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104 posts from September 2009

September 25, 2009

(School) Farm to School Cafeteria

Student farmerAmerica has been losing farmers for decades thanks to the tractor, fertilizer, and other hallmarks of industrial food production. But just as interest in farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) has grown in recent years, so too has student interest in local, organic agriculture. Many young people around the country are taking a second look at farm life. This year, almost 1,400 farms turned to young interns for help, almost three times as many as two years ago.

But the movement isn’t just taking place in remote pastures during summer months. Colleges such as Oberlin, Stanford, and many others have started their own on-campus farms and gardens where student volunteers can learn about small-scale agriculture. Some colleges offer course credit for work done on the farm and at least one, Washington State, offers an undergrad degree in Organic Agriculture.

So what do the students do with their harvest? The College of the Atlantic serves its student-raised produce in dining halls. And Bon Appetit Management Co., which provides food services for many campuses, offers a guide for student farmers interested in selling their produce to their school’s food-service provider.

--Kyle Boelte

Movie Review Friday: Ponyo

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme that's currently in theaters or available on DVD. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Ponyo (2009)

In theaters now

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the creator of Princess Mononoke, Ponyo is an animated film about a magical goldfish who gets stuck in a piece of trash stirred up by a bottom-trawling fishing boat and is rescued by a little boy named Sosuke. After licking a cut on his finger, she becomes human and they fall in love.

Ponyo’s transformation, however, creates an imbalance in the natural world – a violent storm rages, flooding Sosuke’s village and threatening his parents. The moon draws closer to Earth. Sosuke's and Ponyo’s love is tested as the fate of the planet hangs in balance.

Ponyo's environmental message is clear: The world's natural balance must be respected. The beauty of the ocean, teeming with life, is juxtaposed against pollution's ugliness. Ponyo’s grumpy wizard dad is repulsed by humans and their trash.

But the misanthropy ends there. Ultimately, the movie exudes a childlike cheerfulness by focusing on the relationship between Ponyo and Sosuke. The art is bright and bold, with wild images such as the one of Ponyo racing atop waves shaped like giant fish. For those who enjoy fairy tales with a green twist, Ponyo is a fun pick. 

 -- Année Tousseau

September 24, 2009

Daily Roundup: September 24, 2009

“U.N.”-Inspiring News: A U.N. report notes that increased greenhouse-gas concentrations have led to droughts, glacier melts, and ocean acidification faster than previously thought, putting more emphasis on December's Copenhagen summit. Reuters

Drink Up: Several space probes have found evidence of water molecules on the moon’s surface, convincing scientists that the moon isn't as dry as it's "cracked” up to be. NPR

It’s Business Time: Walmart suppliers need to catch up on the work to return the 15-question assessment form detailing their carbon footprint and ethical business practices by Oct. 1, the first phase of Walmart’s Sustainability Index. GreenBiz.com

Denver Disgust: Denver has the highest greenhouse-gas emissions, says a study about how global cities are influenced by a variety of factors including climate, transportation, waste processing, and population density. Science Daily

Small Idea to Big Decision: San Jose’s decision to ban single-use plastic bags and provide paper bags for a fee in 2011 was inspired by Councilman Kansen Chu’s trip to China. San Jose Mercury News

--Michael Mullaley

NY Dog Poop Gets Special Treatment

Ithaca is testing a dog waste composting program

Billions of pounds of pet waste are sent to the landfill every year, but one community hopes to change that statistic by composting their dog doo. Members of the Tompkins County Dog Owners Group in Ithaca, New York, started a pilot program with Cayuga Compost to put that poop to use. According to Green Inc., Dog owners who visit Ithaca Dog Park collect the leavings in corn-based bags, then place the waste in special bins near the park's entrances. Cayuga Compost carts off about 1,000 pounds of poop for composting each month, reports the Associated Press. Pet waste is unsuitable for vegetable gardens and contains pathogens that can pollute water sources. The future uses of Ithaca's dog-generated compost may include landscaping projects or applications with potted plants. Cayuga plans to test the composition of the dog waste to determine the next step.

--Della Watson

A Bass from a Box

Eco-conscious musicians sometimes find themselves in a tough spot. They live for their music, but the instruments they love to play may be made of tropical trees threatened with extinction or harvested unsustainably

One solution? Bogdon Music’s upright bass. It looks like something fished out of the dumpster, but because it uses no tropical or rare wood, it’s a greener way to jam. The body is a cardboard box, the strings are nylon, and the neck is oak. It's no mere quirky novelty, either; Bass Player gave it favorable marks for its “warm, big sound and slightly blurry pitches.” It's made to be assembled at home with glue and tape.

