Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Green Miles Gets on the Rag

A few months ago, I was about to throw some old t-shirts on the pile for a future trip to Goodwill. But at the last second, I thought to myself, "Would anyone really want to wear my old yellow-and-blue Frederick 5K shirt?"

So I got a pair of scissors and sliced it up into rags, stuffing them into a cabinet next to my reusable grocery bags near the kitchen sink. I started using them to clean the counters and other kitchen surfaces. It's worked out pretty well, very convenient since I don't have to worry about running out of paper towels as much.

Then on July 23rd, my Green Page-a-Day calendar delivered another epiphany: My new rags are environmentally friendly:
Overall, according to an estimate from the National Zoological Park, the production of paper towels is more than twice as energy-intensive as the reuse of cloth (factoring in washing and initial production). confirms that dishcloths are both economical and environmentally friendly. It reports the average household could save $100 a year by switching from paper towels to dishcloths. And can you believe Americans send 3,000 tons of paper towels to landfills every day? The vast majority of that comes from virgin forest.

When you do need to buy paper towels, look for 100% recycled paper with the highest post-consumer content available. Don't freak out if they're not white -- paper companies use very environmentally-unfriendly chemicals to bleach paper towels. And let's face it -- they're just going to end up brown after you wipe up that spilled coffee anyway.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm Like a Chocoholic, But For Booze

The Green Miles ... your number one Google search result for beer craving:

Monday, July 28, 2008

NYTimes Covers, Charged with Two Errors

Sunday's New York Times covered the group organizing ongoing protests against the Washington Nationals for their major sponsorship deal with ExxonMobil. even wonders if the Nats will allow ExxonMobil to purchase naming rights to Nats Park.

The Green Miles is a Nats partial season ticket holder. I'm already wavering about renewing them since the Nats continue to make stupid baseball decisions, like trading Jon Rauch for a Freddie "The Flea" Patek clone and bidding against themselves to wildly overpay Christian Guzman. The only thing that keeps me coming back is a beautiful day at the ballpark (even if my team typically gets killed). But if the Nationals sell the naming rights of our brand-new green diamond to ExxonMobil, I'll dump my tickets that day.

Back to the article. It's a decent summary of the protests, but there are two egregious flaws. Here's the first:
During a nine-game home stand in late June, ExxonMobil worked with the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, to offer energy-saving tips at the new stadium. [...]

The president of the Alliance to Save Energy, Kateri Callahan, said she knew that working with ExxonMobil “could raise some eyebrows,” but said that the company had been a conscientious partner in her group’s fuel-efficiency campaign.

Makes it sound like the Alliance to Save Energy is some tiny little ragtag outfit taking a big risk with a brand new partnership with ExxonMobil. Except for the nagging little detail that ExxonMobil is a major contributor to the Alliance to Save Energy. Seems like something the NYTimes should've mentioned, don't you think?

In fact, the group's donor list (the Alliance prefers to call them "members") is a virtual who's who of big energy companies and major polluters. The Alliance isn't going out on a limb -- it's paying back one of its major donors by helping them greenwash.

Then there's this:

Mr. Jeffers, however, said ExxonMobil was emphasizing energy efficiency in light of forecasts from the company and other analysts that hydrocarbons will continue to supply about 80 percent of the world’s energy over the next few decades.
Can you believe a reporter for what's supposed to be one of the best newspapers in the country would take ExxonMobil's forecasts as gospel?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Netroots Nation Through the Eyes of The Green Miles

A week overdue, here's my travelog from Netroots Nation 2008 in Austin.

I was waiting for the SuperShuttle at the airport when a horrific shriek had me jumping out of my flip-flops. It was my introduction to the great-tailed grackle. I asked an Austin resident about the birds, who told me with a scoff that they were introduced from Europe as songbirds. As was the case with Florida's love bugs, turns out locals often fall for tall tales. The grackles are native.

