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34 posts from November 2007

November 12, 2007


Scott Pactor, age 36, owner
Appellation Wine & Spirits

On a sabbatical in South America, accountant Scott Pactor decided his passion was wine, which he began studying when he returned to New York City. After working as a sommelier, he opened Appellation Wine & Spirits, where nearly 70 percent of the wines are ecofriendly and employees use public transit to make deliveries. appellationnyc.com

Q: Why did you decide to focus on earth-friendly wines?

A: I was looking for wine with a sense of place and personality, and I kept coming back to the bottles that were organic or biodynamic. The fact that they're good for the environment is a bonus.

Q: Organic wine hasn't always had a reputation for excellence. Why was that?

A: In the past, a few producers marked their wine as organic, but they weren't necessarily making good wine. Others weren't storing their bottles properly. If the growing area has a propensity for rot, making wine organically does become more difficult.

Q: What regions should consumers look to for good organic wines?

A: In France, the Loire Valley, Alsace, and the Burgundy region, and Oregon and California in the United States. And from Austria, we have a liter bottle of organic Gruener Veltliner for $10. People can't believe how good the quality is at that price.

--interview by Jennifer Hattam

Fast Fact

A biodynamic vineyard must be chemical free and almost entirely self-sufficient, requiring little to no outside inputs.

Fast Fact

Nearly 30 million pounds of pesticides are applied to fields of conventionally grown California wine grapes each year.

Daily Tip: November 12, 2007

Want to know how much impact your diet has on the environment? Check out the Eating Green Calculator to learn how your food choices translate into pounds of fertilizer, manure, and pesticides and acres of grain and grass for animal feed. The calculator also lets you see how the numbers would change if you reduced your consumption of a specific meat or dairy product.

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November 08, 2007

On a Winter's Day

ThermostatWith the price of oil approaching $100 a barrel, plenty of people are going to be looking for ways to save money at the gas pump. But residents of the Northeast, where heating oil is commonly used to warm homes in winter, may see their energy bills soar too. No matter where you live, you can save money and energy this winter by following a few simple steps:

Run a tight ship. Minimize the energy needed to heat your home by making sure your windows and doors are well-sealed with caulking and weather-stripping. This easy and inexpensive fix can save as much as 10 percent of winter heating costs.

Seal your ducts. Homes with forced-air heating systems can lose up to 40 percent of their heat if duct joints are poorly sealed. You probably want to get a qualified contractor to do this one, but some states will offer a tax credit to help pay for the work.

Watch your windows. Since most heat loss occurs through the windows, installing thick curtains and drapes can help keep you toasty. Open them during the day to allow warming sunlight to enter, then close them at night to keep the heat inside. Double-paned windows cost more but are worth looking into too.

Temper the temperature. Turning your thermostat down just 5 degrees can cut energy bills (and pollution) by 10 percent, so keep it at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, and 60 degrees or less while you sleep. Chilly? Put on a sweater or add an extra blanket to your bed.

Fan the heat around. Running your ceiling fan clockwise, at a slow speed, recirculates warmer air that accumulates at the ceiling, reducing energy consumption by up to 10 percent.

Put on a greener log. Fireplaces aren't the most efficient--or cleanest--way to heat a home, but they can be awfully cozy. Look for artificial logs made of wood only, avoiding those that contain paraffin, a petroleum-based by-product with dubious emissions quality. (Duraflame has phased all petroleum-based waxes out of its logs). Some cool alternatives include fireplace logs made of recycled cardboard boxes, recycled-paper briquettes, and logs made of used coffee grounds, which burn hotter and longer than wood while producing fewer emissions and less soot.

Heating water is another big energy-hog year-round. A simple insulating blanket to improve the efficiency of your water heater costs only about $20 and is readily available at most hardware stores. Another way to save energy is to wash your laundry in cold water whenever possible. Since each load uses about 40 gallons of water, this small step can make a big difference: One household can eliminate more than a thousand pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in a year just by washing in cold.

Daily Tip: November 8, 2007

New models of automatic dishwashers can actually save water over hand-washing. According to the University of Bonn in Germany, an efficient dishwasher uses one-half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and far less soap than doing it the old fashioned way. Of course, you save the most by running the dishwasher when it’s full and skipping the (usually unnecessary) pre-rinse.

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November 07, 2007

Daily Tip: November 7, 2007

If your furry friend has a case of the fleas, try a less-toxic method of flea control such as ANTidote or Bio Flea Halt. If fleas have already invaded your home, applying Borax to the carpet is a fairly low-risk way to kill them off. (But be careful, Borax can be an eye irritant and should not be ingested in large amounts by your pet.) Or replace the chemical flea dip with this natural recipe from Care2: Cut up four lemons and simmer for about an hour in one quart of water, adding more water if necessary. Cool and strain the mixture before rubbing it into your dog’s coat. Be sure to avoid your pet’s eyes and exercise appropriate caution—citrus-peel extract products like this one can be very strong. Ventilate the room properly and do not use this solution if you’re asthmatic. And do not use this flea bath on cats!

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November 06, 2007

Walkin' the Talk

I don't think anyone likes to hear the phrase "do as I say, not as I do." But when you find yourself in the advice-giving business, as I now seem to be, it can be hard to have all of your own habits aligned with the practices you know are best for the planet. Take composting, for example. Although I live in an apartment with no yard, I knew that San Francisco offered a green-cart program for just such folks; that is, a bin to collect food scraps and yard trimmings that gets picked up along with your recycling one. The only problem? My building didn't have a green bin, and as a renter, I was a little bit reluctant to rock the boat. So I was totally gratified when I finally broached the subject with my landlord and he enthusiastically took it up with the homeowners' association. Now I've got a little green bin under my sink for food scraps--though truthfully, I don't cook much, so it's mostly full of coffee grounds--and a big one out back to empty it into. It was that easy.

Another little victory I had recently was figuring out what to do with the many promotional CDs and DVDs (not the fun kind with music or movies on them, which can usually find a new home) that often now accompany press releases. Green Citizen, a computer recycler just down the street from my office, happily took them--and some old floppy disks I'd been carting around for years--with a promise to demanufacture these items into their recyclable components without sending them overseas to developing countries with few environmental or safety standards. Got your own heap of obsolete electronic items lying around? Find a responsible recycler in your area through the Computer TakeBack Campaign. And let me know what new environmental accomplishments you're reveling in lately.

Daily Tip: November 6, 2007

If you’re a smoker, QUIT. It’s bad for your health and the health of those around you, not to  mention the environment. One cigarette butt alone can take ten years to degrade!  Land and marine animals can die from eating harmful butts, and many destructive  forest fires have started with one tossed carelessly from a car window. While  you’re on your way to quitting, dispose of your cigarette butts in an ashtray or safely in the garbage. Get a pocket-sized disposable ashtray for free by visiting http://www.nobuttsaboutit.net/.

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November 05, 2007

Five Stellar Cellular Apps

  1. Track down alternative-fuel stations on the road by calling (866) 238-1137 or downloading earthcomber.com.
  2. Mooing ring tones are used to safely attract and trap leopards near Indian villages.
  3. Find out the water quality at California beaches by texting their names to 23907.
  4. UC Berkeley researchers are developing wireless sensors for cell phones to detect pollution.
  5. Look up a corporation's climate-change record as you shop by texting "cc [company name]" to 30644.

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