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50 posts from August 2008

August 21, 2008

Quantum of Solace Eco Resort

A fictional Bolivian eco-resort hits the big, action-packed screen this fall as the foil for James Bond's newest nemesis. Coming out on November 14, Quantum of Solace features 007 dueling it out with a character named Dominic Greene who uses the Greene Planet Hotel to distract from his schemes to seize valuable water resources. In real life the building is a posh retreat for astronomers at the European Southern Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert--one of the driest places on Earth. Find trailers for the film at 007.com, and check out the real deal at eso.org/public/outreach/bond.

Scoot and Save

With gas prices careening past the $4 mark, a new breed of electric scooters has the makings of a revolution on wheels.

Gl_06c What the Zapino Electric Scooter by ZAP gives up in power, you gain in economy. Maxing out at about 30 miles per hour, it is best suited for darting around city traffic. If you need more range than the standard 35 miles per charge, you can opt for a heftier battery pack that the company claims can run for up to 60 miles. $3,500; zapworld.com

Continue reading "Scoot and Save" »

Yak Couture

Gl_05 Forget the waifs. Look for 2,200-pound Himalayan oxen to make a fashion statement this fall. Eco-chic style force Stewart + Brown has created designs made from yaks' downy undercoats. Rivaling cashmere and merino wool for warmth and softness, the fiber starts at a traditional herding co-op in Tibet and heads to Mongolia for knitting. The new collection includes a range of yak wear for women, from knit dresses to arm warmers (shown above). For more yak-tastic designs, check out fashion house Shokay, which makes cozy slipper-socks and throws.

Dying for a Nap

Gl_04 Coffin Couches offers funereal furniture ideal for zombie-esque zone-outs during Halloween movie marathons. The company starts with caskets mortuaries would normally throw away because they have cosmetic defects or were used for display. (Don't worry about the biohazard decal the couch sports--that only means it briefly cradled a body, not that it was buried.) Workers then cut away the lid and one side and attach legs, converting caskets into macabre, Munsters-style couches: creepy but creative reuse.

Arctic Art

Gl_02_2 Ever seen the Arctic up close? Mother-and-daughter artists Rena Bass Forman and Zaria Forman have, and they've captured dozens of starkly beautiful icebergs for a special climate-change exhibit at the Look North Inuit Art Gallery in New York City this fall. Opening September 6 with a presentation by the Climate Project, the show will include photographs and drawings of Greenland landscapes. The gallery, which is run by a former crab fisherman, also displays contemporary Inuit art from the Arctic. Sales of the prints and sculptures provide income for isolated northern villages. If you can't make it to the Big Apple, get a taste of the work online at looknorthny.com.

August 20, 2008

Recycled Glasses -- Lookin' Good

Glasses_istock_000006249547xsmallWhat do Ewan McGregor, George Michael, and Michael Caine have in common?

They all wear glasses. Unlike 153 million people worldwide, these celebs can easily snag a new pair, so they've donated their old specs to Sightsavers to raise funds to aid sight-impaired people in the developing world.

Is it time to update your frames? Whether you bid on Ewan's specs or buy recycled vintage frames, be sure to donate your old glasses to an organization that'll give them a second life. Lions Clubs and Give the Gift of Sight both accept and redistribute used eyeglasses.

Sources:  Plenty, Ecorazzi, World Health Organization

Beat the Heat -- Feel the Breeze

Ceiling_fan_istock_000005330527xsmaSo you're dressed for the weather and you've favored the shade, but you're still feeling wilted from the heat? Don't fret; we've got more tips to help you keep your cool during the summer.

Tip # 3: Feel the Breeze

There's nothing like a steady flow of air to improve your mood on a hot day. Fans use 90 percent less energy than central air conditioning and Energy Star rated ceiling fans are 50 percent more efficient than conventional fan/light units. Remember to turn off the fan when the room is unoccupied to increase your energy savings.

Too hot for a fan? Ease your eco-guilt by opting for a solar powered air conditioner.

Are you a whiz at maximizing a fan's cooling effect? Please share!

Green Cell Phone Evolution

Predictions of "revolution" in the mobile tech world come at a dizzying pace these days. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year that innovative applications for mobile devices would bring the "recreation of the Internet." And when Apple exec Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January, he said it would "reinvent" the telecommunications industry.

Enter the Samsung E200 Eco, a mobile phone packaged in recycled paper and made with a corn-based "bioplastic" shell instead of hard-to-recycle polycarbonate. Revolution? The end of e-waste? Not exactly. With standard-issue circuitry filling its techno-belly (plastic makes up only 40 percent of a typical phone), the E200 Eco hardly solves the mess of problems created by high tech trash. But as the latest addition to a small but growing number of mobile devices that use unconventional materials without skimping on slickness the E200 Eco represents the rethinking of greener design. Don't hold your breath for a U.S. release. Samsung plans to launch the E200 Eco early next month in Europe, where manufacturers are required to "take back" old electronics.

Continue reading "Green Cell Phone Evolution" »

August 19, 2008

Google Goes Big for Geothermal

Google, Inc. announced plans today to invest $10 million in an energy technology known as enhanced geothermal systems, or EGS. While conventional geothermal power plants generate electricity using ultra-hot steam stored in natural reservoirs one or two miles below the earth's surface, EGS can theoretically tap heat in dry rock by pumping cold water into artificial underground reservoirs. (Google produced the above video to show how it works.)

While geothermal energy offers a renewable alternative to oil and natural gas, large-scale plants do not pass unscathed through the thicket of environmental woes. U.S. News & World Report's Kent Garber explains:

Continue reading "Google Goes Big for Geothermal" »

Beat the Heat -- Dress for the Weather

Has the summer heat got you hot and bothered? Stay tuned for this week's tips for staying cool.

Tip #2: Dress for the Weather

Stay comfortable in hot weather with lightweight, loose-fitting fabrics like linen or hemp. Most of us manage this pretty well on weekends, but what about during the workweek? In extreme heat, the traditional suit and tie feels unfashionably warm. The United Nations' New York headquarters has ditched the business suit requirement, opting instead to save energy by raising the AC five degrees. Some companies are taking the idea even further and allowing employees to wear shorts to the office.

Share your tips: Is your workplace climate-sensitive? Have you convinced your boss or building manager to adjust the thermostat? Tell us how you stay cool and save energy during the summer.

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