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New Palo Alto buildings 'must be greener'

Original post made on May 13, 2008

Palo Alto became the first city in San Mateo or Santa Clara counties Monday to adopt mandatory green-building requirements for both residential and commercial development.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 7:47 AM

Comments (43)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2008 at 8:57 am

One of the greenest things our city could do is ban wood burning fires. These are still popular in winter and now I see they are gaining popularity in summer with outside fireplaces. Get the pollution out of our local air.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

I'm with you, Resident! I have asthma, and whenever anyone in our area lights up a fireplace -- indoors or out -- I run around closing all the windows.

Banning wood-burning fireplaces seems a no-brainer, and we should have done it long ago. When I wrote to then-mayor Kishimoto on May 1, 2007, she replied, "Glad you will support the ban when we get to it."

One year later, we read "Santa Clara County gets an 'F' for air quality. American Lung Association evaluation pegs county in top 25 for dirtiest" Web Link

With all the focus on "green-ness" in our city, why do we not yet have a ban on wood burning?


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Posted by ban wood burning fires
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 13, 2008 at 10:42 am

I agree. Someone needs to go to city council and complain.


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Posted by Tina
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2008 at 11:04 am

Most of poor air quality in Palo Alto comes from proximity to 101. So why not plant a double or triple row of trees along highway to block/absorb the fumes....


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 13, 2008 at 11:05 am

Isn't there a ban on the building of any new wood burning fireplaces in PA? Can the city just pass a law banning their use? How many residents of PA depend on wood burning fireplaces for thier sole source of heating in the winter? If there are any, what about their needs?
Maybe the city is concerned about lawsuits. Perhaps instead of passing a draconian law, we need the educate the public about getting away from using wood burning fireplaces


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Posted by ban wood burning fires
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 13, 2008 at 11:10 am

My next door neighbor, without fail, every single winter burns wood. The house around the corner burns woods and so does the house two blocks around the other corner.

We know all the forest clearing in the Amazon is bad, but in America, in Palo Alto, we still like to keep the romantic idea of comfort with burning a wood fire. Obviously its not as draconian as burning the Amazon, but if we're trying to "save" the environment with greener buildings, ridding ourselves of plastic bags, biking to work, every bit counts.


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Posted by Jim
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2008 at 11:33 am

I love a nice wood burning fire. I even burn wood outside in my fire pit from Target.


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Posted by kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2008 at 12:46 pm

I am a severe asthmatic and live near Embarcadero where an estimated 40,000 cars travel everyday, Most of the morning and evening traffic is by non-residents. It as not as bad when we first moved here years ago. It will only get worse with the massive expansion at Stanford Medical complex and the shopping center.
Traffic on Page Mill is even worse. Palo Altans are victims who can do nothing about this.
The only saving thing is that the usual afternoon 'breeze' takes the fumes eastward. But not on days like this.

And YES- ban wood burning fireplaces!!


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Posted by Tim#2
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Tina, there is no room to plant those trees and trees need water - and water is expensive - and will probably be rationed. Good wonderful idea, but it won't work.


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 13, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Ban asthmatics from living in areas near high traffic. It raises our medical insurance rates.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Jim, here's the effect of your wood fire:
Web Link

When wood and other solid fuels are burned, fine particulate air pollution is released in the smoke. These tiny particles (about 1/70th the width of a human hair) can pass deep into the lungs and cause serious health effects to the public. High levels of fine particulate can cause difficulty breathing, aggravate asthma and even cause premature death for people with heart or lung disease. Children are most susceptible because their respiratory systems are still developing, they breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults and they are more likely to be playing outdoors.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Palo Alto is not the first. Los Altos' green building regulations went into effect December 2007.

Web Link


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Posted by a
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 13, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Well Jim,
Don't ask the Latin Americans to stop burning the Amazon so you can burn yours. They do it for survival, you do it for pure pleasure. What's worse?


