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38 posts from February 2012

February 22, 2012

Supermodel Josie Maran Talks Makeup and Motherhood

Josie MaranJOSIE MARAN has landed some of the world's most competitive modeling gigs: the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the Victoria's Secret catalog, and cover after cover of Glamour, Maxim, Self, and other big-name glossies. These days, though, the porcelain-faced beauty, 33, focuses on promoting her eco-makeup brand and raising her 5-year-old daughter, Rumi Joon. A chunk of the proceeds from her company goes to a variety of charities, including ones that help protect polar bears and argan forests.

Q: Why did you start an eco-makeup line?

A: I used to ask makeup artists, "Is there anything that's healthier or more natural?" and they'd always say it's impossible to do. I really wanted it for myself and didn't understand why it couldn't be done. So I did it. 

Q: How?

A: I went to a lot of conferences. I talked to people in the natural-beauty realm about ingredients, and they introduced me to labs. So I went to the labs with all the makeup that I wanted but that I considered toxic and said, "I want all these products but without the bad stuff." By talking to a lot of chemists and the Environmental Working Group, I started understanding what the toxic ingredients are. I worked on my line for three years with four labs. It took a long time because they’d never done that before, pull out those ingredients to make a good product. But it was very well worth it.

Q: So what were the ingredients you didn’t want in there? 

A: You’ve got to pull out the parabens. But I really think the most toxic ingredients in the world are synthetic fragrances. None of my products ever have synthetic fragrances. Or talc or phlalates or . . . there’s a lot of controversy over what is a petrochemical but I do my best not to have petrochemicals. 

Q: What’s so bad about synthetic fragrances?

A: What I’ve read has really scared me. It turns boys into girls.

Continue reading "Supermodel Josie Maran Talks Makeup and Motherhood" »

Gear That Clicks

Memorialize moments of majesty with state-of-the-art photographic gizmos strong enough to withstand the elements.


Point-and-shoots are facing competition from phone cameras at one end and from compact enthusiast models (like the Olympus Pen E-P3, below) at the other. The best way these old classics can stay ahead is by emulating the CANON POWERSHOT S100, which packs quality, shooting speed, video capability, and noise reduction into a pocket-size device. Carry it during trail runs in case you see an elusive lynx; no matter how fast the feline, you can capture it with the 1080-pixel video mode, at 24 frames per second, or with the still-burst mode, which fires off 10 shots per second. There's super-slow-motion video too. $430

Small cameras may be closing in on the quality of their bigger brethren, but in the end, size does matter. The SONY SLT-A55 has a larger sensor to capture more data, a bigger lens to let in more light, and more real estate for controls and grip. Sony used that space to incorporate one of the industry's most sophisticated autofocusing systems (it's as good as those in $7,000 professional models). With stills or video, light passes through a translucent mirror, allowing the camera to focus and shoot at blazing-fast speeds and making it almost impossible to miss a shot. $700 (body only)

The most exciting new machines defy easy labeling, but you can think of them as miniaturized single-lens reflex cameras, in that they are high-quality, interchangeable-lens gadgets. Barely bigger than a point-and-shoot, the OLYMPUS PEN E-P3 uses a format called Micro Four Thirds to squeeze incredible resolution out of a tiny box, resulting in magazine-quality images. On a backpacking trip, pair it with the optional electronic viewfinder ($180). Add the 45mm f/1.8 lens ($480) as a medium-distance telephoto for a package that can shoot anything in almost any light. $900 (includes a 14-42mm lens) 


Continue reading "Gear That Clicks" »

Repurposed Balcony Planters: Coatrack Garden

Hat rackForget the bright lights of a stage — big-city dreams are made of cilantro, basil, red lettuce, and tomatoes. This week, we'll show you a few creative, repurposed planters that will green the concrete jungle and put fresh food on your plate. With these space-saving gardens from Alex Mitchell's book The Edible Balcony, your dreams of becoming a big-shot gardener could come true.

