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60 CONTENTS DECEMBER/JANUARY 2006
FRONT MATTER 6 . . . . FROM THE EDITOR 10 . . . . LETTERS 15 . . . . NEWS AND NOTES
Biodiesel rescue vehicles; Schwarzenegger-approved school lunches; new food labeling; and making your white Christmas green. 18 . . . . EVENTS CALENDAR Film screenings, fair trade festivals, and more. 20 . . . . RETREADS Can you regift and get away with it? By Christy Harrison 24 . . . . ON TECHNOLOGY How genetically modified plants could help fight pollution. By Kate O’Rourke 28 . . . . WHEELS Go easy on your wallet—and the planet— with these eight environmentally-friendly cars. By Mark Baard 30 . . . . INVESTING Solar power is suddenly hot with venture capitalists. By Ann Monroe 34 . . . . BOOKS Travels in Antarctica and an ecologist’s return to his South African home. By Ann Landi
37 . . . . GREEN GEAR
Fifty eco-friendly gifts, including recycled vases, organic chocolate, and all-natural pet treats.
GRAY MATTER 46 . . . . FORGET HIBERNATING
Ten outdoor adventures that will leave you wishing winter lasted longer. By Kate Siber 60 . . . . EYEING THE FUTURE Plenty asks seven leading environmental thinkers what keeps them up at night. By Richard Bradley 64 . . . . UNPAVING PARADISE Ambitious designers are finding new uses for idle plots of industrial land. By Stephanie Ray
PAINTING TOP LEFT BY STEPHEN BUSH, LEMON-SCENTED MYRTLE, 2005, OIL/ENAMEL ON LINEN, 72” X 72”, COURTESY GOFF+ROSENTHAL GALLERY, NEW YORK; PHOTO LOWER RIGHT BY CHRIS HOLLO
Eyeing the Future
t h a n a h u r r i c a n e.
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70 . . . . FOR ALL THE WIND IN DENMARK
The Danes get 20 percent of their electricity from wind. Will the rest of the world follow their lead? By Marie Bonhommet 74 . . . . ARIZONA ATTRACTION Sedona is known for its red rock landscape—and its “energy vortexes.” Is it really a mecca for spiritual enlightenment? By Kate Siber 78 . . . . SPIRITUAL ELEMENTS Earth-revering celebrations and rituals from around the globe: a photo essay. Curated by Nancy Schwartzman and Jennie Pakradooni.
MATTERS OF FACT AND FANCY 86 . . . . HOW WE LIVE
Shopping malls get a makeover. By Lisa Selin Davis 88 . . . . SHELTER Recycled paper is being made into strong, weatherproof houses. By Joshua M. Bernstein 90 . . . . STYLE PROFILE Deborah Lindquist has Hollywood excited about recycled clothes. By Ann Landi 92 . . . . GREEN BLING Eight environmentally-aware jewelry designs. 94 . . . . FOOD Why you should choose a heritage turkey for your holiday dinner. By Nicole Davis 96 . . . . GREEN HOME Ten ways to detox your house. By Christine Richmond 98 . . . . HEALTH Four good reasons to sip some wine this holiday season. By Rachel Grumman 100 . . INDULGENCES Organic wine: a Plenty taste test. 102 . . OFF THE GRID Colette Brooks has a fleet of nine biodiesel cars—including her beloved ’79 Cadillac. By Justin Tyler Clark 104 . . THE BACK PAGE Top 10 reasons to celebrate 2005.
ON THE COVER: Illustration for Plenty by Bill Mayer.
