In the lead-up to Earth Day (this Friday) and the looming drought that will undoubtedly desiccate the Northwest this summer, The Seattle Times offers a handy rundown of water-saving gizmos. Check it out.
You may hate its coffee, you may hate that it drove your favorite mom-n-pop coffeehouse out of business, you may just hate its bland ubiquity -- but you gotta give Starbucks props for its latest initiative. Today the java giant announced that it will buy enough wind energy to meet 5 percent of electricity needs at its North American stores. From the company's press release (not yet up online, the slackers): "Starbucks is mindful of the long-term implications that climate change has on the environment," said Sandra Taylor, Starbucks senior vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility. "Because the energy used at our retail stores makes up nearly 50 percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions, this is a natural starting point for us. By supporting renewable energy sources we believe we are taking a step in the right direction and encourage other businesses to do the same." ... The move to purchase renewable energy for its company-operated retail stores -- generated by approximately 11 large-scale windmills -- is estimated to cut emissions by two percent. It also catapults the company into the current top 25 U.S. purchasers of renewable energy. (That last fact strikes me as remarkable. Just by agreeing to buy 5 percent green power for its stores -- not its production plants or business headquarters or whatnot -- Starbucks will become one of the top 25 buyers of clean energy in the U.S.? There are that few big buyers? Damn.) Sure, it would be easy enough to point out all the bad things Starbucks is doing, and all the good things it isn't doing -- environmentalists have made an art form out of skewering corporations for their sins and failings. But we aren't so good at giving positive feedback. So from me, to the corporate coffee chain that I never patronize: Hey, nice work, keep it up.
'Tis the season to jettison the clutter that's clogging your closets, basements, and garages and gumming up your feng shui. First stop: Freecycle, with city-specific listservs on which folks can post things they want to give away and plead for things they seek. I'm a huge fan. I've unloaded speakers, stereo components, a cooler, a box spring, foam pads, light bulbs, and a beige shower-curtain rod to grateful Seattleites, and I've scored a good-quality queen-sized bed, an old-school TV, and a boom box. Freecycle makes people feel happy and munificent. (Read more joyful Freecycling stories!) And now I've heard tell of a site and system called Throwplace. It looks to be a more complicated version of Freecycle, but with the added benefit that you can specifically direct your still-usable cast-offs to nonprofits and even get a receipt and corresponding tax deduction. If you end up trying it out, please report back on your adventures.
They're back! Rabble-rousing advocates of immigration restrictions are once again ruffling feathers at the Sierra Club. With the group's 750,000 members now voting in their annual election (polls close April 25; members go here to vote), the immigration critics are pushing a slate of four like-minded board candidates and a "yes" vote on a population ballot measure, which reads: Shall the Sierra Club policy on immigration, adopted by the Board of Directors in 1999 and revised in 2003, be changed to recognize the need to adopt lower limits on migration to the United States?
Inspired, no doubt, by recent lively discussion in Ask Umbra and Gristmill on nuclear power (necessary evil or pure evil?), New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has decided to join the fray with his simplistically titled (and conceived) "Nukes Are Green" column. He's of the James Lovelock school of thought, arguing that with climate change bearing down on us and renewables not yet up to full speed, nuclear is our only hope.
Score one for the Dems. Stephen Johnson on Friday agreed not to poison infants and toddlers with pesticides in exchange for Senate confirmation of his appointment to head the EPA. Johnson -- a generally unobjectionable nominee, especially by Bush admin standards -- was expected to glide on through the confirmation process, but Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) threw a wrench into matters on Wednesday, demanding that Johnson, who's now acting administrator of the EPA, permanently cancel the notorious CHEERS research. The Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study had, according to the New York Times, "offered $970, a free camcorder, a bib and a T-shirt to parents whose infants or babies were exposed to pesticides if the parents completed the two-year study. The requirements for participation were living in Duval County, Fla., having a baby under 3 months old or 9 to 12 months old, and 'spraying pesticides inside your home routinely.'" Oh, and a couple mil in funding for it was being put up by the American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing, among others, pesticide manufacturers. After the study drew highly critical press (imagine that), Johnson last fall suspended it pending ethical review (which you would think would take, oh, about 20 seconds). Now, the study's dead for good. And this is what counts as an environmental victory these days -- managing to thwart research that would use poor kids as guinea pigs for the pesticide industry.
Paying journalists to shill for Republican policies -- it's not just for Bushies anymore! The admin of Mitt Romney, Massachusetts' GOP governor, will fork over $10,000 to a Boston Herald op-ed columnist to promote its environmental policies, The Boston Globe (gleefully) reports.
You could probably guess that Prius drivers tend to be Democrats and Hummer drivers tend to be Republicans. But that's just the tip of the iceberg on car-and-driver political connections, writes John Tierney in The New York Times, summarizing new market research that I find both fascinating and hilarious. Jaguars, Land Rovers, and Jeep Grand Cherokees are very "Republican" vehicles. Volvos are the most "Democratic" cars, followed by Subarus and Hyundais. (Funny comment from Slate columnist Mickey Kaus: "Subaru is the new Volvo --that is, it is what Volvos used to be: trusty, rugged, inexpensive, unpretentious, performs well, maybe a bit ugly. You don't buy it because you want to show you have money; you buy it because you have college-professor values.")
Richard Cizik, head of the National Association of Evangelicals, is heavily hawking the notion of "creation care" these days. (That would be God-flavored environmentalism, for those not in the know.) Three weeks ago, he chatted up the concept with NPR's Scott Simon (whom I wholly adore, but that's a topic for another post). This past weekend, he got his mug and his pitch in The New York Times Magazine, via a Q&A with Deborah Solomon. An excerpt: Q: What is wrong with [the] term [environmentalism]? A: It's not the term. It's the environmentalists themselves. I was recently speaking with the leadership of the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, and I told them, ''Gentlemen, I respect you, but at this point don't plan on any formal collaborations.'' Q: Why? Because they lean to the left? A: Environmentalists have a bad reputation among evangelical Christians for four reasons. One, they rely on big-government solutions. Two, their alliance with population-control movements. Three, they keep kooky religious company. Q: What is your idea of a kooky religion? A: Some environmentalists are pantheists who believe creation itself is holy, not the Creator. Q: And what's No. 4? A: There's a certain gloom and doom about environmentalists. They tend to prophecies of doom that don't happen. Look at the movie "The Day After Tomorrow," in which New York City freezes over. The evangelicals don't want to play with the enviros, and -- sad, but true -- that's probably smart strategizing. The Christian right already knows how to get Bush's attention, and Rove's devotion. Can any green groups say the same?