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LEEDing the Way

From flooring made of natural cork to ceilings covered with recycled paper, the National Audubon Society’s new headquarters in New York City is as green as they come. In fact, the airy, light-filled office set a record as the highest-scoring business interior ever evaluated by the U.S. Green Building Council, which in November awarded the space its highest honor, LEED Platinum certification (for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). In addition to features typical of a green space—low-flow toilets to reduce water use, energy-efficient lighting, and low-VOC-emitting paints, carpets, and furniture, to name a few—the office has some unique touches. The reception area (right) is paneled with siding salvaged from old barns; several tables were crafted from fallen trees; the men’s room has waterless urinals; and the kitchen boasts bamboo-plywood cabinets and countertops made from recycled construction waste.—Katherine Tweed

Happy Hummers
A record crowd greeted streams of ruby-throated hummingbirds in September as they buzzed through Mississippi’s Strawberry Plains Audubon Center on their way from Canada and the eastern United States to their winter home in Mexico and Central America, 2,000 miles away. More than 8,000 people from across the South and as far away as Ohio flocked to the Ninth Annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration, says Madge Lindsay, Audubon Mississippi executive director. At the event, hummingbird enthusiast Bob Sargent and his crew banded an unprecedented 281 ruby-throats and, for the first time, recaptured a bird banded previously at Strawberry Plains. “To be able to show people a spectacle of nature while it’s occurring—I think that’s the awesomeness of this festival,” says Lindsay.—K.T.

Tip of the Cap
The first mandatory American carbon emissions market opened for business in September. Ten northeastern states have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a system that will cap and then gradually cut the electricity sector’s carbon emissions 10 percent from current levels by 2018. Fossil fuel-fired power plants of 25 megawatts or greater must limit their carbon output to 188 million tons in 2009. Participating states auction carbon dioxide allowances to plants (each allowance permits its holder to emit one ton of the gas). Companies that buy more allowances than they need can sell their excess allowances on the carbon emissions market. The inaugural auction netted $38.5 million, and states will use the proceeds to fund projects to improve energy efficiency and develop renewable technologies.—K.T.

Crude Awakening
More than 50,000 gallons of fuel oil gushed into San Francisco Bay after a container ship collided with the Bay Bridge in November 2007, killing at least 4,000 birds and halting commercial fishing (see “Bay Watch,” November-December 2008). The bungled response worsened the tragedy: Materials to contain the oil took days to arrive, and cleanup volunteers were turned away from tainted beaches. The fiasco spurred state legislators to draft a package of bills—signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (left) in September—that will provide training and install cleanup equipment near ecologically sensitive sites. Inspired by the California law, Washington State is now considering updating its spill prevention plans. “Our number one goal is to avoid future accidents,” says Dan Taylor, Audubon California’s public policy director, who helped design the legislation.—Justin Nobel 

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