Here Comes the Airplane

Putting organic baby foods to the test

Mmm. When I had my son last year, I wasn’t lulled into thinking his body was a pure, unsullied canvas. I knew that babies are born polluted and that breast milk is full of rocket fuel. Still, it’s nice to maintain the illusion of purity, so as not to go completely insane. So I buy organic baby food, and I’m not alone: by 2007, parents were spending $116 million on organics for their babies, a 21.6 percent increase from the previous year alone. Though that’s still a small slice of the $3.6 billion baby food pie, it’s nothing to sneeze …

This post brought to you via clean solar electricity

I’m staying with a friend in San Francisco who just recently (in the midst of doing a massive renovation of his 1870s row house) put up a solar PV system on his roof. Two systems, actually, one to power his unit and one to power the downstairs unit. After all the city, state, and federal subsidies and tax breaks, the total for the two systems together came to under $2,000. They provide more than 100 percent of the electricity for both units. They’ve already paid themselves off, and now, for as long as he lives here, he and his downstairs …

Beyond Carbon

Umbra on the other greenhouse gases

Dear Umbra, I have heard and am beginning to understand one of the biggest movements of social change occurring right now: we need to reduce our carbon footprint. I have also heard that while carbon is our most abundant greenhouse gas byproduct (by way of the burning of fossil fuels) other gases, such as methane, are actually far more potent in their ability to alter our global climate … What can I do to reduce my contributions of these other gases? Should I be concerned? Jamie G.Bingen, Wash. Dearest Jamie, It’s right to be concerned about reducing our carbon footprint, …

From Wings to Wrappers

On a wing and a prayer It’s a car … it’s a plane … it’s the Terrafugia Transition. Part car and part airplane, this hybrid combines the best of two pollutey products into one scary contraption. We’re sure it’ll take off! (Click below to see the next item in this week’s Grist List — or view them all on a single page.)  

Whirl Rule

Umbra on hot tubs

Cool your jets. Dear Umbra, We purchased a home with an existing four-person, 500-gallon wooden hot tub with a two-stage electric pump. When should a hot tub be turned off to save energy? City Light recommends that our tub be on a timer to save electricity; our tub manufacturer insists that, unless we’re not using the tub for three days, we’ll spend just as much heating up the water as maintaining a consistent temperature. Who’s right? Scott M.Seattle, Wash. Dearest Scott, Smackdown between thoughtful city and all-knowing manufacturer. The beauty is, you yourself have the power to find out the …

Wish They All Could Be California Kids

New jobs program, school buses in the Golden State

Two news items of note from sunny Californ-i-a: Gov. Schwarzenegger officially unveiled the California Green Corps, a program that will train 16- to 24-year-olds in green-tech industries. “It’s the kind of program President Obama envisioned when he put together the economic stimulus package,” he said. “It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs.” The L.A. school district has replaced 172 of its buses with compressed natural gas models, and opened its second CNG filling station yesterday. OK, the total fleet is 1,300 — but still. Less diesel = less scary pollution and health issues. Huzzah.

Ignore NYT's Green Home column

First five steps to a greener home are not what the article says

On Friday, the New York Times Andy Revkin directed his readers to the new column, “The Green Home” by Julie Scelfo. The column he linked to, “Five Beginners’ Steps to a Greener Home,” is not terribly useful at all — indeed I would say it is counterproductive. Only one of her five steps make part of my top 5 list. A number of readers have asked me to write more about personal energy and climate solutions. Since the traditional media is clearly not doing a good job, here goes. The first thing to say is that the exercise is pointless …

Tab dump

Product service systems, Microsoft, blackouts, Kentucky’s Clean Energy Corps, and cool maps

Grist has comments turned off as we transition to a new website. If you have feedback on this post or anything else, let me know: droberts at grist dot org. • One of my favorite bright green ideas: objects as a service, sometimes called “product service systems,” a fascinating and potentially revolutionary idea desperately in search of a better name. • Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s semi-secret memo on the company’s environmental efforts. Meh. • The Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center has an interesting report on “Large Blackouts in North America: Historical trends and policy implications.” No, really, it’s interesting! • …

Hard, Ain't It Hard

Umbra on water softeners

Dear Umbra, I live in an area that has fairly hard water. The calcium build-up on the sink faucets, shower enclosures, and even the dog water bowls is really bad, and hard to remove. So I have considered a full house water softener. However, I know nothing about them — but I do know you need to add salt to most (some eco-versions are ‘saltless’). Do you have any advice on this subject? I am off to crunch down a glass of water now. Waiting for your reply,Greg J.Sugar Land, Texas Dearest Greg, Wait no longer. I wanted to learn …