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60 posts from December 2008

December 23, 2008

Green Your Holiday Party: Glassware

Cocktail glasses Dreaming of a green Christmas? This week, we'll show you ways to make your Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa party eco-friendly, from using the Sunday comics to wrap your gifts to buying LED holiday lights.

Tip #2: Reusable Glassware

One way to avoid the waste of disposable cups and plates is to use small, removable labels for glassware. Many hosts go through three or four times the number of disposable cups as they have guests, and this is a good way to not only conserve resources, but to inspire your guests to do the same.

What are your favorite ways to green your holiday parties? Please tell us in the space for comments below. (Thanks to Carmen Ramos-Kennedy for sharing the above tip.)

The Green Life will take a holiday break starting tomorrow, but we'll be back with new posts on Jan. 5. In the meantime, peruse our archives for a wealth of green-living tips.

December 22, 2008

Test Your Green IQ

Test your green knowledge Are you a whiz when it comes to green trivia? Find out how much you know about the big environmental news stories of 2008 by taking "The Year in Green" Quiz.

Green Your Holiday Party: Drinks

Fair trade hot cocoa Dreaming of a green Christmas? This week we'll show you ways to make your Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa party eco-friendly, from using the Sunday comics to wrap your gifts to buying LED holiday lights.

Tip #1: Serve Green Drinks

Studies suggest that warm drinks promote good feelings, so turn up the cheer with homemade eggnog or vegan eggnog.  Give premixed hot chocolate with fair trade cocoa powder and marshmallows in mason jars as a party favor. Scrap the gift wrap entirely and give gifts in reusable tote bags.

Share your tips: What are your favorite holiday drink recipes?

The Green Life will take a holiday break starting on Dec. 24, but we'll be back with new posts on Jan. 5. In the meantime, peruse our archives for a wealth of green-living tips.

December 19, 2008

Daily Roundup

Environmental Menace? The Sierra Club's answer guy weighs in on kitty litter and scolds the owners of outdoor cats. Hey Mr. Green

Now Hear This: Scientists discover that so-called "whispering" bats aren't really whispering. They're actually shrieking. Science Daily

Math Wrap: Conserve your (recycled) wrapping paper this holiday season by using "The Scientific Guide to Gift Wrapping." New Scientist

On Course: After receiving a much-needed loan from the federal government, GM announced that the anticipated Chevy Volt is still on schedule for a 2010 debut. Green Tech

Green Seats: Ford hopes to woo environmentally conscious consumers with car seats made of natural hemp and soybean fibers. The Green Parent

My Eco-Valentine

My Eco-Valentine Pink and red may take center stage this Valentine's Day, but that's no reason to forget about green. For the flower lovers in your life, consider seasonal bouquets grown as locally as possible. While imported flowers undergo inspection for pests, pesticide residue gets a free pass. That encourages growers to use highly toxic sprays, says the Pesticide Action Network. Look for blossoms that are organic or certified by the VeriFlora Sustainability Council, such as those sold at californiaorganicflowers.com. In season this time of year are bright anemones, tulips, and Dutch irises. Now what about chocolate? Selfless Sierra Club staffers tested 15 chocolate bars--all certified organic or fair trade, or made by small-scale artisanal companies. These three emerged as crave-worthy winners:

chocolate bars Artisanal
Madagascar premium dark chocolate by Amano Artisan Chocolate
Made with only cocoa beans, cocoa butter, cane sugar, and vanilla pods, this bar (minimum 70 percent cocoa) earned top marks for its tempting appearance, smooth texture, moderate sweetness, and pure cocoa flavor. This, our panelists agreed, is how chocolate should taste. amanochocolate.com

New Moon 74 percent bittersweet dark chocolate by Dagoba Organic Chocolate
Organic cocoa beans, evaporated cane juice, cocoa butter, and non-GMO soy lecithin (an emulsifier) make up this smooth bar, which earned the highest score for aroma. One panelist described it as "dark and satisfying," and many detected coffee and earthy flavors complementing the "solidly unadorned chocolate" taste. dagobachocolate.com

