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A dispatch from an eco-showroom evening full of luxurious goods

Emily Gertz is an environmental journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who has contributed to Grist, Plenty, WorldChanging, and other independent publications, and blogs at OneAtlantic.net. Emily Gertz. Thursday, 16 Nov 2006 New York, N.Y. I want to believe. I want to believe that we can create an ecologically sustainable and socio-economically just future for the billions of biologically distinct individuals who comprise humanity -- and other-living-thingity -- by going to sleep at night swaddled in soft organic-cotton sheets, waking up in the morning to garb ourselves in chic eco-fashions, and living out our days surrounded by beautiful, nontoxic furniture in …

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A Bee in His Bonnet

London mayor proposes steep congestion charge for gas-guzzlers London Mayor Ken Livingstone has announced plans to make the city's weekday congestion tax much steeper for drivers of polluting vehicles. Under the proposal, owners of SUVs and other gas-guzzlers would shell out the equivalent of about $47 a day to motor into London between 6:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. (the current tax is $15). While central London residents currently receive a 90 percent discount on the congestion tax, Livingstone proposes abolishing that for SUV drivers, whom he once called "idiots." Electric vehicles and hybrids would be exempt from charges altogether. Conservatives …

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Wacky and weird

The Schwinn-Shank Redemption While the use of prison labor is questionable in any context, about 20 inmates in a South Dakota state penitentiary are reportedly happy to be taking part in a program that puts them to work fixing up old bikes for disadvantaged kids. No word in the media on whether the program is voluntary or not, but given prison wages, there's probably not much difference in compensation. Now if only there were a program to teach the kids how to stay upright in all that wind. The other kind of bicycle flasher Police in Clinton Township, Pa., have …

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Coffee, Tea, or Big Three?

Detroit CEOs meet with President Bush, discuss energy concerns Since lunch with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) didn't kill him, President Bush cozied up to another foe: the Big Three automakers. Yesterday, Bush met with the CEOs of Ford, GM, and the Chrysler Group, a trio he ruffled earlier this year by saying they'd improve financially if they made "relevant" products. Eager to show their relevance, the three pledged that, with Washington's help, they could make half their annual vehicle production biofuels-ready by 2012. The meeting -- attended by a startling number of bigwigs, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Treasury …

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The Charge of the Ultra-Light Brigade

CyberTran is the fastest, most convenient public transit you've never heard of What if there was a public transit system one-tenth the price of conventional light rail, available 24 hours a day within minutes, suitable for both urban centers and suburbs, safe and comfortable, and most important, faster than auto commuting? Think you'd prefer it over that stinky city bus? Meet CyberTran, an automated, driverless ultra-light rail system being developed in California. It could spark a virtuous cycle of demand that draws people out of their cars, says Gar Lipow. He investigates the details in Gristmill.

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Now Utah-kin

Salt Lake City requires LEED certification for city-funded buildings Salt Lake City, Utah, known for its salty lake and Mormons, may soon also be known for its green buildings. Developers funded by city money will be required to erect buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, city council members decided unanimously on Tuesday. (Oh, Tuesday -- it was a great day.) The new ordinance is "a tremendous first step toward encouraging in every way possible greater efficiency in design and material used for buildings in our community," said Mayor Rocky Anderson, who then ran up some steps …

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This climate hero may be more of a Forrest Gump

I've been waiting for someone to write this article. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is rightfully lauded for kicking off the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which now has 326 mayors committed to helping their cities meet Kyoto emissions targets. It's a BFD, and Nickels will earn a small place in history for it. Still. It's always been my sense that the initiative was cooked up by clever and persuasive staffers in the mayor's office, and that Nickels was, in Forrest Gumpian fashion, in the right place at the right time. I don't think he's really taken a concern about global-warming …

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The Bane in Spain Falls Mainly on the, Um, Construction

Spanish coast being ravaged by development The Spanish coast is being ravaged by a decade-long building boom, and there seems to be no end in sight. About 3 million houses have been started or built in the country in the past four years, with as many as half of them along its famed 3,100-mile coastline. The development boom is ruining ecosystems and bulldozing individuals' rights to land ownership, as local laws in some regions allow private property to be effectively seized by developers. The construction industry is rife with money laundering and corruption, and politicians have allegedly accepted bribes for …

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Junk in the Trunk

American food-guzzling leads to more gas-guzzling Here's more motivation to go on that diet: You'll use less gasoline. Non-commercial U.S. vehicles are using at least 938 million more gallons of gasoline annually than they did in 1960 because drivers and passengers are considerably heavier and are dragging down fuel economy, says a University of Illinois study to be published in The Engineering Economist. In 1960, the average adult female weighed 140 pounds and the average male weighed 166; in 2002, the averages were 164 and 191 respectively, and 62 percent of adults were considered overweight. That 938 million gallons is …

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First cradle-to-cradle house takes shape in Virginia

Nothing about this traditional design says "gray water treatment happens here." Renderings: Southern Heritage Homes Lined with rundown, century-old houses and situated within a couple miles of downtown Roanoke, the neighborhood of Gainsboro, Va., seems an unlikely place to hatch a groundbreaking architectural experiment. But in early November, construction will begin there on the first cradle-to-cradle house, with those behind the project hoping to show that green can be affordable. In many ways, Gainsboro is the perfect site for such an undertaking. After suffering years of deterioration and failed urban-renewal efforts, the city's oldest neighborhood had been targeted by municipal …

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