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April 17, 2014

Original Beards of the Sierra Club

Wright_0260_ansels-beard

Early Sierra Clubbers documented a lot of their outings and, lucky for us, took snaps of some fantastic facial hair. For throwback Thursday, step into the archives and take a gander at these wondrous whiskers. (They look even more iconic in black and white.)

Can you guess the beard pictured above? Here's a hint: he was an early Sierra Club member who is legendary for his stunning nature photography. (Read on to see if you guessed right.)

LeConte-JoeSr_portrait

Joseph LeConte (pictured above) was a geologist and founding Sierra Club member. He was also BFFs with John Muir, and one can only hope they had epic beard growing competitions. 

MuirBurroughsKeithGroupPhoto

This great photo from 1909 captures the array of facial hair styles sported at the time. From left to right are Charles Keeler, John Muir, John Burroughs, William Keith (seated) and Francis Browne. Muir's posse of naturalists and artists definitely encapsulates the dapper-yet-strategically-unkept look. 

Wright_0257_cuthbertson

Morgan Cuthberston may not have a beard of wizarding status like Muir, but he still rocks the close cut style. 

Wright_0307_wayburn-yng

Dr. Edgar Wayburn is pictured here lounging around during a Sierra Club High Trip in the 30s or 40s. Wayburn and his stubble would go on to serve as the Sierra Club president for five terms.  

Wright_0353-1_prof-lawson

Whoa there Mr. Walrus! No, this is not Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame. Dr. Andrew Lawson was a participant in a Sierra Club trip and proves that mustaches can be as stunning as beards. 

Wright_0429_adams
Our mystery man made his mark from behind the camera, but we can appreciate Ansel Adams in front of the lens as well. In this photo we see his dark and brooding artistic side. One can only wonder what he's looking at beyond the frame (we just hope it wasn't a shaving kit). 

Bianca Hernandez is an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications. 

 

READ MORE: 

Throwback Thursday: Retro Hiking Fashion

Groom and Grow Your Beard Naturally

If John Muir Tweeted 

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April 16, 2014

DIY Waste Audit

DIY Waste AuditThink of landfills as acne on the face of our planet: The more junk we bury, the worse the breakout is. An average person generates 4.5 lbs of waste a day, and the EPA says 75% of that could be recycled. On top of that, it's estimated that 21.5 million tons of food waste goes to landfills each year.

Unlike puberty, this problem won't go away with time unless we become conscious about waste. This Earth Day get down and dirty in your dumpsters and perform a waste audit. It's an easy and effective way to measure what you're producing. When it's completed you'll have a better understanding of the waste you create and how to reduce it.

Assess your options
Before diving in, you need to see what options are available for waste diversion in your area. You may already have a curbside bin for recycling and compost, just make sure you know what materials are appropriate for each. Many county websites offer information about local services and resources. Pay attention to the plastic numbers that are accepted in your area because they differ by region.

If you don’t have a municipal recycling or compost hauler then you’ll have to research alternatives. There are a multitude of redemption centers and independent recycling services to choose from. Make sure to take note of exactly what materials each place does take, because not every type of plastic or food waste is accepted. Some local farms may take your compostables, or you could start your own compost pile or bin at home if you have the space.


Understand your habits
Designate a week for the audit and make sure everyone sharing your home understands the process. Make a log for yourself that includes the following categories: item, material, amount and stream. (Stream refers to where the item would be sorted; Either landfill, recycling or compost.)

Place the log by the waste bins and record each item as it goes in. Be as specific as possible about the materials and measures. A cereal box, for example, is made up of a plastic bag (landfill), cereal (compostable) and the box itself (recyclable). In that case you would note that each item was sorted into a different bin and estimate the amount of cereal. Make a distinction between pre-consumer (ends of veggies) and post-consumer (uneaten carrots) food waste.

Clean up your act
When you've finished recording you'll have an idea of what's passing through your household. Use your results to adjust your consumption habits.

