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Sierra magazine
Enjoy Extras

By Avital Binshtock

Athletes' Footprint | Sin City's LEED Jackpot | Sorting Through the 'Wash | Sparkling Clean

Athletes' Footprint

Athletes at the Vancouver Winter Olympic games (February 12-28) care more than the average jock about climate change. As the world warms, their snowy playfields melt away. No wonder, then, that organizers of this year's games are vehement about environmental standards.

Their Web site is pages deep with information about sustainability efforts, including carbon neutrality, green transit (no idling! free bus passes!), rainwater reuse, and building plans altered to preserve wildlife habitats. The roof on the speed skating venue is made of wood salvaged from a pine-beetle infestation, and the Athletes' Village, once a brownfield site, was built to LEED-gold standards.


Sin City's LEED Jackpot

Las Vegas must be feeling guilty about all the unmentionable things that happen (and stay) there. CityCenter, its latest monument to hedonism, is billing itself as one of the world's largest sustainable developments.

Opened in December, the MGM Mirage-owned complex has earned gold and silver LEED ratings for the buildings housing its hotels, restaurants, shops, and condos. Its energy practices save enough each year to power 7,700 homes, its construction reused 230,000 tons of waste (including 80 percent of the razed Boardwalk Hotel), and its landscapers opted for indigenous flora. There's also preferred parking for alt-fuel cars, a bicycle valet, and a fleet of natural-gas-powered limos.


Sorting Through the 'Wash

You've likely encountered more than a few items splashed with false claims of planet-friendliness. In fact, 98 percent of products promoted as ecofriendly are guilty of some form of greenwashing, concludes a recent study by eco-marketing firm Terra-Choice.

To sidestep public relations ploys, read the company's "Seven Sins of Greenwashing" or view and rate advertising assertions at Greenwashing Index. Quick tips: Be skeptical, look for certification, and trust your common sense (claims of being chlorofluorocarbon-free, for example, are unimpressive, since the compounds are illegal).


Sparkling Clean

This New Year's Eve, glorious bursts of fireworks illuminated the sky as each time zone rotated into 2010. Happily, the post-celebration air wasn't as dirty as in years past, according to new research by the American Chemical Society. Chemists have devised ways to replace the notoriously noxious ingredients in pyrotechnics with cleaner materials that discharge fewer pollutants and leave less smoke. Now that the science is in place, the challenge is to convince event organizers to pay extra for the newfangled sparklers.


Photos, from top: VANOC/COVAN, CityCenter Land, courtesy of TerraChoice

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