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94 posts from June 2010

June 28, 2010

Can You Do Without Those Plastic Dry-Cleaning Bags?

Dry cleaning Imagine you've just visited your favorite eco-friendly dry cleaner. Your clothes are pressed and clean, just waiting to be worn. You take your clothes home, remove them from the dry-cleaning bag, and hang them in your closet. What do you do next? Many people simply throw away the garment bag.

This wasteful use of plastic bothered Rick Siegel, who created the Green Garmento, an 3-in-1 reusable dry-cleaning bag that organizes your hamper, converting it into a carrying and duffel bag. It can help dry-cleaning customers green their routine by reducing almost 300 million pounds of single-use plastic dry-cleaning bags per year.

Recently featured on the Today Show, the garment bags are popular with some Hollywood outlets, including La Cienega Studio Cleaners.

--Kate Cleland

A New, Lucrative Way to Recycle

Recycle for money If Ron Gonen has his way, it will be as convenient for Americans to make money off their garbage as it is for them to toss it. Gonen is the CEO of RecycleBank, which contracts with cities to reward residents for their curbside recycling. Founded in Philadelphia in 2004, RecycleBank has expanded to 26 states and the U.K. It now serves more than 1 million homes.

The company fits garbage and recycling trucks with a mechanical arm that can weigh a household's recycling output. The information is transmitted to RecycleBank, which deposits points into an online account based on the weight of the recyclables. Families can use those points—worth up to $200 per year—to shop at hundreds of retailers. Those stores, in turn, are rewarded with a presence on the company's website, plus the benefit of being seen as eco-minded.

"We've increased recycling by at least 100 percent in the communities we've partnered with," said Gonen. And while RecycleBank members can already cash in their points at greener outfits like Whole Foods and Gaiam, they will soon be encouraged to spend in an even more sustainable way: Gonen recently teamed up with eBay to motivate shoppers to buy used goods.

--Jessi Phillips

Fashion Monday: Renewable-Energy Chic

Wind Turbine Ties 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.

Cyberoptix Tie Lab makes, as they call them, “ties that don’t suck.” Eco-friendly and fashion-forward, each necktie is screenprinted by hand using nontoxic, water-based ink. Which is refreshing, since the screenprinting process is notoriously nasty. Besides this wind turbine tie ($30), we like the company's “Topographical Error” cravat, emblazoned with vintage contour lines. And, if you’re in the market for an eco-unnecessity, complement your new wind farm tie with a G-TIE – a superfluous metal wrap for your necktie knot.

--Sophie Matson / photo courtesy Bethany Shorb

Green Your Independence Day: (Eco-)Friendlier Flames

4th of July grilling Sunday is the 4th of July, and what better way to honor the nation we love by protecting and conserving its natural resources? This week’s tips will help you plan a bright-green celebration.

Tip #1: Don’t Get Burned

Some 60 million Americans fire up the grill on Independence Day, consuming enough energy – in the form of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas, and electricity – to power 20,000 households for a year, and releasing about 225,000 tons of carbon emissions.

To reduce your output, opt for an electric or propane grill, both of which are cleaner-burning than units powered by charcoal. If you must use coal, choose briquettes made of invasive tree species, or derived from sustainably managed forests. The Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program and the Forest Stewardship Council help consumers make this distinction; just look for this seal or this one when making your purchase.

Tip #2: Better Barbecuing

Tip #3: Party Preparations

Tip #4: An Explosive Issue

Tell us: How will you go green on the 4th?

June 25, 2010

Daily Roundup: June 25, 2010

Irreverent Comment: BP’s COO Doug Suttles said that estimating the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf is irrelevant to responding effectively. Times-Picayune

Not So Smart: Maryland’s Public Service Commission rejected Baltimore Gas & Electric’s proposal to install smart meters throughout the state, stemming one of America’s leading electricity-conservation programs. New York Times

Whale Stalemate: The failure to agree on whaling regulations at this week's International Whaling Commission annual meeting will allow whalers to continue "harvesting" some 1,500 whales per year. National Geographic

Ape Plus: A ten-year plan to protect thousands of endangered chimpanzees was introduced by East and Central African nations. ENS

Cape Wind Controversy: Several environmental groups are suing in hopes of stopping a recently approved offshore wind-power project that will meet 75% of the Nantucket Sound area’s electricity needs – the activists argue that the development will violate the Endangered Species Act. Los Angeles Times

--Allison McCann

Wasteful Sustainability: Too Green to be True?

