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24 posts from December 2012

December 18, 2012

Former "Xena" Actress Lucy Lawless Talks Eco-Activism

Lucy LawlessWhen an Alaska-bound oil rig docked in the New Zealand port of Taranaki, actor Lucy Lawless (a Kiwi herself) and six Greenpeace activists snuck aboard, climbed its 174-foot drilling tower, unfurled bright yellow banners that said "Stop Shell" and "#SaveTheArctic" — and wouldn't descend. Three days later, they were all arrested and charged with trespassing. Lawless might be best known for her past role as Xena the Warrior Princess, but her fight scenes are now all about preserving the planet.

Q: What inspired your eco-activism?

A: I got involved because climate change is real, it's manmade, and to not address our fossil-fuel consumption is an act of intergenerational abuse. Our grandchildren will damn us for our laziness, greed, and negligence.

Q: Tell us about the Save the Arctic campaign.

A: It's a massive push of people power. We need to head off climate change and move toward sustainable energy. Drilling for oil in the Arctic is climate-change profiteering. It's morally wrong, environmentally wrong — it's wrong all around. If you have a blowup, the oil could stagnate for years under the ice.

Q: Day to day, how do you live green?

A: I drive a Prius, I fly as little as possible, eat less meat, and wear a backpack everywhere so that I never have to take plastic bags from shops. Lots of little things like that.

Q: Do you have an object that represents your environmental commitment?

A: I'm wearing it now. This greenstone necklace — pounamu, we call it here — was given to me by the [indigenous Maori] Parihaka community. Rata Pue bestowed it on me when we came down from the ship. He died months later. I wear this lovely little talisman to help me be like him. It reminds me of the peaceful warrior I have to be to protect the earth's rights.

--interview by Carolyn Cotney / photo courtesy Jeff Vogeding

December 17, 2012

4 Unique Ways to Relieve Holiday Stress

Zen GardenIt's safe to say that the holiday season can cause a tad bit of stress. Okay. A lot of stress. But here are four unique ways to manage your blood pressure levels so you can remember why you love the holidays so much.

1.) Create Your Own Zen Garden

Gardening is known to be a great stress reliever because it connects you to nature. But if regular gardening has never been your thing, try creating a Zen garden. Also known as a Japanese rock garden, Zen gardens are typically made from sand, rocks, plants, and water elements that represent nature and can be combined to form a calm and soothing composition. The location, size, and arrangement of the garden are up to you; the creative process is part of what makes it a relaxing activity.

The video below will show you how to make a Zen garden on a budget.

Continue reading "4 Unique Ways to Relieve Holiday Stress" »

Do Cleaning Products Have Dirty Secrets?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

How damaging to the environment are Scotch Brite pads and their ilk?

—Robbyn, in Novato, California

It all depends on which ilk of pad from which company. 3M’s Scotch Brite has joined the green parade by developing a line of environmentally friendly products such as its “Greener Clean” scouring pad. It’s made from natural agave fibers, unlike those composed of plastic and unspecified mineral substances, or metal pads infused with chemicals of unspecified provenance. Whether processing and transporting agave fibers has greater or lesser total environmental impact than making conventional pads is impossible to determine. I do fervently hope that such a use of agave, the source of tequila, is not diminishing the supply of this divine beverage.

Continue reading "Do Cleaning Products Have Dirty Secrets?" »

Letters From the Mountain

For a prolific typeface designer, Yosemite is a font of inspiration

Half Dome Massif font

After churning out dozens of designs for high-profile clients like Google and Microsoft, typeface designer Steve Matteson — who created the default fonts on the Android and Windows smartphones and the letters players see when they turn on their Xboxes — finally decided to create a set of letters, he says, "for the sake of making myself happy." He looked to the mountains for inspiration.

The result was Massif Pro, a typeface that debuted in June and is, as Matteson puts it, "a hidden homage to Half Dome." It's based in part on pencil sketches he made while backpacking in Yosemite National Park. 

"One of the best things about the Sierra," he says, "is the unique contrast of glacial polishing with jaggedness — when gradual, smooth curves all of a sudden sharpen off into an abrupt straight line. Those elements are what I put into the typeface." If you look closely, you'll see that Half Dome's exact contour hollows out many of his lowercase letters, including e and o.

Matteson envisions the Massif family (available at fonts.com, starting at $54) being used for "anything outdoorsy or nondigital," like a label on a bag of eco-friendly coffee beans. "It's good for conveying a voice of organic quality."

Most new fonts are designed on computers, which Matteson says "are really good at making straight lines and perfect circles." So to give these letters a more natural look, he drew them freehand with a pencil. "It's one of only a few designs I've done with no customer looking over my shoulder. It was straight out of my head."

When Matteson does contract work, his craft can be mechanical and austere, especially when he labors to create easily readable digital fonts for people who stare at screens all day. But as an avid outdoorsman, he worries that people are spending too much time on smartphones and not enough in the wilderness. "I design typefaces as legibly as I can," he says, "so people can read quickly on their device and then go outside."