PHOTO UPPER LEFT BY CLYDE CURREY; UPPER RIGHT BY LIZ GOETZ; LOWER RIGHT BY TATIANA CARDEAL
4HE TEACHER SAYS YOGA IS SOMETHING POSITIVE ) DO FOR MYSELF TO CLEANSE THE MIND OF NEGATIVE THOUGHT SO ) CAN´T LET MYSELF FALL VICTIM TO THE ±MONKEY MIND ² ) HAVE TO BE AT ONE WITH MY BREATH OH 'OD ) HOPE MY BREATH ISN´T BAD ) REALLY SHOULD FLOSS MORE PEOPLE WHO FLOSS MORE ACTUALLY LIVE LONGER AND ) ALWAYS FORGET
WHICH IS SO STUPID AND THAT IS A VERY NEGATIVE THOUGHT¨/+ THEN LET NEGATIVE THOUGHTS GO 9OGA WILL MAKE ME THIN AND BEAUTIFUL ALL THE SUPERMODELS DO IT ALTHOUGH THEY ACTUALLY START OUT THIN AND BEAUTIFUL BUT STILL¨ !LSO ) READ THAT YOGA CLEANSES THE BODY OF TOXINS WHICH THE MAGAZINES ALL SAY CAUSES CELLULITE WHICH IS A TOTAL LIE #ELLULITE ISN´T CAUSED IT ISN´T EVEN A CONDITION IT´S A WORD THAT WAS INVENTED IN IN SOME MAGAZINE
AND IT IS JUST THE NATURAL FORMATION OF FEMALE FLESH EXCEPT WHY DOESN´T THAT GIRL IN THE PURPLE TANK TOP IN THE FRONT WHO CAN THROW HER LEGS BEHIND HER HEAD HAVE ANY 7HAT IS SHE DOING THAT )´M NOT DOING ) WOULD DO ANYTHING TO GET RID OF CELLULITE )F ) FOUND OUT THAT PURPLE TANK TOP GIRL IS KILLING PUPPIES TO GET RID OF CELLULITE ) WOULD TOTALLY¨WELL /+ NO ) ACTUALLY WOULDN´T DO THAT¨BUT STILL 3UPPOSEDLY IF YOU DRINK EIGHT GLASSES OF WATER A DAY YOU´LL LOOK LIKE A SUPERMODEL BUT ) AM SICK OF WATER IT´S SO BORING AND OH ) DON´T KNOW WATERY AND BESIDES )´LL NEVER BE A SUPERMODEL ) MEAN LOOK AT THE ODDS 4HERE ARE WHAT THREE BILLION WOMEN ON PLANET EARTH AND TEN OF THEM ARE SUPERMODELS 4HAT MAKES SUPERMODELS THE RAREST OF GENETIC FREAKS ) MIGHT AS WELL FEEL BAD ABOUT MYSELF FOR NOT BEING A HERMAPHRODITE THERE MUST BE LIKE HERMAPHRODITES ON EARTH AT LEAST ) HAD A SHOT AT THAT ONE /+ THAT´S PRETTY NEGATIVE THAT WAS ALL VERY MONKEY MINDISH OF ME (EY WHAT ARE THOSE MONKEYS WITH THE BIG ORANGE BUTTS /RANGUTANS ) WONDER IF ORANGUTANS WANDER AROUND THE JUNGLE ASKING THEIR MATES IF THEIR BUTT ISN´T ORANGE ENOUGH AND THE GUYS ARE ALL ±5H ) THINK YOUR BUTT IS THE PERFECT AMOUNT OF ORANGE ² AND THEN THE GIRL ORANGUTAN IS ALL ±'OD CAN´T G AND YOU KNOW DYE YOU JUST GIVE ME AN HONEST ANSWER BECAUSE SERIOUSLY IF IT´S NOT ORANGE ENOUGH )´LL JUST GO IT WITH SOME KIND OF LEAF OR BERRY WE´VE GOT LYING AROUND THE JUNGLE BECAUSE ) JUST WANT TO HAVE THE MOST PERFECTLY ORANGE BUTT FOR YOU² /W 4HIS HURTS HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO HOLD THIS STUPID POSE ) NEED CHOCOLATE 7HICH IS NOT REALLY THAT BAD FOR YOU BECAUSE ) READ THAT IT ACTUALLY CONTAINS A COMPOUND WHICH HELPS FIGHT TOOTH DECAY SO EATING CHOCOLATE IS PRACTICALLY THE SAME AS BRUSHING YOUR TEETH WHICH ) AM GOING TO DO A BETTER JOB OF NOW THAT )´M A POSITIVE PERSON IN YOGA GETTING IN TOUCH WITH MY BREATH WHETHER IT´S BAD OR NOT )´M NOT JUDGING EXCEPT ) AM JUDGING -ISS 0URPLE 4OP "ENDY 'IRL BECAUSE ) THINK SHE MAY HAVE SOLD HER SOUL TO BE THAT CELLULITE FREE WHICH IS A HIGH PRICE TO PAY BUT ON THE OTHER HAND NO CELLULITE¨ #ATHRYN -ICHON COMIC AND AUTHOR OF ±4HE 'RRL 'ENIUS 'UIDE TO 3EX 7ITH /THER 0EOPLE ²
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FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF
