Archive for April, 2009

Earth Day is one week removed and I think now is the best time to reflect back on Lights Out, Green In’s participation in the day. We gained support with resolutions from Nevada (State Sen. Michael A. Schneider), Massachusetts (State Rep. Denis Guyer) and Rhode Island (State Sen. John F. McBurney III). We then used these resolutions to help promote Lights Out, Green In, our 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. pledge, and the overall mission of conservation as the best way to fight global warming.

Here’s a look at our RI resolution being read in the Senate. I am joined in attendance by fellow board members Patrick Dochety Jr., Mary Welsh and Joseph McBurney. If you’re watching the clip, the first 5:15 is the resolution being read and then from 5:15-7:30 is a speech from Sen. McBurney.

We received a write-up on the Providence Journal blog and a short piece in the Boston Herald. Also, a letter to the editor from board member Chris Carlson was published in the Fall River Herald and Springfield Republican. Our press release was also posted on a slew of Web sites from AOL to Yahoo and in the Berkshire Eagle.

The slew of publicity will hopefully make people more aware of the 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. pledge.

Hope everyone enjoyed Earth Day.  Also, in case you missed it, Jack Dew posted his first blog entry this past Thursday- well worth the read.  Now for some links.

11. Some would say this is a chicken**** way to generate alternative energy (Washington Post).

10. Stimulus money is being used for Superfund site cleanup (NY Times).

9. The military goes green (LA Times).

8. The G8 nations held climate talks this past week (Associated Press).

7. An industry group withheld scientific findings from its reports (Washington Post).

6. Building a smart grid will be a major challenge (LA Times).

5. Wildfires are accelerating global warming (SF Chronicle).

4. Emissions limits in proposed legislation may be scaled back (Washington Post).

3. Gore and Gingrich faced off over the proposed climate legislation (MSNBC).

2.  When it comes to energy usage, watch out for the vampires (LA Times).

1. Check out this collection of stories from the New York Times Magazine.

Spring is here (sort of) in my corner of Western Massachusetts, which means lawns are slowly waking from their winter dormancy and making the transition from brown to green. The problem is that, with lawns, green does not equal green.

More than half of my neighbors have little signs stuck in their grass, warning that their lawn has been sprayed with chemical fertilizers and herbicides and may not be safe for pets or bare feet. It’s like the suburban version of the skull-and-crossbones, only hardly anyone seems to take notice.

Shouldn’t we ask ourselves the obvious question: If the chemicals aren’t good for us today, what will they do to us next week? How about next month, when they seep into the aquifer or are carried by runoff into streams and rivers? I attended a workshop on organic yard maintenance where one of the professional gardeners declared golf courses among the most toxic places on earth, saturated with chemicals year after year after year. The Garden Club of America estimates that 3 million tons of unnecessary fertilizer and 67 million pounds of pesticide are dumped on American lawns annually. Check out this Garden Club pamphlet for the numbers and some alternatives.

The quest for the greenest lawn on the block is so typical of many of our misconceptions of the environment. We falsely equate appearance with reality. Too many times I’ve heard well-meaning, well-educated folks argue that an environmental cleanup can’t be done if it means cutting down some trees or ripping up a garden. Never mind that the ground is toxic, at least it looks good.

We need to get over this. Stop missing the forest for the green lawn.

Lights Out, Green In, a nonprofit that promotes conservation, and lawmakers from coast to coast have joined forces during Earth Week in an effort to raise awareness of a simple way to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Lights Out, Green In’s main mission is to get households and businesses that have access to sufficient natural sunlight to turn off their lights from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.

In the days leading up to Earth Day, April 22, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Nevada passed resolutions in support of the all-volunteer Lights Out, Green In and its simple message of conservation. The organization encourages people and businesses to take the 11 a.m.-1 p.m. pledge at its Web site in order to foster the feeling of a collective effort.

State Sen. John F. McBurney III is the main sponsor of Rhode Island’s effort and his actions will help raise awareness of an easy way to fight global warming, as well as save money.

“Global warming is a serious issue, and energy conservation is an important step toward slowing its effects,” Sen. McBurney said. “I would encourage everyone to do their part in protecting our natural environment, beginning with the simple act of turning out the lights.”

Lights Out, Green In, which has received scores of pledges from households and businesses up and down the East Coast, also has a partnership with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to distribute low-energy light bulbs to low-income residents. The resolutions were sponsored by: State Rep. Denis E. Guyer (Massachusetts); State Sen. Michael Schneider (Nevada); McBurney (Rhode Island).

“There is no downside and it is going to save people money,” Guyer said. “People sometimes feel like they can’t make a difference, but doing this will empower people.”

“Turning off your lights when natural sunlight will light your home or office can add up to savings in your wallet and cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lights Out, Green In executive director Matt Martinelli. “The world is at a tipping point with climate change and this type of collective action is needed to stop this problem from worsening.”

And so it arrives. Earth, which ironically is partially responsible for the 24-hour cycle, gets its day. Today is Earth Day. It’s like Christmas for environmentalists. Every newspaper in the country has at least a handful of stories on the day and features will be running on TV stations all day. Disneynature (a film label of Disney) has released “Earth” in theaters and the Planet Green cable channel is debuting a slew of new programming all week.

