Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

News from the Green (weekly news and notes)

Greetings, this regular post is going to be my attempt to compile some of the shorter items that come across the Grasshopper’s desk each week, but shouldn’t be overlooked. Some may incite, and others may excite, but that’s the point, right?

For now, I’m calling this feature “News from the Green,” but am open to other titles if readers come up with some compelling ones.

Go Local?

First, something I thought was interesting from a week or so ago about local food vs. organic food, a regular debate in my own household. I know a good deal of the farmers who grow the food we eat, but not all of them are organic. Still, I’d rather see a farmer using little, to no, chemicals and working toward being organic surviving than the field being plowed under to make room for more McMansions or parking lots (cue Joni Mitchell).

According to the Progressive Grocer, consumers apparently might be torn between buying local and buying organic food, according to the results of a survey conducted by Mambo Sprouts MamboTrack research services. The research firm found that while 36.1 percent of natural product consumers said they would choose local produce over organic items, another 33.3 percent said the opposite, and the rest of the respondents weren’t sure which to choose.

In general, consumers reported a preference for food that was both local and organic. Their motives for buying locally grown food were: it was better for the environment and sustainability, due to the reduced environmental impact of transporting food; the belief that much local produce is fresher and healthier, even if it’s not certified organic; and they mistrusted, or were confused by, organic food labels.

Car Sick

Then, we have this tidbit from a recent court ruling right here in Vermont. In essence, the national car manufacturers took to court a new law in Vermont that regulated tailpipe emissions. Their argument is that only the feds have the right to set fuel economy standards, which was seen as an impact of the law. However, a federal judge ruled that Vermont does have the right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

Here’s how it was reported by the Environmental News Service:

BURLINGTON, Vermont, September 12, 2007 (ENS) – A federal court in Vermont today sided with the states that have adopted new clean car standards enacted by California in a decision that paves the way for new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. These standards are expected to reduce global warming emissions from cars some 30 percent when fully implemented in 2016.

The lawsuit was brought by U.S. automakers and dealers, who claimed Vermont regulations setting limits on these emissions are burdensome and cause undue economic harm to the industry while not addressing global warming.

William K. Sessions III, Chief U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Vermont, rejected all of the manufacturers’ and dealers’ challenges to the state greenhouse gas emissions standards, ruling that auto manufacturers can meet the new standards adopted by California and 14 other states.

The ruling is likely to be appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which has generally been welcome to states’ rights in stepping in where the feds have lagged behind. But, you just never know. Years from now, we may point to this ruling as a key item when the documentary WHO KILLED THE INTERNAL COMBUSTION CAR? is airing in theaters.

To read the court’s decision click here.

Saving Green by Building Green

Finally, Wall Street might finally be catching on to this whole “green” thing, especially in the home mortgage market (which has had more than its share of problems). An article in The Wall Street Journal reports that banks and other major institutions are catching on that going green can save some green, and they are willing to give discounts to help people make those choices.

Environmentally conscious homeowners can trick out their homes with a bevy of “green” products, including carpets, windows — even dog beds. Now, they can pay for those homes with green mortgages. Lenders are the latest group to jump on the environmental-marketing bandwagon by pitching mortgage products that offer homebuyers bigger loans or discounts if they are making energy-efficient improvements — or if their new home meets certain efficiency standards. Last month, Citigroup Inc.’s mortgage division launched a program that offers $1,000 off closing costs with its energy-efficient mortgage through the end of the year. Also last month, Bank of America Corp. launched an Energy Credit mortgage, which offers a $1,000 credit toward closing fees for mortgages on new homes that meet efficiency requirements set by the government’s Energy Star program. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s mortgage division recently began offering Expanded Energy Conservation Mortgages in some markets that give borrowers more credit, as well as $500 off closing costs, if they find a builder who will use a specific type of spray-foam insulation.

As with any true reform taken on by the old guard financiers, the devil will be in the details—especially sustainable practices they won’t fund. Still, it may be a step in the right direction.

That’s it for this week’s roundup. Feel free to send us along some of your tips. And, we’ll be back next week with more tidbits, and more news in between.

Have a great weekend!



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