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37 posts from October 2011

October 20, 2011

Green Your Halloween: Party Treats

Pumpkin soupIt's almost time for ghosts, witches, and zombies to roam the streets in search of treats. This week, we'll help you prepare to celebrate Halloween without making the state of the planet any scarier.

Tip #4: Serve planet-friendly treats.

When trick-or-treaters come knocking, fill their bags with organic, fair-trade chocolate. If you're avoiding sugar, small favors, like eco-friendly stickers, make a good substitute for candy. For parties, serve vegetarian fare made with local, organic ingredients. For the adults: Wash it all down with a sustainable brew.

Share your tips: What do you serve on Halloween?

October 19, 2011

Green Your Halloween: Decorate Mindfully

Buy local pumpkinsIt's almost time for ghosts, witches, and zombies to roam the streets in search of treats. This week, we'll help you prepare to celebrate Halloween without making the state of the planet any scarier.

Tip #3: Harvest natural and recycled decor.

Make a pilgrimage to a local farm to stock up on pumpkins, apples, and gourds. These edible items can be carved or left whole and arranged with leaves and pinecones, all of which can be composted after the holiday. For spookier decorations, find creative ways to use materials you have at home. One idea: Transform fabric scraps or old hankerchiefs into a gaggle of ghosts.

Tell us: How do you decorate for Halloween?

October 18, 2011

Green Fashion Hits the Windy City

Heart Image Vert Couture 2011The Windy City is celebrating high style this week during Fashion Focus Chicago, and at least one event will be dressed in green. The Vert Couture Spring 2012 Eco-Fashion Show on October 20 will highlight sustainable clothing from Chicago designers.

Nature-inspired dresses from the design team Heart (pictured) are made with sustainable fabrics like hemp, tencel, organic bamboo, and organic cotton. They opt for natural dyes whenever possible and use an "air-dye technique," which doesn't require water.

Other designers in the show, like Brenda Abdullah, Michelle Dimitris, and Victoria Larkin, repurpose vintage garments or salvaged fabrics. Underwear designer Richard Dayhoff crafts his garments with fibers made from recycled plastic bottles. Eco-friendly swimwear, jewelry, and wedding dresses will also be featured during the runway show, a mixed showcase of new talent and established designers.

Event organizers went green with more than just the clothes: The backdrop will be a living botanic wall, programs will be printed with vegetable-based ink on recycled paper, and carbon emissions will be offset. And if the show's easy-on-the-eyes eco style doesn't provide enough green glam for the city, a portion of proceeds benefit Keep Chicago Beautiful.

--Della Watson / photo by Christina Noel

Green Your Halloween: DIY Makeup

Green makeup recipes for a wicked costumeIt's almost time for ghosts, witches, and zombies to roam the streets in search of treats. This week, we'll help you prepare to celebrate Halloween without making the state of the planet any scarier.

Tip #2: Make your own makeup.

There's no need to paint your face with frightening chemical concoctions this Halloween. Consult Sierra's list of eco-friendly cosmetics and Blisstree's roundup of green makeup to find products you can use for the haunted holiday and year round.

For that once-a-year, over-the-top ghoulish look, try making your own Halloween makeup. Find recipes for face paint from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and fake skin (for wounds and warts) from the Smart Mama. Want to see how easy it is to mix up some witchy makeup? Watch this how-to video from Threadbanger.  

Tell us: What are your favorite Halloween makeup recipes?

Image by iStock/joshblake

October 17, 2011

An Interview with Record-Setting Explorer Eric Larsen

Explorer Eric LarsenEric Larsen, 40, is the first person to have reached the South Pole, the North Pole, and Mount Everest's summit within the span of one year. He spent 48 days traversing Antarctica, 51 days trudging the Arctic, and 45 days conquering Earth's highest peak before coming home to Boulder, Colorado, in 2010. He blogged and tweeted the entire way for his Save the Poles project, whose goal is to get people to care — and do something — about climate change.

Q: How did you get the idea to set this record?

A: It came to me at end of another expedition I completed in 2006, when I was at the North Pole in summertime. I was surprised to see more water than ice, and I realized that my next trip could be a really powerful tool to inspire others to act.

