Living

Your granite countertop may emit radon and radiation

Heads up, yuppies: Must-have granite countertops may emit worrisome levels of radon and radiation. While granite is known to contain radioactive uranium, which emits radon gas as it decays, the vast majority of countertops emit …

Umbra on clean coal

Dear Umbra, I noticed that several of the presidential primary debates were sponsored by clean coal. This was announced during breaks and several commercials aired. I have since seen several more commercials and online advertisements. …

Book review: Caffeinated reads

Javatrekker and God in a Cup on the culture of coffee production

When I jumped on a plane one year ago and headed off to Guatemala with Seattle-based coffee roaster Caffé Vita, there was little more than the occasional blog post telling "the story behind coffee." The majority of the writing about coffee I could find was focused on the history of the bean-like-seed: stories of cunning Dutch merchants, over-caffeinated whirling dervishes, and besieged Austrians, but nothing talking about the places and people that presently grow the second most valuable crop on the planet. When Vita and I dropped down in Guatemala City, I didn't know a damn thing about the bean: where it was grown, the politics that drive it, the human factor that shapes it, let alone the variety of ways it is processed, tested, sold, shipped, and ritualized. I simply knew that I adored the stuff when it was prepared in a careful manner. Now, with trips to farms in Ethiopia, Brazil, and Guatemala and with several thousand of my own words under my belt I can honestly say -- I still really don't know a damn thing about the bean. But I am happy to refer authors who do. Here are a couple of books that might not make The New York Times' bestsellers list, but certainly will give you a slight peek inside the dynamic world of coffea arabica.

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …