Green Beat: April 2009
Green news and info
by Katherine Pioli
“Only the best” for our bums… is a bummer
Maybe, when people can’t afford big luxuries, they spend the extra pennies for the little ones. Whatever the reason, sales for “high end” toilet paper are up 40% in the U.S.
Deluxe or no, 98% of TP sold in the U.S. comes from virgin forests, unlike Europe and the rest of the world where recycled paper is the norm. Additionally, America’s per capita consumption is three times that of Europe (and 100 times that of China). The Natural Resource Defense Council would like to see virgin TP go the way of the incandescent light bulb. With less than 2% of toilet paper sales in the U.S. from recycled paper, we have a ways to go.
The choice is simple: Purchase recycled bathroom paper products. Seventh Generation, Green Forest and Whole Foods’ brands are available at health food stores and most supermarkets alongside their forest-killing companions. At very least… avoid that “supersoft” stuff.
This is progress: People speak up for clean air, plans for dirty power plant are withdrawn
In February CATALYST covered a debate surrounding new power generation in the Wasatch Front (“Dirty Power, Dirty Air,” by Katherine Pioli). Consolidated Energy had proposed and was moving through with plans to construct a petroleum coke-burning power plant next to Holly Refineries in West Bountiful. The residents of West Bountiful and surrounding communities worried about worsened air quality and potential health effects relating to plant emissions. Capacity crowds showed up and spoke up at meetings, siding for clean air in no uncertain terms. Since the article appeared, our community has seen some related developments.
One came in the form of a press release produced by Consolidated Energy, the company working to build the power plant; they formally announced the company’s decision to discontinue the project-for the time being, at least.
“We at Consolidated Energy have listened to the comments and although we have complied with all current national and local standards we do not wish to force a community to host a project that does not meet the community’s concerns.”
However, the company clearly stated that the project is “on hold,” while they create a cleaner plan, one that will comply with “coming national and local standards” and that will be perhaps more acceptable to the community.
Interestingly, Consolidate closed their statement by turning the responsibility for the very existence of the pet coke plant back on the community. The press release argued that the fuel-consuming habits of even the area residents made the existence of a pet coke power plant feasible and necessary. “It is important to consider that the production of refinery by-products is an unavoidable consequence of our use of gasoline…All of us that use fuel for our vehicles are responsible for the creation of these petroleum by-products [such as Pet Coke].”
The second development was a bill sponsored by Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, that would have challenged the plant on a legal basis. HB393 Air Quality Amendments asked that no power plant be built in any area of the state that already does not comply with clean air quality standards. Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties are three of these areas. HB393 allowed for construction of nonpolluting or low-polluting power generation plants such as from wind or geothermal sources.
The bill failed to pass in this legislative session. Maybe next year.
www.le.state.ut.us/house/index.htm; search under Bills and 2009 General Session.
Meetings made public: new website useful… and fun
Here is some Utah government trivia. Did you know that the Department of Agriculture and Food has a Utah Horse Racing Commission? Did you know that they convened at a meeting in St. George last April?
Well, more than trivia, this information comes from an incredible new website designed to make our local government more participatory and transparent. It is the Utah Public Meeting Notice site. All state agencies are required to post their public meetings on this website-exempt are municipalities and special districts with less than a $1 million annual budget.
If an interested party knows exactly the department and meeting they are searching for they can used the “search” option. If they are unsure and wish to search for a meeting generally-say, for a group under the state, county, city, school or school district- they use the browse option. This is where the findings can become interesting, like discovering Utah’s Horse Racing Commission.
Meeting information includes the date, location and contact information and can include an agenda. Users can also sign up to receive notices (via email, iCal or RSS) from specific public bodies announcing upcoming meetings.
For information regarding the Public Meeting Notice, contact Tiffany B. O’Sheal, Utah Public Meeting Notice website administrator, Division of Archives. firstname.lastname@example.org or 531-3847 .
Nuke waste plan canned; Yucca Mountain saved
There is some fresh news in the argument on nuclear energy: Utah’s western neighbor Yucca Mountain appears to have been scrapped from the government’s plans for nuclear waste storage. It is a strong and telling decision that proves when intelligent people are appointed to government positions, great things are possible.
