Get down to business

Ask Umbra on sustainable manufacturing jobs, sexless fish, and matches

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I am wondering if you can help me with this question: What makes jobs in sustainable manufacturing “sustainable” (as opposed to just “manufacturing” jobs), and what do employers look for in determining whether a candidate is right for a “sustainable” or “green” job? And while we’re thinking about jobs, do you know where one can see what jobs are out there in the sus-man sector? Yours,Jesse W.Chicago A. Dearest Jesse, Have you ever been to a wedding reception where someone’s toast begins with some variation of, “The dictionary defines marriage as…”? My …

Shall we Sundance?

The best green films at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival has long been a celebrated venue for environmental documentaries, due in part to Sundance founder Robert Redford‘s green sensibilities. An Inconvenient Truth, The Cove, and Who Killed the Electric Car? all attracted critical buzz at Sundance before they made their way into theaters around the country. The festival’s 2010 lineup continues this trend with a handful of well-crafted, compelling films that address crucial environmental themes not yet in the public consciousness. Gasland Avant garde filmmaker Josh Fox grew up in Pennsylvania on a pastoral stretch of the Delaware River, which happens to sit on the natural …

Green eggs and coal

A Seussical retort to a “Green Coal” company claiming the Lorax name

A new coal-gasification company has named itself LoraxAg, after the consummate Seussical eco-hero, The Lorax. It’s admittedly part of a move to brand the company as advancing the mythical-sounding “Green Coal Technology.” (That’s trademarked, naturally.) “Green Coal” doesn’t sound musical to the Seussical.Photo: Chris1051 via Flickr “The Lorax is the protector of the truffula trees,” LoraxAg president Mike Farina said. “We think this is the greenest use of coal.” In response to the outright ridiculosity of the occasion, I’ve composed a brief tongue-in-cheek homage to one of my childhood heros, Dr. Seuss. (Let me just say it was a glum …

Less Space, the Final Frontier

Ask Umbra’s pearls of wisdom on apartment dwelling

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 shiny tidbits I culled from my past advice on making the most of renting a small urban abode. Have any of your own sustainable apartment living tips or stories? Let me know in the comments section below or shoot me an email. Go with the low-flow.Even if your landlord isn’t up for investing in low-flow toilets, you can still adapt your toilet to reduce the amount of water used when flushing by …


Smart meters save energy, water, and dollars

Flickr via Pink Sherbet PhotographyThe other day I came home to find a colorful flyer on my front door proclaiming, “Your meter just got smarter.” While I was out and about in Berkeley, a worker from my utility, PG&E, slipped in the side gate and gave my old gas and electric meter a digital upgrade. So-called smart meters allow the two-way transmission of electricity data and will eventually let me monitor and alter my energy consumption in near real-time. I’ll be able to fire up an app on my iPhone and see, for instance, a spike in watts because my …

How 'bout them Apples?

Apple’s new iPad is deep green, but a planet saver? Nope.

The iPad.Photo: Apple This post is reprinted courtesy of The day that gadget-lovers have been waiting for with bated breath for months if not years has finally arrived. On Wednesday, just after 10 a.m., Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad — something along the lines of a blown-up version of the iPhone. Weighing 1.5 pounds, just half an inch thick, and 11 inches tall, the iPad aims to be the Next Huge Thing for technology, making it possible to play music, watch movies, read books, and run all the other tens of thousands of apps available in the Apple’s application …


SmartPlanet is not going green

SmartPlanet is a newish venture from CBS Interactive. It promises to cover many of the topics that Grist readers (and staffers) care about. But there’s no mention of “green” on its About page, and barely a mention of “eco.” That would not have been true just a year or two ago. Finding ways to talk about these things–without relying on played-out buzzwords–is going to be a key task for drawing folks into the Great Big Project That Needs a New Name. And a fun challenge for creative wordmonkeys, Photoshop wizards, marketers, etc. Welcome to CBS Interactive has unveiled a …

a house divided

Would you trade a bigger house for more happiness?

In New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s column on Sunday, he recounts the story of then-14-year-old Hannah Salwen and her dad Kevin, and how a chance encounter with a homeless man catapulted their family into swapping their high-end home for a more modest abode and donating half of the proceeds to charity. Just reading that story either gives you the warm fuzzies (“So generous, so inspiring!”) or the heebie-jeebies (“Not everyone has that luxury, the show-offs”). To push you a little more toward the warm fuzzies, I’ll point out that not only did the Salwen family’s “sacrifice” fight hunger in …

A grow-your-own jobs program

[UPDATED] While the big cats cower, time to build robust food economies

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty! While the Democrats hide, time to grow our own jobs program.Photo: Kevin Collins via Flickr[UPDATE at bottom of article.] I have a big, strapping cat who’s infamous for darting under a couch and cowering when a dog, even the tiniest, enters a room. Well, a yipping toy poodle has entered the Senate from the state of Massachusetts. Never a bold bunch, the Democrats have gone into full-on retreat, spooked by the loss of Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat. While the economy continues to unravel, Obama responds by declaring a freeze on “non-discretionary”–i.e., non-military–spending. That’s not a bold …

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