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Retailers beef up the packaging

For Christmas last year, I received an iPod Nano (through which I now get my weekly fix of podcasts from NPR Environment, PRI Living on Earth, and of course, Grist). That the Nano weighs a mere 1.74 oz. and is so slim it easily gets lost in an overstuffed pocket is pretty impressive. Nearly as impressive, however, is that I walked out of the store toting this pygmie player inside an slick, white, matte, double-ply plastic behemoth of a bag, with sturdy woven cords that cinched the neck; it could have easily fit 100 Nanos with room several real apples …

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From Desire to Doherty

Pimp my ride Before Seattle hustled to rename its brand-new streetcar, the city was all set with acronyms: the Experience Music Project (EMP), the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and the South Lake Union Trolley. Ahem. Photo courtesy Kapow Coffee Rhino, no, no We appreciate the sentiment, Santa -- really, we do -- but if this is what you have in mind for us this year, we'd really rather you picked up a fruitcake or something. The tax of life Breaking up is hard to do -- and turns out, it's no good for the planet either. Staying together? Just remember: …

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Minnesota will ban mercury in cosmetics

On Jan. 1, Minnesota will become the first state to ban mercury from mascara and other cosmetics. Which begs the question: Why the hell is there mercury in mascara in the first place?

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A review of compact fluorescent bulbs

Worth the switch -- but which to pick? Photo: iStockphoto Part of our work here at Grist is to give advice to curious readers, and one thing we find ourselves saying a lot is, "Change those bulbs to CFLs!" But you can only socket to 'em so many times before such broad advice starts to seem a bit ... dim. So I've cranked up the Unofficial Grist Wringer and am ready to feed some of these notorious compact fluorescents into it, in hopes that we can offer more specific tips. Before we get to the bulb testing, let's talk shop. …

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How I shucked my oyster ambivalence and learned to love the noble bivalve

I've lived in Boston for years, but for some reason, I had never visited nearby Portland, Maine -- until last week, that is. I chose a dramatic occasion for my Portland debut: an Oyster Tasting Night put on by Slow Food Portland. Aw, shucks. Photo: pingpongdeath My previous opinion about the celebrated bivalve was decidedly lukewarm. My lack of oyster enthusiasm once even forced me to consider the specter of parental disownment. Having avoided oysters for years, I ate my first one when I was in Denver in my early 20s. I called my Baltimore-born, oyster-obsessed dad afterward to boast …

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Sears and KMart will phase out PVC, Wal-Mart accused of eco-naughtiness

Big-box behemoths Sears and Kmart have agreed to phase out nasty plastic PVC from all products in their 3,800 stores. While admirable, the announcement merely makes those stores the lemmings of PVC abandonment; IKEA, Wal-Mart, and Target have all previously agreed to go PVC-free. In other big-box news, the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency has accused Wal-Mart of sourcing wood for its products from Chinese manufacturers who use Russian timber that was likely logged illegally. Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. importer of wood products, has publicly announced a goal to use only sustainably harvested wood by 2010. Meanwhile, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) …

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California yanks kids’ jewelry from stores

Bangles and baubles may make fun stocking stuffers, but beware: the California Department of Toxic Substances Control has yanked a dozen types of kids' jewelry from 11 retailers -- including Macy's, Marshalls, and the Gap -- after finding lead levels measuring approximately in the skazillions. "The problem is much more pervasive than we would like to be seeing," said Department Director Maureen Gorsen. Who deserves a tiara for being Queen of the Understatement -- but god knows what might be in it.

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Big ideas come out of Hollywood Goes Green summit

"Hollywood has gone from the capital of conspicuous consumption to the cutting edge of conspicuous conservation," Arianna Huffington declared recently. Case in point: A two-day Hollywood Goes Green summit that wraps up today. At the summit, tech giant IBM announced a plan to design new technologies that will increase computing capacity by a factor of 10 while using 50 percent less power by the end of 2010. (Which seems somewhat irrelevant to a Hollywood shindig, but a lot of computing goes into special effects, animation, and other movie-making needs.) And at a panel on marketing green messages, Paula Silver, founder …

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Another reason to procrastinate about my Christmas shopping

From the producers of "The Meatrix" and "Grocery Store Wars" comes "The Story of Stuff," a short video about production and consumption, just in time for the holiday shopping binge. Click here for the full movie (sample clip embedded below).

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Umbra on bleach

Greetings, I recently was infected with MRSA. It got better. As part of my treatment I'm supposed to use bleach in my laundry and around the house to help kill the bacteria. While I'm brunette, I feel like the stereotypical blonde about bleach. What are the environmental impacts of this chemical? Thanks, Emily Indiana Editor's Note: Oh, how Umbra would love to answer this question -- but she's been kidnapped! Please donate to Grist by 11:59 p.m. Pacific on Dec. 11, 2007, to secure her safety. The sooner we see 2,000 gifts of any size (yes, even $1!), the sooner …

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