The new Energy Secretary for the Obama Administration is Dr. Steven Chu, previously of Stanford University and co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for “development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.” Last month Dr. Chu made his first contentious public appearance in his capacity as Energy Secretary when he announced the Yucca Mountain decision on Capital Hill. Senator John McCain, who has spent years supporting Yucca Mountain as a sight for nuclear waste storage, pushed Secretary Chu to explain the reasons for dropping the project. “We have learned a lot more in the last 20-30 years,” said Chu. “I think we can do a better job.” Meanwhile, back on the “ranch,” Nevada lawmakers applauded Chu’s comments.
Wind energy for Utah school
The students at Three Peak Elementary in Cedar City, Utah have a new piece of playground equipment. Well, not really, but it is still pretty cool. A Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7 wind turbine now stands planted on their school grounds. The turbine provides 1.8 kilowatts of generating capacity-enough to help meet a small amount of on-site demand. The real purpose of the turbine is education and hopefully will lead to other turbine projects in the area since Iron County, where the school is located, has several site with excellent wind potential.
The project was made possible by a funding award from Rock Mountain Power’s Blue Sky renewable energy program granted to the Utah State Office of Education. The project also received support through the Wind for Schools project designed by the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory Wind Powering America Program. Another school is planned to receive a wind turbine, Cyprus High School in the Granite School District.
The Next Generation
It is a splendid spring day in March and at the Day-Riverside library in Rose Park, people are busy working on TreeUtah’s Ecogarden. College-aged men and women crouch by the ecogarden sign planting fava beans, sweet peas and poppies. Others rake leaves and twigs from around the beds. These students have traveled all the way from the University of Kansas to help TreeUtah prepare their spring gardens and plant seedlings. During this week they will work under the competent guidance of two men, themselves just barely out of college, interns Tristan Call and Todd Murdock.
Tristan, a slender man who hides his red hair and light skin under a fisherman’s cap, came to Utah in 2004 from Hunsville, Alabama, to attend college at Brigham Young University. It is hard to say for sure, but it seems like Tristan’s time at BYU wasn’t your normal four years of college. Besides studying anthropology and Latin American studies in the classroom, Tristan involved himself in numerous socio-political projects. More than just the average Amnesty International member (which incidentally he is, also) Tristan traveled to Guatemala where he lived for a time in a Mayan village studying youth political participation and child trafficking.
His political activism led him to an interest in food and eventually to TreeUtah. “Through some of the things I learned working with Amnesty International,” he explains, “I started growing increasingly disillusioned with giant agrobusinesses and the corporations we tend to get our food from.”
So Tristan and a group of friends began growing their own food. The started out simple, with onions and carrots and earned modest success. “It is a funny thing for suburban kids to finally get around to growing their own food. It is not easy going.”
Todd, on the other hand, traveled a shorter distance on the path that led him to TreeUtah. This tall, quiet man grew up in Springville, Utah-a place fondly recognized by those who use the Diamond Fork Hot Springs. When he turned 19, he went off to Argentina on a mission for his church. After two years of service, the promise of the best powder on earth pulled him back home. He moved to Logan, Utah where he attended Utah State University and graduated with a degree in environmental studies. Work and skiing finally brought him to Salt Lake where he found his way to TreeUtah.
Todd is now an expert in identifying invasive plant species like Russian olive and tamarisk. Since joining the nonprofit world he has learned to have a sense of humor about the endless fundraising and, best of all, he has discovered his niche. “My social and professional network has tripled since I started working here,” he says, a bit in awe of TreeUtah’s standing in the community. “It has been a great step in trying to find my place.”
Tristan is also astounded at the depth of the organization’s roots in Salt Lake City. “I tell people that I work for TreeUtah and one out of five starts telling me about when they planted trees with TreeUtah. Vaughn Lovejoy and this organization have made a big impact,” he concludes just before Vaughn, the ecological restoration coordinator, approaches the two interns seated with me in a corner of the garden. The students have finished planting and need another task. It’s time for Todd and Tristan to get back to work, which they do gladly, picking up their gloves and heading for the compost heap.