As much as I'd heard about Austin's BBQ, I ended up enjoying the Mexican food more. This enormous lunch from Las Manitas cost just about $10, much less than dinner at the famed Stubbs BBQ which was just OK.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean arrived on Thursday in the "Register for Change" tour bus. Was a little disappointed not to hear more about climate action from the former Vermont governor. In two speeches, he only made one reference to global warming, a passing reference to creation care.

An all-star panel on energy featured two top Democratic challengers for U.S. Senate -- Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, running against Ted Stevens, and Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley, running against Gordon Smith. Can you imagine those seats flipping from climate action foot-draggers to true climate activists? Interesting point from EnergySmart's Adam Siegel -- school buses use 550 million gallons of diesel fuel a year. If school districts bought hybrids to replace their aging bus fleets, America could cut that almost in half.

Al Gore made a surprise appearance to tout his plan to make America's electricity carbon-free in 10 years. But most felt Van Jones was the best speaker of the conference, presenting the need for climate action in an urgent, compelling and inclusive voice.

Early in NN08, some bloggers were grumbling about how Barack Obama wasn't scheduled to appear. Later, we learned Obama had a good excuse for not making it -- his trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, and Europe. I suppose that beats schmoozing the bloggers. Obama did send along a video message.

The only souvenir I splurged for on the trip -- a Texas belt buckle. Don't act like you're not jealous.

The big DailyKos-sponsored blowout was held at Austin's Maggie Mae's (props to convention organizers for making sure everything -- hotel, convention center, events -- were in walking distance, greatly reducing the need for rental cars or cabs). To go to the roof deck, you had to pour your drink into a plastic cup and toss your empty bottle into the trash. When I asked the bouncer about it, he said he was shocked when he first saw that, too, but that scavengers apparently pick the recyclables out of the trash and make a profit off of them.

Went to a reception for Glenn Nye (far right), running for Congress in Virginia's second district against Rep. Thelma Drake. I love how Thelma's website expresses her deep concern for the future of the Chesapeake Bay but search for either global warming or climate and you'll get "No documents matched your query." Saying you're concerned about the Bay but not worried by climate change is like saying you're concerned about your car failing to start but not worried about the battery.

Got to go see the bats emerge from underneath Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge. It's not an overwhelming force of nature or anything, but it is a pretty cool sight. It takes about 10 minutes for all the bats (up to 1.5 million of them) to come out, forming clouds off in the distance.

Gathered to watch the bats in the lounge of the nearby Four Seasons. It features the Batini, which claims to be the official drink of Austin. Blackberries, grapefruit juice, vodka and champagne. Tasted pretty good, but the presentation was obviously key, featuring a blackberry with mint "wings."

More great food -- chorizo and cheese with corn tortillas and not one but two Dos Equis. When I ordered a Dos Equis, the waitress said, "Amber or lager?" One of my friends blurted out, "BOTH! Get both!" So I went along with the gag. Yes, my friends are easily amused.

Finally, my favorite part of the trip -- Fat Tire everywhere! Before I arrived, I hadn't realized I'd be west of the Mississippi River where New Belgium's sustainable beer is available, but I was thrilled to find it on tap just about everywhere we went.

Friday, July 25, 2008

McCain Staff: Oil Drilling 'The Right Thing for the Environment'

From the White House to Congress, Republicans are pushing to open more of America's public lands and waters to Big Oil, letting them drill for more fossil fuels to help keep America addicted.

I've heard lots of outlandish arguments from drilling proponents, particularly Rep. Michele Bachmann. She's falsely claimed that drilling would cut gas prices in half (even the Bush administration admits it would cut prices a few cents at most) and that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is as lifeless as the surface of the Moon (the threatened polar bears that live there would beg to differ).

