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50 posts from September 2011

September 23, 2011

Fashion That’s Meant to be Trashy

Recycle Runway You wouldn't want to live next to a landfill, so would you ever consider wearing what's in it? After seeing the eco-couture fashions of designer Nancy Judd, you might just say yes.

Judd, an educator and artist, started Recycle Runway to bring attention to the overlooked beauty in stuff that's sent to the trash heap — she creates couture clothing and accessories out of items commonly found in the dumpster. The wearable objets d’art — formal dresses, capes, boots and purses — are displayed in airports, malls, and museums. Including the Smithsonian.

Target flamenco dress Judd's designs are often sponsored by corporations, who encourage her to take trash that features their logos and turn it into high-end design. She made Target’s familiar red bull's eye the pattern for her Carmen Miranda-inspired dress, and fashioned Delta’s safety cards and pretzel bags into a cape that complements a uniform made of old seat covers.

Judd is no newcomer to spreading the message of the importance of creative reuse. For more than two decades, she worked in the solid-waste industry, including as the recycling coordinator for the city of Santa Fe. After starting a trash-fashion contest in her arts-loving city to raise awareness, Judd started Recycle Runway in 1998.

Nancy Judd in a recycled aluminum dress "I find fashion to be an effective way of getting these ideas across," she said. "People seem to respond positively to a pretty dress. It’s a cheerful way to encourage people to think about deeper issues." 

If you’re at Atlanta International Airport through next April, look for 18 pieces of Judd's fashion collection in Concourse E. After that, they’ll go on a U.S. museum tour.

Judd doesn't rest on the laurels of her previous designs, though. She's constantly creating new pieces and is working on an “Eco Flamenco” dress that’ll be covered in cereal-box ruffles. Each cardboard flair will have a green wish written on the back.

--Kimberly Button

Wild Animals Take the Road Less Traveled (By Humans)

Hiking trail Ever wonder which creatures are lurking just out of sight as you hike through the woods? A recent study shines light on wild animals' relationship with hiking trails in Canada's national parks.

The critters studied — elk and wolves — both avoided tramping across trails with steady foot traffic. On routes where at least one person passed per hour, both species maintained a distance of 50 meters. The picture becomes more complex, however, in the habitat falling between 51 and 400 meters of the trails. It seems that elk are drawn to this space while wolves avoid it, suggesting that prey animals may use hiking trails as a refuge zone from predators. A second study of ranchland found a similar predator-prey pattern

Understanding how animals react to human thoroughfares could be important to conservation efforts, especially in regard to plans for wildlife corridors, reserves, and highway overpasses. In Africa, forest elephants have been found to avoid roads associated with hunters. In Florida, on the other hand, shrinking habitat has created another problem: panther roadkill. A possible solution? Wildlife bridges. A design competition for one such overpass in Vail, Colorado, took place this year, but the structure is still only theoretical —  Colorado's Department of Transportation doesn't have the money to build it. 

Perhaps the luckiest endangered animal of late may be Hawaii's Millerbird. A group of 24 of them recently scored their own private island.

--Della Watson / iStock photo by David Bukach

September 22, 2011

Love Stinks: Penguins Sniff Out Mates

Penguin couple The plot of Happy Feet — the animated tale of a penguin who uses dance rather than song to woo a mate — could have played out differently, provided those tap-dancing feet were also smelly. Scientists have discovered that penguins use odor to identify friends, family, and lovers.

Researchers from the University of Chicago and the Chicago Zoological Society took samples from the oil glands of endangered Humboldt penguins and distributed the odiferous substance inside kennels at the Brookfield Zoo. The captive birds were then allowed to explore the area, guided by their olfactory senses. When provided with a choice between the scent of familiar bird or that of a stranger, the penguins choose familiar odors. However, if given the option of two unknown smells — one from a relative and the other from a non-relative — penguins gravitated toward the scent of a sexy stranger from a different gene pool.

