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Iowa’s chefs and their farmer-suppliers get busy recovering from disaster

Roads and restaurants may be closed, but Iowa is getting back on its feet. Photo: Kurt Michael Friese The weather here in Iowa City has been gorgeous for more than a week. Is Mother Nature trying to make amends? While she smiles on us, she's still causing trouble for our friends to the south. The horrendous flooding continues, breeching nearly every levee it encounters in Missouri and Illinois, and leaving behind a litany of statistics that indicate the millions of lives affected. In Iowa alone, we've got 36,000 new homeless folks, and 3 million inundated acres of farmland. And then …

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California license plates will go without Wyland whale tail

Some 126,000 California license plates sport a whale tail designed by artist Robert Wyland, but the famed marine muralist is now withdrawing his permission for the state to use the art. A few months ago, Wyland asked the California Coastal Commission to donate 20 percent of profits from the plate to his ocean-conservation group. The commission, which directs the $15 or so it receives from each specialty plate to state conservation programs, says that's "outrageous"; they say Wyland gave the state rights to the whale tail in a 1994 "handshake deal" with no strings attached. Wyland disagrees: "I was being …

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Umbra on short-haul flights

Dear Umbra, I work in the touring music business, based in the U.K. but touring worldwide. I have noticed recently that the record companies are booking cheap flights for short distances, e.g., London-Manchester, about 200 miles. Over such short distances, there is no saving in time, due to travel to and from airport, checking in, etc. Trains would be quicker, but unfortunately in the U.K., trains are more expensive. I would like to speak with these companies about their continued use of flights where inappropriate but would like to be able to present facts and figures to bolster the argument. …

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Eco-friendly outdoor outfitter resurrected

Last month, we were sad to learn that stylish, sustainable outdoorsy-fashion darling Nau was biting the dust. Turns out that goodbye for Nau was a good buy for Horny Toad Activewear, a Santa Barbara-based maker of "lifestyle apparel" that recently acquired the company. (Hee hee, they said horny!) Mark Galbraith, head of product design for the new Nau, said in a June 24 press release, "We plan to re-open with a new Fall/Holiday 2008 collection that continues to reflect the design philosophy Nau's customers have come to know and love -- a balance of Beauty, Performance and Sustainability." The new …

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Wimbledon under fire for shooting pigeons

As the Wimbledon tennis championships get underway, the real drama isn't on the court but in the air. After the players' lawn and an open-air restaurant were dive-bombed by pigeons, officials sent marksmen to take 'em out. The tournament employs two hawks for pigeon-scaring, "and by and large they do the job," says a Wimbledon spokesperson. "But unfortunately there were one or two areas where the hawks didn't deter the pigeons, so it was deemed necessary to take a harder approach." Folks at PETA are hopping mad, calling the shooting "cruel and illegal behavior." But apparently, desperate times call for …

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How to green your vacation

Wherever you go, there you are ... still having an impact. Everyone needs to take a break from the stresses of life, and environmentalists are no exception. After all, vacations are a necessary part of any sustainable lifestyle. And while vacation time itself can be hard to come by, your getaway needn't be hard on the planet. There are plenty of ways to green your vacation, whatever your budget and whatever your destination. Whether it's a close-to-home romp in the outdoors or a spendy retreat halfway around the globe, there's no shortage of ways to see the world -- while …

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Home Depot will collect CFLs for recycling

Home Depot announced Tuesday that it will collect compact fluorescent light bulbs and send them off to be recycled. The home-improvement behemoth hopes the new program will keep the bulbs, which contain a small amount of mercury, out of household trash and recycling bins. IKEA also collects CFLs for recycling but doesn't have the market saturation of Home Depot; more than three-quarters of U.S. households are estimated to be within 10 miles of a Home Depot store. The company's 1,973 U.S. stores will also switch to CFLs in light-fixture showrooms by the fall, a move expected to save it $16 …

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New flicks feature green themes

Photo: rpb1001 The oppressive heat of global warming got you headed to your local air-conditioned movie theater? No? It's just the popcorn? Well, either way, you may end up seeing a blockbuster with an environmental theme. Lately there's been a bumper crop of eco-stuff hitting the big screen or making its way there soon. For starters, you've probably heard the not-so-friendly reviews of The Happening, M. Night Shyamalan's latest showing. But rotten (organic) tomatoes or no, this one does have an eco-theme -- the premise being that as revenge for humankind's mistreatment of the earth, trees begin releasing a neurotoxin …

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What should I ask — or tell — the (organic-cotton) suits at a fancy Colorado confab this week?

Later this week, I'll be reporting from the Organic Summit in Boulder. Judging from the attendees list on the homepage, the summit brings together the shakers and movers behind what Michael Pollan has called "industrial organic" -- the large-scale producers and processors that stock the shelves at Whole Foods and the organic sections at Wal-Mart, Safeway, etc. But the organizers seem intent on shaking things up. The speakers list ranges from Brahm Ahmadi of Oakland's excellent urban-ag project, People's Grocery, to Jim Thomas of the GMO watchdog ETC Group to Shelley Rodgers, who's making a documentary called What's Organic About …

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Preparing for Olympics, Beijing takes government cars off roads

In preparation for hosting the Olympics and Paralympics from Aug. 8 to Sept. 17, Beijing has officially kicked off its plan to clear the air by keeping cars parked. Starting Monday, half of Beijing's 22,800 government vehicles will stay off the roads until July 19. From July 20 to Sept. 20, 70 percent of government vehicles will be idled, and non-governmental vehicle owners will only be allowed to drive every other day. Beginning July 1, heavily polluting industrial trucks will be rerouted around the city. "Thanks to the bans, vehicle emissions during the Olympic Games are expected to drop by …

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