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104 posts from September 2009

September 28, 2009

Daily Roundup: September 28, 2009

Legislative Effort: Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry will unveil a climate-and-energy bill in the Senate that builds on H.R. 2454, which passed in the House in June. New York Times

No Handouts: During Pittsburgh’s G20 meeting, the leaders of the world's largest economies agreed to end subsidies to companies that deal in coal, oil, and other fossil fuels. It's a move that’s predicted to slash worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions 10 percent by 2050. About.com

Slick Move: Crews are working to clean 10,500 gallons of oil spilled in Texas's Houston Ship Channel by a vessel called Chemical Supplier. Houston Chronicle

Global Fish-ues: Mediterranean countries rejected a proposal by other E.U. nations to stop fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna until the species’ population has recovered. In the Pacific, the island nation of Palau has designated a shark sanctuary the size of France. Reuters and National Geographic

A Convenient Tool:
Google Earth has added a new climate-change map that lets users see the predicted effects of climate change up until 2100; Al Gore narrates. Ecorazzi

--Avital Binshtock

Greywater for a Green Yard

Water.down.the.drain

Good news for water-wise Californians: the state is relaxing its standards governing greywater recycling systems. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the new codes allow residents to install basic greywater systems themselves with no permits. Under the state’s old laws, a greywater system could cost as much as $10,000; now one can be installed for as little as $200.

For the uninitiated, greywater is wastewater from household sinks, showers, and washing machines, but not toilets. You can’t drink it, but greywater can be used to irrigate your yard via a pipe system that drains the water outside where your plants can use it.

This makes sense in California and other arid Western states where every drop of water is precious. If it isn't reused, all that water from your shower gets flushed down the drain and mixed with sewage. Gallons of usable water are needlessly wasted every day.

Continue reading "Greywater for a Green Yard" »

Green Fashion Monday: Sustainable Shoes

New Balance 70

Welcome to our new Fashion Monday feature, wherein we highlight a hip, green fashion item every week. Got a stylish eco-friendly product to recommend? Tell us about it and look for it in an upcoming blog post.

We’re excited to see manufacturers offering more sustainable shoe choices, and the New Balance 70 is a case in point. These lightweight kicks are perfect for a bike ride to the farmers’ market or a casual night out with friends. The uppers are made with 75 percent “eco-preferable materials” and the sole is affixed with water-based adhesives instead of toxic solvents. $80.

--Kyle Boelte

Alaska Expedition to Keep Coasts Clean

Debris on Alaskan beach

Four ocean advocates, including me, were chosen to join marine scientists in the wilds of Southeast Alaska for the Alaskan Coastal Expedition (ACE), which headed to Yakutat with Alaskan Brewery’s ocean-health nonprofit Coastal CODE. Everyone along for the trip brought a unique environmental perspective and a love for oceans.

They awoke with the eagles to surf lonely, icy, reeling point breaks each morning, then led beach cleanups during the rainy afternoons. They collected tons of debris including fishing equipment, boating supplies, plastic bottles, and other trash for the Yakutat Salmon Board to catalog and use to educate fishermen.

Fishermen require a healthy ecosystem and thus are likely to pay attention to issues regarding trash at sea. But what about the plastic water bottle that floated over from Asia? How will people from across the world learn that their trash landed on a breathtaking beach in wild Alaska, hurting salmon, bears, eagles, and whales? Alaskan Brewing is hoping that the members of the Coastal Expedition can help answer that question.

--Kathleen Egan, of the Alaskan Coastal Expedition

National Parks Week: Get Outside

Bryce Canyon National Park

We're celebrating the new Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea, a six-episode series that airs this week on PBS, with tips about enjoying and protecting our natural heritage.

Tip #1: Visit a Park

The U.S. park system has a lot to offer: With 58 national parks and 333 national monuments and historic sites, it's easy and affordable to experience the outdoors wherever you live. Meet new friends who love the outdoors by signing up for one of the trips offered by Sierra Club Outings

Tip #2: Travel in Packs

Tip #3: Show Your Support

Tip #4: Take the Long Journey

Share your stories: Tell us about your favorite wilderness adventure. 

