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65 posts from December 2010

December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Christmas tree We're taking a holiday break until January 4th.

In the meantime, you can check out our tips for how to have an eco-friendlier holiday season, our gift guide for greener giving, and a few ideas for New Year's resolutions.

We feel blessed to have your loyal readership, and wish you warm celebrations with loved ones.

December 23, 2010

Daily Roundup: December 23, 2010

Under Control: The Obama administration will regulate emissions from fossil-fuel power plants and petroleum refineries, which together emit nearly 40% of U.S. greenhouse gases. Grist

Fat Chance: A Louisiana plant is converting animal fat into renewable diesel. Will the new fuel replace soy-based biodiesel? Not if Nascar has anything to do with it. National Geographic

Frozen Donkeys? Activists are protesting the use of live animals at an outdoor nativity scene in northern Poland, where a recent arctic chill killed two dozen people. Huffington Post

Like Wall Street But Fishier: After decades of overfishing and lawsuits, West Coast fisheries will be working under a new market-based system come January. Each fishery will have a quota, and each fisherman will own a percentage of that catch. NPR

Not Endangered? Upholding a 2008 Bush-administration decision, the Obama administration says polar bears are merely threatened and not in imminent danger of extinction. AFP 

--Natalya Stanko

An Online Game With Real-World Results — in Uganda

As a culture, we often struggle to balance our attraction to new technology with our need for a real, physical connection with the planet and other people. We're seeing a new trend emerging from that struggle: online games with real-world results. We've already mentioned Arbopals, an online game that funds actual tree plantings, and eMission, a Facebook game that requires players to take offline action to advance. An Ecorazzi post alerted us to a new arrival on the tech-philanthropy scene: an iPhone app called Raise the Village.

Raise the Village lets users purchase essentials like mosquito nets, farming tools, and water jugs for a virtual village; the app's proceeds then fund the purchase of real-life supplies for the Ugandan village of Kapir Atiira, a community that has faced challenges such as erratic weather and political instability. Since the real-life component of the game is ultimately what's important, feedback is integral — photos of Ugandan villagers are sent to players' iPhones when supplies are delivered. It's a creative concept that has the potential to help people become more connected to the causes they support.

--Della Watson

Worth a Shot: Eco-Liquors

Forget the menudo. The next time you plan to party hard, mitigate the morning-after misery by limiting your intake to these sustainable spirits. The planet, if not your liver, will thank you.

(The liquor experts below were asked to abstain from recommending any firewater with which they have a professional affiliation.)


DEAN PHILLIPS is the fifth-generation president of Minneapolis's Phillips Distilling Company. He oversees the production of more than 70 brands, including Phillips Union Whiskey, Trader Vic's, and the award-winning Prairie Organic Vodka, a co-op brand in which more than 900 Minnesota farmers hold a stake.

"My favorite new ecofriendly spirit is Death's Door White Whisky from Madison, Wisconsin. Founder Brian Ellison sources organic wheat from Washington Island farmers, reuses hot water from the still to heat mash, and supplies his spent mash to feed local dairy cows. He's also a founding member of the environmental nonprofit 1% for the Great Lakes. The outstanding whiskey rests in uncharred oak barrels before bottling and offers tequila and sake notes on the bouquet. Drink it neat, on the rocks, or as the base for unique cocktails." $35 for 750 mL


H. JOSEPH EHRMANN, known as "H," has been a bartender for almost two decades. In 2003, he restored one of San Francisco's oldest saloons and reopened it as Elixir. The bar has since become America's first to achieve a Green Business certification and has been listed among Food and Wine's top 100 U.S. bars. In 2010, Nightclub and Bar magazine named him bartender of the year.

"Del Maguey is a family of mezcals made in remote villages in Oaxaca, Mexico, by a collection of distiller-farmers. They offer enticing smoky and floral aromas, a rich and creamy mouthfeel, and sip-after-sip palate satisfaction. My favorite is San Luis del Rio. I spent a week visiting these villages as the company was going through organic certification, and I observed the painstaking attention to detail by eighth- and ninth-generation distillers who do everything by hand. Truly some of the finest distillates in the world." $69 for 750 mL

Continue reading "Worth a Shot: Eco-Liquors " »

Kids Do Groundbreaking Bee Research

Child and bees A recently published study in Britain's Royal Society science journal begins with "Once upon a time." It provides no historical or scientific context, and its diagrams are hand-drawn in colored pencils. But the researchers, a group of 8- to 10-year-olds from an elementary school in Devon, England, weren't inspired by scientific literature. They were inspired by their own observations of the world.

"The true motivation for any scientific study (at least one of integrity) is one's own curiosity," wrote a neuroscientist from University College London, who transcribed the children's words into text. The study, considered a "genuine advance in the field" by the editors of Biology Letters, investigates the way bumblebees see colors and patterns.

The young scientists asked questions, hypothesized the answers, designed "games" to test the hypotheses, and analyzed the data. Training bees to go to targets of different colors by giving them a sugar reward, the students discovered that the insects use a combination of color and spatial relationships in deciding which color of flower to forage from.

Continue reading "Kids Do Groundbreaking Bee Research" »

Green New Year's Resolutions: Don't Make One.

Balance It’s almost midnight — do you know where your resolutions are? If not, worry not: We’ve got a few suggestions lined up for you this week. While in years past, we provided you with specific eco-acts to focus on, for 2011, we’re zooming out a bit to consider more community-based ideas.

