Living

Getting schooled

Top 20 green colleges

Sierra magazine has just released its third annual list of what it calls “the most eco-enlightened U.S. colleges.” It ranks schools based on the results of a questionnaire sent to sustainability experts at hundreds of institutions across the country. Scores were assigned in eight categories: efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, and administration. The rankings come at a time when two-thirds of college applicants say a school’s green record would influence their enrollment decision, according to a Princeton Review survey [PDF]. Below we’ve got the dish on Sierra‘s top 20 picks. (Schools that also made the Princeton Review’s …

don't be a burnout!

How to deal with incandescent excuses and ‘dim bulbs’

The phase-out of incandescent bulbs in the European Union begins next month, so it’s time to get prepared for a new round of ridiculous excuses about why folks can’t use more efficient lights. Despite having been dealt with repeatedly, these seem to be dug up anytime lights make the news. Luckily, they seem to get more ludicrous and bizarre every time. Who knows what the advocates of wasting energy will come up with next? Here are some of my favorites. Those squiggly lights have mercury! I’m not putting that in my house! An oldie, but a goodie. And like many …

Prison Break

Washington state prisons pursue sustainable practices, green-collar job training

Daniel plants showy fleabane, a prairie flower native to the Pacific Northwest, at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center.Photo: Sarah van Schagen Rows and rows of small yellow cylinders fill the greenhouse where Daniel works steadily, beads of sweat forming on his round, bald head as he places tiny seeds in each container. He is planting showy fleabane, an endangered variety of prairie groundcover that will eventually produce purple-petaled blooms worthy of their moniker. His work is part of a federally funded prairie restoration project, an effort to repair the native grasslands of the Pacific Northwest in areas like Fort Lewis, …

Bag it

Seattle voters toss disposable bag fee

Image: Tom Twigg/GristIn the end, elections always come down to numbers. In the case of Seattle’s Aug. 18 primary — a vote that would decide whether the city would adopt a 20-cent fee for paper and plastic bags at local stores — the most important number turned out to be not the 20 cents nor the number of votes against, but the amount of money spent on the anti-fee campaign by plastic industry lobbyists. That number is $1.4 million … or about 7 million disposable bags at two dimes a piece. Enough, apparently, to defeat the measure by a hefty …

Meet power rock and his sidekick spurt

Coal coloring book teaches kids all about dirty energy

Update below The coal-industry group Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy, which doesn’t actually allow families to join, has a wonderfully crappy coloring book for children. Let’s have a look! Plot, character development, and drawings that kids would actually want to color don’t seem to be priorities for “Eyes for Frosty.” At least it picks a relevant topic in snowmen—they won’t be around for long if the coal industry succeeds in stomping all over climate change legislation. And kids will be stuck with the consequences of our fossil-fuel pollution, so it sort of makes sense to at least leave …

General Musings

GM: Innovators or crackheads?

Some assembly required.GM.comAt one of our news meetings last week, I mentioned a story I had seen. “GM says the Chevy Volt will get 230 miles per gallon,” I told my fellow editors. The number struck me funny because it was ludicrously far beyond any current mpg rating, and because GM acknowledged that the Volt, due in late 2010, would be difficult to recharge given current infrastructure. It’s as if you had a pony that delivered lollipops door to door, except it didn’t have anywhere to buy them. But to a couple of staffers, it was funny for a whole …

Horror Show

‘The Cove’ pulls no punches in documenting Japanese dolphin hunt

The Cove documents a the hunting of dolphins in one Japanese fishing village.Early on in The Cove, director Louie Psihoyos describes how he assembled an “Ocean’s Eleven”-like team of specialists to infiltrate and expose a secret, brutal, for-profit dolphin-killing operation in Japan. The description fits the film, which is structured more like an action thriller than a documentary. And the team, which includes a pair of world-class free divers, a “clandestine operations” specialist who’s discovered Caribbean shipwrecks, a rock concert organizer, and a spiritual surfer dude who co-founded Surfers for Cetaceans. (Cetacea, for marine-illiterate folk, is the order of marine …

Car-Bon Voyage

Ask Umbra on dream trips

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Like any married couple, my husband and I occasionally fantasize about what we’ll do with our life in our retirement years. We’ve had the typical RV fantasy as we do love to travel, but we worry about the gas consumption and resulting emissions that would come of that route. We could tour around in our Prius and stay at budget hotels (and probably break even monetarily), but we’re concerned with their poor laundering, heating/cooling and other consumption choices. Of course we love foreign travel, but the emissions from airplanes are hard to …

Bill McKibben talks climate on Colbert Report

Bill McKibben—author, Grist board member, and 350.org leader—appeared on The Colbert Report Monday night to talk climate change and spread the word about the International Day of Climate Action on Oct. 24. He also gave a solid explanation of the significance of the number 350. The ever-courteous Stephen Colbert threatened to upstage him by launching his own 349.org.