Heard around the West

  How low-flow can you go? In Redmond, Wash., the developer of a "Green Built" resort community touts its toilets as so advanced, they adapt to individual behavior, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The Australian-made Caroma toilets require their users to decide how much water to flush with: one button for No. 1 and another for No. 2. This is all quite nice for water-efficiency, local critics say. But, they add, there’s more to being green than simply installing smarter potties.


The leader of a citizens’ group opposing the "Green Built Lodge at Redmond Ridge" has a hard time believing that a high-density development, going up in the forests of King County’s designated rural zone, can ever be considered "green." "Was that before or after they mowed down the trees?" sniffs activist Joseph Elfelt. Peter Orser, a vice president for the developer, Quadrant, defends the project: He points out that a forest setting is exactly what draws buyers — many of whom consider themselves environmentalists. "Up here, this is really important to people," Orser says. As for the Green Built certification — the first issued by the National Home Builders Association — Orser calls the tag a great marketing tool.


An Internet message allegedly from California made the rounds recently after a deep earthquake rattled Seattle, Wash. "(The) earthquake was just a warning," began the note to the people of Washington and Oregon. "Sell us your power, give back our sunshine and take back your rain, and we’ll take back our earthquakes."


If Lewis and Clark were alive today, how do you think they’d travel? By high-speed Jet Ski, of course, say manufacturers of the polluting and accident-prone "personal watercraft." They want Jet Skiers to retrace the Northwestern journey of Lewis and Clark for a publicity stunt, which greatly annoys the national environmental group Bluewater Network, a foe of motorized recreation. The network’s Sean Smith points out that commemorating the 200-year-old expedition by Jet Ski is akin to "driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee along the forced march of Cherokee Indians over the Trail of Tears."


The West may lead the way in building monster homes and starter castles, but in 2002, an ultimate houseboat will get a few people out of their Winnebagos and onto the sea. For a starting price of $2 million, reports Forbes.com, "cabin-buyers" on "The World of Residensea" can live and travel on a 12-deck, 644-foot-long floating luxury condo that even offers "simulated golf." Meanwhile, some land-based recreational vehicles have become so bloated they resemble mansions on wheels, reports the Albuquerque Journal. At the city’s annual International Balloon Fiesta, thousands of RVs arrived in convoys, with the priciest looking "like fortresses with all the conveniences of an average home." One gorilla in the group weighed 42,000 pounds and carried a 500-horsepower engine, plus 235 gallons of diesel fuel, perhaps because the vehicle only got 6 1/2 miles per gallon. The owner of the Country Coach Prevost Conversion demurred when asked if his rig — costing $700,000 new — could be described as an investment. "It’s a toy," said Paul Chelew.


Seattle folksinger and writer Michael Tomlinson says it’s time to take up arms against appliances, and to have a good time doing it. He came up with the idea of throwing an "Appliance Party" after overhearing a man in a supermarket callously use his cell phone to break up with his girlfriend. The cashier, who couldn’t help overhearing, was moved to tears, but the man seemed more engrossed in buying his Cheetos and cookies. Tomlinson says he looks forward to "slammin’ a jack-stand through the picture tube" of his TV, along with a few other appliances that have gotten his goat, including an answering machine "that lots of people have wanted to pummel" and a "phone with a ring like a sick hyena."


In Berkeley, Calif., domestic animals may not have heard, but they now enjoy an elevated status. The city council recently voted to change the wording in city laws from "pet owner" to "owner/guardian." Supporters of the unanimous vote brought a variety of dogs and a large white rabbit to the meeting to urge and celebrate the yes vote. In treating "companion animals" with more respect, Berkeley joins Boulder, Colo., and West Hollywood, Calif.


Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing — small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or betsym@hcn.org.