10 December 2008

bush isn't out yet... and it's scary

I think we're all still riding the high of the Obama election and holding our breath until he gets into office (and at least for the first 100 days after that). In the midst of this rollercoaster of emotions, it's easy to want to forget about ol' Bushy and his scary environmentally destructive policies. The bad news is he's still in power and still doing damage.

He's set to push through some 11th hour rulings that don't bode well for the planet. Some of the biggest dirty dealings involve mountaintop removal coal mining, handing out wilderness areas to the oil and gas companies for drilling, and eased emissions limits for coal and chemical plants. It's scary stuff.

Wanna know more? Check out this article by Ben Jervey (NRDC, SustaiNYC) in GOOD about the political "tradition" of last-minute deregulations. Here's a snippet:

On November 4th, while most of the American public’s attention focused elsewhere, the current administration was working on another gift to Big Oil. Bush’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a plan to lease huge swaths of public land—over 6.4 million acres—to oil and gas drilling companies. Much of the area is in pristine Eastern Utah wilderness adjacent to or near national monuments and parks, like Arches and Canyonlands, as well as vibrant towns like Moab.

The auction on the tracts starts on December 19. “Once you get rid of wilderness, you can’t get it back,” notes Bobby McEnaney of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). It’s not just the lands that are at risk; many fear that drilling will damage air quality. The BLM has since, in response to massive criticism, removed some controversial areas from the plan, but the vast majority remains on the block.

“The BLM didn’t just try to slip the audacious Utah lease maneuver past the American people on an historic election day,” railed actor and activist Robert Redford. “It actually hid the ball from its sister agency, the National Park Service (NPS), and then rejected the Service’s request for more time to review the scheme.” Michael Snyder, a regional director at the NPS, which is normally given three months to respond to such leases, said, “This is the first time where we have not had sufficient opportunity to comment.” The NRDC’s McEnaney bluntly sized up the maneuver: “They’re destroying the whole process that is designed to protect these lands.”

the festival of (eco-friendly) lights

Celebrating Hanukkah this year? Break out the menorah and be sure to light up responsibly with beeswax candles. As I've mentioned before, beeswax is healthier for you, better for the planet, and helps the imperiled bees. Paraffin wax is petroleum derived and polluting, and some conventional candles have lead in their wicks.

Here are a few options:

Big Dipper Wax Works Hanukkah Candles
45 hand-dipped tapers burn for 75 minutes each.

Natural Beeswax Hanukkah Candles
Go au natural with these lovely honeycomb beeswax candles.

Chanukah Hannukah Festive Beeswax Candles
Or get more festive and go for a rainbow of candle colors.

Get the kiddles together and have a menorah candle making party.

real or fake?

And hopefully what popped into your head was, Christmas tree, right? It's an age old debate -- okay, maybe only since fake trees entered the market -- which is better, a real or fake tree?

If you've already purchased a fake tree, or have had one for years and it still looks decent, stop reading.

But if you're contemplating whether to go to:

a) Tar-zhay or Treasure Island (do those exist anymore?) to pick up a plastic tree
b) a tree farm or nursery (or street corner like we do in NYC) to get a fresh cut or live tree

here are some of the pros and cons of both.

Fake Trees
Pros: can be reused over and over again; seemingly cheaper than a real tree
Cons: (most) made from PVC, an evil cancer-causing plastic; (most) made in China, burning lots of CO2 to get here; may contain lead

Real Trees
Pros: renewable resource; absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and release oxygen during growth; can be mulched, composted, used for beach erosion prevention; farming of trees preserves green spaces
Cons: may be treated with pesticides, which end up in the waterways during farming and after disposal

If you've got a yard to plant it in, a live rooted tree is a great option. Or if you don't have a yard and are feeling ambitious, you can try to contact someone who will plant it for you (more info).

In our home, we choose the real tree every year. I despise PVC and just love the pine scent of a fresh cut tree. I also love finding all of those fallen needles in the crevices where the vacuum doesn't go -- it always reminds me of happy Christmases past.

[Sources: ChristmasTree.org, EarthTalk]

When the holidays are through, be sure to recycle your real tree

Live in NYC?
Check with the NYC Department of Sanitation to find out when they'll be picking up trees for recycling.

Don't live in NYC?
Go to Earth 911 for information on recycling in your area.

And what about the trimmings?

LED Holiday Lights save energy ($26.99 at Amazon)

Safari Wool Animal Ornaments (set of 4)
are handspun, handknit,
fair trade, and adorable (on sale $35 at VivaTerra)

Gourd Ornaments (set of 3) are each unique, hand carved and engraved in Peru ($18 at Global Exchange)

Connect and Reflect Ornament fair trade and handmade in India ($11.95 at OriginalGood)