The Green Life:

« May 2008 | Main | July 2008 »

50 posts from June 2008

June 23, 2008

Green Your Beach Day: Ditch the Dunes


It's official: Summer is here. For those lucky enough to live near a lake, bay, or ocean, that means beach time! With just a tip or two a day, you'll be ready to make sun-filled hours at the shore a little better for the planet by next weekend. Here's a simple one to get us started:

Ditch the dunes. Traipsing over sand dunes can contribute to erosion, so use boardwalks and trails instead. While sand may seem to be an unlimited resource, a study from the California boating and waterways department shows development now blocks much of the sand that would otherwise replenish beaches.

Have you noticed changes at a favorite beach over the years? Share your stories and observations here.


  • Finding healthy beaches--and avoiding the fragile ones.
  • Decoding sunscreen labels. We'll show you how to identify effective eco options.
  • Great green surfboards.

Know Your Car's GPM (Gallons Per Mile)

What would happen if the U.S. started using gallons per mile instead of miles per gallon as a measurement of vehicle fuel efficiency? Two management professors at Duke University say the switch could help car buyers get a better read on the real cost of an inefficient car.

According to the researchers, whose study appears in the journal Science, most people in the U.S. think an improvement of 5 mpg yields the same savings (in terms of fuel and dollars at the pump) regardless of the starting point--20 mpg to 25 mpg, for example, or 30 mpg to 35 mpg. The study's lead author told Reuters that this is "a math illusion."

In reality, the amount of fuel you need to drive say, 100 miles, does not decrease evenly as the miles per gallon improve. That means a 10 mpg improvement can deliver more savings than a 15 mpg one--depending on where you start.

Continue reading "Know Your Car's GPM (Gallons Per Mile)" »

June 20, 2008

Movie Review Friday -- Up the Yangtze

Escape to the movies with one of our "Film Fridays" selections. Each week we'll feature a movie review with environmentally or socially responsible themes that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD.

Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 words or less and look for your review in the next Movie Friday!

Up the Yangtze

Written, directed, and narrated by Canadian filmmaker Yung Chang, Up the Yangtze explores the human impact of China’s enormous Three Gorges Dam Project on China’s largest river. The 600 ft. tall dam is on track to become the world’s largest hydroelectric power station in 2011. If all goes according to plan, the river's altered course will have displaced about 2 million people by then. Up the Yangtze focuses on the lives of Chinese citizens whose lives have already been changed by the rising waters. It follows one poor family that built a hut and subsistence farm along the riverbank after being flooded out of their home elsewhere on the Yangtze.

With illiterate parents who can’t afford to send her to college, the family’s oldest child, a 16-year-old girl, must work aboard a ship that takes American and European tourists on so-called “farewell cruises” of the Yangtze. She takes on the western name “Cindy” upon boarding the vessel, and works side by side with teens from relatively wealthy families.

In tracing Cindy’s struggle to adapt to this wildly different culture, the film also takes viewers on a farewell journey of the river. Shots of precipitous slopes rising unnaturally out of a flooded valley and the pale haze present in every scene remind us that China's explosive development has altered the lives of millions as much as the environment. More importantly, we catch a glimpse of the shifting ground where these two -- people and planet -- meet. Few films have shown this more clearly than Chang's Up the Yangtze.

--Michael Fox

June 19, 2008

5 Ways to Green Your Workout


Inspired by eco-minded Olympians? Add a little green action to your next workout session with these tips:

  1. Use your muscles en route. Instead of driving to the gym, walk (or jog or bike) there. If it’s too far, drive just part of the way and complete the journey under your own power. Improve your fitness by parking farther and farther away each time.
  2. BYOB. Bring your own bottle and fill it at the tap.
  3. Share your soles. Recycle your used athletic shoes, or donate them to a clothing drive. Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program turns old shoes into new courts.
  4. Take short showers. Just because it’s not your water bill doesn’t mean it’s not our water.
  5. Speak up. Encourage your gym’s management to take measures to reduce waste, such as turning off lights in vacant rooms, shutting off the sauna/steam room/hot tub at night, minimizing use of the heater and air conditioner, and installing recycling bins.

-- David Ferris

Eco Athlete Tip: Do One Small Thing (or Three)

David Durante | Gymnastics

David Durante has lived at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for four years. That's long enough to be annoyed by the lack of recycling bins--and do something about it. Last year the gymnast founded an athletes committee that recommended ways to green the facility. Now the bins are in, gymnasium lights are turned off when not in use, and thermostats have been adjusted. Think your gym could use some Durante-esque improvements? Brainstorm with fellow members, then talk with management to make them happen.

Eco Athlete Tip: Get Creative

Tara Kirk | Swimming

Breaststroke champion Tara Kirk lives green in affordable, DIY ways. When it came time for new dishes in her Palo Alto, California, apartment, she glued the old ones together to make a colorful tabletop. And rather than replacing her couch when she wanted a fresh look, she covered it with $100 of faux suede. "I had serious doubters," Kirk says, "but it worked."

Learn how to make a tabletop like this one by Tara Kirk


Have you found creative ways to reuse household items? Tell us about your projects!

Continue reading "Eco Athlete Tip: Get Creative" »

Fast Fact: Will Compete for Food

The Athletes Village will serve 220,000 pounds of food each day during the Games, according to the Associated Press.


By Sandra Tsing Loh

I am the last human on the planet to have not seen Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, and for that I apologize. In 2006 I was too sleep deprived to even watch the copies urgently pressed upon me by three well-meaning friends. But as of last fall, my two former toddlers were finally in public school--yes, my husband and I insisted on public--and I had time to address global warming.

I decided to rip off the Band-Aid and convert to total solar energy. While a natural for sunny Southern California, surprisingly, none of my polar-bear-fate-bewailing, lightbulb-changing, hemp-bag-toting friends had it. Which meant--bingo!--I could now happily eco-stalk them as they had ruthlessly eco-stalked me.

Continue reading "Eco-One-Upmanship" »

Ride On: Not Quite Bikes

Bicycles get a new twist with these innovative designs for land and sea. ItBike (above) won't let you walk on water--but it will let you glide gracefully on the surface. It's sturdy enough for the adventurous among us to give it a go on moderate ocean waves. Those who prefer a smoother ride will fit right in among paddleboats in calmer waters.

Continue reading "Ride On: Not Quite Bikes" »

Thread Lightly

Gl_vest_6 A Patagonia vest designed in the United States, sewn in Mexico, and recycled in Japan generates 44 times its weight in carbon dioxide emissions. That's according to the company's footprintchronicles.com, which tracks the life cycles of ten products. Patagonia empowers eco-conscious shoppers by putting the info alongside the "buy" button. With only a few tracked products so far, Patagonia knows it can do even better: The company's chief environmental analyst says it's "learning out loud." That means we get to learn too.

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.