Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dominion & Dick Cheney: Separated at Birth?

"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."

-- Vice President Dick Cheney,
as quoted by USA Today, May 1, 2001
Almost exactly five years later:

"Conservation isn’t going to solve anything."

-- Dominion North Anna Nuclear Information Center Coordinator Mike Duffy,
as quoted by C-ville, the Charlottesville weekly newspaper, May 2006

Fighting Back against the Oil Smear on Gore

Keith Olbermann gave a great rebuttal last night to allegations about Al Gore's home energy use. Crooks and Liars has the video!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

DC Media Going Green

UPDATE: Grist has an interview with Ikea's sustainability director.

UPDATE #2: The Washington Post reports on Ikea's plastic bag fee.

One side effect of global warming's mainstream acceptance is that more businesses are realizing there's money to be made by going green.

A DC radio station is following the trend, with WARW re-branding itself as "94.7 The Globe." Their website lists their green principles, but has no details on either what the station is doing or what listeners can do to help the environment. They're hyping the Bonnaroo music festival as a green event, but so far, the concert's website has exactly as many details as 94.7's (zero).

Fortunately, Raw Fisher is on the case. Marc reports the station put out a statement on what it will be doing on the green front, including "Using renewable energy to supply power to the station's 50,000 watt signal and using hybrid station vehicles. ... Station appearances will ... provide listeners with information on environmental leadership and energy conservation; WARW will also host events encouraging recycling, tree planting and use of green products."

I'm going to hold back judgement on The Globe until I see how they put their principles into action. Will they host a local public affairs show dedicated to environmental issues? Will they donate money and airtime to local environmental organizations? Will they print promotional items on recycled material? The devil, as always, is in the details.

Over at NBC4, Wendy Rieger is making a much more personal statement about the environment. She's been presenting a "Going Green" series of reports since 2005. She's now expanded that to include a blog, "The Green Room." It's fantastic to see such a well-known news anchor lending her name and expertise to the cause of environmentalism.

My favorite tidbit from The Green Room so far comes from Wendy's most recent trip to Ireland:

You don't automatically get a bag for your groceries in the stores here; you either bring your own or have to buy a bag at 2-cents each. I've often carried my roll of paper towels and box of tea home under my arm not because I didn't want to buy a bag, but the question "do you need a bag" gives one pause long enough to realize that bagging such paltry items just seemed wrong. There is clearly much more Irish eco-info to impart but I'm afraid you'll grow weary and in desperation start begging me to elaborate on the Shannon Airport breakfast bar.

Very good point. Here in the U.S., the question isn't even asked -- you get a bag whether you want it or not. I hate it when I run to CVS to grab a greeting card and the cashier sticks it in a bag. Is it really that unwieldy that I need something to carry it in? Bigger grocery stores allow you to return your bags, but why use so many of them in the first place?

According to fellow blogger the Green Wombat, Ikea just announced it will start charging for plastic bags. Do you think we should consider lobbying more stores to start charging for bags here in the U.S.?

The Green Room blog doesn't allow comments, but you can email Wendy with feedback and story ideas!

Friday, February 23, 2007

General Assembly Updates: Dominion "Re-regulation" & Smoking Ban

The General Assembly has passed legislation to give Dominion wide latitude to build new coal-fired power plants with only voluntary measures for renewable energy, conservation, and energy efficiency. Please contact Gov. Kaine and tell him to veto this bad bill!

As for smoking legislation, Sen. Brandon Bell is trying one last way to get a smoking ban through. With Bell's support, the Senate passed a bill that would actually eliminate the requirement that restaurants have nonsmoking sections. That could allow Gov. Kaine to amend the bill to include a workplace smoking ban:
Killing a governor-amended version of the bill would require a floor vote in the full House, [Virginians for a Healthy Future Chair Cathleen Smith] Grzesiek said.

"We'll get an up or down vote from the House," Grzesiek said.

That's been something her coalition has been pushing for since last year, and it would allow advocates to target individuals who vote against a smoking ban.
At long last, every member of the House would finally have to step out of the shadows and publically state their position on a smoking ban. Who are they beholden to, Virginia's citizens or the tobacco companies? Even if the ban failed, at least the people blocking it would have to wear that badge of shame on the campaign trail this fall, when every member of the General Assembly is up for re-election.