Are you using a lot of molded plastics that can’t be recycled in your area? Maybe you should buy a reusable cup that can be brought to your favorite coffee shop instead of needing a new one for each visit (many places do not compost the paper cups that are coated with plastic). Few places recycle the types of cups used for iced beverages, but even if you can recycle it, the relatively common practice of shipping the waste to Asia is not very green.

Did no one eat that huge pot of white bean soup or the three bunches of kale from the market? Consider cutting down, or cutting out altogether, the food items you see that are not being touched. Sure, we’d all like to eat healthier, but if no one is actually making beet smoothies then that’s just a weekly waste.

Food packaging often makes up a large part of household waste. This is where a steady relationship with local farmers and vendors can come in handy. Farmers markets allow you to bring reusable bags to pack up produce, rather than buying it prepackaged in plastic, or worse, Styrofoam. Farmers that do use packaging -- those little green plastic baskets that are often used for berries, for example -- may be open to taking it back once you are finished with it. If markets are not easily accessible then consider buying in bulk.

Seek out options that work for you and remember that a zero waste lifestyle doesn't develop overnight. Small changes to your habits can have a huge impact over time.

--Cover image courtesy of iStock/moshimochi

Bianca Hernandez is an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.

 

Read More

Brother, Can You Spare a Planet?

Eco-Vocabulary Quiz: Pollution and Waste

Feeding the Hungry, Not the Landfill

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April 15, 2014

5 Homemade Musical Instruments

Egyptian wooden sistrumMusical instruments can cost an arm and a leg. Good thing you can make them yourself from cheap materials like nails, tin cans, and dry pasta. Homemade instrument specialist Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou, who recently released an e-book and accompanying CD, shared some of her DIY projects, which we've included along with others found online. 

Daria currently has an e-book available featuring 10 instruments to celebrate Earth Day. These homemade music instruments are perfect crafts to make with kids and the young at heart. Relying on common household items, they’re inexpensive and allow recycled items to shine in a new way!

Balloon bongo: Kate from the blog Mini Eco created an amazing 3-in-1 instrument using just a few common household items. Fetch those tin cans out of the recycling bin and you’ll soon find yourself with a balloon bongo drum, a rice shaker, and a güiro (a Latin American instrument made from a gourd). Mix it up with different colored rubber bands and balloons.

Sistrum: Sistrums were commonly used by musicians in ancient Egyptian temples, but it’s not too hard to come up with your own modern version (pictured above). All you need are a Y-shaped tree branch or old hanger and a few bottle caps and washers to go in the middle.

Fancy egg shakers DIYEgg shakers: Mama Smiles blogger MaryAnne crafted up an entertaining rainy day activity with these fancy egg shakers (pictured to the right). Simply add uncooked rice, quinoa, or beans to leftover plastic Easter eggs..

Rainstick: This rainstick tutorial from Anna of The Imagination Tree is a little bit more labor-intensive, but the final product will be worth the extra trouble. Small, dry pasta or beans trickle like a rain shower down the nail-ridden tube. Decorate the exterior to add a personal touch.

Australian clapstickAustralian clapstick. Clapsticks, or bilma, have been used by aboriginal tribes in Australia to keep rhythm during chants. You can make your own version by, well, banging two sticks together. The fun part is engraving and painting them.

 

 

--First and third images courtesy of Daria, second image courtesy of Mama Smiles

Jessica ZischkeJessica Zischke is a former editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College. On campus she works as an editor of Dartbeat, the blog of the student-run newspaper The Dartmouth, and as the Sustainability Chair for her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta.

READ MORE:

Start a Green Band with Sustainable Gear

3 Easy DIY World Instruments

Edible Opera: How Artists Turn Music into a Meal

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April 13, 2014

Ford vs. Cadillac: Whose EV Is More American?

2014 Cadillac ELR CommercialWelcome to the battle of electric-car snark. First, Cadillac started running ads for its new luxury ELR, a sleek $75,000 coupe based on its popular “range extended” Volt (a small gas engine kicks in when the battery is depleted -- after about 37 miles -- extending a driver’s range to the fuel tank’s capacity of 380 miles or anywhere on the continent there’s a gas station). The ad, called “Poolside,” is notable because Cadillac doesn’t aim its pitch at greenies (read: Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf drivers) or even at high-tech early adopters (say, Tesla Model S drivers), but at self-made high earners looking to make a statement about themselves. You know, Cadillac drivers. (In fact, the ad never mentions the word “electric,” though we do see the ELR’s owner plugging in his vehicle outside his garage.)