Smell-based recognition may prevent inbreeding and help the monogamous species keep track of their mates and offspring, say researchers. The study, published in PLoS ONE, claims to be the first "to provide evidence of odor-based kin discrimination in a bird," and could help conservationists improve breeding programs for the endangered birds. Penguin matchmakers, it seems, will need a nose for details.

--Della Watson / photo by iStockphoto/barsik

Jane Goodall Fans: Head to a Movie Theater on Sept. 27

Jane Goodall and Angelina Jolie Astronauts. Dave Matthews. Chimpanzees. Jane Goodall has friends in high places, and they’ll all be at Jane Goodall Live, an event that'll bring the revered naturalist to 500 movie theaters across America on Tuesday, September 27.

Despite her lack of a science degree at the time, Goodall traveled to Tanzania in her mid-twenties to study primates. She went on to redefine the field of animal behavior. Along the way, she’s earned more medals than Michael Phelps and more diplomas than James Franco.

The night begins with a premiere of the biopic Jane’s Journey, which offers fresh material for even the savviest connoisseurs of Goodall's documentary oeuvre. Broadcaster Fathom Events promises “hippos in steamy pools,” appearances by Angelina Jolie and other celebrities, early footage that was recently discovered in Goodall’s attic, and “a look at the fun and playful Jane few get to see.”

The broadcast will also feature an interactive segment during which Goodall will confer by video with astronauts, talk to Dave Matthews, and field questions submitted in advance by the public. She and Matthews have been chummy since a 2007 Live Earth concert. As he told Rolling Stone, “My guitar exploded on the first song, [but] it was overshadowed by the fact that I met Jane Goodall. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.” This past March, Matthews and Goodall traveled to Nebraska to watch sandhill cranes migrate.

Tickets can be purchased from Fathom Events. Prices vary by location but average around $15.

-- Jake Abrahamson / image by Eric Liebowitz courtesy of JAG Entertainment

Green Acts of Kindness: Be Creative

Give love Making the world a better place isn’t limited to protecting Earth’s physical resources: We’ve got to improve the person-to-person environment too. This week’s tips are about how to treat your fellow humans a little bit better with actions that just happen to help the planet too.

Tip #4: Be creative.

We love giving tips, but the most genuine act of kindness is one that arises spontaneously out of your own inspiration. Approach each day with a “How can I help?” attitude and you’re sure to see dozens of things you can do for others and the environment. Need motivation? Peruse the long list of ideas at the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Tell us: What are the small things you do to help your community?

September 21, 2011

A Jacket for Drinking Rainwater

Raincatch jacket Imagine a future in which our clothes can filter and store rainwater, letting us take a sip whenever we want. That future may not be too far away. As part of a school project, two students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design designed Raincatch, a coat that does exactly that.

The jacket consists of what looks like a complex system of tubes, but the creators insist the coat's design is really quite simple: Its collects the rainwater, which then runs down the jacket's back, passing through tubes to get purified by charcoal filters and a chemical process. (It’s safe to assume the project received zero funding from the bottled-water industry.)

Impressively, the entire project, from idea to completion, was done in a mere two weeks. Joshua Noble and Hyeona Yang, the jacket's co-creators, say that access to clean drinking water is “one of the most important issues for the 21st century.” With the hiker, nomad, or “momentarily infrastructure-independent wanderer” in mind, they set out to create a “simple and minimalist” solution.

Continue reading "A Jacket for Drinking Rainwater" »

Fur Banned in West Hollywood

IStock_000008272937XSmall Animal activists declared a victory yesterday in the battle against fur. At 2 a.m. in West Hollywood, California, the city council unanimously approved an ordinance banning the sale of “fur apparel products.” The prohibition bans, within city limits, the sale of clothing with hair, wool, or fur on a pelt or skin. It applies to all animals but specifies fox, mink, rabbit, bear, seal, and chinchilla as examples (federal and state laws already protect dogs and cats).

