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26 posts from May 2007

May 30, 2007


Corina Beczner, age 34
Green-wedding planner

A class in the geography of garbage changed Corina Beczner's life. With her outgoing personality and passion for waste reduction, greening often-extravagant events was a perfect match. Beczner founded her wedding-planning firm, Vibrant Events, last June after graduating with an MBA in sustainability from San Francisco's Presidio School of Management.

Q: How can being green make a wedding more memorable?

A: Sustainability is all about being innovative, and the most meaningful weddings are the ones that don't do all that cookie-cutter stuff. One bride didn't want any cut flowers, so her friends made paper flowers that could be recycled. It was festive and represented the couple well because they were both artists.

Q: Does being ecofriendly ever run afoul of wedding etiquette?

A: One couple used an Evite invitation; the family didn't like that. But another sent one piece of paper in an envelope to meet traditional expectations and created a supplemental Web site.

Q: Why is it important to make weddings environmentally friendly?

A: This is a $139 billion-a-year industry. I want to help couples use some of that money to express what they care about--whether it's local food, carbon emissions, or recycling.

(Photograph by Patty Nason)

* * *

Want to know more about getting married in sustainable style? Check out all the resources, tips, and ideas in our recent list of "10 Steps to a Green Wedding." Look for an interview with another ecofriendly wedding planner on Friday. Meet a real-life couple that got married in a climate-neutral ceremony. And read the rest of our interview with Corina Beczner after the jump.

Continue reading "Trendsetter " »

Fast Fact

The average U.S. wedding and honeymoon generate 9 to 16 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

May 29, 2007

Sea of Possibilities

When sculptor David Edgar started playing around with recycled plastic detergent and laundry bottles, their bright colors and curvy shapes reminded him of the tropical fish of his Florida childhood. With the vivid logos of his petroleum-based source material still visible on a spiny fin or oddly expressive face, Edgar's pop-art-influenced forms remind us of how much we casually discard--and what we might be throwing away. plastiquarium.com

(Photograph by David A. Edgar)

May 26, 2007

Filling up for Less

Worried about the high cost of gas this summer? Here's some easy ways to save money at the pump--and make a difference for the planet too:

Mind your maintenance. A well-tuned car burns less gasoline, so get your oil and air filters changed regularly. Not sure if your filter needs changing? Take it out and hold it up to the light. If you can't see any light coming through, it's too dirty. It's also important to check your tire pressure monthly. (You'll get the most consistent results by using your own gauge when the car is cold.) Americans driving on under-inflated tires waste 4 million gallons of gas a day and reduce the lifespan of their tires.

Clear out the clutter. According to the Department of Energy, every 100 pounds you carry inside your car lowers its fuel economy by one to two percent. So if you don't need it on the trip you’re taking, don't have it in your trunk.

Don't drive like a jerk. Fast, aggressive driving is a big fuel waster. Try to maintain a constant speed--most cars reach peak efficiency while cruising steady between 55 and 60 miles per hour--and avoid rapid acceleration and braking, which can increase fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent. (And make everyone else on the road hate you.)

Keep your cool. Need relief from the heat? Consumer Reports recommends using the air conditioner if you're going faster than around 40 miles per hour, since a lot of engine power at high speeds goes to reducing drag. When you're cruising around town, it's more efficient to keep your windows open.

Think different. Could some of your short trips be made on public transportation, or by walking or riding a bike? Combining trips also helps, as does carpooling with friends.

Want to know how much you'd save on gas if your car got 40 miles to the gallon? Visit the Sierra Club's MPG calculator. Just enter in your car's make, model, and how many miles you drive each year, and it'll do the math for you.

May 25, 2007

Media Lounge

Come on in and feed your mind

Smmj07_gl_earthknows_2THE EARTH KNOWS MY NAME
a book by Patricia Klindienst
For ethnic and immigrant Americans, gardens provide not only food but also a connection with their culture. From Italians who fled fascism with precious seeds to Indian expatriates who grow jamun, neem, and other trees native to their homeland, the diverse gardeners profiled by Patricia Klindienst have learned to heal personal pain by sowing the earth. Their stories of redemption are as beautiful as the land they work. --Rebecca Lawton

a book by Duncan Clark and Richie Unterberger
Was your sweater made in a sweatshop? Does your food come from a family or factory farm? Did that FedEx package you sent help reelect George W. Bush? Everyday purchases have major social, environmental, and political ramifications, as this comprehensive Rough Guide makes clear. With so many companies now positioning themselves as ethical alternatives, the book's practical tips help consumers align what they buy with what they believe.

