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75 posts from December 2009

December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

The green life is on a break from December 24 until January 4

The Green Life is taking a holiday break, but we'll be back with new posts on Monday, January 4. In the meantime, peruse our archives for green-living tips, news, and reviews.

December 23, 2009

Daily Roundup: December 23, 2009

Breath Easier: The EPA has set a new rule on engine and fuel standards for large US ships to significantly improve marine air emissions, which could reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from ships by 80 percent. ENN

Drilling Danger: Despite shale gas being considered a promising source of US energy, New York City has told the state to ban natural gas drilling in its watershed because hydraulic drilling would contaminate the watershed for the entire city. New York Times

Survival of the Fittest: Yale researchers discovered that female duck genitalia are changing to form clockwise spirals to avoid undesirable impregnation from males. Treehugger

Following Suit: Bulgaria submitted a short-term carbon permit trading plan to Brussels in hopes of becoming the last European Union member state to be approved. Reuters

Poaching Problem: The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has teamed up with the police and gamekeeping community to put a stop to deer poaching, which has doubled in the past year to 200 in England and Wales. BBC News

--Michael Mullaley

That's Your Resolution, and You're Stickin' To It

2009.2010 2009 is winding to a close, and it’s almost time to flip our calendars over to a fresh new year. This last week of the old year is the perfect time to start thinking about green resolutions for 2010. Maybe you want to eat less meat, or start commuting by bike, or buy used goods instead of new. Whatever your goal, here are some tips to help you make and keep your resolutions.

Think hard about what you want to accomplish. Don’t overdo it with goals that make it impossible to succeed. For example, it can be very difficult to go from carnivore to vegan; focus on smaller goals that are challenging but not overwhelming. And don't make New Years resolutions when you're drunk.

Be specific. Don’t say, “I want to ride my bike to work more.” Try, “I will ride my bike to work two days a week instead of one.”

Write it down. Committing a goal to paper makes it feel official.

Reward yourself. All your earth-friendly activities merit some personal back-patting. Go for a hike, go camping -- get out and enjoy what you’re trying to save.

Don’t get disheartened if you slip up. Chin up, soldier! Rome wasn’t built in a day…just part of it. You still have time.

-- Année Tousseau

Book Review Wednesday: Books About Animals

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week we’re recommending books about animals.

Penguin (by Stephen Martin, $20, Reaktion Books, November 2009) From the vast Animal book series that covers everything from rat to rhino, comes an in-depth look at the natural and cultural history of the penguin. Martin looks at the evolution, diet, behavior, and predators – among other aspects – of the different species of penguin. This book does not just list random penguin facts, but it also ties in an interesting narrative of the penguin’s relationship with human societies, which reveals a fascinating history of our love for the animal.

Do Bats Drink Blood?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Bats (by Barbara A. Schmidt-French and Carol A. Butler, $22, Rutgers University Press, October 2009) Bats are often perceived as a mysterious, sometimes frightening animal, but this book explores their fascinating world. Among the various topics covered in this readable question-and-answer, picture-popping book are bat bodies, behavior, love, dangers, and defenses and its interaction with people. From the most basic questions, such as what do they eat, to questions you might not normally think about asking, like can bats swim or do they bite people, this book covers it all. It is perfect for any naturalist, animal lover, or person interested in learning about how bats are beneficial to global ecological, economic, and public health.

Continue reading "Book Review Wednesday: Books About Animals" »

Emphasizing the Green in Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa Kwanzaa, which begins Dec. 26, is a beautiful holiday honoring African American culture and community. Red, black and green are the official colors of this holiday and are used in decorations and candles. So here are a couple of eco-friendly activities to make the green a little bit brighter this Kwanzaa. 


Instead of purchasing new decorations for Kwanzaa, create your own. Use scratch paper or recycled construction paper to create strips of paper. Link the paper together in circles to create a garland to hang up around your house. This is a great, easy activity to do with children. More detailed instructions about this activity can be found here, but be sure to use the colors of Kwanzaa instead. Also, Care2 has instructions on how to create an eco-friendly mat using recycled construction paper as well as many other tips to make Kwanzaa decorations greener.

Send a free e-card to family and friends instead of mailing Kwanzaa cards. Check out Blue Mountain, E-cards, and 123 Greetings for a wide variety of paperless selections.

Continue reading "Emphasizing the Green in Kwanzaa" »

Green Your Greeting Cards: Craft Projects

Turn greeting cards into ornaments, gift tags, or magnets Holiday correspondence certainly spreads cheer, but it also consumes trees and increases waste. This week, we'll show you how to reuse, recycle, and rethink greeting cards. 

