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89 posts from June 2009

June 23, 2009

Daily Roundup: June 23, 2009

Supreme Error: Thanks to a Bush-era semantic change, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Clean Water Act permits a mining company to dump huge amounts of toxic wastewater into an Alaskan lake. Los Angeles Times

Wherefore, Obama? The Obama administration won’t reveal where 44 hazardous coal-ash storage sites (spread over 26 states) are, even though they threaten the health of nearby residents. About.com

Icy Enigma: Most of Patagonia’s glaciers are disappearing at much faster rates than anticipated – except for two, which are mysteriously growing. Santiago Times and National Geographic

Cellicide: It’s been proven that weed-killing herbicides also kill human cells. Scientific American

Puny Pachyderm: Scientists have discovered a rabbit-sized elephant ancestor that existed during the Paleocene era. National Geographic

--Avital Binshtock

Cows, Gas, and Garlic

Garlic may reduce cow flatulence The entrepreneurs at Neem Bioteck in Cardiff, Wales, are marketing a new weapon to combat flatulence in livestock: garlic. Methane is at least 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, which means that cow burps are nothing to giggle about. Mootral, a supplement that contains garlic extract, reduces methane by limiting bacterial growth in animals' digestive systems. In two trials run by the company, methane emissions were reduced by 15 percent. The company's expectations of cutting the amount of livestock-produced gas in half may not be unfounded. The initial results of a 2007 study conducted by Welsh researchers indicated a 50 percent decrease in the amount of flatulence found in cows and sheep that were given feed containing garlic. While the outlook is generally positive for the garlic treatment, further research is needed to determine whether the supplements will taint the animals' meat or milk. We're all for reducing methane emissions, but we'd rather not douse our cereal with garlic-flavored milk.

--Della Watson

Fuel Savings From a Tire?

Green tire Michelin wants to help the phrase “green driving” become less of an oxymoron. The company released a new tire this month and claims that it reduces a vehicle’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2,000 pounds per year—or, as Michelin advertises, by as much as planting 40 trees.

During Michelin’s tests, their Energy Saver A/S Tires made cars up to 8 percent more fuel-efficient than other brands’ comparable tires. The tires also lasted 16,000 miles longer before they had to be replaced.

Continue reading "Fuel Savings From a Tire?" »

Green Your Wedding: Decorations

Choose locally grown flowers Weddings inspire and delight us, but these sacred events have grown into resource-sapping affairs. If you're wondering how to pull off your dream celebration without a huge carbon footprint and an empty bank account, refer to this week's tips to help you work some ecofriendly wedding magic.

Tip #2: Go Natural 

Exotic floral arrangements are expensive and less kind to the earth than local wildflowers or potted plants. If roses are a must, opt for sustainably grown, organic blooms. When the party's over, send the flowers home with guests as favors or donate them to a hospital or nursing home. If your celebration is in an outdoor location such as a national park, keep decorations simple to let attendees enjoy the beauty of nature. 

Share your tips: What are your DIY decoration ideas?

June 22, 2009

Daily Roundup: June 22, 2009

River, Cleansed: Today is the 40-year anniversary of Ohio's Cuyahoga River catching fire, also igniting the environmental movement and helping to pass the Clean Water Act (it also inspired an REM song). As a result, the river is significantly more pristine today. NPR

Dying Namesakes: At Joshua Tree National Park, the Joshua trees are disappearing victims of global warming, pollution, and invasive species. Experts say there’ll be none left in 100 years. ENN

Cross-Country Comeback: The West Coast’s condor population and the East Coast’s red wolf population, while still in precarious positions, are recovering. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, here and here

Cold Comfort: Greenpeace has launched a campaign based on new evidence that proves that refrigerant chemicals, called “F-gases,” are a more serious global-warming threat than previously thought. Greenpeace

Serve the Earth: Sierra Club volunteers are coordinating environment-related service events and projects in anticipation of Barack Obama's United We Serve initiative. Sierra Club

--Avital Binshtock

The Taste of Power: Top Ecofriendly Energy Bars

Energy bars have come a long way.  When introduced more than two decades ago, they sacrificed taste for function and were "enjoyed" almost solely by hard-core athletes and hikers. Today, thanks to a boom in competing brands, some are actually worth savoring--while others are still harder to swallow than compressed wood shavings.

To determine the best and worst, 15 Sierra Club staffers blind-tasted and scored bars from 25 companies that work to preserve the environment. Our eaters didn't sugarcoat their opinions: Some bars garnered comments like "looks and tastes like bear scat," "I'd rather have a root canal," "should not be sold to the public," "like sticking your tongue in a mousetrap," and "kitty litter." But other brands pack as much flavor as tSMJA09_EN_Luna hey do nutrients. Here are Sierra's top five in order of how they ranked.

