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74 posts from January 2011

January 31, 2011

Daily Roundup: January 31, 2011

Lone Drivers: The percentage of workers who carpool has dropped by almost half since 1980, according to new census data. New York Times

An Ice-Free Arctic? A North Atlantic current flowing into the Arctic is warmer than it's been for at least 2,000 years, a study shows. Huffington Post

Blocking Action: Senator John Barasso (R-Wyo.) introduced a bill that would preempt any action by the EPA to limit greenhouse-gas emissions without congressional authorization. New York Times

No Spark: Despite the worst-ever year in roadside pollution, and a government campaign to encourage consumers to adopt zero-emissions vechicles, Hong Kong has very few takers when it comes to electric cars. Wall Street Journal

A Bright Path Ahead: The Netherlands plans to roll out an energy-generating bike path made of concrete blocks covered with solar cells. The electricity created will be used in homes, street lighting, and traffic systems. Inhabitat

--Molly Oleson

New Fashion Line Makes Pollution Detectable

Air Pollution Shirt We may not be able to detect air pollution with our eyes, but now a shirt can do it for us. As WNYC Culture reported, Nien Lam and Sue Ngo, graduate students at NYU, drew inspiration from the Hypercolor clothes that were popular in the 1980s to create their Warning Signs Fashion Line, which currently consists of two shirts bearing a pink heart or a set of lungs.

The project developed over the course of one semester for a class about wearable technologies. On top of being stylish, the shirts have a sensor embedded in the fabric that detects high carbon monoxide levels in the air, causing glowing blue veins to appear on the organs — a subtle but sure message to smokers.

Lam and Ngo created their fashion in hopes of shedding light on something that has been, until now, invisible. "Everyone from environmental groups to cancer survivors have expressed interest in the project," said Lam.

The shirts have no price tag yet, but the creators are working to produce them on a grander scale once they graduate in May. In the meantime, watch a demo of how the Warning Signs shirts work.

--Shirley Mak

The USDA Approves GM Alfalfa

Alfalfa tractor In an important decision last week, the USDA decided to allow the planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa, a seed patented by the corporate giant Monsanto. As America's fourth biggest crop and an important forage source for livestock, this decision has big implications for our food system. Wind easily transports alfalfa's pollen, so there will likely be problems of cross-contamination with non-GMO and organic crops.  

The USDA opted for complete deregulation of GM alfalfa, bypassing the option of partial deregulation. The supermarket chain Whole Foods advocated the latter option and expressed their disappointment with the government's decision on their blog.

Genetically modified foods are a major sticking point for many environmentalists, and many question why Whole Foods was supporting USDA approval in any form. Because USDA-certified organic products can't contain GM ingredients, it would be a problem for organically raised cows to start accidentally foraging on GM alfalfa, as their milk could no longer be sold as organic. Plus, most GM crops are engineered to resist pesticides, the chemicals whose widespread use devastates the environment.

--Rosie Spinks

Green Fashion Monday: Bike-to-Work Pants

Outlier slack On Fashion Monday, we highlight a hip, green fashion item. Got a stylish eco-friendly product to recommend? Tell us about it and look for it in an upcoming blog post.

If you’re tired of peeling off your Lycra as you get to work, or simply driving because you don’t want to deal with the sartorial hassles of a bike commute, here’s a solution: Outlier’s versatile 4Season OG pants ($188). They’ve got enough sporty function built in to accommodate an arduous cycling commute, yet transition beautifully into the boardroom with no one being the wiser. On the road, you’ll appreciate that they stretch, wick, and breathe; light rain and dirt bounce off, thanks to a NanoSphere coating. In the office, their crisp, slack-like style looks professional enough.

Of course, if you’re looking for alternatives to driving to work, you can always take the bus.

--Avital Binshtock

Green Your Super Bowl Party: Eco-Beer

Green beer Sunday's the Super Bowl, an American institution during which living-room celebrations can reach the same fever pitch as the stadium itself. Are you hosting a party? This week's tips are about how to make it greener.

Tip #1: Serve green beer.

Beer's a basic staple for football fans, so why not pick a bottle made with the environment in mind? There are many responsible brewers that make delicious ales from organic ingredients, get their energy from solar power, or use spent grain to feed livestock. If you're into buying locally, find and support a nearby craft brewer. Cheers!

Tip #2: Plan a vegetarian menu.

Tip #3: Go paperless.

Tip #4: Be the host!

Tell us: How do you plan to green your Super Bowl party?