his issue marks the start of Plenty’s second year. We launched the magazine in November 2004 with the goal of fostering a dialogue on what it means to be green, opening the discussion to environmentally concerned people of all different stripes. Even so, we weren’t quite prepared for the incredible diversity of eco-friendly lifestyles that we found among our readers. Some of you examine every aspect of your life for waste: you bike to work, use limited amounts of hot water and consciously limit the number of things you purchase. Others simply buy the occasional carton of organic milk and recycle when it is convenient. Plenty was conceived for both of you—and for the rest of us, who fall somewhere in between. In our aim to provide a forum for green issues, we have definitely gotten some things right. Plenty’s premier issue focused on the end of oil, predicting that widespread petroleum shortages were likely to set in toward the end of this decade. Now, a year later, international politics and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina seem only to be highlighting what is clearly an imminent decline in the availability of cheap oil. Of course, Plenty has also made some faux-pas this year—and according to some readers, many of them are fashion-related. While all of the clothes featured in Plenty have been organic, fair trade or vintage, some of you thought that our models should have been wearing, well, a little more clothing, and that our choice of models should have exemplified a more socially conscious ethic. In choosing our fashion spreads, it was our aim to show that green gear can look just as high-fashion as anything on the major runways. Hopefully, we will offend fewer of you next year. No promises, though: if we never offended anyone, the magazine probably would be a snooze. As Plenty’s own growing pains have shown, being green is about day-to-day choices as well as larger gestures. Every time you hit the grocery store, drive (or bike) to work, or get dressed, you have the opportunity to make a statement—particularly at this time of year, as the holidays tend to require a little more consumerism from all of us. With that in mind, Plenty senior editor Christine Richmond has put together a green holiday gift guide (p. 37), featuring items that are both inexpensive (under $50) and eco-friendly. In “How to Regift and Get Away With It” (p. 20), senior editor Christy Harrison writes about the politics and social acceptability of giving your loved ones and friends presents with a past instead of brandnew gifts. Our approach has been unabashedly optimistic, as our name implies—but we are also realists and incrementalists. We know the world won’t change overnight, but we believe that we all can have an impact on the future. In this issue, political editor Richard Bradley polls a number of experts on the issues to watch for in the years ahead (see “Eyeing the Future”, p. 60). Writer Ann Monroe examines recent advances in solar technology (see “Ventures in the Sun”, p. 30) that could revolutionize the market as well as the rooftops. And Stephanie Ray looks at how some cities are reinventing contaminated wastelands as sustainable environments (see “Unpaving Paradise”, p. 64). If 2005 is any indication, there are plenty of surprises ahead that we haven’t yet thought of. But there is also a green movement afoot, one that only has just begun to change how we interact with the planet. Mark Spellun Editor in Chief & Publisher
6 | PLENTY
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
How can you help protect
the prairie and the penguin?
Simple. Visit www.earthshare.org and learn how the worldâ€™s leading environmental groups are working together under one name. And how easy it is for you to help protect the prairies and the penguins and the planet.
One environment. One simple way to care for it.
