The ULS Report TM
Helping people Use Less Stuff by conserving resources and reducing waste.

April-May-June 2000
Volume7, Number 2


Helping people Use Less Stuff by conserving resources and reducing waste. That, my dear readers, has been our goal these past six years. And that is why I am dedicating this, most likely our last issue, to The Lorax. The Lorax spoke for the trees, for the trees have no voice of their own. The Lorax spoke for the Brown Barba-Loots, who once ate the truffula fruits off the trees but who now have crummies in their tummies because there are not enough truffula fruits left. The Lorax spoke for the Swomee-Swans who couldn’t sing with smog in their throats. The Lorax spoke for the Humming-Fish who couldn’t swim with their gills all gummed by the pollution in the lakes. The Lorax spoke out against the Oncelers because he knew that not everyone needs a thnead. That old Lorax believed that having less stuff was truly more!

Just because we are saying goodbye doesn’t mean it has to end here. We can make a difference. You can make a difference. To help, we have taken information passed on over the years and restated it in terms of family member responsibilities. Remind your children that even playing a very small part can indeed help improve our environment.


The Big Picture

Our real environmental problems are due to the ways in which increasingly affluent, ever larger populations produce and consume food, water and energy. We’ve said this many times. The Union of Concerned Scientists has began saying it, too. Thus, it is time to stop worrying about the little things that may feel good to do, but don’t really improve the environment.

Reducing the amount of materials and energy that are consumed or wasted will have a far more favorable environmental impact than recycling glass bottles or worrying about which type of bag to choose at the market or which type of diaper to buy. So have your family use our tips, and speak out against The Onclers and become the voice of The Lorax.

Thanks for a great six and a half years, and please keep on using less stuff!


Bob Lilienfeld, Editor

What You Can Do


-- If possible, choose a place to live that reduces the need to drive -- remember that transportation is responsible for about one-third of energy consumed in the U.S.

-- Make your next car more fuel-efficient — especially you SUV drivers.

-- Consolidate trips. Going to the west side of town? Think about everything you can do while over there, rather than making separate journeys. (Kids, if you’re meeting friends at the skating rink or mall, see if you can carpool. Better yet, take the bus -- you can talk without worrying about your parents overhearing.)

-- Compost yard wastes and grass clippings. This is the key to maintaining a healthy lawn and garden. (And a note to you gardeners Resist the urge to turn your yard into a farm. Grow only what you or your friends can use.)

-- Cut the grass with a mulching mower to save time and resources while reducing waste. Since mulch acts as a fertilizer, you save money and reduce the amount of chemicals that seep into ground water and aquifers. (We realize that you kids are going to hate not having to rake up all that excess. We suggest using that extra energy to rollerblade to your friend’s house rather than having your mom drive you.)

-- Water the lawn in the early morning or evening, not during the heat o f the day. This way water will soak into the ground instead of evaporating. But if the young ones insist on running through the sprinkler on a hot day, rotate it every now and then so you are not just watering the sidewalk or the same old piece of grass.

-- When picnicking, pack food and drinks in reusable containers and bags. Clean plastic grocery bags are great for holding ice. Not only will your food stay cold in the cooler, but you’ll have ice for drinks and a bag for the garbage when you’re done.

-- Moms and Dads can work to improve the efficiency of home appliances, heating and cooling systems. Dust off coils and clean or change filters.

-- Spend less time in front of the TV and computer. Not only will it save energy, but it might bring you closer as a family.

-- Use the library. It’s a great source for magazine exchanges or checking out the latest video or CD. You can even borrow a book there for free!

-- Thinking about buying something? Try the 30-Day Rule. If you still want it 30 days from the first time you saw it, chances are it’s something to really consider purchasing. Waiting the 30 days helps eliminate impulse buying.



-- Walk, bike, rollerblade. It's fun and energy efficient.

-- The lunchroom is not what it used to be. Tell your parents to get with it. You want a reusable lunch box or one of those great insulated bags.

-- Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. It seems like such a simple thing, but it can make a huge difference. (Don't forget to turn it off when you're done, too!)

