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88 posts from November 2010

November 24, 2010

'Tis Better: Holiday Gifts that Give Twice

Studies show that our brains’ pleasure centers light up brighter when we give than when we receive. This holiday season, get your oxytocin fix by shopping these online destinations for altruistic eco-gifts.

For a global array of responsibly produced gifts, eBay's World of Good delivers. The site's "Goodprint" section showcases eco-positive pieces and tells the story behind each handcrafted offering. Choices include banana-fiber napkin rings from Kenya ($30) and a bamboo flute from Thailand ($23). There's also a selection of efficient electronics, including a 12-watt solar-energy kit ($400).

This stocking stuffer should sate the youngsters in your life — but will also improve the lives of less lucky children. The tube of recycled-newspaper coloring pencils (about $8) is available on UNICEF Canada's robust shopping site. The purchase supports UNICEF's efforts to protect and educate the world’s most vulnerable children.

How do you gift wrap random acts of kindness? By buying a themed deck of cards from Boom Boom! The green deck ($10) has 26 easy directives benefiting the environment, such as picking up the next piece of litter you see. Once you've completed a good deed, register the card's unique ID code online, then hand it off to a friend. As others pass it along, you can map the card's progress online.

We love Blurb. This for-the-people publishing outfit allows anyone with a dream of authoring a book to see it realized. You upload your text and design, then order copies ($5 to $187 each, depending on size). It's not just another vanity press, however: The site's philanthropic Blurb for Good section lets wordsmiths and photographers sell their art for a cause. Sales benefit a wide range of human- and animal-rights groups; one cookbook has collected more than $45,000 for Haiti. Love Pelicans ($39) raises money to rehabilitate the birds of the Gulf.

The idea of planting a tree in someone's name isn't new, but TreeNex makes it possible to track that tree's growth online. Its cheery holiday cards ($5.50 each) are 100% recycled, let recipients know that a fir or oak has been planted for them, and provide an online tracking code so they can see the sapling's planting date, its geographical coordinates, and photos of its nursery or forest.

For more do-good websites for holiday gift-giving, click through the break:

Continue reading "'Tis Better: Holiday Gifts that Give Twice" »

University of Minnesota vs. the Superbug

super bug Science can try, but it can't kill it. In fact, modern science is the reason it's here. Generations of antibiotic use have significantly fought it back, but in the end, we only made it more aware of our defenses and how to infiltrate them. It assaults our coastlines, is responsible for MRSA, and is trying to unravel what many consider to be the 20th century's most important invention.

It's a superbug. And it's way deadlier than the arcade classic.

The super bacteria is a strain with built-up resistance to antibiotics, thanks to overuse. While easily spread amongst humans, farm animals are commonly infected as well due to their frequent antibiotic injections. It can also get comfy in common wastewater, which, when funneled into a water treatment plant, is made safer for use in homes. Sort of.

Continue reading "University of Minnesota vs. the Superbug" »

Book Review Wednesday: Books About Dinner's Victims

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Before Thanksgiving, check out one of these titles about the creatures who gave their lives for your Thanksgiving feast.

The Sacred White Turkey (by Frances Washburn, $14, Bison Books, 2010): Though there are plenty of people out there deviating from tradition, Thanksgiving is still the home of the cooked, grilled, or smoked Meleagris gallopavo. But the titular creature in this tale shows up on Easter and is pure white, setting it apart from the Thanksgiving icon even before it affects an entire community. Told from the perspective of a teenage Lakota girl and her medicine-woman grandmother, this story is well-written and ambiguous enough not to spoil your appetite.

Ninety-Five: Meeting America's Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs (edited by No Voice Unheard, $20, 2010): Vegeterian advocates No Voice Unheard put together a gallery of beautiful barnyard critters, all rescued from various atrocities, all with a name, a face, a story. Attaching personality to these individuals (including Justice, the steer that escaped from a slaughterhouse-bound truck) merits a rephrasing of an age-old mantra: "Who's for dinner?"

Duck for Turkey Day (by Jacqueline Jules, $17, Albert Whitman & Co., 2009): Tuyet's Vietnamese family isn't eating turkey on Thanksgiving, so naturally, she's terrified of the ridicule she'll get from her peers. Jules's children's tale for the modern holiday notes that turkey is absent from many tables, but also captures kids' universal conflicts: acceptance, fitting in, and being unnecessarily embarrassed by family members. Tuyet learns that holidays aren't about sticking to a set of rules, but celebrating traditions with those closest.

Continue reading "Book Review Wednesday: Books About Dinner's Victims" »

Green Your Kids' School: Carpool

Carpool to school Do you see a lot of waste at your child's school? This week's tips are about how to help green your local educational institutions.

