It's the Environment, Stupid.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Another op-ed from ExxonMobil

It's no coincidence that ExxonMobil ran an op-ed ad (PDF link) entitled "Planting Profits" the same day the company announced its first quarter earnings.

The graphic on this op-ed is a pie chart of ExxonMobil investments from 2001-2005. The largest share of the pie is, of course, North America at 25%. Next is Africa at 15%, with Europe coming in a close third at 14%.

I'll leave the commentary today to ABC news who ran an article highlighting this "coincidence":
"On the same day it announced earnings of more than $8 billion for the first quarter of 2006, ExxonMobil placed advertisements in several newspapers claiming that its massive profits would not just benefit the company but would also be good for millions of Americans.

It was a preemptive strike against a public backlash from consumers who have grown frustrated paying high gasoline prices while big oil companies prosper. Exxon said its second consecutive fiscal quarter of massive earnings would not only benefit more than 2.5 million American shareholders but would also help the company expand refining capacity, explore the globe for new supplies and research new environmentally-sound technologies.

Sounds pretty good. But is it true?

Last year only 30 percent of ExxonMobil's $36 billion in profits went to investment and exploration, according to the company's own financial statement. Fifteen percent went directly to shareholders in the form of cash dividends, and the biggest chunk — 40 percent — was used to repurchase its own stock. Less than 2 percent of the company's profits were spent on research and development." (Read the whole article here.)

And if you don't want to click on the ExxonMobil PDF file to see the ad, I've included the text below:
When ExxonMobil is financially successful, it's good news for the more than 2.5 million Americans who directly own shares in our company, and the millions more who do through their pension, insurance and mutual funds.

Earnings are also important for meeting the world's future energy needs. Because they enable us to continue making vital investments that benefit everyone in the long run. In fact, over the last fifteen yeras our investments have exceeded our earnings.

In the last five years alone, we have invested $74 billion on six continents to search for new supplies, build new production facilities, expand refining capacity and deploy new, environmentally-sound technologies.
More than a third of this investment has been in North America - the remainder expands supplies for world markets, including the United States. Major developments are advancing with the promise of new energy supplies for Americans for many years to come.

Today, for example, we are unlocking the natural gas potential of Colorado's Piceance Basin; investing in new exploration and production projects in the Gulf of Mexico; progressing plans for two new natural gas pipelines from Alaska and Canada to the continental United States, with a combined capacity equivalent to 10% of today's U.S. consumption; investing in the world's largest liquified natural gas project, designed specifically to supply American consumers;and continuing to invest in our U.S. refinieries, where capacity growth over the last decade has outpaced growth demand and equates to building a new refinery every three years.

Our earnings go up and down with the business cycle. But our commitment to plan (and invest) for the future does not.

Oh - and one last thing, if you haven't already check out Sustainablog's posting about a press release from Oil Drum which analyzes the rhetoric coming out the of the White House about oil.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Imagine all the bottles...

On street corners in downtown Seattle, next to the regular trash cans are their brilliant blue counterparts designated for cans and bottles only.

Wouldn't it be great if this option were available on all downtown sidewalks in all downtown areas?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In nuclear news today...

Today is the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl (BBC has some 'in depth' coverage of the incident).

Washington State governor Christine Gregoire made an emergency trip to DC today regarding the never ending clean-up of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The superfund site is always "over budget and behind schedule" - and now the vitrification plant (yet to be constructed), which would stabilize some of the waste and turn it into glass tubes, is in trouble. According to local NPR station, KPLU, 60 minutes is investigating this matter. Another report from the Seattle-PI says Gregoire will meet with Nevada Senator Harry Reid to talk about (the also yet to be constructed) Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository.

And the NY Times reports that Iran says they're ready to share nuclear technology with other nations.

Ominous sign...

To continue with the ominous sign theme from baloghblog... here's the highest price I've seen here yet. This gas station is right around the corner from the Space Needle in downtown Seattle.

I don't know about you, but Bush's words concerning oil concern me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Refill your empty printer cartridge

Printer cartridges can be pricey. And if you don't take your old one in when getting a new one, it's darn near impossible to pick it out of the sea of options behind the counter at (insert big box office supply store of your choice).

But what if you took your printer cartridge in to be refilled? It's a win-win situation, according to ECO Cartridge Store owner, Vic Swan. Win: You save money. By having your cartridge refilled you can save at least 40%. Win: That old cartridge stays out of landfills. A good thing, considering some printer cartridges are made out of industrial grade plastics that take a long, long time to decompose.

