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Aspen Env't Forum: Big ideas

Thinkers and doers exchange grand visions in the scenic Rockies

The first full day of the first-ever Aspen Environment Forum kicked off Thursday morning with a handful of the impressive invitees taking a couple minutes each to share a "big idea." Throughout the day, others tossed their sizeable thoughts into the ring. A sampling: Majora Carter. Majora Carter, founder and head of Sustainable South Bronx: "Make the invisible places visible." Carter talked about how her home borough and other low-income or minority communities all around the country have become "regional sacrifice zones" where the dirtiest business of our dirty economy is done -- landfills, incinerators, sewage plants, hog farms. She …

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Washington governor may veto bill restricting toxins in toys

Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire may veto legislation that would be the toughest in the nation at making sure toys are free of (or low in) lead, cadmium, phthalates, and other toxins. Even though a slew of amendments exempt certain playthings, from tricycles to pellet guns to sleds, Big Toy officials have warned Gregoire that the bill is still too restrictive, since it doesn't exempt lead solder used on computer components in the innards of some toys. But the bill already exempts batteries, software, and calculators; those exemptions would cover inner lead solder, says Nick Federici of the Washington Toxics …

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How the Monterey Bay Aquarium makes its safe-seafood list

When it comes to safe seafood, the list-makers don't horse around. Photo: SqueakyMarmot Back in the late 1990s, I happened to attend an exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California called "Fishing for Solutions." The experience profoundly changed my attitude toward seafood and the supposedly limitless abundance of the sea. The exhibit focused not only on the precariousness of the fish stocks that have been reduced by overfishing, but also on the environmental degradation caused by using heavy-handed harvesting techniques and slapdash fish farming. I remember feeling stunned and shell-shocked after seeing the exhibit -- and my mood sunk …

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Another urban legend is spawned

Prius ‘proven’ to get worse gas mileage than BMW 520d

This story in the U.K.'s Times Online is racing around the interwebs. Google "BMW 520d" and note how many pages deep it goes. Two goofballs journalists took a road trip, one in a Prius and the other in a BMW 520d. The BMW purportedly got about 4 percent better gas mileage than the "gas guzzling" Prius, which amazingly only managed a dismal 40 mpg. Coincidentally, that is exactly what our Prius got on a road trip last summer, which was not only jammed with people and camping gear but also had a giant cargo carrier strapped to the roof! Odd …

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Passover as if the earth matters

A call to action: Street Speakout Seders

  Photo: iStockphoto The traditional Passover Haggadah teaches that in every generation, some Pharaoh will arise in destruction, and that in every generation, every human being -- not just every Jew -- must look upon herself or himself as if it is we -- not our ancestors only -- who must go forth to freedom. In this generation, what Pharaoh do we face, and what freedom must we seek? Pesach intertwines human freedom with the renewal of the earth: in the moment of spring when new grain, new lambs, and new flowers rise up against winter, the earth itself rises …

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For the last time, switch to CFLs

Please don’t use incandescent bulbs for heating

Please. As Andrew Leonard writes in his "How the World Works" blog, this all began with a column by ... Toronto Star energy reporter Tyler Hamilton that itself had summarized the conclusions of a study raising questions about whether it always makes sense to replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs. The nub of the argument was that in some cases the heat generated by the incandescent light bulbs could be useful. Tyler is a friend of mine and a great reporter, so I sent him an email explaining why this is not true, which was not written for publication. Then …

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Let it all hang out

National Hanging Out Day on April 19

Utahns Martha Jensen and her mom Mary hang out several times a year to raise awareness. Photo: Martha Jensen. Here's a great way to mark Earth Day next month. Each year, the grassroots group Project Laundry List promotes the very picturesque observance of National Hanging Out Day, both to raise awareness about the enormous energy benefits of air-drying laundry and also to draw attention to the fact that, amazingly, this practice is severely restricted in many places around the U.S., especially green ol' California, where 35,000 homeowners' associations have banned the practice. But electric dryers are inefficient and expensive to …

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Umbra on trash bags

Dear Umbra, I am attempting to wean myself off plastic bags. I am also aware of the environmental impact of brown paper bags. So we are OK with cloth grocery bags, but can you suggest an alternative that can be used as a trash can liner (that's economical)? Lisa Columbus, Ga. Dearest Lisa, Plastic trash bags ... a Frequently Asked Question that I have never answered. Have I been saving this succulent trash bag question for a special day? No, not really. Late March, though, feels a bit like trash bag time, so let us slosh forward into speculation about …

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Livin' on a hair

Bon Jovi to offset next tour

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/WireImage. Remember back in 2006, when Jon Bon Jovi said he got into green stuff to offset his hair spray-related indiscretions in the past? Allow me to remind you: Actual quote: "Do you really want to know why I'm doing all this goodwill? ... It's because I feel guilty about the huge hole in the ozone layer my haircuts created. It's my responsibility to right the wrongs of the '80s." Well, apparently he's still doing penance, partnering with NativeEnergy to offset the band's upcoming world tour. Says Jon: "Through NativeEnergy, we are making an investment in renewable energy …

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A test of eight green bathroom-cleaning products

Forget the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker -- if your rub-a-dub tub is filled with grime and grub, it's time to scrub. But with what? Before you reach for just any cleaner, ask yourself whether those scrubby bubbles are going to make your bathroom surfaces even more toxic. To help you avoid soap-scummy gunk and harmful chemicals, I've taken a down-and-dirty look at a number of green-cleaning products. If she'd used Borax, she'd already be at the ball. Photo: iStockphoto Much like when shopping for detergents, I steered the cart away from products that include phosphates (which cause …

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