The Grist List

From Uranus to You’re Welcome

Fancy pants These little eco-friendly “soy shorts” are made from tofu by-products, allowing you to help save planet earth starting with Uranus. (Click below to see the next item in this week’s Grist List—or view them all on a single page.)

Flushed Away

For some eco-pioneers, solving the sludge problem means getting their hands dirty

Part 3 of Grist’s special series on poop. Laura Allen, a 33-year-old teacher from Oakland, California, has a famous toilet. To be honest, it’s actually a box, covered in decorative ceramic tiles, sitting on the cement floor of her bathroom like a throne. No pipes lead to or from it; instead, a bucket full of shavings from a local wood shop rests on the box next to the seat with a note instructing users to add a scoopful after making their “deposit.” Essentially an indoor outhouse, it’s a composting toilet, a sewerless system that Allen uses to collect her household’s …

Where in the world is the junk wall?

Behind the scenes at Fortune Brainstorm Green 2009

What’s better than attending the Fortune Brainstorm Green 2009 and hearing Ford Chairman Bill Ford and Founder and CEO of A Better Place Shai Agassi speak? Shaking hands with Former President Bill Clinton, of course!  Not too shabby for a couple of days in Orange County.  Beyond the speakers and the networking, the artistic angle of the conference was phenomenal. “Ultimately, it was the most comfortable and eye-pleasing conference I’ve ever attended.” Herman Miller Who would have thought that a chair could be chique, ergonomic, and green all at the same time? Herman Miller did. “One of Fortune’s Most Admired …

Zac and Forth

Catching up with eco-model Summer Rayne Oakes

We first profiled Summer Rayne Oakes in 2006, introducing readers to a belly-baring, sludge-loving 22-year-old with “superhuman ambition” and a moniker that was just too fitting to be made up. Since then, Oakes has been a loyal friend to Grist; she’s done occasional fashion blogging for us, and she participated in one of our fundraising appeals. Now, a month shy of her 25th birthday, she’s almost too busy to breathe. This spring saw the launch of a shoe line and a book, and she has spoken at venues ranging from the Fashion Institute of Technology to the Fair Trade Expo …

Use the Course

Ask Umbra on hydro power at home

Q. Dear Umbra, Please tell me you didn’t just imply that hydroelectric is a clean energy source. You didn’t just say that, did you? Brian K.Eugene, Ore. You’ve got the power in your hands.iStockA. Dearest Brian, In my recent column on living off the grid, I pledged to discuss micro-hydro as a power source for homeowners. Your question, which dates from a while back, is the most related I could find in my inbox — although it sets a bit of a sad and awkward tone. As Brian suggests, large-scale hydropower is a renewable energy source that does have problems. …

A change (a change!) would do you good

Is ‘lifestyle change’ to be feared?

Brad Plumer has a nice little video over at TNR today, playing off Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski’s comment that meeting our climate goals will mean cutting back on consumption and consumerism — that is, it will require the dread “lifestyle changes.” Brad notes that efficiency and renewable power don’t necessarily force any lifestyle changes. (A vacuum cleaner that uses less electricity, and gets its electricity from wind power, is still a vacuum cleaner — you still vacuum with it.) There may be some, particularly in transportation (smaller cars), but a low-carbon America will look a lot like a high-carbon America, …

Shower power

A sudsy study of eco-label shampoos

What is it about the women in shampoo commercials who gasp and sigh in orgasmic ecstasy as they lather their locks with glorified soap? If they only knew exactly what was in those suds, their exclamations might be less “oooh” and more “ew.” Thanks to gravity, whatever you rub into your scalp during your shower could also end up dripping all over your (completely exposed) body. And in many cases, that includes cancer-causing carcinogens like PEG compounds and sodium laureth sulfate; preservatives like DMDM hydantoin and hormone-disrupting parabens; and the antibacterial agent triclosan, which builds up in human breast milk …

On what grounds

Stimulating coffee lectures in Seattle focus on sustainability

Ever wonder exactly what goes into your morning coffee (aside from milk and sugar, of course)? A series of lectures this spring at the University of Washington attempts to answer just that question. The UW is serving up its public-speaker series Coffee: From the Grounds Up as a complement to the cultural exhibit Coffee: The World in Your Cup at the university’s Burke Museum. So far, the series has covered topics like the history of coffee and the issue of fair trade, but the final three events on offer — occurring over the next three Tuesdays — will focus on …

Banner Up

Ask Umbra on flag flying

Q. Dear Umbra, Like any proud American, I want to fly our flag 24 hours a day to show my reverence for this awesome country. I am torn, though, because section 6a of the Flag Code requires the flag to be lit up during hours of darkness and this conflicts with my desire to cut back on my energy use. Can this rule be ignored in the name of the environment? Anne B.Seattle, Wash. A. Dearest Anne, “It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open.” …