Swan's ECO Cartridge Store was the first to open on Seattle's eastside in July of 2005. There are now other refill stores popping up around the area, but those are mainly franchised. By owning his own store, Swan says it gives him the flexibility to better serve the community and meet the needs of his local clients. He says business has been pretty good and he's even thinking about opening up more ECO Cartridge Stores.

One of the main challenges in this business though is the very thing they're dependent on - the printer cartridge manufacturers themselves. For obvious reasons (they sell less new printer cartridges) manufacturers don't like these type of stores. In addition to pushing legislation and regulations designed to hurt the refilling stores, manufacturers have started putting microchips in each cartridge. The purpose of the chip is to make the cartridge think it's empty even if it has been filled with new ink. ECO Cartridge Store employee, Dominic, showed me a chip resetter, a small, hand held device that is placed over the chip to 'reset' it into thinking it is full. However, companies like Canon, one of the more eco-frinedly manufacturers, have begun making a chip that isn't easily reset. Now the race is on for a new chip resetter, apparently a company in the UK has the lead so far. (A note on Canon - according to their website, they boast a 100% recovery rate on all toner and ink cartridges.)

To the manufacturers credit, many do offer cartridge recycling services, such as Lexmark, where you can request a mailing envelope from the company and send your used cartridge back at their expense. However, where all the empty cartridges end up after that is not so openly disclosed. (I called Lexmark to find out what happens with the collected cartridges. After holding a few minutes with tech support, the call center representative told me there is no other number available that I can call. I would have to write a letter to one of the addresses listed on the website for an answer.)

So until I hear back from Lexmark, I'll assume all those empty plastic cartridges are destined for landfills in some form or another. In which case I think refilling the cartridge is probably the best way to go. Especially since the quality and performance of the refilled cartridge is exactly the same as buying a new one. At ECO Cartridge Store, Swan uses over 100 different types of ink to match the original equipment manufacturers and tests every cartridge before it leaves the store. And with 100% satisfaction guarantee, how can you go wrong?

Monday, April 24, 2006

The problem with plastic

The cover story of the Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine on Sunday was "Oceans of Waste" - more specifically with plastic. The story starts off with a picture of colorful plastics atop a dead bird carcass - the plastics being the bird's stomach contents, one piece scientists dated from WWII.

The article takes a look at waste in the oceans and how it gets distributed world wide by maritime flows and currents. It also looks at the effects of this non-digestible waste in marine life.

Plastics - while good for a lot of things, are just too durable and long lasting for others. Plastics manufacturers (and those who make plastic goods) need to rethink the life-cycle of their material. Packaging (a short term use as opposed to a car bumper for instance) should be made of bio-plastics - like Earthshell in Missouri. Things used for a short period shouldn't be made to last a lifetime.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Environmentalists causing higher gas prices

Well, that's what those who contribute to the Seattle P-I 'soundoff' are blaming higher gas prices on. 'Eco-nazis' won't allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and more drilling is the answer. Others are blaming the higher prices on the Bush Administration. Others call for less SUVs and more telecommuting. Some fear the coming of peak oil. Many are entertaining, some insightful - all very interesting if you consider what sources (ie bias) people might be getting their 'information' from - AM radio, local newspapers, national evening news, NPR.

Readers are responding to this PI story, "Gas Prices Rise, Frustrations Mount," that recount people's 'hardships' with the 39-cent increase in the Seattle region in the past month.

Rechargeable or 'disposable' batteries?

My digital camera died on me. I think I got it back when 3 megapixels were exciting - which is nearly ancient in electronic years. I knew it was going but I hoped it would at least last through the week. Since I'm in Seattle this week for a friend's wedding (an important Kodak moment) I had to rush out and buy a new one.

With my first digital camera I researched what was out there and bought one from a local camera shop. Not this time. I did no research what so ever. (Enter circumstance into my latest purchasing decision). Yesterday I had to drive to a big box bridal store to pick up the shoes I am required to wear in this wedding. Next door happened to be a big box electronics store. I went in to check out their digital camera selection. Going in my basic criteria was price (not high end) and size (I wanted to get a smaller camera).

