Climate talks end with meager promises—Richard Harris, NPR 7/10/09
The G8 meeting that held international climate talks in L’Aquila, Italy over the past week ended with little progress. Rich industrial nations refused to promise short term emissions cuts. China, India and the rest of the developing world refused to commit to emissions cuts at all. China, the world’s largest emitter of CO2, claims that most of the carbon in the atmosphere today is from the US and other rich nations. China demands these nations act first and most aggressively, with a 40% reduction in 10 years.
Eileen Claussen, of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and former diplomat, called the demand an “over-the-top bargaining tactic” and a totally unrealistic position. Claussen said China believes climate change is a real risk, but the country can’t wean itself from cheap fossil fuels while struggling, according to Ken Lieberthal of the Brookings Institution, to eliminate poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Lieberthal said China is building the equivalent of a new city for 1.25 million people every month, and is expected to need to continue for 15-20 years. A global plan may have to let China continue to be the world’s leading emitter for decades to come.
While the industrialized world has recognized the need for dramatic action, short-range goals and plans were not agreed on. At issue is both cutting emissions for rich countries as well as spreading clean energy technology, and money, around the world. Jennifer Morgan, of the Berlin think tank E3G, said that includes money and technology for China. The Obama administration is starting to work with China directly, outside of international climate talks, to bring clean technologies. Advances in emissions reductions globally—slowing and halting global warming—are in serious jeopardy while developing nations must raise living standards, and rich countries are failing to act. The next climate treaty is slated for completion in December, at the UN summit in Copenhagen.
60 Environmental groups support Sotomayor for Supreme Court—Environment News Service, 7/9/09
60 environmental, conservation and Native American organizations sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee members today expressing their support for confirmation of Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin Monday May 13. The letter said Sotomayor’s record “evinces no clear bias in favor of or against environmental claims”. It went on to say her record “reflects intellectual rigor, meticulous preparation, and fairness”. The groups value her “consistently balanced and thoughtful review of complex legal issues”, going on to say “She has interpreted and applied the laws as Congress intended and safeguarded constitutional rights”. Trip Van Noppen, president of nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, added “Appointing unbiased, non-activist justices to the Supreme Court will help ensure that the Court’s decisions will faithfully implement our nation’s environmental laws”.
Some of the largest environmental groups in the US signed the letter, including the League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation and The Wilderness Society, all told representing millions of members. Sotomayor has participated in few environmental cases. On one such case she wrote “a careful 80-page opinion upholding critical Clean Water Act safeguards”. The letter characterized this decision as “methodically analyzing and resolving various conservation, state, and industry challenges to a regulation designed to protect fish from being killed in the cooling water intake structures of large power plants…her decision reflects well-researched, thorough and thoughtful legal analysis that probes the statute, its context, legislative history and judicial precedent to discern and remain true to congressional intent.” Environmental groups also praised her preparation and deep engagement of complex issues on a power plant greenhouse gas emissions case.
Glenn Sugameli, senior policy counsel at Earthjustice and head of Judging the Environment, an Earthjustice judicial nominations program, said Sotomayor “brings to the bench the most federal judicial experience in 100 years”. “As recent, closely divided decisions demonstrate,” Sugameli added, “ the Supreme Court is playing a crucial role in environmental protections.” Sugameli said he expects Sotomayor will bring fairness, careful attention to and understanding of environmental and related statutes, and thoughtful review of complex legal issues.
Recent Supreme Court decisions on environmental issues have affected environmental protections. In Rapanos v. United States (2006), water quality protections for some intermittent streams and isolated wetlands were weakened, leading to ambiguous implementation policies by federal agencies. In Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), CO2 was ruled a pollutant subject to regulation by federal agencies. Coeur Alaska, Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council et al. (2009) stated that the Clean Water Act allows a mining company to essentially to dump hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic wastewater slurry per day into an Alaskan lake, with fatal consequences for aquatic life. This last ruling has implications for other waterways across the country, and overturned an appeals court finding that the company was in clear violation of the Clean Water Act, according to Earthjustice.
Gun rights organizations oppose Sotomayor’s nomination. In Maloney v. Cuomo, Sotomayor said the Second Amendment is not a fundamental right, it does not apply to states, and if an object is “designed primarily as a weapon, that is a sufficient basis for total prohibition even within the home”. The pro-life movement also opposes Sotomayor’s nomination. The Democratic National Committee, on the other hand has seen widespread grassroots support of Sotomayor from citizens across the country. Democractic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said “Her experience in the American judicial system, coupled with her inspiring life story and fierce intellect, make her uniquely qualified”.
