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As the ground shifts under their feet, food giants experiment with new strategies

When you smile, the food world smiles with you ... maybe. Photo: Original by heatkernel For more than a generation, the major corporations that process and sell the vast bulk of our food have had it pretty easy. They've had access to cheap energy to ship food over globe-spanning distances and run giant food-processing plants; reveled in cheap inputs like corn and soy, transforming them into everything from breakfast cereal to chicken nuggets; and relied on low-paid, abundant, and politically disenfranchised workers to do the dirty jobs. Together, these elements formed a kind of tripod propping up the industry's enormous …

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An interview with climate mockumentary filmmaker Randy Olson

Randy Olson became a filmmaker after fifteen years as a marine biologist, so the perspective he brings to the craft is rooted in science -- but blended with his own irreverent humor. His hilarious new film on global warming is a perfect example. Randy Olson. After quitting his university job in 1993, Olson went to film school and teamed up with one of his heroes, renowned marine ecologist Jeremy Jackson of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Together they produced the short film Rediagnosing the Oceans, and their partnership led to the founding of the Shifting Baselines Ocean Media Project. Shifting …

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Simple cooking can produce delicious results — like old-fashioned Austrian pancakes

Get cooking, sonny. Too many people in this country have been sold a bill of goods. They've been tricked, flim-flammed, conned, and hustled. They've been bamboozled into believing that food comes wrapped in plastic from the freezer at the nearest Walmart. They've learned to believe that cooking is a chore -- like laundry or washing windows -- to be avoided if at all possible and then done only grudgingly when it can't be. I understand that some people just plain don't like to cook. That's fine. But there are also those who would actually enjoy it, if they hadn't been …

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Will eco-labeling contribute to consumer shopping confusion?

Ben Tuxworth, communications director at Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. ----- British supermarket shoppers face increasingly bewildering claims about the ethical qualities of products. In one of retail giant Tesco's stores, shoppers can opt for goods branded with the Soil Association's organic standard, the Fairtrade Foundation's logo, the British Farm standard, or chain-of-custody marks from the Marine Stewardship and Forest Stewardship Councils. They can linger over footprint information from the Carbon Trust or dolphin-based evaluation of the fishing methods used to catch their tuna. On another spectrum altogether, …

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Virginia candidates split on personal transit choices

Rep. Virgil Goode, the incumbent Republican in Virginia's 5th District, appeared in a Scottsville, Va. Fourth of July parade last week accompanied by a Hummer H3. His opponent in this year's House race, Tom Perriello (D), appeared on a float pulled by a biodiesel-fueled tractor. Perriello fans put together a video highlighting the candidates' automotive choices:

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Umbra on driving versus flying

Dear Umbra, My husband asked me this one the other day and I didn't know the answer, so I thought I'd ask an expert. Which is the more environmentally friendly method of travel: 100 people driving their own cars (let's assume non-hybrid vehicles) to a city three hours away, or 100 people flying in a plane to the same city? Natalie W. North East, Pa. Dearest Natalie, Carpooling is one way to be efficient; here on Floor 2B we also like to questionpool. Let's piggyback on Helen's earlier question about the efficiency of trains vs. planes and keep practicing our …

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Everything you wanted to know about toxic shower curtains, in my dulcet tones

Here I am again on the Environment Report, this time chatting about toxic shower curtains. Everything you ever wanted to know on the subject, complete with Psycho shower-scene screeching, allusions to shower-curtain licking, and quips about exhibitionism.

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How to green your day job

Simple steps are the key to a greener office. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to waste we go. Nope, those aren't the lyrics the Disney dwarves belted out en route to the daily grind, but in today's world they're right on the money. Most skyscrapers, offices, and cubicles are eco disaster areas, squandering massive amounts of energy, water, and paper while spewing out toxins and trash. It's enough to make a person downright weepy (not to mention grumpy and wheezy). You're probably thinking there's not much you can do to help, short of swearing off computers and jobs altogether -- right? …

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Wall*E

I saw Wall•E the other day with my kids and I found it absolutely rapturous, particularly the first half-hour or so. I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up nominated for Best Picture. Not only is it a creative triumph, but it manages to convey "lessons" (ugh) about "environmental stewardship" (ugh) in a way that isn't didactic or overbearing. It's really something. I was going to try to write a profound post about it, but luckily Frank Rich takes on that task today, so just read him.

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Umbra on fans versus AC

Dear Umbra, I'm a girl trying to make it in a big, hot, airless city -- New York, that is. We're in the middle of a heat wave that will soon end, but the longer heat wave we call summer will continue, so I wonder: when the interior of my apartment is up to 93 degrees and I have no less than three fans oscillating, am I using more energy than I would if I purchased and used one energy-efficient air conditioner? What's the best choice here? Elizabeth Q. New York, N.Y. Dearest Elizabeth, I was in New York during …

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