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11 posts from December 2013

December 19, 2013

The 10 Best Blog Posts of 2013

Best blog posts of 2013From the most dangerous trails to the most beautiful canyons, we covered a lot of ground this year. To celebrate the year's end, we've ranked our most popular blog posts. Check out the list to see the year's highlights and tell us in the comments section what you'd like to see next year.

And the best blog posts of 2013 are. . .

1.) 6 of America's Most Dangerous Hiking Trails How many of these treacherous trails have you tried?

2.) 5 Dangerous Hiking Mistakes Stay safe outdoors by avoiding these common mistakes.

3.) 7 of the World's Strangest Flowers These blooms are bizarre.

4.) 4 of the World's Most Magical Treehouse Hotels Travel to new heights. Bonus: Check out our brand new tree house photo gallery.

5.) 9 of the World's Most Breathtaking Canyons We found the grandest canyons.

Continue reading "The 10 Best Blog Posts of 2013" »

December 17, 2013

Mechanical Mimicry: 5 Robots that Emulate Animals

Warning this spider bot may give you nightmaresMany technological innovations seek to emulate nature. And through biomimicry, these robots are getting pretty darn close. 

Some of these bots were built for fun, some for research, and some just for beating records, but they all make it easy to marvel at just how complicated and beautiful nature really is.

Robugtix's Octopods

This little creepy crawly creature, built by Hong Kong based Robugtix, is potentially the most authentic spider bot available (it is even for sale). Its 3d printed parts make it extremely light at only 300 grams and allow for precise and subtle movements that almost make you forget it is not the real thing. Plus, the little blue eye adds a HAL aspect from 2001: A Space Odyssey that makes us smile. Check out Adam Savage of Mythbusters playing around with his below (skip ahead to 1:45 or 6:05 for fascinating and fear-inducing spider close-ups):

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Green Stocking Stuffers for Everyone on Your List

Holiday stocking with giftsWith only a few shopping days left before the holidays, most people have their big presents wrapped and ready to go. But don't forget that sometimes great things come in small, stocking stuffer-sized packages. We've collected small gift ideas for everyone on your list, from the outdoor adventurer to the environmentally conscious shopper. Hang your stockings by the chimney with care, and fill them with a few of these green gifts:

For the budding environmentalist: Amateur artists will love recycled crayons from Crazy Crayons ($3-$10), which can help teach children about the importance of sustainable living, and to be conscious of what they consume and discard. If your youngsters are the more adventurous type, give them the tools to explore: try magnifying glasses, binoculars, and guides to your backyard flora and fauna. Gifts like Wild Republic's plush birds play real bird calls, and encourage your little ones to get outside and start exploring. 

For the die-hard cyclist: Even the most devoted athlete has to take a break every so often. For a beer after a long ride, they'll love Resource Revival's recycled bicycle chain keychain bottle opener ($12). If your cyclist is a foodie, try Anna Brones's beautifully illustrated cookbook The Culinary Cyclist (Elly Blue Publishing, 2013, $9.95). Beyond delicious and easy recipes, Brones's book gives readers genuinely useful lifestyle tips, explaining how to shop by bicycle and have "an impromptu picnic without breaking your champagne glasses in your bike pannier." (Check out a few of Brones's recipes here on the Green Life.)

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December 13, 2013

10 Last-Minute DIY Gifts

Glass jar snow globe
Image by Lori Eanes

We've already given you four great squash tips and three perfect pie recipes for the holidays, but what about the gifting aspect of this holiday season? With an unusually short post-Thanksgiving shopping window, buying gifts has only become a more hectic endeavor, causing a nationwide plague of anxiety that is then bottled up inside of the automatic doors at stores. Now does that sound like the best environment for holiday cheer?

Shopping is also a quick way to increase waste and expand your carbon footprint from all that extra packaging and driving. For the sake of your environment and mental well-being, we found 10 perfect do-it-yourself gifts that can be made using items that are likely gathering dust in your house right now.

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December 12, 2013

How Does Less Gas Become More Emissions?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

In Sierra's September/October issue, you said that "burning a gallon of gas emits almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide." What? Since matter can't be created or destroyed but only changes form, how do we get 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of just 6 pounds of liquid? All I can think is that the extra weight comes from the air used to burn the gas.

Eunice in Menifee, California

Only God can make something out of nothing. Or, as we say in Latin, Ex nihilo nihil fit.

Your hunch about the weight coming from the air is right. A gallon of gasoline weighs 6.3 pounds5.5 pounds of which is carbon. When a carbon atom burns, it hitches up with two oxygen atoms, producing CO2. And oxygen atoms weigh 1.33 times more than carbon atoms do, which means those two oxygen atoms in CO2 are 2.66 times as heavy as the carbon atom. So your original 5.5 pounds of carbon combine with 14.6 pounds of oxygen, theoretically totaling 20.1 pounds. The actual yield is 19.4 pounds, because some carbon turns into carbon monoxide and some doesn't combust.

