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Martin Melaver, eco-friendly real-estate entrepreneur, answers questions

Martin Melaver. What work do you do? I'm CEO of Melaver, Inc., which is a third-generation, family-owned real-estate company based in Savannah, Ga. What does your organization do? We really do a bit of everything in real estate, which I guess is typical for a business with roots in a smallish town. We develop, acquire, renovate, manage, broker, and own commercial and residential properties. And we're trying to do it all sustainably, which is a mouthful. What, in a perfect world, would constitute "mission accomplished"? It's easy enough to develop, manage, acquire, and rehab sustainably (if you're committed to the …

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Pimp My Prius

Customizations and hacks jazz up a hybrid Sure, your Prius saves gas and helps you reduce your personal carbon dioxide emissions ... but does it have mad bling? We didn't think so. Luckily, The New York Times commissioned George Barris, car customizer extraordinaire, to modify a Prius without altering the car's mechanics or electronics for a price the Gray Lady termed "within reach of real drivers" -- about $10,000. Barris lengthened and raised the car's nose; added flared fenders, 18-inch wheels, and an aerodynamic rear spoiler; and topped 'er off with a duo-toned Tangerine Gold-Astra Green metal flake hot-rod paint …

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Umbra on kitty litter

Dear Umbra, I recently adopted a cat, and I am having a hard time deciding what to do with the kitty litter. Is there some kind of green litter that is best to use? Anything flushable and sewage-tank friendly? Or, can I compost the litter -- and what should I use to cover it up with? Kate GravesNashville, Tenn. Dearest Kate, Just as our eco-children can be diaper-free, it appears our cats can be litter-free. Teach your kitty to use the toilet! Tutorials and tips await you on the internet, and Grist staffers have confirmed that this seemingly bonkers notion …

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From Harry to Housing

Um, forgiven In coastal Cali, Clint Eastwood has a rep as a Dirty-Harry developer. But that may change with his latest project, Tehama, which boasts solar and wind power, open space, an organic farm, and native plants. Of course, there's also a golf course ... you got a problem with that? Bar none A London-based shoe company has paired with a nonprofit to create Worn Again, a line of "trainers" (those Brits!) made from prison blankets, military parachutes, towels, thrift-store suits, and car-seat leather. So your feet will have that old-car smell. Photo: Worn Again. Methanol together now Remember when …

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Rake's Progress

Ask Umbra on autumn leaves

Send your question to Umbra! Editor's Note: Our dear Umbra Fisk is wrapping up her well deserved vacation. In her absence, we're springing some archival columns from the vault. Since summer's fading and fall is coming on fast, we thought we'd peep in on the topic of autumn leaves. Yeah, we're fun-stoppers like that. Q. Dear Umbra, With fall here, the leaves are changing and falling from the trees. What is the best way to handle them? Burning them makes so much smoke, but putting them in trash bags and sending them to the landfill doesn't seem like a good …

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We Got No Beef With That

Demand growing for naturally raised meats Americans are increasingly willing to fork over a little extra for free range, organic, and natural meats. And although these still comprise a tiny percentage of the total U.S. market, the food industry is starting to notice. In just one sign of a shift, about 450 growers operating under the aegis of San Francisco-based natural meats supplier Niman Ranch are finding a market for their products from the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain, a subsidiary of McDonald's. Chipotle often buys all the pork Niman can supply; it's added naturally raised chicken to the menu, with …

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From Teri to the Thames

Katrina's ka-ching No national environmental crisis would be complete without celebs cashing in. We bring you Teri Hatcher, who's unveiled a line of ugly (oops! did we type that out loud?) T-shirts to support hurricane relief. Meanwhile, Michael Moore may be considering a Katrina disast-umentary. That'll show the penguins who's boss. My cup runneth over "Football" fans are already salivating for next year's World Cup in Germany. Now the eco-minded among them have reason to riot (uh, celebrate): climate-neutral finals. Investments in biogas facilities in India ought to offset at least half the fans' beer farts. Curb appeal Inimitable crankster …

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The Weather Channel’s climate ace chats about Katrina and sexing up global warming

As Hurricane Katrina raged toward the Gulf Coast in late August, more than 4.5 million American homes tuned in to The Weather Channel -- many times the network's average audience. The channel's bright-eyed climate-change expert, Heidi Cullen, was standing by to address the question that was confounding Americans nationwide: Was Katrina's horrible wrath intensified by global warming? Was this a precursor to an era of super-hurricanes? Heidi Cullen, a pioneer on the climate beat. Photo: The Weather Channel Cullen, a climatologist, was hired two years ago by The Weather Channel, plucked from her post-graduate work at the National Center for …

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How I spent my summer vacation … at the movies

I'd love to tell you about my summer close to nature -- how I whiled away the days on a hidden Maine-coast isle, picking blueberries in the early morning and watching seals cavort in the sea. But the truth is, I spent quite a few of my July and August afternoons in a different sort of island haven: the dark, air-conditioned movie theaters of Manhattan. There's something dissolute about going to a movie on a sunny afternoon. A little devil whispers into your ear that it's just plain wrong to reject the fair weather -- healthy outdoor sports, cheery communal …

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Umbra on architectural salvage

Dear Umbra, We recently replaced the doorknobs in our place, so we have a fistful of old yet working doorknobs I'd hate to just toss. What to do with this and other perfectly good hardware? R.B.M.Arlington, Va. Dearest R.B.M., This answer goes out to you, but also to all your fellow home remodelers out there. One person's old doorknob is another's period-restoration item, as the adage goes. Don't knock it. You can, of course, try to sell your knobs on the internet. I just amused myself by looking at doorknobs on eBay. Is it truly worth the effort to list, …