But the chorus of “yuck, what a d-bag!” reactions to the ad has gotten even more attention. Cadillac’s self-made high-earner is presented as someone who represents the best of American pluck. After all, America is home to Bill Gates, Ali, Les Paul, and the Wright Brothers. Americans are the only ones who’ve gone to the moon, and the only ones going back. “We’re crazy, driven hard-working believers,” precision-haircut ELR-guy tells us. He’s got the infinity pool, the stark modernist house, the $75,000 car. At the same time, he sneers at Europeans for taking month-long summer vacations and for stopping into cafes rather than, like him, working ever harder, ostensibly for the benefit of his wife and kids -- who, notably, never make eye contact with him.  But instead what’s most important is good old American exceptionalism: “You work hard. You create your own luck. And you gotta believe anything is possible.”

Ford saw an opportunity and ran with it, chuckling the entire way. Its counter-ad, “Upside: Anything is Possible” follows real-life urban-farmer Pashon Murray, who sports a Carhartt work jacket and one of the coolest Afros since Pam Grier, as she explains why she works hard…and drives Ford’s $33,000 gas/electric C-MAX Hybrid Energi. “We’re crazy entrepreneurs trying to make the world better,” Murray says as we tour Detroit Dirt’s operations, collecting “food scraps from restaurants, manure from zoos” to keep it out of landfills and make “good, rich dirt.” Murray’s version of American exceptionalism? “You work hard. You believe that anything is possible. And you try to make the world better. You try.” Her prize isn’t “stuff” but helping the city produce locally-grown vegetables. “That’s the upside of giving a damn,” she concludes.

Perhaps it time for Nissan, Tesla, and other electric car makers to jump in the fray and keep the parodies going. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” You can watch the ads below.

 

 

Image of Cadillac ELR from ELR commercial "Poolside."  YouTube videos from Cadillac and ad-agency Team Detroit.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

 

READ MORE:

Electric Vehicle Buyer's Guide

An Electric Car For Wheelchairs

What Should Electric Cars Sound Like?

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April 10, 2014

Public Transportation Surges in Los Angeles

Chinatown station on the LA Metro Gold LineThe American Public Transportation Association is partying like it's 1956. That's because Americans took 10.65 billion trips on public transit systems in 2013 -- numbers not seen since the 1950s. In its annual ridership report, APTA stated that more Americans were using trains, buses, and subways as an alternative to commuting to work by car.

The 2013 numbers narrowly surpassed the post-1950s high of 10.59 billion in 2008, when gas prices ballooned. According to APTA, what makes the 2013 numbers so exciting is that gas prices are lower now than they were in 2008.

Public transit powerhouse New York City saw a 4.2% heavy rail ridership increase. More surprisingly, Los Angeles posted a 4.8% heavy rail increase coupled with a 6% light rail increase for 2013.

The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is betting big on public transit as the future of the area. "It has to be," said Marc Littman, the LA Metro's deputy executive officer of public relations. "Mobility is the linchpin of the economy."

By the end of 2014, the LA Metro will have started construction on multiple new heavy and light rail projects that will become operational over the next decade. "Voters in LA are so fed up with traffic that in 2008 they voted to tax themselves three times over," said Littman. The taxes he is referring to are all part of Measure R, a 2008 county ballot that will award around $40 billion of taxpayer money to traffic relief and transportation upgrades over the next 30 years.

While traffic reduction was undoubtedly at the forefront of voters' minds, so too was an increasing environmental consciousness. "You can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 20 pounds of COper day," says Littman. "We've tapped into people who are fed up with traffic as well as those that are environmentally conscious."

This green rider is exactly who APTA believes is behind 2013's surge in public transportation ridership. In an interview with the Associated Press, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy proclaimed, "People are making a fundamental shift to having options for getting around. This is a long term trend. This isn't just a blip."