I rely entirely too much on the sales associates opinions in these situations. So as I'm asking the young man assigned to the digital camera section that morning what the differences were between the models, I came up with a few other criteria - the limiting one became batteries. Three out of four of the mid-range models took AA batteries. Only one had a rechargable lithium ion battery. When I expressed that I'd prefer the rechargable battery, he said all batteries wind up in landfills anyway. When I countered with dropping your batteries off to be recycled, he came right back and corrected me - they don't actually recycle them, they just collect them and put them in special bags (he had the proper name for these bags) that prevent leakage, but they still wind up in landfills. My digital camera sales associate turned out to be a former hazardous waste disposal employee. Although instead of collecting batteries, he mainly went around and collected amalgam and mercury from area dentists offices.

So which is better? Rechargeable or 'disposable'? (I went with the rechargeable). And what am I going to do with my now defunct camera? (I think I'll check to see if the manufacturer has any takeback programs in place.)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

In Seattle now

First a couple of revelations I had on the plane today: 1) Don't fly with a head cold. The descent is painful. My ears still haven't depressurized. 2) Seeing Manhattan from the sky exposes it's vulnerability - from above its just a bunch of buildings crammed onto this tiny bit of land surrounded by water. 3) What if all the sprawling, built environment were built green?

Now on the ground, and in the car - my dad's SUV. On the ride home from the airport, the leading news story on the radio was gas prices (that and how the Washington State ferry system is one of the top terrorist targets in the U.S.) Newscasters kept citing how gas prices are nearly topping $3.00 at the pumps. Are people driving less? What do locals have to say about it? Then they'd break for the traffic updates reporting the usual area snarls on I-5 and I-405.

The whole oil - gas guzzler - traffic congestion - air pollution thing just isn't getting through on a wide-spread, individual level even though it seems to be hitting people where it hurts the most - in the pocketbook. What more will it take to change the way we do things?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Almost off to Seattle...

So part of that finishing-up-all-this-stuff is doing a little last minute reading for my class tonight. The class is called Tsunamis, Monsoons and Hurricanes (with some subheadaing about natural disasters in the urban context). The class has been good overall, and very much a step forward for an international affairs program that makes nearly no mention of the environment in its course offerings.

Some of this week's readings focus on climate change, cities, urban disasters and globalization. I was going to throw a little something in my weekly reading response about the South Pacific island of Tuvalu that has been making plans since at least 2001 to move inhabitants elsewhere.

Then I came across a Dear Umbra, question on Grist from 4/17.
Dear Umbra,
Given that there is a possibility/probability that sea levels will rise significantly [due to climate change], and that some parts of the world may become too hot while others could become too cold, where in the world will things be relatively "safe"? If I start thinking about moving my family to another country, in which direction should we be looking?
Michael LairdBelgium (below sea level!)
(read her answer, which is very good, here.)

Now that's some forward planning! If only international organizations and donor agencies would get on board and incorporate a little more forward thinking by throwing in some mitigation and adaptation planning into their efforts. I don't think we need to evacuate all low-lying coastal cities, or start rearranging the global populace, but we can't keep thinking of planning the same old ways. Yes, housing needs to be built for the urban poor (how and where is another question altogether), but if their homes are flooded and livelihoods are wiped out, is that doing much to alleviate poverty?

(That's all, must get back to work now...)

A previous post of mine about climate change/adaptation.

Off to Seattle

Not much time to write today as I'm trying to finish up all this stuff I have to do before heading off to Seattle Friday morning (for a whole week and a couple o' days). I can't promise anything too exciting, but I'm envisioning posts related to gasoline prices at the pump, and coffee....

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Whole Foods Recon Team

Yesterday I took on the Whole Foods recon challenge posed by Sustainablog's Jeff McIntire-Strasburg.

I stopped by Whole Foods in Columbus Circle in NYC to pick up some lunch, and at the register I asked for the brochure about wind power (I almost forgot to ask). The woman knew what I was talking about but said she hadn't seen them, and didn't think they had them yet to hand out. I thanked her and went on my way.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Who are your eco-heroes?

Alternet is asking: "In celebration of Earth Day, AlterNet wants to hear from you. Who are your enviro-heroes? Who's working to make a difference from the ground up? Who's out in the field, in neglected communities that need it most?"

Sounds like they're building up their own list of heroes in response to those featured in Vanity Fair's green issue, which Alternet criticizes as focused on the rich, white male aspect of the enviro scene while ignoring the movement's more colorful, grassroots side.

