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October 20, 2009

Mali's New Eco-Training Camp

Camp Bio, Mali, Africa Mali, one of the world's poorest countries, is among those being hit hardest by climate change. Floods plague its southern half during the rainy season, while its north is a landscape of unforgiving agricultural terrain, desiccated land that’s turning into desert, spreading south, and forcing inhabitants farther from home. As temperatures rise, epidemics of diseases like malaria and meningitis become more frequent and severe. As in many such developing countries, there’s a great need for climate-change mitigation and adaptation assistance, an important component of which is environmental education.

Enter Camp Bio, a new eco-training camp nestled in the forêt classée des Monts Mandingues, in Djissoumabougou, Mali. Conceived in 2006, the camp sprang out of a convention signed by the Malian government and the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Funding for the camp comes from UNCCD, an NGO called the Malian Folk Center, and Mali’s government.

Continue reading "Mali's New Eco-Training Camp" »

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Answering Our Climate Prayers

Church of Christ Building Receives LEED Gold Certification Religion may not be associated with harming the environment, but that's not stopping religious groups from parting the Red Sea of gloomy climate-change coverage and shining the light on environmentalism.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston earned LEED gold for renovations in its Christian Science Publishing House Building. Of the numerous LEED credits awarded, the most notable was for the salvaging and proper recycling of demolition materials and reusing of furnishings.

In a growing age of green design, people tend to forget that the greenest building is the one never built. Therefore, renovating and retrofitting – if financially viable – should be the primary focus.

Christians have engaged in eco-friendliness before, publishing a green Bible made with soy-based inks and recycled paper, but a desire for a healthy environment is universal. Regardless of your religion (or lack thereof), you can green your place of worship and show your faith in caring for the environment.

--Michael Mullaley / photo courtesy First Church of Christ, Scientist

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Random Acts of Greenness: Praise

Write a thank you letter and make someone smile When we do something nice for a stranger without expecting anything in return, we call it a random act of kindness. We think that the same principle can be applied to our quest to live greener lives. This week we'll offer ideas for good deeds that'll make people smile and help the planet.

Tip #2: Write a Thank-You Letter

Al Gore may receive his fair share of fan mail, but local activists often work in relative obscurity. Look for the tireless eco-crusaders in your region and send them letters expressing your appreciation. Positive reinforcement also works for lawmakers: It's easy to remember to write them when you're disappointed in their actions, but don't forget to praise them when they do the right thing. 

Share your tips: Who deserves recognition for his or her environmental efforts? 

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October 19, 2009

Daily Roundup: October 19, 2009

In Need of Trees: Destruction of Kenya's Mau Forest has exacerbated the region's severe drought. Associated Press

Coal Digger: According to a new report from the National Academy of Sciences, the "hidden costs" of coal plants amount to more than $62 billion each year. Treehugger

Help Wanted: Lawmakers and advocacy groups are urging the Obama administration to nominate someone to fill the vacant EPA inspector general position. New York Times

The Rules: Michigan became the 19th state to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Michigan News

The Sea Around Us: The Monterey Bay Aquarium released a "Super Green List" of fish that are sustainable, high in omega-3s, and contain low levels of contaminants. Washington Post and Monterey Bay Aquarium

--Della Watson

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A Sustained Buzz: 5 Experts Filter Their Favorite Eco-Friendly Coffees

The coffee industry needs to wake up and smell itself. As it profits from the global caffeine jones, many of the biggest producers continue to buy beans from growers who slash rainforests and exploit workers. With that in mind (and steaming cup in hand), Sierra magazine invited top coffee experts to recommend their favorite ethical brands. We imposed two rules: They could only pick growers, importers, or roasters with clear planet-positive practices, and they couldn't push any products in which they have a financial stake.

Doug Welsh DOUG WELSH is the chief taster, purchaser, and blender at Peet's Coffee and Tea, a Bay Area–based chain that operates the nation's first gold-certified LEED roasting facility and has been crafting artisan coffee since 1966.

"Sebastopol, California's TAYLOR MAID FARMS uses smokeless, energy-efficient roasting machines, hand-manufactured locally. Its community-funded stores guarantee local investors an 8 percent return and employees a living wage. Their beans come in reusable, recyclable steel cans. Refill one with Don Oswaldo ($10.75 for 10 oz.), a Rainforest Alliance- and organic-certified product from a Colombian farm that boasts a bird-research center. The brew, from heirloom typica beans, is beautifully sweet and balanced with nuanced flavor."

Rohan Marley ROHAN MARLEY is Bob Marley's son and the cofounder of Marley Coffee, which sells organic shade-grown coffee from offices in Jamaica, Los Angeles, and Vancouver.

