Feast Your Eyes

Ask Umbra on trash, toxics, and tots

Q. Dear Umbra, Municipal and individual composting operations are gaining steam nationwide. Some obvious benefits include space-saving in landfills, and cheaper and (hopefully) “greener” fertilizer. While I am an avid supporter of composting, I am curious if municipalities with composting facilities could see decreased decomposition rates in their landfills. Do yard and plant scraps even play an integral role in landfill decomposition? Thank you. ToddVancouver A. Dearest Todd, Give thanks — then compost!Since this is Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., a time when we are at our most gluttonous, composting is a timely issue. In fact, I’m putting together …

They Nailed It

Reinventing the JP Green House

For the last year and a half, Ken Ward and Andrée Zaleska have been rehabbing a 100-year-old former neighborhood store in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. They’re converting it into a home for their combined family, a community gathering place, and a zero-carbon demonstration home to inspire others — and sharing their journey in the special series Coming Home: Chronicling the (re)invention of the JP Green House. The firm overseeing the project, Placetailor, specializes in creating homes on the Passive House model, in which supertight insulation and careful use of passive solar create a building that requires no heating …

Forget Polar Bears and PPM

Top 25 reasons to give a damn about climate change

For some people, climate change is a tough cause to rally ’round — even those who understand that it’s happening and that it’s human-caused get distracted by things like eating, working, having sex, watching TV, or watching people on TV have sex. While social scientists ponder the best ways to get the message out and motivate the masses — and since we’re gearing up to cover December’s climate talks in Copenhagen — we’ve devised a Grist list of good reasons to care about this global crisis. Got reasons of your own? Let us know in the comments section below. 25. …


Growing up green: Breathing for two

Babies don’t like air pollution and neither should you!Early in my pregnancy I developed a bloodhound’s sense of smell: even the faintest of odors overwhelmed me. It’s a common phenomenon during the first trimester of pregnancy, yet my new nasal superpower took me by surprise—and forced me into an unwelcome awareness of the pollution that surrounds all of us. Car and truck exhaust, to my unusually acute nose, was pure poison. It made me recoil, hold my breath, gag, choke. My new super-nose could detect the smell all over the place—waiting at the bus stop in my quiet Seattle neighborhood, …


Growing up green: How to shop for a green baby

Photo courtesy Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr I guess I’ve known all along that introducing a baby into the family meant introducing a whole slew of stuff into our lives — much of it bulky, expensive, and — often — plastic. But I’m fighting all the media and social cues to go on a shopping spree at Babies R Us. Instead, my husband and I decided to buy only one or two essential items new, like a state-of-the-art super-safe car seat. But, for the most part, we’ve managed to “go green” as we’ve outfitted ourselves for pregnancy and parenthood — from …

Tress for Success

Ask Umbra on shower caps, computers, and junk mail

Q. Dear Umbra, I’ve taken to washing my hair less and less often to keep it from drying out. Since I’ve switched to the “no-‘poo” method (baking soda followed by a vinegar rinse) it stays cleaner longer. However, I still take a shower (brief and lukewarm) most days. To keep my curly hair from becoming totally frizzy in the humidity of the shower, I typically cover it with a shower cap. My current cap is wearing out and I’m going to need a new one soon — but your simple rule of “no vinyl and that’s final!” keeps resounding in …

Ask Umbra's feeling tipsy

You never get a second chance to make No Impact — oh wait, yes you do

Dearest readers, Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man.You’ve perhaps No-ticed the No Impact swirl of late: there’s been lots of buzz about No Impact Man, the New Yorker who committed his young family to a year of zero-waste living, and his eponymous film. In late October, five thousand people participated in the first-ever No Impact Week. If you missed it then, here’s your  second chance: the Natural Resources Defense Council is sponsoring another No Impact Week beginning this Sunday — you can sign up here, then learn how to plan and carry out your own consumption revolution. (If the timing …


A surprising sneak peek at the clothesline revolution

This interview is part of a series on people who are making their communities smarter, greener places to live. Got a nomination? Leave it in the comments section or send it along to us. Alexander Lee founded Project Laundry List as a Middlebury College undergrad in 1995, after hearing Dr. Helen Caldicott say we could shut down the nuclear industry if we all did things like hang out our clothes. He’s been true to the cause ever since, pushing for clotheslines across the land — even at the White House. Grist caught up with him to find out how hanging …

Slow food, fast trains

Random Monday thoughts inspired by a throwaway line from Mark Bittman

Yes, he occasionally gets on my nerves. But when the great Mark Bittman says stuff like this, all is forgiven (if not forgotten): I am the least impressive cook you will ever see. I am completely without knife skills, I screw things up all the time. When I’m in the kitchen I’m not obsessively trying to create the perfect dish; I’m trying to put dinner on the table. Comparing yourself to the people who cook on television is like comparing yourself to Andre Agassi. If you can drive you can cook. If you can drive, you can cook. Yes! But …

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