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green@work : Magazine : Newlines : Mar/Apr 2002

Actions and initiatives worth noting

Survey Explores States' Green Purchasing

The Resource Conservation Alliance (RCA) and the Govern-ment Purchasing Project (GPP) will survey initiatives that state governments are taking to buy “forest-friendly” products.

“Government purchasing accounts for nearly 20 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product,” says Terra Schmookler, outreach director for GPP. “This tremendous purchasing power can be leveraged to stimulate the market for products such as recycled paper, reduce demand for timber and, consequently, help to conserve forests.

“When officials spend taxpayer money to buy paper, furniture or thousands of other products, they need not passively accept the choices that industry offers. Instead, they can encourage industry to produce more imaginatively,” said Ralph Nader, founder of GPP. “Government buyers need to consider the long-term economic, environmental and societal costs associated with products and services.”

Nearly 100 procurement officials in all 50 states will be asked to identify any state policies and practices that call for the procurement of environmentally preferable wood products or wood alternatives in five product categories: paper, packaging, furniture, pallets and “green” building. The results will be published in a report that will be released to the public and sent to state governments.

NRDC Says Senate Energy Bill Promotes True Energy Security

The Senate energy bill introduced by Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) would dramatically improve America’s national energy security, expand the market for cleaner energy technologies and reduce pollution generated by traditional energy sources, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The Energy Policy Act (S. 517) would:

• improve automobile fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2013;

• provide significant incentives for consumers to purchase advanced gasoline-electric hybrid and fuel cell-powered vehicles;

• offer incentives for power companies to increase use of energy produced from clean, renewable sources like wind and solar, and for builders to improve the energy efficiency of homes and offices; and

• expand the use of renewable energy sources by requiring retail electricity suppliers to purchase 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Just as important is what the legislation does not include—opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. According to government figures, refuge oil would increase world reserves by less than three-tenths of one percent—not enough to make a significant dent in U.S. imports. Overall, the United States holds only three percent of known world oil reserves—and consumes 25 percent of the world’s produced oil. Half of its current imports come from the Middle East and other volatile regions.

The Daschle-Bingaman energy bill stands in stark contrast to the House energy package (H.R. 4), which favors the energy policies of the past, says NRDC. The House bill would provide more than $34 billion in new subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear industries, increase dependence on foreign oil by failing to increase fuel economy standards and encourage oil development in the Arctic Refuge and other wild and special western lands.

FTC Designates New Fiber

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced a designation for Cargill Dow LLC’s NatureWorks™ fibers. The designation classifies PLA as a new generic fiber, while the trade name will remain NatureWorks.

To receive new generic classification Cargill Dow had to show: properties and chemical composition that is radically different from other fibers; what commercial use is foreseen; and that the new generic is of importance to the public. PLA now joins other classifications including cotton, wool, silk, nylon and polyesters as a recognized fiber category.

NatureWorks is distinguished as the first generic fiber of the new century to earn FTC approval and gain acceptance by the commission. For a fiber to be classified as PLA it must be a synthetic fiber manufactured from polylactic acid or poly lactate derived from naturally occurring sugars, such as those in corn or sugar beets.

Cargill Dow recently completed construction of the company’s first world-scale PLA manufacturing facility in Blair, NE. At capacity, the manufacturing plant will produce up to 300 million pounds (140,000 metric tons) of PLA per year.

Senate Passes Clean Energy Development Section

The 2002 Federal Farm Bill passed by the Senate in February contains a clean energy development section intended to create a new clean energy income stream for farmers and ranchers and enhance rural economic development. The program includes grants and loans totaling about $570 million over five years.

The legislation includes several related new programs providing financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to develop renewable wind power and biomass energy “cash crops” on their lands. These incentives can promote rural economic development opportunities, enhance national energy security and improve environmental quality by avoiding pollution from conventional power plants. The legislation also establishes a set of complementary programs to encourage the use and production of bio-fuels and biomass energy. It also provides for energy efficiency audits and financial support for the installation of new, more efficient technologies in agricultural operations.

