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65 posts from December 2010

December 21, 2010

Daily Roundup: December 21, 2010

Green Soul-Searching: As 2010 draws to a close, big environmental groups are looking back to the grassroots campaigns of the 1970s, and moving away from the bureaucratic malaise of D.C. lobbying. Washington Post

The Kids Are/Aren't Alright: The EPA and New York City education officials are clashing over the investigation of PCB contamination in public schools. Wall Street Journal

Don't Drink The Water: In Houston, nearly every well site has tested positive for radiation poisoning. KHOU Radio

Fat Chance: The FDA says it wants pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily stop providing livestock companies with antibiotics and growth hormones. Des Moines Register

California Wheezing: Though overall rates of asthma are on the rise in California, minorities are being affected more than anyone else. Time

--Ronny Smith

Packaging Fail: 13 Times More Wrapping than Product?

Packaged world Matt from TreeHugger recently got a package: two gel ice packs, two moisture trappers, a large plastic bubble envelope, a crunch paper space holder, a heavy board box, and a chocolate box with inside riser, tissue, cups, foam protectors, and cellophane. And, finally, 4.5 ounces of chocolate from Argentina. The packaging materials weighed in at 3.75 pounds.

Packaging comprises almost a third of U.S. waste, according to the Clean Air Council. You can reduce that waste by voicing your concerns directly to the companies that produce it. Many  consumers already have: Packaging, especially plastic cases and air-bubble wrap, is the biggest source of customer complaints on Amazon.com. That’s not just because it's an environmental disaster; it's also an inconvenience. Customers are tired of jabbing knives at the plastic enshrining their new gadgets.

In response, Amazon is encouraging manufacturers to adopt “frustration-free packaging” made of recycled and recyclable materials such as cardboard. Only about 600 of the millions of products Amazon sells comply, but those that do have reduced negative feedback on Amazon by more than 70%.

Continue reading "Packaging Fail: 13 Times More Wrapping than Product?" »

Chuck Leavell: This Rolling Stone Gathers Trees


Chuck Leavell: Keyboardist, tree farmer, and author

Chuck Leavell has been a melodic force behind some of rock 'n' roll's biggest acts. He played with George Harrison and Eric Clapton and has been touring with the Rolling Stones for nearly 30 years. (The rollicking piano solo on the Allman Brothers Band's hit instrumental "Jessica" is his.) Leavell is also a committed conservationist and tree farmer. He and his wife, Rose Lane, grow oak, elm, and pine trees on their 2,500-acre forest in Bullard, Georgia. A cofounder of the popular eco-site Mother Nature Network, he just finished his fourth book about conservation, Growing a Better America.

Q: What got you into tree farming?

A: It's all my wife's fault. She comes from a family that's dedicated to the land and has been for generations. In 1981 we inherited property from her grandmother. We considered all manner of possibilities for it — pecans, peaches, different options. But the more I studied forestry, the more I got a long-term view of what managing a forest has to offer.

Q: What's good about planting trees?

A: Oh my goodness. What's not good about planting trees? First, they give us incredible natural, organic, renewable building materials. Second, they give us a tremendous list of products. They also clean our air, clean our water, and provide home and shelter to all manner of wildlife. Trees are the best sequesterer of carbon there is. To me, they're really the most important natural resource we have.

Q: Do musicians tend to be more in tune with the earth?

A: One of the first "aha" moments I had was realizing that my instrument comes from the resource of wood. It's the same with just about any other musical instrument — even saxophones have a reed. So there's already, for me, a very strong connection to the earth with music. I think musicians in general are sensitive to that.

Continue reading "Chuck Leavell: This Rolling Stone Gathers Trees" »

Cyclists as Referees of the Road?

Bike Bikers: Ever had a close call with a car, or witnessed reckless driving while on your bicycle but didn't want to resort to violence? You're in luck. Peter Hopkins Miller, an artist and filmmaker, devised a friendly way to warn dangerous drivers to be more careful.

Miller's Magnetic Yellow Card, invented in 2004 but gaining popularity today, is a business-card-sized magnet made for cyclists to carry and toss onto threatening cars. It reads, "This magnet was tossed onto your car by a cyclist who felt that you might have been driving in a way that could have endangered their life. They chose to toss this magnetic note because it can neither damage your automobile, nor affix itself to rubber or glass and will therefore not affect your driving. It serves to warn you. With thoughtful contemplation and reverence for humanity, we can adjust our behavior to allow for all people to live life. This is a yellow card, let's please not let things get to Red."

