Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hot Air Oscars: Recyclemania and Eastern Washington University dining services

I'm happy to announce the launch of the first annual "Hot Air Oscars".
These awards go to the person or organization who (in the judgment of the panel) best exemplify the modern-day survival skills of greenwash and twaddle-emission. There will be awards for "most misleading advertising", for "best use of magic playing fields", for "best doublespeak", for "most creative use of the word 'zero'", for "best bogus comparison", for "best speaking with many faces", for "best supporting liar", for "best inflated difference", and for "best conparison".
Nominations may be sent to David MacKay. Shortlisted achievements will be featured on this blog over the next month or two. The winners of the Hot Air Oscars will be announced in mid 2009.

Opening nominations...
The first nomination in the "best green spin" category is the fine attempt by David McKay [no relation], director of dining services at Eastern Washington University (EWU), and Paul Kyle, associate director of dining services, to put a positive spin on their decision to use disposable Styrofoam plates and bowls in the cafeteria. "Our goal is to lessen the amount of BODs [organic pollutants in water] by washing fewer dishes," said Kyle; "The use of Styrofoam plates and bowls is an excellent energy source for the waste-to-energy plant," said McKay.
or to put it another way, Styrofoam plates are great because you can just throw them away and burn them. They claim that this initiative somehow ties in with a local initiative called Recyclemania.

I am sure the environment is thanking them for their efforts, but not everyone is so supportive. Laci Hubbard, president of the Eastern Environmental Club, said that while the group is pleased that Dining Services has been supportive of ... Recyclemania, they are "concerned about the move to use additional Styrofoam products and the logic of their subsequent explanation for why Styrofoam is a better choice for the environment."

Please keep the nominations rolling in. The judges will be happy to consider new categories for the Hot Air Oscars.


Phil said...

Oh, this guy must be up for something:

"Most Bungled Demonstration of Sustainable Technology"?
I daresay many readers remember only the "short range" of the vehicle in question - but never mind, it was a hydrogen car anyway!

Mike V said...

I would like to nominate Amory B. Lovins, the inspirational speaker and Chief Scientist for Life of the Rocky Mountain Institute, for the "Twaddle Emission" category based upon the opinion piece:


Mr. Lovins has a strange idea that large thermal power plants are much less efficient than small distributed fossil fuel cogeneration (he calls it micropower). I find his statement that "Central thermal stations have become like Victorian steam locomotives: magnificent technological achievements that served us well until something better came along." particularly silly.


GP Schweinhund said...

Probably being a bit harsh here, but...
Ad seen on back of a london bus today under the 'act on CO2' tagline (paraphrased):
'Ease off the revs and reduce fuel costs and CO2 emissions'

Yes, both points are technically true— but the underlying idea that encouraging drivers to ease off the accelerator will significantly impact on UK CO2 emissions (or that marginal reductions in motoring costs are going to motivate people to 'reduce the revs') to me smacks of hot air and a poor understanding of human nature... '

'Stop driving and get on the bus' might be better.

Unknown said...

I would like to nominate the Baxi Ecogen ( which British Gas are trying to flog me (through the junk that comes along with my bill). I wish I could refer them to MacKay's chapter on CHP. Yes it's a boiler replacement microCHP. Does it run on (ever increasingly expensive) gas? Yes. Will they tell you what the (probably poor) electrical conversion efficiency is? No. Is it better than a good CCGT power station and condensing boiler? At best a marginal case IMHO.

Jesse Taylor said...

:) -- Just came across this while Googling for "EWU Sustainability".

We're actually getting a student group set up right now called the EWU Sustainability Project to deal with exactly the type of situation you are discussing here. We are pushing for a fundamental change in the way the University operates, rather than just promoting petty greenwashing activities that won't have any long term effect (or worse, cause more harm than what they are replacing!).

We have a website set up at ... We'd love for you to drop in and share your thoughts about our project ideas, etc.

Please let anyone else who might be interested know about this. The more people we have involved, the more pressure we can apply to make sure that real change takes place.