January 28, 2011

Daily Roundup: January 28, 2011

Pyramids of Doubt: The turmoil in Egypt is spiking oil prices and fueling concerns about the Suez Canal, through which oil travels to get to the West from the Middle East. Wall Street Journal

In the Black: Chevron's 2010 earnings, $19 billion, almost doubled the oil giant's 2009 numbers. CEO John Watson called it "an outstanding year." Greenwire

Checkout Line: Among the most recent local governments to ban plastic bags are Santa Monica, California, and Maui, Hawaii. Plastics News and the EPA

Ratted Out: A large-scale extermination project has begun on the Galapagos Islands: Rats are an invasive species there that threaten the indigenous animals. The method being used: dropping poison from helicopters. Wisconsin State Journal

Polar Opposites: A new type of whale has been discovered; it appears to be the result of an Arctic whale mating with an Antarctic one. Scientists say the two were able to meet because of warming seas — one current that feeds the Arctic Sea is warmer than it's been in 2,000 years. National Geographic and Scientific American

--Avital Binshtock

Laughing Gas: The Daily Show Explores the Pickens Plan

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
T. Boone Pickens extended interview

T. Boone Pickens, founder of BP Capital, chatted with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart yesterday about his plan to get the U.S. off OPEC oil within 10 years. Pickens has spent $2 billion of his own money to promote the "Pickens Plan," a nationwide switch from petroleum to natural gas, beginning with the trucking industry.

The segment, in typical Daily Show style, served up serious issues with a comedic twist. When Pickens told Stewart that the U.S. has natural-gas stores equivalent to 700,000 billion oil barrels — three times what the Saudis have in oil — Stewart quipped, "Oh for God's sake, we have that in our country? We're gonna have to invade us!"

Continue reading "Laughing Gas: The Daily Show Explores the Pickens Plan" »

Sharing the Love: Tomorrow is Vegan Pizza Day

Vegan Pizza Day Pizza lovers and greenies rejoice: tomorrow, Sat., Jan. 29, marks the first-ever Vegan Pizza Day, sponsored by Teese Vegan Cheese and Quarrygirl.com. Cities across the U.S. will celebrate with restaurant discounts, pizza parties and potlucks, even YouTube videos teaching how to make vegan pizza. Zpizza, a vegan pizza restaurant, will be offering vegan slices all day.

Angelenos in particular are in luck. Besides the massive celebration at Masa of Echo Park, the Pizza Fusion locations in Hollywood and Santa Monica are offering a 10% discount for anyone who mentions Vegan Pizza Day. Other events include an Indiana meetup at WB Pizza and a Milwaukee gathering at Transfer Pizzeria & Cafe.

Learn more about Vegan Pizza Day on its Facebook page

--Shirley Mak

Movie Review Friday: The Economics of Happiness

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.

The Economics of Happiness (2011)

Limited screenings available


Money makes the world go round, but happiness can’t be bought. Or can it? According to this documentary about the worldwide movement for economic localization, happiness can be bought. Just not in the ways we originally thought.

Featuring interviews with a variety of renowned thinkers (Bill McKibben, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Zac Goldsmith, and Samdhong Rinpoche, among others), the film delves into globalization's negative effects, and the responding movement to bolster local economies.

The Economics of Happiness is divided into two parts, both working to further the film's main argument: globalization stinks; localization works. The first half focuses on communities around the world that have suffered from the pressures of globalization: People, especially farmers, are out of jobs. Divisiveness and despair prevail. And the strain on natural resources is reaching a breaking point. McKibben points out that even though people are consuming more now than ever, no one's really happier.

Continue reading "Movie Review Friday: The Economics of Happiness" »

January 27, 2011

Daily Roundup: January 27, 2011

Conscious Consumption: Vermont and Maryland created a new legal designation for businesses that make environmental and social responsibilty a priority, calling them 'benefit corporations.' Grist

This Land is Your Land: A court in Botswana reaffirmed the land and water rights of the Kalahari Bushmen, allowing them to return to the land they've lived on for thousands of years. BBC News

Senior Stars: Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope claim to have discovered the oldest galaxy yet, said to have emerged only 480 million years after the Big Bang. Yahoo! News

Natural Isn't Better: Natural gas isn't that much better than oil or coal when the entire lifecycle is taken into account, indicates a new EPA analysis. TreeHugger

Skeptic-Gate: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wants Congress to question climate-change denier Pat Roberts about his ties to corporate interests. Huffington Post

--Rosie Spinks

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