Another Reason to Ditch the Car

As I detailed over at the Fresh AIRE blog, I'm getting ready to sell my car. It's a long process due to some paperwork issues. New motivation to get rid of it? The fact that isn't been so cold in DC in February, it snowed on Tuesday, and my car still looked like this four days later when I took the picture Saturday morning. A few hacks with my snow brush got it cleared.

Of course, then it snowed again on Sunday. Anyone want a Saturn?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Take Action to Support a National Renewable Energy Standard

The Union of Concerned Scientists has put out an action alert on a remarkable new bill introduced by Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM). It would establish a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 20%, meaning one-fifth of our electricity would have to come from solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels.

Right now, our RPS system is a patchwork of state initiatives.

Take action now to urge your representative to support this legislation!

Fellow ACE board member Lisa pointed me to an article on the Investor Network on Climate Risk's list of the 10 companies not doing enough to stop climate change. Guess who's on the list?
Dominion Resources
The coalition says the Richmond, Va.-based provider of electricity and natural gas hasn't disclosed the effects any future climate change regulation would have on its bottom line, despite requests from the Investor Network.

A Dominion spokesman declined comment.
As hybrid vehicles become more common, Gristmill points out a bizarre but growing problem ... they're too quiet.

And in Florida, "A well-intentioned attempt in 1972 to create what was touted as the world's largest artificial reef made of tires has become an ecological disaster." Read more.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Arlington's Sidewalk Clearing: More Preachy Than Practicy

I got an email from Arlington County on snow removal on Friday night. Yes, two and a half days after the snow stopped falling. Insert bureaucratic efficiency joke here. Here's part of the email ...

The County does not clear sidewalks and applauds residents and proprietors for clearing sidewalks to help neighbors and customers. This makes it easier for children to walk to school, and for everyone to access bus stops, Metro stations, and business areas. The County is asking for everyone, as you are able, to lend a hand to your neighbors and friends to help clear the sidewalks and driveways.

Especially think about your elderly or disabled neighbors, who cannot clear their own sidewalks, porches and steps. Clear access ramps to enable our wheelchair bound neighbors the access they require during these periods when mobility is particularly challenging for them - and check to see if they have enough food and supplies on hand.

As you can see from this picture, Arlington definitely doesn't feel responsible for clearing the sidewalks in front of County property. The sidewalk on N. Quincy Street in front of "Mosaic Park"* is a treacherous sheet of ice ... as is the sidewalk in front of the Metro employee parking lot behind that ... and the sidewalk in front of Conte's bike shop behind that ... and the sidewalk in front of the County recycling facility across the street.

However, if you don't clear the sidewalk in front of your property, you're putting your elderly and disabled neighbors at risk, making you worse than Hitler.

I'm not saying the county can reasonably be expected to clear every sidewalk in front of every piece of county property, especially when there was a hard freeze so soon after the snow stopped falling. But it does seem antithetical to the County's emphasis on pedestrian friendliness to leave a busy sidewalk like this one completely unshoveled, unsalted, and unsanded. And in light of the guilt-tripping email, it all comes across as a bit hypocritical.

* Note on Mosaic Park - the "mosaic" is apparently made up mostly of blades of grass. Quite stirring. More on this in a future post.

UPDATE: There's a letter to the editor in the Sun Gazette this week on the same topic.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dominion Virginia Power: Regulators, Mount Up!

Am I the first person to ever compare Dominion Virginia Power to Warren G? Can we call Guiness Book of World Records for a ruling on this one?

The Virginia General Assembly is considering legislation to "re-regulate" Dominion, granting it wide latitude to set power rates and allowing it to build new coal-fired power plants, with only weak measures to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation. A recent editorial details just how quickly and mysteriously it's moved through the General Assembly.

Here's why the Virginia Conservation Network opposes the legislation:
* No other state in America has a plan as generous to utilities as SB1416 and HB3068! These bills guarantee electric utilities a huge profit margin and encourage them to build dirty and dangerous power plants.

* Rates will go up to build unnecessary power plants and power lines that will only make the environment dirtier, increase the effects of global warming, and cost constituents billions more when greenhouse gas reductions are mandated.

* Power companies should be required to invest in energy efficiency and conservation programs before being allowed to build more destructive power plants. Programs such as a systems benefit fund, net metering, home weatherization programs, and other energy savings measures will reduce your power bill and help reduce the impacts of global warming.

