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Americans using less gasoline

Well, it's finally happened: Americans are starting to use less gasoline. It took a weakened economy and record oil prices -- crude hit an all-time high of $103.95 a barrel Monday -- but in the past six weeks, U.S. gasoline consumption has fallen by an average 1.1 percent from 2007 levels, the most sustained drop in at least 16 years (excepting the dropoff that followed Hurricane Katrina). As Americans move to mitigate their gas-pump pain by seeking out more fuel-efficient cars, migrating into walkable neighborhoods, and riding public transit, analysts are suggesting that reduced gasoline use could be a long-term …

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Umbra on pearl production

Dear Umbra, I'm nearly drowning in jewelry ideas for my valentine, but wary of mined gemstones. Do you know anything about the ecological impact of cultured pearls, or the faux "shell pearls"? Swimming to the Surface Slowly Portland, Ore. Dearest SSS, I apologize for missing your Valentine's window, but you may have seen my wee notie regarding my inability to find pearls of wisdom on this topic. You would think I would just give up after fruitless searching and move on to researching a more pressing item, but nooooo. A little irritant got into my mantle with this pearly query, …

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Slacker credits

This is from the very funny daily web comic Joy of Tech:

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An interview with green designer and TV personality John Bruce

John Bruce is living in a material world. But he's no cone-chested pop star -- he's a green designer. A green designer who, during the course of an hour-long conversation, speaks excitedly about various eco-building materials, professing his love for natural clay plaster and calling sunflower-seed-based particle board "super beautiful." He even credits his love of such materials for being his "official gateway into sustainability." John Bruce. Courtesy EcoZone Media Bruce has introduced many of these eco-gems to the consumers he works with through his design firm Super-Interesting. But he's brought them into millions more homes across the country (and …

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From Bus to Busted

Stop! In the name of love On the rare occasion that a desperate chase ends in actually catching the bus, we always end up plopping our disheveled selves next to someone loud and smelly. To people who find love on public transit, we say: no fare! Photo: iStockphoto Par for the course A little birdie told us that fewer bogey men are still sand-trapped in the golf club. On the hole, the golfing green ain't green, so swingers are gonna need to get a grip. OK, we'll stop 'fore this gets old. Tee hee. Photo: iStockphoto Grease is the word …

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Kodak, Wal-Mart partner on photo kiosk recycling

Wal-Mart continues on the "Seriously? They're still doing good stuff?" path with a new partnership with Kodak that will bring recycling to those handy in-store photo kiosks. The printer ribbon, spools, and cartridges recycled annually by the program will weigh about as much as six commercial planes. Which is, even by Wal-Mart standards, big.

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Fishing for hope at a seafood-industry trade show

Photo: Chris Seufert Viewed from a distance, the Boston Convention Center looks a bit like a great white whale -- an appropriate setting for the annual International Boston Seafood Show. The building's vast interior offers great vistas for people-watching, often through huge glass windows. People move through the hallways and aisles in large groups; watching them was a bit like gawking at schools of fish through the glass pane of the giant tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What sort of species were on display in this human fishbowl? Academic and NGO types darted about here and there, but industry …

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Umbra on organic bananas

Dear Umbra, Why are organic bananas always smaller and almost always greener than non-organic? BG Tallahassee, Fla. Dearest BG, Hmm. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables often differ in appearance from their conventionally grown kin. They're the hippies of the produce world: unwaxed, expressing their individualism, coming to the produce stand as they are, lumps and all. Although I notice this has changed some over the past couple decades as organic farming has become industrialized and the produce has become more uniform. Green bananas: still a-peeling? Photo: Ian Ransley Smaller size can be a result of organic production methods. When a …

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A review of six green laundry detergents

Let's get down and dirty ... about your laundry habits. You may think you're in the clear, but every time you use your conventional, chemical-filled detergent, you could be affecting your health -- as well as the health of waterways downstream. That doesn't sound so fresh (and so clean, clean), so I decided to seek out green laundry detergents and find out which one performs best. Lean, green, cleaning machines? Photo: Sarah van Schagen While shopping, I kept an eye out for the nasty stuff -- the surfactant nonylphenol ethoxylate or NPE, an endocrine disruptor and estrogen mimic; phosphates, which …

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Percentage of 16-year-olds licensed to drive has dropped

The percentage of 16-year-olds with a U.S. driver's license has decreased sharply in the last decade, from 43.8 percent in 1998 to 29.8 percent in 2006. Rising insurance costs, expensive driver education, and an increase in indoor pastimes are more likely to be driving the trend than environmental awareness -- and sure, most yoots still get around in four-wheeled transportation, chaffeured by parents and friends. But at the very least, we suspect that fewer kids with a license means fewer cars idling for hours while teens grope in the back.

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