Continue reading "Cyclists as Referees of the Road?" »

Green New Year's Resolutions: Volunteer More

Volunteer more It’s almost midnight — do you know where your resolutions are? If not, worry not: We’ve got a few suggestions lined up for you this week. While in years past, we provided you with specific eco-acts to focus on, for 2011, we’re zooming out a bit to consider more community-based ideas.

Tip #2: Volunteer More

It’s been scientifically proven that people who volunteer are happier, healthier, and live longer. It just takes a few weeks for you — and your community — to start reaping those benefits, so start thinking about which cause you’d enjoy donating your time to in 2011. Perhaps you’d be good at taking inner-city kids into the wild, spending time with animals, or cleaning a beach or river. Not sure where to start? Contact your local Sierra Club chapter for green opportunities, or find more general volunteering resources at Serve.gov.

Tell us: What’s your favorite volunteer activity?

December 20, 2010

Green Fashion Monday: Ugly Christmas Sweater Tees

Ugly christmas sweater t shirt 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.

Wondering what to wear to that ugly-Christmas-sweater party? The weather outside may be frightful, but after a few minutes of sipping cider in a crowded kitchen or groovin' on a packed dance floor, a thick wool sweater doesn't always feel delightful. We've found a solution — shed the sweater to unveil one of Vardagen's festive T-shirts. Printed with environmentally friendly water-based inks, the shirts' I-swear-it's-not-a-sweater designs mimic three of the classic, unfashionable Christmas patterns we've all come to know and love. $20.

--Della Watson

A Musical Caterpillar?

Caterpillar Next time you're walking in nature and you hear a whistling sound coming from the leaves, don't be overly flattered. Chances are it's a walnut sphinx caterpillar, which has been found to be able to make music to ward off bird attacks.

A team of researchers hoped to understand how the critter managed to do it, so they covered each pair of the caterpillar's eight sets of breathing holes with latex. Using high-speed video, they found that when the caterpillar senses a threat and contracts its body, if forces air through the eighth set of holes to produce the noise, which can last up to four seconds.

Yellow warblers and other birds sharing the caterpillar's habitat are startled by the unusual form of communication. But Jayne Yack, a neuroethologist from Canada's Carleton University, doesn't blame them: "If you put yourself in the bird's place, you have limited foraging time," she said. "You're hunting around the foliage and you find something cryptic, you attack it and then it goes 'wee,' I can guarantee you'd abandon it and start looking for something else."

--Molly Oleson

Green New Year's Resolutions: Commit to Activism

Green activism It’s almost midnight — do you know where your resolutions are? If not, worry not: We’ve got a few suggestions lined up for you this week. While in years past, we provided you with specific eco-acts to focus on, for 2011, we’re zooming out a bit to consider more community-based ideas.

Tip #1: Commit to an Act of Activism

If you tend to shy away from causing a scene or making your voice heard, this could be a productive exercise. Pick an issue about which you’re particularly passionate — perhaps stopping factory farms from polluting water? Or protecting wildlife from climate change? — and do something active about it. You could organize or participate in a protest, write a letter to an agenda-setter, raise funds, or use your creativity to do something else to help move the world toward the solution you’re envisioning. How else to turn hope into change?

Tip #2: Volunteer More

Tip #3: Build Community

Tip #4: Resolve Not to Resolve

Tell us: What are your goals for 2011?

December 17, 2010

Daily Roundup: December 17, 2010

Holy Worry: The Dalai Lama is more concerned about Tibet's environmental problems than its political ones, WikiLeaks revealed. Guardian

Road Outrage: Children living near a freeway are twice as likely to be autistic, new research shows. Los Angeles Times

Mired Money: Bobby Jindal's plan to capture BP's oil using sand berms was ineffective and wasted $220 million, according to a new investigation. USA Today

Flush With Cash: The Army Corps of Engineers has $2.9 billion with which to restore a channel of the Mississippi River. Greenwire

Power Play: A new proposal aims to make renewable energy the U.K.'s primary source of power by 2030. TreeHugger

--Avital Binshtock

Joy to the World of Green: It's Free Shipping Day!

Free Shipping Day.jpg Christmas in the digital age means shopping online. You're clicking "Add to Cart" to the point of exhaustion, crossing names off your holiday hit list, and quickly being filled with that sense of satisfaction that accompanies a successful gift hunt (though the jury's still out on whether shopping online is greener than brick-and-mortar browsing). All that's left now is to confirm your order. 

But see, that's where they get you.

Shipping costs are the bitter garnish of a job well done; nothing makes you cringe like paying $17.65 for what was advertised as costing less than $10. So today, World of Green is proffering a collection of promotional codes for sustainable brands, all with the added bonus of free shipping — the catch is, it's for today only.

Continue reading "Joy to the World of Green: It's Free Shipping Day!" »


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