* The General Assembly has not had time to properly consider a law that would affect every Virginian. The Legislature should carry over the matter to the next session to allow careful consideration – there is no urgency for this bill to pass this year.

* There has been no objective analysis on the impact to ratepayers. This law could increase rates for all Virginian consumers including business and industry - no one knows by how much.

* Rates are not tied to inflation; they are tied to Dominion’s spending, yet let profit flow freely.
So why has such questionable legislation moved so smoothly through the legislature? Money:
Dominion, however, had access and investment in its favor. The Richmond-based utility is among the largest corporate donors to Virginia politics, accounting for nearly $3.8 million in campaign donations the past 10 years. In calendar 2006, Dominion donated $209,000 to state legislators' campaign committees, and it dispensed gifts with an aggregate value of nearly $29,000 to 98 of the 140 legislators, according to campaign finance reports compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project and analyzed by The Associated Press.

Eleven legislators reported in their statements of economic interest owning at least $10,000 in Dominion stock, including Del. Watkins M. Abbitt Jr., I-Appomattox, who voted Monday for the legislation in the House committee. Norment owns at least $50,000 in Dominion stock.

One lawmaker, Sen. Benjamin Lambert, D-Richmond, is a member of Dominion's board of directors and owns more than $250,000 in the company's stock.

Take action now to tell Gov. Kaine and your legislators to oppose SB1416 and HB3068!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Weekend Update: Cafe & Relay

Isn't it nice to still be able to call Monday part of the weekend?

* I went to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse this weekend to catch "The Departed." I'm sure the effect was exaggerated since grew up there and bad Boston accents are like nails on a blackboard for me, but everyone talked like they were doing a bad JFK impression. Good movie with a bad ending, but the fact that cold beer was served saved the evening. One thing I wasn't a fan of -- they gave us plastic utensils. Seemed wasteful.

* What's Up Eric pointed me to an event Front Page hosts every month called "Cafe Scientifique: A Place to Eat, Drink and Talk About Science." The next one takes place Tuesday, March 6th from 6-8pm and is titled "The 'Shocking' Science Behind Electric Cars." I have the CRM meeting that night, but I'll try to stop by!

* My friend Jen is helping organize the Arlington Relay for Life, being held in June at Wakefield High School. They're having a kickoff event Tuesday Feb. 20th at Mackey's in Crystal City, check it out!

* In the wake of DC's innovative move, another city is looking at adding rubber sidewalks. This time, it's Philadelphia.

* Funny story from the Post about a close encounter with a beaver.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Metrobus: Because You Never Get a 2nd Chance to Make a 1st Impression

Last Thursday I was heading to a performance of the new ballet version of Edward Scissorhands at the Kennedy Center with The Green Girlfriend. During the summer I might've just walked, but it was a really cold night, so I was looking for a quicker route.

Metro's website recommended the 60 bus, which it said would pick me up a block from my office near McPherson Square and drop me off at the Kennedy Center 17 minutes later. Usually I avoid public buses due to inconsistent service in other cities, and the many inherent advantages of taking the train over taking the bus:

* If you miss a train, you know another one will be along soon, but if I'd missed the 60 bus, it would've been another half an hour in the cold before the next one.
* On a cold night, standing inside for a train is a big advantage over standing outside waiting for a bus.
* Trains don't hit traffic, but buses lurch along in the stop-and-go crunch.

And indeed, the 60 bus was five minutes late, then took 15 minutes to crawl the first five blocks when it was supposed to take 17 minutes to get me all the way to the Kennedy Center. Do they make the rush hour schedule assuming zero traffic?

The wait and ride took me 40 minutes when the train ride and walk would've taken me half that. On top of that, the bus dropped us off along a stretch of sidewalk that was completely untreated. We had to slide across 10 feet of ice to get to a cleared path.

End result of experiment? I don't like to write negative posts, because I hate blogs that just bitch about everything all the time. But damn, that sucked. I'll stick to the train or walking next time.

Fortunately, when I met The Green Girlfriend inside at the Kennedy Center restaurant bar, she had an Irish coffee waiting for me. And I can't say this strongly enough -- if you go to the Kennedy Center restaurant bar on a cold night, get the Irish coffee. It was big and strong and good.

The show itself was unique, definitely worth seeing. I was worried it would end up somewhere between a high school adaptation and Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!, but it was very well done. Danny Elfman's score was fantastic as always, they mostly stuck to the movie's story, and the guy playing Edward kept Johnny Depp's endearing shyness.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Special Welcome for My New Readers (Or: Holla!)

