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18 posts from July 2013

July 15, 2013

Little Bog of Horrors: 4 Types of Deadly Plants

Venus flytrapIt's not easy being a bug. Not only do they have to avoid being eaten by other insects and animals or being smushed by shoes, they also have to avoid the efficient traps set by carnivorous plants.

Carnivorous plants live in nutrient-poor environments, like bogs, where they survive by capturing invertebrates and digesting them for nutrients. There are several methods of entrapment that these unique species of plants have developed, making them experts at capturing those unlucky little bugs.

Four Ways Carnivorous Plants Trap Prey

Pitcher plant with fly on rim1.) Pitfall Traps 

Pitcher plants (or families Nepenthaceae and Sarraceniaceae) have rolled leaves that form steep, slippery sides leading down to a vat full of digestive enzymes and water full of bacteria, respectively. 

If the deep burgundy coloring (mimicking decaying meat), floral fragrances, or the smell of trapped prey aren't enough to draw a prey item in, these plants also have cells that generate UV light to entice them further.

2.) Snap Traps

A Venus flytrap and the waterwheel plant (the aquatic cousin of the Venus flytrap) are perfect examples of a carnivorous plant with a snap trap. The plants' leaves are hinged at the base and when certain trigger hairs are touched in succession, the leaves shut with their prey inside. Plants with snap traps release digestive enzymes from glands on the leaves and, as the insect decomposes, the leaves absorb the insect. Once a meal is fully absorbed, the trap reopens and waits for its next victim. 

Continue reading "Little Bog of Horrors: 4 Types of Deadly Plants" »

July 12, 2013

Emmanuelle Chriqui Takes on Hollywood's Trash

Emanuelle ChriquiAs Sloan, she played the love interest on HBO's rabidly popular Entourage, and now she portrays Lorelei on The Mentalist. In her free time, actress Emmanuelle Chriqui is an environmental activist: She helps plant school gardens in low-income neighborhoods, takes life-changing trips to places like Africa, and, since 2007, has helped run the Environmental Media Association, which promotes eco-efforts in the entertainment industry. Read on to find out how her path toward greenness was paved with persistent throat infections and homemade apple tarts.

What made you get involved with the Environmental Media Association?

Years ago, I was shopping for a new car and was excited about the Prius. Someone put me in touch with Debbie Levin, the president of EMA. We hit it off famously. She saw my inclination toward living a natural life and asked if I'd be interested in joining. I’d already started doing stuff that was important to me on my own, but the association is amazing because it uses the media to create awareness. I was coming off Entourage, and there was sort of a lot of heat at that time, so I thought I could add something. I’ve been working with them ever since.

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Movie Review: Gasland Part II

Gasland Part 2“The F-word isn’t in the dark anymore,” says Josh Fox, the director, writer, and narrator of the anti-fracking film Gasland Part II at the beginning of the deeply unsettling second installment of the Gasland series. The activist/filmmaker resides in the home his father built the year he was born. Located along the Delaware River, the area has been riddled with natural gas drilling operations, making Fox the perfect person to tell the tale of fracking and the shroud of mystery that surrounds it. His home is in the foreground of this brewing debate as it sits above the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposit, also known by the infamous nickname “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”

The film is an eye-opening case study of towns and counties all over the country impacted by fracking and its side effects. Places like Dimock, PA, Dallas- Fortworth, TX, Pavillion, WY, and even Los Angeles take center stage as they happen to be unfortunate enough to be located over the natural gas deposits that opened the floodgates for natural gas extraction. Fox uses chilling visuals like children playing in open drill fields, notorious flaming water hoses that one resident says “never fail to light,” and laundry lists of unpronounceable chemicals that are found in these peoples water supplies. Hearing the disastrous symptoms and conditions of locals in these communities only prolongs the documentary's lasting impact on its viewers.

Continue reading "Movie Review: Gasland Part II" »

July 11, 2013

Medium as Message


One evening four years ago, Anthony Ganjou was standing on the curb outside a London pub when he noticed an advertisement on a passing bus. It was for a smoothie being billed as 100% natural. Wondering why the brand "preached the natural mantra on a dead tree," he launched Curb, a marketing firm that uses natural and organic materials to produce ads with a minimal footprint.

A striking example of Curb's work was the billboard created to promote the Warner Bros. film Contagion. Made from live bacteria and fungi, it prompted more than 100,000 Twitter and Facebook mentions and at least 560,000 YouTube views. "All we did," Ganjou says, "was deliver the title of the movie in the coolest way we could imagine."

Another sustainable marketing blitz involved stamping the logo of a British sports company onto freshly fallen snow.

Ganjou is convinced that his company's eco-messaging works better than conventional ads: "Humans have interacted with nature for hundreds of thousands of years," he says. "Billboards and screens have only been around for 100 years. Which do you think is going to be fundamentally more effective?" 

—Wendy Becktold

July 10, 2013

How We Roll: 5 Great Eco-Products for Cars

Of course you'd rather take the bus. Or the train. Or ride your bike. Or walk! But the reality is that 97% of Sierra Club members own at least one car, and presumably drive it occasionally. It's a statistic we hope gets better soon. But until it does, those of us who still burn dinosaur bones to get around can make sure that our car-care products, at least, are responsible. These five vehicle accoutrements will help green your ride. 

