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55 posts from April 2008

April 24, 2008

Media Lounge

Discuss this selection with your friends and neighbors. Learn how at sierraclub.org/sierra/letstalk.

a book by Fritz Haeg
Starting in 2005, architect and designer Fritz Haeg commissioned families in California, New Jersey, and Kansas to rip out their lawns and grow vegetables in their front yards. Edible Estates is a treatise against grass, which at 30 million acres is the United States' largest irrigated crop. It also follows the suburban dissidents who dug under the inquisitive gaze of neighbors and found joy in curbside tomatoes.

an HGTV DVD set
Ed Begley Jr., a TV star and environmentalist, pits himself against Hollywood's glitz in this man-versus-modern-times reality show. His luxury-loving wife, Rachelle Carson, plays devil's advocate by challenging his angelic intentions (such as collecting rainwater in an "ugly" container). Begley also tours Tinseltown and the Sundance Film Festival to green-gut-check his fellow celebs. A visit to Jay Leno's car haven is particularly electrifying. --Della Watson

a book by Bruce Barcott
This suspenseful tale of the recent, impassioned fight against Belize's Chalillo Dam draws eerie parallels to John Muir's struggle against the Hetch Hetchy Dam in California's Sierra Nevada. A spectacular river valley teeming with wildlife is at stake, and an eccentric zookeeper--aided by Sierra Club members--tilts against corrupt officials and secret deals in a jungle-state where the animals have as much personality as the people. --Heather Conn

a book by Barbara Hurd
"I was in my mid-forties," Barbara Hurd writes, "before I understood that you don't always have to see where you're going in order to get there." A seasoned observer of hidden places, she looks to tidal debris--a moon snail, sea glass, driftwood--to create a lyrical melody of history, travel, and observation. Walking the Wrack Line becomes her metaphor for loss, transformation, and embrace of the natural world. --Thomas Curwen

a book by James Martin II with James Martin III
illustrated by Don Berry
After William the Garbage Truck's loud, smoky engine costs him his job, the eco-city of Jamestown offers him employment if he replaces his gas-guzzling engine with a hybrid. At first disheartened, William finds salvation when he helps a cat and earns karmic rewards. Besides adding hybrid to the vocabulary of three- to eight-year-olds, this book helps kids learn about water conservation and toy recycling. --D.W.

The Secret Garden

Gl_guerilla For a decade, Scott Bunnell has been tilling a road median in Long Beach, California, turning dirt into a paradise of aloes and agaves. It's illegal, but he just can't help himself. Recently he learned he's part of an international cadre of guerrilla gardeners--rebels with shovels who plant on neglected public and private land, sometimes in the dark of night. They strategize at guerrillagardening.org, and a related book, On Guerrilla Gardening, arrives in May. "It's like a graffiti artist seeing a blank wall or a surfer seeing a good wave," says Bunnell. "When I see an open area of land, I envision a garden."

Illustration by Mark Matcho; used with permission.

April 23, 2008

How Low (Impact) Can You Go?

Green_earth_istock_000005695282xsma As the Earth Day buzz begins to fade from the blogosphere, it’s time to plan for, that’s right, Earth Everyday. So let’s break down a few of your options:

Full of ideas?
Backpacker magazine has issued a challenge:  Design a three season sleeping bag whose materials and manufacturing process have minimal climate impact. This contest is a follow-up to their Zero Impact Backpack challenge. Across the pond, the Scottish Government is offering $20 million to the winner of the Saltire prize for innovation in marine renewable energy technology.

Need some inspiration?
Check out these cool green inventions from Core 77’s Greener Gadgets Competition, or read about folks who live the La Vida Verde all year long. Meet No Impact Man, Colin Beavan, who goes low in New York City, and Planetwalk’s John Francis, the globetrotter who swears off planes, trains, and automobiles.

