Living

Get down with your bad self

Ask Umbra on down comforters, soapy gray water, and canned tomatoes

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I’ve recently moved to Tahoe and, in an energy-saving effort, am trying to keep the heat down in my house. The problem is that now it gets to be around 50 degrees in the bedroom at night, and we need some serious warmth in the blankets! I’d like to get a huge, puffy, and wondrously warm down comforter, but I’m not sure if there are any ethical or environmental problems with getting real goose down and generally eschew synthetic alternatives to anything. A little help? MilaKings Beach, Calif. A. Dearest Mila, I …

Get your fingers in the dirt

Garden Girl TV: indoor gardening, part two

Getting my garden started on the right foot makes the rest of the season simply work smoothly, but it also gives me a jumpstart on the growing season with a spring harvest. The key for me is starting my plants in my indoor system. In this second installment of Indoor Gardening, I show you how to get your seedlings off to a healthy start. Can’t get enough of Patti Moreno’s great advice? There’s a lot more where this came from. Check it out.

Fiction to the rescue!

Could novels about climate change shake us to our senses?

Cross-posted from Climate Progress. Sometimes, fiction is the best way to win friends and influence people – H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine and George Orwell’s classic 1984 come to mind. Each provoked a visceral reaction that galvanized the culture around it, changing forever the way issues such as class and totalitarianism were perceived. Neville Shute’s On the Beach made the consequences of nuclear war real, and, therefore, unthinkable. In a scientifically illiterate culture such as ours, these kinds of myth-based meta-narratives may be the best way to communicate complex scientific issues like climate change. Myths, as Bill Moyers and …

Get yourself free

Hop on the bus, texters

A French lad texting in an appropriate venue.Photo: TopheeNearly two-thirds of Millennials, aged 18 to 29, admit to texting while driving, according to a new Pew Research Center report [PDF]. Texting while driving is “insanely dangerous,” Clive Thompson reminds us in Wired. “Studies have found that each time you write or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for almost five seconds and increase your risk of collision up to 23 times. The hazard is ‘off the charts,’ says David Strayer, a University of Utah professor who has studied the practice.” While government officials fret about …

Grow your own

Ask Umbra’s pearls of wisdom on gardening

Dearest readers, Ah, spring is in the air. Well, sort of. We’re still technically about three weeks out, but our unusually unwintry weather here at Grist HQ seems to be duping buds into bloom and setting off an outbreak of early onset spring fever, which has, in turn, caused mulch, seedlings, watering, and weeding to infiltrate my thoughts. How I adore digging in the dirt — so much so that I dug through the archives for some especially delicious gardening advice from Ask Umbra columns past. Enjoy, and let me know what you’ll be planting in your spring garden in …

Asian carp: battle or bait?

News of the impending Asian Carp invasion of the Great Lakes is sobering. But I have a solution. Are you listening, Maine Lobsterman’s Association? These fish have been clogging waterways and outcompeting native fish up and down the Mississippi River system ever since they escaped the fish farms where they were used to clean tanks of unwanted algae. This according to a story in the Guardian which also says that 9 of every 10 fish in some stretches of the river are now carp, which “eat up to 40 percent of their body weight in a single day. By sucking …

Rust in pieces

Hummer to hum along no more?

Crash course General Motors has decided to park the ultimate gas guzzler in that big garage in the sky. GM thought its plans to sell Hummer to a Chinese company had the green light, but got run off the road this week by the Chinese government, ironically, over fears of pollution. Enviros who say fuH2 may be cheering, but what will they make fun of now? UPDATE: The pearly garage doors may not have shut on Hummer quite yet, as two previously shunned suitors have come a-callin’ to GM. Photo: blmurch via Flickr

Hamburgling the future

Your car and your meat-eating: the biggest causes of climate change

A new study coming out of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that when it comes to the net contribution to climate change on-road transportation, burning biomass for cooking, and raising animals for food are the biggest culprits. Since most of us don’t regularly use biomass stoves to cook, as do millions of people in developing nations, that leaves us with your car and your diet to tackle. Rather than looking at the sources of different chemicals linked with global warming, the GISS study looked at net climate …

Abu Dhabi bailed out Dubai — is the world next?

Driving around Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, you can easily see the massive construction sites and melting pot of cultures. What is less evident is that a sustainability revolution is going on, from the most humble corner shop to the highest levels of government. Abu Dhabi may best be known in recent times for a financial bailout of its sister emirate, Dubai, but just as it preserved its oil wealth with a more practical approach than others, it has also quietly embraced a suite of measures to make its buildings, businesses, and homes more sustainable in …

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