1. LUNA
White Chocolate Macadamia

$1.39 | lunabar.com

Fans called it "simply delicious," "natural tasting," and "not too dense" and noted its "nice crunch" and "tempting" appearance. They detected vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a "sweet and salty combo," which inspired comparisons to Rice Krispies Treats and popcorn Jelly Bellies. But not everyone loved this bar. "Weird aftertaste," one complained. "A bit commercial," said another.
Luna bars, marketed to women by the makers of Clif Bars, are 70 percent organic. A portion of the company's proceeds goes toward eliminating environmental causes of breast cancer.SMJA09_EN_Olympic

2. OLYMPIC GRANOLA
Almond Chocolate Trail Bar

$2.99 | olympicgranola.com

Raves included "I'd get this for a hike, no doubt," "one of the best," and "I'd eat these every day." Our panel appreciated the "hearty, well-balanced mixture of nuts, oats, seeds, and chocolate"; the "chewy," "light and airy" texture; and that it "looks like food." One naysayer commented that there's "too much going on."
Olympic Granola's corn-syrup-free bars are made of non-genetically-modified ingredients that are grown without chemical sprays.SMJA09_EN_Duck

3. ONE LUCKY DUCK
Chewy Almond Crunch Bar

$6.50 | oneluckyduck.com

Despite being chided as an ugly duckling--one taster said it looked "terrible," and another found its green seeds "off-putting"--One Lucky Duck's taste soared. The "hearty" bar is "well executed" and has "a nice collection of nuts, seeds, honey, and oats accented with raisins," with "just the right amount of moisture, chewiness, and sweetness." "This could be served as a dessert at a nice restaurant," one taster opined.
Handmade in small batches, this pricey bar is from a company that sells only raw, vegan, organic products.SMJA09_EN_Clif

4. CLIF BAR
Cool Mint Chocolate

$1.39 | clifbar.com

"The icing pulls you in and the minty flavor finishes you off," summarized one taster. The bar was called "refreshing," "chewy but not too dense," and "like a Thin Mint." "Caffeine?" someone surmised. (Yes, actually--one of the ingredients is green tea.) Though a few found it "weird" and "too potent," most were "surprised to like this one so much."
Clif Bars are 70 percent organic, and the company engages in many sustainable actions, including diverting most of its waste and using biodiesel for its fleet.SMJA09_EN_Stinger

5. HONEY STINGER
Peanut Butter 'n Honey
$1.49 | honeystinger.com

This "crumbly," "simple-looking bar" was divisive. Those who gave it a thumbs-up said it "tastes almost like candy" with an "excellent flavor," "melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter," and a "nice crunch." But those who didn't like it commented on a "terrible chemical flavor." One taster wondered, "Will the chocolate base melt in the heat?"
Honey Stinger is 100 percent wind powered, and employees get time-off credit for carpooling, bicycling, or walking to work. The company recycles all paper, glass, and metal and maintains a community vegetable garden outside of its building.

Click through the jump to see how the rest placed.

Continue reading "The Taste of Power: Top Ecofriendly Energy Bars" »

Los Angeles Has a River?

"I never knew that Los Angeles had a river," jokes Tonight Show host and L.A. newcomer Conan O'Brien in the video above. While the river may seem a bit, well, neglected, we've managed to round up a few groups and events that focus on the 51-mile waterway. Here's how you can appreciate L.A.'s forgotten river:

--Della Watson

A Building Brick That Held Beer

Green beer bottles You've heard of Heineken beer (the company claims to have the world's largest brewery, after all.) Some of you may have visited the flagship brewery in Amsterdam, and most of you have probably quaffed a few. But how many of you knew that former company president Alfred "Freddy" Heineken, who died in 2002 at age 79, was a sustainable-building visionary?

In the early 1960s, on a world tour of the company's breweries, Heineken visited the Dutch island of Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles, off the coast of Venezuela. Taken aback by the substandard dwellings of the island's impoverished residents, he took note as well of the number of beer bottles littering the beaches and the lack of affordable building materials on the island.

In an epiphany that was nearly half a century ahead of the curve, Heineken decided to design a beer bottle that could be used to construct the walls of homesafter the contents of the bottle had been consumed, of course. Back in Holland, he hired noted Dutch architect John Habraken to design "a brick that holds beer." The result was the so-called WOBO, or World Bottle, which could interlock with other bottles. Bonded with cement, a 10-foot-by-10-foot dwelling could be constructed using about 1,000 bottles.

Continue reading "A Building Brick That Held Beer" »

Green Your Wedding: Invitations

Send digital invitations or use recycled paper Weddings inspire and delight us, but these sacred events have grown into resource-sapping affairs. If you're wondering how to pull off your dream celebration without a huge carbon footprint and an empty bank account, refer to this week's tips to help you work some ecofriendly wedding magic.


Tip #1: Use Less Paper

Wedding invitations offer the perfect opportunity to send a green message. Twisted Limb Paperworks and Green Field Paper Company sell handmade, recycled paper as well as seed-embedded cards that guests can plant after the ceremony. Other paper-saving (and money-saving) options include sending digital invites and managing RSVPs online. Set up a wedding Web site to provide paperless maps, hotel suggestions, and event schedules for your guests.

Share your tips: What are your ideas for saving paper while planning a wedding?

June 19, 2009

Daily Roundup: June 19, 2009

Under Pressure: The government of Cameroon has granted Wildlife Works, an environmental group, 30 days to create a conservation proposal for a tract of rainforest. If the group does not come up with an economically viable plan, the forest will be sold to loggers. Mongabay and Treehugger

New Cars on the Block: Nissan Motor Company has plans to build electric cars at its Smyrna, Tennessee plant. Reuters

Break It Down: Researchers in China have isolated a type of microbe with the ability to break down phthalates. The discovery has potential applications in wastewater treatment. Science Daily

Green Jobs: Two recent reports suggest that an annual $150 billion clean-energy investment by the federal government could create 1.7 million new jobs. GreenBiz and Green Inc.

Methane Happens: The House Appropriations Committee approved a $10.6 billion EPA spending bill with an added amendment that prevents the EPA from requiring factory farms to report greenhouse gas emissions. New York Times and Grist

--Della Watson


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