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91 posts from April 2010

April 28, 2010

Book Roundup Wednesday: Books about Bird Behavior

Books about environmentalismEvery Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week, we're recommending books about bird behavior.

The Private Lives of Birds: A Scientist Reveals the Intricacies of Avian Social Life (by Bridget Stutchbury, $25, Walker & Co., June 2010): The stuff of soap operas – adultery, divorce, backstabbing – also applies to the social behavior of birds, according to biologist Bridget Stutchbury who has spent decades studying them. She covers topics such as pairing, parenting, migration, and others, all based on her firsthand observation and research.

Bald Coot and Screaming Loon: Adventures in the Curious, Mysterious and Remarkable World of Birds (by Niall Edworthy, $18, Penguin, Mar. 2010): Edworthy enthusiastically tackles some of the basic questions about birds – why do they fly? How did they evolve? In witty, colorful prose, he presents us with a slew of fascinating avian facts and anecdotes that make for fun reading.

Do Hummingbirds Hum? Fascinating Questions about Hummingbirds (by George C. West and Carol A. Butler, $22, Rutgers University Press, Apr. 2010): This accessible question-and-answer guide covers virtually everything known about hummingbirds, from their complex biology and reproductive behaviors, to their flight and migration patterns. A chapter about attracting and feeding them is useful for those who want to experience these amazing birds up close.

Continue reading "Book Roundup Wednesday: Books about Bird Behavior " »

Green Your Parenting: Pack Your Child's Lunch

Lunch box Being a parent makes the initiative to live sustainably feel that much more important. But it can be a difficult balancing act. To make things a little simpler, this week we're providing easy green parenting tips so you can reduce your kids' impact on the planet they stand to inherit.

Tip #3: Make Their Midday Meal

School cafeterias are notorious for serving ultra-processed junk food from factory farms that pollute surrounding areas with pesticides and animal waste. So send your child to school armed with  a packed lunch – and don't reach for the Lunchables, either. Instead, be kind to the planet and give your kids' brain a boost by handing them local, organic, whole foods in a metal lunch box or a durable fabric bag.

Tell us: What's in your kid's lunchbox?

April 27, 2010

Daily Roundup: April 27, 2010

Carp Conundrum: The Supreme Court rejected Michigan's request to act to ban Asian carp from the Great Lakes; the invasive species poses a threat to the lakes' ecosystems. Planet Ark

Safety Hoax: A New York City building inspector admitted to faking clean asbestos and lead tests at building sites for more than a decade. New York Times

Sealing Ordinance: Today, White Bear Lake, Minnesota, will try to become the fourth U.S. city to pass an ordinance banning coal-tar sealants from being used for parking lots and driveways. The sealants are said to be the worst polluters of the city's waterways. Star Tribune

Leaky Meds: New research has found that prescription drugs are seeping into Delaware's drinking water. Delaware Online

At Least That: Contrary to earlier studies, researchers have found that soil microbes emit less carbon dioxide in warmer temperatures, meaning that soils will emit lower amounts of the greenhouse gas as global warming intensifies. National Science Foundation

--Nicholas Mukhar

Green Biz: Etsy Empowers Earthy Artisans

Handmade crafts Artisans who work out of their homes are inherently eco-friendly. They spare the air by staying off the road, and many make art out of society's flotsam.

Lately, indie craftspeople are finding it easier to earn a living, thanks to Etsy, an online marketplace that exposes their wares to millions. Unlike eBay, where sellers often offload unwanted junk, Etsy is a virtual craft fair. Artisans set up online "booths" to hawk quirky pieces (e.g., clocks made of hard drives). And it's growing fast: Etsy's sales doubled to $180 million in 2009 over 2008, and the site now hosts 250,000 merchants.

Many Etsy sellers integrate eco-practices into their works. Margaret Kasper, owner of Mountain Girl Clothing in New Hampshire, turns thrift-store finds like old sweaters into, as she says, "more stylish, modern, and versatile pieces than what they started as."

Christy Schwathe of Hu.made creates accessories from vintage clothes, recycled scraps, and sustainable new materials. She operates from her house at the foot of New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains. "This is the way I live," she says of her earth-conscious habits, "so why wouldn't I apply it to my business?"

—Kyle Boelte

Grow a Conscience: How to Garden Green

Whether your farm fits in a window box or spans several acres, ensure a truly green thumb with these Earth-friendly gardening gizmos. Hand-powered lawn mower

Trim your lawn's carbon footprint (and stay in shape) with the Brill RazorCut 38 manual-push reel mower from ECOMOWERS. That it doesn't use any gas is a blessing, considering that U.S. homeowners best the Exxon Valdez every year by spilling 17 million gallons of oil just while refueling yard appliances. This mower also comes in a cordless electric version for those who can't forgo a motor but still want a lesser (i.e., battery-powered) evil. EcoMowers offsets its carbon emissions and donates to the U.S. Green Building Council. $239

COBRAHEAD's short-handle weeder and cultivator, manufactured in the U.S., has a grip made of flax fibers and recycled plastic. The rugged, multipurpose implement serves as a trowel, dibble, hand fork, and hoe. $25

American homeowners use toxic pesticides in far greater concentrations than our farmers do. But you can destroy bugs, weeds, and fungi without endangering wildlife (or pets or kids) with ECOSMART TECHNOLOGIES' Organic Garden Insect Killer, a nontoxic blend of food-grade essential oils. $8 for 24 oz.