PLENTY Publisher & Editor in Chief Mark Spellun Creative Director Catherine Cole Senior Editors Jennifer Block, Christy Harrison, Christine Richmond Editor at Large Sarah Rose Political Editor Richard Bradley Science Editor Michael W. Robbins Staff Writer Kate Siber Copy Editors Sandra Ban, Tim Heffernan Research Editor Karen Rose Contributing Editors Joshua M. Bernstein, Justin Tyler Clark, Lisa Selin Davis, Jesse Kornbluth, Ann Landi, Michael W. Robbins Assistant Art Director Richard Gambale PLENTY Advertising, 250 West 49th Street, Suite 403, New York, NY 10019 Deborah Gardiner, National Sales Director (Tel: 1-212-757-3794) Midwest and Detroit: 31555 West Fourteen Mile Road, Suite 313, Farmington Hills, MI 48334 Susan L. Carey, Regional Director; Sue Maniloff, Regional Director (Tel: 1-248-539-3055) West Coast: 1972 Green Street, San Francisco, CA 94123 Susan M. Werner, Regional Director (Tel: 1-415-441-2762)
Published by Environ Press, Inc. Chairman Arnold Spellun
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Unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, and other materials must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. PLENTY will not be responsible for unsolicited submissions. Send letters to the editor to email@example.com or to PLENTY, 250 West 49th Street, Suite 403, New York, NY 10019. Copyright ÂŠ2005 by Environ Press, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. PLENTY has applied for membership to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. PLENTY (ISSN 1553-2321) is published bimonthly, six times a year, for $12 per year by Environ Press, Inc., 250 West 49th Street, Suite 403, New York, NY 10019. Periodical postage paid at New York, NY and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Plenty, P.O. Box 437, Mt. Morris, IL 61054-0437 or call 1-800-316-9006.
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“It’s almost like free advertising... you devoted whole articles to GE and McDonald’s.”
LETTERS CONGRATULATIONS on creating a genuine and modern environmental magazine. I think you’re right to take the approach that as consumers we can make decisions that really send a message about the importance of preserving the planet. I love reading about interesting planet-friendly products in each issue, but I do have to say that I thought you went a little crazy with product placement in your October/November issue. It’s almost like free advertising—not only do you have logos for Timberland and other big corporations all over your cover, but you devoted whole articles to GE and McDonald’s. I think it’s interesting that they’re beginning to think about eco-issues, but I’m not sure their small efforts are worth championing over the many truly environmentally conscious businesses that are really making a difference. KELLY MILLER SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
AS CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN readers (I bet you don’t actually have many readers who would claim that in public), my wife and I appreciate your magazine. It inspires people like us to think about our environment (and yes, Republicans really DO care about our environment). We believe a happy, healthy balance can exist between the many competing forces. And very few issues are really yes/no or right/wrong issues, but a mixture and compromise between many elements.
cover. I have never been so excited about a magazine before! It was interesting, thought provoking and informative. As an environmental science major, it is so refreshing to see others fighting for the environment, especially in such a creative way! I couldn’t be prouder. TEMPLE HIGHTOWER VIA EMAIL
I JUST WANTED TO SAY that I recently received a copy of Plenty magazine in the mail and I really enjoyed reading it. I am always so happy to keep up to date on the latest environmental news and what I can do to help make our Earth better. DALE SIMMONS LINDENHURST, NEW YORK
MARK CRAMER DUNKIRK, MARYLAND
I LOVE YOUR MAGAZINE and am thrilled I AM THRILLED with your magazine. I picked it up at the airport and read it cover to 10 | P L E N T Y
to say FINALLY! It’s about time! Thank you and I wish you all the financial success to keep it going for years to come. I subscribed
today and will look forward to getting them in the mail!
ACTON, ONTARIO, CANADA
MY GIRLFRIEND AND I picked up a copy of your magazine this past week at Interbike in Las Vegas. On the plane home we read the entire thing and wanted to tell you thanks. It will be a nice eye opener for many. Our question is this: What do you do for printing purposes? You don’t use 100% recycled paper for your magazine, do you? Inks? Soy based? Your magazine didn’t label the materials used in the actual manufacturing of your magazine—or did we miss it? MICHAEL ORLANDI MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA EDITOR’S NOTE: Plenty is printed on 30% post-consumer recycled paper; the other 70% is sustainably harvested. While we do not use soy-based ink at this time, we are considering it for the future.
