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Plant Suits

Patagonia makes waves with plant-based wetsuits and obligatory weed jokes

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Patagonia, the outdoor clothing outfitter, has figured out what gets surfers’ attention -- and it’s something more blunt than big breaks. Yep, the company plans to bring them in with the promise of weed.

In a new print ad Patagonia declares, “We have the best weed in town (and we’re giving it away)":

Patagonia's ad will show up in print publications this fall. Click to embiggen.
Patagonia's ad will show up in print publications this fall. Click to embiggen.

No, don’t be silly, not that sort of weed! In most states that’s still illegal. What Patagonia's got on offer isn't actually a weed at all: The ad refers to guayule, a desert shrub native to the Southwestern U.S. that's being baked into wetsuits instead of brownies. Priced between $529 and $549, the company's hardly giving the suits away -- but it's decided to make the new biorubber, made by Yulex, available to the rest of the surf industry.

Why? It's not just out to leave you duped. The brand believes that open sourcing a rubber made from greener alternatives will give the surf industry a break from non-biodegradable, resource-intensive neoprene.

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Green house

Using Airbnb is greener than staying in hotels

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Airbnb recently scored surprise props from Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, a hotel-industry competitor. And news today about the environmental benefits of staying in shared homes versus hotels might add up to yet another W for the growing vacation-rental juggernaut.

According to a study conducted by Airbnb and Cleantech Group, travelers who stay in Airbnb properties tend to eat up less energy than traditional hotel guests. In a press release, Airbnb chief product officer and cofounder Joe Gebbia says, "In North America alone, Airbnb guests use 63 percent less energy than hotel guests -- that's enough energy to power 19,000 homes for one year." The study also suggests that both Airbnb hosts and guests tend to be greener consumers.

Some other highlights from the study:

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Cargill promises to get right with palm oil

palm oil fruit
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Back on National Doughnut Day (the holiday we all know and love), I mentioned that there were three major-company holdouts -- Cargill, IOI Loders Croklaan, and Bunge -- that were still buying palm oil from people cutting down rainforests.

Now Cargill has come around, committing to insure that its palm oil supply chain is traceable, transparent, and not causing deforestation.

There's real momentum here -- Cargill is a major player. And it's just the latest to join this parade. In June, I quoted Glenn Hurowitz, chair of the Forest Heroes Campaign:

The vegetable oil industry is in the midst of a revolution away from deforestation. Last December, the Asian agribusiness giant Wilmar International instituted a no deforestation policy, and since then there’s similar commitments coming in from companies every couple of weeks," said Hurowitz.

Of course this doesn't mean that deforestation and agricultural expansion is just vanishing. But if we want to save forests, it's exactly this kind of steady, measured pressure that can actually work. If eaters show that they are serious about the environment, and are willing to pay to protect it, producers and farmers will find it's in their interest to become stewards.

Read more: Food

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Under water

The EPA’s struggle to combat water pollution

The San Pedro River, an intermittent stream.
William Herron

For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been frustrated in its efforts to pursue hundreds of cases of water pollution -- repeatedly tied up in legal fights about exactly what bodies of water it has the authority to monitor and protect. Efforts in Congress to clarify the EPA's powers have been defeated. And two Supreme Court decisions have done little to decide the question.

Most recently, in April, the EPA itself declared what waters were subject to its oversight -- developing a joint rule with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that sought to end the debate and empower the EPA to press hundreds of enforcements actions against alleged polluters across the country.

The new rule, for instance, explicitly defines several terms -- tributary, floodplain, and wetland -- and makes clear that those waters are subject to its authority.

But the EPA's effort has been met with immense opposition from farmers who say the agency is overreaching. An expansive online campaign organized and financed by the American Farm Bureau Federation has asserted that the new rule will give the EPA jurisdiction over farmers' irrigation ditches, watering ponds, and even puddles of rain.

Read more: Politics

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Are there two different versions of environmentalism, one “white,” one “black”?

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Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers
The mountains and the endless plain --
All, all the stretch of these great green states --
And make America again!
- Langston Hughes, 1938

I really didn’t want to have to address this. While reading through University of Michigan professor Dorceta Taylor’s latest report, “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations,” and thinking about what I would write about it, I had hoped to focus on the solutions. Those solutions -- confronting unconscious and subconscious bias and other subtle forms of discrimination -- are the parts I had hoped environmentalists would be eager to unpack.

