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50 posts from August 2008

August 18, 2008

Artificial Turf -- The Lawn of the Future?

Fake_green_lawn_istock_000006066094 It'll stay green for five years without a single drop of water. As cities like Los Angeles tighten water restrictions, artificial turf might soon be covering more than the athletic field. There's just a small problem--fake lawns aren't always legal. Even though artificial turf recently got the thumbs up from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, it's still banned in some neighborhoods (mostly for aesthetic reasons). When some Orange County, California residents traded in their live lawns for water-saving fakes, they found out that they could be facing restrictions. In light of increasing water scarcity, city officials are reconsidering the ban. Is artificial turf a green solution? Tell us what you think!

Not quite sold on artificial turf? Create a water wise lawn with drought-resistant native plants, rocks, and hearty shrubs.

Sources:  Los Angeles Times, Treehugger

Beat the Heat -- Shade

Shade_trees_istock_000000508762xsma The dog days of summer are here. Wondering how to stay cool without losing your green credentials? This week we'll share tips to help you beat the heat.

Tip #1:  Shade, shade, shade

Okay, we realize that planting a tree today will keep you nice and cool in ten or twenty years. So while you're waiting for that sapling to grow, consider planting bushes and vines, which take less time to fill out. Invest in a green roof, which can reduce a building's air conditioning bills by 21 percent. An easier solution: Place an awning over your air conditioning unit; the shade can increase your energy savings by 10 percent.

August 15, 2008

What's Your Motivation?

Business_angel_istock_000006811345x Just admit it: Saving the planet feels good. More than a pleasant side effect of positive behavior, feelings of self-satisfaction might be a driving force for conservation efforts, suggests a recent University of Alberta study of conservation volunteers. Top motivations for volunteers included a sense of achievement, social interaction, and personal stimulation. Glen Hvenegaard, co-author of the study, believes that understanding the motivations of conservation workers will help organizers more effectively recruit and retain volunteers. Does this mean that recruiters should focus on inflating volunteers' egos? What about the planet? Hvenegaard explained that "though self-satisfaction motivations were mentioned most often, people also had many unselfish reasons for taking part in conservation, including helping this vulnerable species, preserving nature for future generations, and serving the community." So we're not a bunch of selfish bastards? Glad that's settled. Now we can go back to feeling good about doing good.

Do you volunteer? Tell us what motivates you.

Movie Review Friday -- The Dark Knight

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Friday selections. Each week we review a film 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 Dark Knight

The most recent incarnation of the Batman saga develops like a contemporary morality play, in which the line between good and evil is smeared (much like the makeup on Joker's face). Worthy of attention is Heath Ledger's reinvention of the Joker as an agent of chaos, an unchecked vehicle of nature. It's easy to read current events into the movie (especially when the Joker becomes a terrorist and Batman downsizes the gas-guzzling Batmobile), but the themes are familiar: sometimes bad things happen to good people; sometimes good people are forced to do bad things. In the end, we still have our hero, albeit with heroics shrouded in a darker light.

--Review by Della Watson

Share your insight: Have you seen Dark Knight? Did you spot any hidden green themes or messages?

August 14, 2008

Clean Graffiti -- Is it Green?

Clean advertising could put Coldplay in hot water. Coldplay's controversial advertisements use "reverse graffiti," a process in which images are stenciled onto grimy sidewalks and walls using pressure washers or scrubbers. In other words, the art is cleaned onto the concrete. (Another form of reverse graffiti is the common practice of writing on a dirty windshield with one's finger. While we're most familiar with the classic "wash me" message, some artists have created masterpieces on dirty cars.) Supporters of clean graffiti tout it as a way to draw attention to vehicle emissions and urban grime, but some city officials aren't impressed. Seminal reverse graffiti artist Paul Curtis (a.k.a. "Moose") was charged in Leeds under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, and Coldplay, who advertised their new record on Montreal's streets, could be facing a $200 fine for advertising on public property as well as a $1000 fine for breaking a "cleanliness" bylaw. While the fines shouldn't break the band's bank, the situation does beg some questions: Does cleaning a surface count as defacement? Is reverse graffiti a greener form of graffiti?

Tell us what you think!

To see reverse graffiti artist Paul "Moose" Curtis in action, watch the video below.

