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Umbra on cats and birds

Dear Umbra, I have three cats, and live in a close-in suburb of Boston. I love the cats dearly, and let them outside during the day to wander about, and generally not have to live an indoor, sedentary, boring life. My question concerns their hunting instincts: I haven't had any luck with any particular way of preventing them from killing birds, mice, etc. I worry most about the birds, having read repeatedly that the millions of pet cats we have in this country really do a number on songbirds and other birds. I've put bells on them (more than one …

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How to recycle athletic shoes, iPods, mattresses, and other oddities

Grist's Katharine Wroth and Chip Giller appeared on NBC's Today show on Tuesday, Nov. 6, telling Meredith Vieira how to recycle some of the odd and awkward items that you can't put out in your curbside bin. Athletic Shoes Got a pair (or a pile) of old sneakers that are too gross and grotty to give to charity? Nike will recycle any brand of athletic shoe through its Reuse-a-Shoe program. Run your shoes over to any Nike store, or mail them straight to the company's recycling center -- details here. Nike processes and recycles the footwear to make sports surfaces …

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A review of recycled toilet-paper brands

Time for a new roll, but what's your type? Photo: iStockphoto Deciding what kind of toilet paper to buy is a delicate issue. Perhaps most significantly because you want to protect those delicates -- but what about this delicate planet of ours? According to the NRDC, if every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll (500 sheets) of virgin-fiber toilet paper with 100 percent recycled TP, we'd save almost half a million trees. So the question becomes: Is it possible to protect both the earth and your bum? I was determined to find out. Grist's Pick Seventh Generation Double …

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Big-box store Target will phase out PVC

Big-box store Target is right on the mark with plans to phase out nasty plastic polyvinyl chloride. The store that we like to pronounce "Tar-zhay" has announced that it will aim to detox the packaging of its table linen stock by spring and try to find PVC alternatives for all toys by next fall. It also said all of its own brands of children's lunch boxes and utensils are already PVC-free. The reasons to avoid PVC -- the ickiest of plastics and, unfortunately, one of the most common -- are legion. For one, the "VC" in PVC is vinyl chloride, …

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Easy ways to cut your energy use, one day at a time

Grist prez Chip Giller appeared on NBC's Today show on Monday, Nov. 5, chatting with Meredith Vieira about easy ways anyone can cut their energy use and help fight global warming. Follow one hint a day and you're on your way! Day 1: Turn Down the Heat Here's a quick, easy solution that will save you money and save energy: turn down your thermostat. Lowering your heat in winter by just 2 degrees can cut your energy bill by 10 percent. Get an automatic or programmable thermostat to make it easy to save on heating; set it to turn down …

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People open to lifestyle changes, fuel taxes to address warming, says poll

Four out of five people believe individuals must make personal lifestyle changes to address global warming, according to a BBC poll of 22,182 people in 21 countries. Also of note: Half of poll respondents favored a higher tax on oil and coal, while 44 percent would prefer their dirty fuels remain dirt cheap -- although if other taxes were dropped, or if fossil-fuel taxes were directed to increasing energy efficiency or clean-power R&D, many more supported the idea. Concluded Doug Miller of Globescan, which conducted the survey, "This poll clearly shows that people are much more ready to endure their …

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From Timberlake to Tank

*NSYNC with wildlife JT ain't gonna buy you a diamond ring (that sort of gift don't mean anything). He wants to get you somethin' special, Aussie Zoo: It's his Hancock on a check. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris / WireImage.com Could watching 30 Rock in our Scrubs while Singing Bee why we're The Biggest Loser in The Office? More awkward: Squeezing "green" into all of NBC's primetime shows? Or squeezing all of the shows into that headline? Photo: iStockphoto Ass forwards A Sicilian town is reducing emissions by replacing its rubbish trucks with carts pulled by donkeys. Says the mayor, "We are …

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An unseasonably warm night and a doomed-to-melt dessert

November is the new September. -- Aladdin Ossorio I've been itching to make a Baked Alaska. In 1989, the year the Exxon Valdez spilled oil all over Prince William Sound, my friends and I had several Baked Alaska parties featuring a whiskey-laced "Exxon Valdez Fudge Sauce" that I concocted to recreate the oil slick -- and to commemorate the fact that Captain Hazelwood reputedly imbibed a great deal before the tanker ran aground. Do try this at home. Photo: iStockphoto So what, exactly, is Baked Alaska? I'm glad you asked. When I mentioned it to someone I recently met, he …

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Umbra on corporate holiday cards

Dear Umbra, My company wants to send out holiday cards each year, but I find it wasteful, especially because of the increased transportation load on the post office. What could we do instead? Cindy Truckee, Calif. Dearest Cindy, A stumper. I can think of three choices: No cards, paper cards, and email cards. Is tradition stacked against you? Photo: churl Businesses send holiday cards to show appreciation, remind clients of their existence, and generally keep clients a-clienting, right? Replacing holiday cards with nothing at all does not help a business meet any of these goals, so I think we will …

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NYC considers crackdown on plastic bags

New to the plastic bag-bannin' bandwagon: New York City.

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