Quantifying the affect of environmentalism on increased public transit ridership is difficult, but the fact that 2013's levels resemble those of the 1950s can't be ignored. With the rise of the automobile and suburbia, public transit has long been a secondary option for commuters.

Littman believes that Americans, especially Los Angelenos, want a return to a sprawling public transit infrastructure. "In Los Angeles, there were more than 1000 miles of track 100 years ago, and people want it back. It's kind of like that baseball movie [Field of Dreams]. If you build it, they will come."

To get involved with local public transit projects, visit publictransportation.org

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/Merkuri2

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. He recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz, where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.

READ MORE:

An Electric Car for Wheelchairs

Pains, Trains, and Automobiles

How to Save the World With Two Wheels

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This Will Make You Ride Your Bike More

Photo (7)Most of you don’t need any convincing that you can save the world with two wheels, and that knowledge alone is doubtless sufficient to make many new bike commuters. Good for you! Please skip ahead to the cute animal posts.

But perhaps there are a few among you who like to ride your bikes, who know that they’re good for your health and that of the planet, but who just don’t get on them very often. (I’m speaking here about commuting, errands, etc. Recreational cyclists are more likely to have the opposite problem--they don’t get off the bike very often.)

If you want to up your mileage, here’s the tool you need: a cheap cycle computer. Sure, you can spend $700 on a Garmin Edge 810 that will track your cadence, calorie consumption, and heart rate while teaching you Swahili (OK, almost), but you can easily find far cheaper yet serviceable models that will give you a speedometer, a clock, and what you need most--an odometer. (As you can see, I use my pre-Garmin Cateye; a similar modern model will set you back about $25. Planet Bike has one for around $35.)

Why is an odometer so important? Because the trick to riding more is to set yourself an ambitious but achievable goal and then use the odometer to track your progress. The goal can be weekly, monthly, or annual; make it large enough to require a change in your present behavior, but not so large that you could never do it. Then let your odometer be your guide.

Last year, for example, I rode about 800 miles on my commuter bike. (OK, 832 but who’s keeping track?) This year I decided to kick my goal up to 1,000. That means (I figured this out while riding along) I need to ride 83.3 miles a month. And so far, so good! I was sidelined for a couple weeks by illness, but that just made me determined to make up the deficit. I started riding to the grocery store regularly, riding to the pool on Saturday morning, riding over to my friend George’s house to borrow a tool. If I’m behind one week, I find excuses the next to get on the bike and catch up.

Would I have ridden 250 miles by now without a goal and a way to track it? Possibly, but not likely. As anyone who’s ever played a video game knows, computers are great enablers of obsessive fixations. A simple computer on your bike can harness your completion drive to change the way you get around. Onward to 1,000.

Photo by the author 

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and dad. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

READ MORE:

New Styles for Fashionable Cyclists

Green Your Community: (Almost) Free Rides

Test Your Bike IQ: How Much Does It Cost?

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April 07, 2014

A Vegan Meal Made from Spring

Spring is upon us, and with it come asparagus, beets, artichokes, and citrus fruits. Here are three fantastic dishes using the best that spring has to offer. Try them together for a vegan meal that’ll even have carnivores begging for seconds.

Starter: Shaved asparagus salad

This spring-inspired salad from Sunny Vegan blogger Amanda is crisp, light, and quick (no cooking required).

Shaved spring asparagus saladMakes 4 servings

Base:

1 pound large stalk asparagus 
8 ounces firm tofu- crumbled 
1/4 cup Italian parsley - roughly chopped

Dressing: 

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
1/2 cup olive oil 
1 1/2 teaspoon light agave 
1 teaspoon dijon mustard 
salt and pepper

Directions: 

With a mandoline, knife, or vegetable peeler, shave off long lengths of asparagus. In a jar or bowl with whisk, combine dressing ingredients and mix well. Pour dressing over shaved asparagus, add tofu and parsley and toss together. Serve immediately.

