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The Eco-Sins (and Virtues) of Sarah Palin

10/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A lot has been said about the anti-environmental policies and beliefs of the Killa from Wasilla. But what about her personal life? At Sprig.com, we always ask every green celebrity and eco aficionado we encounter, "What's your eco-sin?" -- an eco-sin being a cherished product or activity that isn't green but will never voluntarily be given up -- to show how Eco Stars Are Just Like Us. Why be perfectionistic and haranguing when baby steps and small changes on a wide scale (as well as that not-small thing called policy) are what's going to have a real environmental impact? Since Sarah Palin -- ever eager to drill and kill -- has gotten environmentalists' organic knickers in a twist (including ours, truth be told), we thought we'd see what eco-sins the saintly hockey-mom conservative might, however guilelessly, harbor. We were not able to receive responses to our inquiries from the McCain-Palin campaign, and to be fair Sarah Palin has never presented herself as a green anything (not that this would automatically be a political plus among our fellow meat-eating, oil-addicted Americans; case in point being the non-starting Dennis Kucinich, a declared vegan), but this is what we found, nonetheless.

1. Like many a red-blooded American family, the Palins love their meat. The difference is the kind of meat, i.e., Palin's endlessly reported favorites of moose stew or moose burger. "My family and I eat a healthy diet heavy in wild Alaskan seafood, moose, caribou and fresh fruit," Palin told WSJ online. Jay Weinstein, author of The Ethical Gourmet, says, "Her diet may be an eco-yes. Alaskan fisheries are among the most well-managed in the country, and wild moose is among the more benign meat choices. But the aerial hunting of wolves she advocates as governor to increase moose herds for human consumption could prove disastrous to the balance of ecosystems and is a colossal waste of fuel from helicopter hunting flights." An increasing number of moose also means an increasing number of moose belches and farts: An adult moose is a notoriously high contributor to global warming (no joke), producing the methane equivalent of 2.3 tons in carbon emissions, the same a car would generate on an 8,000-plus mile road trip, if you believe Norwegian scientists. Still, it's better to eat local wild animals that you catch yourself like mother-moose hunter-maverick Palin does than to support industrially raised cattle, which in the U.S. is the number one water polluter and a greater producer of climate-change gases than every vehicle on the roads of America put together. Also, eating the local wildlife is both regionally and indigenous-culturally correct -- if one can apply such a p.c. viewpoint here -- yet meat-eating is considered very much an un-environmentally-friendly practice. And meat-eaters the Palins proudly are. According to Vogue magazine, her parents' 4x4 sports an amusing bumper sticker that reads: "Vegetarian -- Old Indian word for 'Bad Hunter.'"

2. The Palins own three residences that require heating and thus have a larger footprint than your average American. Because the Governor's Mansion would most likely be occupied anyway, no matter who was in that seat, we have excluded its ten bathrooms, six bedrooms and eight fireplaces from our total square footage, which leaves the family's Wasilla residence and two recreational homes, as reported in her 2007 financial disclosure form. What we could not exclude was Palin's inclusion of a tanning bed when she took office in early 2007 - a device that eats about 3500 watts, conservatively speaking, for 15 - 30 minutes per use. While a tanning bed might be considered a titillating luxury purchase, to be fair, that's not a lot of energy, the equivalent of two blow-dryers.

3. The Palins are high flyers. Putting the governor's jet up for sale on eBay gives Palin major green points -- P. Diddy would agree -- as large private airplanes have a much bigger carbon footprint by a factor of 100+ than commercial flights, which Palin says she uses. Less has been said about the Palins' use of their Piper float plane. Depending on who's reporting, she travels to and from work in Juneau via either her state-issued black Chevy Suburban (which is not very likely, considering Wasilla and Juneau are 1,925 miles or 2 days apart) or plane, either the floater she owns (husband Todd Palin has a pilot's license) or a commercial flight. Float planes use about 10 gallons per hour of flight, which would mean that 400 gallons of aviation fuel would be spent per commute (hence "drill, baby, drill!"), emitting about 3.67 metric tons of carbon dioxide (a car over the same distance would emit 1.4 metric tons) - possibly 68 times the average American's weekly commute. One commercial flight produces 1,235 lbs. of CO2, about 20% of the average commuter's emissions per year (a typical driver commuting 30 miles round trip per day emits 6,086 per year), and if you factor in the drive from Wasilla to Anchorage, that's another 100 lbs. of CO2 into the air. Says Eric Carlson of Carbonfund.org, "Governor Palin's flights make her carbon footprint much higher than the average person's. She should be looking at ways to reduce the number of trips she takes and then offset the emissions she does produce." On the other hand, the mileage accrued in her vacation travel is probably akin to many Americans: a vacation in Mexico and yearly trips to Canada.

4. Sarah Palin "love[s] to drive".... Palin has been reported to own a VW Jetta TDI diesel (good) and a SUV (not so good). She also has a snowmobile, the Arctic Cat F6, the same model her husband used to win the Iron Dog races four times, and which according to the EPA contributes to the 200,000 tons of hydrocarbons and 531,000 tons of carbon monoxide and toxics like benzene that snowmobiles emit annually, creating visual impairment in parks.

5. Sarah Palin: Not a PETA poster child. She decorates with grizzly bear, has been called Caribou Barbie in part for her distinctive accessorizing, sued the Department of the Interior to push starving polar bears off the threatened species list, blocks salmon from being protected from toxic metal-mining waste, and has proposed to pay $150 for each hacked-off left foreleg of wolves that have been shot from planes as an incentive for Alaskan hunters. Nice lady!

Bottom Line: Sarah Palin's purported personal float plane, avid snowmobiling, lust for hunting and meat, and number of private residences (while they do pale in comparison with the McCain's eight) make her quite the eco-sinner, even though she drives a diesel car and the square footage of her main residence plus her vacation mileage is reportedly modest. Like this? Stay tuned for The Eco-Sins of Barack Obama, John McCain and Joe Biden.