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55 posts from April 2008

April 30, 2008

Help Them Help You

The Environmental Protection Agency wants your feedback. The EPA’s National Dialogue Web site says, “People’s needs and expectations for environmental information are changing. Technology is also rapidly changing, especially on the Web. We need to keep up with both trends.” Tell the EPA what kind of information you want to find online, as well as how you think that information can be more easily accessed. Post your comments to the EPA’s online discussion board or send them an email.

Source: Washington Blawg

Green Grill Out

Have you broken out the grill yet? Wondering whether you should invest in a shiny new propane grill or stick to your Weber?

You might want to read what Jon Gertner wrote in the green edition of New York Times magazine:

Barbecuing, as any guy grilling a flank steak will tell you, is as much about process as product. Propane gas versus charcoal is typically a debate about flavor, not carbon-dioxide emissions. But let’s ask anyway. Which is greener? Probably charcoal, according to Tris West, an environmental scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, who last year calculated emissions from the two methods.

He says that since charcoal is derived from wood — and thus trees that took in atmospheric carbon as they grew — burning it on the grill is pretty close to a “net zero” in terms of carbon emissions. Propane, by comparison, is a fossil fuel that adds to greenhouse-gas accumulations. West cautions, though, that it gets a little more complicated than that. Even if burning charcoal is technically greener, it may release particulates into the atmosphere. (Food scientists also warn that it can be less healthful.) It’s good to know that your choice won’t effect any significant change in mass carbon emissions. By West’s estimation, the total amount of carbon dioxide released from barbecue grills on July 4 is on the order of .003 percent of the annual U.S. total.

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April 29, 2008

When Whales Wail

Singing_whale_thumbnail North Atlantic right whales have something to sing about:  a new underwater listening network, designed to protect the endangered whales from deadly collisions with ships, maps the location of whale calls in the heavily trafficked waters of Massachusetts Bay. The data provided by the network of 13 auto-detection buoys--designed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology--are included in maritime warnings and posted on a public Web site. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requests that ships entering right whale territory slow to ten knots to avoid the slow-moving, 70-ton aquatic mammals.

Want more whale stories? Check out Daniel Duane’s humpback encounter in Sierra magazine, or read Rothenbergthousand_mileDavid Rothenberg’s new book, Thousand Mile Song:  Whale Music in a Sea of Sound. The book includes an audio CD with music composed by jazz clarinetist Rothenberg, accompanied by belugas, orcas, and humpbacks.


Source:  Science Daily

Drive Slower!

With gas prices reaching $4/gallon, there is an easy way for you to save money at the pump if you simply must drive.

Slow Down!

The friendly folks over at the San Francisco Chronicle did some reseach and concluded that "how much you stand to save depends on a lot of factors. With gas at $4 a gallon, a driver with a long commute - 400 miles a week - and a gas-guzzling vehicle getting only 20 mpg would save $18.74 a week by slowing down dramatically from 75 to 55 mph, extrapolating from the government's most recent figures on the subject. Even a more moderate deceleration - from 70 to 60 mph - would save that driver $11.74 a week."

The Chronicle reporter went out on a test drive at 59 miles per hour and waited to see how many cars he would pass. He reported that "even through the
50 mph zone through downtown, nobody was driving slower than 60. It took a couple miles of driving to tally the first slow-moving fuel saver."

Have you tried to slow down your driving? How did it go?


Did you miss the New York Times Magazine that was dedicated to all things green? If so, here is just one interesting story. Jon Gertner wrote about a Virginian firm that has been awarding a “Cradle to Cradle” certification.

A cradle-to-grave product is a product that would be dumped in a landfill at the end of it's life, whereas a cradle-to-cradle product is one whose "materials are perpetually circulated in closed loops. Maintaining materials in closed loops maximizes material value without damaging ecosystems." In this sense, the "firm endorses rethinking the way products are designed and manufactured."

A cradle-to-cradle (C2C) approval means that "a product needs to be made from components that are either 'technical nutrients' (which can be recycled or repurposed) or 'biological nutrients' (which can degrade naturally, like compost)."

So far, the C2C certification has been limited to a small variety of products, from Herman Miller chairs to the US Postal Service envelopes, but they will soon be certifying more than 500 products.

April 28, 2008

Painting the Town Green

Hey_mr_green_book_cover_real Hey, Mr. Green is coming to town! For the lucky folks in San Francisco, Sierra magazine’s resident advice guru, Bob Schildgen, will be signing copies of his new book and doling out green tips at Stacey’s on Thursday, May 1st at 12:30 p.m.

Welcome Back, Bobolink

Bobolink_istock_000002169114xsmall Navigating vast distances, migratory birds--like the bobolink (pictured)--are flocking to their summer homes. The National Zoo celebrates Bird Fest 2008 through May 1. Worldwide migratory bird celebrations are set for May 10 and 11.

Want to help our feathered friends? Turn your backyard into a haven for migrating birds by offering these avian comforts:

Migrating birds will appreciate a fancy birdbath or a shallow dish placed in a safe location (i.e. not beside your cat’s favorite perch).

Find out which plants are native to your region, and cultivate a mixture of berry producing trees and bushes, such as American holly or serviceberry. Sunflowers or marigolds make for a stunning flower garden while providing abundant seeds for hungry birds.

Shrubs and bushes provide good cover for weary travelers. A brush pile works double duty as shelter and grub station for feathered insectivores.


Sources:  eNature, Plenty, The Humane Society

Is This Plant Bugged?

Flower_crosssection_4 Ever wondered how subterranean insects communicate with aboveground bugs? Okay, we haven't either-- that's what PhD students are for. A team of them at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology have just uncovered a secret bug messaging system in which underground insects emit chemical signals through plant leaves. The message? "Hey, this one's taken." The mechanism (a product of natural selection, scientists say) prevents needless competition between root-munchers and leaf-eaters. No one knows yet how widespread the insect communication network is, but one thing's sure: It makes cell phones seem so this century.

Source: Environmental News Network

April 25, 2008

Q + A with Doug Fine: Mmm, Kung Pao Fuel

Authorphotofms Journalist, goat herder, and Sierra contributor Doug Fine hits Leno tonight to talk about going green and his new book, Farewell, My Subaru. This onetime suburbanite now grows much of his own food (at "Funky Butte Ranch"), drives on vegetable oil, and generally makes an adventure out of low-impact living.

Continue reading "Q + A with Doug Fine: Mmm, Kung Pao Fuel" »

Arbor Day--The Other Green Holiday

We have a few words for the future eco-crusader (below) as he shares his whimsical lament on the woes of trees:  Don't worry little guy, Arbor Day is here, with loads of tree-centric ways to make a difference. Learn tree care tips from the Arbor Day Foundation, or help the Sierra Club protect existing forests. Contribute to an onslaught of new greenery, as folks in New York City attempt to plant a million trees, and The Nature Conservancy tries to plant a billion! And don't forget to break for an Arbor Day moment of awe--the oldest living tree, at 9,550 years and counting, was recently found in Sweden.

--Della Watson

Sources:  Centaur Highway, Ecorazzi

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