The 2002 Federal Farm Bill will be considered in a conference committee where it will need to be reconciled with the House of Representative’s different version. The conference committee is expected to act in the next two months.

Green Office Buying Guide

The City of Portland, OR, now offers a Green Office Buying Guide, a 40-page booklet designed to help local business owners and office managers cut their costs and reduce their impact on the environment at the same time.

The booklet was created by the Office of Sustainable Development (OSD), a Portland city bureau, working in partnership with the Portland Development Commission (PDC) and other city bureaus. It is available at no cost through OSD, PDC and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. A downloadable file of the document can be found in the “Breaking News” section of the OSD Web site at

Higher Education Institutions Driving Sustainable Markets

From office services to dining services and ecological building design to landscaping practices, the purchasing power of campuses touches virtually every aspect of management and has the ability to influence the supply and demand of materials that support a sustainable society. National Wildlife Federation’s “Teach-In” is aimed at decision-makers within the administrative, faculty and student structure, to spark the markets for sustainable goods and services by educating and nurturing responsible consumers.

In partnership with the National Association of Educational Buyers (NAEB), NWF is hosting this course entirely via the Internet. The “Teach-In” consists of a one-hour “on-demand” Webcast taught by Kevin Lyons, director of procurement at Rutgers University and author of Buying for the Future. The Webcast, available on-line starting April 10, 2002, will specifically cover green purchasing of recycled paper, shade-grown coffee, green energy and sustainably harvested wood. As an added incentive, course registrants are eligible to join a series of six on-line chats throughout the spring and fall with various green purchasing experts. Learn more about NWF’s Driving Sustainable Markets campaign at drivingsustainablemarkets.cfm.

Carpet Recycling Agreement Signed Carpet Recycling Agreement Signed

Carpet and fiber manufacturers, the Carpet and Rug Institute, state governments, non-governmental organizations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed a groundbreaking agreement known as the National Carpet Recycling Agreement on January 8, 2002. The voluntary agreement is the first of its kind in the country, and it aims to eliminate landfill disposal and incineration of used carpet.

Government and industry have worked together for two years to craft an agreement that encourages product stewardship—meaning carpet manufacturers assume responsibility for carpet throughout its life cycle—from design to disposal. With more than 2.5 million tons of carpet discarded each year and landfill capacity declining, there’s an environmental need to recycle and reuse carpet. Furthermore, used carpet is difficult and expensive to manage due to its heavy and bulky nature. This burdens waste processors and often results in the illegal disposal of carpet by the general public.

To help manufacturers, material suppliers and local governments efficiently and cost-effectively recycle and reuse carpet, the carpet industry has established a third-party organization known as the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). During the agreement’s 10-year span, CARE will work to establish collection systems for used consumer carpet.

More information on the National Carpet Recycling Agreement is available on the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance (OEA) Web site at

Ganga Goes Global

The Ganga has gone global with the official launch of www.CleanGanga. com, a Web site that aims to completely restore the polluted river, starting in Varanasi. It also provides the media with freely available river-related articles, illustrations, sound bytes and film clips.

“Cleaning up the Ganga is a global concern,” said Mark Lloyd, director of the Thames River cleanup. Lloyd traveled to India to work alongside volunteers at the Campaign for a Clean Ganga (Swatcha Ganga Abhiyaan), which supports the Web site. Campaigners are presently cleaning up litter and debris in the river in Varanasi, along with cleanup of all 77 ghats.

Lloyd said that rendering the “River of Heaven” pollution-free will send a powerful message across the world. “Cleanup of the Ganga is important for rivers everywhere,” he noted, “and will tell the world something about India as a civilization.”