Environment groups find less support on court—Adam Liptak, The New York Times, 7/3/09
Of the five environmental law cases heard by the end of the latest term, environmental groups lost. Richard J. Lazarus, a director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University Law Center called it “the worst term ever” for environmental interests. Navy exercises using sonar that threaten whales off California were allowed. Liabilities of companies partly responsible for toxic spills were limited. Forest Service regulations were made harder to challenge, dumping mining waste in an Alaskan lake was OK’d and the EPA was granted the right to use cost-benefit analysis to decide the threshold of marine life killed by power plant cooling intakes.
Douglas Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal research organization and law firm, attributed the pro-business tendency to shifts in the court makeup in 2005 and 2006, when chief justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. were appointed respectively. Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who often voted for environmental interests and grew up on the Lazy B ranch in the high desert wilderness of Arizona and New Mexico. In her 2005 memoir Lazy B, O’Connor said “We experienced nature in an intimate way…We learned to respect the environment.” O’Connor’s loss is attributed significantly to the latest anti-environmental rulings. On the other hand, due to Justice Roberts’ tendency to expand executive power in principle, the latest cases may leave the Obama Administration with additional discretion over issues similar to those deliberated in the latest Supreme Court session.
Less certain is how implementation of new legislation, such as the new climate change bill, will fall out. Many legal issues are expected to develop when such legislation is implemented, some of which will find their way to the Supreme Court. Questions over whether the court will be more pro-business or pro-government have yet to be decided. While Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is often the swing vote, one legal expert noted that he has been in the majority of all but one of the more than 50 environmental cases heard since 1988, when he was appointed. Justice Kennedy is noted for a sporadic receptivity to environmental arguments, especially those receptive to states’ rights and those that do not throw out rules on which businesses rely. This year has been an exception.
Businesses may be hiring Supreme Court savvy specialists who can tailor their cases to appeal to Justices Kennedy and Breyer. All five of the last term’s cases had been won for environmentalists in lower appeals courts, including four from the 9th Circuit appeals court in San Francisco, which is considered by many to be liberal. Judge Sotomayor wrote the fifth decision while in the 2nd Circuit appeals court in New York. If Sotomayor is appointed, she will replace Justice David H. Souter, a New Hampshire hiker and outdoorsman who has tended to vote in favor of environmental interests. Justice Souter dissented in the recent Supreme Court case that involved cost-benefit analysis by the EPA, a case that Sotomayor decided earlier on appeal.
Patrick A. Parenteau, an environmental law professor at Vermont Law School, noted that the latest Supreme Court decisions failed to include extended discussions of environmental consequences. “The lesson from this,” Parenteau said, “is to do everything you can to keep environmental cases out of this court.”
Is the climate bill good for black America?—The Grio, Climate Crossroads Blog, The Sierra Club, 7/1/09
The climate bill in question is the American Climate and Security Act (ACES). The bill, which narrowly passed a house vote, raises the renewable energy standard for utilities to 20% of electricity demand by 2020, puts a price on CO2 emissions and sets up a cap and trade system where the federal government would issue or auction emissions permits, and sets new energy efficiency standards for industries, buildings and appliances would be established, according to The Grio. The bill must pass through the Senate and be signed by President Barack Obama before it can become law.
Concerns have been raised about how the bill would affect African-Americans. Republicans say the legislation will raise utility bill prices for low-income households, and Rep. Artur Davis D-AL, “who is black, bucked his party by voting against it, citing jobs.” While Davis’ district is predominantly black, and high percentages of low-income families in the US are African- and Latino-American, The Grio said most concerns are unfounded.
The Grio noted that if Republican claims were true, poor families would be hurt disproportionately, including the 24.7% of African-Americans below the poverty line—largest of any race but Native Americans. The Grio sided with EPA and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections that found “utility expenses from climate regulations would only cost families $175 a year on average by 2020.” The CBO actually found poor families would save $40 in expenses. The cap and trade program additionally would generate a surplus fund which could be used to offset the poorest Americans’ expenses with tax credits and rebates.
