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40 posts from May 2008

May 30, 2008

Climate Change On Stage

Fat_opera_lady_singing Dust off your organic formal wear and your vintage opera glasses. An Inconvenient Truth is about to become an opera. Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli has been commissioned to produce the opera based on Al Gore's hit documentary. The stage production is scheduled for the 2011 season at the Milan opera house.

For more insight into An Inconvenient Truth, read Sierra magazine's 2006 interview with Al Gore (no word yet on whether he'll give us a repeat performance when the opera comes out).


Source:  Associated Press

Movie Review Friday -- Oil + Water

Escape to the movies with one of our "Film Fridays" selections. Each week we'll feature a movie review with environmentally or socially responsible themes that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD.

Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 words or less and look for your review in the next Movie Friday!

Oil + Water

Despite being pulled over by curious police 26 times in Colombia, Seth Warren and Tyler Bradt's homemade biodisel vehicle (named Baby) manages to make it from Alaska to Argentina without using one drop of petroleum.

The boys, expert kayakers, split their road-trip time between tackling high-octane adventure sports and educating the public about biofuel.  The documentary follows Warren and Bradt on their adrenaline-heavy journey as they meet with curious schoolchildren, ambassadors, reporters, and Rastafarians, demonstrating how used cooking oil can be turned into fuel.


May 29, 2008

A Word With Your Boss

Each Thursday The Green Life will be featuring a question and answer session from our very own Mr. Green. If you aren't familiar with Mr. Green,  he was managing editor and book review editor of Sierra magazine for many years, and now writes Sierra's popular "Hey Mr. Green" environmental advice column. He has also just published Hey Mr. Green: Sierra Magazine's Answer Guy Tackles Your Toughest Green Living Questions.

Our question for today is from Allen in Houston, TX, who asks, "I am urging my employer to participate in a paper-recycling program. Can you tell me how many trees would be saved by recycling a 30-gallon bin of paper?"

Mr. Green answers:

As teenagers, my buddy Gordo and I whacked scads of innocent trees with our trusty McCullough chainsaw and shipped them to the mill in Dubuque. So toiling to answer this sort of question is a penance for such sins. Better to do it now than to stew in a vat of boiling pulp in the hereafter, taunted by environmental sermons blaring through raspy amplifiers. Anyway, a 30-gallon bin will generally hold around 80 pounds of computer paper, or up to 100 pounds if the paper is tightly packed.

A typical tree used for pulp yields about 83 pounds of office paper, meaning your bin would essentially hold the equivalent of one tree. Since 10 to 25 percent of the mass gets lost in the paper-recycling process, you might not rescue a whole tree each time you fill a bin, but it's safe to say at least three-fourths of a tree could be saved per container. Now if you throw in a lot of crumpled paper that takes up extra space, you'll obviously fall short of that noble goal.

Of course, trees come in various sizes, and some species yield more pulp than others, so these are ballpark figures. Remember too that all paper is not created equal: Virgin office paper requires twice as much pulp per pound as virgin newsprint. But any way you slice it, recycling paper saves a lot of trees.

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May 27, 2008

A Different Kind of Map

Farmersmarket A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat locally. Not only are you supporting your local economy, chances are your local farm doesn't use pounds of pesticides or antibiotics.

For an easy guide to what's fresh in your state, plus links to recipes and shopping guides, check out Epicurious' new Peak-Season Interactive Map.


If Oprah Can Do It......

For the next 21 days,  in an effort to eat more consciously, Oprah is going vegan. She will be eliminating caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten and animal products from her diet for 21 days. She has already exclaimed "Wow, wow, wow! I never imagined meatless meals could be so satisfying. I had been focused on what I had to give up—sugar, gluten, alcohol, meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese. "What's left?" I thought. Apparently a lot. I can honestly say every meal was a surprise and a delight, beginning with breakfast—strawberry rhubarb wheat-free crepes."

Raising animals for meat is one of the most environmentally destructive practices, according to a 2006 report published by the United Nations. The report calls raising animals for food “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."

If Oprah can do it, don't you think you can too? Who is ready to try out the vegan lifestyle?

