Rahm Emanuel is one tough eco-mofo!

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.

Auntie Ruth admires those women of Grist, an online environmental news site, who took it upon themselves to test out a handful of eco-friendly feminine-care products. The average woman, according to Grist, menstruates for about 40 years and uses an estimated 16,800 sanitary pads or tampons in her lifetime. This equates to 250 to 300 pounds of waste per woman. About 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed of annually in the United States. The Grist experiment included washable cotton pads that last for five years; chlorine-free maxi pads; a 90 percent biodegradable pad free of chlorine, bleach, perfume, rayon, plastics and other synthetic materials; and several other items. Check out the results at www.grist.org.

For almost a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to set standards regulating mercury emissions from cement kilns, one of the top three industrial mercury polluters in the nation. Now it has to, thanks to a court settlement in October, in which the agency agreed to propose air-pollution standards in March 2009. Earlier this year, environmental groups found that mercury emissions from the country’s 151 kilns were twice as high as what the EPA stated. In California, a cement kiln is the largest single source of mercury emissions. Humans are exposed to mercury—a potent neurotoxin—mainly through contaminated fish. Indeed, Ruth remembers once picking up an advisory guide to eating fish from the polluted California Delta Watershed. An estimated 8 percent of American women of childbearing age have mercury in their bodies at levels high enough to put their babies at risk of birth defects, loss of IQ and learning disabilities.

Rahm Emanuel.

Who’s a hard-ass, tough mofo that ruthlessly gets stuff done? No, not Auntie Ruth! The person in question is the man President-elect Barack Obama named his chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois. While his job will be to enact Obama’s agenda, it’s a relief to find out that in the House of Representatives, Emanuel earned a 90 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters for his votes on environmental bills. He earned 94 percent in the 110th Congress, in part for co-sponsoring an energy bill that increased efficiency standards for automobiles and appliances, and for co-sponsoring a failed resolution calling for 25 percent of our energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.