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20 posts from June 2007

June 19, 2007

Now There's An Idea...

It probably won't make the next version of 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, but this "suggestion" in yesterday's Dilbert gave me a laugh. Hmm, yeah, no dry-cleaning your work clothes, no jetting around to boring meetings... on the other hand, watching TV and ordering pizzas in your bathrobe probably isn't going to save the world either.

June 16, 2007

Help With Home Improvement

Green building is one of the hottest sustainable trends, but contractors familiar with all the ecofriendly options can still be hard to find. I tracked down a few recently for the July/August issue of Sierra and gleaned a few tips. Good builders understand that people want some pizzazz in their green home--like bamboo flooring or countertops made from recycled glass--but they hope potential clients will keep in mind that "hidden" things like insulation, weatherization, and energy systems are what really counts in the long run. Here are some questions to ask to suss out a potential builder's green qualifications:

  • What kind of certifications (e.g., LEED, Energy Star) are you getting for the homes you build?
  • Where are your homes sited? Do you look for in-fill building opportunities?
  • What do you do to minimize the footprint of your homes and control erosion?
  • Are you using salvaged or FSC-certified lumber?
  • What are you doing to minimize waste during the construction process? How much are you recycling?
  • How do you work to improve indoor air quality? A radiant or decentralized heating system, for example, is a better bet than a forced-air one, because the latter's duct work may house mold and dust that can then blow through the house.

A local association like Build It Green in Northern California can provide referrals to green builders, and often some free advice to homeowners too. If you can't find a contractor who specializes in environmentally friendly projects, see if you can find one who wants to learn and will work with you to investigate greener options. And check back next week as we start a series of interviews with green builders and provide more resources for new homes and remodels.

June 13, 2007

Shop for Pop

Bring a little green into Dad's life with these low-impact, last-minute gift ideas for Father's Day:

  • For the busy dad: Surprise him by tackling some of those pesky household chores he's been meaning to get to. Replace incandescent lightbulbs with efficient CFLs or LEDs and let him know how much he'll be saving on his energy bill each month.
  • For the dad who loves to travel: Lonely Planet's ecotourism guide, Code Green: Experiences of a Lifetime, is printed on 100 percent recycled paper and chock-full of dream destinations and practical tips.
  • For the dad who's always on the go: The Solio portable hybrid solar charger will be a hit. It uses the energy of the sun to recharge cell phones, digital cameras, and MP3 players--and it's available at any REI store.
  • For the well-groomed dad: Pick up some Preserve razors from Recycline--the handles are recycled (made from old yogurt cups) and recyclable. Look for these environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable razors at Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's, and other natural-foods stores.
  • For the 9-to-5 dad: Keep him looking sharp at the office with an organic hemp neck tie. Or spoil him with a new hemp courier bag or work tote. (If it's not going to arrive before Sunday, just make him a card with a picture of the item on order.)
  • For the beer-loving dad: Kick back and enjoy an organic brew with your dad, and help him pop it open with a funky Resource Revival bottle opener made from old bike chains.
  • For the musical dad: Opt for an iTunes gift certificate instead a CD and take the wrapping paper, plastic packaging, and drive to the store out of the picture while still giving the gift of music.
  • For the active dad: If he'd rather be biking, riding, or hiking, or doing anything else outdoors, a Klean Kanteen water bottle is a no-brainer. It's reusable, lightweight, and cased in stainless steel that won't leach chemicals into his water. Or splurge on a pair of Greenscapes Mountain sneakers from Timberland. The recycled-rubber soles, recycled-plastic laces, and hemp body earned a 3.5 on the company's Green Index, a ranking of environmental impact on a scale of 0 (best) to 10 (worst) based on greenhouse-gas emissions, chemicals used, and resources consumed during production
  • For the dad with a green thumb: Organic and water-saving garden supplies from Seeds of Change or Home Depot's Eco-Options line are a gift that grows.
  • For any dad: Instead of wrapping a bunch of presents, plan to spend an afternoon together: Take Dad hunting or fishing, play a round of golf, or cook him dinner. Or arrange a family outing in nature and take him to the beach or a park. He'll love the quality time with his favorite son or daughter and you'll cut back on waste.

By Emily Meinhardt and Hannah Simon

June 11, 2007

A Tip a Day...

...keeps global warming at bay. (And other environmental problems too!)

Tip_pageWant to start living a lower-impact, higher-quality lifestyle? Not sure where to begin? Sign up for our new Green Life newsletter and receive an easy tip every day about a small change that can make a big difference. Simple steps like replacing conventional lightbulbs with more efficient ones, keeping your car tires properly inflated, or adjusting your thermostat a degree or two can save you money, reduce waste, and help save the planet. Don't delay, sign up today!

June 09, 2007

What to Do When Your
Energizer's on Empty

Batteries are one of those little things that really add up. With about 3 billion dumped each year, the lead, cadmium, mercury, and other heavy metals in household batteries can be a bummer for our soil and water quality. To take just one example, more cadmium in landfills comes from batteries than any other source. The solution? Recycling, of course. Here's how:

BatteriesRechargeable batteries (e.g. nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion) can get their juice rejuvenated hundreds of times, but eventually they too wear out. Click over to the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation or call their hotline at 1-800-8-BATTERY to find out where you can drop rechargeables off for recycling.