I thought they’d read about the “green ceiling,” where mainstream green NGOs have failed to create a workforce where even two out of 10 of their staffers are people of color, and ask themselves what could they do differently. I thought, naively, that this vast report, complete with reams of data and information on the diversity problem, would actually stir some environmentalists to challenge some of their own assumptions about their black and brown fellow citizens.

I was wrong.

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At this year’s big climate rally, most of the people won’t be pale, male, and stale

climate ralliers
People's Climate March

More than 500 organizations are planning a historic event for Sept. 21 in New York City, what they say will be the largest rally for climate action ever. Organizers and ralliers will be calling on world leaders to craft a new international climate treaty, two days before those leaders will convene at a Climate Summit at the United Nations headquarters. Jamie Henn, spokesperson for 350.org, the main convener of the event, declined to offer a precise target for turnout, but the current holder of the largest-climate-rally title, a February 2012 march on the White House, drew around 50,000 people, so organizers are expecting more than that -- possibly significantly more.

However many people show up, though, this march will likely be historic for another reason: its diversity and its focus on climate justice. More than 20 labor unions are among the organizations leading in the planning and turnout efforts. On Wednesday morning, representatives of a handful of them gathered in the Midtown Manhattan office of 1199, the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), for a press conference, and then they were joined in Times Square by more unions for a small pep rally to promote the September event. Other groups present included locals from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Transport Workers Union of Greater New York (TWU), and local social- and environmental-justice organizations such as UPROSE and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance.

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Dogg Eat Dogg world

Allow Snoop Dogg to show you the horrifying wonders of Plizzanet Earth

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While we love the honeyed tones of one Sir David Attenborough in Planet Earth, sometimes the natural world calls for a little less calm bemusement and a little more "Damn, he didn't even chew BLEEEEEP he just swallowed. That's coldblooded, man." To that end, we welcome Snoop Dogg's spirited redubbing of the landmark BBC series.

The great white shark segment is his second Plizzanet Earth; below, he kicks off the segment on the Jimmy Kimmel Live. Sample quote: "I never understood rams. Why do they do this shit? What do they get out of this?" Enjoy:

Read more: Living

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In Detroit’s water wars, a pause that refreshes

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Heather Smith

Tuesday, as I drove around Detroit interviewing people about the city's water crisis, my email kept filling with congratulatory messages.

"I'm excited to let you know about a big win that happened today in Detroit," read one, from the organizers of Netroots Nation, the conference that helped call attention to the biggest and most celebrity-bedazzled protest the crisis has seen so far. "Control of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) has been returned back to the hands of the people. Your activism, energy and help in generating media attention at Netroots Nation played a big role here."

"Victory!" read another one, from the Detroit Water Brigade. "Our water is no longer under emergency management. We did it!"

What had happened was this: Earlier that day, Kevyn Orr, Detroit's much-maligned emergency manager, had called a press conference and announced that he was relinquishing control of DWSD and putting it under the care of Mike Duggan, the city's mayor.

Read more: Cities, Politics

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El Niño flakes out

Not even Jesus is going to save California from this drought

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California is looking pretty thirsty these days, having gotten less than half the historical average rainfall over the past year. But a few months ago the state began think that a great wet hope might step in to save them: El Niño, the weather system named after Jesus himself. Now the forecasts have changed, however, and it looks like Californians are SOL.

Back in April, scientists said there was a close-to-80 percent chance that an El Niño would form this year. Some believed that all of the pieces were in place for a particularly strong one. And while this would've raised certain flavors of meteorological hell, at least the boy would have brought copious amounts of much-needed rainfall.

But over the past few months the probability of an El Niño forming has decreased. And if one does form, it's becoming clearer that it won't be a strong one -- meaning that it probably won't bring Californians the break they were hoping for.

Read more: Uncategorized

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More Like Pacific Northworst

Climate refugees, DO NOT MOVE TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

seattle-green
chris tarnawski

Many Seattle residents revere Cliff Mass as the Yoda of weather in the Northwest. On his blog and through spots in local media, this professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington helps us process our snowpocalypses and measure out Lexapro for 10 months of the year. Now he's turning his big-weather brain to something regularly on our minds here at Grist: "As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects?"

Here's the short answer from Cliff: 

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living