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Umbra on adult tricycles

Dear Umbra, I want to reduce my carbon footprint. I already take a commuter train to work, but the station is down a steep hill from my house, so I drive the first mile or so in the morning and back up the hill at night. The train station has lock-ups for cycles and I'm interested in that -- but I have a disability that affects my whole right side, arm, foot, leg. I'm not able to stay balanced on a conventional two-wheeled bike but have seen specialty adult-sized tricycles around town -- mostly pedicabs for tourists. Do you know …

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Advocates pushing LEDs into the spotlight

Compact fluorescents have had their time in the sun; it's time to herald the era of LEDs, say advocates. Light-emitting diodes are bright, extremely long-lasting, über-efficient, and can color-shift by remote control (fun!). The bulbs shine in many traffic lights, colored the Times Square ball on New Year's Eve, may soon light up the Empire State Building, and are becoming the bulb of choice for commercial lighting. Many bulb manufacturers expect that they'll soon widely light up households as well; so sure is Philips Lighting, in fact, that it is spending no R&D money on CFLs, focusing solely on LEDs. …

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The WSJ reports on lavish second-home gardens

I got a bit of flack for my post on "lazy locavores" earlier this week. Riffing off of a New York Times "trend" piece, I questioned the practice of "outsourcing one's veggie patch" -- paying someone to install, tend, and harvest a home veggie garden. I accused folks who use such services of having a "hyper-consumerist" take on local food -- of wanting the trappings and status of a home garden without getting their hands dirty. Several people -- including energy blogger extraordinaire Bart Anderson -- cogently critiqued my position. "Is it not a good thing to support local organic …

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From Feud to Fashion

Toby ... or not Toby Former feuders Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks tried to put a boot in global warming's ass by appearing together in a "we" campaign ad. But plans were nixed when they couldn't reconcile their differences schedules. Seems they're still not ready to make nice. Photo: John Shearer/Wire Image Grin and bear it Remember back on April Fool's Day when we wrote that fake news story about polar bears being relocated to Antarctica and y'all totally bought it? Hahaha. Good times. Well, turns out the joke may be on us. And the penguins. The green Miley …

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More school districts consider four-day week

As energy costs rise, rural school districts across the country may follow the lead of the 100 or so schools in 16 states that offer classes just four days a week. Cutting out a day of heating, cooling, and transportation fuel -- which can be significant in spread-out districts where school buses might travel 100 miles round trip each day -- allows schools to put funds toward valuable programs and staff. Advocates say four-day weeks can also improve student attendance and performance (though at least one district switched back to a five-day week after concluding that effective teaching and learning …

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After a mass bike ride across Iowa, a slow-food chef picks up the pace

Do the ride thing. Photo: David Wade Every year for the last 36, Iowa plays host to a unique event. At the beginning of the last full week of July, more than 15,000 people dip the rear tires of their bicycles in the Missouri River -- and seven days and about 450 miles later, they dunk their front tires in the Mississippi. That ceremonial immersion draws to a close a ride that is sometimes called "Burning Man on Wheels," or "The World's Longest Pub Crawl," but is formally referred to as RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. …

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California’s Prop 2 could end the worst farm-animal abuses and set a national precedent

When Californians go to the polls in November they can set a precedent for the rest of the country by ending the worst animal and environmental abuses and simultaneously increasing the safety of our national food supply. It's an election year and we all know what that means -- big money, big events, and big promises. As the rest of the country listens endlessly to the political propaganda of the last few desperate months before November, California voters are being fed an entirely different mouthful of issues -- the living conditions of the billions of farm animals slaughtered in this …

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Like Cocoon, only in real life

Caring for the world is good for geezers -- and the world too! (I can use "geezer" because ... hey, you kids, get off my lawn!)

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Your granite countertop may emit radon and radiation

Heads up, yuppies: Must-have granite countertops may emit worrisome levels of radon and radiation. While granite is known to contain radioactive uranium, which emits radon gas as it decays, the vast majority of countertops emit far less radiation than what we're constantly exposed to from outer space and the earth's crust. But as demand for granite countertops soars and vendors expand their selection -- some now stock hundreds of types of the rock from dozens of countries -- a small number of countertops have been found to emit radiation at a level that could conceivably pose a health risk. "It's …

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Umbra on clean coal

Dear Umbra, I noticed that several of the presidential primary debates were sponsored by clean coal. This was announced during breaks and several commercials aired. I have since seen several more commercials and online advertisements. Is clean coal an oxymoron? Is this a PR stunt or are there any real environmental benefits to clean coal that rival solar and wind? See http://www.americaspower.org. Andrew S.Brookline, Mass. Dearest Andrew, The link you sent to America's Power is a divine example of clean, selective fact presentation: "Sometimes, we tend to forget about the role electricity has on our lives [sic]. Did you know …

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