Think Fast

Your greenest Ramadan

Islam is green by nature, and Ramadan offers a chance to make a big impact.Shawna AyoubAfter my grandfather had a stroke, the doctor said he might not walk again. He also said that getting him to challenge himself — to give walking a true try — was critical to his physical and emotional recovery. My grandfather took his first steps only a week after the near total paralysis of his left side. While he never regained his easy gait, he also never let his slow, strained shuffle hinder him. Mornings, he made ten laps back and forth on the Lebanese …

Visions of the Green Future

California students take Refract House to Solar Decathlon

The Refract team recycled used billboards to create waterproof walls for the home.Courtesy Santa Clara University Adjacent to a three-story parking garage on the Silicon Valley campus of Santa Clara University, workers are busy building a contemporary wood-clad home that wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of Dwell or another shelter magazine for the po-mo, Tesla-driving, little-square-eyeglasses-wearing set. Which is exactly the idea. The home is California’s entry into the U.S. Department of Energy’s biannual Solar Decathlon and is a collaboration between undergraduates at Santa Clara University and the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Twenty …

Peak oil

A tasting of five organic olive oils

Yummy, with a chance of drizzles.Homer (the Greek scribe, not the cartoon dork) is supposed to have declared extra-virgin olive oil “liquid gold.” If by that he meant something to treat as if precious, things have changed considerably three millennia later and half a world away from the Mediterranean. TV cooking gurus evoke Homer’s gold with a breezy acronym (EVOO) and splash it around like it’s tap water. Even local- and seasonal-minded cooks like me treat it like a pantry staple. I live thousands of miles from the nearest olive grove, yet I rarely pass a day without heating some …

Meet the star of ‘No Impact Man’: No Impact Woman

In November 2006, Michelle Conlin began a year-long experiment in extreme sustainability, resolving to burn no fossil fuels, produce no trash, and eat only food grown within 250 miles of her Greenwich Village home. She gave up nearly all shopping and learned to use cloth diapers for her 2-year-old daughter. She took up bicycling and rode a scooter to work. Describing her earlier self as “espresso-guzzling, retail-worshipping” and a “take-out junkie,” she gave up coffee (with some lapses) and to-go food. Eventually she gave up electricity at home, relying on candles in her 9th-floor apartment and lots of stair climbing. …

How to win friends and influence people. No seriously, how?

More on No Impact Man and personal eco-behavior

The other day I highlighted a new piece from Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker, which was critical of No Impact Man and other “stunts” in hyper-green living. Mainly I used it as an excuse to point to my old piece on the civic sphere, which, ahem, you should read. I should have made it clear in the post that I have not read the No Impact Man book (or the other books mentioned in Kolbert’s piece), so I’m not really qualified to comment on whether her criticisms are fair. Not surprisingly, Colin Beavan — No Impact Man himself — …

Act like you care

Hollywood’s next green generation

We know. There’s nothing green about owning a 20,000-square foot house, or flying in a private jet, or stocking a wardrobe the size of a studio apartment. Famous actors indisputably leave a much larger carbon footprint than the average citizen. But their celebrity gives them a far greater ability to influence others, so their efforts toward eco-consciousness can make a difference. Two years ago Grist published a list of green actors. Now we give you an updated version: some younger, fresher faces whose greenness may not be as dark or deep as that of Robert Redford and Ed Begley Jr., …

Throw the book at 'em

Is it time to get rid of phone books?

When was the last time you looked up something in the phone book? What did you do the last time you got a free phone book dropped off on your doorstep–did you recycle it? If you’re like most people these days, your answers to those questions are probably “I don’t remember” and “No.” WhitePages, an online directory service, recently released the results of a survey it conducted indicating that only 15.9 percent of U.S. adults recycle their old or unwanted phone books, and that U.S. citizens are largely unaware of the environmental impact of printing and delivering so many phone …

Faux-Thoreaus take blows

No Impact Man, Elizabeth Kolbert, and the civic sphere

Elizabeth Kolbert’s latest essay for The New Yorker is another triumph, a perfectly pitched marriage of style and substance. It’s about Colin Beavan’s blog-turned-book-turned-movie No Impact Man, Vanessa Farquharson’s Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days, and other recent experiments in (well-to-do, white, urban) asceticism. Kolbert’s dry wit is underappreciated. You gotta love this paragraph: Farquharson’s “green-ovations” range from the significant (“sell my car”) to the useful (“turn down my thermostat,” “fix things rather than replace them”) to the downright ditzy (“go to eco-friendly spas,” “shop at green …

Just Add Elbow Grease

Ask Umbra on green cleaning

Send your question to Umbra! Editor’s Note: It being the dog days of August and all, Umbra Fisk has trotted off for a well deserved vacation. In her absence, we’ve decided to dust off some oldies but goodies from the archives. And since we were dusting, we thought we’d start with this timeless green cleaning advice. Enjoy! Q. Dear Umbra, I’d like to start making my own environmentally friendly cleaning products for my home. Are there any books or websites you would recommend for cleaning “recipes”? Rachel A. Dearest Rachel, No bleach required.You’ll be disappointed if you were expecting elaborate, …

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