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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Government spends $40 million mowing lawns of empty homes

The U.S. government owns 200,000 foreclosed homes. And to keep those empty homes looking spiffy for would-be buyers, the government has to keep up appearances -- including the appearance of the lawn. As a result, we taxpayers are forking over $40 million for lawn-mowing at these uninhabited houses.

Read more: Green Living Tips

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Swedish fast food chain makes bank by becoming ‘Klimatsmart!’

Sweden's No. 1 burger chain got rid of its kids'-meal boxes and, contrary to expectations, sales of the meals rose. Apparently parents who are facing the prospect of their children scrabbling for survival on this wrecked cinder of a planet don’t like creating needless trash? At least in Sweden, anyway.

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Scorcese doc ‘Surviving Progress,’ featuring Margaret Atwood, is now in theaters

Here's the trailer for the new documentary Surviving Progress, which hit theaters in New York on Monday and comes to the rest of the country on April 20.

I think it's important to make a distinction between progress and good progress. Things progress in the sense that they change. But when they reach a certain scale, they turn out to be dead ends.

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Turbine makes fresh water out of thin air in the desert

If you've ever watched water drip out of a window air conditioning unit, you've seen the operating principle of Eole Water's new wind turbine in action. Tests of the turbine in Abu Dhabi have yielded between 500 and 800 liters of water a day, and the company thinks it can get it up to a cool 1,000 liters -- not bad for a desert.

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Critical List: Meat consumption must drop 50 percent; Los Angeles the Energy Star of cities

We going to have to eat half as much meat as we do now in order to curb climate change.

After Deepwater Horizon, throughout the Gulf "things are just a little bit out of kilter," says the head of NOAA's restoration team.

With 659 certified Energy Star buildings, Los Angeles has the most of any city in the country.

The House just won't give up on trying to force Keystone XL approval through.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Now you can smell like fake whale vomit

Finally, thanks to modern science, you no longer have to feed a whale a bathing suit full of rotten fish to get a supply of precious ambergris, the whale-vomit-derived material used in perfumes. Researchers have worked out a way to reliably synthesize ambergris from plants. 

Read more: Animals

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Everyone in Beijing is ditching bikes, except for the foreigners

In 1986, 60 percent of the citizens of Beijing rode bikes; now 17 percent do. In an age in which every industrialized nation with even the slightest desire to get through the 21st century with its oil-dependent economy intact is ramping up efforts to make its cities more bike friendly, China is undergoing a grand reversal, a de-bikification on a scale only China could manage.

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America’s largest urban Superfund site gets cute new mascot

Now that gentrification has come to the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, N.Y., it's time to clean it up! The EPA is on the case, although it's going to take decades to cleanse this narrow cul-de-sac of a waterway so foul that nothing can live in its opaque waters.

In order to get people excited about the process of turning the canal into something that will stop depressing local property values, the Gowanus Community Advisory Group has decided that the project needs a mascot, reports Gary Buiso at the New York Post.

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Watch plants swallow up tiny houses in this weird living artwork


Artist Rob Carter is interested in the relationship between the built environment and nature, and his newest exhibition, which opens tomorrow in New York City, features mini replicas of three homesteads -- Charles Darwin's, Henry David Thoreau's, and Sir John Bennet Lawes'. The miniatures live in a garden of dandelions, bush beans, and corn, which over the course of the exhibit will take over the houses:

Viewers are invited to witness as the garden overcomes the estates in Carter’s controlled but fragile ecosystem in three distinct ways: time-based video projections, peepholes cut into the sides of the garden, and from an elevated viewing platform.

Read more: Green Home

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Dude singlehandedly finds homes for 500 unwanted trees

O'Brien, on the right, is a one-man Humane Society for trees.

Members of a group called Plant Amnesty are kind of like real-life Loraxes (Lorices?), if the Lorax actually did something to save the Truffula trees instead of just wagging his finger like some kind of pre-internet concern troll.

Exemplifying their ethos is Bernie O'Brien, a resident of Seattle who has saved at least 500 trees, digging them up by hand -- including arboreal monsters that weighed up to 400 pounds, reports the Seattle Times.

Read more: Cities, Living