The Green Life:

« February 2012 | Main | April 2012 »

32 posts from March 2012

March 13, 2012

Mr. Green Week: Can You Compost Shredded Paper?


Mr. GreenIn honor of St. Patrick's Day, we're featuring our appropriately attired advice guru, Mr. Green. This week, we'll treat you to a few treasured columns from the archives and some rare behind-the-scenes videos — if you're lucky.

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

Hey Mr. Green,

I shred credit-card statements and other papers containing personal financial information. I usually have a disproportionate amount of green material for my compost, so I'd love to add this shredded paper to the pile.  Is such paper safe for composting?  What about shredded newsprint? 

--Marianne in New York, New York

Except for colored and glossy paper, which might contain some toxic heavy metals, newsprint and other paper is safe to use as mulch or in compost. In fact, one study revealed that paper had less toxic material than straw or grass!

The only problem with paper is that if you put too much of it in your heap, you could get an unfavorable carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, since paper is high in carbon (one reason it burns). But unless your finances are of a Bernie Madoffian level of complexity, your financial documents will probably not disturb the ratio! The ideal ratio is 25 carbon to 1 nitrogen. Too much carbon slows down the process. If that happens, you can always add high-nitrogen material such as grass, alfalfa, or manure. As you no doubt have already discovered, well-chopped material and frequent turning is the key to healthy, happy compost.

Continue reading "Mr. Green Week: Can You Compost Shredded Paper? " »

March 12, 2012

Aerial Perspective Brings Environmental Threats into Focus

Arizona coal plantA bird's-eye view of environmental destruction can give big-shot policymakers a new perspective, and the folks at EcoFlight have the wings to provide those game-changing vistas. Bruce Gordon founded the nonprofit organization to promote wildland protection, with planes offering a unique aerial perspective to current environmental threats to the Western landscape.

"It allows the landscape to present itself without us having too much commentary," said Jane Pargiter, the vice president of EcoFlight. "The land really speaks for itself."

Senators and congressman aren't the only ones going for a ride. Students, journalists, and conservation groups all fly as concerned citizens, each trying to comprehend the afflicted land below. A major goal for EcoFlight is to bring together as many people with differing backgrounds as possible to stimulate conversation and to empower each person to have a voice for the environment.

"They find that they actually agree more than disagree once they're up in the air," Pargiter said.

Continue reading "Aerial Perspective Brings Environmental Threats into Focus" »

March 09, 2012

Pedal-Powered Compost Service Transforms Community

Credit Jonathan McCurdyAndy Brooks has figured out a way to make composting accessible to the city dweller. The plan is simple: Distribute food-collection buckets to subscribers' homes; pick up the buckets on a weekly or monthly basis; bring the food scraps to a central location for composting; then in 10 to 15 weeks, return a share of nutrient-rich soil to his subscribers. His company, Bootstrap Compost — "Boston's Only Bike Powered, Residential Compost Pickup Service" — was founded in early 2011. A then-unemployed Brooks was inspired by Vermont's Earthgirl Composting, a similar service he encountered while visiting family in Vermont.

After returning home to Boston's socially and ethnically diverse Jamaica Plain (JP) neighborhood, Brooks printed fliers advertising a composting pick-up service and posted them around JP and nearby neighborhoods. Within the first week, Bootstrap had customers. The near-instant success of his business is in large part due to its ease-of-use, which creates an opportunity for urbanites to compost. "A lot of my people live in the city. In brownstones and large apartment buildings, they have no space to compost, but they're interested in the idea of composting, and I give them a way to do that."

Continue reading "Pedal-Powered Compost Service Transforms Community" »

March 08, 2012

Green Your Future: Wildlife Conservation Work

NairaDeGracia1_wildlife refugeWhat's in your future? Whether you decide to spend the summer traveling, learning green job skills, or cultivating sustainable habits, the choices you make today could change the course of your life. This week, we've got tips to help you pave a path to a greener future.

