The Green Life:

« July 2013 | Main | September 2013 »

20 posts from August 2013

August 15, 2013

Green Your Spirit

OceanWhen you meditate, you want your surroundings to quiet and peaceful. What better way to create a serene atmosphere than to make sure your meditation apparatus is recyclable and positive for the greater environment? We found four items to help you green your spiritual quest.


Shakuhachi Water Meditations
This soothing album isn’t meant to imitate nature’s waves, but incite the feeling that you are experiencing nature’s wondrous sights, smells, sounds, feel and even tastes. Riley Lee’s beautiful symphonies on a bamboo flute will help take you to a striking location by water, whether it is a lake or ocean. Who better than a Zen artist to help you delve into a deep meditative state and connect with nature at the same time?
Price: $14

Continue reading "Green Your Spirit" »

August 13, 2013

Hey Mr. Green, How Can I Be Cool at School?

Mr. GreenI’m an environmentalist going off to college. What’s the best thing I can do for the earth once I’m there? --Ted in St. Louis, Missouri

To misquote the immortal Johnny Cash, “Don’t take your car to school son / Leave your car at home.”

Abandoning your wheels is one of the greatest things you can do to shrink your collegiate environmental footprint, since burning a gallon of gas emits almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. That’s 600 pounds of CO2 in just four 200-mile trips home and back.

If you must travel off campus, take the bus or train—or sign up for a car-sharing service like Zipcar, which has locations at more than 100 U.S. colleges. Most schools also have online ride-share boards.

In addition to preventing all that pollution, not having a car at school will also save you from excruciating parking searches and keep some serious cash in your wallet: Campus parking passes can cost as much as $300 per semester, plus there’s the wad you would have to spend on fuel.

Many schools make the environmental decision for you, banning vehicles for freshmen or enacting other tough vehicular restrictions. In fact, frosh aren’t allowed to have cars at five of the top 10 liberal arts colleges in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking.

If you were already planning to be car-free at school, you can ditch the popular but energy-sucking dorm-room mini-fridge. And if your campus doesn’t ban cars, you could start a campaign encouraging administrators to do so, which will give your university a better shot at placing high on Sierra’s annual ranking of eco-colleges. --Bob Schildgen

Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!

Identitree Quiz: How Well Can You Identify Trees?

Can you identify this tree?Are you a tree savant? Prove it! Take our quiz below and see if your true life calling was (or is) to become an arborist. Don't forget to post your score in the comments section and share any neat tree facts you know. And don't even think about using a search engine! 

Tree Identification Quiz

1) Growing roughly 40 ft. tall, this species of tree is deciduous and produces a unique flower known as a catkin. With over 60 species, it is best known for its flaky bark and is found all over the world, from the U.S. to Japan to Ireland. It is the national tree of Finland. 

Am I a...

a) Birch Tree

b) Mahogany

c) Pine Tree

Continue reading "Identitree Quiz: How Well Can You Identify Trees?" »

August 12, 2013

Ask Mr. Green: Does Obesity Waste Fuel?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

Somewhere you calculated that Americans burn around 50 million gallons of fuel idling their engines while waiting to be served at drive-thru fast-food joints. Since fast food makes people gain weight, how much fuel, oh maestro, is wasted hauling around all our excess flab in cars? —Hal, in Decatur, Illinois

It takes about a billion additional gallons a year to cart our extra human tonnage around in automobiles, according to a study from the University of Illinois that pulled together data on transportation, vehicle types, fuel consumption, and weight to reach this conclusion.

Of course duty obliged me to verify this with my own back-of-the-envelope calculations—a task accomplished thanks to an abundant supply of envelopes from Sierra Club fund appeals. I’ll spare you most of the mathematical details, but the, um, bottom line is that more than two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight, with the average man at about 195 pounds and the average woman 165 pounds. This puts our collective excess poundage at around 9 billion pounds more than if we all weighed in at what our medical gurus consider a “healthy” number.

Continue reading "Ask Mr. Green: Does Obesity Waste Fuel?" »

August 08, 2013

Foraging for Wild Food: 6 Sustainable Techniques

Immature cranberriesLet's say you’re hiking up the trail with sweat dripping down your face and a sunburn on your neck, and all that your stomach wants is some nourishment to keep you going strong. But where to find it? You left your snacks at home. Do you dare forage for edible plant life on your own?

Arthur Haines, a research botanist and plant taxonomist with the Delta Institute of Natural History in Maine, says that foraging for wild foods can actually be beneficial for both plants and people — so long as it is done properly.

“Usually, the very first thing that people think is that foraging damages plant populations,” said Haines in a recent phone call. “But smart foraging isn’t detrimental. There are many examples where, if we don’t forage, certain plant species will actually disappear from the site. Conscientious foraging perpetuates these species.”

Haines gave us some tips on how to gather wild foods responsibly the next time you’re outside and in a pinch.

Continue reading "Foraging for Wild Food: 6 Sustainable Techniques" »

August 07, 2013

Green Tips for Will, Kate, and Other New Parents

cloth diaper

As the first British royal born in the twenty-first century, Prince George will be blazing lots of new trails. Considering the world’s need for leaders on climate change, hopefully the Prince, more tethered to the environment’s future than any of his predecessors, will take up the conservationist cause. But until he’s walking and talking, we’ll have to defer to his parents, William and Kate. There are a few ways the royals — and other new parents — can reduce their baby’s carbon footprints.