Send your letters, comments, kudos, and critiques to firstname.lastname@example.org December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
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CONTRIBUTORS KATE SIBER Staff writer Kate Siber has lived in Italy, hiked in the Himalaya, and dived in Thailand, but she has never been anywhere quite like Sedona, Arizona. “I guess I have always thought of Sedona as overrated,” says the Durango, Colorado-based freelancer, who writes about visiting the town and testing her spiritual inclinations in “Arizona Attraction” (page 74). “But I guess I’ve changed my mind, because it’s one of the few places that is truly what you make of it—it can be a place of spiritual renewal, outdoor adventure, cultural learning, whatever you want.” Siber, who also wrote this issue’s winter travel roundup (page 46) has written for Outside, Men’s Journal, Skiing, and Hooked on the Outdoors.
MARK BA ARD When Mark Baard, who wrote “Green Ride Roundup” (Wheels, page 28), began his journalism career in his native New York, gas prices were closer to $1 than $3. Baard drives a Volkswagen New Beetle, and has never owned an SUV. But in researching the Wheels piece, he found the Toyota Highlander Hybrid to be a tempting choice. Baard also confesses to being too afraid to buy his dream car: an “ancient” Mercedes Benz diesel retrofitted to run on waste veggie oil. “If I was single,” says Baard, “I’d take a chance on an old banger…something with some character. But I have a wife, a kid, and a dog to answer to if my hipster ride happens to break down.” He has written for Wired News, the Village Voice, and the Boston Globe.
CHRISTINE RICHMOND “It’s inspiring to see how many companies are making really amazing eco-friendly products,” says Plenty senior editor Christine Richmond, who rounded up 50 affordable green gifts (Green Gear, page 37) for the holidays. And while you’re out shopping, you might also take Richmond’s advice in “Ten Ways to Detox Your Digs” (Green Home, page 96) and buy yourself a green gift or two—say, a castiron pan. Richmond says she uses green cleaning products and has many plants in her own apartment, but admits to owning a few pieces of particle board furniture. “My peace lily is hard at work absorbing fumes from my bookshelf,” she says. A Boston native, Richmond was on staff at Body & Soul before moving to New York and joining Plenty.
BILL MAYER Artist Bill Mayer (cover illustration) has been commissioned by Forbes, Outside, Time, the Village Voice, and many other publications. Mayer also designed the acclaimed “Bright Eyes” stamp series for the U.S. Postal Service. In creating an image for Plenty’s future-themed issue, Mayer says he offered something practical, “a more identifiable look into what you can do today to live more efficiently.” Asked what he sees when he gazes into his own crystal ball, he says, “canoeing, sailing, biking, skinny dipping, great long hikes in the woods and sitting around bonfires with friends telling tales of pond scogin, lunker-heads, and stink-eye banshees that steal children away in the night—at least for the summers.” For now, Mayer lives in Decatur, Georgia, with his wife of 33 years, Lee, and a rabbit named Tidbit. 12 | P L E N T Y
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
Eleven more reasons
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Sustainable seal of approval ith the recent proliferation of iffy food designations like “natural” and “hormone-free,” shoppers hardly need another meaningless eco-label to contend with. But a new campaign by the nonprofit group Protected Harvest aims to create a labeling system for sustainable (though not certified organic) foods, and this time both farmers and consumers stand to benefit. The group measures a farm’s ecofriendliness in terms of soil and water quality, ecosystem health, wildlife habitat, and pest-management practices. Unlike the national organics board, Protected Harvest actually allows for the minimal application of synthetic pesticides, although the most toxic chemicals are completely banned. The logic behind this approach to pest management is to help spread sustainable agricultural practices to as many conventional farms as possible, says Carolyn Brickey, executive director of Protected Harvest. Large mainstream growers are more likely to adopt these incremental changes than small farmers, the group argues, because the cost of pesticide reduction represents a much smaller chunk of the big guys’ total revenues—and therefore consumers won’t see much of a difference in price at the produce stand.
