Green Living Tips

Too good to be true: biodegradable forks

Methane spoils everything. Natural gas drilling would be less risky if it didn't have the potential to release clouds of methane into the atmosphere. Methane cow farts make even grass-fed beef a less-green option than no beef at all. And now it turns out that those biodegradable plastic utensils we've been telling ourselves are soooo much better than regular disposable sporks are releasing methane as they break down in landfills. There are two solutions here: Landfills could start doing more to capture methane. (Flimsy picnicware isn’t the only product that give off the gas.) Or people could stop using disposable …

How to stay cool for next to nothing

Central AC is for suckers. Why are you cooling every inch of your house, even the dust bunnies under the couch, when the only part that actually needs to be cooled is your body? Having endured, sans air conditioning, countless summers in locations including the deep South and the middle of the gigantic urban heat island known as Brooklyn, I've developed the following ultra-simple method for saving myself hundreds of dollars a year in electricity bills. For lack of a better term, I'll call it the Personal Swamp Cooler, because it works on more or less the same principle as …

Green Living Tips

Ask Umbra’s Book Club announces ‘The Joy of Less’ is next book

Dearest readers, Spring cleaning has gotten me thinking about de-cluttering — and the larger minimalist movement. It sure feels great to get rid of things we no longer use or need, but what’s to stop us from just filling up our lives with more stuff? Minimalism and environmentalism have a lot in common — enough that I think you’ll enjoy reading about the former and then talking about it with other Gristers in a few weeks. It’s official: the long-overdue next selection for Ask Umbra’s Book Club is The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, …

Reno 9-year-old finds simple, smart water-saving solution

Two years ago, Mason Perez, then seven, went to wash deposits of ballpark ketchup and relish off his hands and face. The water in the Reno Aces ballpark poured out the faucet so hard and fast that it hurt his hands. His mom turned down the faucet, and that's when Perez had a brilliant, simple realization: Turning down a faucet valve means less water pressure, which means less water. You can save water just by making it not spurt out so fast. He tested this theory for a science project at residential and commercial sites and found that, yep, turning …


What a hoe! — and other secrets of an orderly garden

Lookin’ sharp!Can you keep a secret? I think I’m in love. The object of my affection is about 5’4″, slender, and she’s the sharpest tool in the shed. Did I mention she’s a redhead? I’ve taken her out twice now, and we danced around the garden like we were made for each other. I’m talking, of course, about my new stirrup hoe. Equally enamoring is our new low tunnel — a temporary structure made of curved metal and special fabric that lets light and water in. My partner, Brian, keeps exclaiming, “How did we ever grow anything without a low …

Critical List: John Bryson’s green credentials; biodegradable cups end as methane

John Bryson, Obama's new pick for commerce secretary, is a dyed-green-in-the-wool environmentalist (he co-founded NRDC), who's taken a swing through the corporate world. The U.N. carbon market shrunk for the first time since it was founded in 2005. Who's to blame? The U.S. Senate, of course! (Well, among others, but we have the most fun pinning stuff on the Senate.) The Keystone pipeline is spilling Canadian oil all over states like North Dakota and Kansas. Okay, this time, you CAN blame Canada. More bad weather news: As the Missouri River floods in South Dakota, evacuating residents are being told they …

Mushrooms make short work of dirty diapers

As a sustainability solution, cloth diapers were never fun. Even the most eco-minded have been known to quail in front of a pail of soiled nappies. But a team of researchers has come up with an excuse for switching back to disposable diapers. They found that within 2 months, oyster mushrooms will consume 90 percent of a disposable diaper. Within four months, the entire thing is gone. Plus, the resulting mushrooms are safe to eat for anyone who can look past their origins. It's like a double sustainability rainbow.

Green Living Tips

Cup o’ woe: Ask Umbra on single-serve coffee alternatives

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I work in an office of serious coffee drinkers. We have a Keurig single-cup coffee brewer that everyone loves because it allows them to choose their own roast and flavor. But all those little plastic K-Cups add up to lots of waste fast! Is there a more sustainable alternative I can recommend? Christine CoolickCleveland, Ohio Don’t be a drip — brew your coffee sustainably.A. Dearest Christine, Ah, yes. We here in the Grist office are serious about our java too (although we just have an old-fashioned coffeemaker). Whenever I emerge from the …

TV vs. Computer: The energy use showdown

Given a choice between spending an hour watching TV or surfing the Internet, which should you choose, assuming, of course, that your goal is not entertainment but consuming the least energy possible? This handy graphic provides the answer: It's surfing the Internet: At .09 kilowatt-hours per hour, your computer consumes the least energy of any of these four appliances. A better option, though, would be to turn the computer off and go outside to hang dry the laundry.

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