GreenDimes is a service that helps you reduce your junk mail and plants a tree a month in your name, which seems like a good deal for $3 a month. Then again, you could pay just $1 and contact the Direct Marketing Association, and plant your own trees, or support a local group that does, like Friends of the Urban Forest.

"Easy to be Green"

Joan Raymond ("Easy to Be Green,") provides somes tips for living greener in Newsweek, including two items I've focused on personally: 7. Eat Your Veggies, 9. Turn On the Tap.

Bob Dylan Talks to Jann Wenner

Bob is such a gifted, original songwriter and singer that it's easy to forget how smart he is. In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, The Fortieth Anniversary issue, Bob talks to Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, and shows off his humor and broad wisdom.
WENNER: What do you think of the historical moment we're in today? We seem to be hellbent on destruction. Do you worry about global warming?
DYLAN: Where's the global warming? It's freezing here.
WENNER: It seems a frightening outlook.
DYLAN: I think what you're driving at, though, is we expect politicians to solve all our problems. I don't expect politicians to solve anybody's problems.
WENNER: Who is going to solve them?
DYLAN: Our own selves. We've got to take the world by the horns and solve our own problems. The world owes us nothing, each and every one of us, the world owes us not one single thing. Politicians or whoever.

WENNER: What do you take faith in?
DYLAN: Nature. Just elemental nature. I'm still tramping my way through the forest, really, on daily excursions. Nature doesn't change. And if there is any war going on on a big level today, it's against nature.

Is Wal-Mart for real?

In October 2005, Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. "pledged to transform Wal-Mart ... into a company that runs entirely on renewable energy and produces zero net waste." I was dubious of the news then and frankly still am, but maybe I shouldn't be so cynical.

David Roberts writes ("Wal-Mart's Green Makeover"):
It's too early to tell for sure, but Wal-Mart's environmental initiatives do appear substantive. Scott's commitments go well beyond what would be necessary for a successful greenwashing campaign. (Hell, BP pulled one of those off with little more than a name change.)

The holy trinity of genuine business transformation is: 1) public goals and timetables, 2) buy-in at every level of the company, and c) transparent reporting.

Wal-Mart has hit two of the three: Scott announced specific goals, and by all accounts Wal-Mart associates are invigorated by the challenge and the sense of moral mission.

As for transparent reporting, time will tell, but with all the scrutiny the announcements have drawn, it would be extraordinarily difficult to back out quietly. The company has already set up more than a dozen "sustainable value networks," each focused on a particular area like packaging or facilities, each made up of Wal-Mart managers and outside educators, regulators, and environmentalists. A lot of people are involved who wouldn't hesitate to call foul if Wal-Mart stalled or backed out.

WSJ Reports on "Going Green"

Yet another sign that green is mainstream ... Jessica Marmor ("Pound by Pound, Dollar for Dollar, The Complicated Equation for Going Green") offers up tips for being green in today's Wall Street Journal. Tips offered include: switch to green power, use low energy light bulbs, drive less, eat local, eat less red meat, and I'm shocked to see these two in the WSJ:
Get Rid of Your Car

Cost: A year's worth of public transportation varies widely, from $200 to $2,000 depending on location.
Savings: The Sierra Club estimates that the average yearly cost of driving a single-occupant car is between $4,826 and $9,685. puts the cost of gas alone at about $1,300 for an average car, like a Honda Civic.
Impact: The EPA's calculator estimates that a typical car driven by the average American emits about 12,100 pounds of CO2e a year -- about 30% of one person's total emissions.

Cut Out All Animal Products

Cost: Wouldn't dramatically increase or decrease spending at the grocery store.
Impact: 3,000 pounds of CO2e a year; or 8% of one person's total.

The average American diet produces 3,000 more pounds of CO2e a year than a calorie-equivalent "vegan" diet that is derived only from plants, i.e., fruits, vegetables, beans, according to the authors of a 2006 University of Chicago report.

The savings come from bypassing the livestock industry, which is responsible for 18% of the U.S.'s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. A good deal of that comes from the methane emitted from cow manure (methane is a greenhouse gas), the CO2 produced by the operation of farm machinery and the devotion of colossal amounts of land to grow single crops, like corn. Corn is cultivated with a synthetic fertilizer that emits greenhouse gases in two ways. First, manufacturing the fertilizer--a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen gases--requires large amounts of natural gas. Second, runoff from this fertilizer evaporates into the air as nitrous oxide -- a greenhouse gas hundreds of times more powerful than CO2.

Much of the rest of the food industry's CO2e output simply comes from transporting meat and dairy products around the world, a phenomenon that is not unique to meat -- turning a seemingly clear-cut option into a bit of a puzzle.
Who would have thought it? Earth-friendly advice from the Wall Street Journal. Wonders never cease, do they?

Happy Earth Day!

This evening a friend asked, "What are you doing for Earth Day?" I'll be celebrating the day at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park, where Bob Weir and Ratdog, Stephen Marley featuring Junior Gong, The Greyboy Allstars, Martin Sexton and Jonah Smith will be playing in the free Green Apple Music Festival.

