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17 posts from January 2007

January 31, 2007

Tip Sheet

As the average U.S. home size increases, demanding more energy and materials, living smaller is a surefire way to reduce your ecological footprint. Whether you're downsizing to 2,000 or 200 square feet, it's also an opportunity to enjoy a simpler way of life and thoughtful design. Here are some tips for making the transition:

  • Study how you use your current dwelling and where you spend your time. For example, do you really need a formal dining room?
  • Give away junk you've had for years. It's surprisingly liberating.
  • Use the vertical. Cathedral ceilings make a room feel more spacious and can hold sleeping lofts.
  • Bring the outside in. Carefully placed windows and porches heighten awareness of seasons, stars, flowers, and animals.
  • Finish your small home with details you'll love--stained glass, say, or walnut filigree. In less space, they're more affordable.

For more ideas and tips, visit The Small House Society, TinyHouses.net, and TinyHomes.com.
--Martin John Brown

Living Large

Downsizing hasn't meant denial for Tim Johnson. Though his solar-powered Missouri home is only 200 square feet, its amenities include DSL, a flat-screen TV, and a bedroom coffee station. Like other members of the movement toward living well in tiny houses, Johnson has replaced quantity of space with quality of experience, including an increased connection to neighbors and the outdoors. "You sit on the porch a lot," he says, "so your room is as big as the world." --Martin John Brown

January 29, 2007

Nature's Bliss

bagsGrowing up on a walnut farm gave Jill Bliss a do-it-yourself ethic; living in the city, a renewed appreciation for nature. The Northern California artist combines both influences in her playful, handmade paper and fabric crafts, turning floral sheets into wallets and printing tidepool-inspired notes on recycled paper with vegetable ink. Bliss's intricate designs reflect her belief that there's as much activity in a natural landscape as in an urban one. "It's another type of city in my mind," she says. blissen.com

(Photograph courtesy of Jill Bliss)

January 26, 2007

The Buzz

"Our research shows that consumers are getting very concerned about environmental issues... It's a trend that we know won't go away after a season, like a poncho."

--Mike Barry, head of corporate social responsibility at British retailer Marks & Spencer, quoted in "Can Polyester Save the World?" by Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times, January 25, 2007.

Medicinal Menus

illoWith poor nutrition contributing to four of the six leading causes of death in the United States, why do more than 40 percent of the country's top hospitals host fast-food franchises--and serve unappetizing meals to boot? It's a problem that a growing number of healthcare providers are working to resolve by dishing up more organic, locally grown foods and antibiotic-free meat to patients, workers, and visitors; starting on-site farmers' markets and gardens; and showing junk-food purveyors the door. noharm.org/us/food/issue

(Illustration by Josef Gast)

January 24, 2007

Pop Corner

MissRhodeIslandA tree hugger with a tiara? That's Allison Rogers, the 25-year-old beauty queen who will represent Rhode Island in next week's Miss America competition. The Harvard University grad, who works as an environmental education coordinator on campus, eschewed typically uncontroversial pageant "platforms" like promoting character. Instead, Rogers chose global warming as her issue, writing, "I have a dream that one day we will live in a society that runs on renewable and nonfossil fuels, with low-impact vehicles, where 'sustainable' lifestyle choices are second nature for all of us."

January 22, 2007

Advice on saving money, buying gas, and dying well

Hey Mr Green In the January/February 2007 issue of Sierra, Mr. Green offers advice on the "best" place to buy gas, explains just how much money you can save by turning the lights off when you leave the room, and considers the environmental aspects of the afterlife.

Send your thoughts and questions directly to Mr. Green, or weigh in in the comments section.

January 19, 2007

Media Lounge

Books and films to inspire and incite

a book edited by Alex Steffen
This "user's guide for the 21st century" is an encyclopedic look at ideas for environmental and social sustainability, from the fanciful (a table that emits natural light) to the indispensable (affordable water filtration). Touching on technology, art, disaster relief, biodiversity, and hundreds of other topics, the book connects the unexpected and starts charting the way to a future that is "bright, green, and freely available to all." worldchanging.com

a book by Stephen Trimble
The Grand Canyon's vastness can be difficult to capture on film, but the 46 photographers showcased in this historical overview succeed gloriously. Stories of early expeditions and interviews with contemporary artists add depth and context to the images, which range from classic vistas to close studies of the serene pools, sandy outcrops, and dramatic flora in the hidden corners of one of the most visited U.S. national parks.

a book by Sonia Shah
When people first encountered oil, we didn't just exploit it. "We wallowed in it," writes Sonia Shah. With the end of oil abundance nearing, the author explores our dependence on it. Her compelling account illuminates how oil reserves came to be and how this cheap fuel shaped the U.S. auto industry, contributed to human-rights abuses and rapid climate change, and created the "petrolife" Americans enjoy today. --Silja J. A. Talvi

a book by Wangari Maathai
"Anybody can dig a hole, put a tree in it, water it, and nurture it," Wangari Maathai writes in her powerful memoir. But not just anyone could turn a small tree-planting effort in Kenya into an international voice for democracy and women's rights. By maintaining a deep connection to her rural roots while gaining an education and independence, this farmer's daughter became a Nobel Peace Prize winner. greenbeltmovement.org

arrowLet's Talk: Discuss this selection with your friends and neighbors.

a film by Roberta Grossman
In the rural valleys and desert plains many Native Americans call home, power plants, mines, and hazardous-waste dumps are rarely far away. Environmental threats plague almost all of the 317 tribal reservations in the United States, but the four charismatic subjects of this film have led their impoverished communities to stand up to the devastation and protect their traditions, homes, and health.

(Worldchanging cover image courtesy Sagmeister Inc.)

January 18, 2007

Fast Fact

One person's trash is another's treasure: Trade not-quite-right holiday gifts at eswapit.com, swapthing.com, or throwplace.com.

January 15, 2007

Paint It Green

paint_cansYou don't have to make over your walls in shades of chartreuse. Eliminate a source of ground-level ozone and avoid many health hazards by choosing ecofriendly paints with low or no volatile organic compounds. VOC-free paints from Yolo Colorhouse, for example, come in a mix-and-match palette of 40 harmonious hues; the company's poster-size swatches eliminate the need for sample cans. For more tips, visit sierraclub.org/sierra/paint.

(Photograph courtesy of YOLO Colorhouse)

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