I'm looking forward to seeing who makes it on their list - there's definitely not a shortage of nominees.

Rescued e-waste - does this count as doing my part?

I often think that I am leading a hypocritical life. I write and complain and think about the crazy things we as people are doing to the planet - yet what do I really do that's so great? So I rescued this radio on my walk home partially to rescue it from the landfill, partially because I could use a radio.

It was just sitting on the sidewalk, cord wrapped around it, on a cold, dark, lonely night (well, it wasn't that cold - it was rather pleasant actually). I didn't really even think about it - I just saw it and thought, "I could use a radio. I hope it works, because if it doesn't then I'll be the one responsible for disposing of it properly," picked it up, and rushed home to plug it in. Upon doing so I discovered what may have been the reason the owner chucked it on the street - the CD player doesn't seem to function. But it does receive radio frequency just fine, and the digital display on the clock works, although I haven't bothered to figure out how to change the time yet.

I don't know if picking up someone else's unwanted radio qualifies as doing good - but it's one less electronic item in the landfills and that can't be all that bad.

Monday, April 17, 2006

NYU - The Green Arch Initiative

There is a commanding green presence at New York University called The Green Arch Initiative. I attended a panel put on by Green Arch last week and talked with representative Jeremy Friedman who said they’re an organization that wants to wind up obsolete, because when that happens they’ll have accomplished their task (or mission): to develop NYU as a leader in urban environmental scholarship and practice, furthering our reputation as a “private university in the public service.”

Although not without its challenges, Freidman says Green Arch has had some successes. One of those has been the compilation of a comprehensive list of environmental courses offered at NYU. No small task considering all of the different schools and departments university wide. Plus, in addition to putting on events like the panel discussion I attended last week, Green Arch is also going to be part of several Earth Day events, including EartHarmony Street Fair on Thursday. From 11a-3p at Washington Place you can tune up your bike, and (my personal favorite), bring your e-waste for recycling.

It is refreshing to see a 'green' student led movement in a college setting making progress, especially at a school that doesn't really have a true 'campus' (at least I don't consider buildings scattered across town a campus in the traditional sense). Green talk certainly isn't happening at my school, The New School, from a student level as far as I can tell (although it has been put into play administratively as Joel Towers is now heading up the new environmental initiative of The New School). What other student led groups are making progress? I know they're out there. I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Earth Week at Prospect Park

It's Earth Week at Prospect Park in Brooklyn this week. Community gardening, nature walks and more. Plus, each day from 12p-5p at the Audubon Center will feature films, guest speakers and kids activities (although no schedule posted on line just yet.) Check it out if you're out this way.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Environmental Action hits the streets

As I'm rushing to my job at school yesterday afternoon I see someone standing outside the entrance to the building. He's wearing a blue windbreaker, holding a clipboard, and happily calling out to people passing by - great, an activist. I usually stop and listen to what they have to say - saving children or protecting animals mostly - and always feel bad when I don't give them money. Since I was running late I decided I would just walk on by this one.

"Help stop climate change?" Crap. I can't just turn my back on that one. So I stopped to see what organization he was from. Once I noticed the Environmental Action logo on his jacket I started chatting, telling him about how I get the alerts via e-mail and usually blog about them. Then (even though it was obvious I was already on his side) he gave me the Environmental Action pitch and talked about increasing the fuel efficiency of our vehicles, and then asked me for a contribution.

Couldn't get out of that one too easily - so Andrew Rose held my coffee while I made a small contribution to Environmental Action. Then I thanked him for being out on the streets spreading the word, and continued on to work.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Environmental Action - Cape Cod wind

And here I thought it was already dead - Environmental Action says there's still hope to save the Cape Cod wind project.

Hurry while there's still time - click here to send Environmental Action's pre-made letter to your senator...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Neil Chambers intv in Guernica

Speaking of Gaffney...

It happens to be the home town of Neil Chambers, executive director of Green Ground Zero, who was recently interviewed by Guernica Magazine about sustainable design and the future of 'green'. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

NIMBY? Not a problem in Gaffney, SC

Most communities might shy away from talk of nuclear power in their own back yard. Not Gaffney, SC. According to the NY Times yesterday, residents there are all for it. The prospect for jobs and a potential economic boost is appealing to people in this former textile town - their only concern around the proposed nuclear facility seems to be increased traffic that may result during construction of a plant.

