Auld Lang Sigh

Ask Umbra on judging greenness

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I consider myself to live simply and in an environmentally conscious way. I have been having trouble with those who also are “green” but seem to be smug about it, ostentatious even, maybe hypocritical when judging others who appear “un-green” based on superficial things like my clothes. How do I stop being judgmental of the judgmental? MeghanBurlington A. Dearest Meghan, Howsabout we spend less time being shocked by people’s green choices and more time getting good stuff done.I chose your letter to kick off the New Year because I think it reminds …

The quintessence of Mackeyism

John Mackey and the limits of “conscious capitalism”

John Mackey: will the unfettered market bring him down? Photo: JOEM500, via Flickr Author’s note: In the original version of this post, I mistakenly wrote that Mackey had resigned from the Whole Foods board. Actually, he resigned from the chairmanship of the board, but retained his seat on the board. I regret the error. ———– Under pressure from a variety of shareholders, Whole Foods founder John Mackey has stepped down as chairman of his company’s board of directors. He will continue serving as CEO. Just before the announcement, The New Yorker ran a long and entertaining profile of Mackey by …

The Woody Loves It

George Will doesn’t get “This Land is Your Land”

The columnist George Will recently wrote about the new movie Up in the Air. While breezily discoursing on the emotional pain of the worst unemployment record in decades,  Will happened to mention that the “opening soundtrack” to the movie, featuring a new version of Woody Guthrie’s classic This Land is Your Land, was (and I quote) “weird.” Check out the song for yourself, via the interesting free music site LaLa: Will, the bow-tied baseball-ed embodiment of white-bread conservatism, is about as stuffy as a man can be, so it’s no surprise that he completely misses the point of this funkified …

Where to Donate Your Money

Breathtaking last minute philanthropy ideas

Most of us should be giving away more money. (Yes, you should be. If you have any doubt, please stop reading this blog and pick up Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save.) And many of us WANT to give but can’t pull the trigger for a host of reasons: basic cheapness (guilty!), a feeling that you don’t know where to give, a sense that most charities waste your money. So I’m going to make it simple by telling you where you should give your money away. Or, more generously, I’m going to offer some good suggestions based on …


Let it snow … baby clothes

Editor’s Note: Anna finished this post (and a few more) before she went on maternity leave. She gave birth to a healthy girl, Audrey, on December 13. One year ago, just before Christmas, it snowed in Seattle. Not our usual short-lived dusting, but a real dump that lasted a few solid days and, because we’re not prepared for such events, veritably shut down the city (at least for cars). For Seattle, it was real snow. Some say it was enough snow to shift the outcome of the mayoral race in 2009. And as former Sightliner Elisa Murray noted, it was …

You ought-a know

Top green stories of the ’00s

POP ‘TIL YOU DROPCelebs and movies and magazines and TV go green Everyone who’s anyone made a show of going green during the ‘00s — sometimes literally. Cameron Diaz had her Trippin’ series on MTV, kicking off a trend later embraced by stars like Brad Pitt and Adrian Grenier. Leonardo DiCaprio whipped up both a TV show and a documentary, the Discovery Channel launched Planet Green TV, and NBC declared that “Green Is Universal.” Countless other celebs “went green” in their own little (sometimes very little) ways. The media jumped all over this trend, with Julia Roberts and George Clooney …

2nd Annual JP Green House List

Top 10 worst Christmas gifts

The Jamaica Plain Green House today released its second annual list of “Top 10 Worst Christmas Gifts.” The list ranges from $2 stocking stuffers to baubles of the super-rich. JP Green House co-founder Ken Ward said, “These ten items achieved high scores on each of three criteria — profligate, unnecessary, and tasteless energy use — in our rigorous testing protocol.” Ward described the gift ranking methodology as “half an hour of random Googling around.” 1. Greenland Glacier Cruise, $5,247 for ocean view cabin“Greenland’s west coast has dozens of long, deep fjords, many with glaciers fed by the ice cap that …

Requested: Insight into the Human Condition

'Chunking' Trash Out the Window, Texas Style

People are unfathomable, what drives and motivates them to do things is beyond our imagining.

Twiggy Pudding

Ask Umbra on Christmas trees, broken lights, and naughty birds

Dearest Readers, Now that I’m back from convoluted Copenhagen, I find I need a bit of a break. So I’ll be taking some time off to make gingerbread, sip cocoa, and knit myself a new compost bin, which means you won’t see my column next week. But I’ll be here on January 4 — look for me then (and don’t forget to find me on Twitter in the meantime). Happy Solstice, everyone, and thanks for another inspiring year! Q. Dear Umbra, Two questions for you this holiday season! First, the age old question regarding Christmas trees: real or fake? Second, …

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