Living

Umbra on e-books

Dear Umbra, I have noticed that digital book readers have started to enter the market and wonder if they are more ecologically sound than conventional books. I am interested in buying one but suspect that they are full of metals that damage the environment in their production. Also, they would use up energy when in use, but I have heard that this is minimal. On the other hand, paper books take a lot of production and transport to reach the reader. Which would be the more eco option? Jonathan A. Glasgow, Scotland Dearest Jonathan, It hurts to say it, but …

Me, on film

Food Fight snags documentary honor

For those of you who don’t get quite enough of my writing, you can see me holding forth on the big screen! That is, if the documentary Food Fight finds a distributor. I hope it does; I hear it’s good. (I do get quite enough of my writing, and I’m repelled by the idea of watching a celluloid image of myself talk; so I haven’t been able to watch the review copy I’ve been sent.) Food Fight, directed by Chris Taylor, explores how our food system got so screwed up and what folks are doing to fix it. Interview subjects …

O come all ye enemies of the human race

The American Coalition for Coal Ponies, or America’s Manly Power, or whatever they’re called, has a site up where you can watch little lumps of coal singing bastardized holiday songs. Yes: exploiting religious hymns in service of selling a product that kills tens of thousands of Americans a year and may soon make the planet inhospitable to human habitation. Ho ho ho! More from Kevin Grandia.

This gift guide saves energy — and it’s recession-proof!

  Don’t get wrapped up in holiday stress. Giving green is easy!   OK, so gas prices have eased up a bit — but the economy’s still tanking. Wouldn’t it be oh-so-thoughtful to give your loved ones gifts that can help them save money this year? Gifts that also save energy, which helps ye olde planet? We hereby present six energy-saving gift arrays. Since we ain’t exactly Harry & David, you’ll have to do the actual creating yourself. Modify to your liking, of course — and suggest other ideas below. CFLs: a bright gift idea. The Energy-Saver Sweater Set What: …

Best environmental book of 2008 (IMHO)

A review of The Big Necessity

Great non-fiction writing is like great fiction writing: It produces books that are hard to put down, that give you insight into yourself and others, and that change the way you look at the world. A young woman named Rose George has produced a great work of reporting and, for my money, has likely produced the best environmental book of 2008: The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. There is nothing more emblematic of our broken relationship with the earth than the way that we deal — or, mainly, fail to deal — with …

How to green your giving

Give the gift of green. It’s a lovely thing, giving a gift. Whatever the tradition or religion, whatever the source of the custom, there’s no arguing that it’s a lovely thing. However, that lovely thing has been corrupted by our out-of-whack consumer society. No longer is sentiment enough — that sentiment must be expressed through sheer size and shininess. But hark! There’s another way. Greener items abound, and greener ways of giving do too. And say what you will about our challenging economic times, they may mean we buy less — and, in the process, give more. Want to green …

‘Eco-flation’ could hurt sales of consumer goods

The rising cost of doing business in a climate-changed world — aka, “eco-flation” — could hit some companies quite hard in the next decade if they don’t change their business practices to become more sustainable, according to an analysis by green group World Resources Institute. Companies that make consumer goods could see their earnings plummet up to 48 percent by 2018 if they don’t jump on the sustainability bandwagon soon, the study found.

Umbra on store-brand organics

Hey Umbra, What with organic foods being so expensive, I’m often tempted to buy the store-brand organic produce that’s cropping up lately. Are the store brands as good (i.e., pesticide free) as any other brand of organic food? I can’t help but be suspicious. Thanks!Confused in Jersey Dear CJ, Organic is a USDA-certified labeling program. Historically, organically grown food represented an alternative to large-scale, mass-produced, polluting agricultural techniques. Organic was and, to some extent, still is a social and ecological movement; today it is also a major branding tool. And since organically certified fresh and processed foods have been a …

The power of peaceful protest

Review of Fields of Fuel

Back in July, I reviewed a documentary film called Fields of Fuel directed by Josh Tickell. That film recently returned to Seattle after being reedited and renamed, Fuel. I actually think this new iteration is worth seeing with the caveat that you take the conspiracy theories and convoluted defenses of food-based biodiesel with a grain of salt. The billing at Seattle’s Varsity Theater website was: “Fuel exposes shocking connections between the auto industry, the oil industry, and the government, while exploring alternative energies such as solar, wind, electricity, and non-food-based biofuels. Director Josh Tickell and his Veggie Van take us …

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