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Posted by my 2 cents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2008 at 2:03 pm


I am very environmentally aware and do all kinds of things to help the environment, from belonging to Palo Alto Green, to driving my very small car as little as possible, to using canvas bags when I go food shopping, etc.

I agree that burning wood should be limited. However, I do not agree with an all out ban. At my home, we make wood fires in our fireplace once or twice a year, no more, and we would be very unhappy to not be allowed to do it at all any more. Our other practices more than make up for our 2 yearly woodfires. So, I say no to an outright ban.


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Posted by jim
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Can't wait to fire up that old BBQ this summer.


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Posted by a
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 13, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Watch out neighbors of Jim! Good for you Jim. Nice way to dirty up the air!


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2008 at 7:31 pm

I see that the radical brigade is at it again. Ban this, ban that, ban everything and we will all be happy. So, let as see what we can ban that would make Palo Alto greener ( minor things just occured to me).

Ban cars except for going to and from work except once a week on "your " given day for 3 hours (enough for those faraway errands). If you don't work for pay, car use banned. Get the public carriages to take you in romantic style ( don't forget to diaper the horses).
Ban dogs, cats and insects.
Ban more than 1.5 children per couple ( gee, the resources they consume)
Institute mandatory vegetable gardens for 80% of your yard + 20% mandatory weeds.
Ban pet fish ( always look as if they are demanding something)-eat to get rid off)
Ban the ownership of more than 2 pairs of shoes+ sandals ( just the pollution they engender coming from far away places...) substitute with wooden clogs made from lightning hit trees only.
Ban TVs and their noise.
Ban allergy inducing trees (I suffer a lot with my neighbors' trees always sending spores my way, maybe purposefully who knows?)
Bring cows to public pastures where you can get your milk fresh and hot- better, ban milk.
Move to a less polluted environment_ don't drive there.
Use less make-up. You are not looking better or younger, just more painted.
Eat as little as possible, snore as little as possible.

Ban fireplace fires on high pollution days? Just on high pollution days! They are of great psychologic comfort or what do you expect? to radicalize everything?

Can I still have my coal bbq? Please, I do so like an occasional bbq... Oh. you like bbqs too? yes, you may come... (who says people are consistent in their beliefs?)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2008 at 7:31 pm

I see that the radical brigade is at it again. Ban this, ban that, ban everything and we will all be happy. So, let as see what we can ban that would make Palo Alto greener ( minor things just occurred to me).

Ban cars except for going to and from work except once a week on "your " given day for 3 hours (enough for those faraway errands). If you don't work for pay, car use banned. Get the public carriages to take you in romantic style ( don't forget to diaper the horses).
Ban dogs, cats and insects.
Ban more than 1.5 children per couple ( gee, the resources they consume)
Institute mandatory vegetable gardens for 80% of your yard + 20% mandatory weeds.
Ban pet fish ( always look as if they are demanding something)-eat to get rid off)
Ban the ownership of more than 2 pairs of shoes+ sandals ( just the pollution they engender coming from far away places...) substitute with wooden clogs made from lightning hit trees only.
Ban TVs and their noise.
Ban allergy inducing trees (I suffer a lot with my neighbors' trees always sending spores my way, maybe purposefully who knows?)
Bring cows to public pastures where you can get your milk fresh and hot- better, ban milk.
Move to a less polluted environment_ don't drive there.
Use less make-up. You are not looking better or younger, just more painted.
Eat as little as possible, snore as little as possible.

Ban fireplace fires on high pollution days? Just on high pollution days! They are of great psychologic comfort or what do you expect? to radicalize everything?

Can I still have my coal bbq? Please, I do so like an occasional bbq... Oh. you like bbqs too? yes, you may come... (who says people are consistent in their beliefs?)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 13, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Palo Alto doesn't need to do anything about wood burning stoves. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has jurisdiction over this and is likely to institute an area-wide ban in the near future. This would do more than what Palo Alto can do, so we should wait and let them do their job.

By the way, how come nobody is discussing the real content of the article about green buildings?