Until February, this blog's record for most hits in one day was 65.

On February 5th, it got 120 hits.

Yesterday, it set a new record with 300 hits.

What do Feb. 5th and Feb. 16th have in common? Why did they bring so many people to The Green Miles?
In this post I compared my love-hate relationship with Metro to Eminem's relationship with his on-again off-again (and apparently Amazonian) ex-wife, and linked to a picture of her. Now when she's in the news, people go looking for her picture, and end up here. Isn't the Internet grand?

I thought the visitors would be mostly teenage boys, but maybe I was wrong. Read this page, imagine what you think the author looks like, then scroll down to the bottom to see the author's picture.

Anyway, I'll have more on Metro tomorrow, with details of my adventure involving a Metro bus, an Irish coffee, and a man with a handful of blades.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Del. David Albo: Keeping Virginia's Indoor Air Polluted

From the Roanoke Times (bolding added by me) ...

RICHMOND -- An attempt to ban smoking in Virginia's public places, including restaurants and bars, appears to be dead for the year.
A House subcommittee declined to take action Thursday on the Virginia Smoke Free Air Act (Senate Bill 1161), leaving the measure technically alive but with its future in doubt.

The subcommittee's intent was to give SB 1161's sponsor, Sen. Brandon Bell, R-Roanoke County, time to work out a compromise with Del. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, who sponsored a different smoking bill approved by the subcommittee last month.

Del. Dave Albo, R-Fairfax County, said he wants to see Bell and Griffith work together to produce "something that everyone hates a little."

But Bell said afterward that with just a little more than two weeks left in the General Assembly session and the two bills "at opposite ends of the spectrum," an agreement is unlikely.

"The timing of things will be difficult as far as what we come up with and what kind of approach we want to take," Bell said. "We may not be able to get there this year."

Griffith, the House majority leader, has generally opposed a broad ban on indoor smoking, and told the General Laws Committee he'd strike his bill if the Senate attempts to make it more restrictive.

He said Thursday he was willing to talk with Bell, but added the committee will have the last word.

"I don't have a problem with working out a compromise," Griffith said. "That being said, the committee's not going to let a whole lot more than my bill go out. ... Just because Brandon and I agree doesn't mean the committee will let it out."
Griffith's "different smoking bill" as the reporter so opaquely put it would eliminate the requirement that restaurants have nonsmoking sections. It is as close to the opposite of a smoking ban as you can get without putting packs of cigarettes on the table next to the salt & pepper shakers.

Let's review:
* Del. Albo tells the smoking ban supporter he'll have to compromise
* Del. Griffith simultaneously tells reporters if he has to compromise, he'll take his ball and go home
* Even if a compromise is struck, the House subcommittee has no intention of letting any compromise move forward.

Was Del. Albo ignorant of Griffith's intentions? Or disingenuously trying to take credit for being a united not a divider while privately knowing no possibility of compromise existed? Either way, not a proud day for Fairfax.

I can understand opposition to a smoking ban from a delegate representing a place that shares a name with a brand of cigarettes. But Del. Albo? From Fairfax? Come on. Fairfax residents should be ashamed. I thought you guys were more moderate than that.

By the way, this is the same Del. Griffith who also said this yesterday regarding similarly stalled transportation legislation:

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, also a conferee, said that he and his colleagues would insist on a "true compromise - and not the kind of compromise you make with your wife."
Virgina's General Assembly has already done racism and antisemitism, so now we're bringing sexism back! Justin Timberlake would be proud. Just one more way they're moving Virginia backward.

Coming Soon to Arlington: Wicked Awesome Cake

What does this have to do with the environment? Ummm ... nothing.

No, wait! The continued development of Shirlington as an urban hub will promote smart growth! There.

Cakelove is opening a Shirlington location! I've heard nothing but great reviews about their desserts, and Arlington is desperate for quality bakeries. There's Heidelberg Pastry, locally owned and a loyal ACE sponsor, but from there the selection drops off quickly to the likes of Metro 29 Diner, Harris Teeter, etc.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Metro's Storm Performance: So Far, So Good

Metro seemed to be handling the storm well this morning, with delays only on the Red Line. It helps that pressure on the system was eased by the federal government's two hour delay, spreading commutes over a much broader time frame than usual. And hopefully the new de-icing equipment also played a role.