Want to make sure your produce is organic, local, and farmed by someone smart and sexy? Grow your own. OLIVE BARN's Organic Herb Garden Trio Kit comes with biodegradable pots in recycled-paper packaging. Choose three certified-organic packets of seeds from a selection of seven kinds of basil, a salad mix, chives, cilantro, dill, and other herbs. $26

Keep your hands clean, figuratively and otherwise, with these Memphis Green gloves from MCR SAFETY. They're made from the pulp of bamboo grass, which is cooler than cotton, naturally antibacterial, and 100 percent biodegradable. $8

For more green gardening tips, listen to this week's edition of Sierra Club Radio.

--Avital Binshtock

Green Your Parenting: Diaper Duty

Baby in diaper
Being a parent makes the initiative to live sustainably feel that much more important. But it can be a difficult balancing act. To make things a little simpler, this week we're providing easy green parenting tips so you can reduce your kids' impact on the planet they stand to inherit.

Tip #2: Choose Cloth Diapers

Disposable diapers are undeniably convenient, but they take centuries to decompose in landfills, and the untreated waste they contain can leak out and pollute groundwater. Biodegradable diapers are one alternative, or, better yet, choose reusable cloth diapers made of hemp or organic cotton. Diaper services are available in many cities if washing the stinkiness out at home makes you squeamish – just make sure the service you select uses natural detergents.

Tell us: How do you deal with the diaper dilemma?

April 26, 2010

Daily Roundup: April 26, 2010

Engulfed in Oil: The BP drilling rig that exploded and sank last week in the Gulf of Mexico is spilling 42,000 gallons of oil per day, a slick which now covers more than 1,800 square miles and is heading toward the coast. If it hits land, it could poison hundreds of miles of beaches and wetlands, and the species that depend on them, from Louisiana to Florida. Eleven of the rig’s workers are presumed dead. NPR and New York Times

Detaining the Climate Bill:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he would pull out of efforts to pass the climate-change legislation he co-wrote unless the Senate prioritizes that bill ahead of one about immigration reform. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), also a co-author, said that the climate bill would still be presented “sometime soon.” Huffington Post

Powerful Solar:
Israel’s air force is pursuing energy independence by installing solar-power plants at all of its bases. Globes Online

Electric Promise: Indonesia’s president pledged to make his nation the world leader in using geothermal energy. His country, with more than 200 volcanoes, sits atop about 40 percent of the world's underground heat-energy potential. Yahoo! News

Lighting the White House: A campaign is afoot to equip the White House with solar panels; a company called Sungevity is offering to install them. Ecorazzi

--Avital Binshtock

Discounted iPhone Apps for Stranded Travelers

Lonely planet's city guide for london The recent eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano disrupted air travel and left many people stranded in unfamiliar cities, so Lonely Planet decided to offer free downloads of 13 of its European iPhone travel guides for a few days. Now, as flights resume, you can download guides to Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, London, and more at a discounted price of $4.99 until April 30.

While you're outfitting your iPhone, download apps from Avego or Carticipate to help locate carpool opportunities. The Trails app will help you keep track of hiking routes and VegOut will locate vegetarian restaurants while you're on the go. You can even enter to win a trip to Hawaii with the Sierra Club's Eco Hero app.

--Della Watson

Tell us: What are your favorite travel apps for the iPhone?

Green Fashion Monday: An Ethical Jewelry Line

Tiffany Kunz recycled metal jewelry On Fashion Monday, we highlight a hip, green fashion item. Got a stylish eco-friendly product to recommend? Tell us about it and look for it in an upcoming blog post.

When Tiffany Kunz was young, her grandmother taught her the art of jewelry design. She liked it so much – and was so good at it – that she got a degree in gemology. Three years ago, she launched her own brand.

A true craftsperson, Kunz creates the pieces in her earthy line by hand using reclaimed metals (mostly gold and silver) and small, rough gems (mostly diamonds, tourmaline, and garnet) that were produced humanely and traded fairly. She makes sure, too, that all the paper products she uses – for price tags, business cards, shipping boxes, and so on – are made of recycled materials. Kunz also volunteers for Raven + Lily, a nonprofit that helps female artisans around the world lift themselves out of poverty.

These hammered stacking bracelets from her Nascent Collection strike just the right balance between simplicity and sophistication. Since they’re handmade, no two are exactly alike, and their rough-hewn quality and graceful edges add depth to even the most basic of fashion ensembles. Starting at $45.

--Avital Binshtock

Green Your Parenting: Ditch the Plastic Bottle

Baby bottle Being a parent makes the initiative to live sustainably feel that much more important. But it can be a difficult balancing act. To make things a little simpler, this week we're providing easy green parenting tips so you can reduce your kids' impact on the planet they stand to inherit.

Tip #1: Opt for a Glass or Steel Bottle

Your baby's favorite plastic bottle is harmless, right? Nope. It harbors the nasty compound bisphenol-A (BPA), which is linked to cancer, heart disease, and brain-development problems. When you heat milk in a plastic bottle, it leaches BPA into your child's drink. Plus, it's definitely not green: BPA gets into waterways, stunting fishes' reproduction and development. Protect your baby and our wildlife by opting for a sturdy glass or stainless-steel baby bottle.

Tip #2: Choose Cloth Diapers

Tip #3: Pack Their Lunch

Tip #4: Plan an Eco-Friendly Birthday Party

Tell us: What are your favorite green parenting tips?

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