Home of the First Drive-Thru Bans New Fast Food Restaurants

Baldwin City, with a population of 80,000 and home to a whopping 17 fast food drive-thrus, was home to the very first drive-thru back in 1948. But now the city wants to put a ban on any new drive-thru fast food restaurants, in hopes of fighting pollution from idling cars and decreasing the city’s rapidly rising rates of obesity.

Fast food is bad enough. No one has to tell you that it’s not good for you or the planet. It’s obvious. And drive-thrus just add to the ultimate environmental and cultural tackiness that is a fast food restaurant. From The Independent comes a quote from Baldwin Park city planner Salvador Lopez: “We here in Baldwin Park have taken strides to create a healthy community, and allowing one more drive-thru is not going to meet that goal.”

Amen to that. Unfortunately, it’s a nine moth moratorium, so the bill will have to renewed to continue the ban on new fast food drive-thrus from opening their doors. However, it’s a start, and a good one at that. Will other cities follow suit? When will our national obsession with the obscene drive-thru come to an end?

Check out The Independent for more on this story.

New Green Careers in a Low Energy Future

Many Americans are taking charge and matters into their own hands to carve out a new sustainable lifestyle, despite the government’s incredibly lackluster response to the threat of global climate change and other environmental crises. This is simply no waiting for many individuals, who have already been making changes to lead more ecological lives by a change in their careers, growing more of their own food, driving less, and making other significant lifestyle changes.

This enlightening poll makes Americans’ changes more real by detailing the actions they have taken:

“More than two-thirds of survey takers said they cut purchases, bought more local goods and services, conserved energy in their homes and put in a garden. One-sixth have started new careers, such as a truck driver who became a permaculture teacher.”

The article includes an interesting list of the top ten new careers, including farming, activism, permaculture design, energy-efficient building, and alternative health. Also quite fascinating is the list of changes made by Americans and the surprising percentages of people who have started a garden, become members of a CSA, reduced debt, and more.

Perhaps there is hope after all that Americans will be able to transform their lifestyles to be more ecologically aware and sustainably minded!

Happy Earth Day 2009

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to take a few minutes to say Happy Earth Day and to thank all of our loyal visitors, readers, subscribers and clients. When we originally started this site over 2 years ago, the goal was to make a difference in our environment and to spread the word about carbon neutrality, global warming and energy efficiency. Well, our goals have not changed, we are still here for the long haul, and until “green” and “eco-friendly” are no longer “buzz” words, but the norm, we will be here teaching and spreading the word about how to reduce your energy usage and help the environment.

So, without further a due, Happy Earth Day!

Also, just for today, get 10% off of any product in our Eco Shop by using ’ earthday2009 ’ as the coupon code at checkout.


Earth Hour 2009 Is Just Around The Corner

Earth Hour 2009 is just around the corner and it is an important day for you to voice your opinion and show what you stand for. If you are not familiar with Earth Hour, here is a brief history on the event: Earth Hour is an annual international event created by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund), held on the last Saturday of March, that asks households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. It was pioneered by WWF Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, and achieved worldwide participation in 2008.

In 2007, over 2.2 million households and businesses participated in the first ever Earth Hour in Sydney, Australia. Then in 2008, over 35 countries around the world participated as official flagship cities and over 400 cities also supported. Earth Hour 2008 was a major success, celebrated on all seven continents. According to a Zogby International online survey 36 million people participated in Earth Hour 2008. The survey also showed there was a 4 percentage point increase in awareness of environmental issues such as climate change, directly after the event.

The way Earth Hour works, is you shut off your non-essential lights and electrical appliances in your home or business for one hour on March 28 at 8:30pm (your local time). The effect will not be noticeable except via satellite, as the night falls across the face of the earth, lights will be switching off and visually casting their vote to take action on climate change and stop global warming. For more information on Earth Hour, check out their website at http://www.earthhourus.org

References: Wikipedia


Earth Sheltered Home: Green Building Construction Work Exchange

Do you want to gain valuable hands-on green building experience this summer? Do you want to learn all about building an earth sheltered home and experience life in an intentional community? This year, there are several natural building internship and work exchange opportunities at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeastern Missouri, an off-the-grid intentional community devoted to ecological sustainability.

You can learn all about natural building and earth sheltered homes this summer by helping to build an earthbag dome. Dancing Rabbit member Jeff is currently building an earthbag building, and he’s seeking construction help for the 2009 building season.

You will have the opportunity to experience earthbag construction, cob, earthen plasters, and living roofs. Jeff’s earthbag home will feature all of these natural building materials and techniques.