If the upright bass isn’t your groove, or if this do-it-yourself ethos inspires you, check out instructables.com for directions about making other instruments by reusing everyday materials. Cookie-tin banjo, anyone?

-- Année Tousseau

Limbaugh to be Unlikely Green-Car Contestant on Leno

Rush Limbaugh is an unlikely contestant on Leno's Green Car Challenge

Whether or not you're a regular Leno viewer or not, tonight’s Jay Leno Show should be one to remember; Rush Limbaugh will be driving around in a green car.

The infamous conservative radio host will be Leno’s second contestant for the Green Car Challenge, following Drew Barrymore’s effort last week. Limbaugh will race two laps in Ford’s all-electric Focus, which debuts in 2011, in hopes of beating Barrymore's time. The second lap sports cardboard cutouts of Al Gore and Ed Begley, Jr. that contestants must avoid.

The announcement is surprising because of Limbaugh’s anti-green-car tirade in late March. He claimed no one is buying green cars and that people have “given up their individuality for what they think is a larger cause." He also called politics the killer of the auto industry as manufacturers are forced to produce cars just “to keep the Gestapo off their back."

Whether Limbaugh has had a change of heart about green cars or just wants a change of scenery from his radio office, his reaction to the Focus will be interesting to watch.

--Michael Mullaley

Green Your Activism: Start Writing

Mailing a letter

It’s officially Climate Week, so in the spirit of being environmentally proactive, we’re providing tips about how to take Earth matters into your own hands. In case you feel discouraged that you can’t do enough, remember Gandhi’s words: “Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

Tip #4: Put Pen to Paper (or Fingers to Keyboard)

Writing a letter has always been a powerful act: Leaders pay attention when enough constituents contact them with the same concern. Write a well-crafted letter to elected representatives, and to editors of influential publications, to louden the collective change-fueling voice. Express yourself regarding any environmental issue you feel strongly about; anecdotal evidence shows that it only takes 10 to 20 letters to get a congressperson to perk up.

September 23, 2009

Daily Roundup: September 23, 2009

Red Alert: A dramatic dust storm whose cause may be attributable to a severe climate-change-induced drought turned Sydney, Australia, a Mars-like red. Reuters and Wired

Clear Dealings:
The EPA will now require some 10,000 major greenhouse-gas offenders like coal plants and car factories, to report their emissions. Scientific American

Substantial Vapor:
With natural gas sneaking up on Big Oil’s market share, major players like Exxon are taking a long look at getting back in the shale game. NPR

Plugged In: The Obama administration granted Fisker Automotive, a company that makes plug-in hybrids, a low-interest $529 million loan to develop its next two vehicle models, Karma (a sedan) and Project Nina. The company expects to compete with Tesla Motors. Los Angeles Times

Going For Gold:
To bolster Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic bid, Brazilians have planted more than 3,000 trees in the city as part of their "Carbon Zero 2016" campaign. Rio is up against Chicago, Madrid, and Tokyo for the honor; the winner will be announced Oct. 2. Yahoo! News

--Avital Binshtock

Hummer Drivers Think They're Defending America's "Frontier Lifestyle"

Not everyone sees Hummers as hazardous to the environment

The Hummer is often associated with overconsumption and environmental disregard. But according to a new study, some U.S. Hummer drivers see their vehicle choice as benefiting a more important cause: defending America’s “frontier lifestyle."

Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study looked at attitudes toward owning and driving Hummers. Interviewing 20 American Hummer owners revealed a common perception; they see themselves as “moral protagonists” – like the “rugged individual” – fighting anti-American sentiment.

However, the Hummer’s declining popularity might last a few more years. Having dodged fuel -economy standards because vehicles such as the H2 weigh 100 pounds more than the 8,500-pound limit for compliance, environmentalists are frustrated with the gas-guzzler's existence, and anxious to dispose of it.

Continue reading "Hummer Drivers Think They're Defending America's "Frontier Lifestyle"" »

Book Roundup Wednesday: Building Green Communities

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 building green communities.

The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life and Build Community (by Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow, $25, Nolo, June 2009): Attorneys/bloggers Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow believe that sharing anything, from food to childcare, can create a better environment. Their easy-to-read book provides accessible legal advice about sharing property, questions to ask yourself when you are ready to share, conflict-resolution strategies, and instructions for drafting legal agreements for shared property.

Building Commons and Community (by Karl Linn, $30, New Village Press, Jan. 2008): The late Karl Linn, landscape architect and child psychologist, chronicles community projects he helped build, including greenways in Berkeley, Calif., and fun, child- and eco-friendly spaces in Philadelphia. The photo-essay format makes the content accessible, and the photos of beautiful gardens and common areas make this book an excellent resource for those looking to build community-shared green spaces.

Continue reading "Book Roundup Wednesday: Building Green Communities" »

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