I challenge all the readers of this blog to take Lights Out, Green In’s pledge at least for today. If possible, turn off your lights at home or in your office from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. If you can get by without the light, go to our Web site and take the pledge to turn off your lights every day (Sun permitting.) You’ll save about 3 percent on your electricity bill and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions at a time when increasing emissions are putting our planet in peril. The easiest thing about the pledge is it really is just changing your habit. Once it’s changed, you’ll be practicing conservation on a daily basis. So, sign up and help foster the feeling of collective action.

In keeping with Lights Out, Green In’s focus on Earth Day, we have scored a handful of resolutions of support from coast to coast in state legislatures. Resolutions were sponsored and passed in Maine (State Sen. Barry Hobbins), Massachusetts (State Rep. Denis E. Guyer), Nevada (State Sen. Michael Schneider) and Rhode Island (State Sen. John F. McBurney III. The resolutions help raise LOGI’s profile and further promote its message of conservation. For that, LOGI thanks these lawmakers for their generous support. The Boston Herald recently wrote about the legislative support and a few more articles on the effort are expected.

Just as Christmas has been over-commercialized, you could make a case that Earth Day brings out any number of people just looking to make a buck off the planet. But it’s only a small percentage of people, just as with Christmas. Come Dec. 25, most people are thinking “Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.” Let’s hope today that most people are thinking “Peace with Earth.”

Remember, Earth Day is Wednesday.  And if you haven’t already done so, taking our pledge is a great way to mark the day.

11. The EPA rules that emissions are a threat to the public (Washington Post).

10. Severe droughts in Africa could be made even worse by global warming (NY Times).

9.  Green technology is a hot topic in Washington (Congressional Quarterly).

8.  Stove soot is a big factor in global warming (NY Times).

7.  A planned development in Florida may be returned to nature (LA Times).

6.  Climate change may adversely affect forests (BBC).

5.  Californians tell the Obama administration what they think about offshore drilling (LA Times).

4.  A Massachusetts state representative supports LOGI’s efforts (Boston Herald).

3.  Major environmental legislation may be on the way (San Francisco Chronicle).

2.  Oil drilling north of Alaska must be studied further (LA Times).

1.  Could burying emissions under the ocean floor make for a cleaner environment? (NY Times)

Using a gas mower pollutes as much as taking a car for a 350-mile drive.

President Obama’s milestone first 100 Days is fast approaching and there will be a lot of talk about his accomplishments. While the EPA has been set up to use its power to impose major environmental changes, Obama’s administration has made public its refusal to raise the gas tax, citing the poor economy and that people need the relief they’re getting at the pumps. On the campaign trail, he dismissed a gas tax holiday as a gimmick that wouldn’t save money, but the White House seems adamant for now that no higher tax is needed.

The other side of the coin is that with gas prices at such a low price due to lack of demand in a global recession, now is the time to impose a higher tax. People will feel less outrage if they’re paying 10 cents more when it is $2.10 a gallon than when it is $4.50 a gallon. Taxpayers will hardly say a word at $2.20/gallon gas – and they’ll start thinking more about fuel efficiency like they should be – perhaps buying a new car with decent fuel efficiency that will even help the struggling automakers.

As Terry linked to last week in his links (boy, they really do keep you up to date on environmental news, huh?), the White House is tinkering with a program in which you could trade in cars that aren’t fuel-efficient in exchange for a stipend to buy a more fuel efficient car. One theory is that this program (which also helps those struggling automakers) is simply a test for a more far-reaching one that could be used again for cars in a couple of years.

Follow me on this one … the EPA is in the process of imposing its will in regards to fuel-efficiency. It could push up fuel-efficiency standards higher than ever imagined for cars coming off the line in late 2010 (2011 models). If all cars and light trucks saw a dramatic rise in mileage standards, the only thing keeping America from being efficient is that there would still be a lot of old cars on the road. But what if the new gas tax was implemented then and was followed with a more aggressive clunkers trade-in program, that would be a combo that might drive a lot of people to more fuel-efficient vehicles at a time when cars had just seen a jump in fuel efficiency.

So, perhaps holding of on the gas tax is political or maybe it’s part of a master plan. Who knows? For now, states will be doing the dirty work, raising the gas taxes one by one, filling their coffers and keeping fuel-efficiency ingrained in Americans as an important quality in a car.

We’re trying a new format this week where we post the links in an 11 to 1 countdown fashion, to serve as a reminder to turn off your lights between 11 and 1 during the day.  And so, in no particular order:

11. The Pentagon wants alternative fuel sources (Washington Post).

10. President Obama has been more cautious than expected on climate change (New York Times).

9.  Here’s one man’s call for much bolder action on climate change (Seattle Times).

8.  Australia may be the vanguard for climate change effects (LA Times).

7. India says no to emission cuts (Washington Post).

6. Automakers may soon be subject to emissions caps (Wall Street Journal).

5.  Thomas Friedman praises Costa Rica for its commitment to environmentally-friendly economic growth (New York Times).

4. Here’s an overview of energy-efficient lighting (Orlando Sentinel).

3.  A report released this week challenges the notion that global warming could increase crop yields (LA Times).

2. Arctic ice continues its rapid disappearance (Washington Post).

1. If you’re still holding out on taxes, here are some green incentives you can take advantage of (New York Times).

Using dual-flush toilets consumes about 25 percent less water than regular toilets.