Living

why illinois, why?

Middle school teacher responds on real energy education for kids

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity runs an annual Coal Calendar Art & Essay Contest for middle schoolers, asking students to shill for the coal industry, no doubt in response to a biased classroom lesson about coal. See the comment thread on the coal coloring book story. This comment from reader LILACWINE seems worth calling out: I teach science at a public middle school in Illinois and I have been receiving the “Illinois Coal is our Hero” calendars for years.  I do not know how I got on the mailing list, but the first year I actually cried when …

trash crash

Throwing out the throwaway economy

Photo: Editor BThe stresses in our early twenty-first century civilization take many forms–social, economic, environmental, and political. One distinctly unhealthy and visible illustration of all four is the swelling flow of garbage associated with a throwaway economy. Throwaway products were first conceived following World War II as a convenience and as a way of creating jobs and sustaining economic growth. The more goods produced and discarded, the reasoning went, the more jobs there would be. What sold throwaways was their convenience. For example, rather than washing cloth towels or napkins, consumers welcomed disposable paper versions. Thus we have substituted facial …

The Grist List: From Underwear to Underwater

Change the world by changing your underpants, and more

We’ll be briefWant to change the world? Start with your underwear.            

Getting schooled

Top 20 green colleges

Sierra magazine has just released its third annual list of what it calls “the most eco-enlightened U.S. colleges.” It ranks schools based on the results of a questionnaire sent to sustainability experts at hundreds of institutions across the country. Scores were assigned in eight categories: efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, and administration. The rankings come at a time when two-thirds of college applicants say a school’s green record would influence their enrollment decision, according to a Princeton Review survey [PDF]. Below we’ve got the dish on Sierra‘s top 20 picks. (Schools that also made the Princeton Review’s …

don't be a burnout!

How to deal with incandescent excuses and ‘dim bulbs’

The phase-out of incandescent bulbs in the European Union begins next month, so it’s time to get prepared for a new round of ridiculous excuses about why folks can’t use more efficient lights. Despite having been dealt with repeatedly, these seem to be dug up anytime lights make the news. Luckily, they seem to get more ludicrous and bizarre every time. Who knows what the advocates of wasting energy will come up with next? Here are some of my favorites. Those squiggly lights have mercury! I’m not putting that in my house! An oldie, but a goodie. And like many …

Prison Break

Washington state prisons pursue sustainable practices, green-collar job training

Daniel plants showy fleabane, a prairie flower native to the Pacific Northwest, at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center.Photo: Sarah van Schagen Rows and rows of small yellow cylinders fill the greenhouse where Daniel works steadily, beads of sweat forming on his round, bald head as he places tiny seeds in each container. He is planting showy fleabane, an endangered variety of prairie groundcover that will eventually produce purple-petaled blooms worthy of their moniker. His work is part of a federally funded prairie restoration project, an effort to repair the native grasslands of the Pacific Northwest in areas like Fort Lewis, …

Bag it

Seattle voters toss disposable bag fee

Image: Tom Twigg/GristIn the end, elections always come down to numbers. In the case of Seattle’s Aug. 18 primary — a vote that would decide whether the city would adopt a 20-cent fee for paper and plastic bags at local stores — the most important number turned out to be not the 20 cents nor the number of votes against, but the amount of money spent on the anti-fee campaign by plastic industry lobbyists. That number is $1.4 million … or about 7 million disposable bags at two dimes a piece. Enough, apparently, to defeat the measure by a hefty …

Meet power rock and his sidekick spurt

Coal coloring book teaches kids all about dirty energy

Update below The coal-industry group Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy, which doesn’t actually allow families to join, has a wonderfully crappy coloring book for children. Let’s have a look! Plot, character development, and drawings that kids would actually want to color don’t seem to be priorities for “Eyes for Frosty.” At least it picks a relevant topic in snowmen—they won’t be around for long if the coal industry succeeds in stomping all over climate change legislation. And kids will be stuck with the consequences of our fossil-fuel pollution, so it sort of makes sense to at least leave …

General Musings

GM: Innovators or crackheads?

Some assembly required.GM.comAt one of our news meetings last week, I mentioned a story I had seen. “GM says the Chevy Volt will get 230 miles per gallon,” I told my fellow editors. The number struck me funny because it was ludicrously far beyond any current mpg rating, and because GM acknowledged that the Volt, due in late 2010, would be difficult to recharge given current infrastructure. It’s as if you had a pony that delivered lollipops door to door, except it didn’t have anywhere to buy them. But to a couple of staffers, it was funny for a whole …

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