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74 posts from January 2011

January 27, 2011

Flying the Flag of Extinction: Even Revered Animals Aren't Safe

California state flag A century ago, California's state flag  — emblazoned with the image of a California grizzly — was officially adopted. The bear depicted on the flag (the design is modeled after an 1846 battle flag) is "Monarch," a captive animal who'd died of old age in 1911 after he'd become a symbol of "strength and rejuvenation" for Californians after he survived the devastating 1906 earthquake. Ironically, the last remaining California grizzly was killed in 1922, so when the bear was officially adopted as the state animal in 1953, the animal was already extinct in the golden state.

Monarch, whose taxidermied body is on display at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences, underscores the sad fact that being an icon isn't enough to save an animal from extinction. In a more recent example of this effect, this year's celebrity-studded tiger summit in St. Petersburg helped publicize the fact that there are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild — a number that doesn't seem possible considering that the animal is a mascot for everything from sports teams to breakfast cereals

Continue reading "Flying the Flag of Extinction: Even Revered Animals Aren't Safe" »

Family Vows to Buy Local for 365 Days

Levitch family In Scottsdale, Arizona, finding a mom-and-pop shop or a non-chain restaurant is a challenge. Abundant with big-box stores and strip malls, the city Randy and Julie call home is far from being supportive of small businesses. But that hasn't stopped the couple from going out of their way to seek them out.

On Jan. 1, Julie, Randy, and their sons Rex, 6, and Judd, 4, vowed to give up big-name convenience in favor of supporting their local economy. "Our goal is a year of buying locally," Randy said. "Wherever there's a local business, that's what we'd like to support."

Their inspiration came from the closing of Aladdin's, their favorite local restaurant that wasn't able to survive in hard economic times. "It was a very comfortable and relaxing place, and the owners knew us so well they knew what we wanted to order," Randy said.

Continue reading "Family Vows to Buy Local for 365 Days" »

Green Documentaries up for Oscars

Oscar Nominations The Oscars have long been known for shedding light on noteworthy and entertaining films, so that this year’s ballot is loaded with green movies doesn't come as much of a surprise. In the Best Documentary category, Gasland (directed by Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic) and Sun Come Up (directed by Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger) are nominated.

In Gasland, Fox explores how hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), a method of drilling for natural gas, threatens water safety around the U.S.

Sun Come Up is a short film about the Carteret Pacific Islanders, who must leave their homeland due to changes wrought by global warming, making them the world’s first climate refugees.

Another Best Documentary nominee, Waste Land (directed by Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley), follows Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who works with the garbage pickers at one of the world's largest landfills to turn trash into large portraits for art auctions and museums.

Continue reading "Green Documentaries up for Oscars" »

Green Your Old Stuff: CDs

Recycle CDs Repurposing old household items is a great way to reduce waste and avoid making new purchases. This week's tips, then, are about reusing everyday items to clean and smarten up your home.

 Tip #4: What to do with old CDs

CDs aren't biodegradable, and they're hard to recycle. However, consider these uses for your old discs before chucking them: Thread string through their holes and hang them from fruit trees; the reflection scares away thieving birds and squirrels. Cover old discs with colorful contact paper to make decorative coasters. Create a fun craft project for kids by painting a CD with acrylic or fabric paint, then using it to make scratch art.

Tell us: How do you reuse old compact discs?

January 26, 2011

Daily Roundup: January 26, 2011

Aiming High: In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama set a goal for power plants to produce mostly clean electricity by 2035. Reuters

Sticking Around: The first in-depth research into the result of 770,000 gallons of dispersants being used near the BP oil spill reveals lingering chemicals and possible long-term problems. Yahoo! News

Glory Days: NASA's latest tool for understanding the atmosphere, a satellite called "Glory," will study how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles are affecting the planet's climate. TreeHugger

Time for Elimination? The EPA should be eliminated, according to Newt Gingrich. The former House Speaker believes that the "very expensive bureaucracy" "slows down the development of new innovations." Huffington Post

Big-City Greens: Big cities like New York and London send less pollution into the atmosphere per capita than smaller cites such as Denver, according to new data. Grist

--Molly Oleson

Citizen Science: No Ph.D. Required

Chickadee and camera lens Putting what we love to do to good use makes us feel productive and happy. Recently, citizen science — non-scientists using their time and observational skills to collect and report valuable data — has begun to reach a growing audience. Birdwatching grandparents, wannabe entomologists, and closeted herpetophiles can all contribute to research campaigns hosted by nonprofits, academic institutions, or government agencies. It's a good way to use a passion for a place or species to make a difference.

