Green Guide

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The green guide to gift giving

The plain truth is that Americans love to consume, and we do it with more abandon than ever during the holiday season. Nearly a quarter of all retail goods move out of stores and into homes between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and, we suspect, often into landfills by January). That poses a dilemma for the thoughtful and socially responsible holiday shopper. What if one of those “four calling birds” is an endangered species? What if the precious metal in the “five golden rings” was mined in an environmentally insensitive manner? What on earth to do about all the noise pollution from …

Tips for earth-sensitive — and tasty — barbecuing

You know the grill. It’s hot out there: Time to empty the kitchen of cutlery and condiments and wander into the backyard to do what our ancient ancestors did: Barbecue something! Of course, people have been gleefully grilling, giving no thought to the environment, for centuries. Linguists tell us that the word barbecue likely stemmed from a coinage of the Taino Indians of Haiti, and was appropriated — oddly enough — by proper Bostonians as early as 1733, with raucous Texans seizing upon it by the mid-1800s. Long thought of as one of life’s simple summer pleasures, barbecuing is, of …

The word on relatively green cars and positively green bicycles

Hy-wire act. Photo: DOE. My daughter Maya, who is 9, saw a picture of the General Motors Hy-wire, the company’s super-sleek experimental fuel-cell car, and immediately decided we should have one. Unfortunately, I had to explain to her that the hydrogen-powered, zero-emission, fossil-fuel-free car would be perfect for us in all respects except one: It’s not available. So it goes with U.S. manufacturers and innovative, efficient automotive technology — all promise, no delivery. So what’s an environmentally minded would-be car owner to do? First, make sure you really need a car. Motor vehicles take a heavy toll on the environment, …

Pesticide use on airplanes could harm your health

Vacations are supposed to leave you feeling relaxed, happy, and healthy — but if you travel by air, you might feel worse by the time you get home than you did when you left. Fear of flying? For good reason. Flying should not generally be the transportation option of choice for the environmentally minded, given its intensive use of resources. (Intercity buses consume less than a fifth the energy jets do to cover the same amount of distance.) And not only is it lousy for the Earth, it’s not great for your own health, either. Returning to the U.S. recently …

Starting from scratch with chickens and eggs

Chicks and balances. Photo: USDA. It’s very provoking, as Humpty Dumpty once told Alice, to be called an egg. After all, a name must mean something. “My name,” he told her, “means the shape I am — and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.” The same could be said of many labels for poultry and eggs. After all, “cage-free” sounds pleasant — but does it guarantee that the chickens get outdoors? And what exactly is a “natural” hen? Sure enough, the more we look at certain labels, the …

How to clean your house without hurting the planet

If you think of your home as a haven from pollution, we’ve got some bummer news. Levels of pollutants in indoor air can be from two to more than 100 times higher than outdoors, according to the U.S. EPA. That indoor pollution is due in large part to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that evaporate, or “offgas,” from home decorating and cleaning products. Make your home clean and green. Photo: iStockphoto So if the weather cooperates, step one for green cleaners is: Open a window and let those pollutants out! Yet even in the spring and summer, when a vase of …

How to have a Valentine’s Day with a conscience

Friday is Valentine’s Day, but while you’re buying bonbons and bouquets, be sure to be sweet to the planet, too. If Hershey’s, Hallmark, and FTD aren’t your idea of romance, never fear: Eco-friendly options smell good, taste good (well, maybe not the flowers), and just might land you a date. Flowers In 2001, Americans spent an estimated $50 per capita on flowers, garden plants, and nursery crops, and floricultural grower receipts topped $13 billion. But some industry costs remained hidden. The floral industry uses the highest level of pesticides of all agricultural sectors. And since most of the flowers we …

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