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Solar-panel thievery taking off in U.S.

Solar-panel thievery, long a problem in Europe, has been gaining popularity recently in the United States courtesy of high energy prices, rising demand for solar, lax security measures to protect panels, and solar's sexy chic. (After all, you don't see anyone running off with your energy efficiency do you?) While no official statistics exist, solar panel burglary appears to be heaviest in California where the market is the largest and demand is high, but solar thieves have also struck in other states. A number of stolen panels have resurfaced online, with eBay and Craigslist among the favorite venues to unload …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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ReGeneration Roadtrip: Google juice, video

A quick stop at Google HQ

During our travels in the Bay Area, Todd and I ended up near Mountain View and took the opportunity to make a quick stop at Google HQ. We were hoping for a tour and maybe a lunch at their super-sustainable cafeteria, but apparently the place is closed to the public so all we ended up with was a free bottle of juice. Well, that and a quick little video of the parking lot -- which is actually a lot more exciting than it sounds. The parking lot is covered with solar panels and even includes plugs for any electric vehicles …

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It's no Portland

Oregon’s capital far behind its bigger sister

From LoveSalem: So we were talking about keeping chickens as part of a scheme for implementing the "Food Not Lawns" ideal (Victory Gardening for The New Reality). Someone thought you could keep hens but not roosters. Someone else thought you couldn't keep either. It all led to an inquiry to the powers that be, who replied ... Read the rest if you dare.

Read more: Cities, Food, Living

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Umbra on small steps with big impacts

Dear Umbra, This year my family is not in the position to make any major CO2-reducing changes. We will not be purchasing a new car, a smaller house, or more efficient appliances. And honestly, with two small children living in a suburb, public transportation is not a realistic option. Still, we'd like to reduce our carbon footprint and help the environment. Would you be able to point out other meaningful, smaller changes we could make? Thanks for your guidance. Tara H. Indianapolis, Ind. Dearest Tara, Don't abandon hope for significant greenhouse-gas reductions. If your life is anything approaching the typical …

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Colleges given green grades

How green is your alma mater? Check out the 2009 College Sustainability Report Card, which grades 300 U.S. and Canadian schools on their green practices. The colleges are evaluated in areas including climate and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, and transportation. Many pass those categories with flying colors, but in areas "like shareholder engagement and endowment transparency ... [about] half or more of schools are still getting grades of F," says Mark Orlowski of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, which issues the report card. Nonetheless, 75 percent of the schools scored an overall B or C, and two-thirds …

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Me, reviewing

A review of Tom Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded

I have a book review in the latest issue of the American Prospect, covering three books: Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America, by Thomas L. Friedman Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 438 pages, $27.95 Earth: The Sequel: The Race To Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming, by Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn, W.W. Norton, 279 pages, $24.95 Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction To Oil and Coal, by Michael Brune, Sierra Club Books, 269 pages, $14.95 The review mostly focuses on Friedman's book. You can read the first three paragraphs here …

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A review of non-clay cat litters

It's time to let the cat out of the bag about the icky stuff in your cat's litter box. (No, not that stuff.) If you're using clay-based kitty litter, you could be making a mess of the environment -- and your health. Most conventional cat litter is made from natural clay, or sodium bentonite, which is formed into pellets and dried. The clay is strip mined from the earth in a destructive process that seems quite silly when you think about what happens to it once it hits the litter box: It is shat upon and then tossed in the …

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Urban farmer awarded ‘genius’ grant

Will Allen. Urban farmer Will Allen has been named one of this year's recipients of the prestigious "genius" grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The grant recognizes Allen's work bringing affordable fresh produce and quality grass-fed meats to the urban poor and educating communities about sustainable farming. Allen co-founded the group Growing Power in Milwaukee in the early '90s to engage kids in food production and educate them about where food comes from. At the same time, the organization also worked to ensure that low-income neighborhoods had access to fresh fruits and vegetables via farmers' markets …

Read more: Food, Living

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Umbra on the importance of voting

Dear Umbra, I have a friend who is a fellow environmental studies major, and he says he's not going to vote because he "doesn't agree with the system." I've had numerous discussions with him about how important it is to vote, especially when it comes to environmental issues, but he doesn't seem to want to listen. My question to you is this: Why, as an environmentalist, should I vote? Nick Wyoming, Minn. Dear Nick, I grant you, our particular system of democracy is flawed. But pouting on the sidelines is not effective. Politics contains no über-moms who will take your …

Read more: Living, Politics

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15 Cities, 15 Days, Destination: Green

Grist and Dell hit the road in search of a sustainable future

It feels like just a year ago that I was traveling down the Mississippi in search of sustainable cities. Well, I'm on the road again -- this time with a much more ambitious itinerary: 15 cities, 15 days, destination: green. I'm in San Francisco right now, but I'm headed all the way across the country, baby. And dude, I'm getting a Dell! Actually, I'm getting a Todd Dwyer, head blogger for Dell's eco-minded site ReGeneration.org. The two of us are hitting the road (in a Prius!) seeking the leaders, big and small, of our sustainable future -- whether that means …

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