Wasteful spending Some companies are taking green-product development to the extreme. Their too-green commodities seem more extravagant than eco-conscious. Here are two examples:

To cash in on some of the World Cup excitement, Greendix, a solar-panel company in Taiwan, designed a solar-powered soccer ball. Since when do soccer balls need to be powered by anything more than a foot? The company claims that the item demonstrates that solar power can be integrated into any object, pushing the limits of solar power and inspiring other product designers to do the same.

Another helpful-yet-wasteful gizmo is the Litter-Robot, a self-cleaning litter box (the design of which reminds us of Kenny from South Park) from Automated Pet Care Products that “frees you from the chore of litter box scooping.” But despite the company’s opulent, laissez-faire attitude toward pet cleanup, it did promise to donate a portion of its July sales revenue to the National Wildlife Federation to help protect animals affected by the BP disaster.

Though the movement toward green-product development is mostly heartening, it's best to remember that the most sustainable products are often the simplest.

--Sarah A. Henderson

Bon Voyage: Responsible Travel

Luggage While traveling offers us opportunities to discover natural wonders, it's often environmentally detrimental. Ethical Traveler, a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting responsible globetrotting, tries to address this problem. Each year, its experts put together a top-ten list of the “best ethical destinations.” They're quick to admit that this is a complicated task, but they base their ratings on three categories: environmental protection, social welfare, and human rights. This year, Argentina, Belize, and Chile took the lead.

Continue reading "Bon Voyage: Responsible Travel" »

Movie Review Friday: Gasland

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.

Gasland (2009)

Now playing on HBO, and coming soon on Netflix

This week, a groundbreaking documentary called Gasland, written and directed by Josh Fox, premiered on HBO. A 2010 Sundance winner, the film was born when a gas company approached Fox with an enticing financial offer to lease his land in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, in the Marcellus Shale Ridge, an area dubbed “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Fox was concerned that information about the risks didn’t exist.

So he set off on a trip across 34 states in which gas companies have been busy drilling on public and private land. During his journey, he learns about a new technique called hydraulic fracturing (developed by Halliburton, the corporation responsible for cementing BP’s well), which cracks the earth, then pumps tens of millions of gallons of water, mixed with chemicals, into the ground to extract natural gas.

Continue reading "Movie Review Friday: Gasland" »

June 24, 2010

Daily Roundup: June 24, 2010

Dead Meat: To "celebrate" the World Cup, an Arizona restaurant is serving lion burgers. In response, the eatery has received heated emails and bomb threats. Ecorazzi

False Start: Obama and other leaders plan to lighten up on their commitment to phasing out oil and gas subsidies at this weekend's G20 summit in Toronto, according to a document leaked by Greenpeace. The finding reveals that nations’ efforts to eliminate subsidies will be “voluntary” and “member specific.” TckTckTck

Night Moves: Workers removed eight tons of oil from the beach of Perdido Key, a barrier island off Florida’s panhandle. A three-mile-long oil plume lurks about five miles from the beaches of mainland city Pensacola. Miami Herald

Tuna Stakes: Tucson's Center for Biological Diversity filed a request for the bluefin tuna to be listed as an endangered species. Scientists agree that the Gulf oil disaster has ravaged the tuna's spawning season, killing billions of eggs and larvae of the already overfished species. New York Times

Deadly Catch: Drug-resistant bacteria have been found in seven shark species; experts believe the improper disposal of pharmaceuticals might be to blame. National Geographic

--Sarah A. Henderson

BP, the Joke's on You

The BP oil disaster is a serious and disturbing situation, but the oil company's repeated PR gaffes and horribly botched containment efforts have also provided comedians with a wealth of material. So if you're feeling frustrated by the catastrophe in the Gulf, it might help to imagine the BP executives as a bunch of foul-mouthed kittens. The above video, by TremendousNews.com, closes with a fake BP slogan that doubles as a not-so-subtle reminder to bike, walk, or take public transit as often as possible: "BP: You're not mad enough to not drive your car."

Continue reading "BP, the Joke's on You" »

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