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16 posts from January 2006

January 01, 2006

Pop Corner

In between all the photos of hot babes and cool gadgets, lad-mag Maxim found room to tell readers of its September 2005 issue how to "stick it to the utility companies" by living off the grid. Tip #11: Use propane for your heating system and "save electricity for your PS2!" (That's "PlayStation 2" for Sierra readers happily beyond Maxim's demographic.) After all, how much fun can the simple life be if you can't play Grand Theft Auto?

Pop Corner

It's really no surprise that the writers of Six Feet Under, the acclaimed HBO series about a family-run funeral home, were attuned to the latest trend in death: green burials. After killing off one of the main characters in the show's final season, they had mourners wrap his body in a simple (and biodegradable) burlap sack and bury it. The practice, which avoids the toxic chemicals used in embalming, has long been popular in the United Kingdom (see naturaldeath.org.uk) and is on the rise in the United States, where at least four cemeteries are devoted to low-impact interment. ethicalburial.org

Whole-Earth Workout

Environmentally friendly exercise People will do just about anything to lose weight, a tendency the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers is putting to use for the environment. Participants in the "Green Gyms" movement, which started in 1999 and is now established in 50 cities, get their weekly workout by planting trees, creating gardens, clearing trails, and carrying out other conservation projects. Sessions include warm-up exercises, training in the use of tools, and even a tea break.

Illustration by Josef Gast

Fast Fact

Exercising outdoors, exposed to the elements and uneven terrain, can burn 30 percent more calories than hitting the gym.

Vital Signs

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

Sierra readers may be trying to live lighter, but nationwide the disease of overconsumption has only spread since David Wann and his coauthors outlined its symptoms in their 2001 book, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. While working on the revised edition, Wann stopped to check America's rising temperature, using five variables from the book's new "Fever Index":

Wiggle Room measures the size of the average new nonrural single-family home:
2001 2,361 square feet
2004 2,402 square feet

The Guzzle Gauge tracks per-capita fossil-fuel consumption:
2001 291 million Btu
(the equivalent of 2,328 gallons of gasoline)
2004 293.7 million Btu
(the equivalent of 2,349 gallons of gasoline)

The Waste Line estimates the amount of consumer electronics thrown away every year:
2001 2,054,800 tons
2003 2,500,000 tons

Wing Span indicates how many air miles Americans travel annually:
2001 664,849,159,000 miles
2004 752,323,898,981 miles

The Debit Sheet calculates how much the average household owes in car payments and credit card debt:
2001 $17,024
2004 $18,619

Mr. Green on Bulbs, Building Materials, and Brouhahas

Hey Mr Green In the January/February 2006 issue of Sierra, Mr. Green tells readers what to do with a dead fluorescent bulb, weighs in on window materials, and explains why the environmental movement can't be counted out yet.

How many tree huggers does it take to change an efficient lightbulb? Are environmentalists an endangered species, or are our values "too deeply embedded in American culture to kill off"? Send your thoughts and questions directly to Mr. Green, or weigh in in the comments section.


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