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50 posts from June 2008

June 19, 2008

Fast Fact: Beijing Car Ban

Half of Beijing's 3.5 million vehicles will be barred from city roads to limit pollution during the Olympics.

Max Your MPG


Today's gas prices make many of us think about driving more efficiently. "Hypermilers" go to extremes, eking out up to 100 miles on a gallon of gas. They may take cues from Granny (50 miles per hour in a 65 zone, anyone?), but Web sites like greenhybrid.com and cleanmpg.com now lend gas-sipping efforts a competitive spirit. Join the fray with these tips:

Travel light
An extra 100 pounds of cargo can reduce your mpg by up to 2 percent. Remove that surf rack when the waves are flat, and take the rock collection out of your trunk.

Face out
Back into parking spaces. Cold engines use more fuel, so three-point maneuvering is more efficient at the end of a trip.

Use cruise control
Pressing the accel button lets you speed up in smaller increments (and burn less gas) than even a feather-weight foot on the pedal.

Brake (very) gently
Skilled hypermilers coast to a crawl with hardly a touch on the brakes to avoid wasting an ounce of fuel at traffic lights.

Keyboard Hero

Even if your kids are young enough to worry about ice caps only in the world of Club Penguin, they can learn to save the planet with new online games. In Recycle Roundup, Gus the Gorilla snags falling trash and sorts it into bins. In SpongeBob & Patrick: Dirty Bubble Busters, the plucky sponge attacks ocean goo with a vacuum. And early-teen gamers can race to save the planet of Helios by replacing fossil-fuel power plants with wind turbines and solar panels in PowerUp.

Eco Athlete Tip: Make a Pledge

Joanna Lohman | Soccer

Having gone pro, Joanna Lohman of Maryland won't be playing in Beijing, but she may still have a presence on the field. She cofounded a group called GreenLaces this year and hopes to have 1,000 Olympians wearing bright green recycled-plastic shoelaces as a sign of specific pledges to take on climate change. (Think of it as an enviro-spin-off of the LiveStrong wristbands that adorned athletes at the Athens games.) "As a high-profile athlete," Lohman says, "you are leveraging your body to inspire others to be more eco-conscious."

Fast Fact: Olympic Trash

Organizers expect the daily garbage load from the Athletes Village to reach 110,000 pounds.

Green Games?

Beijing won the bid for the 2008 Olympics in part because of its pledge to champion energy efficiency, green building practices, and clean technologies. With an eye-catching, energy-saving aquatics center and a smattering of solar panels installed on many of the new facilities, the city got off to a roaring start. But after seven years (and billions of dollars) spent preparing for the Games, has the notoriously smog-ridden capital become an "ecological city," as promised? Not quite. Watch for these innovations--and missed opportunities--when you tune in this summer.

Medal Contender
DESIGN The glowing "Water Cube" aquatics center will recycle water and heat the pool with solar power. Its bubbly, translucent shell, plus tubelike skylights throughout its corridors and parking structures, will reduce energy needs by taking full advantage of natural light. The "Bird's Nest" stadium (pictured during construction, above) will capture rainwater (if any falls in August) for irrigation.

Continue reading "Green Games?" »

Trendsetter: Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food

More than 20 years ago, the opening of a McDonald's in Rome's Piazza di Spagna provoked then-food-critic Carlo Petrini to organize a group called Slow Food. Today Petrini's celebration of local traditions and flavors has grown into an international movement. Up to 60,000 people are expected to gather over Labor Day weekend for artisanal treats and lively forums about food, social justice, and the environment at Slow Food Nation in San Francisco.

Q: How can long, delicious meals be good for the planet?
A: Fast food is the final manifestation of a hyperproductive agriculture that is destroying our environment. Eating is just the last step. What matters is how we choose to eat.

Q: It must be challenging that so few Americans cook.
A: Yes. Today we malign manual work as a low form of knowledge. We must recapture a culture of doing things by hand.

Q: How can environmentalists get involved?
A: Get to know the producers of your food, because food is the best place to learn about ecology. A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is stupid, but an environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is sad.

Next: Carlo Petrini discusses the global food chain in a video with journalists Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and Vandana Shiva at UC Berkeley.

Continue reading "Trendsetter: Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food" »

June 18, 2008

When Pools Face Foreclosure

Swimming_pool_green_abandoned_istoc Note to Ed McMahon:  If you lose the foreclosure fight, nature has dibs on your swimming pool. The abandoned pools of foreclosed homes are prime mosquito breeding spots, increasing public concern over the mosquito-borne West Nile virus. Enter the "Foreclosure Fish." Local mosquito control agencies in California, Arizona, and Florida are dumping the Gambusia affinis into vacant pools, where the fish (commonly known as "mosquito fish") gorge themselves on mosquito larvae. While many environmentalists applaud the effort to control mosquitoes without pesticides, the fish carry an environmental cost--if they find their way into local water systems, mosquito fish tend to bully native wildlife, including the tadpoles of endangered frogs.


Sources:  Treehugger, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press

Bleach or Burn

Snorkel_family_istock_000002987335x If ocean acidification doesn't get them, corals might be doomed to death by . . . sunscreen. A recent study found that chemical compounds in cream-based sunscreens contribute to bleaching in coral reefs by making algae (the symbiotic partner of coral) susceptible to viral infection. This is bad news for corals and conscientious swimmers. The CDC reports that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, so it's not wise to snorkel without some protection. Sunscreen remains a recommended form of sun protection; people are also advised to seek shade whenever possible, wear protective clothing, and avoid midday sun.


Sources: CDC, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle

June 17, 2008

How to Beat High Gas Prices: Rideshare

Rideshare_2 As gas prices rise, the great American road trip may become the great American rideshare. That could mean more serendipitous unions and more efficient long-distance trips than the old standby--driving alone.

Sites such as eRideShare.com and RideshareOnline.com allow users to find car mates based on detailed profiles. But when it comes to ridesharing networks, bigger is better: The more people involved, the more likely you are to find someone who (a) is going your way and (b) isn't a whacko.

Where better to find massive amounts of people in specific regions than on Craigslist? Ads in the rideshare category are generally posted according to the city of origin, and users can post ads offering or seeking rides. Popular routes between major cities (Los Angeles and San Francisco, or New York and DC) can yield plenty of options. And if you have something more unorthodox, like a Pantera-fueled overnight death rage from Reno to Cheyenne, just say so. You may not get a response--but you just might find a kindred spirit. By the miracle of Craigslist, you've got nothing to lose because the ads are free and anonymous.

After the jump: Rideshare safety and etiquette tips

Continue reading "How to Beat High Gas Prices: Rideshare" »

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