But John McCain's senior policy advisers Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Nancy Pfotenhauer might take the cake:
"This [offshore drilling] is the right thing for the economy, it is the right thing for national security. And, as [McCain] is always committed to pursuing these endeavors in an environmentally friendly way, it's the right thing for the environment in the long run as well," said Holtz-Eakin. [...]

Pfotenhauer argued that yesterday's [Mississippi River oil] spill wasn't at all related to drilling -- even though one would assume the 420,000 gallons of fuel oil that were dumped into the river had to come out of the ground somehow.
Drilling comes with enormous risk of spills (like this week's) and disturbs surrounding wildlife. And what does Holtz-Eakin think we're going to do with that oil once it's out of the ground? Use it to grease our bike wheels as we toot around town in a carbon-free manner? Every gallon of gas produced will turn into 20 pounds of global warming pollution when burned.

Of course, if we'd raised gas taxes as economists like Robert Samuelson has been arguing for years, the money we're paying at the pump could be going to fix our failing roads and bridges. But instead, friends of oil companies fought to keep gas taxes low as prices climbed. Doesn't it looks silly now that people were claiming at $2 a gallon we couldn't raise gas taxes because it would break the backs of working people? Now we're at $4+ and still rising. Great plan, guys.

So now we have the worst of both worlds -- high prices at the pump and virtually all of our money going straight to Big Oil. Isn't it time to abandon our drill-and-burn policies and start encouraging some alternatives?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Green Miles on Grist

Sorry I haven't been posting this week, been playing catch up at the office after my trip to Netroots Nation. But I've had a couple of posts on's "Gristmill" blog this week. Here are the links:

Wait till next year: Netroots Nation pledges to cut footprint ... in 2009

Newt's got a song: Will Washington buy his brand of snake oil?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Al Gore on Meet the Press

I didn't get to watch Al Gore on Sunday's Meet the Press as I was listening to Van Jones speak at Netroots Nation '08. However, Dave Roberts at Grist watched and it sounds like Tom Brokaw should've stayed retired:
Brokaw had the ... gall? idiocy? ... to ask why the Democratic Congress had not passed any sweeping energy proposals. Gore pointed out that if you can't get 60 votes, you can't overcome a filibuster in the Senate and nothing gets done. Brokaw responded with this: "But you can put it on the agenda and try to move the country."

Could you scream? There were probably a dozen agenda-setting, country-moving bills that floated around Congress this year to establish a carbon cap, removed oil subsidies, fund renewables, increase efficiency standards, etc. etc. etc. Republicans killed them. Does Tom Brokaw really not understand that?

Then he pestered Gore to condemn Hillary Clinton -- who's no longer in the race -- for proposing a gas tax holiday, without so much as mentioning that John McCain -- who's still in the race -- is still supporting one. [Rips hair out.]

Yeesh. Makes me not want to check out the clips/transcript and see how bad it was. I'm back in Arlington and it's bedtime, but maybe I'll review the carnage tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Zap That Sunday Morning Hangover with Clean Energy

Tom Brokaw's guest on Sunday's edition of Meet the Press - Al Gore.

The Quintessential Picture of Netroots Nation

Blackberries and booze.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who Needs The Dark Knight? Austin Has REAL Bats.

Did you know that in the summertime, there are more bats than people in Austin? Up to 1.5 million of them spend the summer under the Congress Ave Bridge, emerging each night to suck the blood of the unsuspecting tourists that locals tricked into gathering nearby.

Just kidding! LOL! And also ROTFL! The Green Miles is only pulling your leg. They actually eat insects -- up to 20,000 pounds of them a night (more on the bats & their bridge here).

I hear they're quite a sight when they emerge from under the bridge each evening, so I'm going to check them out Friday night while I'm here in Austin for Netroots Nation. The Four Seasons lounge apparently has a great view, even offering a Batini cocktail, which is allegedly "the official drink of Austin."

The Four Seasons concierge desk keeps track of when the bats come out and estimates Friday's show will take place around 8-8:15pm. If you're at Netroots and want to join us,
email me!

