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91 posts from March 2011

March 22, 2011

Daily Roundup: March 22, 2011

R.I.P. Knut: The premature death of a beloved polar bear named Knut, raised by Berlin zookeepers, has sparked a debate about animals in captivity. BBC News

Join the Team: With the creation of the Green Sports Alliance, environmental advocates are hoping to get athletes to spread the conservation message. New York Times

H20 For All: In honor of World Water Day, more than 30 NGOs converged in Cape Town, South Africa, to confront water challenges posed by growing urbanization. Guardian

California Cap: A California judge suspended the state's ambitious cap-and-trade program over fears that policy alternatives were not adequately considered. Huffington Post Green

Remarkable Feat: Wildlife officials report that an albatross named Wisdom, the world's oldest known wild bird, managed to survive the Mar. 11 tsunami that swept over the Midway Atoll. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

--Rosie Spinks

Green Box Top: Deals That are Good in Every Sense

GBT_facebook_logo The attempt to be simultaneously eco-minded and frugal can be frustrating, given that organic food and sustainable products tend to be more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Group coupon-buying companies (e.g., Groupon, LivingSocial) are hugely popular now, but their deals are geared toward a mainstream audience, leaving shoppers who are concerned with the social and environmental consequences of their consumption rifling through discount offers for Botox. 

Michelle Yorn and Lynn Ruolo, San Francisco yoga instructors weary of deals for cheap teeth-whitening or electrolysis, took matters into their own hands. Green Box Top, which we covered right after it launched last August, is a daily deal site that caters to the eco-conscious set, offering discounts on everything from vegetarian restaurants to eco-cleaning services. An explanation of how each vendor is aligned with Green Box Top’s mission is included with each daily deal, and a portion of every sale goes to like-minded nonprofits.

Continue reading "Green Box Top: Deals That are Good in Every Sense" »

Agroecology: How to Feed the World Without Destroying It

Farmers market vegetables "Eat Local." So goes the maxim of many environmentalists who advocate for de-industrialized farming. "Feed the world." It's an objective important to international development agencies and governments. And the latter is often thought of as being at odds with the former.

However, those two dictates appear to slowly be aligning. A U.N. report (PDF) released earlier this month highlights the field of agroecology — essentially the study of sustainable agriculture — as the most promising approach to the "concretization of [the] human right" to food.

While incorporating the concepts of "sustainable" and "organic," agroecology is a more holistic discipline. With regard to input sources, yields, farming tools, and land-management practices, it's an approach starkly different than today's industrial model. And where the current food system thrives on the consumer's lack of knowledge, an agroecological one requires that the buyer be informed. 

Continue reading "Agroecology: How to Feed the World Without Destroying It" »

Green Your Water Use: Have Some Sense

EPA WaterSense logo March 22 is World Water Day, so this week’s tips are about how to help protect our world’s water supply.

Tip #2 Have some sense.

The next time you need to replace a water-using appliance — whether a toilet, a faucet, or a showerhead — remember to look for the WaterSense label. Fixtures with that seal of approval have been tested and certified to save at least 20% more water than a non-certified counterpart; here's a complete list of WaterSense products

Tell us: Do you look for certification when buying new items?

March 21, 2011

Daily Roundup: March 21, 2011

Spoiled Milk: Japan’s list of tainted agricultural products due to radiation at the Fukushima nuclear plant has grown to include canola and chrysanthemum greens, after milk and spinach showed traces of radioactive isotopes. Los Angeles Times

Stressed Out: In the wake of Japan’s nuclear disaster, E.U. Ministers are developing a “stress test” for nuclear power plants in Europe; the assessment will include factors such as seismic activity, flooding, and power loss at reactors. BBC News

Leading by Example: Hoping to lead the way to greener universities, Kean University signed an agreement with the EPA, pledging to reduce its energy, water, and fuel usage. ENN

Betting on It: The federal government is investing $60 million in three major studies on the effects of climate change on crops and forests. San Francisco Chronicle

Bird Blues: A shipwreck near Nightingale Island in the South Atlantic is threatening nearly half the world’s population of endangered northern rockhopper penguins. Guardian

--Shirley Mak

When High Gas Prices are Low Gas Prices

Gas_price In addition to death and taxes, it's a fair certainty that once gas prices go up, Americans will begin to complain. Due to an unstable world economy and political upheaval in oil-producing countries such as Libya, the current average price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. is $3.55, according to AAA's daily statistics.

