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76 posts from February 2009

February 27, 2009

Daily Roundup: February 27, 2009

Endangered? Peter Dykstra reports on the uncertain future of environmental journalism. Mother Nature Network

Fix It: Platform21 designers challenge us to "Stop recycling. Start repairing." Watch for its DIY exhibition scheduled for March 13. Core77

Find It: The Environmental Defense Fund has unveiled a new resource for green job seekers: a map that marks the location of environmentally friendly businesses. Green Inc.

Protest It: Thousands of demonstrators--including Daryl Hannah, Susan Sarandon, and Kathy Mattea--are expected to convene in Washington, D.C., on March 2 to protest against coal-burning power plants. Ecorazzi

Cleaner Tech: New California regulations require computer chip manufacturers to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than half. Los Angeles Times

--Della Watson

Sustainable Electronics? NYC's Greener Gadget Conference Highlights the Difficulties

Electronic waste At the Greener Gadgets Conference in New York City today, experts in electronics, environment, and design debated how the ever-changing consumer electronics industry could innovate without adding yet more gadgets to the trash bin.

The conference, now in its second year, happened as both the electronics industry and the green movement suffer from the economic downturn. Half the seats stood empty, and the show floor held more journalists than there were exhibitors for them to interview.
Keynote speaker Saul Griffith, a design pioneer, advocated reducing our carbon footprint through what he called “the Montblanc pen approach to design." That is, make far fewer products, but make them so well that they never need to be replaced.
But does that formula apply to gadgetry that is in perpetual upgrade? Stephen Harper, Intel's director of energy and environment policy, said his company hopes to foster “a culture of repair rather than replacement” – an easy argument to make when your company makes just the microprocessors.

Continue reading "Sustainable Electronics? NYC's Greener Gadget Conference Highlights the Difficulties" »

And To Think I Honeymooned in Italy...

Pasta OK, how many of you like pasta? I thought so: everybody. How many of you live someplace where water scarcity is a concern, or where there's been a drought recently? Probably at least a third of you, and that number is on the rise. Last question: How many of you think about energy costs and conserving energy? Chances are, if you read this blog, nearly all of you.

So what's the connection between pasta, water, and energy use? Well, Americans cook something on the order of a billion pounds of pasta each year, using a whole lot of water (and trillions of BTUs to boil it) in the process. For some years now I've been increasingly aware of how much water I dump down the drain every time I cook a pot of pasta. But I figured that's just the way it is.

Until today, that is, when an article in the newspaper caught my eye: "How Much Water Does Pasta Really Need?" by food writer and lecturer Harold McGee. "Why boil so much more water than pasta actually absorbs, only to pour it down the drain?" McGee asks. "Couldn't we cook pasta just as well with much less water and energy?"

Continue reading "And To Think I Honeymooned in Italy..." »

Trendsetter: Swimmer Christopher Swain

Christopher Swain, the first person to swim the length of the Columbia River (more than 1,200 miles), is a passionate guy. And not just about his sport, but about rivers and oceans too, and about teaching people why it's important to keep them clean. In April, Swain, who has also swum the Hudson and Charles Rivers (315 and 80 miles, respectively), will attempt to swim more than 1,000 miles from Marblehead, Massachusetts, to Washington, D.C.

Q: How do your swims raise awareness of clean-water issues?

A: If you're in the business of conservation, you've got a responsibility to get outside. You're not doing your job if you don't. It's not about e-mail blasts. It's about what you can go out there and experience and come back and testify to. If you look at the people who've really done anything--John Muir, David Brower, Rachel Carson--you can feel it in their writing. Your credibility is going to come from your experience.

Q: Do you worry that the water's toxicity will affect you?

A: Yeah, so I manage my risk. I hardly eat seafood to avoid accumulating mercury. I go to a clinic to test for PCBs, I wear goggles and earplugs, I gargle hydrogen peroxide, I don't swim near pipes, and I'm judicious about not swimming within three days of rain to avoid runoff. I've gotten rashes and had my lymph nodes swell up to golf-ball size from swimming through sewage.

Continue reading "Trendsetter: Swimmer Christopher Swain" »

First Dog Will Enjoy the Green Life

Dog house The vote is still out for the much-anticipated White House dog breed, but Michelle Obama told People magazine she's stumping for a Portuguese water dog. With daughters Sasha and Malia so excitedto bring the pooch home, it's also noteworthy that the Obamas stand committed to taking the time to find a rescue dog.