Gore Calls for Clean Energy "Moon Shot"

Congress has so far refused to set a mandatory national renewable electricity goal. Al Gore would like to make a suggestion - 100 percent:
To meet his 10-year goal, Gore said nuclear energy output would continue at current levels while the nation dramatically increases its use of solar, wind, geothermal and so-called clean coal energy. Huge investments must also be made in technologies that reduce energy waste and link existing grids, he said.

If the nation fails to act, the cost of oil will continue to rise as fast-growing China and India increase demand, Gore said. Sustained addiction to oil also will place the nation at the mercy of oil-producing regimes, he said, and the globe would suffer irreparable harm.

One weird part of the article - the AP's Ron Fournier oddly references "ozone-killing" coal plants and never mentions carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas pollutant. Does Fournier think ozone depletion is what causes global warming? Strange. Fournier was recently in the news when his sycophantic, pro-war, overtly-religious emails with Karl Rove were revealed.

As The Hill reports, Republican leaders are already responding to Gore's call for bold leadership by ... pandering on gas prices. Way to step up, guys. But who comes to Gore's defense? Virginia's own Rep. Rick Boucher, who says, “Those who oppose a climate control measure will make the argument that it should not be considered at a time of high energy prices, but that is a bogus argument.” Nice job, Rick!

Cross-posted from RK

Now That's an Excessive Package: Netroots Nation Schwag Bag

Product: Netroots Nation registration bag

Approximate weight: 5 pounds

Percent suitable for recycling
: 80

Most recyclable item
: Salsa-flavored tortilla chips from Wired for Change (already eaten)

Most interesting item
: Condom from Center for Constitutional Rights

Item most prone to waste
: Small t-shirt from, which if I wasn't a damn dirty hippie
would go right in the trash, but since I'm a treehugger I'll follow the instructions to go to the booth to trade in the shirt for my proper size

Full credit for coining term "Schwag Bag"
: Meghan from

The Green Miles' level of disappointment Netroots Nation didn't do anything at all to make their Schwag Bag less wasteful/more sustainable
: 100 percent

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm Just Keepin' It Weird, Yo: Heading to Austin for Netroots Nation

The Green Miles is at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport right now. I’m on my way to Austin for Netroots Nation, a blogger convention (formerly known as YearlyKos).

The second leg of this trip will be my fourth flight in five days. I take the train or drive as much as I can on personal and business trips to keep my carbon footprint to a minimum, but some flights are unavoidable. While doing the jet-setter thing, I do what I can to at least minimize waste, bringing my reusable coffee mug and downloading articles to read rather than buying newspapers and magazines. I also ask flight attendants if they recycle cans and paper, if not taking them with me into the airport, which usually offer recycling these days.

From an environmental perspective, I actually find the view from high up to be heartening. For all the wide highways and sprawling cul-de-sacs scarring the suburban landscapes as you take off and land, there remain vast expanses of forest and rolling hills untouched by development. And from 20,000 feet, it’s nice notice that among of the few identifiable man-made structures below are baseball diamonds.

I’ll be spending most of my time at Netroots Nation on the job for the National Wildlife Federation, but I’ll try to post interesting tidbits here as time permits. Considering how much time liberal blogs tend to spend focused on political races and Iraq, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many environmental sessions are on the agenda.

And with the Democratic National Convention putting so much effort into going green, I’ll be watching to see how well Netroots minimizes its environmental impact. Will they give me a big bag full of junk when I get there? Will the convention site and hotel offer recycling?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Colorado Senator Slams Bush's Oil Shale Fantasy

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) has a great op-ed in the Washington Post today on the false promise of oil shale:
Bush and his fellow oil shale boosters claim that if only Western communities would stand aside, energy companies could begin extracting more than 500 billion barrels of recoverable oil from domestic shale deposits. If only the federal government immediately offered even more public lands for development, the technology to extract oil from rock would suddenly ripen, oil supplies would rise and gas prices would fall.

