Living

36 years and countless converts later....

More power, less roadkill: How one professor’s landscape has shifted

I took Environmental Studies 101 during my first college semester 20 years ago with Dick Andrus, a professor who has just marked 36 years of teaching at Binghamton University. I thought it’d be good to check back with him and see what he’s talking about in that class now. Q. What are your new Envi 101 students like? They coming to the class more ‘eco-savvy’ than my class did? Andrus at work: still planting seeds of wisdom after thirty-six years.Vic LamoreuxA. I don’t think so. They don’t seem to connect much with environmental issues. They’ve done a lot of computer …

Pet Poop, "Clean" Coal, and Old Mattresses

Ask Umbra on ditching dirty things

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, What is the greenest way to dispose of pet waste? Scoop and flush, or bag and throw in the trash? Jenifer M.Vienna A. Dearest Jenifer, Flush or toss?The greenest way to dispose of pet waste is to dispose of your pet, I suppose. No pet, no waste! But barring that revolutionary scheme, a few other options present themselves. You have not said what kind of pet you have, but judging by your reference to scooping, I am going to assume it is a cat. The time-tested advice for felines is to bag …

GoodGuide scanner makes healthy food shopping point and click

Last year, a colleague suggested I check out a startup with the intriguing, and so-very-California, name of Tao It. Founded by Berkeley professor Dara O’Rourke, Tao It aimed to tap a multiplicity of databases to rank consumer products according to their health and environmental attributes. The idea: If people could instantly learn online whether there are bad chemicals in their food and other goods, they would start buying green, putting pressure on companies to make more environmentally friendly and healthier products. When Tao It emerged from stealth mode, it was rebranded with the blander but apparently more marketable moniker GoodGuide. …

Citizen Martha

Martha Stewart blisters meat industry in Thanksgiving show

Martha Stewart is easy to caricature. But the sister values good ingredients–and has realized that industrial agriculture churns out flavorless crap. That has caused her to ask second-order questions about the food system–and use her immense popular appeal to shed light on the horrors of factory meat farming. She has devoted her latest episode to the topic of “vegetarian Thanksgiving.” She delivers a powerhouse lineup of interviews: Food Inc. director Robert Kenner, pasture-based meat farmer Joel Salatin, celebrated vegetable chef Jeremy Fox, and novelist/anti-meat pamphleteer Jonathan Safran Foer, who helps Stewart whip up a little casserole. They don’t allow the …

It's a roux story

Turn your turkey carcass into a spectacular gumbo

Turkey gumbo: the Thanksgiving centerpiece finds its true calling. All photos by April McGreger Before accepting a Thanksgiving dinner invitation, I ask my host two questions: Will you be roasting a turkey and may I have the leftover carcass? The best part of the Thanksgiving turkey has long been about leftovers for me, but a few years ago I upgraded from mundane turkey sandwiches to the exceptional turkey bone gumbo. I have long been a fan of wild-duck gumbo, but the first that I heard of turkey bone gumbo was from my friend Sara Roahen, who devotes a whole chapter …

Calling All Wildcats

This Friday, don’t just Buy Nothing — use nothing!

Courtesy AdbustersFor twenty years, the people behind Buy Nothing Day have been pleading with consumers to avoid the frenzy inherent in “Black Friday,” the no-holds-barred shop-o-rama that comes the day after Thanksgiving. This year, they’re ramping things up and calling for an all-out Wildcat Strike against the “capitalist consumption machine.” Socialists, you say? No, just worried people who want to take a stand in the face of “crises of ecology, psychology, and faith.” Dearest readers, I’ll let them say it themselves — give this a look, and visit the Buy Nothing Day site to learn more: This year we’re calling …

Of price and men

Making buildings more efficient: looking beyond price

Photo courtesy kimberlyfaye via Flickr Using energy more efficiently in buildings may be the fastest, cheapest way to substantially reduce carbon emissions in the short-term. How can we make it happen? Last week, New York Times‘ David Leonhardt wrote a great column about a new proposal bouncing around the White House: “cash for caulkers,” a stimulus program to support building retrofits and efficiency. (Leonhardt has more details on his blog.) And as I wrote on Saturday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is pushing to have a similar program included in the upcoming Senate jobs bill. So it seems that national policymakers …

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 …

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