Living

Paint it black

Ask Umbra Book Club: How coal lit a fire under human society

Bring in the chimney sweep!Photo: Thiophene GuyDearest readers, In our last book club conversation about Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, we discussed some of the sordid history of the food …

your water wings for the dating pool

TreeShagger: 10 great green date ideas

Welcome to TreeShagger, our new column on green dating. If you’ve got green dating questions, send ’em our way! So Valentine’s Day came and went, and you’re in the doghouse since you couldn’t get a …

Auto-da-fey

Hey, Tina Fey, one kid is OK — and greener too

           “Don’t even ask.”           Photo: George ArriolaThe ever-entertaining Tina Fey has a piece in the latest New Yorker on my designated topic of the week: whether to have more than one kid. “The second-worst question you can …

no rain, no grain

The world is one poor harvest away from chaos

An Indian woman sifts grain from a previous harvest. Water shortages could drastically affect this year’s harvest.Photo: World BankIn early January, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that its Food Price Index had …

Thou shalt not commit food adulteration

Ask Umbra Book Club: The history of ‘adulterated’ food and gross-food urban legends

Give us this day our daily bread, as long as we know what went into it.Photo: LaCheryl PorterDearest readers, Last week, we kicked off our discussion of Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of …

The only kids are alright

The only kids are alright: Good reasons to consider stopping at one child

This only kid is A-OK.Photo: Omar GurnahSnooki of MTV’s Jersey Shore is immature, whiny, and self-involved — in other words, your typical reality-show star. But a New York Times article about her improbable rise to …

survival of the knittest

Happy birthday, Darwin! Have a giant recycled squid

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you end up with plastic bags. This is why nature invented the giant squid, humans invented knitting needles, and Deadly Knitshade invented Plarchie. He’s knitted out of 162 plastic bags, …

the other side of the fence

Who’s got the greenest house on the planet?

It’s pretty easy to determine the biggest pie, or longest fingernails, or fattest twins. But what about the greenest house? AOL’s consumer finance site, of all places (they’re into journalism now!) has a nice roundup …

If, ands, & butts?

Ask Umbra: Is there such a thing as an environmentally friendly cigarette?

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I’m a smoker. So, is it better to smoke organic tobacco? Will I put less of a strain on the planet by smoking e-cigarettes? Or can you …