Fair Trade
Art Bar exquisite Swiss dark chocolate with coconut by Ithaca Fine Chocolates
Certified both fair trade and organic, this bar (minimum 58 percent cocoa) scored better among panelists favoring semisweet or unsweetened chocolate over a sweeter bar. The coconut was a turnoff for some ("Reminds me of a flavored coffee," one noted), but most liked the nutty flavor and preferred it to other fair-trade entries, which struck tasters as "a little grainy" and too fruity, "like Skittles." ithacafinechocolates.com

Trendsetter: Art Pollard, Amano Artisan Chocolate

Art Pollard The Wasatch Range may not have Oompa Loompas, but crisp air makes the region suited to manufacturing small batches of single-origin dark chocolate. That's the specialty of Utah-based Amano Artisan Chocolate, which former physics lab machinist Art Pollard founded in 2006. Inspired by Belgian chocolate he tasted during his honeymoon, Pollard began studying the delicacy a decade ago, tracking down small-scale plantations with world-class cocoa beans and retooling lab equipment to make his own bars. Today Amano uses mostly vintage processors and is one of fewer than 25 artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate companies in the United States.

Q: What's so special about single-origin chocolate bars?
Every area creates its own flavors as a result of microclimates, soil conditions, and genetics. If you pick apples from nearby valleys, they taste pretty much the same. But cocoa grown two valleys apart--it's vastly different. It's a more sensitive crop, and there has been little effort to settle on distinct varieties as we have with other fruit.

Q: How can small chocolate makers influence a $13 billion industry?
A: Large cocoa companies don't encourage distinct native varieties, which have emerged from growing in a particular area for thousands of years and may have better flavor. Instead, preference goes to crops that have disease resistance and high productivity. Historically, it's been hard to separate one or two tons that are really special. We're helping farmers produce better beans and paying premium prices for them. Without that, we could lose the genetic heritage of cocoa.

A Healthy Start


Year after year, we resolve to get fit and, increasingly, go green. But studies suggest lasting change requires a bit more specificity than resolutions like "drive less" or "exercise more." To get started: 1. Make a list of short daily or weekly car trips. In the United States, one in four trips is a mile or less. 2. Identify walkable trips on this list that add up to at least 28 miles a week (go farther if you plan to bike). Research shows that people who maintain weight loss burn calories equivalent to this amount of activity. And cutting four miles from daily driving trims about 1,600 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions annually.

Fresh Reads

Skip the postholiday letdown with a slew of new books. Start with Forecast (Henry Holt and Co.) by Stephan Faris--an account of climate-change impacts on cultures, politics, and economies worldwide. For a pick-me-up, turn to The Essential Green You by Deirdre Imus (Simon & Schuster), which includes shopping lists, recipes, and explanations of product labels. Ready for more green lit? Check out Death by Leisure (Grove Press), in which author Chris Ayres infiltrates the Los Angeles "leisuretocracy" to examine (with no small amount of humor) how high-flying U.S. lifestyles have contributed to environmental and economic collapse.

Green on the Go

Calculating carbon footprints can involve fuzzy math: You take your best guess at distances traveled and vehicle efficiency, and hope for a good estimate of your impact on the planet. The GPS-enabled calculator Carbon Diem, set to launch this year, aims to provide more-accurate measurements with less effort. It's part of a wave of new applications, such as Avego, Ecorio, and Carticipate, designed to make low-impact transit a no-brainer. Carbon Diem loads onto location-aware mobile devices and measures speed and movement patterns--the evenness of trains, for example, or the starts and stops of buses--to track emissions associated with your chosen mode of transport. carbondiem.com

Movie Review Friday: Slumdog Millionaire

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week, we review a film with an environmental or socially responsible theme that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 or fewer words and look for your review in the next Movie Review Friday.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

In theaters now

"In Alexander Dumas' book The Three Musketeers, two of the musketeers are called Athos and Porthos. What was the name of the third?" This is the question that 18-year-old Jamal Malik must answer to win $20 million rupees (just more than $400,000 U.S. dollars) on an Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, The Beach, and 28 Days Later), Slumdog Millionaire is a fast-paced journey that follows the childhood and adolescence of two "slumdog" brothers, Jamal and Salim, from the slums of Mumbai all the way to the "Hot Seat" on the popular show.

Continue reading "Movie Review Friday: Slumdog Millionaire" »

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