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Green Living Tips

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Ask Umbra: Is there such a thing as an environmentally friendly cigarette?

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I’m a smoker. So, is it better to smoke organic tobacco? Will I put less of a strain on the planet by smoking e-cigarettes? Or can you make a case from a sustainability standpoint for why I should quit? Thanks,GregPotomac, MD Where there's smoke, there's fire.Photo: SuperFantasticA. Dearest Greg, Your letter comes at an interesting time in the history of the cigarette. A pack now costs around $13 in New York City, where the City Council last week voted to ban smoking outdoors. City parks, beaches, and plazas, including the pedestrian area …

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Beware, moms-to-be: Insecticides could make your kids dumber

No raid for you.Photo: Dhini van HeerenStop huffing the Raid, moms: In other "sh*t that makes kids dumber" news, toddlers' brains developed more slowly if their mothers inhaled a lot of a common insecticide ingredient while pregnant, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. Reuters explains: On average, women breathing the highest amounts of piperonyl butoxide, or PBO, had babies who scored 3.9 points lower on a mental development test at age three (85 points and above is considered normal). These changes are about the same as those seen in kids with low-level lead exposure, according to …

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Use your smartphone to become a ‘citizen scientist’ with Project Noah

We all know people who seem to spend more time gazing into their smartphones than they do looking at the reality in front of them. But one app is trying to reverse the trend, and make your iPhone (or Android) into a tool that encourages you to dial into the biodiversity around you. It's called Project Noah (the "NOAH" stands for "Networked Organisms and Habitats"), and its creator is a guy named Yasser Ansari, a self-described bio-geek-turned-telecom nerd. The app allows you to take a picture of a flower, animal, or other living creature, helps you identify it, and tells …

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Lady Gaga’s boyfriend writes binge-drinking health book ‘The Drunk Diet’

You and me could write a bad fromage.Photo: Drunk Diet Beer for breakfast! Lord Gaga (real name: Lüc Carl) lost 40 pounds by binge-drinking -- and his sound weight-loss tips will be featured in forthcoming book The Drunk Diet, reports The New York Observer. His blog has some great previews of health tips: On life choices: "You must choose between the abs and the ice cream, and choose which un-happiness [sic] works best for you." On grocery shopping: "Make sure you're sober when you go to the grocery store or you'll get f*cked in the *ss." On Four Loko: "It …

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Ask Umbra Book Club: What makes a home?

Home is where the art is. And the war too.Photo: Stefano ADearest readers, Welcome to February’s book club conversation. I hope you’ve gotten some good couch time in at home to read At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson. If you haven’t been able to cozy up next to this "history of the world without leaving home," worry not. Anyone who has ever lived in a home of any kind is qualified to join the conversation. (To set the right tone for our discussion, I recommend listening to and watching the song "This Must Be the …

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TreeShagger: Do all green dating sites suck?

Computer love.Photo: Jeremy BrooksWelcome to TreeShagger, our new column on green dating. If you've got green dating questions, send 'em our way! The internet wants to help you find love. One in five newly committed couples met through a dating site, says Match.com [PDF] (and I'm sure they're not biased). And Google ads recently volunteered to help me "meet yoga singles." (Google, do I look like I do yoga? I'm barely flexible enough to sit in a chair.) What's a green single with wifi to do? I decided to find out. Sacrificing my dignity for your carnal pleasure, I joined …

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Pre-Valentine’s live chat with Ask Umbra and TreeShagger

Even in French, they still taste like chalk. Photo: KatLevPhotoIn a live chat today, Grist's Ask Umbra and TreeShagger answered all of your Valentine's Day questions about sustainable love, dating, and (oh yeah!) sex. Did you miss the chat? Have no fear, dear, a replay is available below: 

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Ask Umbra’s DIY shampoo and conditioner video

Shampoo and conditioner are things you’ve likely never questioned. But did you know they weren’t used until the 20th century? These packaged products are often expensive and contain toxins that are dangerous to our health. You can be well coiffed and conscientious. Umbra shows you how to make DIY shampoo and conditioner with baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and water. Save money, save the planet, save yourself. Get your head out of your ass. No ‘poo shampoo and conditioner! Watch this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZPndvJkLLg&feature=player_embedded Helpful links: • To check the safety of your shampoo, conditioner and other beauty products, check out the …

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