me. “Nissan doesn’t want to see great numbers of pre-owned, leased LEAFs ending up on dealers used car lots.”

Our family took advantage of this offer and is now the proud owner of our pre-owned Nissan LEAF

Here is a list of states that still offer incentives for EVs and hybrid electric cars

Source: Alternative Fuels Data Center, Laws & Incentives Database; R.L. Polk National Vehicle Population Profile database, March 31, 2014

State Maximum Incentive Total PEV Registrations
Colorado $6,000 2,463
Georgia $5,000 9,328
Louisiana $3,000 404
Maryland $3,000 4,408
Oklahoma $1,500 766
South Carolina $2,000c 795
Utah $1,500d 873





 La Belle et le Bete

Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress, after the obligatory amendment to kill all funding, unanimously passed a funding bill for Amtrak, Congress’ first (and only?) bipartisan action of the year. The funding was less than had been requested and certainly does not include monies for capital expansion, but Amtrak will soldier on for another year, carrying record numbers of Americans, many millions more than its first year, 1972, when it had more extensive routes. It seems Americans like their trains. There just aren’t enough of them. (The largest deluge of mail and messages –before email! to Congress ever was in 1972, when rail passenger service was threatened, just before Amtrak was established.)

             For a review of what Amtrak is planning for Train Days click Celebration Schedules.

Atlanta, Georgia, is boasting a new vehicle-on-rails-in-the-street the city is calling the Atlanta Streetcar, so marked, painted, and advertised.  As the marketing promises, it is truly a wonderful vehicle, connecting the National Park Service’s Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site with Centennial Park and Georgia State University and downtown in between. Hiking between any of these pairs is a good walk, but more than that from end to end.

Atl Streetcar

Atlanta Streetcar opposite Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site

This railed people mover moves quickly enough when traffic permits, without the emissions and noise of carbon fueled vehicles, utterly quiet – thus posing yet another hazard to the ear-bud impaired and cell phone compulsive-addicted. As a well-connected people mover, it is a real asset to the city. But it is not a streetcar.

The nostalgic appeal to the common streetcar notwithstanding (streetcars are very much alive and well in thriving North American cities like Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and a major tourist attraction all their own in New Orleans), this railed vehicle employs a technology which bears only scant resemblance to the streetcars found everywhere in the first half of the last century.

Contemporary city systems thrive because their older technology has been renewed, revised, and rebuilt. Other cities, like Atlanta, actively destroyed their older systems to make way for those who could afford automobiles. Their 50-year old systems usually needed extensive reinvestment and renovation to serve contemporary needs, were usually operated by undercapitalized private enterprise that needed more profit than an unsupported public utility could provide, and many Americans were more excited about driving their automobile as far and as fast as they pleased than in pedestrian mobility.

old streetcar


A recent visit to Los Angeles found much lamenting of the old Pacific Electric, now totally gone.  Once  the largest electric railway system in the world, with 4-track mainlines and high speed, frequent  service  on routes to far-flung destinations in Southern California, Angelinos first built the PE, then  expressways  along the PE, then expressways in place of the PE, at a time when most citizens still did  not have cars.  Such were the political and economic pressures of the day.

However, while the PE did a marvelous job moving thousands of people and its rights-of-way were      irreplaceable, the truth is that current standards of comfort and service would not tolerate the Red  Cars.  The expressway system of the 1950′s and 1960′s, themselves employing now outdated  technology, may  not work so well either, but that new Lexus still feels good inside.


Atlanta streetcar, Peachtree St., 1944.*

The Atlanta Streetcar is no Lexus – in fact, a bit utilitarian — but it is much closer to present-day standards of comfort and quiet. More importantly, it represents an almost wholly new technology with the aim of knitting back together our cities fragmented by the automobile. With the infelicitous name “light rail vehicle (LRV)” (no wonder they called it something else), this technology represents a new/old way of thinking about and living in the city, one that is mobile, connected, safer, and can dramatically reduce our utter dependence on the auto.

The Atlanta Streetcar, as an articulated vehicle, actually lacks some of the nimbleness of the old streetcar. Its proposed $1 fare may be fine for tourists with small families but prohibitive for GSU students or daily commuters. Likewise its lack of an interconnected fare structure with MARTA. Its raised platforms permit speedy boarding/unloading, but sacrifice the increased connectedness of corner stops. Fifteen minutes is too long to wait for a car (the old streetcar slogan: “Always one in sight.”). It is not yet a system. It needs its planned connections to the Beltline, Midtown, and on Peachtree. Its biggest drawback, lack of an override control on numerous stoplights, has already been resolved by MARTA buses on select routes. But these are flaws of a new prototype, easily corrected.

The Atlanta Streetcar is not the streetcar of old, and it is only new to Atlanta. Other cities are using its technology quite successfully. But it is here finally, and it is the future.

Streetcar map








*This car actually exists and operates at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Connecticut.





Our neighbor, Charlie Hoot, forwarded us this article from the Guardian by George Monbiot.


Basically, it is saying that if governments agree to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees centegrade as preliminary agreements mandate, the current monies being invested in fossil fuel production will leave the world with much more fuel than it will be allowed to burn. This means that the trillions of dollars already invested will not be recovered through fossil fuel sales.  The investors will be left holding the bag.

Here’s the Guardian article.


Geo-politics isn’t always kind, and is always beyond our control.  This time the continuous high production of oil, which some experts say is to punish Russia, Iran and Venezuela while forcing North American production down, is helping us Americans at the pump with prices nearly on par with 1970 dollars.