Yokohama tireFuel is made of petroleum. So are most tires. But natural rubber helps YOKOHAMA'S Avid Ascend tire prevent using up more than 100 gallons of gas — and letting out more than 2,100 pounds of CO2 — over its life. That says a lot, given that this reinvented wheel goes 17,000 miles farther than most. Its rolling resistance rate is 20% lower than that of conventional tires, but performance doesn't suffer: Grooves channel water away while orange oil improves grip and reduces the need for virgin rubber. Price varies by region; check with dealers (If you prefer to invest in high-quality used tires, check out champtires.com.) Waterless car wash

Running your vehicle through a car wash uses more than 45 gallons of water and lots of chemical suds. The hose-in-the-driveway method can waste even more, and the grimy runoff goes into storm drains. Instead, use the Waterless Car Wash by ECO TOUCH, a popular product that evokes Karate Kid Zen: Just spray on, then wipe off. Your car will look shiny, clean, scratch-free. And the liquid is biodegradable, phosphate-free, and nontoxic, since its key ingredients are plant-derived. Thanks to citrus essential oils, it smells nice too. $13 for a 24-ounce bottle Valvoline

You'd think nothing could be more petrochemical than motor oil, but VALVOLINE has good options both conventional and synthetic. The brand's MaxLife NextGen High Mile Motor Oil is 50% recycled and double-refined to extend engine life and improve fuel efficiency. It's manufactured via a process that uses 90% less energy than cranking out standard engine oil. $5.50 for a 1-quart bottle Lubricheck

If you could give your car a blood test, would you? Sebastian Blanco, the lead blogger for AOL's AutoblogGreen, alerted us to a device called LUBRICHECK. "In only a few minutes," Blanco says, "it'll help you tell if your oil is still good, which could spread out your trips to the service bay." Pull out your car’s dipstick, drip a few drops onto Lubricheck’s gold-colored sensor pad, and it spits out a 1-to-10 digit that lets you know whether you can keep riding on your lube: The lower the number, the less urgent your oil change. $40 Amala

Forget those dangling trees. They may be shaped like the Sierra Club's logo, but there's nothing natural about those chemical-swathed "pines." To freshen your car, choose an organic plant-oil spray like AMALA's spritzable mists in peppermint, lavender, or rose (all of which work on clothes too—so long, Febreze!). The German company never tests on animals and is certified by Natrue$24

July 09, 2013

Pet Provender: 5 Eco-Friendly Dog and Cat Foods

The best pet food
While you can’t force Fido or Fluffy to go vegan, you can throw the planet a bone when feeding them. We tracked down five of the best dog and cat foods to shrink your pet’s environmental pawprint.

Evangers pet foodThe Organic Turkey With Potato and Carrots Dinner from EVANGER'S, a family-owned company founded in 1935, is one of the most eco-conscious dog foods you can buy. Being certified organic is just the start—many of its ingredients come from within 50 miles of Evanger's Illinois facility, and it's packed in cans made from 80% recycled steel. The factory, on its way toward LEED certification, barely puts out enough daily waste to fill a standard 60-gallon trash can, since all manufacturing materials are reused and recycled. All your canine pals will care about, however, is savoring this complete dinner. About $28 for a dozen 13-ounce cans Honest Kitchen pet food

Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a holistic veterinarian and pet blogger in Los Angeles, recommends grain-free Grace from the HONEST KITCHEN. "Cats," he says, "are obligate carnivores and don't benefit from the heavily grain-based diets on most store shelves." Ingredients include (among other human-grade goodies) free-range chicken and eggs, organic flaxseed, and sweet potatoes, spinach, and cranberries—all without GMOs. It comes as a powder (just add water before serving), which helps control Fluffy's portion size—stemming what Mahaney calls the "feline obesity epidemic"—and lessens shipping and packaging waste. The unbleached paper box is made from recycled materials and, like everything else from Honest, is made in North America. $24 for 2 pounds of powder

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Green Your Bedroom: Our Eco-Sex Guide

LifeYou recycle, use public transport, switch off the lights when you leave the room. . . so why not green your life in the bedroom? Condoms and sex toys contribute to the huge pile of junk in landfills and oceans. So yes, you can make a difference while having sex. We asked Jessica VonDyke, owner of The Garden, a sexuality resource center and soon-to-be sex shop, to share her tips for a greener sex life.

Sex Toys

Leaf's phthalate-free Life vibrator is 100% silicone. VonDyke suggests sex toys that are 100% silicone because blends can contain plastic fibers. An easy way to check is to open the box -- if there is no smell coming from the vibrator, the product is probably 100% silicon. VonDyke also recommends splurging on the more expensive sex toys. The higher the quality, the longer they last, and the more care was taken to make them healthy for you and the environment. The Life vibrator comes with a rechargeable battery, which lasts over two hours.

Price: $95


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July 08, 2013

Ask Mr. Green: What About Unrecyclable Stuff?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

What shall I do with the containers that our local collectors do not accept?

—Rosalind, in Great Neck, New York

You should put them in the regular garbage (assuming that they don’t contain hazardous waste) or try to reuse or repurpose them (remember: "reduce, reuse, recycle"?) There are hundreds of suggestions for reuse online—from absurd to ingenious—that you find just by searching for “creative reuse.”  (Check out Sierra magazine's "Repurpose" column for more ideas.) Because recycling policies vary so much by location, to be absolutely sure what you can, can’t, or must recycle, contact your local recyclers and ask them.

Speaking of garbage, our national scandal of a refuse heap has shrunk a bit, from the peak of 253.7 million tons dumped in 2005 to 250.4 million tons dumped in 2011, according to the EPA. Out of this ghastly mass, we recycled or composted 34.7 percent, up from 31.4 percent in 2005. Our gross rate of dumping has fallen from its peak of 4.74 pounds per person in 2000 to 4.4 pounds per person. That almost 35 million tons of this mess consists of food waste is surely a cause for concern, if not a sin, as the Pope himself indicated on World Environment Day when he proclaimed throwing food away to be a “despicable” example of the “culture of waste.”

Continue reading "Ask Mr. Green: What About Unrecyclable Stuff?" »

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