Recent legislation has made it easier and faster for new nuclear plants to be built and come online, and since they're seen as inevitable in the face of our carbon free energy future - why not Gaffney? We've got to put all these new plants somewhere. May as well build 'em in areas of least resistance. Of course it'd be a little more convenient if Gaffney were closer to Yucca Mountain, but since transport cross country of nuclear waste has been deemed safe it shouldn't be a problem. And who knows, with all these new nuclear facilities popping up, maybe communities will be lining up to get all the extra nuclear waste put in their backyards.

Again, as I've said before, I'm not against nuclear power (or the people in Gaffney who want it) - just nuclear waste, which unfortunately seems to be a negative externality of climate change mitigation.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Garbage day means more e-waste

It's garbage day on my street today and that usually means unwanted electronics and other miscellaneous items are also thrown out with the trash.

Stopping just short of criticising my neighbors for leaving their e-waste for the landfills, I wondered what I would do with my TV once it failed to work or I needed to get rid of it for whatever reason.

If my unwanted TV was working I could put an ad on craigslist to see if there were any takers - after all that's how I found my small, tv/vcr combo last year. I went all the way up to Columbia to retrieve it, and lugged it back to Brooklyn via subway (luckily no train transfers.)

But what if my unwanted TV wasn't working? The easy thing to do would be to put it on the street. I don't have a car in NY, so it would be difficult taking it to a collection facility (which are in outlying areas of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.) I could take a cab or find someone with a car - but again, it would be cheaper and easier to put it on the street.

While NYC WasteLe$$ is making great efforts towards recycling in the boroughs, their electronics recycling events are few and far between (the next one in Manhattan is April 23 in Union Square). There isn't an easy answer to reducing the amount of e-waste in landfills - but there is an opportunity to do more. Perhaps with a little legislation that will force some of the burden back to manufacturers, and a little creative thinking on the part of waste management services we might be able to retrieve more e-waste from the sidewalks.

Some of my previous posts on e-waste.
Mobile recycling
Toshiba Canada
E-waste legislation

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Exxon Mobil - going after the green jacket

I'm sitting here watching the Masters and I can't get over the Exxon Mobil ads. As a courtesy to viewers (I guess) to minimize interruption of coverage, the golf tournament has a few key sponsors for the tv broadcast. So the only commercials shown during the final round are from AT&T, IBM, and Exxon Mobil.

Now, the last time I commented on an ExxonMobil ad (a print ad in the NY Times) I received a comment criticizing my skepticism. So, I will give ExxonMobil credit for a great ad campaign. By watching these ads it makes it look like the oil giant is making great strides. And I do commend their efforts with (leader going into hole 11) Phil Mickelson at pushing for renewed interest in science and math in the younger generation.

But I still remain skeptical of their campaign - why say you're working toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions when you're still in denial of climate change?
Check out this ad: Cute kids struggling on the driving range - "Kids. They'll tackle almost anything. An approach we could all learn from. So ExxonMobil has teamed up with Stanford University to find breakthrough technologies to deliver more energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It's a challenge. But we're getting there."

Okay - good for them, they're spending tons on fuel efficiency research - but it'd be great to see all this PR backed up by a little more action, and less resistance towards reducing the climate change impact.

Watch all of the Masters commercials on

Vanity Fair Green Issue

Well - I thought I'd see what everyone was talking about - the green issue of Vanity Fair is on newsstands. I've only just browsed it so far - but it highlights green doers, talks about global climate change, mountain top removal in west virginia, and it has lots and lots of photos - nothing better than a CG image of Manhattan under water to get people thinking.

And I agree with Eco-Chick Summer Rayne Oakes about the cover - a nice Annie Leibovitz shot - but could it get any more GREEN?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Offshore drilling - good in the long run?

How is offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico (read: hurricane prone area = vulnerable to be knocked out with interrupted supplies) a good idea, while off shore wind turbines (said to be unsightly and kill birds) are a bad thing?

From the 4/8/06 NY Times article: "The two-million-acre area, in deep waters 100 miles south of Pensacola, Fla., is estimated to contain nearly half a billion barrels of oil and three trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to run roughly a million vehicles and heat more than half a million homes for about 15 years. The site, Area 181, is the only major offshore leasing zone that the administration is offering for development..." (emphasis mine)

That's less than one million vehicles, and 500,000 homes over 15 years - given the fact that there's way more homes and vehicles in the U.S. than that - will this amount of fuel even last 5 years?

