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Consumers shopped less this holiday season, testing brand loyalty

Holiday retail sales took a hit this year, even at stores like Starbucks, Coach, and Target that enjoy strong customer loyalty. Expensive gas, dropping home prices, and an uncertain economy -- or a society-wide trend toward reduced consumerism? Hey, we can dream.

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It’s almost 2008, and Beijing’s air is still polluted

The city of Beijing has been striving to clear its air for the sake of the Olympic athletes who will descend upon the city this coming summer -- but whether it will be able to pull off blue skies remains to be seen. Beijingers were warned to stay inside today, as pollution hit "as bad as it can get," according to a spokesperson from the city's Environmental Protection Bureau, who adds, "This is as bad as it has been all year." The International Olympic Committee has warned organizers that it will reschedule athletic events if air quality is a threat …

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The Best of Grist List 2007

Art attack With more subtlety than a "wash me" message, reverse graffiti artists have hit the streets to take a bite out of grime. And as to the softer side of urban art? Knitta, please. Photo: Alexandre Orion Go fuzz yourself The hatas who wanted to give Knut the boot better watch their backs 'cause this cuddly wuddly fuzz ball ain't playin'. Officially branded by the Berlin Zoo, the celeb cub's got his "Knut Ist Gut!" single on German shelves, raspberry-flavored sweets in the works, and his mug on the cover of the German Vanity Fair. He's practically a hip-hop …

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Online shopping better for the earth than going to the mall, says study

Online shopping is better for the planet than multiple trips to the mall, says a somewhat ill-timed study. (Start your online shopping today, spend $3,000,000 for shipping.) "Using several assumptions and data from several authoritative sources, we can reasonably estimate that nearly [500,000 metric tons] of carbon dioxide are kept out of the atmosphere by shopping online" during the holidays, says Jesse Miller of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We would venture to say that patronizing walking-accessible local merchants might be the big winner here -- by why do that when malls at holiday time are so much fun?

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Top green music stories of 2007

Here are the Official Top Green Music Stories of 2007, listed in very particular order and determined via a very scientific process (a combination of my memory and Grist's archives): 5. Sheryl Crow proposes a one-square limit on toilet-paper use; TP-users fail to get joke. 4. Oscar awarded to Inconvenient Truth's eco-song. 3. Industry-wide search for eco-song-that-doesn't-suck continues. 2. Summer music festivals go for green, while festival-goers smoke it. 1. Live Earth concerts bring together rock stars, eco-celebs, and that politician dude. P.S. For more on green music news, see our list of the Top 15 Green Musicians and Bands. …

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Top green celeb stories of 2007

Here are the Official Top Green Celeb Stories of 2007, listed in very particular order and determined via a very scientific process (a combination of my memory and Grist's archives): 5. Brad Pitt adopts Maddox Pax Thien Zahara New Orleans. 4. Leo DiCaprio releases 11th Hour, which sinks into obscurity faster than the Titanic. 3. Primetime television attempts eco-programming; finds out the environment isn't funny. 2. Celeb-studded award shows go green -- and ga-ga for Gore. 1. Knut overload. Fluff said. P.S. For more on green celeb news, see our lists of the Top 15 Green Actors and the Top …

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When is a Tundra a better buy than a Prius?

This never fails to fascinate me: The chart shows how much fuel is consumed over 15,000 miles by cars of different fuel efficiencies. The curve matters a lot. It means that from the perspective of fuel conservation, it's not terribly important to trade in your Honda Civic to buy a Prius. But it's hugely important to trade in your Dodge Durango for a Toyota Tacoma. I'll use some rough numbers to illustrate. You trade in your Civic, which averages about 32 miles per gallon, and buy a Prius, which gets a whopping 47 mpg. You've bumped up by 15 mpg …

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Top British scientist tells women to stop drooling over gas-guzzling males

Hey ladies, wondering how to help fight climate change? It's simple: just stop encouraging men who waste resources! In particular, said U.K. climate scientist David King this week, "stop admiring young men in Ferraris." King's comments were immediately pounced upon -- not by feminists, but by Ferrari owners, who protested that their vehicles spew less than four-wheel-drive vehicles. Also they are not compensating for anything, and never have been. Thanks for asking.

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Fat-fueled speedboat will undertake second circumnavigation attempt

One of our favorite heroes is back in action. Pete Bethune, who attempted to set a global circumnavigation record in a biodiesel-powered speedboat in early 2007 -- and donated his own ass fat to the fuel mix to garner publicity -- has announced a second attempt, kicking off in March 2008. Baby got back onboard.

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Umbra on organic mattresses

Dear Umbra, I need a new mattress and really want to buy one that is not doused in chemicals -- in other words, an organic mattress. I've searched a number of sites online and have been horrified by the prices. They are really, really expensive! How bad is it if I buy a regular old affordable mattress? And if it's really that bad, where can I find an organic one that won't cost a small fortune? Emily Wynnewood, Pa. Dearest Emily, Hey, I just found a great resource for this kind of question. Pollution in People is a project of …

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