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November 2008

November 28, 2008

Reps from Vermont Solid Waste Districts Launch "Product Stewardship" Council

Recycle On Monday, November 24, reps from several Vermont solid waste districts announced they were creating the Vermont Product Stewardship Council. In a nutshell, the council plans to work with nonprofits, consumers, businesses, the Association of Vermont Recyclers and the Agency of Natural Resources to "reduce waste and bring good public policy to the materials management industry."

A link to the council's October 6 "Letter of Agreement" doesn't outline any specific legislative priorities, but a related page notes that the council supports policies geared toward promoting "extended producer responsibility." According to the council, EPR ensures that "product manufacturers assume primary responsibility for their products throughout the entire life cycles of the products -- from material selection to recovery and recycling."

In other words: The council wants Vermont manufacturers to take more responsibility for the stuff they produce. The council's site references a piece of draft EPR legislation in Oregon -- is a similar Vermont bill in the works? Council chair Jen Holliday, who works for the Chittenden Solid Waste District, says, effectively, not yet.

"I don't really see Vermont being one of the first states to pass this legislation," Holliday tells Seven Days, "but I think if we can get a few EPR bills through . . . the concept will be embraced, and the framework  [legislation] will be easier to get passed in the next year or two. For now, we'll be working on product-specific legislation, but keeping an eye on what's happening on other parts of the county."

As Vermont's next legislative session approaches, Holliday notes, the Vermont Product Stewardship Council is mulling over a couple of options. Among them: Helping draft a bill addressing mercury in lamps or working on S.256, an "e-waste" bill introduced last session by Sens. Claire Ayer (D-Addison) and Virginia "Ginny" Lyons (D-Chittenden). (That bill, incidentally, attracted criticism from officials in, of all places, China.)

Meanwhile, for more info on how forward-thinking waste-reduction strategies are being explored at the municipal level in the Green Mountains, check out my April 16 Seven Days feature, "Long Haul."

November 26, 2008

Burton Founders Defend Their Boards

Burton_2 Ken Picard sat down for an interview with Jake Burton Carpenter and Donna Carpenter at the Burton HQ in Burlington this week to talk about the controversy over their "Love" and "Primo" boards. We've published his extensive Q&A this week, and put it on the cover of the paper .

Here it is online. An excerpt:

SD: Why go public now?
DONNA: Because I think the boards were distorted and misrepresented. When you hear this statement that "Burton promotes self-mutilation and pornography," maybe you don't read the whole article. Maybe you're only catching it here and there, and you think, "Wow! This Vermont company is throwing X-rated images and teaching kids how to cut themselves." That's awful.

JAKE: I don't want to get personal with you, but I presumed the Vermont media would lose interest. And they didn't. 

SD: Because we're still getting letters from readers expressing very strong emotions.
DONNA: We also realized  . . . that all of a sudden, anybody who ever had a grudge against snowboarders . . . or against Burton or was upset about what kids are exposed to today, all of a sudden they had a way to vent . . . But I really felt like their anger is misdirected.

Since we don't have comments enabled on our stories, you can use this blog post to share any thoughts you might not already have shared about this issue, and this week's interview...

Rice High School Stunt Nite 2008

This week's Stuck in Vermont features Rice Memorial High School's annual talent competition, Stunt Nite. I attended the dress rehearsal Monday night and was impressed by all the talent, dedication and teamwork on display.

In just one month, Rice managed to put together four complex 25-30 minute shows (one for each class) and most of the 400+ students were involved, not to mention teachers, parents and alumni. 

Next year is the 80th anniversary of Stunt Nite and I can't wait to sit in the crowd and cheer on these real-life High School Musical kids.

I posted some dress rehearsal pics to Facebook and am also posting some here:

Below is a complete list of the Stunt Nite 2008 winners:

Continue reading "Rice High School Stunt Nite 2008" »

November 25, 2008

Princeton Proposition 8

Tyler Machado, one of our WG bloggers, just posted this very funny video from Princeton.

Says Tyler:

A group of Princeton University students have been collecting signatures on Princeton's Proposition 8, which would restore the "traditional" definition of sidewalks — i.e. that freshmen aren't allowed to use them. They can walk on the grass right alongside, though. Separate but equal.

November 24, 2008

Mobile Bike Drive in Burlington

Img_2086 I pulled up to work this morning and saw this van sitting outside my office. Turns out it's a mobile, mini bike drive, organized by Bike Recycle Vermont.

These dedicated pedal pushers are standing outside on this frigid morning collecting used bikes that they'll fix up and sell to low-income Vermonters. Bike Recycle founder Ron Manganiello says people who meet BRV's income guidelines can receive a bike, helmet, lock and a set of lights for just $20. That's a great deal.

Manganiello says that, since its inception four years ago, BRV has refurbished and sold thousands of bikes to people who need them. BRV shop manager Mark Rowell adds that BRV isn't just providing bikes. "We train at-risk youth, we train volunteers to work on bikes," he says.

BRV accepts used bikes as donations at its HQ in the Good News Garage building, in the former bus barns Img_2088_2 on North Winooski Avenue in Burlington. But since they got this swanky van — donated by VBT, along with 100 bikes, and lots of bike parts — they decided to actively seek donations by setting up a mobile station. The hope is that people will donate bikes on their way to work.