One of the oldest citizen-science projects, the Christmas Bird Count, marked its 111th year in 2010, and has been essential in documenting how bird populations have moved and changed. 

Most existing citizen-science campaigns do focus on birds, but there are also amphibian, insect, and plant projects. Some are ongoing; many happen annually and last a week or so. To boot, an abundance of apps for smartphones and tablets place entire field guides at your fingertips, so now, recognizing what's in nature is easier than ever. Some apps even let you report sightings directly from your mobile device.

Click through the jump to see upcoming citizen-science projects in which you can participate:

Continue reading "Citizen Science: No Ph.D. Required" »

Book Roundup Wednesday: Cooking Green

Books about environmentalism Each Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today, we're recommending books that'll help you prepare food in more environmentally responsible ways.

Fresh from the Market: Seasonal Cooking with Laurent Tourondel and Charlotte March (by Laurent Tourondel, $35, Wiley, 2010): The only book on our list authored by a major restaurateur (Tourondel heads NYC's BLT Market), the main idea here is: If it isn’t growing right now, don’t eat it. The book is broken down into seasons, which are divided into months and then into food groups, so if you want to cook a fungi in February or seafood in September, you know right where to turn. The recipes aren't for the fainthearted (one bean salad packs 25 ingredients) but are très gourmet. A great buy for the serious, eco-minded home cook.

Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat (by Deborah Krasner, $40, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010): Carnivory often gets a bad rap from sustainable-food advocates and animal-rights activists. But is it true that it’s always environmentally unfriendly to grill up a steak? Krasner argues that it depends on where a cow was raised and what it was fed. Animals raised by the right farmers, with the right diet, can make a perfectly sustainable, healthy, and delicious addition to the dinner table. How do you find those animals? That’s the question this heifer-sized book answers with essays, techniques, recipes, and beautiful photography by Marcus Nilsson.

Continue reading "Book Roundup Wednesday: Cooking Green" »

Lights, Camera, Activism at the 48 Go Green Film Competition

Film Competition Starting Feb. 18, the 48 Hour Film Project presents aspiring filmmakers with a new challenge: go green or go home. Like past 48 Hour Film events, the contest challenges contestants to make a short film — including writing, shooting, and editing — in just 48 hours. Filmmakers choose their genre but are randomly assigned a character, prop, line of dialogue, and most importantly, an environmental theme. This year's eco-themes include energy, forests, the sea, and the next generation.

Winners get up to $5,000 and have their film screened at the Cannes Short Film Corner; judging is based on the number of public votes received online rather than critical reaction.

Continue reading "Lights, Camera, Activism at the 48 Go Green Film Competition" »

Green Your Old Stuff: Egg Cartons

Egg carton Repurposing old household items is a great way to reduce waste and avoid making new purchases. This week's tips, then, are about reusing everyday items to clean and smarten up your home.

Tip #3: How to reuse egg cartons

Finishing your eggs doesn't have the be the end of the carton. Perfect for organizing small items like thumbtacks, safety pins, paper clips, even jewelry, egg cartons' bottom halves make useful drawer or desk organizers. Green thumbs can use egg cartons as containers in which to start plants: Poke a few holes in the bottom, add some soil and a couple of seeds, and place on a sunny windowsill. And when you're done with your egg cartons, don't send them to the landfill — throw them in the compost pile instead.

Tell us: How do you reuse egg cartons?

January 25, 2011

Daily Roundup: January 25, 2011

Venturing Forth: Green-technology startups garnered four of the five biggest venture-capital deals in 2010. Twitter caught the fifth. GigaOm

Cufflinks for the Birds: Some king penguins have been suffering survival and reproduction rates lowered by nearly half. The culprit: The bands placed on their wings to monitor their movement. New York Times

Demand > Supply = Trouble: The Colorado River, which supplies water to at least 30 million people in the arid West, is getting alarmingly dry. Good

Dino Phone Home: The remnants of a one-fingered dinosaur, a pint-sized member of the carnivorous group that includes T.rex and the velociraptor, was unearthed in northern China. It's believed to be the first of its kind. National Geographic

Watch and Learn: The Sundance Film Festival will showcase some of the year’s best environmentally themed works this week, including The Last Mountain and All That is Solid Melts into Air. TreeHugger

--Zoë J. Sheldon

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