Dry it, you’ll like it

Ask Umbra on food dehydrators, cage-free and free-range poultry, and e-readers

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I am enthusiastic about growing my own food in my small garden and I am looking for ways to preserve my produce for use out of season. I cook and freeze some things and have done some canning, but this year I thought I would make things easier with the tomatoes and try drying them. Looking into purchasing a dehydrator (the weather here in the Midwest doesn’t lend itself to sun drying) the only ones I have found so far are made of plastic. This doesn’t sound very healthy or helpful to …

Limp Biscuits

Eco dog treats confound canines and humans alike

Everyone’s a critic: one of our panelists gropes for a sniff of biscuit.Photo: Jason Houston I’ve got a bone to pick with conventional dog biscuits. Like commercial dog food, they are made with un-green or even potentially dangerous ingredients. Surely, they’re unworthy of a companion who greets your return from the mailbox with nothing less than rapture. But are the spendy, natural and/or organic versions worth the price of reducing Rover’s carbon pawprint? Will your dog eat them, or even prefer them to cheap, commercial Milk-Bones? Our esteemed critics are ready for their treats. Photo: Jason HoustonTo find out, I …

Updating the "Granny Cart"

Transport guru Todd Litman says the biggest vehicular breakthrough of recent decades is the rolling suitcase. That’s not the conventional wisdom. Most recent attention to the wheels of the future focuses on electric cars, and they are clearly essential. Still, for some, they are also a false hope, suggesting that all we need to change is our drive trains, not our auto-centered way of life. If our future is to be sustainable, however, the role of cars—electric or otherwise—will have to diminish. The obesity epidemic, the range limits of electric batteries, the pressing need to get off the carbon-fuel rollercoaster …

Relieve Yourself

Ask Umbra’s pearls of wisdom on stress

Dearest readers, Achy muscles from hunching over your computer? Tumultuous tummy from crazy deadlines? Tension headache from staring at that tiny cell phone screen too long? Well, April is National Stress Awareness Month and today is National Stress Awareness Day, so step away from the laptop, the calendar, and the phone for some deep breathing and your fave anxiety-reducing activity. Otherwise, stress may land you in the doctor’s office, and then you’ll just be fretting about all the pharmaceuticals you’re popping (and leaching into our waterways), and medical bills piling up, and time lost from work, and and AND! That’s …

pie in the sky

Bundles of balloons a new form of carbon-free travel?

Move over Balloon Boy. Cluster ballooning’s as real as it gets.Photo: omnibus via FlickrIt’s carbon-free, it flies, and it has lots of balloons. How are cluster balloons not catching on? Well at least one man is getting around the way Balloon Boy pretended to do and the way the old man in UP does. Last weekend, Jonathan Trappe flew “The Spirit Cluster” — 57 helium-filled balloons and a small harness — 109 miles in 14 hours above his home state of North Carolina, AOL News reports. “Flying a gas balloon is unlike any other experience. There is no sound. No …

Gangsta Wrapper

But can you dance and chew gum at the same time?

Photo: KIMTI wore a purple lamé dress to my junior prom, which I attended with my best friend, Jessica, because we were both too dorky to actually have dates. (Sorry, Jessica, I should just speak for myself. I was too dorky, and Jessica was my faithful best friend. Thank you, Jessica. And thanks for driving us in your mom’s car.) Anyway, I’m stoked to see that shiny fabric is still in for prom—wait just a minute. That’s not fabric. It’s a gum wrapper. A shitload of gum wrappers. Yep, high school junior and proud Iowan Elizabeth Rasmuson, inspired by all …

Peeing on a jet plane

Everybody poops…for a price

While it’s true that an airplane bathroom isn’t necessarily anyone’s idea of a five-star restroom experience, it does come as a welcome relief 30,000 feet above the ground after two in-flight club sodas. So imagine your surprise when, after scrambling over your fellow passengers and down the narrow aisle with a full bladder, there’s a flight attendant there with an outstretched hand, not to somehow assist you with your bathroom experience (you’ve been doing it quite well for years now all by yourself), but to collect the toilet tax. Yep, that’ll be one euro to use the airplane bathroom if …

Funny like a clown

Insane posse of climate deniers?

I know you were probably a little worried that these guys had gone extinct, so I have some excellent news: Insane Clown Posse just came out with a new song! And that’s not all. It teaches us about science—with a twist—so no need to fret any longer about our flagging education system. It’s a little ditty called Miracles. And I suppose the takeaway here is that ICP doesn’t believe in science, per se, since, as the band sings (sort of), “I don’t want to talk to a scientist. Y’all motherfuckers lying and getting me pissed.” Do I smell climate deniers? …

The proof is in the soda

HFCS, the precautionary principle, and the myth of absolute certainty

This is Part 2 of 2 posts of in-depth analysis into the breakthrough work on High Fructose Corn Syrup and weight gain by Princeton researchers. _______________ How much “proof” do we need that the pervasiveness of cheap, HFCS-sweetened junk is making us ill? As a follow-up to my email exchange with Princeton HFCS study lead author Dr. Bart Hoebel, I thought I might dig into some of the underlying issues surrounding the HFCS Wars. I understand and accept that a healthy skepticism is necessary in scientific debate. But reading the responses from “independent” voices (i.e. people not affiliated with Big …

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