Eco-celebrity, design, and social justice coalesce in a new Brooklyn green space

Sun, open space, and celebrity — the opening of Brooklyn’s “Garden of Hope” had them all. On an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon last month, Bette Midler was in high spirits as she celebrated the transformation of a slice of land between two century-old brownstones from a paved walkway with a few trees into a park-like oasis. “I hope anyone who wants to be married will come and be married here,” said Midler with a supernova smile to the neighborhood residents, nonprofit types, local officials, and other invited (and lightly sweating) guests. “I hope that everyone on the block uses …

As storms rage on the prairie, strawberries and rhubarb bring comfort

A bright spot in the storm. Gaia has been hard on us prairie-dwellers lately. A dear friend who’s the director of the area’s largest CSA lost her 102-year-old barn to a storm this weekend. Swelled with recent rains, the Iowa River has been raging, sloshing toward levels never seen before. Fortunately, my restaurant sits on high ground, so if the floods reach us here, you’ll see the animals lining up two by two and Kevin Costner frowning from the roof. We’re lucky, too, that many of the local farms that supply us are also keeping their heads above water, and …

Toying with you

Something for everyone in the emerging green market

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Kari Manlove, fellows assistant at the Center for American Progress. ----- Good news: Anyone looking for more environmentally responsible options now has choices. Green alternatives are turning up all over these days -- from children's toys to weddings. Families concerned with all the reports in the last year of toys tainted with lead paint will be happy to hear there's a new market for toys that bypass lead and other potentially harmful chemicals completely. Branch, a San Francisco-based sustainable design company, makes children's toys out of natural wool and bamboo. Nest and ChildTrek are similar companies offering natural toys made out of wood and other sustainable materials. Sensing the growing consumer demand, even Toys 'R' Us has "gone green," launching a new line of natural wood toys and dolls.

Converting a Yaris into a plug-in hybrid

Toyota may have something up its sleeve

The first car I ever owned didn't have power anything. Today you will be hard pressed to find a car without power brakes and steering. But those features also consume energy. This explains how the first wave of economy cars from Japan got such notoriously high mileage (they didn't have power anything either). One reason I chose a Yaris for my next car is that it has electric power steering and power brakes. In theory, you should be able to turn the engine off without losing power boost. I asked a mechanic at the dealership before I bought the Yaris if the power steering and brakes would continue to function with the engine turned off. "No, no," he said definitively. "It's just like any other car." Surprise! The mechanic didn't know what he was talking about. I've turned the Yaris engine off several times now while going downhill and the power boost systems continue to function just fine. Don't try this at home. [update] Seriously, don't try this at home. The mechanic was partially right. I've discovered that, given enough time, the brake boost system will eventually depressurize leaving you with insufficient braking at the bottom of a long hill. The Toyota engineers left power boost running just long enough to get you out of a pickle in the event of inadvertent engine shutdown.

Give my regards to Broadway

The Great White Way goes green

Photo: Springsun via Flickr Mamma Mia! Broadway is going green. Inspired by An Inconvenient Truth, producer David Stone (who recently greened his hit musical Wicked) met with other Broadway big-wigs and the folks at NRDC in an effort to get the theater industry singing a more sustainable tune. There may be five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes in a year, but how much of a difference could this greening make? Well, they say the neon lights are bright on Broadway … In addition to swapping in CFLs, ideas shared at the meeting included reducing paper use, increasing recycling efforts, …

A car-free mom gets her muscles — and mind — in shape for summer

I’ve started running a few times a week. Each morning, I grab the clothes I’ve set out the night before and finish getting dressed in the garage, because I don’t want to wake my family. Then I go into my neighborhood and run, although running is a misnomer. Really, it’s more of a jog — and sometimes just a walk. These legs are made for parenting. These jog/walk sessions don’t have anything to do with being beautiful and thin, although I could do without the little mommy-skirt bathing suit. In large part, running is just a prelude to cycling. For …