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14 posts from May 2006

May 16, 2006

Going that Extra Mile

Just like many of their owners, most American cars could stand to go on a little diet. And just like eating less and exercising more are common-sense ways to lose weight, taking some pretty simple steps can help your car use less gas. For starters, keep your air filter clean and your tires properly inflated, drive the speed limit, and "back off the bling." (I guess that makes custom rims the car world’s Krispy Kremes.)

These suggestions come from About.com's car editor, Aaron Gold, who ends his list of easy fuel-saving tips with this slightly more challenging one: don't drive. "Not a popular thing to say on a car site," he writes, "but the fact is that if you can avoid driving, you'll save gas. Take the train, ride your bike, carpool, consolidate your shopping trips. And always ask yourself: 'Is this trip really necessary?'"

For more gas-saving tips, check out the Sierra Club's list of "Ten Ways to Save Money at the Pump."

(Photograph by Warren Gretz; courtesy DOE/NREL.)

May 01, 2006

Good Enough to Eat

Pastries are full of tasty ingredients, but at a new Manhattan bakery, some have also found their way into the building itself. The shop, dubbed Birdbath, serves organic treats in what may be the first completely green bakery. Its walls are built of wheat board and sunflower-seed husks and covered with milk paint, its floor is recycled cork, and its counter is made of old bluejeans and bamboo. buildagreenbakery.com

Media Lounge

Come on in and feed your mind

The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate ChangeTHE WEATHER MAKERS
a book by Tim Flannery
If you read only one book on global warming, make it The Weather Makers. Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and explorer, has crafted a concise, eminently readable overview of climate science while passionately and persuasively arguing for immediate action. "In the years to come this issue will dwarf all the others combined," he writes. "It will become the only issue." --Pat Joseph
Let's Talk Let's Talk: Discuss this selection with your friends and neighbors.

Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our MidstCOYOTE
a book by Catherine Reid
Resettling in Berkshire, Massachusetts, after years away, Catherine Reid intertwines her own story with that of another misunderstood outsider: the eastern coyotes returning to New England. Drawn to an animal other people often shun and fear, she finds in the coyote a powerful reminder of a wildness that tract homes and interstates can't completely tame.

Lost Mountain: A Year In the Vanishing WildernessLOST MOUNTAIN
a book by Erik Reece
The scale of eastern coal mining can be difficult to comprehend: one billion tons extracted annually and hundreds of thousands of acres of Appalachia razed along the way. Kentucky native Erik Reece brings home its horrific impacts by telling the story of one densely wooded mountain that is transformed into a barren plateau in the course of a single year.

American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect LawnAMERICAN GREEN
a book by Ted Steinberg
The center of a $10.4 billion business and often a symbol of respectability, suburban lawns are rich in meaning but ecologically impoverished. Ted Steinberg leavens his discussion of their dangerous repercussions--bird-killing pesticides, Valdez-level amounts of gasoline spilled each year, even mower injuries--with tales of lawn-loving Americans who opt for perfect turf before furniture and will use a shotgun to defend their right to mow.

Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow ItFIELDS OF PLENTY
a book by Michael Ableman
For the first time in 20 years, Michael Ableman left his fields at the height of growing season to see how other small-scale, sustainable farmers work theirs. The quirky people he met treat the land gently but are "militant about flavor." Their fine attunement to the earth allows them to grow heirloom tomatoes in the shadow of an urban housing project or supply a local restaurant with a lively menu in the dead of a Wisconsin winter; it also yields the tempting recipes that accompany each chapter.

Fast Fact

Drivers of certain fuel-efficient cars enjoy free metered parking in at least seven cities, including Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City.


Rachael Robertson in the Green RoomRachael Robertson, resident, the Green Room

Rachael Robertson has the same things in her dorm room as any other student. She just spends 35 percent less energy using them. The University of California at Berkeley sophomore volunteered to live in the Green Room, the campus showcase for sustainability, and tout its improvements--including an efficient refrigerator, compact fluorescent lights, and ecofriendly toiletries--to tour groups and fellow residents.

Q: What is the goal of the Green Room project?

A: People form consumption and energy-use habits during their college years. If we make students aware of the importance of lifestyle changes, they will carry them on as adults.

Q: What kinds of changes have you made in your everyday routine?

A: When I leave for the day, I'll take an extra moment to turn off the power strip for my appliances. And I try to be very conscious of what I can reuse rather than throw away.

Q: What's next for the Green Room?

A: To start more rooms like this! --interview by Catriona Stuart

(Photo by Lori Eanes)

Fast Fact

More than 110 colleges around the United States are using or constructing energy-efficient buildings.

From Bath to Path

Recycled-toilet trailSince the late 1990s, the water utility in San Antonio, Texas, has been doling out rebates on low-flow toilets to residents who turn in their outdated, water-wasting models. But the program posed a problem: what to do with the old commodes? Last year, the city cleaned and crushed 1,000 recycled toilets and used the pebble-size pieces to pave a nature trail at Calaveras Lake Park. The white porcelain even helps light up the pathway at night.

(Illustration by Greg Mably)

The Shirt-Sleeve Solution

Casual Friday can help save the planet, says Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. Japan's "Cool Biz" campaign urges businesses to combat global warming by using less air-conditioning during the summer and letting employees doff their ties and suit jackets. (In winter, "Warm Biz" encourages workers to layer up and turn the heat down.) Last year's efforts reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 460,000 tons.

Fast Fact

Mazda Motor Corporation offers its Japanese employees up to 1,500 yen (about $12) a month if they walk to work.


An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary about global warming starring Al Gore, opens in theaters in May. * Jewelry retailers Zales, Tiffany, and Cartier have joined a campaign to clean up gold mining, pledging to get more of the precious metal from environmentally responsible sources. Visit nodirtygold.org. * Whole Foods Market has purchased enough wind-energy credits to offset the power used by its 180-store operation. * The NFL planted some 2,500 trees near Ford Field in Detroit to help make up for emissions created by powering lights, heating, and equipment during February's Super Bowl. * Elle magazine's May issue is printed on recycled paper and features articles on green topics--including one by actress Cameron Diaz.

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