Smmj07_gl_wildtreesTHE WILD TREES
a book by Richard Preston
Once thought to be barren, the world's oldest redwoods are actually "coral reefs in the air," supporting soil, water, lichens, ferns, voles, and salamanders. Richard Preston tags along with the quirky tree-climbing scientists who have risked their lives to make these recent discoveries. In the end, they help him spider-walk hundreds of feet up some of the old monarchs to see for himself. --Joan Hamilton

Blackgold_cover_2BLACK GOLD
a film by Marc Francis and Nick Francis
From the sterile conference rooms where "cuppers" gravely taste different brews to the clattering warehouses where Ethiopian women pick through unroasted beans, coffee connects the world but hardly unites it. The gap between those who set coffee's price and the impoverished growers who produce it--and one man's struggle to inject some fairness into the process--is at the heart of this eye-opening documentary. blackgoldmovie.com

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

Smmj07_gl_sixthextinctionTHE SIXTH EXTINCTION
a book by Terry Glavin
Though people have killed off many species, extinction is not a battle between humans and nature; our fates are intertwined. As plants and animals disappear, so too do languages, traditions, and knowledge. Terry Glavin travels to places where people--Hawaiian botanists hand-pollinating cliff-dwelling flowers, Indian villagers growing dozens of kinds of rice--are battling a "dark and gathering sameness."

May 24, 2007

TGI (almost) F

Hopefully you, like me, have the day off on Monday. Here's some tips for good green fun this holiday weekend:

  • If your plans include a picnic, the San Francisco Chronicle suggests packing reusable (and lightweight) bamboo tableware, biodegradable forks, and recycled-paper napkins.
  • Skip the lighter fluid and fire up your grill with a charcoal chimney starter.
  • Take a hike! The online trail directories at American Trails, GORP, Trails.com, or TrailSource will have you enjoying the out-of-doors in no time.
  • Planning a longer trip? Make sure you have the greenest gear.
  • If you're hitting the road, improve your mileage by keeping your air filter clean and your tires properly inflated, driving the speed limit, minimizing the cargo you're carrying, and following our other gas-saving tips.
  • How does your garden grow? A lot better with some good compost. So dig in!

May 23, 2007

Toxics on Board?

If you've got a kid, you've now got yet another reason to drive as little as possible: toxic car seats, which Grist reports "have joined baby bottles and bath toys on the ever-growing list of Evil Things You're Subjecting Your Child To."

While car seats keep your little one snug and secure, they may also be leaching bromine, chlorine, lead, and other unpleasant substances. After extensive testing, the Michigan-based Ecology Center has published recommendations for safer brands and general suggestions to reduce potential exposures, including "using solar reflectors and parking in the shade whenever possible…ventilat[ing] your car before entering…and limit[ing] the amount of time a child spends in a car seat." I guess those sleeping-inducing drives around the block aren't such a good idea after all.

Apple Starts Polishing Its Image

Promoagreenerapple20070502After its dismal showing last month in Greenpeace's "Guide to Greener Electronics," Apple announced some sweet news: a phase-out of two particularly nasty types of chemicals, brominated fire retardants and polyvinyl chloride, in all of its products by 2008--a year before Dell and other competitors have planned to get BFRs and PVC out of their PCs. While heralding the move, Greenpeace plans to keep up its campaign until Apple gets even greener.


The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Eyed Peas, and Sheryl Crow are among the more than 100 artists scheduled to play Live Earth, seven continents' worth of concerts on July 7 to raise awareness of climate change. * Ikea has instituted a five-cent fee for each disposable plastic bag given out in its U.S. stores and cut the price of its reusable sacks; a similar Ikea campaign in the United Kingdom reduced consumption of single-use bags by 95 percent. * Home Depot is introducing more than 1,300 ecofriendly products, including low-flow showerheads and tankless water heaters, in its U.S. and Canadian stores. * More than 100 college and university presidents have signed a pact to eliminate or offset carbon emissions at their schools; the Los Angeles Community College District is already taking its nine campuses off the grid with solar energy.

May 21, 2007

That's a Wrap

FuroshikiA centuries-old tradition may provide a stylish solution to the modern problem of waste created by single-use plastic and paper bags. Former Japanese environmental minister Yuriko Koike launched a campaign to revive the furoshiki, a type of square wrapping cloth. Originally used to hold clothes at public baths, furoshiki can be folded in many ways--depending on whether you're toting books, groceries, or a bottle of wine--and adorned with patterns as chic as any Prada bag.

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