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Posted by JIm
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2008 at 7:28 am

Ban everything! The Palo Alto way!


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2008 at 8:07 am

Palo Alto is getting more and more "greenery'. Some of the steel plates have been on the streets so long that grass and weeds are growing around them. Who is minding the store?


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2008 at 10:19 am

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District would curtail use of wood burning devices only between November 1 and February 28 if air pollution levels are forecast to be unhealthy and the district declares a mandatory "no burn day."

Web Link

Jim & Narnia: Please keep up the funny jokes about a problem (wood smoke) that literally kills people -- and is especially harmful to kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2008 at 11:42 am

So the one comment from someone with professional knowledge and experience with energy conservation regulations has his comments scrubbed? I feel like the guy who turns on the bright lights at a rave.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Pat,
I wasn't joking! I am sure that you do a lot of anti-green things but only the ones others do are at the receiving end of your attention.
Radicalizing something and exaggerating its consequences often results in the public disbelief , disrespect for a cause and yes, mockery. Humor is often necessary to cope with self-righteousness...

I have never know of anybody dying as a result of recreational homefires (fireplace, bbq, etc...) anymore than anybody dying from vehicle pollution. Is there anybody who has died directly as a result of smoke from a regular fireplace in its regular operation?
If you think you can then you must move immediately to where such fires are forbidden all the time.
What about my allergies? Do I ask everybody to cut down their trees? To stop drinking milk? Cows are a major cause of VOCs in the atmosphere....
The issue here is if CA can deal with this problem in a mature way and forbid fires only on high smog days or if the state has a childish approach to the matter and wants to ban it altogether. But why ban it and not other VOC and CO2 producers more specifically?
In the meanwhile stop wearing lipstick- oil is involved in its production and maybe it also causes asthma.
Please maintain yourself at a respectable distance from my famous bbqs and let my children revive Christmas's past with a roaring fire.

note:VOC's are volatile organic compounds


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Posted by a
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 14, 2008 at 9:05 pm

"Please maintain yourself at a respectable distance from my famous bbqs and let my children revive Christmas's past with a roaring fire."

Sorry about your kids, but teaching them to burn wood especially at Christmas is well, a bad way to start teaching them being friendly to the environment.


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Posted by Palo Alto watcher
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 14, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Would it be possible to get our discussion back on topic? Regardless of the benefits or detriments of wood fires, neither of you is going to convince the other. In fact, all you';ve likely done is caused Myr. Fireburner to curse someone the next tie he lights a fire. And there'll probably be cursing the next time Mr. NoFires smells a burnign fire. That's about the extent of the change that will occur from your discussion.

Why is this ordinance good? I am all for green initiatives. I undertook a very significant remodel a few years ago, and it's about as green as can be. I guarantee it's more green than any remodel performed by ANY city councillor. Heck, I'd bet it's greener than any remodel any of them EVER performs (with their OWN money). Nonetheless, I don't think it's right to require one person (or business) to do business with another particular person (or business),and that is what this ordinance requires. Instead of encouraging conservation, it requires you to do business with the LEED folks or the other list folks. I think that's just wrong. I have nothing against the LEED folks or the other folks, but I should not be FORCED to do business with them.

I don't object to environmental improvement. In fact, obviously, I applaud it. But this was a half-baked way to go about it. The extra cost of LEED certification is a waste of money. checklists are fine. We should be spending the money to improve the environment, not fatten the wallets of some consultants. Now money that could be spent on a green roof, or enhanced commute alternative programs, will be spent on getting a certificate. I don't think that certificate benefits the environment one iota.

It is extremely anti-business, which is very odd, considering that Palo Alto's business community is such a big part of why Palo Alto is a great place.