Tip #2: Hang Plants from a Hatstand

A repurposed coatrack provides an eye-catching structure for climbing vines and hanging planters. Place pots of cucumbers or beans at the base and let vines climb the stand's stem. You can also add string from top to bottom for the runners. Hang small pots of strawberries and tomatoes from the hooks and you'll have a hanging garden that would turn King Nebuchadnezzar II green with envy. 

--photo by iStockphoto/nojman

February 21, 2012

Cheese Graders

No matter how you slice it, mainstream cheese is inefficient fare: Almost 10 pounds of milk are needed to make a typical 1-pound wheel. But you need not forsake your favorite Gouda. Just choose a brand that takes sustainability into account. We asked five experts to name their favorites.

JEFF ROBERTS cofounded the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. His Atlas of American Artisan Cheese was the first book to comprehensively survey small-scale cheese makers.

"Long before sustainability was celebrated, LAZY LADY FARM in northern Vermont utilized green practices. The farm operates completely on solar and wind power, while the hillside aging caves take advantage of ambient temperature and humidity to make a diverse array of seasonal and organic goat's and cow's milk cheeses. La Petite Tomme, a bloomy-rind disk from goat's milk, is a signature product. The soft surface yields to a moist interior with hints of mushroom, milk, and nuts." $11 for 6 ounces, available seasonally at gourmetlibrary.com

Affineur WENDY WU is the cheese expert for Classified, a European-style cafe and retail chain in Hong Kong known for selling artisan foods. Time magazine named Classified one of its top five restaurants for cheese lovers.

"It's wonderful to see production that follows the rhythms of nature and respects the land. BEAUFORT CHALET D'ALPAGE cow's cheese, from the French Alps, illustrates how those traditions are preserved. In summer, meadows and pastures are perfect for grazing, and herds move up the mountains at their own pace. The cows are not overmilked and only produce enough milk per year for about 300 66-pound wheels. This ensures the quality of the cheese and, just as important, avoids overworking the pastures, which would harm wildflowers and grasses." $19 for 8 ounces, available at gourmetfoodworld.com

Continue reading "Cheese Graders" »

Hey Mr. Green, Don't Electric Cars Guzzle Coal Power?

Bob Schildgen is Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

You've pointed out that electric vehicles (and plug-in hybrids) are only as clean as the fuel that generates their electricity. But since power sources vary from region to region, how do you check your utility's power sources and emissions levels before deciding on an EV or a plug-in?

--Stan in Carson City, Nevada

This is a smart, important question (typical of Sierra's astute, informed audience). Coal, a dirty fuel often gouged out and processed in ways that play hell with nature, generates 42 percent of U.S. electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. And you're right about big regional variations. My local utility in California, for example, relies on coal for just 7.6% of its electricity generation. To find out how much coal your utility burns, check the EPA's Power Profiler.

Even utilities that use a lot of fossil fuels or nuclear energy might offer juice from renewable sources, though, so ask your provider about its clean-energy options. If EV fans' zeal for clean power ever starts to match their religious devotion to their cars, they might quickly push utilities and politicians toward saner energy sources. 

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

This article has been corrected.

Hey Mr. Green, How Big ARE the Oceans' Trash Patches?

Bob Schildgen is Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

The world's oceans have gyres, where much of our trash ends up. Is most of this debris plastic? What's the estimated tonnage in these trash patches (some of which are said to be larger than the entire U.S.), and how densely are they packed?

--Georgene in Clinton, Washington

There's a popular image of the oceans' garbage patches as huge, solid islands of disgusting trash, but only somebody who thinks he's Jesus would be crazy enough to try to walk on one. In fact, clots of closely packed debris are rare in the vast oceans, except in occasional eddies where fishnets, bottles, balls, and toothbrushes — and much more — agglomerate.