Feeling overwhelmed?
It’s OK to start small. Becoming zero impact doesn’t happen overnight--we’re still working on it too! But you can begin by targeting one improvement, like reducing your water use. Then take one action, like installing a toilet tank displacement bag to conserve flush water or planting a rain garden to reduce runoff. Your efforts will add up, and before you know it, you’ll be on the road to Greensville.   

--Della Watson

Sources:  SNews, National Geographic, Inhabitat, The Daily Green

Green Tip: Learn to Compost in Your Backyard

Hey! One of the Sierra Club's Earth Day videos is a YouTube hit! Watch it here:

Score Your Walk

Most Americans take to walking like ducks to asphalt. But it's not always our fault. Many of us live in communities where walking to the store is dangerous, impossible, or both.

Now walkscore.com has launched a website that lets you get a sense for how "walkable" any neighborhood really is -- based on the proximity of stores and other services.

Do you live in a "walker's paradise" (score of 90-100)?

Find out for yourself.

Receive these Tips in your inbox Monday through Friday by signing up here.

April 22, 2008

Keeping it Simple

Folks have lots to say about the commercialization of Earth Day: CNET's Charles Cooper explains why he's sitting this one out, the Wall Street Journal asks if Earth Day is bad for the planet, and Dateline Earth blogger Robert McClure rants about kitty toilet trainers, voltaic backpacks, and other products marketed with a shiny green wrapper for this day of days.

While charging your iPod with solar power doesn't seem like such a bad idea, too many toilet trainer-esque pitches might drive a reasonable person to extremes.

But wait! Most people who pay attention to this stuff (at least among those surveyed by Mambo Sprouts Marketing) plan to stick with the simple things in celebration of Earth Day:

  • More than half (58 percent) said they planned to just enjoy nature or the outdoors.
  • About one in two (48 percent) said they planned to be more environmentally responsible by using less energy and bringing a reusable grocery bag to the store.

Somehow, despite our fabulous ideas for things to do today, less than 20 percent said they expected attend a festival or other organized event.

Have you spotted any blatant greenwashing this month? Have you embraced the eco-themed sales whole hog and stocked up on CFLs?  Please, do tell!

Attention College Students!

College_organizers_istock_000001696Are you a strong leader? The Sierra Student Coalition is looking for talented organizers to launch the "Building Environmental Campus Community" (BECC) project on selected campuses during the Fall 2008 semester.

The BECC Fellowship will support activists as they campaign for clean energy on campus. Exceptional applicants will receive $1,500 scholarships. Additional funds to support campus outreach and activities will be available to all organizers.

The deadline is April 28, so get started by downloading the BECC Fellowship application here.

Gloves Off at Disney

For those who never bought the idea of white-gloved mice (and others just can't get enough marching penguins), Disney has a new take on wildlife. The company announced yesterday a new film label called Disneynature that's set to churn out environmental documentaries starting next year. First up is the creatively titled "Earth" (slated to open Earth Day '09), followed by films on oceans and Ivory Coast chimpanzees.

Take the Earth Day Pledge

In honor of Earth Day, we're asking people to commit to spending some or all of their economic stimulus check on energy efficiency or renewables like solar and wind energy.

By purchasing energy efficient products, you can save money all year long by cutting your energy use -- and your energy bills. You'll also reduce your carbon footprint and help fight global warming.

Tell us how you're going to spend yours, then submit your pledge. Once you make the pledge,  we'll show you some resources to move ahead with your commitment, and also let you join a discussion by others that have taken the pledge.

April 21, 2008

Earth Day and Poetry Month

Oneday011 Social calendar filling up already? You could celebrate Earth Day and National Poetry Month at the same time at Jiyeon Song's One Day Poem Pavilion, a clever low-impact light show. Sunlight passes through holes in the sculpture (pictured above), projecting a different poem according to the season and time of day.

Writing poetry is also a great Earth Day activity for children. Find some kid-friendly songs and poems here, and then help your children submit their own Earth Day poems here.

--Della Watson

Sources:  Academy of American Poets, Monster-Munch, Craft, photo by Jiyeon Song

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