Pollution IS a bad thing. Wasting energy IS terrible. Making our built environment greener is beneficial to all of us. But this was half-baked.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2008 at 11:05 pm

The best way to let children revive Christmas past is to teach them the true meaning of Christmas. It has nothing to do with sitting in front of a roaring fire but a lot to do with giving to less fortunate, sharing what we have with those who have no one else to share with, and of course, the story of the Baby in the manger.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2008 at 12:00 am

Hey, PAWatcher, very astute, except I see nothing wrong with fattening the wallets of consultants. Of course, in the contribution rejected I explained that I am an energy consultant who will profit from this rule.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2008 at 7:21 am

Speak of going off topic. Now, some people are teaching me how to parent! Wow, but my children are greener than yours?
Keep off my children, my bbqs and my X-mas fires and be little less self righteous (it would do you good) and skip the make-up.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2008 at 7:36 am

Now, to the topic. It's not clear at all that green is green. If you are not using local products for something then all the green goes up in smoke with transportation and pollution issues.
That's the same problem we had with disposable diapers. Do I wash , use water, help pollute ground water or do I fill land with diaper waste and use energy in transportation costs?
When all environmental costs are considered it's a toss up, knowledgeable people say
( besides now disposable diapers are eco--better).
Green initiatives are frequently not just lopsided but they ignore other imperatives. A certificate for what has to be a compromise ( what's good for the environment may not be good for earthquake safety or/and fire protection or/end release of CO2) is a silly idea because only takes into account one aspect of what should be an integrated management of resources. It costs money too.


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Posted by Casey
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Is the entire purpose of the so-called green initiative to "add another employee next year"?

Bureaucracy 1, Palo Alto residents 0.





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Posted by a
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 15, 2008 at 4:10 pm

narnia,
clearly you're a guy, so all the stuff global warming that needs to get done needs to get done by a woman from what it sounds like from your posts.

by the way, how's this record heat going with you? Record heat and a nice air polluting fire is just what makes you wanna say whoopeee! Don't go crying for help when the grim reaper comes knocking on your door. Cyclones in Burma, Katrina, larger earthquakes, volcanos....keep burnin that anti-global warming fire alive, Jim.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2008 at 4:33 pm

dear resident,

What work needs to be done by a woman? I don't understand how a simple example of a very controversial topic years ago (diaper disposable or not?) has to do with women. (Not in my household at least. ) Maybe you didn't understand the example. Years ago, when my children were small self righteous people were looking and checking if a parent was "polluting" the environment with , horror of horrors, disposable diapers. Those same people exuded the halo of holiness, did many environmentally unsound things but when they turned on the trendy eco concern, they felt above all else. Like the occasional fireplace fires ( which when fitted with a catalytic converter are less polluting than your car)
diaper disposability is no longer a topic for bad eco behavior.
I have been a practicing sound management of my eco resources. For exaample, my car made about 800 miles last year. How many of you have used public transportation as I do how many walk from midtown to downtown as I do? So, please do not radicalize the issues
they are too important for that.
Fortunately, I am away for a few weeks and so the heat is not affecting me that much. I gather it's dry heat and nothing like the suffocating east coast summers. But I remember such a summer in Palo Alto in the beginning of the 80's. I can assure you that my x-mas fire didn't cause it. Get off your car and walk...and be a little less self righteous maybe you'd get less hot under the collar.


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Posted by a
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 15, 2008 at 4:52 pm

narnia, I do walk, quite often! thank you.
Good to see you're somewhere else because that's what you're going to have to get used to. Movement elsewhere like the rest of the world when global warming really starts kickin in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hello?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2008 at 8:39 am

Guys, enough already with the sniping. Stay on topic or don't post. The Green Building Initiative is interesting, and you are ruining the discussion. BOTH of you have valid points, OK? Stop making this "personal."

You can not look at ONE aspect of a person's environmental footprint and label them "wrong." Someone who burns a fire a few times a year, but who doesn't drive, likely has a smaller eco-footprint than a person who never burns a fire, but who drives a car frequently. This holier-than-thou approach is not useful. If you reall y want to get into it, I am sure I can prove that the holiest person here has a DISGUSTING eco-footprint when compared to the average person in a developing country who doesn't even HAVE any electrity to use, doesn't ahve a car OR mass transit, likely eats a great % of his food RAW and from very local sources, and doesn't buy products made in sweatshops, etc. etc. etc.