Tip #4: Resolve Not to Resolve

If you’re already overcommitted, or are simply happy with all the eco-positive community measures you’re involved in, resist the urge to pile one more scoop onto an already heaping plate. It’s a paradox, but resolving not to make a resolution — that is, to keep things manageably simple, balanced, and focused — can make you more effective and committed to achieving the planet-furthering goals you’ve already set for yourself.

Tell us: How do you refrain from spreading yourself too thin?

December 22, 2010

Daily Roundup: December 22, 2010

Loud Mouse: Japanese scientists created a "singing" mouse by cross-breeding genetically modified rodents. The new mouse chirps like a bird. Discovery News

Two of a Kind: Africa's savannah-dwelling elephants are a separate species from the continent's forest-dwelling pachyderms, say scientists. The newly discovered distinction could affect conservation strategies.  Scientific American

Jaws of Life: Congress passed a bill that will protect sharks by banning the controversial practice of "finning." Ecorazzi

Birding From Space? Researchers from the University of Idaho are using data from NASA's Icesat spacecraft to monitor the state's woodpecker populations. TreeHugger

Pirates of the Amazon: Brazil is targeting "biopiracy" by issuing fines to companies that make medicine or other products from the country's plants and animals without compensating Brazil's government or its indigenous communities. Reuters

--Della Watson

Natural Beauty: Makeup for Pretty Greenies

Plenty of eco-minded women flip their silky manes at the stereotype of the frumpy, bare-faced treehugger. These cosmetic products, none of which were tested on animals, are for them. 

The mineral makeup from MYCHELLE is both down-to-earth and luxurious. The brand's Cream Foundation ($26) goes on smoothly, thanks to an organic safflower-seed-oil moisturizer and to micas and silica, which lend a luminous yet matte look. MyChelle's skincare line is also excellent, and all of the company's products are free of parabens, preservatives, and phthalates.

Mark Constantine, founder and co-owner of LUSH, concocted the nonsynthetic Flower Market perfume ($40), in homage to Audrey Hepburn. Its notes of carnation, ylang-ylang, and violet converge for an earthy spiciness that comes on strong at first. As it settles in, though, a sophistication emerges and lasts the day. Constantine, an avid birder who lived in England’s woods as a teenager, compels his company to wage campaigns against Indonesian palm-oil production and Canadian tar-sands mining. Also: 70% of Lush’s soapy inventory has no packaging.

The vegan Volume Mascara ($20), by Germany's LAVERA, is made with organic jojoba and rose oils — and lengthens and stays put just as well as nonorganic brands. Lavera eschews parabens, GMOs, and petroleum-based ingredients, and its products are approved by BDIH, the world's toughest certifying board for organic cosmetics.

Continue reading "Natural Beauty: Makeup for Pretty Greenies" »

Book Roundup Wednesday: Radical Environmentalism

Books about environmentalism Each Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today, we're looking at books about trail-blazing eco-defenders and "radical" green ideas.

Tree Spiker: From Earth First! to Lowbagging: My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action (by Mike Roselle, $19, St. Martin's Press, 2009) If you thought environmental activism is all touchy-feely, read this VH1 Behind the Music of the environmental movement, complete with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Roselle's book, a rewarding, fast-paced read, chronicles his career in conservation from his days as a young boozer in Wyoming to his maturation into one of the leading environmentalists of our time. Along the way, he gives credit to all sides, finding common ground between loggers and tree-spikers. 

Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado's War to Save American Wilderness (by Dean Kuipers, $12, Bloomsbury USA, 2010) In a similar, albeit more controversial, vein as Tree Spiker, this book follows the radical career of Earth Liberation Front's Rod Coronado. Kuipers's book pulls no punches in its examination of eco-terrorism and eco-sabotage, but its fascinating perspective on Coronado, including his Native-American upbringing, offers an intriguing lens through which to view eco-anarchism and the subjectivity of extremism that's sure to spur debate.

Rachel Carson: A Biography (by Arlene R. Quaratiello, $14, Prometheus Books, 2010) It's easy to forget that Rachel Carson was once considered radical. This new biography of one of environmentalism's greatest figures is fully engaging, chronicling her career through its culmination in one of the movement's seminal works, Silent Spring. Quaratiello also tells the continuing saga of pesticides, and the controversies that remain around Carson's ideas.

Continue reading "Book Roundup Wednesday: Radical Environmentalism" »

Green New Year's Resolutions: Build Community

Build community It’s almost midnight — do you know where your resolutions are? If not, worry not: We’ve got a few suggestions lined up for you this week. While in years past, we provided you with specific eco-acts to focus on, for 2011, we’re zooming out a bit to consider more community-based ideas.

Tip #3: Build Community

If this tip sounds a bit vague or overwhelming, that’s because it’s a huge topic. But you can start by identifying an organizing principle around which you’d like to strengthen a local community — environmental issues work well. Then get active: Organize get-togethers around that theme, share your skills (and stuff), inhabit public places more (which also saves electrical light and heat, since they become communal), engage your neighbors, and encourage a culture of stewardship by serving as an example of the type of citizen you’d like to see more of. Worried you'll fall off the bandwagon? This poster can help keep you accountable.

Tell us: How you you plan to build community in 2011?

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