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By Marilyn Berlin Snell
The verdant Irish countryside, as well as the nations landfills, is seeing fewer plastic shopping bags since the government started taxing them. Last March, after a 15-cent levy was introduced nationwide, plastic-bag requests plummeted 90 percent. (In 2001 an estimated 1.2 billion freebies had been handed over to shoppers.) The fee convinced consumers to dig out those cloth bags scrunched up in the back of the closet or to invest in a few new ones. After just a few months, the tax contribution of those still addicted to plastic exceeded $3 millionall of which will be spent protecting Irelands environment, according to government officials. The program has been so successful that the United Kingdom plans to introduce a similar tax soon.
Prison in the Sun
Where is the largest rooftop solar-power system in the United States? On a school or a high-tech corporate headquarters somewhere? Nope, its on a prison in the San Francisco Bay Area. Once the largest energy sucker of all the government facilities in its county, last year Santa Rita Jail installed three acres of solar photovoltaic panels atop 14 of its 18 housing units. The sprawling project is the fourth-largest solar electric system in the world and produces 1.4 million kilowatts of power. In its first year it saved the 2,000-bed facility nearly half a million dollars. For its good work, the jail just won a Department of Energy Green Power Award.
A Greener Way to Go
Motorists who wanted hotel discounts and a little insurance against getting lost or stranded once had few options besides the American Automobile Association. But that Good Samaritan has a dark side. Over the years, AAA has spent a portion of its 43 million members dues to fight clean-air initiatives while sitting out key consumer-safety battles, including the push for mandatory air bags.
To the rescue of the wary traveler comes the Better World Travelers Club (www.betterworldclub.com). Launched last year, the Oregon-based company provides roadside assistance and travel services while spending 1 percent of its revenue on cutting fossil-fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions. The club also steers clients toward eco-tours and lodgings that are energy efficient and Earth-friendly. For those who need wheels, it also offers discounts of up to 20 percent on electric and hybrid car rentals.
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