"While environmental groups say that discouraging new drilling would spur development of alternative fuels, administration officials say that timely action in Area 181 and beyond could bring short-term relief to the nation's energy needs and, perhaps, lower fuel costs for consumers." (emphasis mine again obviously)

What about LONG-TERM relief to the nation's energy needs? Anyone interested in investing in that?

Cities at risk

Yesterday morning I attended an event at The New School called Urban Conversations - Cities at Risk. The morning conversation was broadcast live as part of The Brian Lehrer show on WNYC, New York Public Radio.

The conversation was heavy on talk about government response in wake of a disaster, (specifically 9/11 and New Orleans/Katrina). The guests spoke about issues surrounding the roles of FEMA and the newly formed Homeland Security Department, including intelligence and funding for preparedness - which was appropriate given their expertise: Bob Kerrey, president of The New School, former senator (D-NE), and former 9/11 Commission member; Michael Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general of the United States Department of Homeland Security, director of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Initiative, and author of the forthcoming book Open Target; Martin O'Malley, Mayor of Baltimore (D).

One of the main problems it seemed was funding. How do you decide what kind of emergency preparedness to fund (and where) when potential terrorist attacks or natural disasters are simply impossible to predict? While hindsight can always point to clear indicators as to what should have been funded (as Kerrey pointed out with the memo disregarded by GW that explicitly stated there was a threat of attack on U.S. in 2001; and the cautions that the levees needed fixing in New Orleans), how do you prioritize the unknown?

O'Malley's response to prioritizing was that while we cannot protect every square inch of the United States, we can start with the economic and financial hubs of New York, Washington, Chicago and L.A. He also followed that up by stressing the importance of public safety in all communities - because if a major city is devastated, nearby communities are likely to come to the rescue. But even after the priorities are set (if they can be agreed upon) there remains another funding question: what is the money specificially going toward? Brown's critique is that there is no clear national plan in this respect.

But funding issues aside there seemed to me a larger problem. While both natural disaster response and terrorist threats seemed to be within the realm of FEMA and the Homeland Security Dept., there is little talk of the connection between natural disaster and security threat.

Natural disasters have in the past, and will in the future weaken infrastrucutres, especially in cities. Weak infrastructures are extremely vulnerable points that lend themselves to failure if not adequately maintained, and can be heightened security risks in this sense.

If the current U.S. administration wants to keep playing the fear card to their advantage, they really should position climate change as a homeland security risk. Positioned as such, natural disaster preparedness and prevention would get just as much play as the 'war on terror'. With a 'war on climate change' it would be in the public's top of mind and at the head of every newscast. Would this make us safer? Maybe not, but it might reduce the costs and increase effectiveness of response the next time around.

A better umbrella

It is raining today in NYC - and I've already seen three discarded, mangled umbrellas on the sidewalks. This of course reminded me of Tree Hugger's latest design contest - Umbrella Inside Out. There are two ways to win: 1) design a better umbrella 2) fashion something wearable out of those old umbrellas. check out TH Kyeann Sayer's latest post about it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Better Bottle Bill

3r living's Mark Caserta took a trip to Albany this week to help fight for a bigger, better bottle bill, which aims to get more bottles recycled by changing up the current policy.

According to NYPIRG, the new bottle bill would
  • expand New York's Bottle Bill to include deposits on non-carbonated beverages, such as bottled water, iced tea, juice and sports drinks; and,
  • require the beverage industry to return all unclaimed deposits to the state to fund municipal recycling and waste prevention programs.
Of course the bill is not without its critics - here's Mark's response to some of the most popular critiques:
We don't need the bottle bill at all, now that we have municipal recycling.

FALSE In truth, many municipalities don’t have recycling and 80-90% of non-deposit bottles end up in the trash where we, the taxpayers, pay for their disposal. The industry has gone so far as to introduce a bill to repeal the current bottle bill, which would put even more strain on our publicly-run trash pickup. Many Assemblymembers are considering this bill over the expanded bottle bill, a troublesome development.

Expanding the Bottle Bill will bring more rats and roaches to grocery stores who have to store the bottles.
FALSE In truth, the bill allows store owners to refuse dirty bottles. In addition, 60% of the bottles covered under the BBBB will be clean spring water bottles.

