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Carrot & Stick: March 2008

Who walks the walk, who's nothing but talk

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Oberlin College

, in Ohio, for raising the bar on eco-minded practices on campuses. The school had the state’s first car-sharing program, local food is a staple in dining halls, and half of campus electricity is from renewable sources. It also created a Web-based system to monitor dorm energy usage; 16 dorms competed to save the most electricity last spring. “Ecolympics,” a series of activities promoting sustainability education, begins March 31. “Our students can take the lessons they’ve learned and apply those for the rest of their lives,” says Nathan Engstrom of Oberlin’s Office of Environmental Sustainability. “That’s how real change happens.”

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), for alerting consumers about misleading health claims on food products. Among those cited are Kellogg’s Special K Fruit & Yogurt cereal, which “combines the crunch of whole grain goodness, the smooth creaminess of yogurt and the sweet taste of berries,” yet has no berries or real yogurt, and barely any whole wheat. Smucker’s Simply Fruit, Gerber Graduates Juice Treats, Multigrain Tostitos, and Sara Lee Fruits of the Forest Deep Dish Pie are also on the list. “Companies say just about anything to give their product a health halo,” says Bonnie Liebman, CSPI’s nutrition director. “Consumers need to read labels to get the whole story—and even then it’s not always clear.”

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., for adding solar panels to existing fuel cells that will provide about 75 percent of the vegan brewery’s power. The panels will be fully operational this spring, and the brewery will be completely self-sufficient when the sun is at its peak. Sierra Nevada is a model of sustainability with its programs in recycling, carbon-dioxide recovery, and wastewater treatment. Other green breweries include wind-powered New Belgium Brewing and Brooklyn Brewery.


Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, for telling the Financial Times that people who pay extra for organic or local foods are “dumb.” After a slew of irate letters, the Minnesota Democrat issued a statement that he “wanted to point out that the market now pays a premium for organic and locally grown products, and that is a good thing for producers and a new opportunity in agriculture.” Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, says, “All along Peterson’s been procorporate agribusiness and genetically engineered crops. He’s trying to cover his butt.”

Animal Control Solutions (ACS), a Puerto Rico government contractor, whose workers seized dozens of cats and dogs from public housing projects in Barceloneta, then threw the pets off a bridge to their deaths instead of taking them to a shelter. A $22.5 million lawsuit again ACS and city officials was filed in October by families whose pets were snatched under rules prohibiting pets at the projects. The owner of ACS said there’s no proof his company was responsible for the massacre, but a lawyer involved with the suit says that half a dozen animals who survived the incident were later identified by their owners.

Todd Willens, a deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, for recommending the Everglades be taken off a list of endangered U.N. World Heritage Sites, even though that went against the National Parks Service and the World Heritage Committee’s own advisory group. The U.N., which usually honors the requests of a site’s country, took the environmentally troubled Everglades off its list. Willens says “significant on-the-ground work has already been accomplished,” but others disagree. “Every year it gets worse and wildlife is suffering,” says Sara Fain, Everglades Restoration Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.

—Rona Cherry