Freewheelin at the national conventions

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

We had some ladies getting eco-crazy last week! Three young women occupied the headquarters of NW Natural Gas Company in Portland, Ore., to protest the company’s proposed liquefied natural gas pipeline. The Palomar Gas Transmission pipeline project involves the construction of 223 miles of pipes through the wetlands of the Columbia River estuary, Willamette Valley farms, Mount Hood National Forest and a city in Oregon. “In the fight against climate change, the last thing we need to do is build new fossil fuel infrastructure,” said a press release by Rising Tide North America. According to the group, the extraction and transportation of LNG requires shipping supercooled LNG on tankers far distances, then warming it back to a gas state, “making LNG up to 30 percent more greenhouse-gas intensive than the current supply of natural gas.”

Aunt Ruth is always looking for new ways to conserve water, and Xeros Ltd. has a spiffy new idea to do just that: The company has unveiled a washing-machine concept that would use only one cup of water per cycle and consume less than 2 percent of the energy of a regular washing machine. Xeros’ secret? Plasticlike chips that pretty much beat dirt and stains out of clothing. After putting your clothes in the washer, you add a cup of water and a little detergent. During the wash cycle, plastic chips are released into the wash. When the cycle is completed, a grill opens at the bottom of the drum and the chips are collected for reuse. Xeros plans to launch a working machine by 2009.

Attendees at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., will be able to ride bicycles around town free of charge, thanks to a joint project between the cities and the health-care company Humana. The bike-share program, called Freewheelin, will ship 1,000 bicycles for convention attendees to check out of solar-powered kiosks and then use to pedal around the cities, hopefully cutting down on private-car use. After the conventions, Freewheelin will leave 70 bicycles and the kiosks in the cities so that residents can continue using the program. Riders can also log onto the Freewheelin Web site ( to track miles traveled, calories burned and the amount of carbon emissions saved.