But as Sierra has reported, even at this higher level, U.S. gas prices do not reflect their real ecological or social cost. This telling chart, compiled by the good folks at Good magazine, compares the average price of gas in the U.S. with 25 other nations. The U.S. price ranks firmly at the bottom — by more than $5 in some cases. This vast discrepancy is mostly due to oil lobbyists, subsidies, and Congress's reluctance to imperil an economy built on fossil fuels.

While timing your gas purchase appropriately may save you money in the short term, it's clear that paying $8.83 for a gallon of gas (as the Dutch do) doesn't constitute a sustainable future. You can get involved in promoting an alternative-energy future by joining the Sierra Club's Beyond Oil campaign.

--Rosie Spinks

Green Fashion Monday: Gloves Made of Plastic Bottles

Gloves 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.

Winter's wrapping up, but in many cities it’s still cool enough to freeze fingers. These fleece gloves from Freehands were once plastic bottles. Now they’re comfortable, practical hand-warmers, complete with caps on the thumb and index finger that flip back to allow your fingers access to smartphone keypads. When flipped, the caps are held in place by discreet magnets.

The gloves come in magenta, royal blue, or black, and for $18, are worth keeping in your bag or coat pocket for everyday use.

--Tim McDonnell

Shifting Poo-radigms

Green_Toilet With our global population nearing 7 billion, we humans are generating an unprecedented amount of waste. Not just plastic doodads and junked cars, but good old-fashioned human waste, the kind we generally like to flush away as quickly as possible. 

It's a problem that'll only get worse, so innovators are coming up with ways to use the inevitable byproducts of human society.

Composting toilets have long been favored by back-to-the-earth types, but the LooWatt, a waterless iteration, takes things a step further — this toilet is made of the very thing it’s meant to take in. After filling the biodegradable bag inside, users (it's designed mostly for use in developing countries) make a deposit at a biodigesting facility, where they get dried, composted material as biofuel for cooking. 

As it turns out, number 1 might be as useful as number 2: A scientist at Ohio University invented a method that uses urine to create hydrogen fuel via ammonia electrolysis. The process, known as the GreenBox, has been scaled up for use in high-traffic places like office buildings. It's also helping transform the waste from livestock-raising facilities that would otherwise go to, well, waste. 

Hold that flush, we smell a revolution.

--Zoë J. Sheldon

Green Your Water Use: Fix a Leak

Leaky faucet March 22 is World Water Day, so this week’s tips are about how to help protect our world’s water supply.

Tip #1: Fix a leak.

The EPA’s WaterSense program has declared this “Fix a Leak Week” and is advising people to check their plumbing and irrigation systems and fix them if needed. According to the agency, water leaks in U.S. homes account for more than 1 trillion wasted gallons per year. To find out whether your home has a leak, check your water meter. Then wait two hours without using any water. Then check the meter again. If the reading changes, you’ve got a leak. American Water’s leak-detection kit (PDF)  provides other useful ideas for detecting sources of wasted water.

Tip #2: Have some sense.

Tip #3: Eat and drink for good.

Tip #4: Take shorter showers.

Tell us: How do you conserve water?

March 18, 2011

Daily Roundup: March 18, 2011

Cause for Concern: A recent analysis of nuclear power plant safety highlighted 14 "near misses," including California's Diablo Canyon plant, which operated for 18 months with its emergency system disabled. The plant is located near the San Andreas and Hosgri fault lines. San Francisco Chronicle and Treehugger

Smooth Move: President Obama ordered a new safety review of U.S. nuclear plants. CBS News

No Fear: Officials say the small amounts of radiation detected in California today pose no threat to human health. The radiation, released from Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, is expected to reach Europe next week. Reuters

New Digs: Jane Goodall's archives will be moved to Duke University. The primate expert's data was previously held at the University of Minnesota. L.A. Unleashed

Hybrid on Hold: A Japanese factory that produces Prius batteries sustained earthquake damage. Manufacturing operations have been suspended at Toyota, Nissan, and other companies to help the country conserve energy. Los Angeles Times

--Della Watson

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