-- Turn off the lights, computer, TV, stereo, or video game when you're not using it. Here's a good rule of thumb If you leave the room, shut it off!

-- Need a nightlight? Have your parents put it on a timer, or buy one that is photosensitive and shuts off at sunrise. No big deal.

-- Doing laundry? You need those cool pants for the big date, but they're dirty. Would it really kill you to throw in some more clothes to make it a full load? I don’t think so! Not only is it better for the environment, but you’ll probably score points with the parental units as well.

-- Fun without electricity Try playing a board game. (It's something your parents used to do.)

-- Got the munchies? Don’t hang with the refrigerator door open. Decide what you want and grab it quick.

-- Mother to Mother sales are a great thing. Let your mom and her friends in on it. Clothes and toy swapping are a great way to get something new without using up more resources.

-- Fewer toys enhance creativity and exercise the imagination. An old box, some string and crayons can be more fun than many new toys.

-- Conserve paper. Ask your teacher if you can hand in reports electronically, or print them on scrap paper.

-- When birthday invitations arrive, try making the gift wrap yourself out of newspapers, magazine ads, etc. Also, consider buying gifts that are both thoughtful and consumption reducing. These include tickets to concerts, movies, skating rinks and sporting events. Gift certificates to local book, record and clothing stores also make sure your friends choose something they really want, and thus won't end up throwing away.

-- Ask your parents or other family members for resource-saving gifts that provide services, not material products. How about music, dance or skating lessons? Maybe stocks or bonds to start that high-powered portfolio?


-- Molly, our cat, meows that clumping cat litters are preferable. You scoop out only what's been used, making litter last longer and the box easier to clean. You might also try newer litters made from recycled newspaper.

-- Nick, our dog, barks that old tennis balls, stuffed animals and knotted socks make great toys.

-- Nick begs you to have your pet spayed or neutered. The local humane society is a great resource.

-- Plastic deli containers make good food and water bowls. They also make good food scoops, as do gallon milk jugs. Use a large knife to cut along the diagonal, handle-side up. Recycle the excess.

-- Buy food (and litter) in bulk. Use dry rather than moist. You’ll save money, store trips, and energy. Our figures show that bulk foods bought in paper or plastic reduce packaging waste by 75% versus moist foods bought in cans. As for taste, Nick's prep tip is to mix water with dry food to make a nice gravy.

-- Both Molly and Nick concur Old towels and pillowcases make great bed liners.



I've Got Good News...

Cancer Rates Decline

According to an annual report, U.S. cancer rates are falling faster than ever and death rates are also down. Researchers say that both are due mostly to a decline in cigarette smoking among men. And despite Americans’ bad eating habits and reluctance to undergo cancer screening, rates of colon cancer are also down.

The report, compiled by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, showed that the number of new cancer cases declined on average 0.8 percent per year between 1990 and 1997.

According to a statistician who helped write the report, mortality rates peaked around 1991. They went down 1.7 percent per year in 1995 to 1997 -- the biggest drop ever.


Fuel Cell Technology Continues to Improve

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that if only 10% of automobiles nationwide were powered by fuel cells, regulated air pollutants would be cut by one million tons per year and 60 million tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide would be eliminated. With these savings in mind, Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, Canada recently introduced the Mark 900, a new fuel cell only half the size of its predecessors. Ford promplty unveiled its TH!NK FC5 prototype passenger sedan, which is powered by the new cells.

Ballard is also working with Coleman Powermate to develop fuel cell powered products for portable and standby power markets. Coleman Powermate is a North American leader in portable electric generators.


Ford Admits SUVs Not Environmently Friendly

In an unusual move, The Ford Motor Company has admitted that sport utility vehicles (SUVs) cause serious safety and environmental problems. The company is the only automotive manufacturer to admit to such a statement, and says that it is working to solve the problems caused by these vehicles.

Ford recently issued its first "corporate citizen report," which stated that compared to cars, SUVs contribute more to global warming, emit more pollutants and endanger other motorists. The company stated that because of their high level of profitability, SUVs will continue being built, but that the company will seek technological solutions and look for alternatives to the big vehicles.

