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An eco-friendly gift guide for Mother’s Day

Of course, the best gifts don't come from a store. Now that Earth Day has come and gone, it's that time of year when "love your mother" can be taken literally again. But here's a bonus: green Mother's Day festivities allow you to be kind to Mother Earth and the woman who pushed you out her cervix. Of course, the best gifts are stuff-free (and even free free -- carefully planted smooch, anyone?), but here are some ideas if you feel the need to drop some dough. Green-cleaning gift certificate Let Mom save her elbow grease for lifting that organic …

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Big biz ranked on greenness

Takeaways from a new ranking of eco-friendly practices in big biz: Consumer companies are getting greener, but there's plenty of ground to gain. In its second annual scorecard, nonprofit Climate Counts ranked 56 companies on their measurement, reduction, and disclosure of greenhouse gases. Eighty-four percent of the companies scored higher this year than they did in 2007, but the average score was still only 40 out of a possible 100. At the top of the list were Nike with 82, Stonyfield Farm with 78, and IBM with 77; Google was most improved, jumping from 17 points in 2007 to 55 …

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Umbra on soil health

Dear Umbra, I asked about fava beans about two weeks ago, and have not had a response back. I have had no luck researching it myself, and would really appreciate a response. I asked at what point in the plant's life did it produce nitro for the soil? For fullest nitro replenishment, should I let the plant seed? Die off? If I pull the plant out, will the nitro stay in the soil? I thank you for your time. KLK Aptos, Calif. Dearest KLK, You'll notice that I answer two questions per week -- that's 5 percent of all of …

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Bicyclists do it better

Commute by bike, get lucky

From a Hungarian PSA (No translation necessary. Mostly safe for work; use headphones): Rarrrrrr. Turns out, Hungary has an entire government position devoted to promoting bicycling. In Hungary, the Ministry of Economics and Transport actually has a Deputy Minister for cycling by the name of Adam Bodor. Bodor's job, put simply, is to get people on their bikes. Now, why can't the U.S. do that?

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A five-fingered review of less-toxic nail polishes

If you've ever gone in for a manicure and, getting a good whiff of the stuff, wondered what sort of chemicals create a smell like that, you've hit the nail polish issue on the head. Those tiny little glass bottles of paint that we apply so gingerly to our fingernails and toenails -- and unless you're a manicure Michelangelo, often our skin as well -- contain a long list of chemicals, some of them known to cause a host of health problems ranging from infertility to cancer. And lest you think the FDA is keeping a close eye on your …

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C'mon ride the train, the Coachella train

Festival-goers hop free ride — and stay car-free, too

As we've reported in the past, music festivals across the country are making moves to be more sustainable -- mostly involving recycling efforts, compostable utensils, and biodiesel generators. But this year's Coachella music festival, held in Indio, Calif., April 25-27, took an interesting track, chartering an Amtrak train to transport festival folk to and from L.A. The Coachella Express was set up by the creative minds behind Global Inheritance, a group focusing its attentions on a young, hip, festival-going audience, and involved creating a new train platform in Indio to accommodate the arriving campers. For the 300+ riders who took …

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Umbra on lead and gardens

Dear Umbra, In your reply to the question about pollution and rooftop gardening, you talked a fair amount about lead pollution. Since gasoline is no longer leaded, and since it's container gardening that wouldn't have any lead paint in it, and surely nobody has lead water pipes any more, why is lead even a concern? Teresa Brenham, Tex. Dearest Teresa, Our ecological history hangs around our necks like a lead weight. Still heavy after all these years. I apologize for lack of clarity on the rooftop gardening issue, and would like to offer additional information useful to all gardeners. You …

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There’s a metaphor in here somewhere

Why the seal attempted to have sex with the penguin is unclear.

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Yellow Submarine on sizzurp

Friday music blogging: The Ruby Suns

In 2005, New Zealand indie band The Ruby Suns put out a (self-titled) dreamy, beautiful psych-pop album that's been one of my favorites for years. Now they've finally released the follow-up: Sea Lion. The product description at Amazon is unusually accurate: The melodic musings of "Sea Lion" found inspiration in the natural world and Ryan McPhun's travels with in it. With a Dictaphone, he ventured into the wilds of Africa, the ancient monasteries of Thailand, and the haunting landscapes of New Zealand that surround his everyday. It was intended to be a world music album, but reverb and psychedelic pop …

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