Between 60 to 95% of marine litter is plastic, and about 270 species are harmed or killed by becoming entangled in it or ingesting large pieces. Nobody knows the total tonnage, but some estimates say that 7 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. (One whale washed up on the coast of France with a whole ton of plastic, including supermarket bags, in its belly.) 

Continue reading " Hey Mr. Green, How Big ARE the Oceans' Trash Patches?" »

Repurposed Balcony Planters: Rain-Gutter Garden

Rain gutter gardenForget the bright lights of a stage — big-city dreams are made of cilantro, basil, red lettuce, and tomatoes. This week, we'll show you a few creative, repurposed planters that will green the concrete jungle and put fresh food on your plate. With these space-saving gardens from Alex Mitchell's book "The Edible Balcony," your dreams of becoming a big-shot gardener could come true.

Tip #1: Catch Greens in the Gutter

The gutters that bring April showers to your May flowers can also bring delicious greens to your dinner table. Attach a few rows of gutter to your wall, cap the ends, fill with potting mix, and plant your favorite lettuce, spinach, chard, or arugula. Harvest your greens' baby leaves and pair with other fresh veggies for a homegrown salad. This sleek garden is best for shady walls to prevent the soil from drying out too quickly. 

Tip #2: Hang Plants from a Hatstand

Tip #3: Shoe Gardens

Image: iStock/vandervelden


February 17, 2012

Movie Review Friday: Big Miracle

Big Miracle chronicles Operation Breakthrough, the 1988 international effort to rescue three gray whales trapped in the Arctic ice near point Point Barrow, Alaska, as the result of an early freeze over of the Beaufort Sea. This film delivers on entertainment and heart, but misses opportunities to highlight the true focus of the film, the majestic gray whale.

The film follows local TV-news reporter Adam Carlson (played by The Office's John Krasinski) as he captures footage of three gray whales caught in an icy trap, unable to reach open waters, a rapidly closing hole in the ice their last link to oxygen. Carlson sends footage of the whales to his Anchorage affiliate, where his coverage of the whales’ plight gains the attention of the nation and the world. It also gains the attention of Carlson’s ex-girlfriend, Rachel Kramer, a Greenpeace activist (played with charm and dedication by Drew Barrymore), who flies to Point Barrow to be part of the rescue effort. 

Continue reading "Movie Review Friday: Big Miracle" »

February 16, 2012

Repurpose or Recycle? Know Your Plastic!


In the immortal words of Mr. McGuire from The Graduate: "I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. . . . Are you listening? . . . Plastics." This week, we'll provide tips on how to reuse and recycle everyday plastic items.

Tip #4: Educate Yourself on Plastic Recycling

It is easy to mistake the "chasing arrows'" symbol as a sign that a material is recyclable, but you might be shocked to learn that it only denotes products that are plastic. Not all plastic is easily recyclable; moreover, a lot of plastic ends up in the landfill, or worse — en route to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We encourage you to read up on the fate of everyday plastics; you may find it is more complicated than you once thought. Stay informed to know when to reduce, when to recycle, and when to reuse.

--image courtesy of iStock/Dic

February 15, 2012

How to Get Your College Ranked in Sierra's "Cool Schools" Issue

Sierra magazine Cool SchoolsSierra has teamed up with three other green-college-rankings groups (SEI, the Princeton Review, and AASHE) to make it simpler for universities to participate in "Cool Schools," our annual September/October issue, which ranks America's most eco-conscious colleges.

School representatives (typically sustainability coordinators) can now fill out our survey using the Campus Sustainability Data Collector, which provides the information to Sierra, as well as any combination of the other three organizations.

The purpose of developing the collaborative tool was to save college staff the time associated with filling each out each organization's questionnaire individually. Having just a single survey to fill out (as opposed to four separate ones) promises to streamline the process for participating universities.

If you look forward to boasting about your school's ranking in the magazine — or are just curious to see where your alma mater would rank (peruse last year's list here) — encourage your school's sustainability coordinator and other administrators to enter their green data by April 30.

--Ryan Jacobs

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