Expanding the Bottle Bill will hurt consumers.
FALSE At most, pennies per bottle will be passed onto consumers and the deposit would be returned when the bottles are redeemed. Unclaimed deposits would go to public programs aimed at improving the environment rather than the bottling industry (which is currently keeping the deposits).

The current bottle bill is of course a well intentioned policy with incentives that just didn't play out effectively. Hopefully this better bill will pass and do what it intends to do - get more bottles recycled.

Read Mark's full posting.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Yankees new stadium a go

It looks like the New York city council are Yankees fans, as they voted nearly unanimously for a new stadium for the richest team in baseball. The Yankees will pay for a lot of the $800 million stadium - but NY state and city taxpayers will be footing some of the bill as well.

From the NY Times article: "Under the deal, the city would spend at least $138 million to demolish the old stadium, create new parkland to replace the 22 acres being used for the stadium in Macomb's Dam and Mullaly Parks, and to make improvements to other nearby parks. The state's share would be $70 million of the $320 million cost of building four parking garages that could be used by local residents throughout the year; the remainder would come from private developers..."

Still no word of greening the ballpark....

Previous post on the new stadium

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Global Warming Preparedness Act

Browsing through Grist today I came across Adam Browning's post from Saturday, April 1, "Not a helpful turn in the global warming conversation." Browning refers to an op-ed piece in the NY Times by the Death of Environmentalism authors, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger.

In the op-ed piece Nordhaus and Shellenberger call for a Global Warming Preparedness Act, as a way for governments (mainly on the state and federal level in the U.S.) to be better able to respond to disasters that will occur due to global warming. "The law would give the Federal Emergency Management Agency the task of coordinating a national global warming preparedness plan with other government agencies. For instance, coastal and Gulf states would be required to demonstrate effective evacuation procedures to deal with rising sea levels and more severe hurricanes, as well as to assess the risks of new construction in low-lying areas. And Southwestern and agricultural states would be required to determine their capacity to cope with future droughts."

Browning disagrees with the piece, saying that by moving toward adaptation, efforts toward prevention will cease. "For people still interested in working on prevention, this is an unproductive way to take the conversation."

I don't think it is unproductive at all to talk about adaptation, in fact that is one of my critiques about all of this global warming/climate change talk at the moment. While the coverage has moved from skepticism to acceptance, it seems like we're at an 'I told you so' phase where everyone is laying out the proof in detail: sea temperatures rising, arctic ice melting, earlier arrival of spring, migrating birds, species extinction and so on. All of the 'we must act now' advocates are pushing for emission reductions, carbon offsets, fuel efficiency, alternative energy sources - necessary, yes - but no one is really talking about how we're going to deal with the potential effects on humanity.

Even if all CO2 emissions ceased today, the concentration levels will still rise, and the earth will attempt to continue regulating itself. I believe there are things we can do on the prevention side, but we must take action toward preparedness and start thinking about how we will adapt to lessen the negative impacts and potential devastation and destruction. Will the new New Orleans be re-built to withstand category 4 and 5 hurricanes or another massive flood due to a levee breach? Can the expansion in booming areas in the southwest U.S. handle increased energy and water demands during heat waves or drought periods? Financing the cost of natural disaster destruction also must be considered (also alluded to in the op-ed piece). Will the U.S. government continue to pay for the clean-up and rebuilding of crucial infrastructure systems that allow business and residential areas to function? Should the government even be responsible for these costs?

Nordhaus and Shellenberger end their piece with: "We can agree to disagree on the causes of climate change. What we all must agree on, though, is that it poses a risk — one for which we are woefully unprepared." With adequate planning and preparedness the monetary, and human/societal losses can be significantly reduced. Yes, prevention is important, but we must also be ready to adapt.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Maryland passes legislation to clean-up power plants

I guess I'm not as up on this whole global warming thing as I think I am - I just found this from It's Getting Hot in Here:

"In a major victory against global warming, the Maryland General Assembly gave final approval Friday to the strongest power-plant clean-up bill ever passed by a legislative body in America. The bill passed by a landslide with a bi-partisan vote of 107-27, reported the Annapolis Capitol.In addition to dramatically reducing nitrogen, sulfur and mercury pollution, the Maryland Healthy Air Act requires that the state join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a consortium of eastern states committed to mandatory CO2 reductions from power plants. The vote is particularly significant because it marks the first legislative mandate to join RGGI, setting the stage for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as other states, to move towards joining this historic pact."

