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88 posts from April 2009

April 30, 2009

Daily Roundup: April 30, 2009

Wipes and Warming: Tesco, a UK shopping chain, will display the carbon footprint of its house brand toilet paper on the packaging. Treehugger

Tree Comeback: Scientists are hopeful that a sixth-generation hybrid chestnut tree will be able to replace the American chestnut in forests decimated by fungus. Scientific American

Sweet: A new study says that dark chocolate is the type of chocolate with the smallest carbon footprint. BBC

Pollution Problem: Bakersfield, California, was ranked as the city with the highest levels of fine particulate pollution, according to a report by the American Lung Association. Christian Science Monitor

Ship Shape: Scientists at a Swedish university have developed a more environmentally friendly method for washing boats. Science Daily

--Della Watson

Study Finds GPS Navigation Systems Make Drivers More Efficient

Gps system A just-released study commissioned by Navteq, a leading provider of digital map data, shows that drivers using Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation devices drove fewer miles (actually, kilometers in this European study) and spent less time driving.

Conflict of interest? Perhaps. But the study, based on more than 2,000 individual trips, 20,000 kilometers (about 12,500 miles) of driving, and almost 500 hours on the road, found that drivers with GPS devices experienced a 12 percent increase in fuel efficiency, a nearly 2,500-kilometer (1,550-mile) drop in distance traveled per driver per year, and a per-driver average of more than 400 Euros ($530) in annual savings on fuel.

The study evaluated drivers with and without navigation systems, taking traffic into account, in the Dusseldorf and Munich metropolitan areas in Germany. No participants in the study had previously used a GPS navigation device. The study also revealed a learning curve, with bigger reductions in driving time and fuel consumption once drivers had familiarized themselves with the GPS systems.

Continue reading "Study Finds GPS Navigation Systems Make Drivers More Efficient" »

Dive into Spring Cleaning

Reef Invasive algae species pose a serious threat to the biodiversity of Hawaii's coral reefs. But this spring, scientists from the Nature Conservancy, the University of Hawaii, and Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources are diving straight into clean-up efforts with a vacuum in hand.

Using the "Super Sucker," divers feed invasive algae into a tube that's attached to a suction pump. The pump sucks invasive algae onto an ocean barge, where sorters separate it from any native species that went along for the ride. Native species are returned to the coral reef habitat and the algae--3,500 pounds of which is collected daily--is used by local farmers to enhance the quality of their soil. Who knew that spring cleaning could make for a bountiful fall harvest?

--Melissa Weiss

Video: Five Ways to Save the Ocean

Check out this informative video to accompany writer David Ferris's article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the May/June issue of Sierra magazine. Ferris gives tips about how to use plastic (and how not to use it) to better take care of the oceans and their creatures.

The Great Electric-Vehicle Race

Thumbnail A friendly electric-vehicle race has developed between Portland Mayor Sam Adams and San Francisco Mayor (and California gubernatorial candidate) Gavin Newsom. It might not be as exciting as a race to the moon, but it might prove more environmentally significant. The prize at stake? The title of “EV capital of the world.”

Via posts on Gas 2.0, Mayor Newsom and Mayor Adams have recently outlined their plans to roll out the world's first plug-in charging grid in their respective cities. They’ve promised huge investments in technology and corporate partnerships so that their municipalities will be wired and ready to go when electric cars finally start flying off assembly lines.  Who'll get there first?

-- Mario Aguilar

Green Your Shopping Habits: Home

Green your furniture Shopping is an activity so ingrained into our society that we often do it thoughtlessly, automatically, or hurriedly. By paying more attention to how we shop and what we buy, however, we can make a difference for the planet. This week we’re sharing tips about how to green your shopping habits.

Tip #4: Green Your Purchases For Your Home

When we buy for our homes, we generally prioritize what will look, feel, or function best. But if we instead prioritized the environment, we wouldn’t be in as deep a crisis as we’re in. With that in mind, you may want to visit Sierra Club Green Home for education and advice about greening every aspect of your home, from bedding to lighting to microwaves.