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Book Review: EarthArt

EARTH ART flat cover
EarthArt: Colours of the Earth (c) Phaidon Press, 2013

In Bernhard Edmaier's EarthArt: Colours of The Earth, (Phaidon, 2013) we learn that chemical weathering is responsible for the vivid, highlighter-hued yellow of the Crozon Peninsula in France. Flip a few pages, and we read that the rusty-red shade of crusted salt lakes indicates the presence of halophilic bacteria, microorganisms that thrive in saline conditions. A few chapters back, electric blue seas are explained by the depth of their water, jade green wetlands by their algae, and on and on as Edmaier and Dr. Angelika Jung-Hüttl take readers through the rainbow.

A number of things make EarthArt much more than just a coffee table book, chief among them the geologists' succinct and engaging scientific explanations of the colors and textures seen in Edmaier's aerial photos of the earth's surface. Accompanied by a quick introductory overview of color theory from Aristotle to Newton, the authors' brief descriptions of the science behind the natural hues in each color chapter add a depth to Edmaier's photos that make the book not just a work of art, but a genuinely good read.

Flip through the pages for a view of our planet as few have considered it before, jewel tones fading into deep and dusky hues, bumpy mountain ranges into smooth ribbons rivers and flat matte oceans. Grouping the images by color offers the reader an unusual and arresting picture of the earth's surface as a whole. Seldom are we given the opportunity to see the world as a progression of color, from glaciers to lava and back again. The grouping highlights the unique textures only aerial photos can capture: were it not for the Pared Norte glacier's velvety surface, its reddish browns would flow seamlessly across the page into the dusty, craggy mountain range of the Dolomites. For geology buffs and artists alike, EarthArt is a window into a very unique and fascinating picture of the earth's surface. 

Check out some of the photos below. 

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December 11, 2013

Start a Green Band with Sustainable Gear

The Mada guitar is made of organic hempFancy yourself a musician? Then play a tune for the environment while marching to the beat of a different drum with these eco-friendly axes and drum kits.

And remember, the only thing that sounds better than saving the environment is giving a gift. So keep these eco-instruments in mind when you're shopping for that niece who just decided she wants to be a rock star when she grows up.


Mada Series
Sing the praises of the hemp revolution accompanied by a guitar or bass with a body built entirely out of organic hemp, instead of rare or endangered wood. 

The Mada Caimes and Mada Sab are Austrian-made semi-acoustic guitars and basses made of 100 percent organic hemp pulp. The pulp is processed without milling (unlike standard wood guitar production) into "hempstone" and then turned into a guitar body with a signature fluid design. 
They don't sound too bad either.

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December 06, 2013

New Styles for Fashionable Cyclists

Bike commuter fashionThe number of Americans commuting by bike continues to rise, and fashion designers are sitting up and taking notice. Neon spandex generally isn’t considered appropriate office attire, but the fits of most slacks and dresses don’t lend themselves neatly (or safely) to pedaling. Anyone who’s caught a pant leg in their gears or toted an wardrobe change in their backpack knows the importance of stylish cycling clothes. Fortunately, the number of sartorial options for style-savvy bike commuters are now numerous. Check out these designers for fashionable duds with your eco-friendly commute in mind:

Vespertine: Having had their reflective safety vest featured in Vogue, this company has certainly earned their “Haute Réflecture” label. Vespertine pieces are woven with threads that are invisible indoors but shine under a car headlights, making you visible from within 2,000 feet. In addition to reflective and work-friendly shirt dresses, trench coats, and jackets, the company sells a number of chic and shiny accessories. Choose from belts, scarves, bow ties, and jewelry, all designed to keep you fashionable and visible on the road. 

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December 05, 2013

Slow Cycling Gains Momentum: 5 Ways to Slow Down

Young people riding bikesThere's a new cyclist in town, and he's eschewing spandex and speed for comfy clothes and picnics. Slow cycling — intentionally setting out for a leisurely ride, with the goal of socializing and exploring — has become organized. Groups have cropped up in cities all over the U.S. as the slow cycling movement has picked up speed, and some even vie for last place in slow bicycle races.

Though bicycling at a leisurely pace is nothing new, organized rides have traditionally been the domain of those riders looking for a serious workout. But as urban transportation changes more and more Americans are taking to their bicycles as means of everyday transport, increasing the number of competent but casual cyclists on the road. 

"It’s getting really expensive to drive in the city," says Sarah Murray, founder of Chicago's Slow Bicycle Society, where dapper duds are preferred over lycra, and speed is capped at 8 mph. "To have something to do where you’re kind of getting around by bicycle and meeting different people is a win all the way around. It’s just an easy thing to do."

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December 03, 2013

Recipe: Vegan Matzah Ball Soup

Matzah ball soup recipeAs a child of mixed religions, my mother brought her culture to all special family days. This meant that I grew up having matzah ball soup on Hanukkah and Thanksgiving (and Christmas and Easter). Matzah ball soup was and continues to be something that comforts me when I'm sick, connects me with my mother, and links me to my family's history. When I went vegan, I knew I had to make a version of my grandmother's special recipe. After the "once in a lifetime" event of Hanukkah falling on Thanksgiving, it seemed only right to share it. Enjoy, shalom, and thanks!

Matzah Ball Soup

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