There were some problems yesterday when the federal government (and the rest of DC that follows the feds' lead) let out early while Metro was still on early afternoon schedule. I'm not sure if that's the feds' fault for not telling Metro, or Metro's fault for not reacting sooner. Anyone know?

How was your commute? Any problems? Should we give Metro credit for not letting the storm paralyze the system?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Green Living Challenge, Part I: The Adventure Begins

For those of you who enjoy bad movies, the title of this blog refers to the disastrous Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, which killed several careers and left Joel Grey seriously wounded. My favorite part was Remo spending the entire movie strengthening his fingers so he could spend two seconds breaking this dude's gas mask. You also have to love that they were so confident the movie would spawn sequels they titled it The Adventure Begins. And if all that doesn't get you, there's the twirling.

Over the next couple of months, I'll be providing updates on my progress towards completing ACE's Green Living Challenge. I'll start with the biggest chunk of points possible:

Live in a multi-family apartment or condominium unit (bonus for promoting denser residential areas)

Simply put, living in a multi-family dwelling vastly reduces your environmental footprint. Instead of 30 driveways, we have one parking lot. Instead of 30 lawns crying out for fertilizer, we have one. Instead of 30 impermeable roofs sending runoff into our streams, we have one. Instead of being spread out over miles of sprawl, pushing units further from businesses and public transportation, I can walk to Ballston or Virginia Square Metro stations in 10 minutes, or walk to Clarendon in 30 minutes.

Points for this action: 35
Total points to date: 35
Points needed to complete Green Living Challenge: 100

Monday, February 12, 2007

Ask The Green Miles: Should Virginia Widen I66 Through Arlington?

A question from What's Up Eric ...
What about all this stuff about widening I-66? My immediate answer is no, we don’t want to encourage more driving, but what is the answer? I’m not sure the Orange Line can handle any more Metro riders at rush hour either.

The short answer is, given our transportation history of rejecting smart solutions in favor of the politically expedient, why wouldn't we expect Virginia to expand I66?

Originally, Interstate 66 through Arlington was proposed as an eight-lane double-decker highway. Only intense opposition from Arlington residents limited the road to its current four lanes and led to efficiencies like HOV and space for the Orange Line in the median. The website of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation provides an excellent background of Interstate 66, chronicle of local opposition, and details of current expansion plans.

The greatest myth about transportation in the DC area is that our problems are due to capacity issues. Not true. We have usage problems related to our work and social systems being set up around single-car drivers all leaving their single family homes in the suburbs at the same time trying to get on the same roads to the same city where their jobs are located. The majority of DC-area workers:

* Drive in their cars alone
Go from rural/suburban areas to DC or adjacent areas
Leave home between 6am and 10am
Leave work between 3:30pm and 7:30pm

Our region's elected officials have done absolutely nothing to discourage these patterns. Home prices encourage long commutes. Employers stubbornly demand workers come to the office from 9am-5pm daily so they can be supervised in person, even though many of us are computer drones who could just as easily work from home. When Metro tried to encourage off-peak and reverse commuting last December, it got little support.

So what do we get? Attempts at easy answers.

Wider highways. More of them.

Even though a new lane of highway can only move 1,500-2,000 vehicles an hour. Even though the DC area is already an EPA nonattainment area for ground-level ozone and fine particulates.

And from the recent "forums" on proposals to add spot expansions to I66, VDOT seems hell bent on adding that pavement. You can read more on the strong negative Arlington reaction to meetings in the Sun Gazette and the Arlington Connection.

Eric is right that Metro's Orange Line is stressed. The system as a whole passed 200 million customer trips for the first time in fiscal year '06 (July '05-June '06). Especially during the height of the morning rush, the slightest problem can send ripples throughout the system, a problem I've experienced many times.

But we ask more and more of Metro without giving the system the support it needs. Metro continues to lack a dedicated funding source, even though it's the only major transit system in the area to rely on three states/districts for funding, meaning Metro has to beg, borrow, and steal every year to make ends meet.

Instead, we try to pave our way out of the problem without trying to encourage more carpooling, biking/walking, or reverse or off-peak commuting. Knowing the history, I would expect nothing less.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Weekend Update: Organic Chocolate & Solar Juice Bags

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Whitman's & Russell Stover are offering organic chocolates. The Green Girlfriend got some the other day, so hopefully she'll post a comment reporting on how they compared with standard chocolate.

