Living

From Nukes to Nincompoops

Fallout girl Meet Alyona Kirsanova of Novovoronezh. She likes long walks on the beaches of Three Mile Island and thinks nuclear fusion is hot. But will she be crowned Miss Atom 2009? We can hardly contain our excitement. Personal ads we can believe in “In search of patriotic, busy, Chicago-Hawaiian man, must like basketball and know how to do the fist bump. I saw you on TV. You said ‘Yes we can’ and talked about a clean energy future. Meet me in Canada and we’ll sweep aside the world’s dirtiest oil, the Tar Sands, and make sweet climate change solutions …

A decadent chocolate cake for your sweetie, minus the animal products

In the many years I worked in the restaurant world, Valentine’s Day meant whipping up confections for other people’s sweethearts. The pressure was steep: People scramble for reservations on the romantic holiday, and desserts are expected to impress. This year, I’ll be at home — and focusing on a Valentine’s Day sweet for my very own Valentine. I knew the dessert would have to be chocolate, and it would be a huge boon if was also dairy-free, because Phil, like millions of others, has difficulty digesting lactose. I also knew that he prefers cakes to pies, puddings, tortes, or even …

Umbra on bamboo origins

Dear Umbra, Sustainably grown bamboo is a very good choice for fabrics. But how does the consumer know it is harvested sustainably? After all, some bamboo is clear cut from old-growth stands. Even in cultivated bamboo there are some very unsustainable practices (for instance, harvesting too young). How can you know if the bamboo fabric you are buying is harvested sustainably? Gar L. Olympia, Wash. Dearest Gar, Telepathy is the only way. Close your eyes, put your hand on the fabric, and let a vision of a Giant Panda come in to your mind. If the panda is frolicking, all …

The rundown on eco-friendly ice melt

Shovel more, salt less.   In my family, perhaps in every family, there are stories so apocryphal that a simple phrase becomes a stand-in for the whole tale. One of ours is “salting the plants.” That refers to the time my mother, a high-school student prone to merry pranks, snuck in to her school dining hall at night and, well, salted the plants. Needless to say, the plants did not respond well to said prank; nor did my mother’s teachers, and her punishment was swift. If there’s one lesson I took from that story, it’s this: Man, the ’50s were …

Umbra on composting tainted food

Dear Umbra, This tainted peanut butter recall is crazy. I have a box of crackers with peanut butter. Can I safely compost them in my hot compost pile? Jane Vallejo, Calif. Dearest Jane, Let me first say I am very sad for those who have been killed in this outbreak. My deepest sympathies to their families. There’s no reason anyone should be killed by food in these modern times. It’s outrageous. Put the cracker down and slowly back away. As of this writing, the Salmonella typhimurium was traced to the Peanut Corporation of America, of course in Georgia, which mainly …

14 Green Couples

It seems everyone’s going green these days — but some couples are doubly committed to the cause. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we take a look at 14 prominent pairs who share a certain planetary passion. Brad and Angie Yes, the ever-expanding footprint of this family might raise a few eco-eyebrows, but they make up for it by, oh: green-rebuilding New Orleans, funding a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia to the tune of $5 million, narrating a PBS series on green design, supporting Haiti’s Clean Streets Project, partnering with an eco-cosmetics company to raise funds for charity, and buying an organic …

Not going carbon neutral, eh?

Canadian athletes urge Olympic committee to fulfill eco-promises

Sara Renner. Photo: Arnd Hemmersbach via Flickr Canadian Olympic skier Sara Renner depends on winter weather to do what she loves, but over the last 15 years, she's seen more unpredictable ski seasons and more races being canceled due to lack of snow. "I am concerned about the future of the sports we love," she says, "but also about the next generation of Canadians, who will be left to deal with even more serious climate change impacts if we don't act now." Renner and more than 70 other Canadian athletes recently shared these concerns with the organizing committee in charge of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. The snowboarders, speed skaters, kayakers, windsurfers, hockey players, and even a unicyclist signed their names to a letter urging the Vancouver Organizing Committee (Vanoc) to fulfill their promise to make the Games carbon neutral. The letter was sent via the David Suzuki Foundation, a science-based organization Vanoc had previously consulted for an estimate of greenhouse-gas emissions that would be produced by the Games. The foundation came up with a figure equivalent to 65,000 cars on the road for one year -- and said that nearly 70 percent of that would be due to indirect emissions from athletes, sponsors, media, and spectators flying in for the event. Although the Olympic bid organizers have said since the beginning that they wanted to fully offset the impact of the Games -- and in fact, make it the greenest ever -- Vanoc now says they do not plan to account for that air travel. And this is the point with which the 70-some athletes take offense. Below, a snip from their letter:

From Buckle to Bike

I’ll stop the world and belt with you Dear firemen, the way you swing those big, thick hoses around really gets us steamy. But now that you’ve finished spraying, do you mind helping a sister out? We could really use a tighter grip around our hips. Ramblin’ man Naturally, we’re all for going au naturel in nature, but what rubs us the wrong way about this concept is the issue of chafing. Unhappy trails, anyone? Photo: brokenimages/Flickr Cream of the crop “Still productive, older farm acreage seeks young, vigorous farmer for long- or short-term relationship. Must enjoy outdoors, dirty fingernails, …

Umbra on gas engines and biodiesel

Dear Umbra, I take it that a conventional engine cannot be converted to biodiesel? Jann T. Helotes, Texas Dearest Jann, The short answer is no — you cannot use biodiesel in a conventional, unmodified gasoline engine. However, I’ve learned my lesson about giving car advice in this space, so the longer answer is: Anything can be done if you set your mind to it. If you want to change out a gas engine for a diesel engine, it may be possible. And it may be possible to replace various integral parts of your gasoline engine so that it runs on …

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