Main: Creamy penne pasta bake with zucchini

Cook time: 35 minutes

Serves 6

While zucchini isn't officially in season until late spring or early summer, this creamy pasta from Gluten-Free Goddess lends itself perfectly to be used with any of your favorite spring veggies. We suggest substituting artichoke hearts, arugula, peas, or spinach until zucchini begins to bloom.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil the bottom of a large gratin dish or casserole and set aside. 

Creamy penne pasta bake with zucchiniBase:

12 ounces gluten-free brown rice penne pasta
1 medium zucchini
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of dried dill or Italian herbs, to taste

Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegan butter such as Smart Balance
4 tablespoons brown rice flour
2 1/2 cups organic soy milk* see notes
1/4 cup gluten-free nutritional yeast* see notes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon mild rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, optional

Garnish:

Chopped fresh chives

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and partially cook the brown rice penne, till just this side of al dente. You don't want to cook it completely, or you'll end up with mushy pasta, after it bakes.

Meanwhile, wash, trim, and slice the zucchini into half moons. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the zucchini and minced garlic, season with sea salt, ground pepper, and a dash or two of dried dill or Italian herbs. Stir to coat, and quickly stir-fry, just until the zucchini is tender-crisp. Don't overcook it. It will continue to cook in the oven.

Start making the creamy pasta sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the vegan butter. When the "butter" melts, add in the brown rice flour and stir with a whisk to make a paste. Heat it through, stirring and cooking the paste for a minute. Slowly add in the soy milk (or your milk of choice) and whisk the milk with the paste to combine. Add in the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sea salt, nutmeg, rice vinegar and mustard (if using). Stir the sauce until it thickens and turn down the heat. If it gets too thick you can thin it with a dash of white wine, or more soy milk.

When the pasta is done, drain it well, and drizzle it with a touch of good olive oil. Pour the cooked penne into a large gratin dish or casserole. Add in the zucchini. Pour the sauce in and gently, very gently, combine the penne, zucchini, and sauce until the penne is coated. Sprinkle the top with fresh snipped chives.

Cover the dish with foil. Bake the penne in the center of a preheated oven for 20 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.

Recipe Notes:

I used organic soy milk in this sauce- and it helps make the sauce rich and creamy. If you cannot tolerate soy, try unsweetened, clean tasting hemp milk, almond milk, or light coconut milk (like So Delicious).

If you do not care for nutritional yeast, omit it and add one to two tablespoons 

Dessert: Triple chocolate beet Bundt cake

Makes one 10" Bundt cake

Serves 12-16

It's true -- you can have your cake and eat your veggies, too. Or at least with this fabulous Bundt cake by Sarah of The Sweet Life you can. All your guests will be begging to know what the secret ingredient is.

Vegan triple chocolate beet bundt cake

3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups beet puree (6-7 small beets)
1 cup warm water
3/4 cup apple sauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate Ganache:

1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Place beets in a large pot and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until beets are soft and can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove from heat, drain, and allow beets to cool for 15-20 minutes. Once cool enough to touch, remove skins and place in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 10" Bundt pan and set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl whisk together beet puree, apple sauce, water, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wets to the dries and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer to prepared Bundt pan and bake for about 45-60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Flip out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

To make the chocolate ganache, place chocolate chips in a small, shallow bowl. Heat coconut milk to a scald (you should see a skin form over the surface). Pour over chocolate chips and cover for 5 minutes. Gently stir together until the ganache is well combined and thickened. Pour over cooled cake and serve.

--all recipes used with permission by the respective blog

--first image courtesy of Sunny Vegan, second image courtesy of Gluten-Free Goddess, third image courtesy of The Sweet Life

Jessica ZischkeJessica Zischke is a former editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College, where she also works as an editor of Dartbeat, the blog of the student-run newspaper The Dartmouth.

