PROGRESS IN GREEN: There’s no better place to find a review of Alabama’s eco-year than the new 2010 Green Progress Report, published by the Green Resource Center for Alabama. The report highlights some of the steps taken last year to make Alabama a more environmentally friendly place. The 12-page report contains about 50 items divided into six areas—government initiatives; recycling; habitat/species protection and restoration; green buildings, green communities; water conservation and quality; and parks, trails and greenways.
Among the highlights is news about the new Alabama Saves program, which provides low-interest loans for energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects at existing Alabama businesses. Learn more about the program, administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, at www.alabamasaves.com.
More people in Alabama are recycling, the GRCA tells us. “A host of non-profit organizations, government agencies, businesses, universities and individuals are continuing their efforts to broaden recycling’s reach in Alabama,” according to the report. In West Jefferson County, 18-year-old Taylor Cate organized a volunteer task force that will pick up recyclable items free of charge from area homes. Learn more about his project at www.recycleyourstuff.org.
Because of the horrific Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last spring, there is a lot of activity around restoration of the Gulf Coast. The Nature Conservancy has released a report called “Gulf 20/20” that describes actions we can take to reverse the long years of damage done to the coastal ecosphere by development and pollution, even before the spill occurred. Read more at www.nature.org.
Last October, Jefferson County adopted “SmartCode” amendments to its zoning rules that allow development of walkable, villagestyle, mixed-use neighborhoods that conserve land and energy and reduce traffic and sprawl, according to the report.
Many organizations and business are harvesting rainwater, according to the GRCA, including Birmingham-Southern College and Alabama Power. This practice helps reduce the storm water run-off that causes erosion and pollutes waterways.
There’s also good news regarding the efforts of state agencies to increase the number of trails available in Alabama. The state now has a state trails commission, created this year by the legislature. The Alabama Tourism Department and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have joined forces to combine eight regional birding trails in the state into a single statewide network called the Alabama Birding Trails. And nine Alabama trails were officially designated this year as National Recreational Trails. There’s much more at www.greenalabama.org.
LEARNING ABOUT OUR WATERS: Alabama has over 77,000 miles of rivers and streams with more freshwater species than any other state, according to the Alabama Rivers Alliance. If you’d like to help protect those precious waterways, you can take part in the 13th annual ARA-sponsored Alabama Water Rally Conference, which will take place March 11-13 at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo. The WRC is an annual education event for those involved with water protection in the state. Participants include citizens, teachers, scientists, lawyers, engineers, nature lovers and government officials. The conference will include sessions on such topics as watershed activism, watershed policy and watershed science. There will also be field trips, live music and time to hike or take a canoe trip. To learn more—or to read the ARA’s recently released annual report regarding the health of Alabama’s waterways— visit www.alabamarivers.org.
TWEET TWEET, Y’ALL: If you’d like to learn more about Alabama’s native birds, the Alabama Wildlife Center has the program for you. It’s called Get Wild and is meant to promote bird conservation and stewardship. Get Wild happens the first Saturday of each month at 1 p.m. at the AWC, located at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham. The next program is scheduled for February 5. Each Get Wild installment is hosted by wild bird educators and may include an introduction to a resident glove-trained education bird or a visit to the AWC rehabilitation clinic. Admission to AWC is free after a park entrance fee (adults $3; seniors and children $1; children under 6 years of age admitted free). The non-profit AWC was founded in 1977 and is Alabama’s oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation organization. The Center helps more than 1,600 native wild birds from over 100 species each year. To learn more about the AWC and Get Wild, visit www.awrc.org.
YOU REMEMBER TO PLUG IT IN? According to Anniston Star editor-at-large John Fleming, “One way to beat the gas-price pinch is to get yourself a vehicle that goes easy on the stuff, or in the case of one new auto, doesn’t use gas at all.” In his recent article “Going green can help you save green,” Fleming discusses the pros and cons of the Nissan Leaf, the world’s newest mass-produced all-electric vehicle. The Leaf handles well, seats five, can go 90 miles per hour and, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, gets about 99 miles per gallon. But you can only drive the thing about 75 miles before you have to recharge it, which can take seven hours, and the battery charger alone costs several thousand dollars. The Leaf, even after a hefty federal tax credit, costs about $26,000, which Fleming notes is a rather high price for what amounts to an ordinary sedan. And the company only built 20,000 for the year, all of which are spoken for. However, Dale Benton, a Nissan dealer in Anniston, tells Fleming he expects the Leaf to become popular. “I do believe it will be a slow process, but I think it will revolutionize the whole industry,” Benton says. “I think there’s a market for it nationwide, and I think there’s a market for it around here.” According to Fleming, other companies, including Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen, are working on their own all-electric vehicles. Read the entire article, which also discusses hybrid vehicles, at www.annistonstar.com.
“MOM, MY EYES FEEL REALLY WEIRD” Japanese game maker Nintendo is warning parents that its new 3-D portable game machine may not be healthy for little kids’ eyes. In fact, no one under 6 years old should play 3-D games on the new device, the 3DS, which lets gamers play games in 3-D without the use of special glasses, according to Winda Benedetti, writing for the In-Game blog at www.msnbc.com. Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told gaming site Kotaku.com, “We will recommend that very young children not look at 3-D images. That’s because, [in] young children, the muscles for the eyes are not fully formed.” The gadget is scheduled to go on sale in Japan in February and North America and other areas in March. Earlier this year, according to Benedetti, Sony issued similar warnings about playing 3-D games (with glasses) on the PlayStation 3 console.
Jesse Chambers is a Birmingham Weekly contributing editor. Birmingham Weekly intern Andy McWhorter will be back in Green Briefs next week. Check out his Hot Seat & Limelight feature in this issue. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.