This makes West Hollywood the first U.S. city to ban fur sales — unsurprising, since progressive WeHo has a history of protecting animals. From declaring itself a “cruelty-free zone” in 1989 to banning the de-clawing of cats in 2003, the town has set an example. West Hollywood also stood up against puppy mills in 2009 and has long supported the adoption of stray and abandoned animals to prevent euthanasia.

Recently elected city council member John D’Amico backed the ordinance. In a statement, he emphasized the commitment to animal welfare as one of West Hollywood’s “core values” with the ordinance simply furthering the city’s existing pledge to be a place free of cruelty to animals.

Activists Shannon Keith, Ellen Lavinthal, and Ed Buck raised support for the ordinance via the Fur Free WeHo campaign. At Tuesday's city council meeting, Buck stayed until the early morning hours to see the measure pass. He was pleased with the overwhelming community support, noting that “Over 100 supporters stayed until 2 a.m.” For him, such turnout helped prove to the city council that a high level of local support exists.

Continue reading "Fur Banned in West Hollywood" »

Green Acts of Kindness: Let it Grow

A tree is a gift Making the world a better place isn’t limited to protecting Earth’s physical resources: We’ve got to improve the person-to-person environment too. This week’s tips are about how to treat your fellow humans a little bit better with actions that just happen to help the planet too.

Tip #3: Let it grow.

Imagine a world without plants. Or even with half the amount of plants that exist now. Pretty grim, isn’t it? With that stark possibility that in mind, make efforts to beautify the spaces around you with bursts of life. Do you know of a bare piece of soil? Make it blossom! You, too, can be a guerrilla gardener or a seed bomber.

Short on time? Greening your surroundings can be as simple as buying a pretty plant and leaving it anonymously on someone’s doorstep.

Tell us: How do you cultivate your surroundings?

September 20, 2011

Green Acts of Kindness: Give It Away

Hungry and homeless Making the world a better place isn’t limited to protecting Earth’s physical resources: We’ve got to improve the person-to-person environment too. This week’s tips are about how to treat your fellow humans a little bit better with actions that just so happen to help the planet too.

Tip #2: Give excess away.

Do you feel a tinge of guilt when the waiter whisks away half of that oversized portion you couldn’t stuff into your belly? Instead of sending that food to a landfill where it’ll emit methane as it decomposes, take the leftovers in a to-go box (no plastic bag, please) and politely offer it to the first homeless person you see. Chances are he or she is hungry and will be happy to get a free lunch or dinner.

The same goes for excess clothes: If you haven’t worn something in a year, it belongs to someone who wants it more.

Tell us: What do you do with the excess in your life?

September 19, 2011

"Woodwalk" to Bring Kenya to California

Paradigm project photo Think backpackers are tough? At least they get cushy shoulder straps. A few months ago, we spotted the Paradigm Project’s Greg Spencer, who calls himself "Stoveman." His upcoming fifth webisode will document the Woodwalk: Starting on Oct. 4, a group will trek 105 miles over 11 days while hauling 60-pound bundles of wood on their backs. According to Spencer, that feels like someone is “standing on your shoulders with butter knives on the soles of their feet.”

Three billion people still cook over open-pit fires. Debilitating respiratory illness, excessive carbon pollution, and wood-collecting odysseys through muggy jungles and harsh deserts are just a few of the repercussions. The Paradigm Project aims to alleviate the problem by distributing rocket stoves around the world. Spencer documented these issues in his web series' early installments. Buoyed by its initial success, he wants to do more.

His engagement with the issue began during a trip to Africa, when he saw these problems up close. He wants you to see them too. With an idyllic but arduous journey up California's coast, he hopes to amplify America’s awareness of this unnecessary adversity that stands between half the planet's population and their daily meals. He will bring the problem home.

Continue reading ""Woodwalk" to Bring Kenya to California" »


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