Tip # 4: Take Refuge in Conservation

If you'd love to spend your summer protecting wildlife, restoring habitat, or building trails, just look for the nearest wildlife refuge. This year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hire 2,300 youth for summer jobs in 556 national wildlife refuges. You can find even more opportunities through the Student Conservation Association.

--photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service 

March 07, 2012

Viral Videos May Bring Quick End to Slow Loris

Slow Loris by iStockphoto:WarmerIt's no surprise that the ultra-cute, saucer-eyed slow loris has become a star. In viral video clips, the tiny nocturnal primate appears docile and drowsy as it clutches a cocktail umbrella or gets tickled. But the charismatic creature may be too cute for its own good — increased demand for pet slow lorises threatens to wipe out the species in Southeast Asia.

All five species of the primate were already listed as vulnerable or endangered due to fragmented habitat and poaching before hitting YouTube stardom. It is believed that the slow loris has supernatural powers that ward off evil spirits; organized crime syndicates profit from the demand in East Asia for animal parts.

While the slow loris might not possess magical powers, the animal does have sharp teeth and venom, which it produces in a gland behind its elbow. Poachers make quick work of removing the teeth after capture, which can can lead to infection and death.

Already highly sought as pets in Russia and Japan, recent videos of a slow loris toting a little umbrella have helped slow-loris mania spread to Europe and the United States. Despite laws against trafficking endangered species at both local and international levels, the illegal trade continues to thrive from Thailand to Jakarta.

Continue reading "Viral Videos May Bring Quick End to Slow Loris" »

Green Your Future: National Park Gigs

Zion National Park_iStock_000019410381XSmallWhat's in your future? Whether you decide to spend the summer traveling, learning green job skills, or cultivating sustainable habits, the choices you make today could change the course of your life. This week, we've got tips to help you pave a path to a greener future.

Tip #3: Work in a Park

Imagine spending the entire summer in Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Rocky Mountains or the Grand Canyon. The National Parks Service has hundreds of job and internship listings for park rangers, guides, science techs, and seasonal maintenance workers. If you're wondering what it would be like to live in a park, read our Year in Yosemite series, written by resident blogger Jamie Simons.

Find more green internships at camps, ranches, and resorts at CoolWorks

 photo by iStockphoto/milehightraveler

March 06, 2012

Sausage Man Wants You to Look Your Meat in the Face

SulzePatrons of Germany’s Meine kleine Farm will find their next jar of sulze adorned with a photo of the pig from whence it came. The project is the brainchild of Dennis Buchmann (pictured below), a 34-year-old journalist and biologist who’s currently completing a master's degree in governance at Berlin’s Humboldt-Viadrina school. He believes that consumers of head cheese should be aware of its origin.

Buchmann buys his pigs from farmer Bernd Schulz. One day, he found himself stumped — there were five adults in Mr. Schulz's wallow, and Buchmann didn't know which one to choose. He photographed them all, posted the headshots online, and asked his customers to vote on Facebook.

Pig 2 — pink with black spots and batty ears — was the first to meet its maker. Pig 5, which has a Friday appointment with the butcher, will be the last to go because it garnered the fewest votes. Despite its wayward gaze and black-speckled butt, though, it sold out in just a few days.

Dennis buchmannThe venture’s slogan is “Wir geben Fleisch ein Gesicht,” which translates, roughly, to “We give meat a face.” But considering that meat already had a face once, back when it was pig, more accurate phrasing might be “We give meat its face back.” And it’s more of a jingle.

To a certain degree, Buchmann appreciates the sacrifice that goes into forging meat, and so he envisions animal as a delicacy, something to be consumed conservatively and only in its most artisanal forms. Carnivores should recognize the bloody price of sausage, he says: “As a meat eater, you should accept that animals die for your meat. By looking your meat in the face, you stumble and think about eating meat. Give meat a little more respect than a carrot, for example.” But one must wonder if the people who frenzied for this particular batch of schlackwurst are also the ones who would think twice after looking Pig 5 in the face.