--Avital Andrewsimages courtesy Steve Matteson, Monotype

December 13, 2012

Recipe: White Winter Cheesecake Brownies

White BrownieWhether you're hosting a family event, planning an office party, or making gifts of the baked variety this holiday season, it's time to pull out all the stops and bake something festive. Gingerbread may be more traditional, but these snowy white, creamy, lemony brownie bars are more than delicious enough to earn their own spot in your holiday repertoire.

Recipe: White Cheesecake Brownies

Part 1.) The White Brownie

Makes one 8x8 pan of brownie bars.


Continue reading "Recipe: White Winter Cheesecake Brownies" »

December 12, 2012

12 Exciting Innovations from 2012

Green Idea2012 was a great year for innovators. From solar soccer to poop power, inventions, innovations, and ideas for changing the world sprouted like daisies. Here's a list of some green technology you might have missed:

1. Recharge from a Distance: Wireless power can be transmitted under roads to electric cars, and rechargeable batteries can get a boost from anywhere in the house.

2. Solar Soccer Ball: The Soccket is a soccer ball that can generate and store energy when it's kicked.

3. Manure into Gold: Manure from cows can be "digested" to make heat, electricity, animal bedding, and fertilizer.

4. Solar Incubator: In poor countries without access to the grid, solar-powered incubators can save infants' lives.

5. Mud-Powered Fuel Cell: Aquatic mud is full of microbes, and a new fuel cell can tap their metabolism for electricity. This could power swimming robots.

Continue reading "12 Exciting Innovations from 2012" »

December 11, 2012

Ask Mr. Green: Simmer or Nuke?

Bob Schildgen is Mr. GreenHey Mr. Green,

I have about a quart of soup left over. Is it more efficient to reheat it on my gas range or in my microwave?

--Paul in Kalamazoo, Michigan

A microwave is a lot more efficient for reheating than a stovetop, since it takes 80% less energy to warm up relatively small amounts, according to the EPA. Although the microwave needs a lot of electricity, it's a relatively short burst of power. As the immortal Yogi Berra might have put it, "A watched pot never boils, but it boils quicker in a microwave."

While stovetops are less efficient, you can make regular gas or electric cooking more efficient by matching the size of the burner to the size of the pota 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner can waste a goodly portion of a burner's heatand by keeping a lid on unless the recipe forbids.

Though cooking accounts for only 3% of total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions from residences, every bit we can cut is significant because we use so much more than we really need. Per capita, we now consume six times as much electricity and twice as much natural gas as we did in 1950. Whether our overall standard of living has improved correspondingly is open to debate.

Saving energy isn't just green but also massively cheaper than wasting power the way most households do. At your present utility rates, to heat that soup on the stove would cost you about three times as much as warming it in the microwave. As I always say, even if global warming didn't exist, there would be plenty of other reasons to save energy.

Got an eco-question? Ask Mr. Green!

December 10, 2012

Limited-Edition PUBLIC bikes: Order Now and Save 10%

Sierra Club bike from PUBLICLimited time left to order! Order by December 25, 2012 for delivery in June 2013.

Make a statement with the unique, limited-edition, never-before-offered, custom color, soon-to-be-unavailable-forever SIERRA CLUB-themed bike. Show your eco-pride with your ride!

PUBLIC is a purveyor of European-style street bicycles in several styles. The new Sierra Club bikes will be offered in PUBLIC's C7 (step-through) and V7 (diamond) frames, in two sizes, and with rear rack included. Custom colored in bright grass-green, these bikes will feature the Sierra Club logo in white on the rear fender and head tube, and the Sierra Club slogan (Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet) on both sides of the down tube. Click here for more specifics and to order the Sierra Club Bike.

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Quiz: What's Your Eco Personality Type?

Environmental DiversityFrom exploration to activism, to innovation, there are many ways to show your love for the planet. The question is, which cause inspires you the most? Take our short quiz, and you might find your answer. 

What's Your Eco Personality Type?

1.) When hiking are you more likely to:

a. Scribble notes on my experiences and surroundings. 

b. Snap photo after photo of the surrounding landscape.

c. Marvel over the lakes and streams and how they connect to the ocean waters.

d. Ponder how to bring nature back to our big cities. 

e. Find inspiration for my next invention.

Continue reading "Quiz: What's Your Eco Personality Type? " »

December 07, 2012

A Real or Fake Christmas Tree: Which is Greener?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

Have you reached a conclusion on the real tree vs. artificial Christmas tree debate?

--Kathy in Winston Salem, North Carolina

I have indeed. The real tree is better for the environment than the fake tree. A real tree is a renewable resource, whereas a fake tree is usually made from plastic, which is derived from oil, a nonrenewable resource. The real tree can be recycled as mulch, compost, or wildlife shelter, whereas the fake tree can’t. The real tree does not contain harmful chemicals, whereas fake trees are often made with plastic polyvinyl chloride, whose manufacture releases highly toxic material. Plus, lead may have been added to stabilize the plastic. The real tree also absorbs carbon dioxide while it grows, doing its bit to fight global warming.

The belief that using real trees causes deforestation is mistaken. The fact is, real trees are farmed, often on marginal land that can't be used for other purposes. 

Continue reading "A Real or Fake Christmas Tree: Which is Greener?" »

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