Archive for July, 2010

A few links on this last July weekend.

The oil spill has drawn lots of attention, but the Gulf of Mexico has been suffering for years says this New York Times article. As for the spill, while the cap has provided some temporary relief, a permanent fix may soon be at hand (LA Times). Meanwhile, politicians and others try to figure out what’s next (LA Times).

It is no secret that bottled water takes an enormous toll on the environment. Precious resources are wasted along every step of the way in the production and sale of bottled water, from the petroleum used in the bottles, to the shipment of the water around the world.

Most water bottles do not get recycled, so their final destination is in a landfill, where it may take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. As the bottles break down, they leak toxic chemicals into the ground and the air. All this waste is for a product that is much more expensive and may not be as healthy as tap water, which must pass strict regulatory guidelines under the EPA. Considering the facts, it seems clear which option is the smarter choice for our bodies, the earth and our wallets. Yet 70% of consumers in the U.S. still choose bottled water over tap water.

Why do we keep reaching for the bottle? Most of the choice to consume bottled water over tap water can be attributed to powerful marketing techniques. Bottled water companies advertise their products as a pure, simple and healthy alternative to other bottled beverages and strive to be perceived as a cleaner alternative to tap water. The images in bottled water advertising evoke a sense of health and purity—an attractive woman practicing yoga, an untouched spring in the middle of the forest, and a waterfall in the tropics. To be sure, water is probably the healthiest beverage we can choose, but the fact remains that it makes no difference to your health whether you choose to drink it from the tap or bottle. Despite this, the industry has successfully convinced consumers that they must do better than tap water, and the result is that bottled water now has a sort of snob appeal—it is a status symbol. Thus, businesses and individuals supply it for guests and employees in their homes and offices because, well, it’s an insult to expect your guests to drink tap water.

How do we begin to change this dependence on bottled water and the misperceptions about the benefits of bottled water? The most powerful tool that we have at our disposable is information. We must continue to inform others about the negative impact bottled water has on the environment, and the quality comparisons of tap versus bottled water. We can provide suggestions for easy alternatives, including water coolers and reusable bottles and thermoses. Beyond that, we only have control over our own habits, and the choices we make everyday.

This post was written by Maura Nugent, grant coordinator for Lights Out, Green In.

The fallout from the death of a comprehensive energy bill continues.  Thomas Friedman of the New York Times weighs in with the reality of it all:

“The truth is, the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it. We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign — even though a vast majority of scientists warn that this will not be so.”

The SF Chronicle deconstructs how the measure failed. The NY Times points out the timing of the Senate’s failure is ironic, coming after the hottest 6-month stretch on record. The NY Times also says the EPA is going after mercury, which will force many coal plants to close – the knockout punch to coal could really help the fight against climate change.

By 2050, demand will outweigh water supply in 14 states across the U.S. Also, Wal-Mart has many tricks up its sleeve in becoming more environmentally friendly.

Want “green” coffee? Look for these terms: shade-grown, Fair Trade Certified, organic.

The dream of cap-and-trade has been bottled up by Congress, and with it ends any hope of comprehensive energy reform.

The only issue is while Congress might be going away – and some members never coming back – that’s not the case with climate change. The new energy bill is going be a band-aid on offshore drilling regulations. I’m sure that might help something, but it’s not going to help solve climate change.

There’s not really any other way to say we’re at the tipping point for climate change. Even if the bill had passed, one of the more ambitious measures called for all companies had to use renewable energy for 15% of their production by 2020. That’s a flimsy number. We need more than 15 percent. We need at least 25 percent by 2020.

And so, where do we go from here? World leaders failed at Copenhagen (despite the dog-and-pony show). Congress failed here at home. The EPA will start regulating emissions on its own in January – and frankly they’ll be tougher than Congress would have been, so that’s a silver lining. The focus should be on giving the EPA enough power to make a difference.

But most environmentalists have seen one disappointment after another in the political spectrum for 10 years. It’s time for us to take things into our own hands. Start using renewable energy wherever you can and start cutting back on energy use – take the 11 to 1 pledge to turn off your lights and use natural sunlight every day. It’s up to you to make a difference – Congress can thank us for saving their skin later.

It’s been hot all across the country this summer, and one of the best indicators of climate change is usually Lake Superior, which has locals up there fearing what will happen with wildlife.

But if you don’t believe the canary in the coal mine of Lake Superior, there are statistics showing the effects of global warming. Also, the IPCC is preparing its fifth report on climate change.

Congressional climate change talks are progressing as we near the midterm elections. This has utilities and environmental groups taking sides.

New studies say air pollution may damage brains as much as or more than lead exposure.

A couple quick links:

After nearly 90 days, the oil spill has been capped for the time being (NY Times).  And the Senate still plans to push ahead on a scaled-down energy bill (NY Times).

No matter how you slice it, some people still hear going green and think about money.

These people are out there waiting to take advantage of you – and that’s going to make halting climate change a little tougher than we think. Green vultures – businesses and people who see the focus on going green as a way to make green.

I’m not saying First Point Power is all things evil – they offer discounted electricity prices in the deregulated energy market in RI – but they pass themselves off as a green energy company. There are green leaves, photos of windmills, green in their logo and above their prices (lower than National Grid) they advertise a clean energy option. But if you choose the clean energy option, $5 to $10 is added monthly to what would’ve been a lower bill. This bit of news, however, is buried deep inside the Web site.

National Grid and other electric companies also offer these green choices and you have to pay a premium for the clean energy. However, First Point Power passes itself off as giving you a lower bill from your current bill with its clean energy option. It’s not ever spelled out, but all the imagery is there for you to connect the misleading dots.

First Point Power does offer discounted energy prices – it’s just not green energy. We should all be aware of the misleading marketing in going green. The vultures are out there – this is just the latest example.

Approaching the 3 month mark of the oil spill, BP is optimistic about the new containment cap it’s working to install (MSNBC). A commission formed to investigate what went wrong begins work this week(Washington Post).

The oil spill hasn’t changed public sentiment toward environmental issues (Washington Post). Speaking of environmental issues, there’s apparently a lot more plutonium waste than had been thought (NY Times).

The LA Times reports that science-politics controversies have persisted under Obama.  Meanwhile, the administration is planning a new deepwater drilling ban (LA Times).

The FAA has chosen a new runway plan for Green Airport (Providence Journal).

Scientists study the Arctic’s receding ice (BBC). And heat waves like last week’s will likely become only more common says a new study (MSNBC). The heat wave also caused some New York stores to be hit with fines for leaving their doors open and letting cool air escape (NY Times).

Green companies lobby for a climate bill (Boston Globe).

A proposed bottled water ban in Concord, Mass is deemed unenforceable (Boston Globe).

NStar won’t be buying power from Cape Wind (Boston Globe).  The Globe also reports that Cape Wind’s critics now have the right to weigh in on its National Grid contract.  In California, utilities are having trouble meeting renewable power requirements (LA Times).