 

READ MORE:

7 Gluten-Free Bread Bowl Alternatives

Vegan Barbecue: Burgers, Hot Dogs, and Steaks

Vegan This: Strawberry Shortcake

 

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April 03, 2014

Sorry Wired, Coal Isn’t the “Future of Clean Energy”

Wired CoverOuch! Here comes the April Wired poking its finger in environmentalists’ eyes with its provocative headline, “Coal: It’s Dangerous, It’s Dirty, and It’s the Future of Clean Energy.” (Last time it was James Fallows in the Atlantic with “Dirty Coal, Clean Future,” which I discussed here.) Both features are well written, compelling, but absolutely wrong--and for the same reason.

To be fair to Wired contributing editor Charles C. Mann, his article is far more nuanced than its contrarian cover line might suggest. In fact, much of it details the environmental evils of coal, particularly in China, which gets three quarters of its energy by burning nearly as much coal as the entire rest of the world:

According to one major research project involving almost 500 scientists in 50 nations, outdoor air pollution annually contributes to about 1.2 million premature deaths in China. Another study argued that eliminating coal pollution in northern China would raise average life expectancy there by nearly five years.

That’s in addition to the horrific climate effects: 

China already emits one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases, more than any other country. The International Energy Agency (IEA), a Paris-based think tank sponsored by 28 developed nations, estimates that Beijing will double its ranks of coal-fired power plants by 2040. If that happens, China’s carbon dioxide figures could double or even triple.

Like Fallows before him, Mann goes on to note that China is making tremendous efforts to harness clean energy, deploying solar and wind faster than any other country. But, he argues, as much as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace may scoff, renewables can’t do the trick.

No one has ever powered a nation solely, or even mostly, with sun and wind over the long term . . . . [T]he process of replacing the present coal-and-gas grid with a new, sun-and-wind grid—all the while keeping the old grid running—will be long, expensive, and risky.

So to recap: Coal is awful. Renewables would be better, but scaling them up would be hard and cost a lot of money. Therefore, conclude both Fallows and Mann, the solution must be “carbon capture and storage” (CCS)--stripping out the carbon dioxide from the burning coal and pumping it away for storage in deep underground caverns. China has a number of such facilities (although it turns out that GreenGen’s billion-dollar CCS plant in Tianjin just sells its CO2 to soft drink companies).

Mann acknowledges that there are some major problems with CCS, though--it uses a tremendous amount of energy (“20 to 30 percent of a power plant’s output”), costs a fortune (“as much as $100 per ton of stored CO2”), and is still largely experimental.

[T]he world has just 12 fully operational large-scale carbon-capture projects, most in the United States. Not one of them is what is most needed: a facility that traps and stores emissions from a big coal-fired power plant.

And yet, he argues, CCS is the future of clean energy. Unexplained is why China would apply this fantastically expensive fix to its coal plants when it doesn't even provide simple scrubbers that would prevent the horrendous particle pollution Mann previously cited. China burns coal because it's as cheap as dirt, but if it’s suddenly going to cost $2 trillion a year to bury that carbon in the ground (Mann’s figure), the entire rationale for coal disappears. And even if CCS did become widespread, it would do nothing to lessen the environmental horrors of coal extraction, transportation, and coal-ash pollution

If you’re going to spend billions--or trillions!--to prevent climate disaster, why spend it on an experimental scheme to clean up coal instead of proven, zero-carbon, renewable technology? The only reason to keep talking about “clean coal” and CCS is what it has always been--to maintain the pretense that someday, somehow, the coal industry will clean up after itself, and to delay the inevitable switch to truly clean energy.

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and dad. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

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April 01, 2014

Mission Compostable: Is Eco-Comedy Funny?

EcoComedyFilmCompetitionWhy aren’t environmentalists funny? Because they recycle all their jokes.

Luckily this year’s Eco-Comedy Film Competition winners have better jokes than I do. Started by Professor Chris Palmer of American University, the competition is now in its fifth year and receives around 50 submissions annually. They are judged on multiple criteria and being funny is only one of them. The winning video receives $1,000.

Palmer, an environmental filmmaker and one-time stand up comedian, came up with the idea to combine his interests.

“[Participants] gain a renewed appreciation of how using comedy and humor can help convey the message of conservation more powerfully,” Palmer said. He hopes comedy can encourage people to act on environmental problems.