How many meals do YOIU eat each day that include meat? Probably more than this guy eats in a month.

Yes, we should burn less wood fires in the bay area, especially when there's an inversion present and the air is trapped in the basin, maybe even in the neighborhood. Yes, driving less is a good thing. But that ain't the topic of this thread. If you want to fight about off-topic subjects, then start another thread for it. Please.


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Posted by Hello?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2008 at 8:46 am

Walter: I don't see anything wrong with fattening consultants' wallets. Sometimes consultants are needed on all sorts of things. But it seems wrong to make people do business with only a certain company, i.e. you must get a LEED certificate. That seems unConstitutional, perhaps.

I look forward to seeing how this works. Hopefully it will be a good thing for all folks involved (including the bugs and bunnies).


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Posted by Hello?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2008 at 8:46 am

Does anyone know how to get a copy of the ordinance as passed? I've seen what was proposed, but I don't know if it was revised during the most recent meeting.

Thanks!!


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Posted by good grief
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2008 at 9:55 am

I always think "it can't get any more fascist than this" about the extremist "environmentalists"..then it does.

They never seem to learn, do they? When is everyone going to learn that for action there is a reaction?

Ban wood fires..what are ya gonna get? Fires that AREN'T of wood..then what? Horrors of horrors, we will find out in 20 years that lung cancer increased from unnatural fires.

Ok. Ban fires. But then, we will find out that people who were using fire to heat their homes now are using more "heater"..which uses more electricity or gas, which uses more natural resources, which has a bigger impact, since gas isn't a "renewable resource" like wood.

Get a grip folks and use your good sense!

Back to the "greener" remodels..huh? So, when did we become so dictatorial? Who is deciding what is "greener"? Whose pocketbooks are going to get fattened? How much more bureaucracy are our taxes going to pay for?

Geez


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill Tweed
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2008 at 11:08 am

>> Whose pocketbooks are going to get fattened?

That is what the feel good green goblins want. Having you scared into believing they know all the answers and you MUST PAY THEM for the solutions.

Why do you think Al Gore is on the board of several silicon valley companies and venture capital firms. He is just using the tried and true tactics of Tammany Hall. and he will not be satisfied until all the green tattooists have painted us all and taken our money.



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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Big question is do the new rules make a difference?

Only dealing with new buildings will take forever to make a difference.

Shouldn't we require every building in Palo Alto to meet LEED GOLD within ten years? We're taking a selective and unserious approach to a serious issue.


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Posted by Hello???
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2008 at 5:28 pm

I suggest that some of you folks turn down your rhetoric, or at least take your meds as prescribed. Some of the things you say border on the paranoid. Actually, they ARE paranoid.

Why can't people be NORMAL and understand that reasonable people can have reasonable disagreements. It's called having a difference of opinion.

Does Bill Tweed really think his approach convinces anyone that doesn't already agree with him? What's the point?

Frankly, I shouldn't pick on Bill, since most of you folks are doing the same thing. I know it's the nature of the beast (internet chat rooms), but it sure is tiresome. I somehow hoped a forum like this would be different.

Kudos to those of you who try to keep the discussion civil and thoughtful.


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Posted by Helloooo?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm

ps Disposable diapers are not "better" than washing them. One big reason disposable diapers are "bad" is because people wrap the poop up inside them and throw them in the garbage. Yes, the diaper itself is better from an enviro perspective than the diaper of 5 years ago, but the poop inside that diaper should be put into the toilet, NOT put into a landfill.

and almost no one does that - so the damage is still being done

if you DO use disposables, but wash the poop into your toilet, then hooray for you!! But you are the true exception, unfortunately.


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Posted by hellooo?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm

and THAT is way off-topic, so please ignore it

:-)


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