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  • Canadian athletes urge Olympic committee to fulfill eco-promises

    Sara Renner
    Sara Renner.
    Photo: Arnd Hemmersbach via Flickr

    Canadian Olympic skier Sara Renner depends on winter weather to do what she loves, but over the last 15 years, she's seen more unpredictable ski seasons and more races being canceled due to lack of snow. "I am concerned about the future of the sports we love," she says, "but also about the next generation of Canadians, who will be left to deal with even more serious climate change impacts if we don't act now."

    Renner and more than 70 other Canadian athletes recently shared these concerns with the organizing committee in charge of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. The snowboarders, speed skaters, kayakers, windsurfers, hockey players, and even a unicyclist signed their names to a letter urging the Vancouver Organizing Committee (Vanoc) to fulfill their promise to make the Games carbon neutral.

    The letter was sent via the David Suzuki Foundation, a science-based organization Vanoc had previously consulted for an estimate of greenhouse-gas emissions that would be produced by the Games. The foundation came up with a figure equivalent to 65,000 cars on the road for one year -- and said that nearly 70 percent of that would be due to indirect emissions from athletes, sponsors, media, and spectators flying in for the event.

    Although the Olympic bid organizers have said since the beginning that they wanted to fully offset the impact of the Games -- and in fact, make it the greenest ever -- Vanoc now says they do not plan to account for that air travel. And this is the point with which the 70-some athletes take offense. Below, a snip from their letter:

  • Universities hold national teach-in on climate change

    Across the country yesterday, college campuses opened up a dialogue on climate change as part of a National Teach-In. And for many schools, this meant opening up lecture halls as well.

    studentsAt Seattle University, a 400-level engineering class (normally reserved for dedicated students in that major) spent the hour discussing effective energy solutions; lit majors, history professors, and everyone in between were invited to join. Later that afternoon, students in ECON 468 welcomed visitors for a lecture on the economics of carbon reduction and cap and trade. Elsewhere on the SU campus, students discussed the role of business in sustainability and the importance of "low-carbon" eating habits.

    "Our primary mode of reaching a diverse set of students [was] to have the teach-in themes 'embedded' in regular classrooms," said Jennifer Sorensen, the university's science director and organizer for the event. Faculty members from varied disciplines were asked to devote part of their class time (whether that class be Intro to Geology or Federal Income Tax I) to discussing climate change as it relates to their field.

    Students were a driving force behind the success of SU's teach-in, Sorensen says. "The faculty are more responsive to student requests to discuss these themes in their classroom than they are to my collegial invitation to participate!"

  • On the importance of getting personal with your food

    Real food doesn't often compete with the delicious paper-and-ink smell of bookstores, but last Saturday, chefs, farmers, photographers, and writers filled Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Company with their wares: two appetizing reads. The back-to-back book events featured the authors of Chefs on the Farm and Edges of Bounty.

    One lesson I walked away with that day was that food is only as good as the relationships on which it's based. These relationships can be between soil and seed, eater and herb, farmer and goat, or even you and your neighbors. Both books' authors reinforced this idea and went on to suggest that diverse, well-tended, and personal relationships produce the best meals and the best stories.

  • Foodie photogs, rainforest adventures, and more

    Every week, we compile a guide to the greenest goings-on in our hometown. We send it by email — sign up here! — and now it’s available in Gristmill. (Not in Seattle? Not a problem — we’ve got the inside scoop for you out-of-towners, too.) —– Combo meal: Elliott Bay Books is serving up a […]

  • Sustainable coffee, contaminants in the Columbia, and more

    Every week, we compile a guide to the greenest goings-on in our hometown. We send it by email -- sign up here! -- and now it's available in Gristmill. (Not in Seattle? Not a problem -- we've got the inside scoop for you out-of-towners, too.)


    A stimulating exhibit
    You may have asked your barista for a half-caf soy latte with sugar-free vanilla syrup, but according to a new exhibit at the Burke Museum, you've really got the whole world in your cup. Opening this weekend, Coffee: The World in Your Cup examines the environmental and social implications of the coffee industry through a variety of media including photographs, live plants, videos, in-gallery tastings, and a wall-to-wall display of coffee bags from local roasters. On Saturday, sip coffee from local roasters while hearing from caffeine-bean experts. Return Sunday for formal coffee cuppings that will teach you how to appreciate the variety of flavors and aromas in each mug.

    Plan it: The Burke Museum is open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Special events Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24-25, begin at 10 a.m. and continue throughout the day. See schedule for details.
    Map it: The Burke Museum, 17th Ave. N.E. and N.E. 45th St., Seattle, Wash.
    Not in Seattle? Not a problem: Though it's at the Burke until June 7, this is a traveling exhibit that could be hitting a cultural museum near you. Until then, read up on which fair-trade, organic, shade-grown Central American coffee got highest praise from Grist Food Editor Tom Philpott.

    Read on for more Seattle news ...

  • How often do natural and unnatural flights collide?

    A plane crashes into the Hudson River. By great good luck, all 155 people aboard survive. The cause of the accident? “A double bird strike.” So how often do birds, going about their wild-thing business, bring down our massive metal machines? More often than you might think — and yet, way less often than you’d […]

  • This year’s Greenbuild is buzzing

    In her column this week, Lisa Selin Davis wrote about the optimism of those in the green building movement. Today I saw it in the flesh. It was astonishing, the sight of more than 800 companies and organizations packed into Boston’s Convention & Exhibition Center for this year’s Greenbuild. Big guys like Honda and DuPont […]

  • Volkswagen Jetta TDI: 2009 Green Car of the Year

    2009 Green Car of the Year: Volkswagen Jetta TDI At the L.A. Auto Show Thursday morning, the Green Car Journal jury voted the Volkswagen Jetta TDI the 2009 Green Car of the Year. The TDI "clean diesel" runs on ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and uses a "common rail direct injection system" that decreases 95 percent […]

  • The whopper of a conference starts today

    This year’s Greenbuild Expo kicks off today, and I’m … not there. But I will be later this week! It looks to be both inspiring and overwhelming — check out the official program for an eye-blurring good time. In advance of the event, the U.S. Green Building Council put out the word that it expects […]