A Non-Starter?

Ask Umbra on anti-idling campaigns

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, My daughter’s Girl Scout troop wants to start an anti-idling campaign at her school. We need help justifying why a car should be turned off for more than 30 seconds. Although they have found that it saves gas and wear and tear on the engine and other parts, very few people believe that 30 seconds is long enough. Most believe that their starter, in particular, will need to be replaced, thereby reducing the gas savings. Can you point us to definitive information about idling and when and why to turn off your …

Love in a time of cataclysm, part 2

Therapy on the Titanic

A recent Facebook exchange was striking. Someone posted a Washington Post article on the latest climate science. It predicted a temperature rise of 8 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century if no systemic changes are made to reduce our carbon output. The better case scenario — in which world governments implement their current promises to cut emissions — would keep the warming to only 6 degrees. Another person responded, “This is so heartbreaking I don’t know how I can hold it.” An increasing number of people note with horror the destruction caused by the current level of carbon …


Ask Umbra’s video advice on making lunch matter

Common wisdom tells us there’s no free lunch. But you can have a guilt-free lunch, thanks to Umbra Fisk’s recipe for midday munchers everywhere. You won’t have to swallow your pride — you can eat well, save money, and help this juicy planet we call home. “Ask Umbra” is the first video series produced by GristTV. Look for new video tips for greening your life from Umbra nearly every week. Watch it on the go! Subscribe to GristTV video podcasts via iTunes. Feed your mind with these links from the Grist archives: Ask Umbra on food storage options Let’s (re)do …

Loo and Behold

As Philadelphia goes, so goes the nation

More green on the streets will mean less brown in the rivers.Tony the Misfit via flickrPhiladelphia has a poo problem. Old, failing pipes plus a swelling population plus lots of rain equals — well, yuck. So the city has pondered its options, and now it’s poised to make a major splash in the world of sewage management. In a move described by an official from the state environmental council as “the most significant investment in transforming the city that we’ll see in our lifetimes,” Philly is proposing a $1.6 billion plan to radically alter the way it handles stormwater — …

What’s Happening On The Fifth Floor?

Millions of people come and go from New York’s iconic Empire State Building every year. The 102 floors bristle with keyboard-clicking, ballpoint-wielding, paper-shredding cubicle dwellers, none of which would appear out of place in an episode of “The Office”. But something very different is happening on the fifth floor – – a magical workplace that may soon transform the entire skyline of a big city near you. At the recent Clinton Global Initiative conference (CGI) in New York, I caught up with Marc Porat of Serious Materials ( He’s part of a team working on the Empire State Building, doing …

Let's Make a Seal

Ask Umbra on drafty houses

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I’ve heard that tightening up a leaky house is one of the best energy conservation tactics out there. Energy audits could save an enormous amount of fuel. My wife is very much opposed to this because she places a high value on fresh air exchange. Are there health risks to “tightening the residential envelope”? David G.Morenci, Mich. A. Dearest David, Your house is breathing too.You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and apparently it is likewise fairly impossible to stop an older house from leaking at least a bit of healthy …

No, <em>Impact</em>, Man

No Impact Man talks about making an impact

First, Colin Beavan donned a superhero nickname and gave up electricity, fossil fuels, un-local food, and buying stuff. He blogged, he wrote a book, he let filmmakers follow his family around (his wife and daughter were roped in too). The New Yorker criticized the stunt, er, experiment. Grist weighed in. Beavan responded to, um, the New Yorker. Whatever, that’s cool. The dialogue continues–here’s an edited transcript of our recent conversation. Grist: The movie leaves viewers wondering, how are you living now that the No Impact experiment is finished? Beavan: We’ve tried to keep the things that actually make sense in …

I will SurvivaBall!

SurvivaBall: Your individual climate-change adaptation strategy

Halliburton’s custom-designed SurvivaBall.The world’s most upstanding corporate citizens, like Halliburton, Monsanto, and ExxonMobil, take climate change seriously.  It’s a serious opportunity for profit.  That’s why, in addition to spending millions to perpetuate the energy, environmental, and subsidy policies that sustain their ongoing operations, they’ve created this “gated community for one” — the SurvivaBall. Specially designed to enable its wearer to withstand months of drought, fierce hurricanes, and catastrophic floods (it floats on water!), the SurvivaBall makes it unnecessary to transition to a low-carbon economy or finance adaptation for the world’s poor. You can even dance in it!  As for procreation …

It Could Be Verse

Climate-news poem: Tck, tck, tck edition

Clock block.This week saw heated multitudes descend on NYC Their passions were aflame, though some were acting quite icy. A human countdown filled the park with cries of Tck, Tck, Tck And Indy told his corporate pals this problem they could lick. Obama wowed the world by saying nothing much, and how! He met his match in vagueness in our old friend Hu Jintao. Hugh Jackman, Heather Graham, and other pretties lent their heft.(Without celebs we might be feeling much, much more bereft!)And then there were the Yes Men, those wry stunters we love most Who tizzied up the city …

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