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Life on a sheet of paper: Tiny house satire is spot-on

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Shutterstock

In an Onion-worthy piece that’s sheer genius, The New Yorker brings you the tale of an imaginary Austin couple who now live ... on a sheet of legal-size paper. Because, really, that’s the logical next step after 89 square feet.

Fictitious Elizabeth Vasquez and Hank Fairman enjoy the kind of multipurpose rooms that are comically crammed into real-life tiny dwellings:

By moving a small wall, a tiny library does quintuple duty as a conservatory, a dark room, a wine cellar, and a lap pool. “I don’t want to toot my own horn, but it really has everything we need, and nothing that we don’t,” Fairman said.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Can streetcars create shortcuts to better urban transit?

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Shutterstock

Desire lines: the opposite of stretch marks? Close. Think of the dirt paths college kids wear away on the quad, then picture it on a bigger scale. Desire lines are the imaginary bus routes that go from the subway station to your office. They’re where The People want to go. And according to Gizmodo’s Alissa Walker, they’re the future of urban transit.

But as Chicago is finding out, it’s hard -- and seriously expensive -- to adapt a city’s ancient transit system to today’s needs. You can expand subway and bus routes, or as Walker notes, you can join cities like NYC and L.A. that are considering streetcars.

Subways and light rail projects are expensive and onerous to take on, requiring not only the heavy construction of tunneling and laying rail, but also the legal implications of navigating preferred routes and right-of-ways.

Streetcars, in contrast, provide a more flexible solution. And in L.A., where they might connect downtown spots like Disney Hall and Staples Center, they’re more appealing to tourists than buses. But streetcars are hardly the only option:

Read more: Cities, Living

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Gol Diggers

Brazil’s World Cup gets a red card on the environment

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Shutterstock

The World Cup is coming up in June! Hooray for those of us who enjoy glistening European thighs, but it’s basically a Ma Nature tit punch. According to The Nation, travel within Brazil alone will leave a carbon footprint equivalent to more than half a million passenger cars driving around for a YEAR. (That’s 2.72 million metric tons of greenhouse gases for those of you keeping score at home.)

Plus, Brazil is spending $325 million to plop a "FIFA-quality stadium" in the heart of the Amazon, which will both damage a fragile ecosystem and leave roads that can enable future disruption. And with a capacity of 42,000 -- 42 times the attendance at a recent soccer game -- critics wonder if the stadium won't just sit empty like an abandoned Walmart after the four scheduled World Cup games are over.

Read more: Living

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game over

Here’s a killer video that explains climate change with Tetris

climate-change-tetris-game

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around the unsexiness that is climate change -- or need a way to break it down for your nephew -- take two minutes and 49 seconds for the video above.

In her TED-Ed mini-lesson, Joss Fong compares CO2 emissions to Tetris blocks we've gotta get rid of. Burning fossil fuels adds blocks to the atmosphere, she says, and clearcutting forests undermines Earth’s ability to absorb the blocks. “The more blocks pile up, the harder it becomes to restore stability,” she says.

And just like in Tetris, things are speeding up -- less ice, for instance, means there’s less surface area to reflect the sun, which is more rapidly heating the ocean. We’ve got to do something before game over! As Fong says, “Unlike in Tetris, we won’t get a chance to start over and try again.”

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Go on, steal a bike — the San Francisco police dare you

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Shutterstock

The bike theft unit of the San Francisco police department took to Craigslist on Tuesday with a post titled, “We Have Our Bait Bikes Out.” Complete with a snazzy decal of a creepy cycling skeleton, the ad warns of GPS-laden bikes that the cops will track. And if you sell a stolen bike, the po-po threaten to toss you in jail and plaster your face “all over social media.” Click to embiggen:

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Craigslist

In addition to the Craigslist warning, the SFPD printed out 30,000 stickers that ask, “Is this a bait bike?” You can slap one on your ride to make would-be thieves think twice.

Will the bait bikes actually work? Good question. UW-Madison claims to have cut bike theft by 40 percent the first year it used them. But in Philadelphia Magazine, Christopher Moraff argues that bait bikes entrap opportunistic bike thieves like homeless people, NOT serial bike-nabbers who really need to be shut down:

Read more: Cities, Living

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Sword & Plough upcycles military fabric into sleek bags

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Sword & Plough

“Quadruple bottom line” is the trendy phrase du jour. In addition to meaning “one more butt,” it adds purpose to people, planet, and profit.

What that actually looks like varies. For bag company Sword & Plough, it means hiring veterans to turn old military fabric into nature-toned bags out of Moonrise Kingdom or L.L. Bean.

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Sword & Plough
Read more: Living

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Forget Ferrari: The hot rides for sports stars are fuel-efficient

Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints
Tulane PR
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints

The Pro Athlete Stereotype™ wouldn’t be complete without ladies, liquor, and luxury cars. But The New York Times says ballas are increasingly opting for eco-friendly rides. What’s next, trading Dom for kombucha?!

NYT reporter Ken Belson has no hard numbers, but he points to Jeremy Guthrie of the Kansas City Royals as one of the sports stars leading the trend. And he mentions a handful of others who are embracing Teslas and Priuses, whether because they're green, trendy, or high-performance:

It is unclear precisely how many athletes drive electric vehicles or hybrids, but some stars like Steve Nash of the Los Angeles Lakers, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, and LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers drive or drove Teslas and other high-priced electric vehicles and hybrids.

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This DIY solar backpack looks tricky but doable

Whether you hike, camp, or just drunkenly lie in the sun at Coachella, a solar backpack’s an outlet-free way to juice up your gear. But you might not have upwards of $200 lying around. If you ARE rich in time and patience, Treehugger’s got a tutorial via Instructables for wiring up your own solar bag.

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Kajnjaps

Here’s the gist of it: You attach four encapsulated two-volt/200-milliampere solar panels together, fusing their wires with a soldering iron (you have one of those, right?). When you end up with a positive and negative cable, you connect it to a battery box to charge four NiMH batteries. That part looks pretty tricky -- please don’t electrocute yourself (or get into a soldering gun battle ... that shit burns!).

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This app lets you narc on wasted energy

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There’s no reason for offices to be lit up all night if no one’s around. If seeing a bright skyline pisses you off as much as it inspires awe, LightsOut will help you channel your annoyance.

The app LightsOut was just born at Boston’s Cleanweb Hackathon earlier this month, where it won the grand prize, so you can’t blame creator Spencer Lawrence for not having a slick, fully functional app yet. (It should be more user-ready in seven months, after help from an accelerator program.) Lawrence, a former energy auditor, and his friend John Massie got plenty of inspiration for LightsOut just by walking around during the hackathon:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Apple will now recycle your old products and give you store credit

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Luke Dorny

Forget smashing your old iBook Office Space-style. Just send it back to Apple, and if it isn’t ancient, you could get some sweet sweet store credit. Even if it is ancient, Apple will recycle it for you.

Here are the deets from Apple:

When you recycle with Apple, your used equipment is disassembled, and key components that can be reused are removed. Glass and metal can be reprocessed for use in new products. A majority of the plastics can be pelletized into a raw secondary material. With materials reprocessing and component reuse, Apple often achieves a 90 percent recovery rate by weight of the original product.