Living

Twiggy Pudding

Ask Umbra on Christmas trees, broken lights, and naughty birds

Dearest Readers, Now that I’m back from convoluted Copenhagen, I find I need a bit of a break. So I’ll be taking some time off to make gingerbread, sip cocoa, and knit myself a new compost bin, which means you won’t see my column next week. But I’ll be here on January 4 — look for me then (and don’t forget to find me on Twitter in the meantime). Happy Solstice, everyone, and thanks for another inspiring year! Q. Dear Umbra, Two questions for you this holiday season! First, the age old question regarding Christmas trees: real or fake? Second, …

The Great Diaper Debate

Editor’s Note: Anna finished this post (and a few more) before she went on maternity leave. She gave birth to a healthy girl, Audrey, on December 13. Cloth or disposable? Clark wrote about this way back in 2005. I guess it’s a question that Sightliners, rightfully, agonize over as they’re gearing up for a diapering blitz of their own. Our baby will probably be changed between 3000 and 7000 times in the first two years. For now, still a few months away from my due date, I still get kind of flustered when people ask me my diapering plan; I …

Drop that stainless steel water bottle and pick up a phone

A refreshing lack of green nagging in Copenhagen

For all the words, images, and video coming out of Copenhagen this month, I’m not sure anything is so clear and helpful as an op-ed in the Dec. 6 Washington Post, “To really save the planet, stop going green all alone.” If you’re going to forward one climate article to your sister in Dallas this week, make it this one. Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, explains why climate change requires national laws and structural responses such as cap-and-trade. It won’t be solved by personal green gestures like switching light bulbs and taking cold showers. So …

From my roof to your fridge

Steve Howard on our energy-efficient future

Steve Howard, CEO of the non-partisan nonprofit organization The Climate Group, took some time away from his Copenhagen climate duties to share a tantalizing glimpse into our energy future: Q. How will our day-to-day lives change if we really do adopt more sustainable energy practices and products? A. You’ll walk out of a building and you’ll get into your electric vehicle. Your electric vehicle will have been charged, but it won’t have been charged from a coal plant power station. It will be sun from the southwest of the U.S., or it will be wind from the North Sea of …

Spin Class

5 fab bike solutions seen on the streets of Copenhagen

The ‘hybrid’ electric bike Copenhagen wheel concept (retrofit to your own bike’s back wheel hub) shown at Hopenhagen’s Future Cities exhibit.By April Streeter for Treehugger.com: I went to Copenhagen because I could take a train, and I was really interested in what the mood would feel like on the streets (as opposed to what the mainstream press might say). Fairly good-humored, is my summary of the mood, both of the hosting Copenhagen citizens, and the multi-culti visitors. Those trapped in egregious police sting operations might not think so right now, yet the prevailing vibe I sensed was one of cooperation. …

Sexy Retrofits

Vindication edition: Obama declares insulation “sexy”

Here at Sexy Retrofits, we’ve been pointing out for a while the absolute hotness of making buildings more energy efficient. Today, our President said this: “I know the idea [of investing in upgrades to inefficient buildings] may not be very glamorous, although I get really excited about it. Insulation is sexy stuff.” Know what else is sexy? Obama. Glorious day!

your liver, hfcs, and you

New research: Fructose increases risk of diabetes, heart disease [UPDATED]

You should lay off the sauce–it’s not good for your liver. [Author's Note:] This post, reacting to the findings of a University of California, Davis, study on fructose, quoted and relied heavily on an error-laden Times of London story. That said, the post generated a lot of valuable discussion in the comments section below, including a critique of the Times piece by Dr. Kimber Stanhope, one of the authors of the Davis study. In response to another comment, Dr. Stanhope agreed that the question remains how much fructose is safe to consume and she indicated that a current project of …

Two Legs Bad?

How about we stop claiming environmentalists are “anti-human”

Know what’s really depressing? Dragging out old saws about anti-human environmentalists.In the dark of night yesterday — OK, at 8:02 p.m. — Slate published a piece by Anne Applebaum that calls out the “anti-human prejudices of the climate change movement.” Specifically, she is worried that the news coming from Copenhagen is turning her nine-year-old son into a nihilist. Because her son used apocalyptic climate change as an excuse to not do his homework: “By the time I’m grown up, the polar ice caps will have melted and everyone will have drowned.” Seems to me her son is creative, clever, and …

The jobs of saving energy

Could AlertMe be the Apple of energy efficiency?

AlertMe iphone app.Photo: Courtesy of AlertMeI’m sitting in a conference room at a PR agency on the San Francisco waterfront when the chief executive of AlertMe, a British energy management startup, pulls out his iPhone to check on a colleague’s kilowatt consumption back in the U.K. The executive, who has the Vonnegutian name of Pilgrim Beart, taps the “history” icon on the screen. “I can see that his wife has arrived home,” he says before touching the energy button. “They’re watching TV right now,” Beart notes, staring at the iPhone screen. “I could turn the TV off if I wanted …

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