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Building an eco-home from a favorite holiday sweet

When my friend Deanna told me that she wanted to make a gingerbread house this year -- and, in particular, to do so on Black Friday, aka Buy Nothing Day -- I immediately asked if we could make an environmentally sound house. The chances of my ever being able to afford the real-life eco-house of my dreams are slim unless I win the lottery, but I figured I could at least afford the gingerbread version. Deanna agreed and we were off and running, dreams of sugary solar panels and rammed-earth gingerbread dancing in our heads. Chez Gingembre Vert. Photo: Bonnie …

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Umbra on living Christmas trees

Hi Umbra, I'm surprised that in your column on Christmas trees, you didn't mention the option of living trees, although I know they cannot be subjected to our warm indoor temperatures for very long. Can you discuss the option of living trees, how to treat them indoors, and what to do with them after the holidays? Thanks,Christina GallegosTreeplanter and NaturalistSeattle, Wash. 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 …

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Cheap, possibly green PC hot item at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has always been a place of consumer frenzy at the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and this year is no exception. What's different is that one of the items flying off the shelf faster than they can restock it is the "Everex gPC," a cheap (less than $200) desktop computer. The tech news world has been buzzy about gPC's popularity, in particular questioning what the "g" stands for. It could stand for "green," thanks to the environmental friendliness of its low-power CPU (average 2W, 20W maximum). However, that seems to be its only green credential; nothing on its …

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Umbra on used cooking oil

Dear Umbra, It's always nice to look through cookbooks and to watch cooking shows that feature yummy deep-fried food, and I have often been tempted to try and cook my own creations. However, no one ever seems to mention what they do with the used cooking oil, especially after deep-frying. What is the best way of disposing the oil? I do not want to tip it down the sink, and adding it to compost will suffocate the earthworms. Perhaps it's better all round not to deep-fry anything? Liz Atherton, Australia Dearest Liz, Over here in America, people deep-fry entire turkeys …

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How do U.K. cities stack up in terms of sustainability?

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. Every year more and more people live in cities. Globally, we became a majority urban world for the first time last year, while here in the U.K., nine out of 10 of us live in towns and cities. Cities are clearly important for sustainability. Although the romantic green notion of us all living on small holdings with a goat, a vineyard, and a vegetable patch is seductive, the future is much more likely to be dominated by megacities …

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A study on gender equality as a prerequisite for sustainable development — debunked!

Lord knows we men are to blame for most things -- but global warming? Yes -- according to a major new report (PDF) by Gerd Johnsson-Latham for the Environment Advisory Council of the Environment Ministry of ... wait for it ... Sweden. The report's focus: What we know about the extent to which women globally live in a more sustainable way than men, leave a smaller ecological footprint and cause less climate change. Ouch! Don't look at me -- I telecommute; my wife takes the car. If gender equality is in fact a prerequisite for sustainable development, it's definitely be …

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Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be efficiently lit

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is up; once it's lit on Nov. 28, we can no longer deny that The Holiday Season is in full swing. We can, however, ogle the tree guilt-free, as the towering evergreen will be lit by energy-efficient LED bulbs and powered in part by solar energy.

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Umbra on reheating coffee

Dear Umbra, As a web developer for a certain respectable online magazine somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, I drink a lot of coffee to keep me alert and my very demanding employers happy. However, in my constant imbibing of the dark elixir, I'm concerned about the energy use involved. Specifically, I can only drink coffee piping hot, and sometimes when I take a break from being wired and resume my regimen, what little coffee is left is ice cold. So I toss out the chilly remainder (about one-fourth of the original pot) and put in another pitcher of water. So …

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