Work exchangers will also have ample opportunity to experience community life and life off-the-grid at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and basic living expenses and food are all provided for.  Experienced builders and avid learners are welcome to apply.

Check out Jeff’s call for work exchangers at his earth sheltered home and green building construction work exchange page.

Civics and the Environment: A Modern Cautionary Tale

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently ran a story that illustrates how politics can slow environmental progress in ways many of us never stop to think about.

Neither the writer of that story nor I would be surprising anyone by stating that the outgoing Bush Administration has not exactly been a friend to the environment.  What is surprising is how deftly the Administration has apparently used our convoluted government and court system to get nothing done. For eight years.

The Inquirer story looks closely at how, through EPA, the Bush Administration did an end run around the House and Senate, which it knew would never agree to its new rules and changes to older rules when the American public had become so focused on global warming.  The point may not necessarily have been to set environmental policy backwards (even though it did), but more to delay inevitable regulation its industry friends knew would be coming their way sooner or later.

Because any summary of mine will be inadequate, read the article  for all the details. Here’s what I gathered:

It seems that the Bush Administration and EPA created the ultimate stall tactic by supporting rules that its own legal eagles warned them would never stand up in court. Case in point, its proposal on reducing mercury emissions through a nationwide mercury-credit trading program. Judges in the D.C. Circuit Court threw this rule out, noting that if enacted, it would likely concentrate toxic mercury emissions in specific sectors of the country. Not exactly fair for all Americans – a problem easy to see for the seasoned Court.  The Court eventually saw so many problem-plagued cases on EPA rules in the last eight years that it – including its more conservative members – began to question EPA’s motives.

The article also talks about the infamous “New Source Review” rule, which calls for power plants, oil refineries, paper mills and other big air polluters to submit to a re-permitting process whenever their facilities are expanded or upgraded.  Without getting into the gory details on the fight, the article points out a new fact here – arguments that ensued over the administrations proposed changes to this rule lead to the resignation of Bush’s first EPA Administrator, Christine Todd Whitman. Publicly, she allowed the administration to save face on the issue, but now, after years of silence, admits her refusal to sign off on the change led to her resignation.

All very enlightening.  But perhaps the most interesting item that comes out of this article is that the Bush Administration’s insatiable desire to lift the burdens of environmental responsibility on various industries, hurt everyone – including the very groups it was trying to help.  The Inquirer gives the example of Pennsylvania Power & Light, a power producer in Eastern Pennsylvania that initiated expensive scrubber installations at two of its plants in anticipation of generating emissions credits it could later sell on the market.  The investments would have put the company ahead on its environmental record, and generated revenue to pay for the projects.  That is if a rule the Administration had been warned was questionable had not been rejected in the courts. 

Moral of the story?  Denying and delaying when it comes to strengthening environmental policy and rule-making allows unacceptable levels of pollution to linger, but can also put American regulated industries in a state of confusion.  These kinds of political guessing games only diminish U.S. leadership on the environment on a global scale.  Be sure that your elected representatives – local, state and federal – know that you understand this when they tell you increased regulation hurts business.

The Environment and Our Economic Woes

There’s been much discussion of late about a silver eco-lining in the world’s economic troubles.  But will the current financial meltdown really benefit the environment?  Maybe – but it’s more likely to be a wash.

Simple logic tells us that economic slowdowns could be good – manufacturing goes down, emissions are reduced, and fewer green house gases are released into the atmosphere. Deutsche Bank recently predicted that economic recession could cut Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions by 100 million tons next year.  The Australian Climate Exchange, noting that economic cycles are linked to emissions trajectories, has stated that global warming is slowing (Environmental Leader.com). 

I guess nobody told the WWF, which just last week issued a report that concluded that global warming is occurring faster than we thought, and that we better get a move on with the remedies.

Regardless of what we think about the impacts of economic challenges to our commitment to the environment, there is some evidence to suggest that our eco-intentions have at least taken a bit of a back seat for the time being.  The Wall Street Journal has reported that the fall in gas prices – something that makes most of us happy – has actually decreased investor interest in renewable energy stocks. New Energy Finance reports that renewable stocks fell 45 percent, as opposed to 23 percent for the Dow over the same period.  Maybe that’s a reality check for us eco-hearted folks – we’ve always known that in business, green projects are directly related to budgets.  That was recently confirmed at a tech conference where 70 percent of those polled said green IT and efficient technology were important, as long as such efforts also saved money (vnunet.com).

