Happy holidays from the EPA!

Green tips from the agency that refuses to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Published November 24, 2008 7:20PM (EST)

One of the Bush administration's most egregious environmental sins has been the blatant flouting of a Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled CO2, one of the main greenhouse gases that cause global warming, should be regulated as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Despite that ruling, the Environmental Protection Agency has steadfastly refused to regulate the gases by doing things like granting California a waiver to restrict CO2 from the tailpipe of cars, thereby paving the way for many other states to do the same. Environmentalists are hopeful that President-elect Barack Obama will order this waiver in his first weeks in office.

Which brings us to the highly ironic press release that I got this morning from the Environmental Protection Agency. It's titled "U.S. EPA Highlights Ways that Everyone Can 'Go Green' During the Holidays." After saying "most people generate more trash than normal during the holidays," the agency offers helpful tips for how to cut back the impact that your holiday festivities have on the environment. Hints include:

  • Avoid using disposable dishes and utensils when entertaining friends and family, and if you must use them, buy them made from recycled or compostable material.
  • Send e-invitations for all holiday celebrations -- saving paper, time and postage.
  • Tell store clerks you don't need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
  • Travel efficiently: Map your shopping route to make a number of stops in one trip. Take public transportation, or hitch a ride with a friend or family member.

While none of this is bad advice, it's pretty rich to hear the EPA lecturing citizens on how they can save the earth by not using plastic forks when that same federal agency is actively thwarting efforts by states to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from transportation, which makes up one of the nation's largest contributions to global warming.

Individual actions taken by motivated citizens to curb their personal impacts on the environment can do good any time of year. But any climate activist will tell you: It's going to take serious government action to actually make a major dent in our growing greenhouse-gas emissions.

My green holiday tip for the EPA? Physician, heal thyself.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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