This Week in TreeHugger: Bill Clinton Riffs on Emissions during a Slow Climate Week, Plus Brad On Green Building, Byrne On the Cycling-Dog Poop Connection, and Urine on Your Tomatoes

Treehuggers were all over the map this week: Brian Merchant sat down with Bill Clinton on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative, while Matthew McDermott had breakfast with IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri. On the other end of the spectrum, we contemplated picking up dog poop and the virtues of peeing on our plants (see below).

In the photo department, a few Treehuggers checked in on PARK(ing) Day around the country, Jacob Gordon checked out the sustainable offerings on view at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

After sitting in on a series of somewhat windy grassroots events, speeches at the U.N. Summit on Climate Change (including a promising but vague one by China), film openings and demonstrations, Matthew McDermott wonders if Climate Week was little more than a gigantic exercise in expectation management.

Expectations may be a bit lower this week as the Senate dives into the climate bill. Not lowering expectations is Nicholas Stern, who wants to get past talking about percentage reductions in carbon dioxide output and start measuring carbon cuts in the more important unit of gigatons.

To lower that number, we often think of making power generation and transport more efficient, but Michael Graham Richard points us to a new EPA study that indicates there's much CO2 to be saved by waste reduction and recycling. If we did what they recommend, we could cut U.S. CO2 emissions by about 354 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. That's a big "if" of course.

Hoping to avoid the mistakes of compact florescent lightbulbs (the color! the delay!), the Environmental Protection Agency has launched a $10 million contest to find a 60-watt bulb equivalent that only uses 10 watts of electricity. It must also last 25 times as long as a normal lightbulb (roughly 25,000 hours) and be at least 75 percent produced in the United States. Ten million dollars sounds like a lot, but consider the greater benefits of such a lightbulb: national savings of an estimated 5.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year and enough energy to power 17.4 million homes.

As Apple threw a lifecycle analysis of its products on its website, Jacob Gordon interviews the deputy editor of Newsweek about the magazine's recent (and controversial) list of America's greenest companies.

John Laumer explains why the U.S. Green Building Council's new labeling idea may not be such a good idea: apart from the political obstacles and the implications for neighborhood development, the labels would likely either be too vague or too specific, and quickly lose their impact. Perhaps more crucial for the future of green building, writes Brian Merchant: Brad Pitt

What Pitt may be to green building, David Byrne may be to cycling. The Talking Head knows that shifting attitudes towards cyclists-and attitudes about good behavior in general-are inevitable and infectious, and he cites New Yorkers relationship with dog poop as an example.

While we're on that topic: we knew that peeing in public is generally good for the environment, and doing it in the shower can help save the rainforest. But it's also good for tomatoes (just don't pee on your neighbors' patch). In fact, urine's one of the best kept secrets of gardening.

In a speed test of 18 different types of transport, covering a distance of about 10 kilometers (more than six miles) during rush hour in Sao Paulo, the winner will be-you guessed it-cyclists. As Paula Alvarado reports, they reached their destination faster than a helicopter. The cyclists, a runner, a bus, and a skater all took less time than the car, which took a nerve-racking 82 minutes.

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less