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Scorned Trash Pickers Become Global Environmental Force

Jack Chang, McClatchy Newspapers
As the world scrambles to save dwindling resources and halt global warming, a long-scorned population is becoming the latest hope in the environmental battle.0325 07

The unsung heroes are the impoverished trash pickers who fill the streets of countless cities around the developing world, searching garbage for cardboard, plastic bags and other treasure that can be sold and recycled.

Every day, they rescue hundreds of thousands of tons of material from streets and trash dumps that get reprocessed into all kinds of products. That not only cuts back on the resources used by industries but also lightens the load on dumps that are quickly reaching capacity.

Despite their contributions, trash pickers have long suffered harassment from local governments and derision from neighbors, who often consider them vagrants or even criminals. Such attitudes, however, are changing, trash pickers said, and they’re increasingly being seen as foot soldiers in the global warming battle.
(25 March 2008)
Re-posted at Common Dreams

Now for the shower without glory

Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald
As climate change – and our need to limit it – catches up with us, perhaps we need to examine more critically some of our daily habits. So let me ask you a personal question: how often do you take a shower?

If your answer is daily, you wouldn’t hesitate to tell me. If your answer is twice a day, you may be quite proud of the fact. If your answer is two or three times a week, you’d probably prefer me to mind my own business.

But consider this: when you remember how much energy and water we use for our showering, the day may not be far distant when that order is reversed. When the person who showers only a few times a week is pleased to tell you so, while the person still showering twice a day doesn’t like to admit it.

Does that prospect appal you? Do you shudder at the thought of conditions deteriorating to the point where we’re all walking around dirty?

If so, I have news, courtesy of an eye-opening book I’ve been reading by the British sociologist Elizabeth Shove, Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience.

I guess most of us like to believe that showering – or bathing, for that matter – is about cleanliness. About getting rid of dirt and germs so as to maintain a high standard of personal hygiene and prevent the spread of disease.

Don’t kid yourself. We could do all we needed to do to prevent disease with far fewer showers. If we were really on about hygiene, we’d put a lot more emphasis on thorough, soapy hand-washing and a lot less on showers.

They don’t shout it too loudly, but many dermatologists disapprove of all the showering we do, particularly the way we soap up every time as though we’ve just fallen into a manure heap. All that unnecessary soap and water leaches the natural oils from our skin.
(26 March 2008)
Recommended by Peak Energy’s Big Gav. Saves energy two ways – from heating the water, and from the not-unsubstantial energy costs of harvesting, treating and delivering the water itself. Despite the theoretical advantages, the proposal has had a less-than-enthusiastic reception in our household. Still – it seems to help dry skin. -BA

Project Laundry List:
“Hanging Out” is Time Well Spent

Shane Clements, Orion Grassroots Network
Project Laundry List uses words, images, and advocacy to educate people about how simple lifestyle modifications, including air-drying one’s clothes, reduce our dependence on environmentally and culturally costly energy sources. Through programs like the Million Solar Dryers Pledge and by promoting the Right to Dry (currently being considered by legislators in Connecticut, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Vermont), Project Laundry List, according to the Wall Street Journal, has “spearheaded an international movement,” and the New York Times has written, “[Project Laundry List’s] Web site,, is an encyclopedia on the energy advantages of hanging laundry.”

April 19 is National Hanging Out Day, and rather than just sit around you should grab a friend or two and some clothespins, and fight for your right to dry. Founded in 1998, National Hanging Out Day advocates the use of clotheslines (or the “solar dryer”) as an alternative to the expensive and inefficient electric dryer.

In the past, college campuses and various activists have simply hung their clothing in a visible location or worn a t-shirt with a slogan on it. You could organize something similar in your own community. Just get involved and be creative!

Believe it or not, use of the solar dryer has actually been severely restricted or even outright banned in some areas. ‘Right to Dry’ legislation just went up for review in New Hampshire and failed to pass. Connecticut’s version of the bill will be voted on soon and in Ontario a rule-making process is underway to solicit public comment about how to change the laws.

The state of California is especially notorious for its ban on the clothesline; nearly all 35,000 homeowners’ associations have rules against the solar dryer. Don’t let this stop you from getting involved. Try to find ways to work with your community association to get the rules changed. In Geneva, Switzerland, a resident hung a clothesline that said ‘this is not a clothesline’ after the police told her they would be fined if she continued to air dry her clothing (seen at right)

Shane Clements is president of an environmental group at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, NH and has collaborated with Project Laundry List on several occasions.
(March 2008)
Pointed out by Erik Hoffner at Gristmill.

Choosing Renewable Energy

John Gulland and Wendy Milne, Mother Earth News
The decision to power our home with renewable energy has offered many challenges, but also many rewards.

Although people often talk about being more “self-reliant” and achieving “energy independence,” Wendy Milne says her experience with renewable energy has been that it becomes a community effort, with friends and family eager to learn more about these sustainable technologies.

We began our journey toward household energy independence about eight years ago, and we now rely almost exclusively on wood, wind and solar energy to power and heat our home, offices and workshop. We still have grid electricity available at the flip of a switch, but we avoid using it unless we have to. This is a report from the front lines of our transition to renewables. Over the last eight years we’ve spent a lot of money and made some big mistakes. On the other hand, we’ve found that the challenges offer great learning opportunities, and the journey to energy self-sufficiency is endlessly engaging and deeply rewarding.
(April/May 2008)
Author writes at The Oil Drum:
“This is not a glowing article about how fabulous renewables are. It deals with the gritty reality of our (my) screwups, glitches and high costs. … Virtually all other articles I’ve read on the subject seem to imply that home energy independence is easy. We have no regrets at all about our efforts, but it certainly hasn’t been easy.” [some discussion follows at the TOD link]

Bambi and Nemo are ‘unsung heroes of the green lobby’

They have been dismissed as trite, sentimental and conservative, but Disney films may be more radical than they first appear. A Cambridge academic this week hailed its cartoon stars as “unsung heroes of the green lobby”.

According to David Whitley, an English professor at Cambridge University, Disney pictures such as Bambi, The Lion King and The Jungle Book have helped generations of children gain “critical awareness of contested environmental issues.”
(25 March 2008)