One would think that this is welcome news and it is — and isn’t.  We can use the money saved at the pump to pay down personal debts, make critical purchases we’ve been putting off, and infuse money into the economy that is still recovering from the 2008 recession.  There is also potential good news for the environment.  With lower oil prices it will be harder for oil companies to invest in expensive  extracting of natural gas by fracking and extraction of oil from Canadian tar sands.  This should stall environmentally risky gas and oil production practices.

One the other hand, gas powered car production has increased to round-the-clock manufacturing in some factories.  With an influx of  new cars that will certainly find their way to the roads, they will contribute to increased greenhouse gas production.

What to do?  Greening Neighborhoods’ suggestion is to behave as if gasoline prices were at the $4.00 a gallon price point. In other words, use public transportation, car pool, walk, bike and trade in the gas powered car for one that runs on batteries.  Low pump prices are not forever.





Last post we listed widely available electric cars that save us money on gas and maintenance and take advantage of substantial government rebates.  The downside of the all EV cars is the limited range.  If our daily travel is greater than 80 miles and we still want to save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions we can do so with hybrid gas/electric cars.





Government incentives are still in effect for hybrid cars, but are not as great as with 100% electric cars.

Here’s a chart of some of the cars now at dealers.




Tax Credit***

BMW i8




Chevrolet Volt




Ford C-Max Hybrid




Ford Fusion Hybrid




Honda Civic Hybrid




Honda Accord Plug-in




Honda CR-Z




Hyundai Sonata




Kia Optima Hybrid




Lexus CT200h




Mercedes E 400 Hybrid




Nissan Pathfinder




Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid




Toyota Avalon Hybrid




Toyota Camry Hybrid




Toyota Prius c




VW Jetta Hybrid




Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid




*MPG is the combined mileage of the car utilizing battery and gasoline.

**MSRP is the manufacturers’ list prices.  Individual dealers offer much lower sales prices, which include federal and state incentives.

***Tax incentives.  Georgia still offers a $5,000 incentive for lease or purchase that dealers can discount from the sticker price.  The federal tax credit is still in effect and will be until each manufacturer, starting in 2010, has sold 200,000 cars in the US.  This hasn’t happened yet.  For Hybrid cars, since mileage based on batteries is only a percentage of the total mileage, only that percentage of the $7,500 federal rebate applies.

More fuel saving all electric cars are at dealers than ever before.  With government incentives still in effect, owning or leasing can save us considerable amounts of money in fuel costs, service costs, and maintenance costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The 80 mile range of most EV cars makes them practical for most city driving situations.







Here’s a chart of the cars now at dealers.





Tax Credit***

BMW i3





Chevrolet Spark EV





Fiat 500 e





Ford Focus E





Honda Fit EV





Kia Soul





Mercedes B Class





Mitsubish iMEV





Nissan Leaf





Smart Fortwo





Toyota RAV 4 EV





Tesla Model S





VW E Golf





*MPGe is the equivalent mileage if the car were gasoline powered.  EV cars still depend on grid power to recharge the batteries.  The majority of that power still comes from coal burning generators.

**MSRP is the manufacturers’ list prices.  Individual dealers offer much lower sales prices, which usually include government incentives.

***Tax incentives.  Georgia still offers a $5,000 incentive for lease or purchase that dealers can discount from the sticker price.  The federal $7,500 tax credit is still in effect and will be until each manufacturer, starting in 2010, has sold 200,000 cars in the US.  This hasn’t happened yet.

What the EV Future Promises:

  1. Solid state batteries that will increase range
  2. Fuel cell technology as an alternate to EVs
  3. Tesla Model 3 with a low sticker price and a 200 + mile range.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s going to get cold.  And based on all the indicators I’ve seen it’s going to be super cold this winter.  The cherry trees at our house blossomed in October.  Normally they blossom in late November.  The same is true for holly – the berries have turned red earlier than normal and the wooly caterpillar is nearly all black instead of the normal black and brown.

And that brings me to the point of this warning — cold weather can freeze outdoor faucets and the connecting pipes can burst.  The last thing we want to happen is for cold water to run wild inside our walls causing more damage and headaches than we ever need to even imagine.  Here’s what we need to do to minimize problems.

Many newer homes have frost proof outdoor faucets where the washer is on a long stem that extends inside the wall and is protected by insulation or a warm room.  This type often (but not always) has a vacuum breaker above the faucet handle.

Hose Bibb w/ Vacuum Breaker

Hose Bibb w/ Vacuum Breaker




In many homes there is an indoor shut-off for outdoor faucets.  Shutting off this valve will take care of the freezing potential.

Hose Bibb Shut-off

Hose Bibb Shut-off









If there isn’t a shut-off, or if we’re not sure whether or not we have a frost proof faucet, hardware and home improvement stores carry faucet covers for about $1.00 that will provide freezing protection by forming an insulating shield around our faucet.

Cover In Place

Cover In Place

Cover Being Put On

Cover Being Put On








A little planning and a little protection can save hundreds of dollars in repairs.


The weather is getting cooler and we will start heating our homes again.  So, once again it’s time to change our furnace air filter.

Changing Our Furnace Filter
Here’s what to do:
1)  Our filter might be located behind a return air grill near our thermostat.  If this is the case click on this return air grill video.

2)  More likely our filter will be located in the furnace where the supply air leaves the unit.  In this case watch this video on changing a furnace filter.

Old FilterNew Filter

Old                                                                                                                       New

The importance of changing our filters at least twice a year (filter manufacturers recommend changing three or four times a year) is: 1) improvement in indoor air quality with less dirt particles to breathe and 2) increasing the life of our furnaces with less dirt particles to blow heated air through.