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Bill Walsh, founder of the Healthy Building Network, answers questions

Bill Walsh. What work do you do? I'm the founder and national coordinator of the Healthy Building Network. How does it relate to the environment? The Healthy Building Network is the only organization dedicated to linking green building strategies to the specific goals of the environmental-health movement. Our goal is to shift market demand in the building and construction industry away from what we call worst in class building materials, and toward healthier, commercially available alternatives, competitively priced and equal or superior in performance. Right now, stopping the use of polyvinyl chloride plastic, also known as PVC or vinyl, is …

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Ansje Miller sends a dispatch from a conference on transportation and justice

Ansje Miller is a program director for Redefining Progress and staffs the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, a consortium of environmental-justice, religious, and policy groups. Sunday, 20 Feb 2005 LOS ANGELES, Calif. Driving down California's Interstate 5 from Oakland to Los Angeles, the need for a new vision for the future of transportation was clear. The pouring rain transformed the usual L.A. gridlock into nothing short of a parking lot, with no other mass transportation options in sight. Six lanes of traffic full of cars carrying one person; in that moment, I understood the meaning of the phrase "road …

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You’ll Never Drive Alone

Carpooling, car-sharing companies offer driving alternatives Eighty-four percent of commuters who use a car to get to work say they drive alone, and more than half say it's because carpooling is inconvenient, according to a recent survey on traffic issues conducted by major news organizations. But a company called NuRide is trying to change that. Its website hosts a directory of participating D.C.-area commuters and makes it simpler for folks heading in the same direction at the same time to arrange car pools. Meanwhile, car-sharing companies like Flexcar and Zipcar place vehicles throughout urban areas and allow members to reserve …

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Karen Hundt, Chattanooga urban planner, answers questions

Karen Hundt. What work do you do? I am the director of the Planning & Design Studio in Chattanooga, Tenn. We are a division of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, but the design studio focuses on downtown and riverfront redevelopment. How does it relate to the environment? The biggest environmental issue facing this country is the way we're building our cities -- suburban sprawl. I taught a Regional Environmental Management course at our university this fall and told my students that if they wanted to save the wetlands, the rivers, and the old-growth forests they had to understand and …

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Dropping the Hybrids Off at the Pool

Hybrid incentive bills introduced in Congress Fuel-efficient hybrids, the cars of choice for greens of means, are a hot topic in Congress, with two bills introduced this month that could further fuel their popularity. One bill, unveiled in the House last Tuesday by California Reps. Darrell Issa (R) and Brad Sherman (D), would let states decide whether or not to allow hybrid vehicles to use highway carpool lanes when they're occupied by just one person. Right now, since some funding for carpool lanes comes from the federal government, the feds make the rules about which cars are allowed -- so …

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Emily Gertz sends dispatches from Verdopolis, a confab on future green cities

Emily Gertz is a regular contributor to WorldChanging.com, and an internet content and strategy consultant for nonprofits. She has written on environmental policy for BushGreenwatch, and on the intersections of environment, culture, art, and activism for The Bear Deluxe and other independent alternative publications. Wednesday, 9 Feb 2005 NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. This morning, taking in a stunning view across Columbus Circle to Central Park through a wall of floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows, I thought, "Hmm. This isn't your mother's environmental conference." No, it's "Verdopolis: The Future Green City," a three-day gathering of designers, architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, policy and business people, …

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Umbra on effective activism

Dear Umbra, If an environmentalist has about six hours per week to devote to activism, what should the person do to make the biggest, most positive impact? Some people (like myself) think that climate protection is a key leverage point -- but is it? If yes, why, and what is the best way activists can help protect the climate? (And what's a leverage point anyway?) AnnGraton, Calif. Dearest Ann, Such a good question, and so important that I asked a real expert about it. Dr. Allen Hershkowitz is a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as a …

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Run Away, Train

D.C. approves stricter regs on transporting toxic chemicals Worried about a possible catastrophic release of toxic chemicals that one study says could kill up to 100,000 people, Washington, D.C.'s 13-member city council has approved a measure limiting the transport of toxic chemicals within a 2.2-mile radius of the Capitol building. Shipments of explosives, flammable gases, and other highly dangerous chemicals into the designated area by road or rail will be permitted only in emergencies or other extenuating circumstances. The transport ban is meant to protect D.C. from deadly events like the derailment of a train carrying chlorine gas in South …

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The Altima Sacrifice

Nissan CEO not happy about making new hybrid Altima Automaker Nissan is releasing its first hybrid model, a version of its Altima sedan, next year, but it doesn't have to like it. In a speech at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said hybrids aren't profitable enough to make economic sense for the company. "They make a nice story, but they're not a good business story yet because the value is lower than their cost," he said. So why make hybrids at all? Oh right, that global-warming thing. Ghosn told reporters after the …

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The Truck Stops Here. Please.

Celebrities popularize commercial extreme truck Move over Hummer. The hip new thing in celeb vehicle bling is the International CXT, or commercial extreme truck. The hugemongous pickup weighs more than twice as much as the Hummer H2 and sits at the height of an 18-wheeler; more important, it can tow a 20-ton yacht and lug another six tons in the truck bed. Celebs like trucker-hat enthusiast Ashton Kutcher who pimp this ride can also expect to get 7 to 10 miles per gallon of diesel fuel and pay up to $120,000, depending on how fully equipped they want it -- …

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