How green are the candidates?

The environmental choices of Senators McCain and Obama could point to what kind of environmental president one of them will be.

By Samantha Harvey

More significantly, thought, both campaigns take short trips and make frequent stops, and planes expend the most energy during take-offs and landings. In one five-day period, John McCain made seven stops on a winding 3,000-mile route between Durango, Colo. and Hershey, Pa. Barack Obama’s travel schedule is comparably full.

Senator Obama's campaign earns back some green points by sending the bulk of his advertising through text messages, emails and even video games, instead of using paper and envelope glue. The EPA’s most recent inventory found the pulp and paper industry releases up to 263 million pounds of toxic chemicals into air, water and land each year; add that statistic to global deforestation, and the Obama campaign’s lists of tens of thousands of cell phone numbers — even when printed out — leave a lighter footprint on the environment. John McCain, meanwhile, openly calls himself a computer "lliterate,” and with the campaign headed by a protege of Karl Rove's — whose specialty was direct mail fundraising — it’s probably safe to say the McCain operation is generating a lot more paper waste and associated pollution than Sen. Obama's. (McCain's campaign did not respond to repeated requests for information on its fundraising methods by publication.)  

Finally, it’s been said the clothes make the man. John McCain hasn't said much when it comes to his wardrobe, but his campaign spent $150,000 on new clothes for his running mate. Barack Obama claims he wears his suits as long as he can, mending them as they weather — although the darning must be on the inside because we haven't seen any patches on the candidate's suits. (His campaign declined to clarify whether he avoids nylons and polyesters made from petrochemicals.)

So who wins the personal-green campaign? The greatest impact of each candidate and his campaign is surely from the planes they use, and McCain's aircraft uses less fuel. But there's no evidence this choice of aircraft was made for environmental reasons; indeed, given his puddle-jumping, and the rest of McCain's choices — into which little thought for the environment seems to have been given at all — in this race there’s no question Barack Obama is the cat’s pajamas. And if the Obamas get matching sets of pj's with the Presidential seal, we will be watching to make sure they are made from only the best organic cotton.

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