The Web site, produced by Indian and international journalists, brings together Ganga lovers the world over. Heading the ambitious project is journalist Roger Choate, who lives in Sweden and New Delhi. He is also international coordinator of the Swatcha Ganga Campaign. The site, presently in English, will be introduced in Hindi during the year.

Authors Join Together to Save Trees

The Green Press Initiative is bringing authors together from different genres for one common cause: to help the book publishing sector potentially save millions of trees each year. Authors including Paul Hawken, Winona LaDuke, Dr. Andrew Weil, Julia Butterfly Hill, Fritjof Capra and David Suzuki are serving as founding authors and spokespeople for the Green Press Initiative ( The initiative is working to engage authors and publishers to committing to print their future books on recycled paper.

In 2000, U.S. book publishers consumed approximately 1.93 million tons of paper. Based on extrapolations made by Conservatree, this required the consumption of over 40 million trees averaging 40 feet in height and six to eight inches in diameter. The widespread use of recycled paper by book publishers is a direct solution to this problem of overconsumption and its net effect—deforestation. However, recycled paper only represents about eight percent of the entire printing and writing paper market. The program is being coordinated by the Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative. Program partners include Conservatree and the Recycled Paper Coalition.

Entergy Enters Renewable Energy Field

Entergy Corp., through its Houston, TX-based independent power development business unit, has purchased majority ownership of the 80-megawatt Top of Iowa Wind Farm, the company’s first investment in wind-powered generation. The project was purchased for an undisclosed amount from Houston-based Zilkha Renewable Energy and its partner, Midwest Renewable Energy Corp.

As part of the transaction, Zilkha and Midwest will retain a long-term minority ownership in the project. Zilkha will continue to manage and operate the project. In February 2001, Alliant Energy signed a long-term contract to purchase 100 percent of the project’s energy output, which is enough to supply approximately 25,000 homes.

Americans Divided Over Risks, Benefits of Genetically Modified Food

The American public is evenly divided over whether genetically modified food and other agricultural biotechnology products hurt or help the environment when given basic information on risks and benefits, according to a poll released by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology as part of a panel discussion it hosted titled “Environmental Savior or Saboteur? Debating the Impacts of Genetic Engineering.”

“Despite a long and often fractious debate about the environmental risks and benefits of biotechnology between critics and supporters, a majority of the American public agrees with neither position,” said Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the initiative. “Initially, people tend to feel slightly more strongly about the risks of the technology, but react more positively when additional information is presented to them. Simply put, it looks like the jury is still out.”

Prior to reading a series of informational statements about the possible benefits and risks of biotechnology, respondents nationwide were more likely to say that the risks of biotechnology outweighed the benefits (40 percent to 33 percent), while 19 percent thought the benefits and risks were about the same, and nine percent were unsure. However, after being read a series of questions about specific environmental risks and benefits (without specifically identifying which were risks or benefits), respondents were exactly evenly divided, with 38 percent saying the risks outweigh the benefits and another 38 percent saying the benefits outweigh the risks. An additional 21 percent now said the risks and benefits were about the same, with the number of “don’t knows” reduced to three percent.

Consumers felt the most important potential environmental benefits of genetic engineering are: creating plants to clean up toxic soils (74 percent); reducing soil erosion (73 percent); reducing fertilizer run-off into streams and lakes (72 percent); reducing the amount of water used to grow crops (68 percent); developing disease-resistant varieties of trees that are threatened or endangered (67 percent); reducing the need to log in native forests (63 percent); and reducing the chemical pesticides used (61 percent).

In terms of environmental concerns, consumers ranked the possibility that genetically modified plants, fish or trees could contaminate ordinary plants, fish and trees not intended to be modified as highest (64 percent), followed by “creating superweeds” (57 percent) and increasing the number of insects that may develop pesticide-resistance (also 57 percent); reducing genetic diversity (49 percent) and changing a plant, fish or tree through biotechnology so that it might harm other species (also 49 percent). Changing the ecosystem ranked lowest of all the risks and benefits listed at 46 percent.

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