the breeding edge

Veggies not challenging enough? Try home ‘aquaponic’ gardening

Last year, thanks in large part to the White House kitchen garden, the country saw a resurgence in interest in backyard gardening. But this being America, where one-upsmanship sometimes seems like a national pastime, the vanguard has apparently moved on … to “aquaponics.” The New York Times illustrates what makes this “breeding edge” of backyard agriculture different with a visit to hobby farmer Rob Torcellini’s hand-built installation in Connecticut: There are fish here, for one thing, shivering through the winter, and a jerry-built system of tanks, heaters, pumps, pipes, and gravel beds. The greenhouse vents run on a $20 pair …

Do you know the muffin, man?

Ask Umbra on how to make organic dog treats

Brianne DiSylvester, owner of Get Lick’d Organic Dog Treats and Change Agent featured in today’s Ask Umbra video, was kind enough to give us this tasty treat recipe for your furry friends. Enjoy, dearests, and let me know how your pups like the muffins in the comments below (FYI, you can eat them too, but they may not be up to your palate standards). I’m the size of a muffin. Get Lick’d Organic Peanut Butter Carob Treats Makes 48 muffins 2 cups organic brown rice flour 1 cup water 1/4 cup vegan carob chips 1 Tb organic peanut butter 1 …

Polar Bears Endangered, But Cute

Olympic broadcast wins gold for vapidity

While eagerly watching Bode Miller and the men's downhill Olympic race yesterday, I was treated to an unbelievably vapid interlude by Mary Carillo on the Polar Bears of Churchill, Manitoba, which she showed to Bob Costas. The whole time I was waiting for someone to take this great opportunity to talk about climate change in front of a massive audience. After all, with the bears, there's really obvious stuff going on.

Transportation today and tomorrow

Two books that blew my mind

I have a piece in the latest issue of the American Prospect called “This Is How You’ll Get There.” It’s a review of two books: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), by journalist Tom Vanderbilt, and Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, by three brilliant supergeeks (two from GM’s advanced auto division; one from MIT’s Smart Cities program). I know book reviews aren’t the most exciting genre in the world, but I quite like this one, mainly because the books kind of blew my mind. The first is …

Politic tac toe

Ask Umbra on political activism, donating light bulbs, and BPA in canned food

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, A while back, you said that political activism was really important. I think I can tear myself away from my new(ish) organic garden long enough to do a little, but I’m not sure what to do. How can I be politically active with my busy schedule? Jon B.Lakewood, Ohio A. Dearest Jon, Happy Presidents Day, a perfect occasion to reflect on how you can get more involved in the political landscape of our great country. Let’s face it — your garden is probably in deep freeze mode at the moment, so you …

Checkout line

Pom-Pom club: Just how ‘Wonderful’ are pomegranates?

In Checkout Line, Lou Bendrick cooks up answers to reader questions about how to green their food choices and other diet-related quandaries.  ————— Dear Checkout Line, For months now, I can’t seem to walk through my local natural-food market without smacking into a vast display of pomegranates — and I usually put one in my cart. Not that long ago, the fruit with the deep-red seeds would show up in the market in a tiny pile, and just for a short time in October. What gives? Did someone put in a giant monocrop of them somewhere in California? Are they …

Food for thought

Ask Umbra’s pearls of wisdom on supermarket shopping

Dearest readers, Sometimes when I’m down in the stacks researching answers to your latest dilemmas, I enjoy taking a stroll down Ask Umbra archives lane. Here are some glossy tidbits I culled from my past advice on lessening your impact when it comes to grocery shopping. Have any of your own green grocery tips? Let me know in the comments section below or shoot me an email. Let your guilt out of the bag.You probably already know the answer to “Paper or plastic?” is neither — opt for a reusable bag. However, for those times you forget your own bag, …

To half and to hold

I paid $50 for this book and all I got was this lousy feeling of hope and goodwill

I received a free review copy of The Power of Half, but it ended up costing me $50. Fifty bucks that won’t go toward a much-needed (fine, much-wanted) pedicure, about a dozen cinnamon lattes, a month of cable or my cell phone, or a couple of weeks worth of bus fare for my ride to and from work. The just-released book, written by former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor Kevin Salwen and his 17-year-old daughter Hannah Salwen (check out Ask Umbra’s Change Agent interview with Hannah), details the Atlanta family’s decision to jump off of the bigger, better, faster, …

Picking up the PACE

San Francisco commits $150 million to green homes

Monday night I was having drinks in downtown San Francisco with some seriously smart people — top-level IBM scientists and strategists involved in Big Blue’s Smarter Planet initiative.  Given the room’s collective interest in creating smart electrical grids, smart water systems, advanced electric car batteries and other green technologies, the talk naturally turned to how to create sustainable cities. Solar panel installation in San Francisco.Photo courtesy bkusler via FlickrThe technology largely exists, the IBMers agreed, but what’s really needed is a great leap forward in financial engineering to allow cities to finance all the cool stuff being developed in labs …

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