Living

Starbucks addresses water wastage following tabloid indictment

As John Edwards always said, never underestimate the power of a tabloid. Following the revelation in British rag-mag The Sun that constantly running dipper wells waste a humongous amount of water, a Starbucks spokesperson confirms, “Stores will be instructed to switch off the dipper well tap and will wash spoons after use.” And the plot thickens: According to PRWeek.com, a senior-level source at an unnamed PR agency claims, “We warned [Starbucks] several years ago that their usage of water was not good for their environmental credentials and could be a potential problem for them. They listened, but they didn’t do …

Muddy waters

Bottled water is a sham answer to low-quality tap water

Speaking of bottled water, get this, from Environmental Working Group:  The bottled water industry promotes an image of purity, but comprehensive testing by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveals a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every bottled water brand analyzed, including toxic byproducts of chlorination in Walmart’s Sam’s Choice and Giant Supermarket’s Acadia brands, at levels no different than routinely found in tap water. EWG is making an extremely important point here. Yes, our tap water is full of nasty substances, but the answer isn’t to essentially privatize our drinking water by buying little plastic bottles of supposedly purified …

Umbra on eco-themed Halloween costumes

Dear Umbra, Every year my friends and I throw a big Halloween party, and I had the amazing idea of dressing up as Sarah Palin. Unfortunately, I just found out that’s currently the most popular costume in my city (and most likely the U.S.), so I’m thinking about tipping my hat to my love of the environment instead. Do you have any suggestions for a good eco-costume? Hanna Seattle, Wash. Dearest Hanna, I believe Halloween is a rich opportunity for altering popular discourse about environmentalists. I don’t need to describe to my dear readers any of the negative stereotypes of …

Bush admin aims to increase mountain-bike access to national parks

Mountain bikers will have easier access to national parks and other public lands under plans the Biker-in-Chief is trying to push through before leaving office. (Ninety-seven days!) The National Park Service said Tuesday that it will propose a rule by Nov. 15 that would speed up decision-making about mountain-bike trails by putting park managers in charge instead of federal regulators. “We are trying to give superintendents a little bit of latitude especially for non-controversial proposals for bicycling in parks,” says an NPS spokesperson. (Get it? Spokes-person?) But green group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility would like to quibble with that …

How to green your Halloween

The economy may have gone to pot and the country’s future leadership may be wildly unclear, but there’s one thing we can count on: Halloween. Yes, October 31 is a holiday of certainty, full of ringing doorbells, sweet treats, and tiny ghosts and witches (or, more likely, Kung Fu Pandas and Hannah Montanas). But All Hallow’s Eve has a spooky flip side, laced with refined sugar, vinyl costumes, and other horrors that can give you the eco-shivers. If you want a greener fright night, here’s how to start. Level One: The Baby Steps Fright, not light. Nothing simultaneously creeps out …

New Apple laptop is ‘greenest MacBook ever’

The new Apple laptop that your geeky officemate is swooning over is “the greenest MacBook ever,” according to the company. (But remember, kids: Hanging on to your current laptop is even greener.) Instead of being cobbled together from various pieces, the new MacBook’s main frame is cut out of a single piece of aluminum, and the discarded metal is recycled. It arrives to stores in 41 percent less packaging than the previous generation, and can be returned to Apple for recycling at the end of its life. Like other Apple offerings, the newbie boasts arsenic-free glass, is backlit with energy-efficient …

Hot water

Nestle flexes its muscles at Miami water utility

For months, the bottled-water industry has been losing its grip over people’s pocketbooks. Consumers are realizing that buying purified tap water at pumped-up prices, packaged in little plastic bottles, makes zero sense in economic, ecological, or health terms. Now the industry appears to be losing its grip on reality. From the Miami Herald: In the radio ad, a talking faucet extols Miami-Dade’s tap water as cheaper, purer and safer than bottled water. It may have sounded innocuous to most listeners, but the 30-second spot left the nation’s largest purveyor of bottled water boiling mad. Nestle Waters North America, which makes …

Notable quotable

“I kind of thought that eco-friendly clothes meant misshapen hemp sweaters — you know, from like 1992 or something.” – actress Maggie Gyllenhaal

The eco-beginnings of modern government

How modern cities made themselves livable

Financial deregulation has obviously been a disaster. Perhaps we are entering a new era, one in which it is acceptable to talk about the positive actions that governments can take. A friend of mine, Bryn Barnard, has written about how government first stepped in to provide a minimally healthy environment — in a chapter about cholera in his book Outbreak: Plagues that changed history, and in a chapter about the Great Fire of London in his book, Dangerous Planet: Natural Disasters that changed history. He recently put his thoughts together to write the following about Britain in the 1830s. —– …

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