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50 posts from June 2008

June 30, 2008

Who Loves Veggie Sausages?

Grilled_food_istock_000004234319xsm It's Green Your Grill week, so what's cooking?

Easy Green: Fill the grill with sustainable, humanely produced beef. Beef with the American Grassfed Association's certification is free of antibiotics and cows spend most of their lives in the pasture (as opposed to cramped Concentrated Feeding Operations). The Animal Welfare Approved label is exclusive to family farms where cows receive adequate pasture time; antibiotic use is limited to sick animals.

Uber Green: Meat is the traditional choice for summer grilling, but organic, locally grown fruits and veggies are by far the greenest option. Try a fruit kabob or a grilled portobello mushroom. Tasty imitation "meat" products are plentiful these days, so even if you're not completely vegan, like Oprah Winfrey was for 21 days, you might share her love of veggie sausages.


Sources:  Plenty, Ecorazzi, Sierra Club

Royal Aston Martin Running on Ethanol

Astonmartin The next time Prince Charles plans to zip around England in his 38-year-old Aston Martin, his staff can skip the petrol pump. As part of a personal greening effort meant to lead the national move to cut carbon emissions, the Prince of Wales has had his car converted to run on fuel made from wine. "It just happened that our bioethanol supplier makes the fuel from surplus English wine," the Prince's top aide explained. No word yet on a Pinot-fuel crisis to rival the food-fuel conflict raging around corn-based ethanol.

Source: This is London

What do you think about Prince Charles trying to shrink his carbon footprint? Who do you see setting a good--or bad--example when it comes to treading lightly on the planet?

Green Your Grill

Grilling_man_thumbnail Roughly 60 million Americans will celebrate the Fourth of July by flipping burgers over a charcoal-fueled flame. (How many do you suppose don "world's greatest chef" aprons?) While a single barbecue won't destroy the planet, millions of 'em do have an impact. With a few minor adjustments to this summer ritual, grilling can go green.

Easy Green:  Opt for an electric or a propane grill, because charcoal emits more carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and soot. If you can't sacrifice the traditional smoky taste, hybrid grills rely primarily on electric power, while a small amount of charcoal or wood imparts flavor.

Uber Green: Hard-core green grillers, follow Ed Begley Jr.'s advice and embrace the solar oven. If you're feeling really industrious, try the Daily Green's instructions and make your own solar stove.


Coming up in our Green Grilling series:

Charcoal, Meet the Chimney Starter

Which Celeb Loves Veggie Sausages?

Wipe That Barbecue Sauce Off Your Face!

Make a Clean Escape

June 27, 2008

Stay Cool, Save Energy

Girlwithfan Worried about your summer energy bills? Take a look at your thermostat--and start counting your layers. According to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "Temperatures indoors in most homes, public places, and commercial complexes are far beyond what you would consider optimal even in terms of human comfort." Pachauri spoke at a press conference today with Mary Nichols, whose California Air Resources Board just released a plan for lowering the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and Ray Lane, a managing partner with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

While the panel discussed a range of topics, the thermostat issue is one you can address today by making changes at home and talking with your facilities manager at work--especially if you're one of the shivering officeworkers who has helped drive up summer space-heater sales in recent years. (Tucked away under desks, they can create a fire hazard and increase your company's electricity costs.)

Cranking air conditioning and and space heaters simultaneously wastes energy, of course. But there are other reasons to resist Arctic-like air in the summertime. A Milwaukee mom explained her beef with A/C overuse in an editorial for the Journal Sentinel:

Continue reading "Stay Cool, Save Energy" »

Movie Review Friday -- Never Cry Wolf

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!

Never Cry Wolf

Never Cry Wolf  is one film that should be on everyone's list of movies to watch. It tells of a scientist being dropped, alone, in a far-reaching area filled with snow and ice to study the wolves there. This was one of the most informative and interesting films I've ever seen.  It even has humor woven in.

  -- Review by Green Life Reader Beverly Smith

June 26, 2008

Bird Family Tree Gets Ruffled

Broadbilled_hummingbird Cuban_nightjar

  A new gene study changed the meaning of "birds of a feather" today. The international research effort known as the Early Bird Project found that dozens of similar-looking bird species once thought to be related actually evolved from different branches of the avian family tree.