"Vancouver's CUPPAJOE COFFEE is a great model for an ecofriendly company. Their Sumatra Takengon Organic ($15.75 for 16 oz.) city roast from Indonesia is produced by the Gayo Organic Coffee Farmers Association, a multiethnic co-op that has renovated local mosques, developed a savings program, and constructed houses for Javanese refugees. The flavor has a velvety richness and a full body while maintaining a clean, sweet nature. Classic Sumatra earthiness is accompanied by notes of fruit and smoky hints of spice and cocoa."

Daniele Giovannucci DANIELE GIOVANNUCCI is one of the world's leading organic-coffee experts. He is a former consultant to the World Bank and a cofounder of the Committee on Sustainability Assessment, a global consortium that evaluates ecological initiatives. He lives near Philadelphia and has written several industry reports, including The State of Sustainable Coffee.

"Coffee should embody a commitment to the environment and social justice. And it should taste great. A current favorite: Serpentes Allegres ($14 for 12 oz.), from a Brazilian farm that converted to organic and started social programs. It's available from an extraordinary group called the ORGANIC COFFEE CARTEL, which gives 51 percent of its profits to charities that support farmers. Nobody takes a salary. The Serpentes Allegres has sweet pipe-tobacco aromatics, allspice notes, a viscous body, and a buttery finish."

Continue reading "A Sustained Buzz: 5 Experts Filter Their Favorite Eco-Friendly Coffees" »

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Green Fashion Monday: A Seat Belt Purse

Seatbelt purseOn Fashion Monday, we highlight a hip, green fashion item. Got a stylish eco-friendly product to recommend? Tell us about it and look for it in an upcoming blog post.

As durable as it is stylish, Harveys creative design weaves recycled seat belts of different shades into a boxy, perfectly sized handbag that's sure to inspire conversation and perhaps conservation. The inner lining is made of hemp and printed (eco-friendly ink, of course) with  "recycle" symbols incorporating seat belts instead of arrows. Available from Ecosumo for $134.

--Avital Binshtock

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Hybrids Dominate Fuel-Efficiency Test

Prius Definitely no surprises here: In EPA’s recently released 2010 fuel-efficiency test results, hybrids overwhelmed the list of the most efficient cars, including the Toyota Prius, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and the Mercury Milan Hybrid.

Newcomers to the top-ten list include two Lexus hybrid models. The only non-hybrid car on the top-ten list is the Smart fortwo, a fact we hope will cure those with car envy for Bentleys or Lamborghinis; both landed in the bottom ten.

You might be wondering how electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids fared. Unfortunately, they weren’t even tested. The EPA hasn’t figured out reliable ways to so do quite yet.

For more information about  the test results, visit the EPA’s site.

--Julie Littman
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Random Acts of Greenness: Green Gifts

Potted plants make great gifts When we do something nice for a stranger without expecting anything in return, we call it a random act of kindness. We think that the same principle can be applied to our quest to live greener lives. This week we'll offer ideas for good deeds that'll make people smile and help the planet.

Tip #1: Surprise People with Plants

By giving houseplants as gifts, you'll do more than brighten someone's mood: Plants like the areca palm, mother-in-law's tongue, money plant, peace lily, and certain orchids are known for their ability to remove toxins from the air. The next time you're planning a party, consider using potted greenery for decoration. After the event is over, donate the plants to a local hospital or nursing home. It's a gift that'll help everyone breath easier. 

Share your tips: What are your ideas for random acts of greenness? 

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October 16, 2009

Daily Roundup: October 16, 2009

Greening the Red Light: The latest “industry” to go green? Why, none other than Germany’s brothels. They’re offering a €5 discount for clients who can prove they bicycled over. San Francisco Chronicle

In Other German News: Germany dominated the U.S. Solar Decathlon, though its government seems to be shying away from solar subsidies. Scientific American and Yahoo! News
 
Slow Return:
Almost two decades after Mexico outlawed killing sea turtles, the reptiles are back in healthy – though still vulnerable – droves. NPR

Seeding Hope:
Bill Gates has pledged $120 million to go toward green-farming efforts in Africa. Earth2tech

No Can Do: The EPA moved to deny a permit for America’s biggest mountaintop-removal coal mining site, in Logan County, West Virginia. Sierra Club

--Avital Binshtock
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Treehuggers Have More Fun

More people would develop ecofriendly habits if the environmental movement were more playful. Or at least that's the premise of the above video, which turns recycling into an arcade-style game, reminding us that even the most routine green chores can be fun. 

Inspiring good behavior through creative approaches is the focus of Volkswagen's new initiative the Fun Theory. Another video in the series shows an ordinary subway staircase being transformed into a working "piano." As people climb the "keys," tones are produced. The result: 66 percent more people than usual opted to take the stairs instead of the escalator.

While neither of these videos will negate the CO2 emissions produced by Volkswagen's vehicles, we're pleased to see that the car company is encouraging people to make the world a better place through the cultivation of fun. Being green shouldn't be a chore, so if you have ideas about how to enliven your green routine, tell us how in the comments section below or compete for the Fun Theory Award by submitting a video of your own.

--Della Watson

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