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Book review: Caffeinated reads

Javatrekker and God in a Cup on the culture of coffee production

When I jumped on a plane one year ago and headed off to Guatemala with Seattle-based coffee roaster Caffé Vita, there was little more than the occasional blog post telling "the story behind coffee." The majority of the writing about coffee I could find was focused on the history of the bean-like-seed: stories of cunning Dutch merchants, over-caffeinated whirling dervishes, and besieged Austrians, but nothing talking about the places and people that presently grow the second most valuable crop on the planet. When Vita and I dropped down in Guatemala City, I didn't know a damn thing about the bean: …

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Trees win in California solar panels vs. redwoods dispute

Trees have emerged victorious in a California dispute that pitted redwoods against solar panels. Six months ago, Silicon Valley residents Richard Treanor and Carolynn Bissett were criminally convicted because their redwoods shaded the 10-kilowatt solar system on neighbor Mark Vargas' roof. Ultimately, Treanor and Bissett were forced to trim their trees and paid $37,000 in legal fees. To avert future disputes, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday signed a new law that holds that if trees were planted before solar panels were installed, the solar-panel owner cannot force the trees to be trimmed or chopped. If the solar panels came first, …

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Google Maps adds walking directions

Taking another step toward complete indispensability, Google Maps on Tuesday became the first service of its kind to add walking directions. In addition to searches for car and transit travel, pedestrians -- and, hell, Segway-ers too -- can now find the most direct and flat route from Point A to Point B. The function works for trips up to 6.2 miles long, and recognizes that one-way streets only apply to the car-encased (suckas!). Searchers are advised to "use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas" as the directions, still in beta form, potentially lack information about pedestrian bridges, roads without sidewalks, …

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The green Miley

Popster Miley Cyrus pens ‘eco-anthem’

Photo: mileycyrus.com Fifteen-year-old Disney pop starlet Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) wants America to wake up and deal with global warming ... though she's not quite sure what that means. At least, that's what she admits in a song -- dubbed an "eco-anthem" by some, though I'm curious what qualifies it as an anthem -- on her new release Breakout. It may seem not to fit on an album whose title track whines "Every week's the same/Stuck in school's so lame/My parents say that I'm lazy/Getting up at 8 a.m.'s crazy/Tired of bein' told what to do/So unfair, so uncool." …

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Wait till next year

Netroots Nation pledges to cut footprint … in 2009

Five pounds of stuff. That's what greeted me at this year's Netroots Nation '08 conference in Austin, Texas. As is the case with most conventions, registration came with a schwag bag loaded with magazines, pamphlets, and assorted trinkets from sponsors. I took the bag back to my hotel room and unpacked it one piece at a time, spreading the contents on my bed. (I actually had to stand on a chair to get a wide enough view to get all the schwag in one shot.) While most liberal and green conventions these days make at least token efforts to ease …

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Most sunscreens ineffective or pose a health risk, says group

Some 85 percent of 952 sunscreens tested are ineffective or contain potentially harmful chemicals, says this year's annual sunscreen review by the Environmental Working Group. Of 144 sunscreen products distributed by the top three leading brands -- Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Neutrogena -- only one meets EWG's criteria for safety and efficacy. The group raises especial alarm about common ingredient oxybenzone, which a handful of animal studies have linked to endocrine disruption. Some dermatologists accuse EWG's sun-protection rating system of lacking scientific rigor, but the group says it extensively reviewed medical literature on sunscreens and stands behind its data. If …

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How to green your funeral

Not dead yet? There's still hope for a green funeral. There's no getting around it: One day, we're all gonna die. And while most of us won't have much control over the circumstances of our deaths, there are things you can do before you go to ensure that your funeral and earthly remains are as light on the planet as you've tried to be in life. If you think about it, there are almost as many ways to green your funeral as there are ways to meet your end. (OK, maybe not that many, but there are quite a few.) …

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Major League Baseball going, going, green!

Eco-friendliness has been seeping into pro baseball for a while, and now it's pretty much official: America's pastime has gone green. Major League Baseball partnered with NRDC at the start of the season to encourage teams to, um, win at sustainability. Head to a ball game near you, and chances are you'll toss your plastic beer cup into a recycling bin, gaze upon a solar-powered scoreboard, and pee in a no-flush urinal (sorry, men only). Scouts are traveling in fuel-efficient vehicles; stadiums are converting used cooking oil to biofuel; and teams are offsetting their carbon footprint. With 80 million spectators …

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Umbra on storing produce

Hi Umbra, Quick question: What is the best way to store vegetables in the refrigerator? I have a small crisper drawer and lots of vegetables from the CSA box. I don't want to use plastic bags but unfortunately they work well. Any suggestions? Thanks! Kati N. Washington, D.C. Dearest Kati, Did you say CSA box? You mean, you subscribed to a Community Supported Agriculture farm and are receiving weekly boxes of delicious, fresh, local vegetables? And you need to store them properly so as to have tasty, vegetable-centered meals for every day of the week until you get your box …

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