Plugging a plug-in

Library offers plug-in home energy monitors

Courtesy p3international.comSeattle Public Library now lets patrons check out Kill a Watt home energy monitors (retail $31 or so). Check it out, plug it into an outlet, and start learning about your home’s energy use: Library patrons can borrow a device with their library card, just as they would with books, DVD’s, etc. Plug it into an electrical outlet to find out the cost of running refrigerators, computers, TVs and other home appliances. The monitor measures the electric consumption of small to medium household electronic devices and appliances, and can even help discover which appliances drain energy even when they’re …

Grass That’s Truly Greener

One good thing about snow is that it makes your lawn look as nice as your neighbor’s. But with most of the snow across the nation now melted away and lawn mowers emerging from their annual hibernation beneath rusting lawn furniture and pieces of an above ground pool in the garage, there’s one sure-fire way to have the greenest lawn in the neighborhood this summer. How? Go carbon free. First, trade in the old gas mower for a battery-electric model. According to the USEPA, a gasoline push mower emits eleven times the pollution of a car and the riding variety …

The GINK Chronicles

Birth-control opponents greenwash their message

Even opponents of birth control are “going green” these days.  The uber-right-wing American Life League, founded by Catholic activists in 1979, launched a “The Pill Kills” campaign in 2008, and this year shifted its message to “The Pill Kills the Environment.” “Study after study has shown how the chemicals from the pill discharge into our waterways and wreak havoc on the fish,” says the campaign site, which is peppered with dour women in green T-shirts. (Buy your own shirt for only $6.50!) It’s true — studies do show that the Pill has adverse effects on marine life, and that’s also …

Do the local-motion

Ask Umbra’s Book Club: Local or organic?

Dearest readers, Great discussion yesterday in the comments section and on Grist’s Facebook page about meat-eating environmentalists and gross corporate greenwashing campaigns (apparently, kids who are hopped up on sugary cereals in the morning do better in school than kids who have no breakfast at all!). Here’s another batch of questions inspired by Anna Lappé’s Diet for a Hot Planet. Share your insights in the comments below. Lappé shares seven principles of a climate-friendly diet:  – Reach for real food - Put plants on your plate - Don’t panic, go organic - Lean toward local - Finish your peas … …

urea think this'll work?

Eco-bricks made from pee take number one

This kid is pissing all over a good idea.Clav via Creative CommonsSometimes it feels like climate change has us all up against a brick wall. Then some innovator pisses all over those fears by cooking up a formula for eco-bricks that don’t need cooking — thus, saving millions of tons of CO2 each year. And she does it all with some sand, germs, salt, and pee (urea, actually). Just mix it up, skip the baking, and you go from (sort-of) kidney stones to sandstone in a jiffy. These eco-bricks made from number one took number one (and $25,000) in Metropolis …

Too hot to handle

Ask Umbra’s Book Club: WTFood?

Dearest readers, Thank you to all who attended yesterday’s live chat with author Anna Lappé, who doled out informative answers to your most vexing food–climate change questions. (If you missed it, you can catch the replay.) But now it’s time to offer up some of your own insights on Lappé’s tome Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It. Pick your poison, and answer any or all of these discussion-starter questions in the comments below, or feel free to offer up your own query for other readers …

Green Living Tips

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! Helpful links: • To check the safety of your shampoo, conditioner and other beauty products, check out the Environmental …

diet right

People who eat organic junk food don’t know what organic means

Organic Oreos? Don’t bite the hype.EricSkiff via Creative Commons Atkins. South Beach. Master Cleanse. Each of these diets is supposed to help you lose weight (and feel great!). “Organic,” on the other hand, does not belong in quite the same category. According to a new study, however, there appears to be an organic-cookie-eating portion of the U.S. confusing “organic” with “low calorie.” In a recently presented study by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, organic snackers reportedly perceived foods with “organic” labels to contain 40% fewer calories. Cornell professor and a co-author of the study, Brian Wansink, postulated, “An organic …


How to make cities more foot-friendly

Walking in heelsPhoto courtesy loungerie via FlickrOf all the commuting options available, perhaps the most overlooked is also the cleanest, healthiest, most affordable, and given to us by our mamas — feet. In a weekend column for The Washington Post, architect Roger K. Lewis outlined various steps that cities can take to make their streets more inviting to pedestrians. (Get it? Steps!) Sure, streets should be safe and easy to navigate, but he also suggests trees, outdoor café seating, and stores with nice, big windows — not only to drum up business but also give walkers something to look at. …

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