September 25, 2009

Daily Roundup: September 25, 2009

Pass or Fail? Three Iowa universities will begin testing groundwater at the site where coal ash produced by the schools is dumped. Iowa Independent

The Color of Money: A new investment fund, sponsored by Living Cities and Green for All, will finance projects such as energy-saving retrofits for buildings. Green Inc.

Deeper Pockets: The U.S. Senate approved substantial budget increases for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department. Associated Press

Bring Your Own Bag: Ireland's Department of the Environment announced plans to double its tax on plastic shopping bags. Boston Globe

Bright Idea: The California Public Utilities Commission approved an ambitious energy conservation plan, allocating $3.1 billion for efficiency programs. Reuters and NRDC

--Della Watson

What To Do When You See Roadkill? If You're in California, Report It.

Report roadkill

Unfortunately, it’s a common sight on California's highways and byways: the squashed, bloody remains of a poor animal that became the victim of a speeding car.


Roadkill provokes a variety of responses. Some people can’t help but look. Others shudder in disgust or turn away in sadness. A few have even gone the extreme “urban-forager” route and transformed roadkill into cuisine.

But now, Californians can take action. How? By reporting roadkill sightings to the California Roadkill Observation System. The project, developed at UC Davis, aims to increase understanding of how roads affect ecosystems, and is part of an emerging field called “road ecology.” We already know that cars kill large numbers of animals every year; the project's aim is to get more detailed information about where roadkill occurs most often, and which animals tend to fall victim.

Contributing to the project is simple: Just fill out the online observation form, entering the type of animal, location, and other basic information about a roadkill sighting. You don’t have to register or enter any personal information, though it’s recommended that you do so if you plan to report many sightings.

Solving any problem is tough without good information. The CROS project could yield data that leads to fewer creatures killed by cars.

--Année Tousseau

Reinventing the Cardboard Box

Reusing cardboard boxesThe verdict is out, and reusing cardboard boxes is a hit. While this is not the most earth-shattering discovery, it's good that companies are finally waking up and attempting to reduce packaging waste with innovative recycling methods.

After starting its service more than a month ago, the Portland, Oregon-based outdoor-apparel-and-footwear company Columbia Sportswear announced the success of its online reusable-box campaign. Online shoppers can now choose to receive their order in a previously used cardboard box. On the company's new community website, called A Box Life, consumers can follow a box's history by typing in its tracking code and number. The interactive site allows users to post photos and stories so people can see the journey of one box.

Icebreaker, a Wellington, New Zealand, outdoor-apparel company, has come out with an interesting and environmentally friendly marketing gimmick for its new kids' clothing line; the boxes have been designed for kids to invoke some creative ingenuity. Children can re-create the boxes into finger puppets, a  jewelry box, a pencil case, and more (see photo, above).

Continue reading "Reinventing the Cardboard Box" »

Gorillas Seeking Facebook Friends

UgandaGorilla

Ever wanted to be friends with a gorilla? Starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to, thanks to a new organization called Friend-a-Gorilla. Through social-networking sites, the group hopes to raise awareness of mountain gorillas, an endangered species with a worldwide population of only about 700.

The organization, founded by Hollywood actors including Jason Biggs (American Pie), lets you befriend an ape for $1 on the organization’s Web site. Once you do, you’ll be able to follow everything that goes on in your primate’s life through Facebook and Twitter.

The featured gorillas live in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home of about half of the world's remaining mountain gorilla population. Cameras have been set up in the forest so you can watch live footage of your new friends and their families.

--Julie Littman

Stephen Colbert Calls Ken Burns's New Series "Nature Porn"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Ken Burns
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Comedian/faux newsman Stephen Colbert hosted Ken Burns on his show last night to discuss The National Parks: America's Best Idea, a six-episode PBS series featuring the Sierra Club and its founder, John Muir.

During the interview, the documentary filmmaker extraordinaire told us that if the national-parks system didn't exist, the Grand Canyon would be lined with mansions and Yosemite would be a gated community. He also said that the parks are "the Declaration of Independence applied to land," and, "I hope every superintendent of every national park is angry at us after this."

As Burns explains why national parks are a supreme benchmark of democracy, Colbert feigns a concern with the system's socialism, describes the Everglades as "...damp," and calls the 12-hour series "nature porn."

--Avital Binshtock


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