Lead scientist Sushma Reddy described the two major findings of the study: "First, appearances can be decieving," she said. "Second, much of bird classification and conventional wisdom on the evolutionary relationships of birds is wrong." In other words, it turns common sense and previously accepted science on its head. Irridescent hummingbirds (above left), for example, evolved from drab-colored nightjars (above right). And falcons, which look and act a lot like hawks and eagles, have very different DNA.

For birdwatchers, this means it's time to update the guidebook library. While publishers scramble to put out books with the new names and classifications, you can turn to the frequently-updated Birds of North America project from Cornell's ornithology lab.

Share your stories about birds, birding tips, and surprising discoveries here.

Green Your Beach Day: Eco Surfboards

Surfer Only one word can describe the materials that go into a typical surfboard: gnarly. The polyurethane in traditional blanks creates dangerous chemicals in the manufacturing process and taps limited petroleum resources. Other common materials, including fiberglass laminate and polyester resins, come packed with less-than-green ingredients. Designers have yet to come up with a zero-impact board, but a few companies are making progress. Try one of these next time you hit the waves:

Bamboo Surfboards  works with (surprise!) bamboo in a kind of sandwich with epoxy.
Hess Surfboards integrates sustainably-harvested wood, fast-growing cork, and a recyclable foam.
uses "biofoam," a material made from soy (grown in the U.S.) in place of oil-based polyols.

If all else fails, eco-minded surfers can offset the impact of boards, boats, and surf-related activities with carbon credits from GreenSurf.


Share your tips and stories about connecting with nature and going green out on the waves.

June 24, 2008

Green Your Beach Day: Where to Go

Before you lather on the sunscreen and load up the cooler, take a minute to learn a bit about your destination. Sand and sea can be filthy things--full of bacteria, chemicals, and who knows what else. They can also be part of fragile ecosystems, providing habitat for endangered or threatened species. Fortunately, knowing just a few key facts can help you pick a better beach and even make your favorite one a little greener. Here are three things to look for:

Water quality: High levels of bacteria and pollution are usually caused by sewage overflows, stormwater runoff, and boat traffic. Doctors recommend staying away from the water for at least three days after a big storm and swimming at least 100 yards from storm drains. Check for the latest advisories at epa.gov.

Continue reading "Green Your Beach Day: Where to Go" »

Opting Out of High Gas Prices

"This is maddening," a Dallas commuter told MSNBC correspondent George Lewis. "I'm going to park it. Get on a bike or a horse or something."

You might be making similar plans. So it might be surprising that this quote comes from a story reported more than two years ago, when gas prices edging past the $3-a-gallon mark (downright cheap!) were inspiring even L.A. residents to get off the freeway and onto mass transit.

Today, Keith Johnson over at Environmental Capital writes that Americans have hit a breaking point: Commuters are now opting out of bank-breaking gas bills and not only taking the train, but actually moving closer to work or public transit. Johnson offered this explanation:

People tend to deal with pain at the pump with short-term fixes—driving a little less, experimenting with bus lines and the like. But it takes the expectation of sustained high gas prices to drive a shift as permanent as moving house.

Are you one of these gas nomads? Have rising gas prices forced (or inspired) you to put your lifestyle on a greener track? Tell us how.

Holy Green Vacation!

Suitcase_istock_000005925681xsmallThat relaxing summer vacation (or staycation) won't be heavenly if it's not eco-friendly. At least that's what the Vatican says. "One can choose to be a tourist at odds with the Earth or in favor of it," declared the Vatican in a statement issued on Monday. Conscientious tourists are advised to pack light to reduce fuel consumption, plant trees to offset emissions, and choose eco-friendly vacation destinations. The announcement follows a string of green changes at the Vatican:  After declaring environmental offenses a sin earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI made plans to install solar panels on the roof of the Paul VI auditorium.

Wondering how your vacation rates? Take the Sierra Club's quiz:  "How Green is My Destination?"


Sources:  Reuters, BBC, Green Daily

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