Environmental justice advocates are concerned greenhouse gas capping policies won’t address local pollutants, disproportionately affecting the health of minorities. “African Americans are more likely than any other race to live within close proximity to a facility with toxic emissions, regardless of income. Black children have alarmingly high asthma rates and black adults have remarkably high cancer rates and risks.” In many instances, blacks live in neighborhoods with harmful levels of airborne soot, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and carcinogens like benzene. Primary sources include waste centers, refineries, petrochemical plants, diesel trucks and other sources often located near black communities. Cap and trade would pressure businesses to use better carbon emission technology, and co-pollutants like those listed above could be trapped or eliminated. Still, offsets could be used by a company in a way that doesn’t impact local emissions at all, such as investing in a reforestation project in Brazil. “[A] black family in Port Arthur, Texas that lives next to an Exxon plant that is investing its pollution permits in Brazil would continue to suffer, as opposed to if Exxon just invested in technology that would stop its own emissions. The offsets provisions are a real issue black Americans should be wary of.”
With a 14.9% unemployment rate, the highest of any race and the highest since the mid-1980’s, jobs are a critical concern. Rep. Davis said he was voting against ACES because it would put manufacturing companies out of business in Alabama, though he is also running for governor and rising job loss would affect his standing in the polls as well. Still, new emerging industries created in part by federal financial incentives in ACES would offer green jobs as a replacement, if the bill is not watered down on its route through the Senate. The current $190 billion in subsidies for new businesses, technology, research and development must be maintained or increased to ensure African Americans—who will be hit hardest—don’t lose job opportunities.
The current ACES bill entering the Senate process seems sufficient to protect African Americans from gas bill price hikes, but the question still remains whether the Senate will “give businesses free passes to continue polluting but not enough financial rewards to keep employment sustainable.” Regardless, what the House has sent to the Senate is better than no regulation and accountability for carbon emissions at all—“which is what businesses had for centuries while communities paid for it with their health and lives, as global warming-related disasters like Hurricane Katrina showed”.
ESR Editor’s Note: TheGrio.com describes itself as “the first video-centric news community site devoted to providing African-Americans with stories and perspectives that appeal to them but are underrepresented in existing national news outlets. Grio comes from “griot…a storyteller in western Africa who maintains the oral tradition and history of a village or family.
Utah to get $1.9 million for underground tanks—AP, SLT 7/13/09
The federal stimulus funds will clean up leaks from underground storage tanks that have stored petroleum and other hazardous substances. The hope is that this will prevent seepage of petroleum and hazardous chemicals into groundwater.
Yucca transport safety study will proceed—AP, SLT 7/13/09
The $200,000 Clark County, Nevada sponsored study will evaluate risks for transporting nuclear waste to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository, though Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said the project is no longer an option for nuclear waste storage. County officials said they want as much information as possible to keep the dump from ever opening. The study will review rail and truck corridors that would be used to import high-level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, should policy change. The repository is prepared to hold 77,000 tons of waste, and routes would travel through Las Vegas.
Moratorium sought in Utah on depleted uranium—Brock Vergakis, AP, SLT 7/13/09
HEAL Utah, the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, has sought the moratorium, and the Utah Radiation Control Board will meet Thursday to discuss the proposal. Depleted uranium is classified as the least dangerous of low-level radioactive waste, and EnergySolutions has been disposing of it in its facility 70 miles west of Salt Lake City for 18 years. Notably, however, depleted uranium becomes more radioactive over time, and has a half-life of hundreds of thousands of years. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has recently begun requiring additional safeguards for disposal of large amounts of depleted uranium, though rules won’t be finalized for as long as several years. EnergySolutions contends it has safely handled depleted uranium in the past and no valid reason prevents the internment of more, estimating that 46,000 metric tons will be ready for disposal from Department of Energy sites over the next five years. To halt import and disposal at its site in Utah would adversely affect cleanup of toxic sites, according to a company spokesman. If the moratorium is allowed, waste may be stored on site where it was generated, or be shipped to a new facility near the Texas-New Mexico border that will begin accepting low-level radioactive waste in 2010.
Wildfire near Panguitch has grown to 2,600 acres—SLT 7/13/09
The fire is about 25% contained. North and west sides were burning hottest on Sunday. A Dixie National Forest spokesman said hot temps and low humidity could make fighting the fire even more difficult this week. While the blaze, started by lightning on July 2 and left to burn for the health of the forest, originally remained in control, strategy changed after strong, dry winds kicked up on Thursday.
