Living

How to build a better playground

This story was written by Shanti Menon. In her new book Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, Berkeley-based environmental planner Sharon Danks explores the ways in which landscape design, architecture, child development, and nutrition converge in the schoolyard. OnEarth sat down with Danks, whose firm, Bay Tree Designs, Inc, is helping redevelop some 29 San Francisco schoolyards, to talk about how communities are transforming the asphalt playgrounds of the past into green spaces conducive to better learning, eating, and playing. Q. How have playgrounds changed since we were kids? A. Playgrounds these days are influenced largely by liability …

How commuting can ruin your marriage

At least in Sweden, people who have a long-distance commute are 40 percent more likely to separate or divorce. That’s the finding of Erika Sandow, a Swedish social geographer who studied more than two million partnered commuters for her dissertation work. Sandow acknowledges that there are career benefits to long commutes — people who are willing to spend 45 minutes or more getting to their jobs get access to a wider range of employment opportunities, and often make more money. But those benefits don’t necessarily hold true for their partners, who may take worse jobs closer to home in order …

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.

Turn your car into a car-share

So you’ve successfully reduced your car usage, and now you have this hunk of metal sitting around outside your house, like a garden gnome that needs annual emissions inspections. Why not share it, and maybe make some money? Car-sharing service Getaround has unveiled a kit that will allow people to offer their cars for short-term rental to friends and neighbors. The kit is an easy-to-install GPS/WiFi/keyless entry doohickey that, along with Getaround’s iPhone app, makes it simple to arrange reservations, payments, and pickups. Your car still lives with you and everything, but during its idle time — 22 hours a …

Pollution

Worried about radiation in breast milk? Still best to keep breast-feeding

How can we best protect the wee ones?For survivors of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, there have been so many concerns: access to clean water and food, the need for shelter, the threat of disease. It’s the same awful list that accompanies natural disasters around the world — but with one big difference. In Japan, survivors also face the ongoing threat of radiation released by six reactors at the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear power plant. Under circumstances still not fully understood, the cooling systems at Fukushima lost power after the earthquake and tsunami. Large amounts of radioactive materials were blown hundreds …

Scary Food

Breaking: California to vote on BPA ban today

If I find out there’s BPA in this bottle, I’m going to throw a tantrum like you’ve never seen before.The California State Assembly today will vote soon on a bill to protect our most vulnerable residents — babies and toddlers — from Bisphenol-A (BPA), a harmful chemical in their food and drink containers. Assembly Bill 1319, the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act, would ban the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, infant formula, and baby food. The bill, authored by Assembly Member Betsy Butler (D), which was passed by both the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee …

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 …

Living

Betty White is greener than you (and a GINK role model too)

Betty White, honorary forest ranger and ardent environmentalist.Photo: USDAWhite is the new green! Did you know that the octogenarian actress is a longtime environmentalist? She’s starring in a new campaign for The Wilderness Society: “Keep it wild with Betty White!” “Wilderness is harder and harder to find these days on this beautiful planet, and we’re abusing our planet to the point of almost no return,” White said last year when she was made an honorary forest ranger. She’s also a huge animal lover. She has long been involved with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Los Angeles Zoo, and other organizations …

Why environmentalists will survive Armageddon

Hate to break it to you, but if it's really the end of the world tomorrow (or tonight), as Harold Camping and his followers attest, you're almost certainly screwed. So what will ease your suffering in the post-Rapture world? A lot of the same things you're already doing to save the environment. Dense living. Apparently the end of the world is going to come as a giant earthquake, which means that the Left Behind who live in walkable communities will have an easier time accessing resources, just like in any other natural disaster. Bike transport. You are not going to …

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