Flushed Away

For some eco-pioneers, solving the sludge problem means getting their hands dirty

Part 3 of Grist’s special series on poop. Laura Allen, a 33-year-old teacher from Oakland, California, has a famous toilet. To be honest, it’s actually a box, covered in decorative ceramic tiles, sitting on the cement floor of her bathroom like a throne. No pipes lead to or from it; instead, a bucket full of shavings from a local wood shop rests on the box next to the seat with a note instructing users to add a scoopful after making their “deposit.” Essentially an indoor outhouse, it’s a composting toilet, a sewerless system that Allen uses to collect her household’s …

A change (a change!) would do you good

Is ‘lifestyle change’ to be feared?

Brad Plumer has a nice little video over at TNR today, playing off Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski’s comment that meeting our climate goals will mean cutting back on consumption and consumerism — that is, it will require the dread “lifestyle changes.” Brad notes that efficiency and renewable power don’t necessarily force any lifestyle changes. (A vacuum cleaner that uses less electricity, and gets its electricity from wind power, is still a vacuum cleaner — you still vacuum with it.) There may be some, particularly in transportation (smaller cars), but a low-carbon America will look a lot like a high-carbon America, …

Hizzoner's Progress

15 green-leaning mayors

Climate change is a global problem — but as of yet, there’s no global solution. That’s why mayors across the U.S. are taking action, from building green to organizing bike rides, from redeveloping downtowns to cutting emissions. Here are just a few of the municipal leaders who have worked to take our collective future into their own hands. Bloomberg unveils his grand Plan.PlanNYC 20301. Michael Bloomberg, New York City. Pop.: 8.2 million Call New York the accidental eco-city: cram millions of people onto an island, and you’ve got to figure out how to build up, not out. Throw a big …

The Future of Driving?

Shai Agassi: Green’s Steve Jobs

The more you talk to Shai Agassi, the more the Steve Jobs comparison seems apt. Shai AgassiCourtesy Better PlaceLike his fellow Silicon Valley impresario, Agassi, the founder of electric car infrastructure startup Better Place, is as much a green-tech visionary as entrepreneur bent on cashing in on the “Next Big Thing.” Just as Jobs elegantly married hardware and software to create the iPod and iPhone and disrupted the telecommunication-entertainment industrial complex, Agassi aims to do the same with transportation. In case you missed the spate of national magazine stories on the former software executive and his company, Better Place has …

Amtrak Joe Says Don't Go

Can you catch swine flu on the subway?

Sick transit?arvindgrover via flickrThis morning, Vice President Biden went slightly off-message about swine flu — just enough to freak out the White House, and potentially enough to freak out hypochondriacal Americans. Appearing on NBC’s Today Show, he responded to a question from Matt Lauer by saying he would advise his own family not to “go anywhere in confined places now.” He specifically mentioned planes, subways, and even cars as spaces that could be unsafe (he also mentioned classrooms and, uh, containers). The White House scrambled to tweak the message, saying that all Americans should avoid air travel to Mexico and …

Air quality fail

Failing grades issued for air quality in Seattle, other major cities

Photo: Peter Davis via FlickrIf Seattle were an 8th grader, she’d probably be grounded right now. And considering the poor scores the city received on its air quality report card (an F for ozone pollution and a C for particulates), it might not be a bad idea if we all stay inside for a while. Issued by the American Lung Association, the “State of the Air” report [PDF] analyzes data from 2005-2007 for the two most common pollutants in cities and counties across the country. They found that six in 10 Americans live in areas where air pollution is high …

Fair Catch

EPA tosses flag on Cowboys’ new field

A mess in Texas?City of ArlingtonRemember how we reported on green sports venues, and one of them was the new stadium of the Dallas Cowboys, and the stadium was steeped in land-use controversy, but the good news was that the team was registering with the EPA to monitor the facility’s long-term performance? Turns out that EPA program no longer exists. The agency axed the National Environmental Performance Track — a voluntary program that asked member facilities to “set typically four public, measurable goals” showing their eagerness to “go above and beyond their legal requirements” — last month. The program’s website, …

Good Griddance

Ask Umbra on living off the grid

Q. Hi Umbra, You’ve made several mentions of living off the grid in previous columns, and I was wondering where someone should find such things? It seems as though there are secret communities and communes that everyone seems to know about but me. How would you find an off the grid community, or go about living off the grid yourself? AnicaCorvallis, Ore. A. Dearest Anica, No one is hiding anything from you, don’t worry. You just haven’t met any off-the-grid folks. By the way, if you do find anything that could qualify as a secret community, off the grid or …

Green Light: Charge it

Nissan to bring EV network to Seattle

Like many other urban places, Seattle will welcome an electric vehicle network to the Emerald City. In a nonexclusive partnership with Nissan North America, the city of Seattle will promote the development of electric-charging infrastructure. “The city is committed to creating an environment that is kind to EVs,” said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (D). However, the agreement between the manufacturer and the municipality does not go so far as to commit to any specifics. Instead, Nissan will take the lead in establishing local working groups to evaluate sites for possible charging stations. The city will in turn “consider” adopting those …

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