Utah records show history of Logan canal problems—Matthew D. LaPlante, Maria Villasenor, SLT 7/12/09
Dozens of times over the past 100 years, landslides have swept homes and threatened lives on Canyon Road just south of Utah State University. According to state geological records, the Logan Northern Canal has been to blame. Still, canal inspection has been left by local and state authorities to the canal’s private shareholders. No government agency currently checks up on such inspections. Emergency officials attributed Saturday’s slide at 915 E. Canyon Road to natural springs that run under the canal. Logan police Chief Russ Roper has ruled out a criminal investigation of the company that runs the canal, declaring the tragedy “an act of nature”. Laura Andrade, a resident at 915 E. Canyon Road in the 1980’s, said the canal broke several times while she lived there, one such break sending mud and water into the back bedrooms of the house. Andrade also recalled filling sandbags to save a neighbor’s home during one slide. Andrade was a young renter at the time, and didn’t believe she could complain.
Jlene Hansen, a Logan local who also has suffered property damage from slides, has voiced concern over Logan’s historic canals for years, but may have done nothing but earn herself a reputation as a crazy woman, she said. Records of slides blamed on the canal go back to 1899 according to the Utah Geological Survey. Saturday’s slide left Jackeline Leavey, her son Victor and daughter Abbey, who had only recently moved into the neighborhood, missing and presumably killed. Neighbors have complained that nothing is in place to warn homebuyers and residents of the risks involved with the canal. The canal runs behind hundreds of homes on Canyon Road, and earlier breaches happened as recently as 2005.
The canal was drained following Saturday’s slide, and several areas below the water line reveal concrete is eroding into rubble, and vertical and diagonal cracks line some sections. In some areas the ditch’s walls are bulging under the weight of the northern hillside. While the water commissioner of the Logan River Colleeen Gnehm was interviewed, she said her jurisdiction ends at the start of the canal system. The canal had been inspected by its owners two weeks before the break. Her confidence in the inspection procedures was counterbalanced by the fact that no government oversight or standards enforcement exists, beyond the possibility of the canal’s insurance requirements.
Signs that the canal would breach began with a trickle past the home on Canyon Road that residents noticed days before. Many residents had called the Logan public works department to complain of water on the road. Crews traced the water to a spring, and said they couldn’t do anything about it without locating the property owner. The water on the road was notably a chocolate color, according to one resident, and couldn’t have come from a spring. Logan public works director Mark Nielsen said the evidence showed the area underneath the canal broke before the concrete channel did. His theory is a landslide swept the destroyed home before deluging it with water from the canal. A resident whose house was damaged in Saturday’s slide said he awoke to a loud boom and saw a rush of water and debris pouring down the hillside. Another resident noted that in the 25 years he had lived there, at least five landslides had occurred in the same block where the recent slide fell. Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert was on hand after the slide, and expressed concern that something needed to be done to address the overarching problem.
Stimulus funds bring clean water to Indian Country—Felicia Fonseca, AP, SLT 7/10/09
Currently for example, around 100 Navajo Nation residents around Sweetwater, Arizona drive 12 miles twice a week with 55-gallon drums over a rugged and unpaved road to Red Mesa for water. Sources closer to home exceed standards for arsenic. The EPA announced Thursday that $90 million in funding will help eliminate unsafe water sources, build infrastructure and create jobs in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Almost 10% of tribal community homes lack access to safe drinking water. Tribal members drive long distances to haul water or rely on contaminated or unregulated sources. Less than 1% of non-Native homes are without safe drinking water in the US, according to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. 95 wastewater and 64 drinking water projects will benefit 30,000 homes. Alaskan tribal communities will get $28 million, and the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners area will get $13.3 million, serving 4,577 homes and 30 projects. Projects include septic tank and drainfield upgrades and wastewater treatment facilities. $3.1 million will go to the first phase of a water pipeline from Shiprock, N.M. to Sweetwater, serving 1,900 reservation homes where 30 percent of residents don’t have safe, immediately accessible drinking water. Sweetwater tribal residents have faced increased vehicle degradation, frozen water and crowds in their year-round weekly treks for water. Alaskan tribal communities face additional issues of remoteness and frozen water, making infrastructure development difficult.