If only.

Since the 19th century, we in the West have been trying to extract oil from the vast oil shale riches that lie under our feet. It is no easy task, and past efforts have failed miserably. Commercial oil shale development would require not only immense financial investments but also an undetermined quantity of (scarce) water from the Colorado River basin and the construction of several multibillion-dollar power plants.

Sen. Salazar goes on to point out "that oil would not come easily. It would take around one ton of rock to produce enough fuel to last the average car two weeks." ThinkProgress has a great analogy about the amount of energy stored in all of our oil shale: Think of it like a trillion tons of tater tots.

So how can we tackle our energy problems? How about recharging America's economy with renewable power and energy efficient technology?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Airport Security Gets a Shade Greener

At Baltimore Washington International Airport this weekend, I noticed there are now recycling bins outside the x-ray machines! After the Transportation Security Administration implemented a rule banning containers of liquid larger than three ounces, piles of plastic bottles in trash cans just outside the screening area were commonplace. Nice to see that's finally being addressed, at least at BWI.

I thought about trying to take a cell phone camera picture for posting here, but I didn't feel like getting pulled out of line for the full body cavity search. I hope you can understand.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Friday Afternoon Distraction

For those of you struggling to make it through the final hours of the work day, here's something to keep you from doing that pesky work: National Geographic's Recycle Roundup game.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New & Noteworthy Links from Virginia and Beyond

Thought I'd highlight a few additions and updates from The Green Links:

  • Not sure why Bacon's Rebellion wasn't on The Green Links already, but consider the oversight fixed. It mainly covers Virginia growth and transportation issues from a fiscally conservative slant but tends to avoid easy categorization, always a good thing.

  • Based out of Cleveland, Black and Into Green looks at sustainability from an African-American perspective.

  • Recently stumbled across Gaiam, a green lifestyle company offering eco-friendly products.

  • Girasol, Arlington's bilingual dog blogger, survived the 4th reporting, "I’m still afraid of the fireworks but my hiding place is under the bed."

  • New Belgium Brewing has launched a new blog called The Tinkerer.

  • From the Prince William Conservation Alliance comes Your Piece of the Planet.

  • Virescent details an Alexandria resident's efforts to live more sustainably.
And over at, Wendy Rieger's Green Room seemed to fade for a bit, but it's back and looks better than ever. Here's a recent tidbit about an attempt to use a green strategy to tackle her ant problem:

Last night I tried an “organic” solution. I sprinkled cinnamon along the window sill where they were marching in and bam! They stopped. It seemed to horrify them. They woudn’t go near it! They became quit distressed by the presence of this amber powder. Amazing.

I read that lemon peel and cayenne pepper have the same effect. This morning when I woke up the kitchen had a sweet smell of cinnamon and there weren’t any ants around. Problem apparently solved.

Although now I have a nagging desire for rice pudding. Or flan. French toast. Or maybe some pie. Or what’s that thing with the bananas in warmed butter with brown sugar and cinnamon? I could eat that right now. Snickerdoodles … mmmm.

Maybe I should go get some more Windex.

Any great websites and blogs that haven't made The Green Links? Post them in comments!

Now That's an Excessive Package: Cell Phone Accessories

Product: Cell phone case and earpiece for Verizon cell phone
Purchased from:

Approximate weight of packaging: 1 pound
Percent of packaging suitable for recycling: Less than 10
Does The Green Miles regret switching to Verizon considering it took three weeks to figure out how to get this picture from his phone to his computer: Yes

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Now That's an Excessive Package: Nintendo Wii

Product: Nintendo Wii and extra remote control
Approximate weight of packaging: 2 pounds
Percent of packaging suitable for recycling: 50
Does The Green Miles wear those Syracuse Orange Crocs out of the house/backyard: No

Nintendo also ranked low on a recent environmental scorecard form Greenpeace.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Car Talk Guys to GM: "Why Do You Make Such Shit?"