-- CN

Sources: GoVeg.com, Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options

May 23, 2008

Green Tip: Celebrate World Turtle Day May 23

Turtle_istock_000000488035xsmall Are you planning a trip to the beach this summer? If so, that's one thing you have in common with sea turtles, who trek ashore to lay their eggs. Nesting season varies according to region, but it can last from March until October.

Here are some things you can do to help sea turtles: 

Keep off the dunes. Nests are often marked by local turtle watch groups. If you see a nest, don't dig or walk near it, and keep dogs out of the area. Turn the lights out. Light disorients turtles who nest and hatch at night, so don't bring flashlights to the beach after dark. If you live near the shore, draw your curtains at night or install dark window tinting, and turn off patio lights. Remove litter. Turtles mistake plastic bags, styrofoam, and helium balloons for food, which can be a deadly error. Clear the path. When you leave the beach, remove beach toys, chairs, umbrellas and other possible turtle obstructions. Fill in large holes left by sandcastle projects or tire treads (turtle hatchlings can get stuck in them). Protect turtle habitat. Sierra Club recently teamed up with local organizations to protect Puerto Rico's Northeast Ecological Corridor, a loggerhead turtle nesting site. Contact your local Sierra Club chapter or a local turtle watch group to get involved with turtle protection.


Sources:  The Humane Society, Folly Beach Turtle Watch, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch, Holden Beach Turtle Watch, CCC and Turtle Survival League, South Carolina Aquarium

Movie Friday -- Baraka

Escape to the movies with one of our "Film Fridays" selections. Each week we'll feature a movie review with environmentally or socially responsible themes that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD.

Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 words or less and look for your review in the next Movie Friday!


Baraka is a timeless classic, made in 1992, is an incredible, beautiful film that spans the environmental issues of the world that only ring louder today, and it is done all without words, which makes it that much more powerful. It is a masterpiece!

-- Review by Green Life Reader Pamela Stewart

May 22, 2008

The Rise of the Green Bandit

Thief4228075_thumbnailTheft of used cooking oil is on the rise, and it has biofuel producers nervously guarding their grease. High prices at the gas pump give new value to the formerly overlooked cooking waste product, which can be refined to make biodiesel. The EPA requires that refiners be registered, but as biodiesel pirates continue to strike, some licensed producers are finding their barrels empty.

In other green crime news, a string of manhole cover thefts in Philadelphia is creating a safety hazard for unsuspecting bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers. Global demand for recycled metals is growing, which means that manhole covers (a source of cast iron), copper wiring, and even beer kegs (a source of stainless steel) are catching thieves' eyes.


Sources:  MSNBC, Newsweek, Grist

Carbon and Cents

The San Francisco Chronicle calls it a fine, the Associated Press calls it a carbon tax. Others call it monumental, but only a first step. What would you call yesterday's move to charge 2,500 San Francisco Bay Area companies 4.4 cents for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit? With a 15-1 vote, the air quality regulator for the nine-county region followed Boulder, Colorado with a plan to charge businesses for greenhouse gas emissions. While Boulder channels funds into climate change education and energy conservation programs, the Chronicle reports other plans in the Bay:

District officials took pains to emphasize the estimated $1.1 million to be collected annually will pay for collecting and tracking data on greenhouse gases. What's more, individual fees will be too small in most cases to penalize polluters or deter the discharge of carbon dioxide.

Chris Morrison asked on VentureBeat this morning if a grassroots movement toward emissions taxing might overcome cap-and-trade schemes, which allow companies to trade permits for set amounts of emissions on an open market. He thinks it's unlikely, but possible. What do you think?

May 21, 2008

Green Tip: Encourage Green-Thumbed Children

Garden_girl_istock_000004175844xsma Eco-parents, consider giving kids a garden patch that they can design and cultivate on their own (younger children will need some supervision, of course).  Cornell University's "Greener Voices" study suggests that children are more engaged in learning when they are responsible for planning and decision making. Even if your child's mini-garden turns out to be a disaster, he or she will still learn a small-scale lesson about the challenges and rewards of caring for the Earth. Check out Cornell's Garden-Based Learning Web site for additional child-friendly garden activities.


Sources:  Time, Cornell University, The Daily Green, Digital Journal

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