At Schulz’s farm, the pigs roll in the mud, eat organic feed, and play liberally with fellow swine. If there is such a thing as humane meat consumption, Buchmann’s customers are supporting it.

--Jake Abrahamson/ images courtesy of Dennis Buchmann

Green Your Future: Organic Farming Opportunities

Organic farmingWhat's in your future? Whether you decide to spend the summer traveling, learning green job skills, or cultivating sustainable habits, the choices you make today could change the course of your life. This week, we've got tips to help you pave a path to a greener future.

Tip # 2: Go WWOOFing

Want to cultivate more than memories when you travel? The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program (WWOOF) has outposts in more than 50 regions, from the Caribbean islands to Malaysia. Whether you decide to participate for two weeks or two months, "WWOOFing" is a great way to learn about organic farming and meet interesting people. Other than a small fee to join the organization, no money is exchanged in the WWOOFing world: Volunteers work on farms in exchange for meals and lodging provided by host families. Check out WWOOF International for opportunities abroad or WWOOFing-USA for U.S. farm stays. To learn more about what to expect and how to prepare, read advice from a former WWOOFer.

--photo by iStockphoto/bjones

March 05, 2012

Update: Walk Raleigh Signs May Point the Way Once More

Matt Tomasulo (left) and Mitchell Silver (right)Lately, the term “tactical urbanism” has been rippling through the city air, passing from one civic-minded circle to the next. Also known as guerrilla or DIY urbanism, the expression signals a new approach to city planning: a method that often combines experimentation and collaboration with the element of surprise.

One such tactician is Matt Tomasulo (pictured, left), the urban planning student from North Carolina who recently installed 27 handmade signs in downtown Raleigh. The unsanctioned signs encouraged Tomasulo’s fellow residents to walk to their next destination and indicated how long it would take to do so. In February, we reported on the Walk Raleigh project just as city planning director Mitchell Silver (pictured, right) began to remove the signs.
Silver, who also serves as president of the American Planning Association, explained that his office tends to operate on a complaint basis. For this reason (alongside one city inspector’s belief that the professionally drawn signs had been installed by the city itself), the placards hovered over their intersections for more than a month. Then the first complaint rolled in. At that point, Silver walked over and personally removed 9 of the 27 signs. 
But all was not lost. Silver kept the signs safe and returned them to Tomasulo when the two met the following weekend. During that meeting, they discussed Silver’s proposal: a three-month pilot framed as a “pedestrian education” program, in which Tomasulo would donate his signs to the city and “city staff would post and maintain the signs within the public right-of-way on city-maintained streets.” Silver formally made the proposal to Raleigh’s city council last Friday. You can view the council’s current agenda (which contains the proposal).  Meanwhile, Tomasulo has collected signatures in an online petition in support of the signs. The council will vote on the decision tomorrow.

Continue reading "Update: Walk Raleigh Signs May Point the Way Once More" »

Green Your Future: The Best Internship on Earth

The Best Internship on EarthWhat's in your future? Whether you decide to spend the summer traveling, learning green job skills, or cultivating sustainable habits, the choices you make today could change the course of your life. This week, we've got tips to help you pave a path to a greener future.

Tip # 1: Apply for the Best Internship on Earth

Looking for a summer gig that won't leave you trapped you behind a desk? Apply for the Best Internship on Earth and you could spend the summer hiking, rafting, and exploring the great outdoors with the Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors programs. Instead of delivering coffee and making copies, you'll video blog about your adventures. In addition to a stipend and all-expenses paid travel, the winning intern will receive $2,000 worth of merchandise provided by The North Face

The ideal candidate is passionate about the environment and being outside; open to new experiences; a skilled storyteller; experienced with video software and production; and highly engaged with their online community.  To apply, students and recent graduates between the ages of 18 and 25 must submit a video clip (60-90 seconds) showcasing their love for the outdoors and why they want to intern with the Sierra Club. 

Watch the video below to learn more:

Continue reading "Green Your Future: The Best Internship on Earth" »

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2009 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.