Summertime, and the breathin’ ain’t easy—Judy Fahys, SLT 7/10/09
The Salt Lake City Office of Sustainability noted that vehicle pollution accounts for half the Wasatch Front’s summer smog, and eliminating idling a good pollution-reducing action. Ozone particularly affects the very young, the very old, and people with asthma, heart and lung problems. Heavy physical exertion during high-pollution periods like sunny summer afternoons when the sun reacts with auto emissions at the greatest intensity can result in tightness in the chest, coughing and throat irritation, and a lowered resistance to illness. Studies show idling more than 10 seconds costs more gas than restarting a vehicle. Parking and walking, biking, taking the transit or carpooling are even better choices for cleaner air. Drive-thru windows are discouraged.
After wet June, Utah fire season burns 2,100 acres—Mike Stark, AP, NowUtah 7/11/09
Though fire season was delayed by a wet June, the added moisture boosted cheatgrass and other small fuels that dry out and burn fast. Lightning has caused most of the recent fires, which have burned away from developed areas. The National Weather Service issued a ‘red flag’ warning for central and southern Utah on Friday, due to hot, dry and windy conditions especially at lower elevations. Most fires are being allowed to burn for ecosystem benefit, except for the largest, the Horse Valley fire, which has burned about 1,100 acres just north of Panguitch Lake. Winds and high temperatures changed firefighting strategy from passive to active on Thursday. A Dixie National forest spokeswoman said the southern portion of the fire is still being allowed to burn to benefit the local forest. While Utah’s fire season is running behind 2-4 weeks, BLM fire prediction meteorologist Ed Delgado said the next six to eight weeks could be active, but likely not above average. Federal fire officials reported 28,000 acres burned across Utah last year.
What are Resilient Habitats?—Climate Crossroads, The Sierra Club 7/9-10/09
From an interview on the hidden impacts of global warming in our countries wild places and the creation of resilient habitats with Bruce Hamilton, Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director and outdoors expert, in two parts.
Hamilton said in terms of parks and open spaces, changes in ecosystems are already occurring, including global warming-related extinctions. “[I]t’s something that’s expected to accelerate dramatically.” The vast majority of extinctions are happening and projected to happen at the poles and tropics. Shifts are taking place, however, in the US as well, for example the Edith’s checkerspot butterfly in Baja California, which is migrating north due to rising temperatures. Its migration is landing the species around Tijuana, San Diego and the Southern California metropolis, poor habitat that is causing the butterfly population to crash.
Phenology is also changing for species. plants bloom earlier, insects hatch or emerge earlier in the spring, birds migrate later in the fall and come back later in the spring, or are not migrating at all. Meanwhile, as these changes are expected to accelerate for several decades, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says even if we cut 80% of carbon emissions by 2050, 20-30% of species studied to date at an increased risk of extinction, greater than the mass extinction that ended the era of dinosaurs.
The Sierra Club’s Resilient Habitats campaign attempts to create habitat that species within an ecosystem can survive even with an increase in temperature change or other global warming results: severe weather, fire, drought. The goal is to increase the chances of survival for protected ecosystem species. Small parks and preserves currently don’t offer that kind of protection. There is nowhere for species to go. Larger areas offer opportunities for movement within the ecosystem upslope or north. Space has to be available unimpeded by highways or subdivisions. This makes corridors that link protected spaces vital to protection.
Reducing stresses on species is another aspect of protection from global warming. Trout for instance have a narrow range of tolerable temperatures as a cold-water species. Slight increases in temperature are however tolerable if the water is cleaner. Otherwise, pesticides and fertilizers combined with warming water temperatures are a double-whammy. Many of these kinds of intricate questions must be informed by independent scientists, non-governmental organizations with staff scientists who specialize in species under consideration, people in universities and government biologists.
Because land-management agencies are more structured and bureaucratic, the challenge in implementing a more holistic approach like habitat resiliency is to get them to understand, accept and recognize the problem. Traditional responses have included putting solar collectors on visitors centers in national parks, which is great but doesn’t address the big issue and “their responsibility with what happens when an entire ecosystem starts to collapse.” One of the problems with forest service, Bureau of Land Management and parks service land management plans is that they are generally completed in isolation from one another, and are in place for several years. “Right now every one of those plans presumes that there is a static climate”. Dramatic shifts for trees on those managed lands because of bark beetle or drought or migration isn’t currently considered.