Early names "Frank" and "Moose" received a presidential veto, but when the yet-to-be-named pup arrives in April, it'll reside in a swank, eco-friendly house created by Sustainable Pet Design. The Summa Canum (Latin for "top dog") has walls built with reclaimed lumber from our seventh president Andrew Jackson's estate and is painted with nontoxic zero-VOC paint and varnish. The stately Greek columns will support a green roof to be planted by the girls themselves.

Future plans include adding solar panels and radiant floor heating, but that will be after the Summa Canum is delivered to the White House by singer and environmental advocate Neil Young in his super-efficient LincVolt. Not too shabby.

--Jordana Fyne

Movie Review Friday: Tank Girl

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week, we review a film with an environmental 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 it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Tank Girl (1995)
Available on DVD

It is 2033. An asteroid has crashed into Earth, turning it into a wasteland. It has not rained for 11 years, and all the water is owned by one company: Water & Power. A small group of outlaws including Rebecca (a.k.a. Tank Girl) live in the last cranny of unclaimed land, pumping water illegally from the ground to survive. However, their state of being untouchable does not last for long. W&P raids their house, killing everyone except for Tank Girl and Sam, her boyfriend's daughter. The two are then separated and used as slaves, at which point Tank Girl must use her ingenuity to save Sam and herself.

Continue reading "Movie Review Friday: Tank Girl" »

February 26, 2009

Daily Roundup: February 26, 2009

Planet of the Apes: Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall has a few things to say about the recent suburban chimp attack. LA Unleashed

Bummer: America's love of ultra-soft toilet paper (which can't be made from recycled fiber) is hard on forests. New York Times

Forces of Nature: Biologists are using magnets to stop relocated crocodiles from returning to populated Florida neighborhoods. Science Daily

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Joe Biden and the Middle Class Task Force will discuss green jobs in Philadelphia on Friday. Philadelphia Business Journal

Fungus vs. Prehistoric Art: A team of international scientists met in Paris on Thursday to discuss options for saving France's famous Lascaux cave drawings from a creeping fungus. San Francisco Chronicle

--Della Watson

Bishops Recommend Carbon Fast During Lent

UK bishops are going green for Lent Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of self-denial and reflection observed by Catholics and some other religious denominations. This year, instead of giving up chocolate or Facebook addictions, some parishioners will rein in their carbon habit. Bishops in Liverpool and London are joining with Ed Milliband, the U.K.'s energy and climate change minister, to promote a 40-day carbon fast. Participants might challenge themselves to cut carbon emissions by not driving during Lent, or they could opt for humbler goals like removing a light bulb or unplugging an appliance. Milliband told the Guardian, "This initiative shows there are ways we can make a difference that might seem like a sacrifice to begin with but can easily become part of everyday life and help tackle dangerous climate change."

--Della Watson

Print Green For a Smaller Footprint

Green printer If you’re constantly looking for ways to green the office, the obvious includes recycling and saving energy. A different part of the equation, though, is knowing who your vendors are. Let’s take printers, for example.

The Sierra Club's headquarters in San Francisco runs a lot like a typical office, with computers, fax machines, and printers. This means a lot of paper, a lot of toner, and a lot of energy. Always mindful of walking the talk, however, we partner with Resolution, Inc., a green printing company that meticulously shrinks its product’s carbon footprint and offers discounted services to nonprofits that work for good causes. Here’s the company’s tip sheet about greening your office printer.

Continue reading "Print Green For a Smaller Footprint" »

Turn That Umbrella Upside Down

Rainwater As rain falls onto a parched landscape, many Californians are doing more than just sighing with relief. They're recognizing that drought still threatens to deplete aquifers, create dust-bowl conditions in fallow agricultural land, and degrade the habitat of Chinook salmon and endangered delta smelt. Faced with a long-term weather forecast that predicts the state's $30 billion harvest to be at risk, more Californians are finding hope in another kind of harvest: that of water.

By shifting how they approach landscape design to allow for increased rainwater retention, some residents are creating productive edible gardens and wildlife habitats in their yards. Others are constructing simple water catchment systems on their roofs or graywater recycling systems that put leftover water from showers, bathroom sinks, and washing machines to good use.

--Melissa Weiss

Thirsty for more info? A growing number of books, websites, and hands-on workshops are devoted to the art of water harvesting.

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