Sources:  Green Daily, WebUrbanist, Inhabitat

Green Your Hike -- Provisions

Backpackerjumping Minimize the environmental impact of midsummer hikes with this week's tips.

Tip #4: Pack light, eat well. Packing the right food for a long hike can be tricky proposition for the eco-minded: Opt for convenience, and you might end up with excess packaging. Bring poorly-balanced or too-heavy provisions, and you'll lag on the trail. What's a green hiker to do?
Start with these two steps, and you'll be on your way to a lighter footprint.

Bulk it up: Whenever possible, avoid individually-wrapped foods. You will likely remove the extra packaging before hitting the trail (every ounce counts!), so look for foods packaged in multiple servings and then portion them out in reusable bags.

Try organic: If organic food isn't part of your regular diet because of cost or limited access, the occasional trek is a great opportunity to give it a go. After all, your shopping list will already be packed with unusual items. Can't afford to go all out? Even a few staples grown with greener practices (MaryJane's Outpost has an extensive selection) can make a difference.

Share your tips: Tell us about your favorite fuels for hiking and backpacking. How do you save money on supplies?

August 13, 2008

Green Your Hike -- Navigation

Minimize the environmental impact of midsummer hikes with this week's tips.

Tip #3: Walk lightly and carry a big sense of direction

In fiction, wandering heroes leave behind markers to find their way home: an unrolled ball of thread, a track of bread crumbs. But keeping your bearings while you hike doesn’t require changing the environment with paint, broken branches, or cairns. The best ways to keep from getting lost are the simplest. First, focus on honing your map-and-compass skills. Second, stick to clear, existing trails (check out trails.com or localhikes.com for routes) to minimize plant damage and erosion. To learn more ways to “leave nothing but footprints” as you navigate, visit The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. --Leigh Barkley

Share your tips: How do you navigate tricky trails? If you've ever gotten lost on an outdoor adventure, how did you find your way?

August 12, 2008

You Say Tomato, I Say Heirloom

Tomatoesheirloom Green Zebras, Mortgage Lifters, White Wonders, and other heirloom tomato varieties are taking American palates by storm this week. At least 52 San Francisco restaurants will begin a 10-day celebration of the misshapen fruit on Thursday, offering heirloom-centric recipes to support local farmers affected by this summer's salmonella scare (and drum up some fresh business of their own, no doubt). Veggie gardeners in the Windy City can look forward to Slow Food Chicago's first Heirloom Tomato Fest (a potluck) later this week, and foodies everywhere can savor farmer-author Tim Stark's juicy essay "The Prodigal Tomato's Triumph" in today's Washington Post.

Why all the fuss? Writer Arthur Allen offers an explanation (and thorough history of tomato cultivation) in this month's Smithsonian:

Continue reading "You Say Tomato, I Say Heirloom" »

Green Your Hike -- Footwear

Minimize the environmental impact of midsummer hikes with this week's tips.

Tip #2: Slip into something a little more recycled

If the backcountry lures you out of workday pumps, then your trail shoes won't look fresh for long. So why insist on kicks made with never-used materials, which can bloat the environmental footprint of your escape to nature? Outfitters including Patagonia and the just-launched ENDOutdoor now offer designs made with more recycled content (and in some cases, less material overall). Far from the conspicuously virtuous shoes of old, these options blend right in with their cool-but-not-so-green counterparts. Try: Women's Stumptown Cross-Training Shoes ($80) by END or Men's Drifter ($110) by Patagonia

Share your stories: Have you tried shoes made with greener materials? How did they compare with more conventional footwear?

August 11, 2008

Green Your Hike -- Bug Off

Backpakcer Minimize the environmental impact of midsummer hikes with this week's tips.

Tip #1: Dress smart, spray less

While some hikers fight bites and stings with plant oils, other sweet-blooded adventurers wouldn't dare step into mosquito country without packing a gallon of the hard stuff. Wherever you fall on the bugs-begone spectrum, you can boost your nature-induced buzz and fear not the biting masses with simple clothing choices. Long sleeves, closed-toe shoes, and hats equipped with mosquito netting can help you keep biters at bay. Since mosquitoes are attracted to darker colors and warmer bodies and they can bite through tight-fitting fabrics, opt for light colors and loose fits.

Share your tips: How do you prevent bug bites?

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