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40 posts from May 2008

May 06, 2008

A Pain in the Gas

Nobody likes high gas prices -- except Big Oil. While regular American families are struggling to figure out how they'll afford to pick up the kids and drive to work, the oil industry has been celebrating billions of dollars in profit.

Ready to do something about it? We can show you how to save money at the pump -- and help you learn about and encourage better  U.S. energy policy.

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May 05, 2008

Bikes that Rock

Bicycle advocate and rapper Paul Freedman (a.k.a. Fossil Fool) gets his kicks by turning pedal power into sound waves. As emcee of the Pedal Powered Stage at the Maker Faire, Make magazine's annual event showcasing creative inventions, Freedman asked audience members to take turns riding specially modified "soul cycles," powering the microphones and speakers onstage. Freedman's company, Rock the Bike, promotes safe bike travel and sells cool products like bike-powered blenders.

Nau Shuts Down

Less than two weeks after opening a new store in Los Angeles, eco-minded apparel company Nau, Inc. has called it quits, citing "an unfortunate confluence of events." The short version: This Portland, Oreg.-based startup ran out of money and couldn't close another round of funding soon enough to stay in business.

Sundance Channel's "Big Ideas for a Small Planet," which airs every Tuesday, has Nau on the lineup for a segment on sustainable fashion tomorrow night. The company made its name creating chic, neutral-toned clothing out of recycled, organic, and biodegradable fibers and donating 5 percent of every sale to charity. Customers visiting one of Nau's so-called "WebFront" stores around the country received a discount if they had purchases delivered through the company's Web site. (The idea was to trim the environmental footprint and cost of distribution to physical store.)

Let us know what you think about the show if you tune in. In the meantime, has the economic situation changed your spending habits--or your own sustainable business? How do you stay green on a budget?

May 02, 2008

Aloha, Solar

Sunhawaii_2 If you needed another reason to dream about moving to Hawai'i, how about this: it's about to get greener. Residents there already use less energy than almost anyone else in the country. Now the island state may become the first to require solar water heaters in new homes. The state legislature yesterday approved the mandate, which now heads to Governor Linda Lingle's office for signature.

By requiring developers to use solar, the legislature says it would shift the burden of investing in solar technology from government (via tax credits) to the private sector. If passed, the law would take effect in January 2010, but tax credits would remain in place for people who buy solar systems for homes built with pre-2010 permits.

The Aloha State has good reason to take the lead on this kind of law. In addition to facing some of the most pressing consequences of climate change, Hawai'i has electricity rates among the highest in the country. The Sierra Club Hawai'i Chapter, which backed the bill, calculated that the water heaters could shave off as much as $1,000 from Kauai households' annual utility bills.

Continue reading "Aloha, Solar" »

Another Reason to Plant a Tree

Tree_istock_000005038383xsmallChronic exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of asthma attacks, but a new study suggests that planting more trees might (big surprise) improve air quality. Researchers at Columbia University found that children living on tree-lined streets have lower rates of asthma than their counterparts in treeless neighborhoods.

--D.W.

Source:  BBC

L.A. Chokes, Pittsburgh Coughs to the Top

Pittsburgh_at_night_istock_00000396 Pittsburgh has surpassed Los Angeles as the sootiest city in the U.S., according to the American Lung Association’s recent State of the Air report. While L.A. still dominates two other categories of air pollution, efforts to reduce short-term particle pollution have resulted in a significant drop in the amount of airborne soot, ash, exhaust, chemicals, metals, and aerosols in the California city.

Pittsburgh’s high pollution rating is likely connected to U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, the largest plant of its kind, which is located in a river valley where pollution can be trapped by weather fronts. The coke works plans to complete a series of pollution-reducing measures by 2014.

Find your city’s air quality score and learn what you can do to protect your lungs from pollution.

--D.W.

Sources: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Philly.com, Reuters, American Lung Association

Movie Review Friday -- The Ballad of Jack and Rose

Escape to the movies with one of our "Film Fridays" selections. Each week we'll feature a movie review with environmentally or socially responsible themes that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD.

Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 words or less and look for your review in the next Movie Friday!

The Ballad of Jack and Rose
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0357110/

There is definitely a sticky human-element in this coming-of-age film, but in the effort to intellectualize itself, it debates lifestyle choices, and grassroots activism against impending "progress."  The plot does not seem to aim for a moral or conclusion, but if seen as a kind of dream, it can leave you thinking about the loss of sacred land, losing communities that work hard for the greater good, and the loss of innocence.  A provocative film that green activists might enjoy relating to.

-- Review by Green Life Reader Amy M

May 01, 2008

The Ambassador of Green

Thumbnail The United Nations Development Program has appointed the world’s first National Goodwill Ambassador for the environment:  Chinese actress, Zhou Xun. Will the award-winning star’s mission to promote sustainability and fight climate change inspire a green streak in China?

While the rapidly developing nation faces rising CO2 emissions, it’s not too late for China to embrace greener practices. Preparing for the Olympic spotlight, the Chinese government has shown some healthy initiative. A previously announced ban on free plastic bags will take effect on June 1, following Beijing’s May 1 ban on smoking in public areas.

--DW

Sources:  CNN, Treehugger, Ecorazzi, National Geographic, China Daily, China View, BBC

Celebrate May Day

Sunflowers_red_wall_istock_00000197 Calling all guerrilla gardeners! May 1 is International Guerrilla Sunflower Day. A great way to kick up the color on unloved plots of land, planting sunflowers also provides food for seed-eating birds like goldfinches and chickadees.

--DW

Source:  Treehugger

Lighter Impact

Getting ready to light some birthday candles, or having a romantic candle-lit dinner for two?

Instead of reaching for a lighter, think about using cardboard matches instead. Lighters tend to be made with plastic and butane fuel, both of which are derived from petroleum, but those cardboard matches are made from recycled paper!

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