While previously Forest Service plans for example have maximized timber production, water yield and grazing, land management agencies should be asking “How can I preserve the ecosystem to avoid extinction? How can I sequester as much carbon as possible on the land under my jurisdiction? And how do I cooperate with the land management agencies right next to me so that we can co-manage our land in a way to have enough land under joint jurisdiction to ensure the survivability of species?” The Resilient Habitat program aims to plan on an ecosystem by ecosystem basis. “We want to develop the best science available that will tell us what to do. And we want to lobby all of the land jurisdictions within that ecosystem—federal, state, tribal, private—and try to get them to all cooperate and come up with a symbiotic land-management plan that addresses adaptation.”
Bruce Hamilton, Deputy Executive Director of the Sierra Club says the best way to address climate change skepticism is to begin by identifying local symptoms, such as maple trees in New England migrating north, where an oak-hickory forest is predicted to replace maple syrup bearing trees. New England moose, a favorite for big game hunters, too are expected to migrate north, and projections for New England’s bull trout from their own fish and game department are expected to fall by 90%, deeply affecting New England’s anglers. Fishing already is affected by summer closures in New England due to warm waters stressing fish.
Iconic landscapes like the Everglades, Yellowstone, North Cascade Park and Joshua Tree National Park are easy for skeptics to identify with. Hamilton suggests discussing the changes already going on at places like these and the drastic changes expected to occur. From here, the question arises of what can be done. For example, in Glacier National Park, the glaciers can’t be prevented from melting, but mountain goats, pikas and wolverines may hold some hope for protection. The Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park are all expected to die out, but farther north, in unprotected lands, the trees are expected to migrate. Can some form of protection be implemented further north to protect Joshua trees? Hunters, fishermen and those dependent on the tourist industry have a financial stake in the outcome of global warming impacts. “I think we have an obligation as stewards of the land to make sure we are not causing the next extinction crisis.”
To ensure the Resilient Habitats program, a massive educational program inside the Sierra Club needs to take place, within the conservation community, that expands to decision makers, so they know what problems need to be addressed. We need an awakening to the extinction crisis on the level of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. All of the land management agencies need to address climate change in their next round of management plans. Citizens—hunters, anglers, people of faith, Sierra Club members, gun and rod clubs, Rotary clubs, anyone passionate about wild places, nature and parks—must demand that these land management plans address climate change.
The Sierra Club is focusing on areas where traditionally a strong organizing presence has existed, land and water protection, the Everglades, Great Lakes, Maine woods, California coast, greater Yellowstone ecosystem, the Arctic, the Pacific Northwest, the Colorado plateau. “Those are the places we are going to prove how resilient habitats work, get agencies to adopt the idea, and then shine a bright light on that.”
Butters: Getting to the heart of ‘green’: Shop less, buy used—MaryJane Butters, SLT 7/11/09
MaryJane Butters says “going green” originated as a grass-roots effort at a natural and simple life: eating what you or your neighbors grew, avoiding chemicals, reducing and re-using, staying grounded in an age of “marketing mania”. The recent Conscious Consumer Report studying purchasing behavior and social values by BBMG, a national green marketing firm, found 67% of Americans agree that “even in tough economic times, it is important to purchase products with social and environmental benefits”. Still, the green revolution has led to a mushrooming of green products and services, –and greenwashing, leaving the “shop green” fad “counterintuitive to the original vision of natural living”. Butters goes on to say that the more we buy, the more we impact the Earth in a negative way, especially with nonessential items or throwing out functional items for newer, greener items.
The best way to shop green, Butters advises, is to shop as little as possible. Returning to reducing, reusing and recycling are “surefire solutions to our planet’s environmental crisis. Every brand new product we buy comes with a hidden rap sheet of natural resource extraction, fuel usage, chemical conjuring and pollution effects.” Buying used and buying local will undoubtedly shrink carbon footprints. Butters recommends The Story of Stuff, a 20 minute video on the life cycle of material goods. www.storyofstuff.com With new products, reliable product certifications are valuable. She recommends the Consumer Reports Greener Choices site for determining the reliability of certification programs.
Reputable certification labels
The Forest Stewardship Council: www.fscus.org
Appliances—Energy Star: www.energystar.gov
Children’s products—Healthy Child Healthy World: www.healthychild.org
General products—Green Seal: www.greenseal.org
MBDC Cradle to Cradle: www.mbdc.com/c2c
Co-op America: www.coopamerica.org
fair-trade Labeling Organization International: www.fairtrade.net
On the Bush Administration’s controversial energy corridor plan
Scrap corridor plan—Tribune Editorial, SLT 7/10/09
Salt Lake City’s plan for bicyclists needs work—Chad Mullins, SLT 7/10/09