Tip #3: Get Crafty

With a little bit of ingenuity, used holiday cards can be refashioned into new creations. Earlier this week, Green Life readers suggested that old greeting cards could be reincarnated as gift tags, postcards, and tree ornaments. Other options for creative reuse include holiday-themed magnets or placemats. If you're feeling ambitious, check out Squidoo's instructions for turning cards into small boxes, baskets, luminaries, journals, and other items.

Share your tips: What can you make with holiday cards?

The Green Life will take a holiday break starting tomorrow, but we'll be back with new posts on Jan. 4. In the meantime, peruse our archives for a wealth of green-living tips.

December 22, 2009

Daily Roundup: December 22, 2009

New BFFs? Oregon timber executives and environmentalists – traditional foes – came together to support legislation protecting the state’s old growth forests. New York Times.

Die-Hards: LED holiday lights save energy and last longer, but many still prefer the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs for decor. Even so, sales of LED holiday lights are up 200 percent. Seattle Times.

Putting Pressure on Polluters: In a settlement with the EPA, Duke Energy will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at an Indiana coal power plant by 86 percent. Altogether the company must spend $93 million to upgrade the plant and pay civil penalty and environmental mitigation fees. EPA.

Another One Bites the Dust: Seminole Electric Cooperative cancelled plans to build a coal-fired power plant in Florida. In 2009, no new coal plants have broken ground. St. Petersburg Times and Sierra Club.

Salt-ternatives: Instead of heaping salt on snowy streets, some communities are using new, more environmentally benign methods to de-ice their roads. USA Today.

-- Année Tousseau

Counting Birds: A Christmas Tradition

Birdwatching Many families celebrate the holidays with unique traditions, special ornaments, and delicious holiday recipes. This Christmas, consider starting a new holiday tradition by participating in the National Audubon Society's 110th Christmas Bird Count. The organization is gathering data from birdwatchers throughout the continent in order to better document the current status of different bird species.

Audubon says they are looking for any amount of data. So if it’s too cold outside and you can’t go to your local park, you can stay inside and count the birds that come to your backyard feeder.

With an accurate count of bird species, Audubon can correctly measure the effects of climate change as well as inform the organization on how to better strategize its conservation efforts for specific bird populations. Last year’s data was integrated into Audubon’s Bird and Climate Change Analysis.

So next time you’re out walking the dog or hiking through your local hills or mountains, take your binoculars and notebook with you. You might just find a Tufted Titmouse.

The count continues through Jan. 5. Check out the Audubon’s Web site for more information. Some of the birds spotted in last year’s count can be viewed here.

--Julie Littman

What Happened in Copenhagen?

What Happened in Copenhagen Okay, so maybe the world-saving climate agreement that we prayed would emerge from the 12-day Copenhagen Climate Summit did not materialize after all. High hopes for the negotiations between heads of state near the end of the summit and the gathering of over 190 countries were quickly deflated as world leaders stumbled to come up with anything concrete. Many people perceived Copenhagen as a failure for its inability to take steps toward a global climate solution. But despite the frustration of politics, Copenhagen did produce a wealth of drama, including a questionable non-binding agreement called the Copenhagen Accord that at least keeps the ball rolling for climate talks in Mexico City 2010.

After a pretty quiet first week, the summit started to heat up with a vast number of memo leaks such as this, which detailed potential commitments from countries on cutting emissions that would only result in a 3-degree warming. The infamous Yes Men dropped by to play a little prank on Coca-Cola and Canada. Even climate skeptics got in on the action.  Lord Monckton, a former economic adviser to Margaret Thatcher, called American youth protesters “Hitler Youth” (click to see video), while US Senator James Inhofe made an appearance, but without his “truth squad”.

Copenhagen was definitely an opportunity to stress the impact climate change will have on the developing world, as well as highlight the need for climate justice. Developing nations staged a five-hour walkout, unhappy that the developed world was not shouldering enough of the burden. But as things looked shaky, people were refreshed and rejuvenated by a speech from President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, right as leaders were starting to land in Denmark.

Continue reading "What Happened in Copenhagen?" »

Factory Farming Makes Kiwis Queasy

Dairy CowsNew Zealand is known for its pasture-raised beef and dairy products. But now a plan to raise 18,000 dairy cows indoors for the majority of the year is causing outrage in the island country. Opponents say that the factory farm will tarnish New Zealand’s image as an eco-friendly country with top-notch diary products. 

Factory farms, which are widespread in the U.S., are known for extremely poor animal welfare, pollution problems, and less-nutritious products. You can find pasture-raised dairy products in the U.S. from small, local farms. And of course, with so much of animal farming in the U.S. being done at factory farms, staying away from meat and limiting dairy consumption are good options, too.

--Kyle Boelte

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