I'd say that's great news! Who's next?

You choose - Environmental Action asks for your vote

Environmental Action is really trying to get public lands off the auction block and want to know what you think about their latest ads - which do you think they should run with?

They ask: Do you prefer "Going Once, Going Twice," which shows our wilderness auctioned off to the highest bidder; or do you prefer "Feeding Time," with the shot of the developer feeding on our forests?

I personally liked the "feeding time" ad better - but don't let me influence your vote - check it out for yourself.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Global warming on the brain

I’m not sure if I’ve been noticing climate change talk the past couple of weeks because it’s out there more than before, or if I’ve just got climate change on the brain because I’ve recently read Ross Gelbspan’s The Boiling Point, and Elizabeth Kolbert’s Man, Nature and Climate Change, but it sure got me to pay attention to the foil top on my Stonyfield yogurt container. “Let your fingers do the marching!” it says, “Take your first virtual step to stopglobalwarming at” So, I go to and click on the graphic that matches the lid to find out more.

(Side note: I go through a lot of Stonyfield yogurt and this is the first lid I’ve noticed – although as I click to find out more about the “lids of the month” campaign, I do recall some of the past lids, but never took action or went to their website before now.)

So – what is this virtual step they want me to take to stopglobalwarming? “This virtual march on Washington is a non-partisan effort to bring Americans together to demonstrate to our elected officials that there's a vast consensus that global warming is here now and it's time for our country to start addressing it.” Okay. I’ve heard of that. May as well sign up.

One click takes me to the page where I can help Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield (that’s what it says, CE-Yo) who has been marching since October 27, 2005 and has 1,168 marchers in tow (surely more than a thousand people eat Stonyfield yogurt – what’s up with that?) After submitting my sign-up info I immediately get an auto-response e-mail from founder Laurie David (guest editor of the green issue of Vanity Fair that’ll hit newsstands later this month) telling me what I need to do to complete my registration as a marcher. Another click takes me to a special page on where I can tell the world why I’ve joined the march (“because it is NOT TOO LATE!” I say.) Then they give me a few options to post something about on my blog – I picked out the grey signup form and the stop global warming logo (now sitting below the rustle the leaf link in my sidebar – so if you haven’t already, sign up. Come on, I just told you how easy it is - plus it's one more thing you can do to stopglobalwarming).

Or you can pick your favorite marcher and sign up with them - how about Gov Schwarzenegger (terminate global warming) or Montana Gov Brian Schweitzer (he's only got 19 marchers and could use a little support.) March with Seattle mayor Greg Nickels or Hilary Clinton or musicians James Taylor or Carole King. Leonardo DiCaprio ranks in the top 10. Even Ross Gelbspan and Elizabeth Kolpert are marching - so pick your favorite celeb and join the march.

And, yes, I know, I’m late in coming to this virtual march, especially since it will culminate on Earth Day, which is in three weeks – but hey – it’s not too late. There's still time.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Environmental Action - no new coal fired power plants

Environmental Action has created a map pin pointing the 130 proposed power plants in the United States slated to be built in the next decade.

Check out the map - then take action by sending a note to the gov of your state asking for a moratorium on these plants until other options are exhausted (or type your own message in the pre-made letter portion provided by Environmental Action.)

Toshiba Canada - product recovery and recycle

I came across some more news on e-waste recycling via - Toshiba.

Toshiba Canada is stepping up to take back ANY manufacturer's notebook computer, LCD monitor, or pocket PC with their TERRE program (Toshiba's Environmental Recovery and Recycling Effort). Not only will they send UPS to pick up the non-working, unwanted electronic device, they'll send out a 128MB USB flash drive to you 4-6 weeks later.

Toshiba Canada has partnered with canadian company Target Recycling to provide this service, and is only offered for those in Canada.

While Toshiba isn't accepting PCs, printers, faxes, monitors and a few other electronic parts (including memory cards, like the ones they're giving out) as part of this deal, I think it's a step in the right direction. Plus, according to their website, all notebook computers Toshiba currently makes follow the EU's RoHS standards, which addresses toxic materials in electronic equipment.

Maybe other computer manufacturers will follow...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Day light savings time

Short on time again, but thought I'd put this one out there on April fools day (even though it's almost over) this tree hugger post on day light savings time got me good....

And don't forget to spring forward (if you're in the US anyway)