The Daily Grist: March 22

I'd Like to Buy the World a Fiasco
Pollutant Taints Coke's Bottled Water in U.K.

Coca-Cola's attempts to enter the burgeoning U.K. bottled-water market have gone, shall we say,
less than swimmingly. The story begins with the debut of Dasani bottled water in the U.K. two weeks ago, accompanied by a massive Coke PR push labeling it "as pure as bottled water gets." Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Coke's southeast London bottling plant was using tap water already renowned for its purity and marking up the price by some 300,000 percent. Next, the company's self-described "highly sophisticated purification process," allegedly based on NASA spacecraft technology, was exposed as reverse osmosis, a simple process used in virtually all domestic water-purification units. But wait, it gets worse. The main event occurred last Friday, when Coke admitted that in the process of adding calcium to its water, it inadvertently polluted it with bromate, a chemical suspected of causing cancer. The company then announced a full recall of all 500,000 bottles already on the shelves. Ouch.

Co2 Much
A Decade After First Climate-Change Treaty, CO2 Still on the Rise

Ten years ago this week, the U.S. hopped on board the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first international treaty on global warming, out of which grew the better-known Kyoto Protocol. President George H.W. Bush signed the treaty at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; it went into effect in 1994. Since then, the U.S. has joined many of its co-signatories in
more or less ignoring the treaty's provisions, which include a call for cutbacks in carbon-dioxide emissions. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan used the anniversary to call on Russia to ratify Kyoto; with the U.S. having pulled out of Kyoto under President George W. Bush, Russia's participation is needed if the agreement is to go into effect. "We are quickly moving to the point where the damage [from global warming] will be irreversible," said Jonathan Pershing of the World Resources Institute. In ominous related news, the Mauna Loa Observatory, perched atop a Hawaiian volcano, has reported record-high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere -- 379 parts per million, for those of you keeping score at home.

Ingrate Britain
European Industry Protests Plans to Cut CO2 Emissions

European
industry groups are protesting aggressive efforts to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. In the U.K., a draft national plan targets reductions of 20 percent by 2010, almost double what's mandated by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The country's electricity generators, which will be particularly hard-hit by the plan, claim it will send jobs abroad and raise electricity prices. In other news, confidential -- but subsequently leaked -- memos sent to E.U. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association and the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, which together represent every major automaker, take issue with European plans to stem emissions from cars. The memo from European automakers estimates that E.U. CO2 goals will add almost $5,000 to the price of every car and argues that "car buyers are not prepared to pay any extra for cleaner, more environmentally friendly cars." Duncan McLaren of Friends of the Earth Scotland chastised the industry groups for "choosing to ignore the massive detrimental impacts society is already beginning to suffer as a result of pollution-induced climate change."

Unencumbered Lumber
Consumers Have Eco-Friendly Wood Choices

The growing trend toward eco-friendly consumer products has reached the wood flooring industry. Eco-conscious consumers, builders, and architects who want to lay or refurbish wood floors can now choose from a number of green options.
Fast-growing bamboo -- new plants take four to six years to reach maturity -- harvested in China and other Asian countries makes for a resilient, light-colored floor that's reasonably cheap. The bark of the cork oak tree, found in Spain, Portugal, and North Africa, can be almost entirely stripped each harvest without harming the tree, which regenerates itself. The cork is ground up, mixed with glue, and used to make relatively cushy wood floor tiles. Another favorite eco-friendly option is reclaimed lumber -- although it tends to be more expensive, as nails and such are removed from it by hand, wood from barns and homes built in the 19th century can include beautiful old-growth pine and chestnut. Finally, there's always sustainably grown wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

For more environmental news and humor go to Grist Magazine.

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