Speaking of The Green Girlfriend, we went to Lost Dog Cafe for a late lunch/early dinner yesterday. They have the best selection of beer in Arlington, sandwiches that are much tasier and much cheaper than your standard Cosi/Potbelly/Au Bon Pain fare, and best of all, the owners are actively involved in animal rescue work, so you know your money is doing better work than just enhancing some stockholder's portfolio.

Ever heard of Juice Bags? If you're like me, your reaction was, "What, like Capri Sun?" These are backpacks or messenger bags with flexible solar panels on one side, so you can keep your electronic devices charged. If you're a frequent hiker or bike messenger, I can see where they'd be a great investment. You can be entered for a chance to win one by taking's reader survey.

A few environmental programs that have been brought to my attention recently, if I get a chance to watch them, I'll post reviews:

- HGTV's "Living with Ed"
- The Sundance Channel's "The Green"
- NPR's "Discovering Where We Live: Reimagining Environmentalism"
This week, I'll be posting an "Ask the Green Miles" on I66 widening, and will be passing along any updates from Richmond on smoking ban legislation. And from what I hear, I may have lots of time to blog on Tuesday, because we could get a major winter storm here in DC. Few forecasters are putting down bets on snow totals yet, but AccuWeather is saying we could get 6-12 inches, with slight variations in the track of the storm having a big impact on whether we get much more or much less.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Army Corps of Engineers: Destroying Once & Future Cities

Some good and bad stories when it comes to design & the environment. As the title indicates, we'll start with the bad.

The same Army Corps of Engineers that oversaw billions of dollars worth of projects that ended up worsening the impact of Katrina on New Orleans now wants to spend billions of dollars on projects that scientists say will worsen the impact of future hurricanes. A dozen coastal scientists have written the National Park Service to object to one element of the plan, saying, “This is not science-based management."

Now to the good! Newsweek takes a look at "7 Simple Steps" that result in major energy savings. It concludes, "If saving energy is so easy and profitable, why isn't everyone doing it? It has to do with psychology and a lack of information."

XCurmudgeon details his recent efforts to conserve energy, and their immediate impact on his energy bills. He inspired me to rearrange the power configuration of my home computer, which freed up a power strip to go to my TV/DVD player/Xbox, which will now not be sucking power when I'm not using them.

To learn more about what you can do in your daily life to reduce your impact on the environment, check out Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment's Green Living Challenge! And don't forget, you can become a Friend of ACE by contributing at least $20 using the SixDegrees link on the right side of this page.

My friend Myra tipped me off to the National Building Museum's frequent events focused on green building design, with two coming up in the next month or so. On February 22nd at 6:30pm, the museum will host Educating the Green Way: The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Then on March 7th at 6:30pm, there's Green Design: The Myth and Reality. Check out the museum's website to learn more!

One other tidbit ... an interesting story from ABC News about how more Americans are taking volunteer vacations.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Colbert on Global Warming

March 21st: CRM's Beers with the Bloggers

Arlington County's Community Role Models program would like to invite bloggers to join us at our upcoming "Beers with the Bloggers" event! It will take place on Wednesday, March 21st, from 7-9pm at Carpool in Ballston. The event has a dual purpose -- helping Northern Virginia bloggers network, and promoting Arlington blogs among with CRM members.

Please spread the word to any Arlington bloggers you know! DC bloggers who want to mingle with Arlingtonians are welcome to attend as well. So far, What's Up Arlington's Eric and The Buckingham Herald Tribblog's Steve have said they'll plan to attend. My love of beer is almost as well known as my love of the environment, so I'll be there too. If you'd like to come, please register, and bring business cards or flyers to promote your blog!

I checked with Carpool, and unfortunately health code forbids us from inviting Girasol. However, her owners are welcome to attend on her behalf!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Step Forward for Clean Air in Virginia

The Virginia State Senate passed a bill yesterday that would ban smoking in bars, restaurants, theaters, and other indoor public places. Unfortunately the bill's prospects look bleak in the House, which recently passed a bill that would actually allow more smoking in bars and restaurants by eliminating the requirement for a nonsmoking section. You can read more in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Ordinarily I would point you to the Washington Post, but the Post felt the smoking ban's passage only warranted two sentences on page B08. The shocking story that Marion Barry apparently enjoys drugs and is frequently in trouble with the law got 20 paragraphs on the front page of the Metro section. Should they just end the charade and call themselves the DC Post?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Stunning Upset: Organic Coffee Beats Starbucks

A major milestone for organic food this week, as Newman's Own Organic Coffee beat Starbucks in independent Consumer Reports taste tests! Dunkin' Donuts (not enough flavor) and Burger King (like making love in a canoe -- f'n close to water) were also-rans.