Cloth diapers

“Frugality” and “British royalty” are rarely associated, but if William and Kate want to get their son’s green life off to a great start they should opt for a reusable diaper option. Parents who ditch the Pampers and go old school remove themselves from a $3.6 billion dollar market that produced 2 percent of all municipal waste, according to a 1990 study. However, switching materials isn’t necessarily enough, because if parents wash cloth diapers the wrong way they can actually leave a larger carbon footprint that disposable ones. To stay green, wash diapers with other laundry in high-efficiency appliances, and line dry them. Because bulk is usually better (read: greener), consider a diaper laundry service. If you're stateside, try one of these.

Continue reading "Green Tips for Will, Kate, and Other New Parents" »

August 06, 2013

Unusual Ways to Repurpose Your Garbage

Boot vasesSure, there are certain things that you put aside to recycle or reuse. But let’s face it, there is a lot of useless garbage that seems to belong nowhere but the trash. And landfills aren’t getting any smaller! Here are some troublesome items that you might not realize can be recycled or reused, according to Jeff Yeager, author of Don’t Throw That Away, The Ultimate Cheapskate, and other books about living lighter on the planet.

Used Dryer Sheets
You can't compost dryer sheets because of the chemicals they contain and some dryer sheets, like Bounce, can't be recycled. Check the container to confirm if the sheets are recyclable or not.

Lint Brush: You can roll up some used dryer sheets to fashion a lint brush. This is a useful tool for removing hair and lint from your clothes.
Dust wipes: Whether it’s for your windshield or television screen, these dryer sheets make for great anti-static wipes on all types of surfaces.

Packing Peanuts
Packing Peanuts are that random thing that you receive in mass and may feel guilty tossing in the trash. If you do not wish to receive packing peanuts at all, you can request an eco-friendly or biodegradable option. If not, here are some fun ideas for these packing peanuts.

Continue reading "Unusual Ways to Repurpose Your Garbage" »

August 05, 2013

4 Pesticides You Might Be Eating

GrapesYeah, we are what we eat, but an Amy isn't an amitraz, and a Ted shouldn't be a tetrachlorvinphos. It's an unfortunate truth that many of our favorite fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residue. Even more unfortunate is how consumers are expected to decipher the health effects themselves. To help, we're naming a few pesticides sometimes found on your favorite produce. All of our selections have great organic alternatives, which means you don't have to stop eating your greens (sorry, kids — both your own mother and Mother Earth will approve).

1. Grapes: Chlorpyrifos

Smell rotten eggs? You might be getting a whiff of this organophosphate insecticide, which was re-registered by the US EPA in 2006. While it is not toxic in its original state (white/colorless crystals), chlorpyrifos actually becomes toxic once your body processes it, taking a new form called chlorpyrifos oxon. What's particularly alarming is the insecticide's studied effects on children — one study showed that babies born with chlorpyrifos in their systems by way of their mothers' blood displayed increased signs of developmental delays, attention deficit disorders, and hyperactivity disorders than babies without chlorpyrifos in their bloodstreams.

Continue reading "4 Pesticides You Might Be Eating" »

August 02, 2013

Ask Mr. Green: Garbage Disposal or Compost Heap?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

As the Kitchen Manager (aka dishwasher) at our house I would like to know if would it be better environmentally to dispose of our non-compostable waste food in the garbage or the garbage disposal? —Ken, in Orangevale, California

Your local garbage officials insist that you keep anything with grease or oil out of the garbage disposal. This stuff should just go in the regular garbage. As for the rest, it’s better to compost everything else instead of sending it down the garbage disposal or putting it in the garbage. (A small amount of grease residue is okay in the compost.)

If you ever wind up with truly vast amounts of grease and oil, you might try to contact a rendering company, though they probably won’t collect from individual households. These outfits actually retrieve grease and oil from “grease traps” in restaurants, then clean or “render” the grease (and also bones) so this stuff can be reused in soap, pet food, etc. It's kind of cool that tons of restaurant grease don’t go to waste, though hardly a justification for scarfing down fast food.

Continue reading "Ask Mr. Green: Garbage Disposal or Compost Heap?" »

August 01, 2013

The 5 Best Climbing Movies of All Time

Mount everestClimbing, whether you’re watching a movie or actually doing it, is always a thrill. Our favorite climbing movies look so spectacularly dangerous, we feel exhilarated even when we're sitting on the couch. All these films are based on real stories from real people, which makes these films even more impressive. 

Touching the Void (2003)
This heart-stopping film is a reenactment of two mountaineers' experience of climbing the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Narrated by the two British climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, the plot focuses on how Simpson broke his leg and then (spoiler alert!) miraculously survived a long fall, only to make it back to base camp despite all the obstacles. It’s guaranteed that you will hold your breath the entire time, in disbelief that this is a true story and that Simpson actually survived.

Continue reading "The 5 Best Climbing Movies of All Time" »

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2009 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.