Living

Umbra on toxic yoga mats

Dear Umbra, I own a yoga studio and our mats are wearing out and in need of replacement. What’s the best alternative for buying new mats? And if I do get new mats, what’s the best option for disposing of the old ones: donate to one of the many organizations that provide yoga for people that can’t afford the usual yoga studio rates? Or spare them the toxins and send the mats to the landfill, or my gosh are they possibly recyclable? Help! I’m overwhelmed by uninformed choices. Karen Lee Breathing Time Yoga Pawtucket, R.I. Dearest Karen, Yoga mats: they …

Or you could just wear smaller shoes ...

Reducing your carbon footprint from travel

If want to reduce your carbon footprint, what should you do about your air travel until we have carbon-free jet fuel? The Stockholm Environment Institute and the Tufts Climate Initiative have a good handout on the subject, titled "Flying Green." They note: ... the average American is responsible for the emissions of about 20 tons of CO2 annually ... If you fly to Europe and back from the U.S., you'll add about 3-4 tons to your (already large) carbon footprint. With one flight you will have caused more emissions than 20 Bangladeshi will cause in a whole year. Unfortunately they are the ones who will lose their homes and livelihood once sea level rise inundates their low lying country.

Water, water everywhere, but ...

World Water Day, Grand Canyon film highlight water crisis

Saturday is World Water Day, a time set aside by the U.N. during which member nations are encouraged to address the worldwide water crisis. This year’s theme is the “International Year of Sanitation” (sexy!), which is aimed at “accelerat[ing] progress for 2.6 billion people worldwide who are without proper sanitation facilities.” For more on this topic, check out the Guardian Weekly‘s special supplement “Every Drop Counts.” [PDF] But World Water Day is also meant to bring attention to other water-related crises, like the ones facing beautiful places like this: Wow. Check out that view. Now imagine it on an IMAX …

From Emo to Ego

Thnks fr th GHGs What will be the fallout from Pete Wentz and Co.’s green-themed flight to Antarctica? Tons of carbon, a Guinness record — and, quite possibly, emo copypenguins. Photo: iStockphoto Against the grain Young McHipster has a farm, e-i-e-i-o. And on her farm, she has organic produce, e-i-e-i-o. With a CSA here, and a trucker hat there, here a market, there a Pabst, everywhere an urbanite. Young McHipster has a farm, e-i-e-i-o! Photo: iStockphoto Sign, seal, deliver Oh hai! We can has LOLphotoz campaign abowt seal huntingz? Thx! Click to enlarge.Photo: Courtesy Humane Society Pee-reviewed research Dead lawn …

Warm up over a bowl of chili — while planning your spring vegetable patch

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first installment of Chef’s Diary, a new biweekly recipe column by Iowa-based chef Kurt Michael Friese. Follow the seasons with a professional chef — and get tips for cooking at home. Seeds of our content. Photo: run dorkas run As the last of last fall’s bounty comes out of the larder at my Iowa City restaurant, my wife Kim has been poring over seed catalogs, trying to shake the chill of a particularly nasty prairie winter. Eagerness to plant supplants many other priorities as she rifles through each newly arrived issue like a 12-year-old boy …

NWF's love affair with the junk mail industry

More on Catalog Choice and the Do Not Mail registry

Yesterday's Washington Post had a fascinating article by Lyndsey Layton about how the U.S. Postal Service is teaming up with the junk mail lobby to stamp out (heh heh) efforts to create state or national "Do Not Mail" lists that would allow people to opt out of receiving commercial solicitations. That's no surprise: junk mail is big business, and the postal service, the paper companies, and the junk mailers don't want anything that would interfere with their cash flow, no matter how many forests are destroyed to make the paper. But inside the article was the bizarre revelation that some environmental groups "are cool to the idea of a registry that prohibits marketers from sending mail to those enrolled and that fines violators. One reason may be that most environmental groups are themselves junk mailers." Indeed, Laura Hickey of the National Wildlife Federation -- a member of the Direct Marketing Association -- claimed that the national registry "would affect anybody who mails ... I don't think it would be any different whether you were for-profit or non-profit." Actually, no: all of the proposals for a Do Not Mail registry would include free-speech protections for non-profit and political groups. And, according to Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics, the organization behind the Do Not Mail campaign, Hickey herself was told that on three occasions.

Umbra on burning paper

Dear Umbra, We heat our house primarily by wood, in an efficient, EPA-rated woodstove. My question is this: We recycle all of our paper, paperboard, cardboard, etc., but would it be better to burn it? As it is, we drive it to the recycle center, they ship it off somewhere, it is then processed, then shipped back out as a product. If we burn it, we get some heat, and ashes to spread on our garden. Which is better for paper — recycling or burning? Joan Bremen, Maine Dearest Joan, Recycling wins, I’m afraid. I answered a similar question last …

How to green your pet

Without pets, the world would be such a pale, less playful version of itself. No Wallace and Gromit videos. No Fluffy purring in our laps or Fido fetching his Frisbee. No cheerful creatures welcoming us home and adoring us unconditionally. (OK, we’d still have mom.) So we love them, there’s no getting around it. But can we lighten the eco-pawprint of our pets? Why yes, we can: today’s marketplace offers everything from eco-friendly kibbles, collars, and chew toys to beds, leashes, and kitty litter — all of which promote better pet health without hurting the planet. If you’re less inclined …

Culture war: country music edition

Global warming could thaw relations between enviros and those who live closest to ‘the environment’

I wasn't particularly planning to continue on the culture war beat, but then, I wasn't expecting Orion Magazine to publish exactly the type of article of which I'd like to see more. In "One Nation Under Elvis," author and environmentalist Rebecca Solnit uses music -- specifically country music -- as a jumping off point to examine the cultural and class markers that divide a movement from itself. It's become a bit trite to say that climate change isn't (or shouldn't be) a left-right issue. But political coalitions in the U.S. really did once look quite different than they do now. In the '30s, the progressive movement "saw farmers, loggers, fisheries workers, and miners as its central constituency along with longshoremen and factory workers." According to Solnit, this constituency frayed in the postwar period, and blasted apart in the 1960s: