Forward Progress

Take a walk through the JP Green House [video]

JP Green House walk-through from Ken Ward on Vimeo. Walk through of JP Green House, by Ken Ward, co-founder, and Simon Hare & Declan Keefe of Placetailor, showing materials, design and construction techiques being used, aiming to meet passivhaus standards and meet negative, net carbon impact objective.

Buy green, then behave

Study says green shoppers more likely to later cheat, steal

Dearests, I know this won’t apply to any of you, but it is a curious phenomenon: according to a piece in Slate, a recent psychological study shows that a small group of shoppers who bought green products later acted badly in constructed situations — in one case, sharing less money with those in need, and in another, cheating and stealing during a simulated shopping game. How could buying organic nectarines lead to such nefariousness? Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow explains: Why might this happen? According to [Benoit Monin, a professor at Stanford], there are two theories. One is that when we’ve established our …

Hot to Trot

Ask Umbra on globetrotting friends, thorium reactors, and more

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I have greatly cut back on my airplane trips because of my concern about global warming. However, I have groups of friends whose main conversation is about the overseas trips they have been on. When I don’t have an exotic place to talk about it seems like I have nothing to say. Can you think of good ways to address this issue so that I can continue to seem fascinating? MackiSeattle A. Dearest Macki, There’s more than one way to see the world.You have clipped your wings for the health of the …


A womb of one’s own

Photo: Mahalie via Flickr So, why is my response ire and not panic? I guess I’m over the panic. During my pregnancy, I’ve been reading a lot about the toxics in my body and their potential effects on the fetus (and I’ll be writing a lot more about this stuff in this blog series). I realize it’s too late for panic. Contrary to popular belief, my womb is not entirely my own. I’m with the woman from this Seattle Post Globe story, Kim Radtke, who’s just plain angry. Like me, she made all the right personal decisions about her health …

Umbilical Cords Strike an Off Note

More than 200 toxic chemicals were found in the blood of umbilical cords sampled from racial and ethnic minority babies in a report coming out Wednesday. The analysis discovered for the first time in cord blood bisphenol A (or BPA), a perfluorocarbon used in non-stick and weather-proofing products, as well as certain forms of PCBs and synthetic fragrances.  Yuck. Remember this is measuring exposure to fetuses, the most vulnerable time for most stages of human development. The study comes from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group that’s made a name for itself by testing people for pollutants, and was …

Boobs, Boobs, Nothing but boobs

PETA on one side, FOX on the other … now that’s a conundrum

In this corner, we have PETA, a shameless animal-rights organization that uses boobies to make its point at least — what, once or twice a minute? To wit: this latest, uh, holiday-themed ad featuring Polish Playboy model Joanna Krupa. In the other corner, we have FOX News and angry Christians: For a higher purpose? “It’s totally inappropriate,” said Deal Hudson, publisher of, an online magazine. “It’s another instance of disrespect toward Christianity and another example of the kind of abuse that would never occur with any other major religion, because the outcry would be so immediate and so loud …

I Learned of Misfit Toys

Toxic toys and BPA-exposed babies, just in time for the holidays

Dearests, in this season of love and laughter, when we all become young at heart and so forth, I’m going to point out two new child-related studies that might just make you — well, choke on your egg nog. Luckily, I’ve also found some handy resources that will keep your holidays happy. Cute — but toxic, according to new tests.Courtesy HealthyStuff.orgShop smart for your kids, or not at all: A test of 700 toys spearheaded by found toxic chemicals in a third of them, including lead, cadmium, and mercury. The word you’re looking for is: Yikes! There’s some good …

BPA Babies and Cash Registers

We’ve known for a long time that bisphenol-A (BPA) is bad for us. Study after study shows the ill-effects of this widely-used industrial chemical on our bodies–and in particular, on developing babies’ bodies. The list is pretty sobering: BPA’s been linked to breast cancer in women, brain damage in children, obesity, heart disease, diabetes… Two new studies add to the litany: One study suggests that BPA, may cause sexual dysfunction in men. Another study, reported in Science News, links BPA exposures in early pregnancy to more aggressive behavior in 2-year old girls and more anxious and withdrawn 2-year old boys. …

I'm only human, of flesh and blood I'm made

Making buildings more efficient: It helps to understand human behavior

If I told you how much energy your neighbors use on average, and whether you fell above or below that average, would that induce you to save more energy? What if, depending on whether you came in above or below average, you got an emoticon on your energy bill? Say, a smiley face if you save more energy than they do, a frowny face if less. Sounds silly, right? We’re all rational people here. We do things for considered reasons, not some cartoon face! Except not so much. In a 2007 experiment in California, homeowners given an emoticon on their …

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