When asked to explain their admission, Chairman William Clay Ford stated, "The court of public opinion sometimes decides before you're ready for them to decide, and I want to make sure that we're ahead of the curve."


...and Bad News

Research Reveals Additional Pollution Sources

The U.S. mining and electric utility industries are the worst U.S. polluters, according to a more sophisticated analysis released by U.S. regulators Thursday. The report showed that such pollution is three times worse than previously thought.

For the first time, electric utilities and mining facilities were included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual toxic inventory report, in an expanded version that includes seven industrial sectors.

Some 7.3 billion pounds of these pollutants were disposed of in 1998, the last year for which data are available — a figure three times that of the previous measure, according to the EPA report which was designed to inform communities about potential health risks from industry. The new EPA data apparently revealed that up to 63 percent of the new total comes from the mining and electric utility industries.


Auto Pollution Also Underestimated

According to the National Research Council, an Environmental Protection Agency computer program that analyzes pollution from cars and trucks often underestimates emissions, so regulators must develop more accurate methods to protect the public health. The computer model known as MOBILE has been used by the EPA since 1978 to estimate emissions of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. It underpins most federal rules for car emissions and fuel standards.

The software program is also used to assess the effectiveness of state and local air quality programs. "EPA uses these estimates to develop regulations and programs for protecting air quality," said Armistead Russell, chairman of a National Research Council committee that analyzed the computer program. "These estimates need to be as accurate as possible so that pollution control programs, which cost many millions of dollars, are effective in protecting the environment and public health," said Russell, an environmental engineering professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The panel of academics and independent scientists cited several ways in which MOBILE underestimates pollutants. The computer program "substantially" underestimates volatile organic compounds — material that forms ozone — from cars and trucks, according to the report. The MOBILE technique also underestimates nitrogen oxides emissions from diesel trucks, and particulate matter emission rates are "highly uncertain," the report said.

The report urged the EPA to develop a "tool kit" of other computer modeling techniques to supplement the existing system. The 22 year old system was originally developed to measure regional emissions, and is considered to be out of date.


Reduction Roundup...

Peddling It -- Total EV, a distributor of electric bicycles and scooters, said Wednesday it will peddle Chrysler Corporation founder Lee Iacocca’s E-Bike. Iacocca’s company, EV Global Motors, makes the bikes. "By putting electric bicycles in every garage, we’ll improve our quality of life, help clean up the environment and have a little fun. That’s why we’re excited about our new partnership with Total EV — we share a commitment to a cleaner, safer, more enjoyable future," Iacocca said.

Up from the Dumps -- NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will soon heat its buildings by burning landfill gas. A contract with Toro energy provides for the modification of two Goddard boilers in the space center’s central heating plant, installation of a pipeline to transport landfill gas, and construction of a gas-treatment facility at Sandy Hill landfill in Bowie, Maryland. For more info, contact Jim Sahli at (301)286-0697.

Assault on Batteries -- A consortium of automakers and suppliers is on course to replace 12-volt car batteries with new 36-volt batteries. The manufacturers say high-tech gadgets such as cell phones and navigation systems cause cars to consume more gas and produce more emissions. "Higher voltage automotive systems will provide power for more customer features and will also lower emissions and gasoline consumption," said Rick Johnson, chairman of the Storage Battery Standards Committee of the Society of Automotive Engineers and a product engineer at Boulder Technologies in Golden, Colorado. The batteries may be standard on luxury cars as early as 2003.

Less Fuelish -- Volkswagen of America will test synthetic oil and transportation fuels for use in diesel engines. The tests will be conducted as part of a new power train development program to further define the benefits of alternative fuels in future engine designs. The fuels are being developing by Syntroleum Corporation of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company states that its synthetic fuels are more environmentally friendly than conventional ones because they are virtually free of sulfur, aromatics and heavy metals.


The ULS Report is a quarterly publication of Partners for Environmental Progress. Send e-mail to

Snail mail address: P.O. Box 130116, Ann Arbor, MI 48113
Phone: 734-668-1690
Fax: 734-930-0506

Editor: Robert Lilienfeld
Technical Advisor: Dr. William Rathje

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