The good news is this – being green does often lead directly to cost cutting, for both business and consumers.  More and more larger companies and businesses are realizing this.  Hopefully, the cost savings the corporate world has realized through greening operations will come to mind as it restructures and re-budgets to address the financial chaos we’re experiencing.  Industry knows that energy costs will continue to haunt bottom lines until there is (and probably after there is) a national energy policy in the United States.  Wall Street will realize that again eventually, once fears subside.

Even better news – you can help by sticking to your eco-guns.  Reward companies that have made real progress with your money.  You’re probably spending less, which makes your dollar more powerful.  Give it to those who get it – companies like Patagonia, Nike, Burt’s Bees, Seventh Generation.  Shop at retailers who are trying to do the right thing – stores like Timberland, the Body Shop, Office Depot, and yes, even Wal-Mart, which should get high marks for forcing other companies to get with the program.

Keep on pre-cycling in the shopping isle, and push forward with demand for greener practices.  Our financial crisis may be a perfect opportunity to remind the corporate world about the principle of supply and demand.

Solar, Wind and Hybirds Finally Get Subsidies, But… At What Cost?

In case you have not already heard, the 700 Billion dollar bail out passed both the house and the senate and president bush is set to sign it. Along with this 700 billion dollar bail out plan, was an additional 150 billion in tax breaks in a variety of different areas, some good, and some obviously taking care of some special interest.

With a vote of 263-171 the house passed the new version of the bill which failed days earlier. The senate knew what they were doing when they added 150 billion in popular tax breaks and essentially buy the verdict from both the Democrats and Republicans. The original bill, which in my opinion was not a good bill, essentially letting the government control much of the private sector giving them more power and leading the nation towards a socialist future, was squashed by both sides a week earlier. So, the senate went back and instead of passing the “Good” (better than nothing) energy bill that was on the table, to extend tax credits for alternative energies and hybrids, the senate killed that bill and added those subsidies into the “Bailout Bill”, which was a bold and smart move to get more Democratic Reps. on their side. Along with a laundry list of other special interest tax breaks like subsidies for race tracks and bow and arrow manufacturers, the senate effectively bought our representatives’ votes and passed their bailout bill.

We have been actively pushing for the tax credits which passed yesterday for over a year, calling senators and representatives, signing petitions and much more, but to finally get what we wanted, though a bribe, makes victory… not so sweet. While I am happy that solar and wind subsidies have been extended for 8 years and now pulg-in hybrids will get up to $7,500 in tax credits, I am still disappointed that our reps and senators wouldn’t pass these things for the right reasons, and had to be bribed. Now 700 billion dollars of our hard earned tax dollars is going to God knows where to fund God knows what, because with no oversight, we truly will not know.

Home Depot Anounces CFL Recycling Program

Tuesday, Home Depot announced their new CFL recycling program, which puts them on the map as the single largest retailer and recyclers of the Mercury filled compact fluorescent lightbulbs. While many companies, governments and organizations have been pushing hard for the adoption of the CFLs, not many have addressed the issue of what happens to the bulbs when they die, except for telling people to recycle them. Until now, there has not been a readily accessible place to recycle CFL’s, but now that almost 2,000 Home Depot’s across the country are accepting spent CFL’s, it makes it that much easier to reduce atmospheric CO2 and Mercury.

The amount of Mercury in a CFL is quite small and the fact is, the amount of Mercury one CFL will save from entering the atmosphere as a result of dirty coal generated electricity is much more than it contains. Interestingly enough, your household thermostat has over 1,000 times more Mercury than a CFL, but still CFL’s get a lot of negative criticism because of this.

Fortunately, this negative criticism should quiet down with the announcement of this new national Home Depot infrastructure for properly disposing and recycling of CFLs. So, don’t let a little Mercury hold you back from updating your home to a more energy efficient lighting system.

Via: The New York Times

Our Senators Failed Us Again…

Unfortunately this failure of our senators to do what is right, seems to be the norm lately. With gas prices souring, oil companies showing record profits and global warming on the rise, you would think that our senators would make a sound decision to help invigorate the solar and wind industry creating jobs and helping the economy, but you would be wrong. The HR 6049 bill on the table to extend investment tax credits failed to pass the senate.

SunPower, one of the leading companies in the renewable energy sector has promised to pick up shop and leave the US should the ITC bill not pass. Now that this bill is dead in the water only time will tell whether SunPower will leave the country. This would result in a loss of over 16,000 job opportunities and an additional $19 billion dollars in lost investments. This would be a major blow the the renewable energy, solar and wind industries.

If you are as upset as I am, you can check out this website to see how your senators voted and let them know how disappointed you are in them if they voted against this bill.