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Articles by Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli is editor of E: The Environmental Magazine, a regular contributor to the New York Times, and author of Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth.

Featured Article

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte, Little Brown and Co., 320 pgs., 2005.

Our soda man delivers. He comes bounding up the steps, easily cradling an ancient-looking wooden crate under one arm. The contents are 24 seven-ounce bottles of cola and birch beer, for which we hand him $7, and last month’s crate. The thick, wavy glass bottles bear an old-fashioned logo that reads, “Castle Soda: Food for Thirst.”

Bottled in a declining industrial town in Connecticut, Castle is like some visitor from another time. The idea of returnable, refillable bottles seems quaint and archaic in the age of plastic. Indeed, the bottler tells us it’s impossible to find anyone who makes seven-ounce glass bottles anymore, so the company’s crates are dotted with outcasts from other local bottlers that went out of business in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.

I buy Castle not because it’s better than Coke, but because I love seeing those empties taken back to their source. Like Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land, I’ve wondered and worried about what happens to all that non-returna... Read more

All Articles

  • Doctors, vets, and scientists unite in brave new world of conservation medicine

    Mosquitoes have Hawaii all abuzz. Photo: WHO/TDR/Stammers. On an airport runway in Hawaii last fall, a sparrow nearly became a canary. State officials testing captured birds got one positive result for the West Nile virus, which had yet to arrive from the mainland. Hawaii and Alaska remain the only states in the U.S. that haven’t […]

  • An excerpt from Feeling the Heat sizes up the ominous Asian Cloud

    The Indian city of Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is home to one of Asia's largest slums and endures among the worst air quality on earth. Half the city's population lacks running water or electricity, and the smoke from countless wood-burning cooking fires joins with the acrid haze from two-stroke auto rickshaws, diesel buses, and coal-fired power plants to all but choke the city. Breathing Mumbai's air, reports the Lonely Planet travel guide, is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Comparable air quality wraps New Delhi, Bangalore, and 69 of India's 70 principal cities year-round, according to a 1997 study by India's Central Pollution Control Board.

  • The word on relatively green cars and positively green bicycles

    Hy-wire act. Photo: DOE. My daughter Maya, who is 9, saw a picture of the General Motors Hy-wire, the company’s super-sleek experimental fuel-cell car, and immediately decided we should have one. Unfortunately, I had to explain to her that the hydrogen-powered, zero-emission, fossil-fuel-free car would be perfect for us in all respects except one: It’s […]

  • Overdrive

    214,000,000 — number of vehicles in the U.S.1 290,000,000 — number of people in the U.S.2 2 — number of American cars on the Top 20 list in “The Greenest Vehicles of 2003,” produced by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (the other 18 are Japanese)3 22,802 — miles per year driven by the […]