Standard household (e.g. alkaline and zinc-carbon) batteries are recyclable too, although they can be harder to find a home for. My local hardware store takes them, and yours may too. Check earth911.org or call 1-800-CLEANUP for a location near you. If you go through a lot of batteries, it might be worth enlisting a company like Battery Solutions or the Big Green Box that will recycle them for a fee.

The bottom line: Think carefully before buying new battery-powered gadgets (do you really need them?) and be sure to recycle all kinds of batteries. Solar chargers can be great alternatives for small accessories like cell phones and iPods--they even come in backpack or beach bag form.

June 08, 2007

Talk Radicchio

I'm not much use in the kitchen, but even I can whip up something tasty from my favorite cookbook, Moosewood_2Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. Recipes like "African Pineapple Peanut Stew," "Beans and Greens," or "Asparagus with Fried Eggs and Cheese" are simple and delicious. (Though the Ithaca, New York-based culinary collective focuses on veggie fare, some recipes in this book include fish.) So I'm looking forward to hearing Mollie Katzen, Moosewood Restaurant cofounder (and author of the first Moosewood cookbook) on Sierra Club Radio tomorrow. Tune in at 3:30 pm (PST) Saturday on the Quake (960 am) in the San Francisco Bay Area, or listen online, for a fresh view on vegetarian cooking.

June 06, 2007

Global View

Visitors to Chicago's scenic lakefront will have something extra to gaze at this summer. More than 100 environmentally themed globes, designed by artists from around the world, will line the Lake Michigan shoreline through the end of September. In addition to these five-foot-in-diameter "Cool Globes" highlighting environmental issues--from prairie restoration to junk mail to solo commuting--and actions individuals can take against climate change, smaller spheres designed by artists, celebrities, and students are being displayed around the city. Exhibit visitors who pledge to make five changes in their daily lives, such as insulating their water heater, planting a garden, riding a bike more often, or buying renewable energy, will be entered into a raffle for a Toyota Prius. If you've always wanted to own a piece of the planet, the globes will be auctioned off on October 5 to benefit environmental education programs.

Coolglobes

Left to right: Prairie Restoration globe by Nina Weiss (#26); Stop Unsolicited Mail globe by Ellen Gradman (#78); and Share a Ride globe by Cheryl Steiger (#35).

June 02, 2007

Get Your Grill On

With the weather heating up, barbecue season has officially begun. And while a little backyard grilling isn't going to ruin the environment, when 60 million people hit the BBQ at once--like they do on Fourth of July--the impacts can add up. To grill greener, try these tips:

  • Opt for a cleaner-burning propane or electric grill over one powered by charcoal, which contributes more to poor air quality. If you've got time to spare, a solar oven or stove avoids emissions altogether.
  • If you do use charcoal, look for lump brands (briquettes may contain coal dust or other additives as binders) made from invasive tree species or harvested from sustainably managed forests, and switch from lighter fluid, which releases smog-forming VOCs, to a chimney starter.
  • Grill organic, hormone-free meat and mix it up with fish, veggies, even fruit.
  • Minimize health risks (from carcinogenic substances that can form when meats are grilled or broiled at high temperature) by choosing lean meats and trimming fat before cooking.
  • Set your picnic table with reusable dishware and silverware and cloth napkins. If that's not feasible, look for biodegradable or recycled-paper dinnerware, unbleached cups, and recycled-paper napkins.
  • Clean up green with a natural cleaner like Orange Plus (made with orange oil) or SoyClean.

For more information, check out the Sierra article "P's and Q's of BBQ" and the magazine's resources for an earth-friendly cookout.

June 01, 2007

Trendsetter

Susan Angel
Green-wedding planner
Angel & Company

A social worker for 20 years, Susan Angel wanted to use her people skills in an ecofriendly pursuit. After considering other business opportunities, including a green home store or one for recycled building supplies, the Boise, Idaho, resident hung out her shingle as a wedding planner.

How do prospective clients feel about going green?

It's a new business for me, and most of the brides I'm working with are more traditional, so it's going to take a bit of time. This first year I see myself as more of an educator, getting the word out, before I have brides who really "get" it. But some people are already incorporating green practices without even thinking about it--like having the reception and ceremony at same place, or serving local foods, or donating leftover food and cake. People don't necessarily see these things as "green," but they're willing to do them.

Continue reading "Trendsetter " »

A City's Crash Diet

To successfully combat global warming, we need to cut carbon-dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2050--or 2 percent each year. How would that change our daily lives? Residents of Berkeley, California, may be Berkeley_illo_2 the first to find out. The city, which passed a mandate late last year to make those necessary greenhouse-gas reductions, is already creating a blueprint for its carbon-lite future that includes free bus passes for every apartment dweller, a car-share vehicle parked on every block, and mandatory upgrades to household appliances and insulation. "I think people are looking for ways to lighten their footprint," Mayor Tom Bates told the San Francisco Chronicle. "People are willing to make these lifestyle changes, and the cumulative effort will add up. It's not rocket science. We can do this."

What would you change in your daily life to combat global warming? What wouldn't you be willing to give up?


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