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40 posts from September 2007

September 30, 2007

Daily Tip : October 1, 2007

Paper towels or electric dryer?

There's no contest. Did you know electric dryers are twice as energy-efficient as paper towels, even towels made from recycled paper? Although the production of the electricity that powers electric dryers generates greenhouse gases, the production of paper towels is twice as energy-intensive and creates more greenhouse gases overall. Also, the manufacture of paper towels emits pollutants, including chlorine, and many paper towels are made from virgin wood rather than recycled material. Your small choice can make a big difference.

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Solar Showdown

Talk about cramming for a test: Student teams from 20 colleges will have just ten days to assemble solar-powered houses before putting them through their paces in the biannual Solar Decathlon. Instead of discus and hurdles, the ten events will assess qualities like curb appeal and temperature control. Homes, like the 2005 entry above, will be open to the public October 12-20 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Too far to trek? Find local green homes to visit at nationalsolartour.org.

(Photograph by Stefano Paltera/Solar Decathlon)

Fast Fact

The average U.S. house creates double the greenhouse-gas emissions of the average car. Audit your home's energy use (and learn to reduce it) at hes.lbl.gov.

September 29, 2007

Insulating Made Easy

We've got a nice sunny weekend predicted for San Francisco, but in many parts of the country, people are starting to think about getting ready for winter. If you listened to Sierra Club Radio today, you know that adding insulation and improving the air sealing in your home are two key ways to improve energy efficiency year-round and minimize heating costs in the winter.

Not sure where to start? Cruise over to the Department of Energy's website for some good DIY ways to detect air leaks in your home and tips for hiring a pro to do a more thorough energy audit. (The agency's guides to caulking and weather-stripping are heck of useful too.)

Once you know what some of the problem areas are, check out Sierra's July/August 2007 article "Remodeling Right" for simple, sophisticated, and "whole hog" ways to get your home in tip-top shape.

September 28, 2007

Knowledge is Power

We talked awhile back about how the fuel-consumption display in the Toyota Prius inspires drivers to try and get even better mileage out of their hybrids. Now (or at least, recently--I'm a bit behind, so thanks, Grist, for catching me up), Nissan is putting similar devices in all of its cars. "You will become a little less lead-footed if you can see what putting your foot to the pedal does to your fuel economy," spokesman Tony Pearson told USA Today. What do you think: Would knowing your real-time mpg encourage you to drive better, or less? And what other ways could technology be used to prod people toward conservation? A note on your computer sign-in screen telling you how much energy you'd wasted by leaving it on overnight, perhaps?

Media Lounge

Come on in and feed your mind

Smso07_gl_crudeA CRUDE AWAKENING
a film by Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack
It doesn't feature any zombies or serial killers, but this might be the scariest movie you'll see all year. Somber visits to onetime oil boomtowns, chilling interviews with former industry executives, and an eye-opening look at how this ever-scarcer resource is intertwined with our culture all add up to one conclusion: Oil, the "bloodstream of the world economy," may well bring an end to it. oilcrashmovie.com

a book by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman with Michael Fox
The new water barons want free public access to clean water to be a thing of the past. But citizens around the world have mounted fierce resistance to attempts by multinational corporations like Nestle and Suez to privatize "blue gold." This literary follow-up to the authors' 2004 documentary of the same name is an urgent call to stop the sale of water sources to the highest bidder. --Silja J. A. Talvi

Smso07_gl_corncoverKING CORN
a film by Aaron Woolf
It sounds like the setup to a joke: Two college buddies move from Boston to Iowa to grow an acre of corn. But this lighthearted documentary is also enlightening, as the pair supplement their farming efforts by tracking corn through the food system--visiting cattle operations that use it as feed, interviewing urban doctors about obesity that may stem from corn-based sweeteners, even brewing up a batch of their own high-fructose corn syrup. kingcorn.net

Smso07_gl_unrestBLESSED UNREST
a book by Paul Hawken
Smith & Hawken's founder didn't set out to pen a hopeful book. "Optimism," writes Paul Hawken, "discovered me." By his count, more than a million groups around the world are fighting for the environment, social justice, and indigenous rights--what he terms a decentralized "immune system" response to the planet's troubles. Visiting Hawken's new Web site, wiserearth.org, a collaborative tool for 100,000 such groups, might cheer you too. --Joan Hamilton

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

a book edited by Sheherazade Goldsmith
Hard work never looked so enticing as in this lushly illustrated manual for cooking, gardening, and scrubbing your way to a better planet. Former British model Sheherazade Goldsmith's glamming up of rural living may not tempt everyone into raising chickens or pigs, but who wouldn't enjoy tips for giving eco-presents or a recipe for organic mulled wine?

Daily Tip : September 28, 2007

Every Friday we feature a user submitted tip. Keep sending yours in!

Eat less meat!  Eating meat has an enormous impact on our environment. Do whatever you can handle.  If you can become a vegetarian or better yet, vegan, do it!  If you can't handle that, only eat meat 3 times a week instead of every day.  When you're torn about what to make the family for dinner, or you're out to eat debating between a couple of dishes, choose the one without meat.  You may find that it is easier than you think to come up with healthy meals that do not involve meat.

-- Submitted by Christy

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September 27, 2007

Build a Better Lightbulb

Say so long to flickering, unflattering light: Energy-efficient compact fluorescents now come in various shapes, brightness levels, and hues--some even work with dimmers. Find bulbs for every socket at environmentaldefense.org/maketheswitch. Proper disposal is a snap with prepaid recycling kits from www.sylvania.com/recycle.


(Chart by Peter Hoey--click on the image to see a larger version)

Daily Tip : September 27, 2007

Around 10 million pairs of perfectly usable eyeglasses and sunglasses are discarded each year in Europe and North America. These glasses can be used to help people in the developing world to see. For more information visit http://www.uniteforsight.org/.

Question of the Day: What was the last item you donated?

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September 26, 2007

Green is the New Fierce

Top_model_9It's no secret around the Sierra office that I get an inordinate amount of enjoyment out of the so-bad-it's-good reality show America's Next Top Model. And tonight, I can watch my guilty pleasure without any guilt at all--in fact, I can even call it research. The next episode, titled "The Models Go Green" promises to set the girls up with a green mode of transportation (presumably not the Hummer limo they've been tooling around in the last few seasons) and move them into an "environmentally friendly Los Angeles mansion" (which, admittedly, sounds like more than a bit of an oxymoron). Maybe they can even find some ecofriendly weaves for the makeover episode.

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