This is only the second time they've tried this approach; they staged their first mobile bike drive three weeks ago in front of General Dynamics and collected 15 bikes.

Why stand outside right now asking for bikes? Are they doing a special push for the holidays? Rowell says no. "We spend the winter fixing bikes and getting them ready for spring," he says.

They don't seem to be doing as well this morning — probably because they forget to tell us they were doing it! So none of my co-workers brought in bikes. Too bad. Maybe next time. I hope all the people at VEIC and JDK and Kelliher Samets Volk pony up some wheels. If you read this before 10 a.m., feel free to drop by with a donation. We're at the end of South Champlain Street, across from the Bobbin Mill.

Here's a short video from Mountain Lake PBS with more information about BRV.

The folks in the photo, left to right: BRV volunteer Parker Brown, Rowell, Americorps/VISTA Emily Eschner and Manganiello. I think I'm going to go outside and offer them some coffee.

November 21, 2008

CarShare Vermont

CarshareCarShare Vermont, Burlington's latest stab at alt-transport, is gearing up for a launch party in mid December.

According to Annie Bourdon, executive director of the vehicular nonprofit — formerly "Green Mountain CarShare" —  four CarShare cars will be launched from the University of Vermont and Champlain College campuses in conjunction with the Campus Area Transportation Management Association. Four more shared cars will meander between the Old North End, the South End and the downtown district. Bourdon says CarShare Vermont has requested parking spaces from the city of Burlington, and that the city has agreed — for the most part. Stay tuned for more details...

Meanwhile, for more background on CarShare Vermont, check out this new interview with Bourdon on our automotive blog, Good Carma.

Pee (Indoors) at Last!

Back in May, Seven Days reported that the tiny town of Roxbury was adding to its 450-square-foot public library. The addition would include, among other things, a bathroom.

After all, the 1923 structure didn't have what librarian Susan D’Amicoa called a "pot to piss in.”

BREAKING NEWS: A toilet was installed last week, according to a story in today's Burlington Free Press, and the addition will soon be finished.

Turns out the addition was partly done by a Norwich University "design/build" class. The professor was Danny Sagan, who is guest curator of an ongoing design/build exhibit at the University of Vermont's Fleming Museum. For more info on the UVM show, check out my October 1 Seven Days story, "Angles in Paradise."

Armando Vilaseca Picked as VT's New Ed Commissioner

Longtime Vermont educator, Franklin West Supervisory Union superintendent and all-around nice guy Armando Vilaseca was tapped this week to be Vermont's new education commissioner, according to this story in today's Burlington Free Press.

Some readers may recall that Vilaseca isn't just known for his education credentials. As Seven Days reported in March, Vilaseca, along with three other Vermonters with familial ties to Cuba, filed suit against the U.S. government for new rules that severely curtailed their ability to visit loved ones back in Cuba. Vilaseca, who came to the United States at age 8, was petitioning the government for the right to return to Cuba to visit his terminally ill aunt. (She has since died.) That lawsuit is pending.

Seven Days Holiday Payday

Payday Hey, we launched a new contest this week. It's called the Seven Days Holiday Payday.

Here's the deal:

You can register to win a local shopping spree on our website. But you can't win unless you have the SECRET CODE.

How do you get the code? Simple — you visit one of the participating local stores, get the code from them, then you plug it into the entry form on the website. You’ve got lots of chances to win — we’re giving away shopping sprees in towns from Burlington to Montpelier, Williston to Stowe, Essex to Johnson and more.

Winners will receive multiple holiday gift cards from local boutiques, gift shops and Vermont restaurants.

So shop local, get the code and enter to win. Do it by December 12 — that's when the contest ends.

Click here for a list of participating stores.

VT Yankee Decommissioning Fund — Toxic?

Radioactive_2_2 The downward spiral of the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Fund continues.

As I pointed out in "Fair Game" last month the value this fund — set aside to clean up the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant once it's shut down — has been dropping precipitously since the end of 2007.

By early October it had dropped below $400 million for the first time in more than two years.

The Department of Public Service has been asking Entergy to provide them with ongoing, monthly updated numbers. Here's a rundown:

March 31, 2006:   $391,882,501

Sept 30, 2006:     $402,410,980

March 31, 2007:   $422,182,237

Sept 30, 2007:     $440,003,672

March 31, 2008:   $427,406,446

Sept 30, 2008:    $397,035,937

This week we learned that the fund dropped another $34 million in just one month, and now stands at $364 million.


When Entergy bought the plant in 2002, the fund's value was roughly $304 million.

It is expected that the cost of decommissioning Vermont Yankee could run as high as $1.2 billion. Critics fear that if the decommissioning fund is not sufficient that taxpayers will be on the hook to clean up the plant. VY officials say the plant could be mothballed for up to 60 years until enough investment money acrues in the fund to break down the reactor site.

Expect this issue to be a major point of discussion as Entergy tries to: A) spinoff its ownership of Vermont Yankee to a new subsidiary, and B) the legislature debates whether to give VY a 20-year extention on its operating license. It's license to operate expires in 2012.

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