I'll be walking to the event, since transportation is the single greatest (worst?) source of CO2 emissions.

Eating Smart ("Pork's Dirty Secret")

Recently in my ethics course, we began reading a book entitled The Way We Eat by Peter Singer, who is a noted animal rights activist and has written many essays on the ethics surrounding the treatment and mistreatment of animals. Not only do I recommend this book to anyone concerned about animal treatment and environmental issues, but I have to say that it has completely changed my opinions of the factory farming industry, and indeed the meat industry in the US as a whole.

Factory farms in the US treat chickens, pigs, and cows in a horrendous manner from birth to death, raising serious ethical concerns for the suffering of these animals which largely goes unnoticed. Most people have no idea that 99% of the eggs in the country come from farms where hens have their beaks seared off with a hot blade to prevent pecking, after which they are stuffed into a 72" square crate with twenty-five of their fellow hens with barely enough room to turn around, and no room at all to move or perform normal hen-like behavior. The emotional and physical trauma induced upon factory farmed animals is appalling, and as I said earlier, unnoticed.

Factory farming also raises huge health and environmental issues. Pig farming alone produces billions and billions of tons of untreated pig waste every year which runs into rivers, streams, and oceans. In the Gulf of Mexico, pig farming has created massive "dead-zones" of ocean in which no life is sustainable at all. Farmed fish also create unbelievable amounts of waste, in addition to weakening the populations of similar wild fish, by escaping and interbreeding, weakening their immune systems and spreading disease.

Shrimp trolling destroys coral reefs, and in some areas" bycatch" (or the miscellaneous fish which are caught in addition to shrimp or other fish) can be as high as 14 lbs for every 1 lb of shrimp. Most of this bycatch dies on deck before being swept overboard.

I encourage you all to read this book and become more conscientious of the meat products you choose when going to the supermarket. Buying organic meat is simply not enough, because slapping an "organic" label on a product does not certify ethical animal treatment. Look for free range labels, and if you are in my situation (eating in a fixed dining hall for 9/10 meals) ask your food provider where your meat comes from.

Talk to your friends about the horrors of factory farming and spread information about this situation. Obviously the opinions of most Americans will never change on meat eating, but if we can increase awareness perhaps the factory farming industry will see that people in the United States want a change. We can only hope.

Are light bulbs a big deal?

I just changed one of the 65 watts 130 volts flood light bulbs in our living room. We have 21 of these bulbs in our modest 2 bedroom condo in San Francisco, and not a month goes by when I don't change at least one of them.

Since I'm re-examining the way I live and consume each and every day, and taking steps to improve my behavior, today I asked myself:

"Are light bulbs a big deal?"

I'm not interested in doing the precise CO2 emissions savings calculations for fluorescent versus incandescent, but my guess is that making the switch in our home would save about 200 lbs of CO2 for each bulb annually, for a whopping 4,200 lbs of CO2 saved each year.

By comparison, my vehicle emits about 1,200 lbs of CO2 per year, or between a fourth and a third of what I would save by switching bulbs.

I'd call that a small deal that makes a big difference. Now I need to find some fluorescent flood light bulbs.

Bush EPA Nominees:
Pro-Industry, Not Pro-Environment

This news comes as no surprise, given that President Bush is responsible for the laughably named "Healthy Forests" and "Clear Skies" initiatives. This is just more proof that Bush and Republicans are more interested in using federal government as a tool for their corporate donors than as a servant to the American people.
The White House has renominated three people for top jobs affecting the environment who previously were blocked in Congress because of their pro-industry views.

If necessary, said industry lobbyists and Republican aides in Congress, Bush intends to skirt the Senate approval process by making recess appointments to put the three nominees in the posts.

All three have ties to industries that face costly Environmental Protection Agency restrictions, and all three previously have bypassed or questioned the EPA's scientific process.

They are William Wehrum, who would head the air office of the EPA; Alex Beehler, to be the EPA's inspector general; and Susan Dudley, who would become White House regulations czar.

Wehrum, a former lawyer for the chemical, utility and auto industries, was counsel to the EPA's air office when controversy erupted over the agency's new standard for power plant mercury emissions. The mercury rule contained whole paragraphs lifted verbatim from a memo by Latham & Watkins, Wehrum's former law firm, which represented utility companies affected by the rule.

Meanwhile, to replace Nikki Tinsley, the retired inspector general who criticized EPA's work on the mercury rule, the administration has recommended Beehler, a Pentagon official and former executive for Koch Industries, a private oil and chemical conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan.

An inspector general is supposed to provide independent oversight of the agency's management, conducting audits and investigations. The EPA said this month it will eliminate 30 staffers from the inspector general's office.

Dudley headed a free-market think tank, the Mercatus Center, at George Mason University supported in part by Koch Industries, whose chairman sits on the board. Bush has renominated her to lead a section of the White House Office of Management and Budget that reviews all proposed government rules, where she is now a special adviser. The White House declined a request to interview her.

At Mercatus, Dudley described EPA decisions as unnecessarily stringent. For example, she wrote that the agency should not value the lives of older people as highly as the lives of younger people when calculating the impact of arsenic in drinking water.
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