I was catching up on old podcasts of NPR's Car Talk and heard the Magliozzi brothers mention a recent appearance on PBS. The program NOVA sent Click and Clack in search of the Car of the Future. The whole show is worth checking out, especially if you're new to phenomenal concepts like plug-in hybrids and questionable concepts like biofuels and hydrogen cars.

But this exchange in segment 6 really sums up the program. A GM rep is walking the guys through a car show, trying to show off the Chevy Volt:

RAY MAGLIOZZI: It's right next to the Ford Mustang with 550 horsepower.

BETH LOWERY: Yes. And the Camaro convertible. Isn't that great?


BETH LOWERY: America is all about choice. If you want a Camaro, buy a Camaro.

RAY MAGLIOZZI: But if we're about hugging trees ...

TOM MAGLIOZZI: With 500 horsepower? Who the hell needs 500 horsepower?

BETH LOWERY: Obviously not you.

TOM MAGLIOZZI: Why do you make such shit? I mean it's ridiculous!

BETH LOWERY: You mean these popular vehicles that are on the floor?

TOM MAGLIOZZI: Yeah, these popular vehicles. Five hundred horsepower ... jeez!

BETH LOWERY: It creates a little excitement, doesn't it?

RAY MAGLIOZZI: You're good, Beth.

TOM MAGLIOZZI: Thanks a million.

RAY MAGLIOZZI: Thanks for your time.


RAY MAGLIOZZI: Sorry for giving you a hard time.

BETH LOWERY: That's okay. I'm used to it.

Despite all their commercials with green trees and blue skies and cheery kids, GM makes clear that all that good corporate citizenship stuff is just greenwashing. They have only one goal -- making as much money as possible.

So the Tappett Brothers come to the conclusion that if we want to cut our gas bills, increase our energy security, and curb the worst effects of global warming, we need government incentives. All the futuristic cars in the world won't matter unless we have the right carrots and sticks to prompt the car industry to make them and consumers to buy them.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Deeds: Four More Years of Kaine's Environmental Policies?

Just noticed this on Creigh Deeds' website:
Today he's working with Governor Tim Kaine to keep Virginia moving forward with an energy policy that will cut greenhouse gases by 30 percent over the next two decades and a pre-kindergarten program that will put children on the path to success from the start.

Does Creigh Deeds really think Old Kaine Coal is the model of gubernatorial green? Apparently so, since he's picking up Kaine's false advertising about his energy plan. As Lowell has explained many times, Kaine's Virginia Energy Plan would only cut greenhouse gas emissions 7 percent by 2025.

I don't mean to single out Deeds. At least Deeds has a page dedicated to environmental issues. But neither his site nor Brian Moran's site offer any sort of defined policy goals for protecting consumers from rising energy bills or easing our growing dependence on imported fossil fuels. Polls show Deeds and Moran evenly matched and Kaine's numbers slipping. Meanwhile, Bob McDonnell's site clearly lays out his a campaign strategy of trying to terrify Virginians into voting for him.

Yet still, Deeds and Moran seem united behind the energy policies of the past. Will one of the contenders stand out from the crowd by following Barack Obama's lead on clean energy?

Cross-posted from RK

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Convergent Evolution: Obama & Timberland

From Biology Online:
convergent evolution


1. a kind of evolution wherein organisms evolve structures that have similar (analogous) structures or functions in spite of their evolutionary ancestors being very dissimilar or unrelated
Barack Obama's organic cotton t-shirt commemorating the Sierra Club's endorsement:

Timberland's logo:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Quick (Recycled) Tips for a Green Fourth

The Green Miles did a post last year on being green while celebrating Independence Day. Not my best post ever, but in the interests of reduce/reuse/recycle (and since I don't have time to update it this year), if you're looking for tips for a sustainable Fourth, go check it out!