Think green when buying furniture too, by buying vintage, certified wood, reclaimed materials, or locally made pieces. When going for larger appliances, opt for those with the Energy Star label.

April 29, 2009

Daily Roundup: April 29, 2009

The Hundred: Everyone’s talking about Obama’s first 100 days. What did they do for the environment? Huffington Post

Truly Green: Algae is poised to become a major fuel source in the future – if federal law allows for it. Scientific American

Breathe Easy? The best and worst U.S. cities for air pollution have been ranked. Topping the “worst” list are several Southern California cities, while the best include Billings, Montana; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. MSNBC

Curious Critters: Strange finds are afoot in the animal world: An all-female ant species is discovered, and so is the fact that all octopi are venomous. National Geographic

Aussies Unite: Russell Crowe is working to save the part of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve (named for the late croc hunter) from being sold to a strip-mining aluminum company. Ecorazzi

--Avital Binshtock

Book Roundup Wednesday: Tomes on Trash and Treasure

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we're recommending books about keeping cast-offs out of the landfill through creative reuse.

Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers (edited by Laura Pritchett, $20, University of Oklahoma Press, May 2009): This lively anthology features essays by and about garbage artists, road-kill gourmets, and master scavengers. These authors prove that treasure is abundant, and yes, you can get an entire executive home office set, an air hockey table, a digital camera, and a set of matching midcentury-modern armchairs for free if you know where to look. 

The Scavengers' Manifesto (by Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson, $15, Tarcher/Penguin, 2009): "This might be the last book you ever buy," say Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson in the opening to their ode to "the find." If you're already a thrift shopper, a clothing swapper, or a dumpster diver, you'll find reassurance in this upbeat manifesto. If you've never scavenged before, prepare to be converted. Listen to an interview with the authors on Sierra Club Radio.

Continue reading "Book Roundup Wednesday: Tomes on Trash and Treasure" »

Colleges Ditch Cafeteria Trays to Reduce Waste

Dirty trays Wandering around the campus dining hall, it's easy for college students to be cavalier about their meal choices: Everything is prepaid, none of it is self-made, and the dishes magically do themselves. When the eyes are bigger than the stomach -- especially with all of the tasty vegetarian and vegan options now popular on campuses -- entire dishes often go untouched. In an effort to cut down on waste, the Green Report Card has found that a number of schools are simply getting rid of cafeteria trays.

Out of the top 300 colleges and universities with the largest endowments, a reported 126 have either ditched or cut back on tray use with positive results. Williams College saved 14,000 gallons of water last year by eliminating all of that tray-washing in just one of their four dining halls. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, when students could only take away what they could carry, the dining hall saw a marked drop in food waste and a 10 percent savings on food despite rising prices.

Research by a Skidmore College senior revealed that her tray-wielding classmates produced 300 to 400 pounds of leftover food per day. If the trayless movement takes off, a similar system in hospitals and cafeteria-style restaurants could go a long way to prevent mountains' worth of discarded food.

--Jordana Fyne

Green Your Shopping Habits: Food

Green your food-shopping habits Shopping is an activity so ingrained into our society that we often do it thoughtlessly, automatically, or hurriedly. By paying more attention to how you shop and what you buy, however, you can make a difference for the planet. This week we’re sharing tips about how to green your shopping habits.

Tip #3: Green Your Food-Buying Habits

Did you know that a third of households’ total environmental impact is related to food and drink consumption? To help reduce the footprint of the foods you buy, there are a few things you can do when at the grocery store. First, avoid the deli, since more than a third of all U.S. fossil fuels go toward producing meat, and since animal agriculture is highly correlated with pollution and natural-resource depletion.

Also, be willing to shop in the organic section, since fewer pesticides and other polluting chemicals are used to produce the items sold there. Look, too, for where a product was produced, and when. Buying local and seasonal reduces the miles your food had to be shipped to get to your shopping cart. Examine whether what you’re considering buying is overpackaged; if it is, leave it in the store as a statement of disapproval that'll hit corporations’ bottom lines. Finally, bring your own reusable shopping bags to prevent disposable plastic or paper bags from ending up where they shouldn't.

Tell us: How do you green your food-buying habits?

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