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29 posts from October 2012

October 08, 2012

Building the Future


College activism has a new angle of attack these days. While slogan-chanting, fist-pumping crowds continue to confront the status quo on campuses nationwide, students are also waging a quieter war in the classroom and in the lab, using equations and blueprints and soldering irons to shape a better world.

These warrior nerds are no less idealistic than their quad-occupying peers — especially when it comes to protecting the environment. They're just deploying that idealism to conceive cutting-edge products, build prototypes, and test their gadgets in the field. Some are even (gasp!) dropping out in their rush for tangible change. This new revolution's slogan might be, "Less dreaming, more tinkering."

A transition is also brewing among college administrators, who are retrofitting energy-guzzling buildings, putting composting programs into place, seeding campus farms, funding clean-tech research labs, shuttering coal-fired power plants, and mandating curricula that guarantee environmental literacy.

Continue reading "Building the Future" »

Organic Pet-Food Recipes: Doggie Chili

DIY Organic Pet Food RecipesCorn gluten. Propylene glycol. Red 40. Grain fermentation solubles. And. . . boot shoelaces? It can be difficult to trust the nutritional quality of some commercial pet-food brands. This week, treat your canines or felines to homemade organic recipes that are better for their health and made from planet-friendly ingredients. To make these recipes even greener, use your leftovers when appropriate and opt for bulk beans, local veggies, free-range chicken, and grass-fed beef

Recipe #1: Doggie Chili 

Treat your dogs to this protein-rich recipe to keep them fit and active.


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October 04, 2012

College: Drop Out or Stay In?

Eden FullTHE CASE FOR DROPPING OUT: Eden Full is saving the world without a degree 

By the time she arrived in Kenya, between her freshman and sophomore years at Princeton, Eden Full had already done the kind of hands-on work that can make a smart, ambitious student wonder whether getting a college degree is all that necessary.

It was the summer of 2010, and she'd come to Africa to test the SunSaluter, a clean-energy device she'd invented in the machine shop in her parents' basement while still in high school. The mechanism rotates solar panels to track the sun by using aluminum and steel strips and heat, rather than electricity, increasing the panels' efficiency by up to 40%.

In the isolated village of Mpala, Full met a woman who owned three solar lanterns but could power only two of them with her standard charger. So Full decided to build a solar charging station for the village and headed to the city of Nanyuki to buy parts. She returned a couple of days later to learn that the woman had been trampled to death by a water buffalo while collecting firewood at night without a light. The woman's husband had taken one of the family's working lanterns, and she'd left the other at home with her children. The third lantern remained uncharged.

"She left two kids behind," Full says. "If I'd gotten there earlier, I could have saved her."

In April 2011, Full learned that she had won a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship, which requires recipients to take a two-year hiatus from college to focus on their projects. She decided to leave Princeton and founded her own company, Roseicollis Technologies, to work on putting the SunSaluter to use in the developing world.

"College will always be there for me whenever I want to go back," says Full, now 20. "But what I'm doing has the potential to impact a lot of people and promote the use of solar. We need that more than anything."

Continue reading "College: Drop Out or Stay In? " »

4 Reasons Organic Foods are Healthier

Organic tomatoYou're at the supermarket, and it's time to choose: organic tomatoes or conventional ones? The organics are double the price, but they're supposed to be more nutritious, right? Well, a study published this month by Stanford University found that organic produce, across many different studies, is as equally nutritious as produce grown with synthetic chemicals. However, buying organic is still healthier. Why? Let's look at four reasons.

1) Pesticide Residue

Would you like some permethrin with your spinach? The Stanford study found that organic produce had 30 percent less pesticide residue than conventional produce (organic food can still have pesticides due to the wind blowing chemicals from adjacent fields), and the USDA has found almost zero pesticide residue on organic produce. And while most pesticides found on food are at levels considered "safe" by the EPA, long-term, low-dose studies on human health are difficult to carry out. In addition, the EPA doesn't look at the effects of consuming many pesticides at once. And with evidence mounting that pesticides can contribute to everything from asthma to dementia, it might be better to leave the stuff out of your diet.

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Ask Mr. Green: Mercury in Fluorescent Bulbs

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

What about the mercury in the fluorescent bulbs, and what do you suggest if one falls and breaks?

—Donna in Ojai, California

Your concern is shared by many others, judging by the number of questions I keep getting about mercury in bulbs.

The bottom line is that mercury in fluorescent bulbs does not add to the total amount of mercury in the environment, and they may even reduce it.

