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Umbra on garden hoses

Dear Umbra, I'm diligently avoiding PVC plastics, but cannot find a good quality non-PVC garden hose. We have particularly high water pressure, so we need a hose that can withstand the pressure. I only need to water the veggie garden a couple of times a week in summer, but it's not quite feasible to do it with a watering can. To further complicate matters for you, we live in New Zealand, though we are willing to try importing a non-PVC hose if such a thing exists. Judi Wellington, New Zealand Dearest Judi, I'd like to personally accompany a garden hose …

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From Size to Spies

It's not the size of the turtle, it's how you save it Photo: WiLDCOAST. "My man doesn't need turtle eggs," says the sultry model in a controversial Mexican ad campaign, which urges men to stop buying the alleged aphrodisiacs and help save the endangered sea creatures. But does he need a Hummer H2? Money-mouth co-location Two climate-change skeptics just bet climate expert James Annan $10,000 that the globe would cool this decade. Meanwhile, peak oil Pollyanna John Tierney bet gloomy oil expert Matt Simmons $5,000 that oil wouldn't top $200 a barrel by 2010. Way to up the apocalyptic ante. …

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Umbra on taking the next step

Dear Umbra, I've noticed that often you tell people "don't sweat the small stuff" and suggest they focus on the major issues (transportation, housing, etc.). What about those of us who already do that, and want to do even more? I can almost guarantee you we are the ones sending you questions about widgets and all the other seemingly minuscule choices one faces. So what, then, would you recommend for us hard-core, been-there-done-that, already-taking-care-of-the-major-issues, longtime tree-hugging enviros as a "next step" list of things to aim for? WrenAurora, Colo. Dearest Birdy, I have tried my darnedest to never say "don't …

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A plug-in electric hybrid that gets 12,500 MPG and has a range of 20 miles

It’s an electric bike

I don't know what this guy's hang-up is with Deuce Bigalow, but high gas prices and the following comment by Odograph on the cost of plug-in electric hybrids got me thinking again. In lieu of paying $3-6K more for a plug-in hybrid electric car: What if you drive a prius and plant $3-10K worth of trees? What if you skip the prius, buy an echo and plant $13-20K worth of trees? What if you spend $1k and ride a really nice bike? I especially liked his last idea. I jumped on the net to see what was new for electric …

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Umbra on personal actions that make a real difference

Dear Umbra, What are some everyday things I could do to protect the environment? Like choosing plastic or paper, that kind of thing. DominickSpokane, Wash. Dearest Dominick, Your good question has a surprising answer, and it's one I'm happy to repeat as often as necessary: None of the important things has to do with paper or plastic, or any of the daily choices most of us spend lots of time pondering. We need to think bigger. Think outside the bag. I've compared and contrasted a random pile of "Top Ten Things You Can Do" lists -- to see how my …

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From Lubes to Lemurs

Lube job Folks sometimes worry about sustainability during sex -- just not the environmental kind. To make your pleasure greener there's the Veg Sex Shop, a collection of vegan and eco-friendly sex toys, including a solar-powered vibrator and a dazzling variety of oils and lubes. Look on the bright side Global warming may result in planetwide catastrophe, but at least it's an excuse for a quick nap. Researchers recommend that folks in warming climes start taking mid-afternoon siestas. The End Is Nigh -- no sense working yourself to death. Space bikes The worldwide internets were all abuzz this week over …

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Better Off, Dead

Eco-burials on the upswing We're all gonna die! Eventually, anyway. If you'd like your demise to contribute to a greener planet, reserve a plot at Forever Fernwood, a northern California cemetery specializing in "eco-interments." About half of Fernwood is devoted to burials that use environmentally friendly practices: hemp-silk blend shrouds, biodegradable coffins, low-key grave markers made from petrified wood, and no embalming. Fernwood owner Tyler Cassity is a wild child of the funeral world -- he transformed a decrepit old Los Angeles-area cemetery into "Hollywood Forever," a destination location featuring weekend movie screenings on the side of Rudolph Valentino's mausoleum. …

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This Is Why We Don’t Clean

Bacteria-killing goods may threaten human health and environment Antimicrobial products -- towels, sponges, cutting boards, and other household goods that promise to kill bacterial beasties and fungi -- are now a $1 billion-a-year industry, but they may be harming human health and the environment. Triclosan, a popular microbe-icide, can combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform, which can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. And some studies show that triclosan can break down to a form of dioxin when exposed to sunlight. At least one microbiologist, Roberto Kolter of Harvard Medical School, worries that rampant use of …

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Umbra on baking soda

Dear Umbra, I liked your column about homemade cleaning products. I have a question, though: What's up with baking soda? It's frequently bandied about as an eco-friendly cleaner, but I have no idea what it is, where it comes from, or how it's made. AmandaCharlottesville, Va. Dearest Amanda, Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a naturally occurring crystalline compound. I can be unusually precise about where it comes from: Green River, Wyo. Wyoming: what lies beneath? Photo: USDA. Turns out Wyoming holds the world's largest reserves of trona, otherwise known as sodium sesquicarbonate -- a key ingredient in your mysterious household …

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From Panties to Pledges

Eco-panties The world's fascination with panties dates back to, oh, probably whenever panties were invented. At U.K.-based GreenKnickers.org, they make them from organic materials or oddball secondhand dresses. You got your eco, you got your panties -- what's not to like? Like Grizzly Adams, but crazy Photo: Timothy Treadwell. Self-proclaimed "kind warrior" Timothy Treadwell lived for 13 years among Alaska's grizzly bears, totally unarmed, filming himself, befriending the bears, and going slightly nuts. Then they ate him. The documentary Grizzly Man opens Friday. I love to ride my biii-cycle Hey, did you know there's been an outbreak of eco-consciousness leading …

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