Living

Trees win in California solar panels vs. redwoods dispute

Trees have emerged victorious in a California dispute that pitted redwoods against solar panels. Six months ago, Silicon Valley residents Richard Treanor and Carolynn Bissett were criminally convicted because their redwoods shaded the 10-kilowatt solar system on neighbor Mark Vargas’ roof. Ultimately, Treanor and Bissett were forced to trim their trees and paid $37,000 in legal fees. To avert future disputes, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday signed a new law that holds that if trees were planted before solar panels were installed, the solar-panel owner cannot force the trees to be trimmed or chopped. If the solar panels came first, …

Google Maps adds walking directions

Taking another step toward complete indispensability, Google Maps on Tuesday became the first service of its kind to add walking directions. In addition to searches for car and transit travel, pedestrians — and, hell, Segway-ers too — can now find the most direct and flat route from Point A to Point B. The function works for trips up to 6.2 miles long, and recognizes that one-way streets only apply to the car-encased (suckas!). Searchers are advised to “use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas” as the directions, still in beta form, potentially lack information about pedestrian bridges, roads without sidewalks, …

The green Miley

Popster Miley Cyrus pens ‘eco-anthem’

Photo: mileycyrus.com Fifteen-year-old Disney pop starlet Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) wants America to wake up and deal with global warming … though she’s not quite sure what that means. At least, that’s what she admits in a song — dubbed an “eco-anthem” by some, though I’m curious what qualifies it as an anthem — on her new release Breakout. It may seem not to fit on an album whose title track whines “Every week’s the same/Stuck in school’s so lame/My parents say that I’m lazy/Getting up at 8 a.m.’s crazy/Tired of bein’ told what to do/So unfair, so uncool.” …

Wait till next year

Netroots Nation pledges to cut footprint … in 2009

Five pounds of stuff. That's what greeted me at this year's Netroots Nation '08 conference in Austin, Texas. As is the case with most conventions, registration came with a schwag bag loaded with magazines, pamphlets, and assorted trinkets from sponsors. I took the bag back to my hotel room and unpacked it one piece at a time, spreading the contents on my bed. (I actually had to stand on a chair to get a wide enough view to get all the schwag in one shot.) While most liberal and green conventions these days make at least token efforts to ease impacts -- an organic cotton bag, green trinkets -- the NN08 schwag bag didn't do anything to distinguish itself. Organizers of NN08 went out of their way to include the best and brightest voices of the environmental movement, not just as panelists but as keynote speakers. They've also pledged to green the event next year, holding it at Pittsburgh's convention center, a green building certified to LEED's gold level. But the schwag bag was only the first sign that NN08 would miss some key opportunities to cut the event's environmental footprint and direct dollars to green businesses.

Most sunscreens ineffective or pose a health risk, says group

Some 85 percent of 952 sunscreens tested are ineffective or contain potentially harmful chemicals, says this year’s annual sunscreen review by the Environmental Working Group. Of 144 sunscreen products distributed by the top three leading brands — Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Neutrogena — only one meets EWG’s criteria for safety and efficacy. The group raises especial alarm about common ingredient oxybenzone, which a handful of animal studies have linked to endocrine disruption. Some dermatologists accuse EWG’s sun-protection rating system of lacking scientific rigor, but the group says it extensively reviewed medical literature on sunscreens and stands behind its data. If …

How to green your funeral

Not dead yet? There’s still hope for a green funeral. There’s no getting around it: One day, we’re all gonna die. And while most of us won’t have much control over the circumstances of our deaths, there are things you can do before you go to ensure that your funeral and earthly remains are as light on the planet as you’ve tried to be in life. If you think about it, there are almost as many ways to green your funeral as there are ways to meet your end. (OK, maybe not that many, but there are quite a few.) …

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