Ah, Christmas, a holiday wrapped so tight in nostalgia you almost choke to death. It’s a time to think about the great gifts you could buy if you were a better person and made more money. It’s a time (why wait for New Year’s Eve?) to obsess on the mistakes you’ve made the past year and all the stuff you should have done. It’s a time when people—like ministers and TV announcers—remind you to THINK and REMEMBER. We’re supposed to THINK about the homeless who are cold and hungry while most of us stuff our fat faces (Oink! Oink!). We should REMEMBER our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, I AM thinking of the homeless and, by the time you read this, will have rounded up some warm clothes and canned goods and made a donation to a mission in Birmingham. And I remember our troops and wish they could come home. But mostly I want to FORGET. I want to forget about work for one or two lousy days, lock myself away, listen to Frank Sinatra and drink cheap Scotch. Oh yeah, MERRY FREAKIN’ XMAS! JC
NEWS FLASH! ALABAMA IS BACKWARD!
According to a new report, “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy,” Alabama ranks a pathetic 42nd among the states for transportation policies that address climate change.The report was released by Smart Growth America, the Natural Resources Defense Council and locally by the Conservation Alabama Foundation, according to the Alabama Conservationist e-newsletter. The report targets what it says are America’s inadequate transportation policies related to the environment. According to the newsletter, “With nearly 32 percent of carbon emissions being generated by the transportation sector nationally, states and the federal government need to focus more on walking and biking trails, complete streets policies, greater investment in transit, and reducing vehicle miles traveled.” Learn more about Conservation Alabama at www.conservationalabama.org. JC
LOSING OUT TO THE FRENCH:
Most of us have heard about the bike-sharing programs that many European countries have implemented in their big cities. Those models remain woefully unimplemented in America, but Paris is now looking at another way to leave us in the dust. Last week, Paris officials chose Groupe Ballore, an industrial conglomerate, to implement their new car-sharing program. With a monthly fee of 12 euros ($16) and a security deposit of 250 euros ($335), citizens of Paris can borrow an electric car. The program will be the first of its kind and scale in the world. The program will include 1200 stations around the city and suburbs of Paris where cars can be borrowed and, much like the bike-sharing program, returned at any station. According Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, the plan will be “a revolution in efficiency that will improve our quality of life.” Now if only the United States could step up and get serious about sustainable transportation. Or do we really want to keep being beaten out by the French? AM
GO TO CAMP!
2010 is drawing to a close and, as we all know, it’s that time again—time to make New Year’s resolutions. Yes, it’s time to make promises to ourselves that, in a few weeks time, will lay dead and abandoned in the corner, never to be fulfilled. But the American Camp Association (ACA) has something they’d like for you to add to that list of promises this year: go to a camp! They are not talking about winter camping, of course, but summer camp. According to the ACA, “It’s never too early to think about camp. Now is the perfect time for families to talk about camp and consider all the options available.” So let’s be honest. As the presence of technology around us grows larger and larger by the day, what would be so bad about going somewhere to form a personal relationship with the great outdoors? But there are other benefits as well. According to the ACA, “Camp teaches life lessons–such as teamwork, empathy, independence, and leadership. Camp boosts selfesteem, and makes kids feel good about who they are.” And when we’ve become a society in which kids need antidepressants, a self-esteem boost seems just what the doctor ordered. For more information visit www.acacamps.org. AM
LEED-ING THE WAY:
The Children’s Hospital of Alabama is on its way to becoming the first LEED-certified hospital in Alabama, according to www.buildings.com. According to the site, Johnson Controls worked with the hospital to develop and maintain a central energy plant as part of the hospital’s ongoing expansion. The plant should save the hospital 10 to 12 percent in projected life-cycle costs. “We considered building the utility plant ourselves, but did not want to direct capital dollars towards an additional construction project on top of our ongoing expansion,” says Mike McDevitt, Children’s Hospital executive vice president. “We realized that instead of becoming our own utility provider, we should look at heating and cooling service as a commodity, and purchase it from an efficient energy provider.” JC
Over the past year, Black Warrior Riverkeeper has worked hard to protect the waters we all drink from. It’s tough work, but increased community involvement helps a lot. For example, Sweetwater Brewing Company’s “Save the Black Warrior” campaign helped raise over $10,000 to help buy the Riverkeeper a new patrol boat. Unfortunately, Alabama’s waters are still being threatened.Irresponsible development around the state has made runoff water a serious problem, and many mines, businesses and wastewater treatment plants continue to dump pollutants into the rivers. Fortunately, the Riverkeeper isn’t toothless when it comes to stopping the problems. Earlier this year, Black Warrior Riverkeeper worked closely with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to draw up permit regulations for small municipal separate storm sewer systems. The Riverkeeper fought for a permit that would meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act but, when the planning was over, the Riverkeeper thought the permit fell short. Fortunately, the EPA agreed and, for the first time ever, objected to a state’s proposed stormwater permit. For more information, or to donate your money or time to Riverkeeper, go to www.blackwarriorriver.org. AM
In the spirit of the season—that is, conspicuous consumption—I feel the need to tell you about at least one silly gift item. I’ve been living under a stone, I guess, because I didn’t know that there’s a whole stinking tradition built around ugly Christmas sweaters (probably brought to you by the same people who first had brides and grooms shove cake up each other’s nostrils). And now a company in Indianapolis, Ind., the state that brought you Dan Quayle AND David Letterman, is peddling what they call “the ugly Christmas sweater t-shirt.” Vardagen, which refers to itself as an eco-friendly clothing company, says their “delightfully tacky” t-shirt is “not your grandma’s ugly Christmas sweater.” According to Vardagen owner Jared Ingold—in one of the product pitch e-mails I normally delete with extreme prejudice—“All of our processes are green. Our water-based inks are a great alternative to standard plastisol inks that aren’t environmentally friendly or soft to the touch. We like variances and slight imperfections in our apparel because it has a more artistic feel to it.” Oh, yeah, baby, feel the deer, the moose or the snowman. Only $20 dollars each! Collect all three and get a sample of the late Tom Bosley’s belly-button lint! For more information, visit www.vardagen.com. JC