I've always been a big fan of Newman's Own products. The food tastes just as good, it's the same price (strangely, the salsa is much CHEAPER than its non-organic competitors at Harris Teeter), it's organic, and the proceeds go to good causes. Why NOT buy it?

In my experience, most organic products are of the same or better quality than their standard counterparts. My only negative experience has been with organic wine -- just not as tasty. What's your favorite organic product and why?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Must-Watch TV Event of the Year

I speak, of course, of Puppy Bowl III, featuring the Kitty Halftime Show. Animal Planet runs it on a continuous loop on Super Bowl Sunday. You can even vote on the MVP. hosted a chat with the producer this week. She says this year they've "added a hilarious new feature called the Tailgate Party where doggie fans that couldn't get tickets to the game are watching the action on a TV set in the parking lot....and grilling burgers...and sitting in lawn chairs...and reacting to big plays and calls they disagree with."

All this sounds tremendously silly, right? I dare you to try to turn it off. You cannot.

If you're looking to adopt a pet locally, visit the SPCA of Northern Virginia's website! You can also check out

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Weekend Update: I'm Not Here, Lookin' for Trouble ...

... I'm just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.

Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday, and having lived for a few years as a kid in Carol Stream, IL, I'll be wearing my Walter Payton jersey and rooting for Da Bears. Realistically, they have very little chance of beating the Colts, but rooting for the underdog has never stopped me before. The NFL is making an effort to reduce the Super Bowl's environmental impact by planting 3,000 native trees in Florida. As one climate scientist says, "It's probably a nice thing to do, but planting trees is not a quantitative solution to the real problem."

* The Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse is hosting its Biannual TPS Report Managers Meeting, aka the Office Space Movie Festival.

* Speaking of drafthouses, The Green Girlfriend and I stopped by Shenandoah Brewing Company in Alexandria last night. Not many local breweries in the DC area, especially since the downfall of Foggy Bottom Beer. But we tasted ten different beers and I came home with a mix case of Old Rag Mountain Ale and Mountain Beast Ale -- brews as strong as their names.

* Speaking of downfalls, the Washington Post has more details on the demise of Backfence.

* Am I the only one who thinks Arlington County Board members deserve to be paid more than $14.77 an hour? If you believe the board members themselves that it's a full time job, that's what their $30,723 annual salary works out to on an hourly basis.

* Interesting article on the tug-of-war between parents of young children and young professionals as they battle for time on the dwindling number of places to play in Arlington.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Global Warming Report: Settling the Debate

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its updated report on global warming today. It contradicts two main arguments deniers make about global warming -- that climate change is uncertain, and that scientists are divided:

With at least 90 percent certainty, the IPCC's "Summary For Policymakers" concludes human-generated greenhouse gases account for most of the global rise in temperatures over the past half century. Hundreds of scientists from 113 countries prepared the report, which represents the most comprehensive overview of scientific climate research since 2001.
Global warming deniers often claim that the planet's warming is a new, unproven theory that contradicts a Newsweek article from the 1970s that the planet might be cooling. According to Britain's The Guardian newspaper, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, has been offering scientists bribes of $10,000 (plus expenses) to dispute the report. But as detailed in the Washington Post this week, in reality, the report is just the latest stop on the long road to scientific consensus.

Some climatologists say even today's grim report
paints too rosy a picture. As you can see by this photo, it's already too late for many polar bears as their habitat rapidly shrinks.

As Lowell points out at Raising Kaine, Virginia is doing little or nothing about global warming. And as Eric blogs, the debate is over.

Here in Arlington, you can start taking steps to reduce their environmental impact through Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment's Green Living Challenge!

So after all these reports, what's the most amazing number? A new survey shows 13 percent of Americans have never heard of global warming.

Did I Miss My Own IPO?

Apparently I'm listed on the Fantasy Blog Stock Market. Anyone know anything about it?

Thursday, February 1, 2007