“Comedy has so much potential, and as advocates for our planet, we must learn to harness this potential to do good,” Palmer said at the DC Environmental Film Fest.

The winners were announced at American University. See this year’s top picks below.

First Place: Be a Better Roommate 

Second Place: Joe Wakes Up

Second Place: Go Green with Eloise

Third Place: Earth Copz  

 

 

--Cover image courtesy of iStock/

 

Bianca Hernandezis an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.

 

Read More: 

Green Your Humor: Irreverant News

Eco-Friendly Flicks

The Real Debbie Downer: An Interview with SNL's Rachel Dratch

 

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March 31, 2014

Avocado-less Guacamole

AvocadolessGuacamole

Imagine guacamole without the avocado. That may be a reality we face in the coming years, either because of scarcity or high costs. Some scientists are warning that climate change and Ambrosia beetles could cause a decline in avocado yields in the US.

There is no true substitute for avocado in my favorite dip, but I thought I’d at least prepare to use less of this tasty green fruit. I scoured the internet and found three recipes that seemed worth a taste test, so we sampled them. While there was no clear winner, there was a distinct loser.

Edamame base/ Edamole: This dip was a much brighter green than the real thing, with a "bean-y" flavor and "homemade peanut butter" consistency. Several tasters noted its “smokiness,” possibly imparted by the spices and soy. It would do well smeared—or, um, crumbled—on a veggie burger.

Asparagus base: This dip was "much less attractive" appearance, with a dark color and soupy texture akin to those of “real guacamole that’s been left out overnight." Still, it was the most "convincing" guacamole substitute.

Green pea base: Remember that distinct loser I mentioned? A few people liked this as a spread for baguettes, but it's certainly no guacamole substitute, and one taster said this "just horrible" dip brought forth childhood memories of being forced to eat peas. Most considered it “too sweet” to pass as a guac alternative, but the addition of more seasonings and sour cream could even it out.

Try the recipes yourself and see if they're tasty enough to replace this iconic dip.

Edamame Dip/Edamole

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic 

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or to taste

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 cup frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans), thawed

1 tablespoon water, or as needed

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the garlic cloves, chipotle pepper, olive oil, hot sauce and cumin into a blender. Puree until smooth, then add the edamame and continue to puree until smooth. Add water as needed to achieve your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. 

Recipe reprinted with permission from AllRecipes.com/HealthyFoodLover.

 

Asparagus Guacamole

Ingredients 

1 lb asparagus spears, cut into 1 inch lengths

3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons plain yogurt (or low fat) 

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped (1 cup) 

2 tablespoons sliced green onions

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 garlic clove, minced (add more if you so desire!)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Directions

Combine asparagus and water in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to boil over medium high heat, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Rinse with cold water; drain. Blot asaparagus with a power towel to remove excess moisture. Combine asparagus, yogurt and lemon juice in food processor or blender. Process until smooth. In a medium mixing bowl, combine asparagus mixture and remaining ingredients. Chill if desired. 

Recipe reprinted with permission from Food.com/Sharon123

 

Green Pea "Guacamole"

Ingredients

1/3 medium red onion, finely chopped 

4 tbs. olive oil

juice of 1 lime (about 4 tbs.) 

1/2 bunch cilanto, stems removed

1/2-1 tsp. chipotle chilis in adobo sauce or 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded

10 oz frozen peas

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. salt

Directions

Chop onion in food processor until finely chopped. Place onion in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine oil, lime juice and cilantro in a food processor until roughly pureed. Add chili, peas, cumin, salt and blend until almost smooth (should be some chunks left). Stir in red onion. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a bit of chopped red onion. Serve with tortilla chips or toasted pita.

*You don't need to defrost or cook the frozen peas before pureeing them, but I do let the dip sit at room temperature for about a half hour before serving. 

Recipe reprinted with permission from stylishspoon.com/Ilana

 

--top image by iStockphoto/billyfoto

 

Bianca Hernandez is an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.

 

Read More: 

5 Healthy Takes on Classic Comfort Foods

Spoil No More: Avocados

7 Gluten-Free Bread Bowl Alternatives

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