How much is that brainwashing in the window?

Our addiction to cheap stuff has become very expensive, new book argues

American retail is riddled with cheap, fall-apart merchandise. We know this. Sales are a ploy to get a shopper to spend, as opposed to a boon for penny pinchers. Right. And how much mileage do we get from that old, overused adage, “You get what you pay for”? More than we’d like to admit. So why is Ellen Ruppel Shell’s new book, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, so shocking? Shell deftly weaves a compelling, cautionary tale out of disparate strands: the psychology of manipulating shoppers, the environmental costs of our lust for inexpensive things, the deskilling of the …

Jet Smart

Ask Umbra on flying less

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Do we really need to fly less or do we need planes that are more fuel efficient? Am I assuming correctly when I say that planes have little or no emissions standards? I didn’t see that mentioned specifically in your previous article on planes and trains. So the real answer would be, fly less for now until planes become more fuel efficient and green. Justin B.East Tawas, Mich. A. Dearest Justin, Don’t fly — the friendly skies will thank you.Robert Scoble via flickrYes, fly less for now until planes become more fuel …

Caption needed! UPDATE: Caption found

When you discover a picture of Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack posing with Cookie Monster and broccoli, it’s caption contest time! Submit captions below in comments. Funniest idea gets a priceless Virtual High Five. UPDATE:  The winner of the Virtual High Five is … Ed Abbey! Scroll down to see the new caption. Thanks for playing! How many puppets do you see in this picture?

From Miley to Marvin

JoBros, Miley Cyrus send on eco-message, and more

Photo: Mark O’DonaldWake up, America!Miley Cyrus, the JoBros, and other Disney mouseketeers tweensters want you to “send it on” — your love for the earth, that is. However, when it comes to this sugar-pop single, we suggest you only send it on to your worst enemies.                    

It Could Be Verse

Climate-news poem: Tween-pop edition

Show them all the Jonas they possess inside. It’s easy to smirk at Selena and MileyThey don’t seem to work, and they’re far too smiley.And when they record a new eco-song,Who can afford to listen for long? But here is the thing us fogeys must know:When tween angels sing, even if the songs blow, The messages hurled in each sappy chorus Will help save the world — for the next ones, not for us.   Hat tip to Ecorazzi — if you give hat tips to people who make bad songs burrow into your brain.  

It's Pat

A test of six recycled-paper napkins

Apparently I have a confession to make: I was, until this time, unaware of the fascinating depth of the world of paper napkins. Word.osde8info via flickrTo begin with, there was my discovery that there are “lunch napkins” — the square, scratchy kind — and “dinner napkins,” the comparatively elegant, rectangular, softer kind. Seriously? I’d never noted this distinction at the store, let alone honoring it at my dinner (I mean lunch) table. More to the point, there are my newfound feelings of confusion over my lifelong paper-napkin use. Do I, like the average American, really use 2,200 paper napkins a …

Long live the green

10 green royals

What comes to mind when you think of royalty? Luxurious palaces, the Queen of England, and overused puns on Marie Antoinette’s infamous one-liner? How about chemical-free gardens, recycling, and sustainable seafood? Ruling families from around the globe are using their media magnetism and sovereign sway to draw attention to a variety of eco-causes, fighting climate change, greening their homelands, and making sure all that cake we’re eating is organic too. 1. Prince Charles of England An outspoken proponent of fighting climate change, Prince Charles has an across-the-board interest in environmental issues. He’s advocated for tropical rainforest preservation through The Prince’s …

Acid Trip

“Acid Test” documentary on ocean acidification premieres tonight

Photo: Yuriy via PicasaDive into the NRDC’s new documentary Acid Test and you’re immediately immersed in a beautiful undersea world complete with vibrant coral reefs, graceful kelp beds, and rhythmic schools of fish. But Acid Test is no Blue Planet, thanks to heavy use of green-screen technology. And what’s in front of those screens is a lot less pleasant than the fish porn projected onto them. (No offense to the scientists, commercial fisherfolk, and other experts who are doing the talking, of course — it’s more about what they’re saying.) The 30 minute film, part of Discovery Planet Green’s “Blue …

Silk Ilk

Ask Umbra on corn plastic

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I’ve been noticing lately a lot of “green” businesses and restaurants in my area using compostable plastics, usually made of corn, if I recall correctly. I can’t compost (I know, I know, but I live in a tiny apartment on the third floor with no porch or yard), and I was wondering if you could tell us any more about this plastic. Should I recycle it, or throw it away? What to do? Becky B.Jamaica Plain, Mass. A. Dearest Becky, Corn plastic = not fantastic.USDA.govDoes anyone find pictures of food appetizing? Right …

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