Tip #3: Bum a Ride

Dozens of people in your neighborhood make the same trip each morning and afternoon to get their kids to and from school. If it isn't feasible for your child to walk, bike, or take a bus, team up with your neighbors to safely fit as many students into one vehicle per trip. Each driver can claim a weekday; you'll get points for reducing pollution and for community-building — and you'll find yourself with some extra time most days of the week.

Tell us: How do your kids get to school?

November 23, 2010

Daily Roundup: November 23, 2010

Scrap the Idea: When your dog adopts that pathetic look during Thanksgiving dinner this year, refer to Animal Planet's a list of food items that could poison your pet: Animal Planet

Bear With It: Its the age-old story: Hunters want to shoot bears; wildlife advocates want them to stop. New Jersey's environmental agency's ruling? Lock and load. Philadelphia Inquirer

Surgical Strike: Russian journalist Oleg Kashin reported on companies planning to develop the Khimki Forest; he claims was severely beaten for doing so. Radio Free Europe

Friends in High Places: Vegans won't be eating birds on Thanksgiving. Among them are these five high-profile figures, of whose eating habits you may not have been aware: Planet Green

Nip It in the Ball: Highly toxic mothballs mistaken for candy have made their way from Brooklyn to New Jersey. Authorities are rushing to find them and remove them from store shelves.  EPA

--Justin Klugh

Leonardo DiCaprio Survives Plane Emergency, Saves Tigers

Leonardo DiCaprio wants to save this tiger Don't call Leonardo DiCaprio a lightweight. The eco-minded actor, whose plane was forced to make an emergency landing yesterday after one of its engines failed, has donated $1 million to the World Wildlife Fund for tiger conservation, prompting Russia's Vladimir Putin to dub DiCaprio a "real man."

Indeed, Leo's brush with danger en route to the International Tiger Conservation Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia (and a second plane-related scare caused by "strong winds"), didn't dampen the star's resolve to help prevent tigers from becoming extinct in the wild. The species is in dire danger — only 3,200 tigers remain in the wild — as a result of poaching and habitat destruction.

In addition to DiCaprio's generosity, the tiger summit triggered another positive outcome: Representatives from 13 countries, including Putin and China's Wen Jiabao, pledged to work to double the world's tiger population by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.

--Della Watson

Dealing with Climate-Change-Denying Relatives this Thanksgiving?

Holiday relatives You're fond of Uncle Burt, but he's picked up some strange ideas about climate change from the likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. And Aunt Mim is all for mountaintop-removal mining and "clean" coal — though she's not exactly sure what they are.

Does this sound like what you might find at your Thanksgiving dinner table this week? Deal with your slightly misinformed relatives by reading the Sierra Club's survival guide. You'll learn how to set 'em straight — without getting the pecan pie thrown at you. And who knows? It may just help you convince one or two.

--Kyle Boelte

Earthy Art That's Visible From Space

350 earth flash flood In a place where residents depend on snowmelt for nearly half their drinking water, dwindling snowpack is a serious concern. But sometimes it takes a creative group effort — and more than science — to get the message across.

On Saturday, more than 1,500 people carrying hand-painted recycled cardboard and blue tarps stood in the riverbed of the Santa Fe River, one of its continent's 10 most endangered rivers. Their goal was to illustrate a vision for flowing water.

The "Flash Flood" installation, organized by the Santa Fe Art Institute, is one of 16 nature-themed projects associated with 350 Earth to highlight climate-change challenges and solutions. “The world’s best scientists have tried to wake up politicians to the climate crisis,” said 350.org founder Bill McKibben. “Now we’re counting on artists to help.”

Continue reading "Earthy Art That's Visible From Space" »

The U.S. Air Force Tries Alternative Fuels

US Air Force Jet The pursuit of alternative fuels has found an ally in the U.S. military. The Air Force reached a milestone in alternative aviation fuels yesterday when it successfully flew an unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk on a blend of traditional fuel and synthetic paraffinick kerosene, or SPK.

The Global Hawk, which took off from California's Edwards Air Force Base, represents a completion of the force's three-year certification process for the groundbreaking biofuel.

Jet fuel is a huge source of carbon emissions, accounting for almost 1.4 million daily oil barrels and 10% of the total amount of fuel the U.S. uses for transportation. And finding a jet-fuel alternative to petroleum has been a massive endeavor.

Continue reading "The U.S. Air Force Tries Alternative Fuels" »

Green Your Kids' School: Waste-Free Lunches

Waste-free lunch Do you see a lot of waste at your child's school? This week's tips are about how to help green your local educational institutions.

Tip #2: Don't Trash Lunch

Consider starting a waste-free lunch program at your children's schools to help make trash reduction a priority. On a personal level, avoid resorting to disposables such as plastic bags and paper juice boxes. Instead, choose reusable items. Check out the EPA's handy guide (PDF) for committing to cleaner lunches, cleaner campuses, and a cleaner planet for your kids.

Tell us: How do you reduce waste when packing your child’s lunch?


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