Living

Oy Convey

Ask Umbra on escalators

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Nice column on elevators. Since most elevators are counterbalanced, there is much less energy use involved than most people would expect. It’s nice to see the addition of hybrid technology to recapture the braking energy, though. On the other hand, those ESCALATORS ….. ! I have seen a “smart” escalator in Europe that only operates when there is someone around to use it, rather than going and going all day even when there’s no one around. I wish they would make it to the States. BTW, since you are a writer and …

Socially changed

Facebook app translates online efforts into real-world environmental change

Climate change may take place in the offline world, but that doesn’t mean the online world is relegated to mere words and worry about it. A clear example is the dedicated crew of young eco-activists at Hot Dish, a climate news-‘n’-action application on Facebook. Hot Dish aims to move people from online engagement with climate news to offline action in the world where climate change is taking place. In a rush of impressive real-world environmental achievements, Hot Dish’s Action Team contest concluded last week. Battling for the crown of most climate conscious, Hot Dishers earned points for green efforts of …

Social mediators

10 ways to change the world through social media

Citizen journalism, open government, status updates, community building, information sharing, crowdsourcing, and the election of a President. Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Max Gladwell, a blog specializing in social media and green living. Our children will inherit a world profoundly changed by the combination of technology and humanity that is social media. They’ll take for granted that their voices can be heard and that a social movement can be launched from their laptop. They’ll take for granted that they are connected and interconnected with hundreds of millions of people at any given moment. And they’ll take for …

When the rubber hits the road

Gear up for Bike to Work Week

It’s Bike to Work Week, which means it’s the perfect time for you to dust off that two-wheeler and start pedaling (or feel a bit smug-er about already being a committed cyclist). For tips on converting to a cycle-based commute, check out our handy how-to or the entertaining Umbra video at the bottom of the post. And for those of you with a more adventurous spirit, check out the Urban Assault Ride. Sponsored by New Belgium Brewery (makers of Fat Tire ale, natch), this bike-based scavenger hunt will send you all over the city in a race to complete a …

Fact Finding Missions

Ask Umbra on comparing green products

Q. Dear Umbra, I am a consumer who has recently convinced a friend of mine to green his business. I am now in charge of doing all of the research. My question is, how do I go about assessing the life cycle of various products? … Do you know of such a service/website? I have tried to Google things but it is very hard to get side by side comparisons. Also, do you know of a good website that rates random products according to their environmental impact? Tamara A.Munich, Germany Data, people. We need data.iStockA. Dearest Tamara, Welcome to my …

Larder starter

The non-survivalist’s guide to stocking up for hard times

Dear Lou,As a resident of South Mississippi, I think it is officially time to stock my swine flu/tornado/hurricane/foreign invasion pantry. How do I do this without filling it with a bunch of processed crap, but still manage to stock away flavorful and nutritious staples? Kelly S. Dear Kelly,This particular swine flu pandemic–which may or may not be linked to factory farms–doesn’t appear to pose much of a public-health menace. But it reminds us of an old lesson: chaos happens. Regarding pandemics, our very own government advises people to keep two weeks’ worth of supplies on hand, which is truly the …

So Long, Saturn

I sold my car, and I couldn’t be happier … I think

It’s all yours.iStockI recently committed a subversive act: I sold my car, and I’m not buying a new one. I’d thought that I’d feel virtuous and free — and I do — but it’s turned out to be a bit more complicated than that. Never too attached to my particular car, I considered it transportation, not a reflection of who I am. My job as an environmental reporter has taught me about the hazards of car ownership, from pollution and materials waste to sprawling, disconnected communities to oil politics — even obesity. Yet in spite of living for 14 years …

One Word, Infinite Possibilities

Plastic bags get a new life in Jerusalem

Read more about Eric Pallant’s West Bank wanderings in his story about keynoting a green-building conference there. There is a hamsin today, so the wind is whipping hot Saharan air and dust across the landscape. Despite the limited visibility, I can see that the cities that string south back from Ramallah, where I lectured at Birzeit University, to Jerusalem are well-kept and orderly. Palestinian military personnel stand in pairs every few miles. There is no trash in the street or in yards. Tall apartment buildings are tidy; no laundry is hanging from windows the way it does in Israeli tenements. …

Love Your Mother(s)

Gobs of green ideas for Mother’s Day

Look, Ma, no pesticides!iStock OK, it’s one thing to say Screw Earth Day, but there are some holidays you just don’t toy with. We know enough to leave Mother’s Day alone. You don’t have to pull this car over. In honor of the day, we hereby present great green gift ideas for ma. Not that you still need a gift, what with having procured the perfect item several weeks ago. But, you know, just in case: Check out our exclusive Mother’s Day eco-gift guide, covering everything from totes to treats Find out why you should buy organic flowers (and really …

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