Q: How do you use your own travel to inspire someone else’s actions?

A: Not everyone has the ability to go to these remote places, so I think there's a lot of value when someone’s doing something that most people can’t. What I try to do when I’m there is build an emotional connection. A lot of people see the North Pole as a vast space with a blank personality, so I was painting a really vivid picture that gives people a human connection to draw on when they ultimately hear about how those places are being lost. My journeys serve as an overall source of inspiration. I’m an average person. I’m not the smartest, not the strongest, not the fastest. When you realize what average people are capable of, it inspires us all to overcome whatever big obstacles we might be faced with, whether it’s on a personal level or these bigger environmental problems.

Q: Did you have to rush to accomplish your goal, or do you feel like the pace was right?

A: The basic schedule was dictated by Antarctica in summertime, so that’s November, December, and a little bit of January. We had a limited amount of supplies, but it wasn’t like we were racing to get to the South Pole. We were able to travel efficiently and make it there in 48 days. The North Pole was definitely a bit of a race to get out before the ice started melting. And then definitely on Everest, we were racing bad weather. But I’d been planning this trip for three and a half years, so I knew the windows of travelability in each of those places. That said, there was no guarantee I was going to make it, and there were a lot of obstacles in climbing Everest where I thought, “You know what, we probably aren’t gonna make this.”

Q: How did it feel when you actually did?

A: I was relieved, actually. And I didn’t feel totally relieved until I got down to base camp because, true, I got up, but there’s still getting down.

Continue reading "An Interview with Record-Setting Explorer Eric Larsen" »

Ask Mr. Green: What Light Is More Efficient, Fluorescent or Halogen?

Bob Schildgen is Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

My dad is an environmental scold and refuses to let my mother have a halogen lamp in her study because he claims it would waste energy and thereby contribute to climate change. Is he right, or just light years from the truth, as is often the case?

—Anna, in Berkeley, California

Father, at times, does know best. Contrary to urban legend (and to some manufacturers’ claims that halogen lighting is green), halogen lamps are nowhere near as energy-efficient as fluorescents. Even the best new halogens require about three times as much power as fluorescents. They do, however, consume around 25% less than the old-fashioned incandescents. Although halogens last two to four times longer than old incandescents, their life expectancy still is usually a lot shorter than fluorescent lamps. The only other lights that come near fluorescents’ efficiency are LEDs, as we’ve previously noted.

The easiest way to rate any lamp’s efficiency is to calculate the amount of light you get per watt of energy you burn. You take the number of lumens (light units) and divide it by the number of watts (hey, it’s just like computing miles per gallon for your car).

You can now find the ratings for these printed on bulb packages in a little chart headed “Lighting Facts.” If, for example, it says a lamp emits 820 lumens and uses 60 watts, then you’re getting 820/60 = 13.7 lumens per watt. If it says the lamp produces 870 lumens and needs 13 watts, then you’re getting 870/13 = 66.9 lumens per watt, or about four times as much light per watt — which is the difference between a fluorescent and an incandescent. (The chart also states the bulb's approximate operating cost and life expectancy.)

To give Mom a tutorial on more efficient illumination, send her to the EPA lighting site.

Got a question for Mr. Green? Submit it here.

Green Your Halloween: Trade Tired Duds

Kids trade halloween costumesIt's almost time for ghosts, witches, and zombies to roam the streets in search of treats. This week, we'll help you prepare to celebrate Halloween without making the state of the planet any scarier.

Tip #1: Organize a costume swap.

It's wasteful to wear a costume for one night and then toss it, so think about how to ressurect previous years' disguises. Accessories like wigs and hats can be reimagined to evoke a different character each year. But if your child is tired of that same old clown wig, swap it for a friend's gently used superhero cape. Check to see if your community holds a scheduled Costume Swap Day. If not, consider organizing one yourself.

Tip #2: Make your own makeup.

Tip #3: Serve planet-friendly treats.

Tip #4: Decorate mindfully.

Tell us: What are you going to be for Halloween?

October 14, 2011

Ask Mr. Green: What's the Deal with Smog Scores on Cars' Window Stickers?