Continue reading "Ask Mr. Green: Mercury in Fluorescent Bulbs" »

October 03, 2012

Eco-Treats That Won't Trick the Earth

On Halloween, the candies you hand out should be eco-friendly—but let's face it: Virtuous confections can be hard to stomach. Leaden banana bread. Spirulina fudge balls. "Cho-kale-let" cake. To save well-intentioned treat-givers from getting their houses TP'd, we asked candy experts to recommend sweets that'll spare the planet but still thrill the kids.

vegan Candy, licorice, panda licoriceANNE SHAEFFER, a classically trained pastry chef in Chicago, started Sulpice Chocolat in 2009. Last year, her company was the official chocolatier of the Grammys; attendees got Shaeffer's hand-painted bars in their gift bags.

"One of my favorite vegan candies is the Blueberry Licorice from PANDA. From first smell to last bite, you can tell that these little chews are made from real blueberry puree. The taste reminds me of a perfectly balanced jam—tart but not too sweet. And they have the familiar chewy texture of licorice without being tough." About $4 for 7 ounces

candy, fruit slices, sunridge farmsAs the cofounder of Choclatique, Los Angeles-based ED ENGORON has traveled to more than 130 countries in search of the world's best artisan sweets. Engoron, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu, is also a chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and food consultant.

"The colorful Organic Sunny Fruit Slices from solar-powered SUNRIDGE FARMS (sold in bulk at many markets) are jelly candies with a great mix of fruit flavors—cherry, grapefruit, lemon, orange, grape, and strawberry. They're made with organic, all-natural evaporated cane juice, tapioca syrup, and grape juice concentrate." About $7 for 10 ounces

Continue reading "Eco-Treats That Won't Trick the Earth" »

Have a Car-Free Day

No Cars, No ProblemsHave you ever thought about what it would be like if we all lived a car-free or a car-light lifestyle? Stanford University estimates that you could keep approximately 19 pounds of CO2 emissions out of the air for each gallon of gas that goes unused. That's right folks, it might be time to ditch that car and strap on those walking shoes for your urban adventuring. Where will you go and how will you get there? We'll leave the planning and plotting up to you, but here are some suggestions to get you moving.

Three ways to get around:

1.) Hoof it. No, we don't mean riding on horseback (although you could...). Grab a pair of your most comfortable shoes and walk. This may be the most labor-intensive way of getting around, but it's also the cheapest and there are really no additional requirement. Going for a hike would be a great way to explore this option, hook up with your closest Sierra Outings Chapter for a list of upcoming hiking adventures near you or head to a festival or farmers' market.

2.) Bike, board, skate, or scoot. Channel the good ol' days of wheeled transport before getting your driver's license. Not only is this a fun way to get around, it's faster than walking and can be more adventurous, too.  Bike NYC has a great bike-friendly event listing. Don't own a bike? Rent one for the day! Larger cities such as Washington D.C. sometimes offer discounted bike rentals, so search your local  bike rental shop for some deals.

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October 02, 2012

App Obsession: Ansel Adams

06_Ansel_Winter_SunriseWho doesn't appreciate the breathtaking photography of Ansel Adams? Whether you're a photo buff, a nature lover, or simply just looking for the latest and greatest apps for your iPhone or iPad, there's a new app out worthy of your attention. The Looking at Ansel Adams: The Photographs and the Man app by MX was created as a companion piece to Andrea Stillman's recently released book of the same name (Little, Brown and Company, 2012). And while the book would probably be more in-depth, you don't have to read the book to appreciate the app.  

First off, what's great about this app is that you can download it for free and upgrade if you choose to. The main menu has a pretty cool interface with period icons like a typewriter, film, and antique cameras. Some fun features of the free version (other than the stunning photos) include: letters, postcards, and notes that give you a glimpse into Adams's every day life; mini-movies about Adams; and a guide through the darkroom process. One thing that is a little frustrating is that it can only be viewed horizontally, so you can't flip the screen vertical to read the letters (zoom helps with this). Remember: if you stick with the free version, you are getting a more condensed version of the full app.  Though if you like what you see, the upgrade is a mere $3 and includes an interactive map for geographic context on the prints amongst other features. 

Either way, this app is definitely worth a look-see if you have some downtime and are looking for an app other than Draw Something or Angry Birds to bide your time with—or if you have an Ansel obsession. Take a closer look at some of the features below: 

Continue reading "App Obsession: Ansel Adams" »

October 01, 2012

Ask Mr. Green: What's the Best Way to Dry Dishes?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

To conserve energy, I've asked my wife to never use the dishwasher to dry the dishes but she thinks that using the "heated dry" cycle protects us against germs and she surreptitiously overrides the air-dried settings.  I argue that like millions of healthy people before us, we always "air-dried" in the dish strainer before owning a dishwasher. Can you help clarify all the benefits to this recommended climate friendly practice?

--Don in Province, New Hampshire

At the risk of echoing my fellow advice columnist Dear Abby, you've got to put a stop to this surreptitious behavior before you end up at a marriage councilor.

Continue reading "Ask Mr. Green: What's the Best Way to Dry Dishes?" »

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