TreeUtah has been dedicated to tree planting and environmental education since 1990. This group sees trees as a valuable resource that cleans our air and water and generates the oxygen we breath. They hope to help Utahns become active, knowledgeable stewards of their natural environment. www.treeutah.org
This seedling needs your help to survive
This chokecherry seedling, along with 18,506 other native tree and shrub seedlings, need your help. TreeUtah has been informed due to a paperwork error, the funding to continue planting and caring for our 10-year woodland restoration project along the Jordan River was terminated. This funding may be eventually restored but it will be too late for all of the seedlings we planted last year. We need to find $40,000 we lost to cover our operating costs immediately if we are to continue with this amazing community project.
Thousands of volunteers have planted and helped care for 87,750 seedlings in the last 10 years on a 120 acre site in South Jordan City. Last year alone 1,702 volunteers contributed 4,763 hours to this project. Given this extraordinary collective community effort it would be an immense travesty to let last years plantings and efforts go to waste.
Paul Hawkins’ book “Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice and Beauty to the World,” makes a compelling case that it is individuals, small nonprofits and nongovernmental agencies by the tens of thousands around the globe that are envisioning and creating a ecologically viable and socially just future for our world.
Donations are being accepted by mail (Save the Seedlings, c/o TreeUtah, 740 South 300 West Suite 301, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101) or go to our website www.treeutah.org for other options. Thank you.
Ecological Restoration Coordinator
Sign this petition for green businesses
Scott Cooney, the author of “Build a Green Small Business,” is concerned about the future of the green economy. The way he see things going, green business are developing to replace large corporations and little attention is being given to the green entrepreneur at a time when almost 75% of new job creation in the U.S. is coming from the small business community. Cooney says it is time for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to step up to help eco-preneurs and he has created a petition asking for just that.
The idea for the petition came after Cooney found no information on the SBA website for helping small business owners go green. Cooney decided to make some calls. “I called the agency and started getting passed from person to person until I was passed to something called the ‘advocacy’ group. I began by asking one of the advisors how he felt the SBA might work with Van Jones to help create the green transition. After a few moments, there was a pregnant pause in the air. ‘Who is Van Jones?’ he asked.”
Van Jones, for those who don’t know, is the Green Jobs Czar appointed by this administration. He is in charge of getting Americans back to work in a new green economy. Cooney’s petition asks the SBA to follow the vision of Van Jones and apply it to small businesses. His petition asks for creation of local advisory boards, specific documents guiding new businesses towards greener models, and loan specialists experienced in green business. u
The goal is to collect 500,000 signatures. Add your name to the list:
To read more about this vital petition: www.triplepundit.com/pages/a-vital-piece-missing-in-the-american-re.php
Utahns don’t want other people’s nuclear waste dumped into our state and backyard, but do we think about where our own waste goes?
Some of our most toxic waste ends up in the backyards of people in countries far poorer than our own. Electronic waste in particular, one of the fastest growing components of the waste stream, is incredibly hazardous to human and environmental health. The lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic that it contains is toxic to soil and water.
The Basel Action Network (BAN out of Seattle, Washington opposes the toxic trade of wastes to poorer countries. The group takes its name from the Basel Convention, where countries from around the world met to address the issues of toxic waste and their disposal. Currently BAN is the world’s only organization focused on confronting the global environmental injustice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade and its impacts. Working for human rights and the environment, they confront these issues at a macro level, preventing disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on the world’s poor. At the same time they promote the sustainable and just solutions-promoting green, toxin-free and democratic design of consumer products.
Guaranteed Recycling Xperts (GRX) is a responsible recycling company operating in Colorado, Nebraska and Utah since 1999. They are a BAN-certified recycling company that does not export any of the toxic materials to developing countries. In their recycling process, hazardous but reusable materials such as glass, after research and inspection, are routed back into the manufacturing stream. CRT glass, for example, is a leading problem in the electronics recycling industry. It had high concentrations of lead for which there are few safe recyclable options. GRX currently uses glass-to-glass recycling which separates and cleans the glass in preparation for reintroduction to the CRT manufacturing process.
GRX, along with the U of U’s Office of Sustainability and Salt Lake City’s Division of Sustainability, is hosting a special e-waste disposal event on Earth Day. GRX will be stationed in the University Services Building parking lot, West of the Hunstman Center, collecting electronic waste. Salt Lake residents and University affiliates (students, faculty, staff) can drop off their old, used, broken and unwanted electronic items at this time.
To dispose of other hazardous waste items (paints, pesticides, oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals): www.slcgreen.com/hazwaste.htm.