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Care about the forest? Here’s what you can do

Who cares about the forest? That's the question author/artist Franke James explores in this creative personal story commissioned by the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada. Check out the visual essay below, or watch it as an animated video.

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A very, very, very fine house: Ask Umbra on communal living

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, How do I reduce my carbon footprint in a house full of people? Hannah HulsePort Orchard, Wash. A. Dearest Hannah, How best to keep it cool in a communal house?Photo: sheepwoolinsulation.ie You're on one of those reality shows where they all live together, aren't you? America's Next Big Brother of the Jersey Shore, I think it's called. I'm glad you wrote in -- now I have your autograph! Maybe I can barter it at the farmers market for some of their lovely goat's milk cheese. Communal living, filmed or not, is tricky …

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Give a cluck: Ask Umbra on secret backyard chickens

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Have you heard of the underground backyard chicken movement, and would you recommend it for people who want chickens, regardless of city ordinances? DenineWestminster (no state specified, maybe to protect innocent chickens) Some chickens have to keep a low profile.Photo: Taber Andrew BainA. Dearest Denine, Don your feathered fedora, pull it low over your eyes, and let's venture into the subterranean realm of secret backyard chicken coops. (Perhaps they will be the new speakeasies.)  First, anyone interested in the issue should peruse this immensely thorough and useful piece by Jill Richardson about …

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Bad in the sack: Ask Umbra on neighborhood recycling deviants

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, My neighbors do not recycle appropriately -- they throw in frozen food boxes, bag their recyclables in plastic bags and who knows what else! Does that mean that all my efforts are in vain? Elizabeth Raley submitted via Facebook What can you do about a neighbor who messes up the garbage?Photo: Jerry WongA. Dearest Elizabeth, I suggest hiding in the bushes and performing a citizen's arrest. Practice your air-handcuff moves, and once you spy the offending neighbors hauling yet another plastic bag full of junk mail out to the curb, leap out …

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Don’t spray it: Ask Umbra on air fresheners

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, According to their new ads, Air Wick air fresheners now have 100 percent natural propellants. OK, so they got rid of the solvents, but what about the other horrible chemicals that are in the product? Isn't this greenwashing? Brozafan Wynnewood, Penn. There’s no substitute for truly natural air fresheners.Photo: Dennis WongA. Dearest Brozafan, Your question comes at an interesting time -- just after Febreze hit annual sales of over $1 billion, according to the library's copy of The Wall Street Journal. Although global sales of air fresheners have been on the rise, …

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Five ways to green your marijuana habit

Happy 4/20! Sorry to harsh your buzz, but indoor pot growing is a major bad trip for the environment. (All right, no more mixed drug metaphors. Maybe a couple.) Let’s be blunt (okay, one more): If marijuana ever becomes legal in the U.S., we'll have to start thinking about how to keep it from bogarting all our energy. (Done now.) Fortunately, cheeba lovers of the world are already way out ahead on this one: 1. California's Organicann has started dispensing its medical marijuana in biodegradable packaging.  2. Lighting hipsters know that CFLs are for squares, and were only ever intended to …

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A warm welcome: Ask Umbra on green housewarming gifts

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, A friend has finally been able to buy a home in Florida, and I want to send a gift card.  I know she will have plenty of occasions to patronize the big chain hardware stores, but I am wondering whether there is a green alternative -- either a chain that might have a brick-and-mortar store nearby, or a versatile general-purpose online vendor of things that will help make her infrastructure more sustainable? Deborah RoherNew Bedford, Mass. A. Dearest Deborah, A considerate friend, you are. A less-thoughtful (and less eco-conscious) pal would poke …

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With a rain barrel, April showers can bring more than flowers

Barrel essentials.Photo: kierkierAs the old adage goes, April showers bring May flowers. But for those looking to green their homes, April showers also provide an easy way to reduce water bills and water waste. Rainwater harvesting is a simple and efficient way to capitalize on the naturally occurring precipitation in your area, and reduce dependency on irrigated or treated water. Provided you live in a region that receives above a certain amount of annual precipitation (the EPA recommends a minimum of 8 inches), rainwater harvesting can be a cost-effective means of greening your home. The most basic way to harvest …

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Now you’re cooking with gas: Ask Umbra on energy-efficient stoves

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, My wife would like to remodel the kitchen. This frightens me, personally, but I look it as an opportunity to buy some more energy-efficient appliances. Right now we have an ancient electric stove. Would replacing it with a natural gas stove be more efficient, or should we stick with electric and just go for a newer model? (Of course we would go for the greenest option available when it comes to electricity.) Mike London, England Is remodeling brewing in your near future? Make it green.Photo: Josh PesaventoA. Dearest Mike, Greetings from across …

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Buy green sex toys, help support Grist

You can't get pregnant, or get anyone else pregnant, by playing with yourself -- good to note in this year of 7 billion. That's why Grist loves vibrators. We recommend you pick up a green one -- or three. If you like to combine your sex toys with potentially pregnancy-inducing activities, we recommend you pick up some eco-friendly condoms as well.  This month only, if you buy your green sex accessories from progressive, woman-friendly Babeland, 10 percent of the price will be donated to support Grist. You can shop online or visit their stores in Seattle or New York City.  …