Bob Schildgen is Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

I'm new-car shopping and am confused by the global-warming and smog scores posted on cars' window stickers. I was surprised to see a small, fairly fuel-efficient Fiat 500 get a score of 4, which seems low. What gives?

--Glenn in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

What gives is a complicated system of rating vehicles according to three key factors: miles per gallon, emissions of global-warming gases, and emissions of dangerous chemicals and lung-lacerating microparticles.

So while vehicle A might get the same gas mileage as vehicle B, it could emit more pollutants. In other words, because of different engineering designs, there isn't always a direct correlation between the amount of fuel burned and the amount of crap spewed into the air.

Consider this example: Traveling 15,000 miles, the Chevy Aveo emits half a ton more CO2 than the Ford Fiesta, yet the two models have the same air-pollution score. At the EPA's fueleconomy.gov site, you can compare the miles per gallon, CO2 emissions, and air score of cars dating back to 1984.

A caveat: The EPA's rating of electric cars is conceptually flawed, in that it compares electrical energy with gasoline but doesn't include the energy needed to generate the electricity; so it understates electric cars' total energy use and CO2 emissions. That said, electric cars are still much cheaper to operate, because gas is more expensive than the fuels used to make electricity, and because gasoline engines are far less efficient than electric motors.

Got a question for Mr. Green? Submit it here.

An Afterlife for Industrial Objects

Street - feller 1LGAn Arizona mining company learned of Damon Carson 10 days ago. Now he’s above their copper vein in the foothills east of Phoenix. The company clothes their mining tires in steel chains weighing 7,000 pounds or more. They’ve called on Carson because he has an eye and a platform for, as he puts it, “creative reuse of industrial materials.” Does this tire armor have a future that’s not in a landfill?

It’s a question more companies are putting to Carson and, by extension, to his database of 15,000 customers with potential brainstorming power. He owns Repurposed Materials, Inc., which specializes in turning industrial equipment into other industrial equipment. A snow-plow edge becomes a dock bumper, a billboard becomes a hay tarp, a fire hose becomes a vine for zoo monkeys. “These items can’t be recycled,” says Carson. “We’re trying to find ways to divert them from the landfill. It makes sense both economically and environmentally.”

Carson’s most successful objects are cheaper, and often more effective, than industry equivalents. A brush from a street sweeper sells for around $100 to farmers whose livestock use it as a back scratcher (a stationary cattlebrush can cost up to $1,500). A bisected mining tire acts as a stock tank that’s stronger than its metal counterparts, which are prone to damage from combat between bulls.

In the coming weeks, Carson is slated to speak at recycling symposiums in Ohio and New Jersey, and to tour the Coors factory. “Maybe the forest industry wants something from here,” he muses. “It’s exploratory.”

Continue reading "An Afterlife for Industrial Objects" »

October 13, 2011

Book Review: “This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge”

Tzeporah Berman This Crazy TimeBill McKibben describes Tzeporah Berman as "a modern environmental hero." Others think of her as a radical pragmatist. Her new book, co-written with Mark Leiren-Young, is This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge (Knopf, Sept. 2011).

It’s a memoir by an effective eco-campaigner who has spent the past 18 years evolving from a civil-disobedient student to a key negotiator, reworking policies and agreements with global corporations, governments, and environmental groups. For her efforts, Berman was recognized by Utne Reader as one of 50 world-changing visionaries. This spring, she became the co-head of Greenpeace’s climate-and-energy campaign.

This Crazy Time is a direct and personal no-holds-barred account, beginning with Vancouver Island’s Clayoquet Sound Blockades of 1993, a tipping point in Canada’s environmental movement. Berman was charged with 837 counts of aiding and abetting. After years of work, more than 12 million acres of Canadian rainforest are protected.

The book is equal part historical account and activist training guide. Berman details the development of her supply-chain research, understanding of power dynamics, and methodical goal setting. An effective negotiator who sometimes upsets folks on both sides of the table, she frankly states, “If you’re going to campaign, and protest, and blockade, and do direct actions, you have to be willing to talk to all the players and work out solutions. Otherwise that’s not campaigning, it’s just complaining.”

Continue reading "Book Review: “This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge”" »

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