Sounds fine, but will shoppers buy it? “[The term] ‘organic’ is perhaps more meaningful to many consumers,” says Urvashi Rangan, an environmental health scientist who directs the Consumers Union’s eco-labels.org project. Still, she says, folks who want earth-friendly food but don’t want to pay a high premium for organics are likely to choose Protected Harvest. Even more kudos: Rangan’s group recently ranked Protected Harvest’s food label as “highly meaningful.” “Anytime you’re reducing the amount of pesticide use, it’s a good thing,” says John Kepner, a project director at Beyond Pesticides. He cautions that minimal pesticide use can still cause negative health effects, but he applauds Protected Harvest’s prohibition of the worst chemicals, like methyl bromide (which is often used on conventional strawberries). In 2001, Protected Harvest developed certification criteria for Wisconsin potatoes, and the sustainable spuds are now available on the market in the Midwest and along the East Coast. The group plans to establish standards for tomatoes, plums, nectarines, peaches, strawberries, and some wine grapes by spring of 2006. —Erica Wetter
Green with Envy
Biodegradable golf balls by Eco Golf
The organically maintained fairways at Kabi golf course in Australia
Eco-friendly high-rise apartment towers like the Solaire in New York City
Lloyd Crossing, a 35-block section of Portland, Oregon, that will be sustainable and off the grid
Shopping at your local farmers’ market
The 100-mile diet, started by a Canadian couple, in which all of your food and drink must be produced within 100 miles of your home
Organic cotton T-shirts
T-shirts made from sustainable and renewable (and ultrasoft) bamboo
www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
Junk food governated alifornia governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to pump kids up on healthy foods. He signed two bills in September to ban the sale of sodas in high schools and to set standards for the fat, sugar, and calorie content of all snacks and entrees sold in public schools. (The nutritional content of food served as part of USDA school meal programs is already subject to federal oversight, but vending-machine items and between-meal snacks have historically escaped regulation.) The bills, set to take effect in 2007, are the most sweeping legislative effort in the U.S. to date to police nutrition in schools. Under the new rules, campus vending machines will be stocked with minimally processed goodies like yogurt, nuts, and milk instead of chips, candy bars, and sodas. And giant pastries at the snack counter, which may fail to meet new fat and calorie requirements (that a snack contain 250 or fewer calories, with a maximum of 35 percent of those calories from fat), could be scaled down or replaced by whole-grain, low-fat alternatives. The Governator’s bill has its detractors, though. Creating new nutritional regulations on foods and beverages in schools “would achieve little while costing much to both the local school systems and the state,” wrote Valerie Nera, the agriculture director of the Chamber of Commerce, in a recent position statement. Although the governor followed the Chamber’s veto recommendations closely last year, the fitness buff and former bodybuilding champion has shown himself unwilling to budge when it comes to childhood obesity. —Christy Harrison
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NOTES Species Act under attack n a new effort to roll back the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the House of Representatives passed a bill in October that would amend the landmark legislation to loosen existing protections. Called “The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005,” the developer-friendly bill would endanger and threaten more species than ever before, according to environmental groups. First, the bill would require the Secretary of the Interior, a political appointee, to set a scientific standard for listing a species, rather than allowing independent scientists to make listing recommendations on a case-by-case basis. Second, it would punish taxpayers by requiring that developers be paid for missed business opportunities if land is designated off-limits. Third, the bill has a self-destruct clause: if a building permit request isn’t processed within 180 days, the developer is automatically allowed to break ground, endangered species be damned. Environmentalists say the bill, proposed by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), sets a frightening precedent by paying corporations to comply with environmental law. “The developer either gets a free pass after 180 days, or he gets a payoff,” says Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife. And, she adds, developers will be able to collect payment for multiple proposals on the same piece of land: if a large-scale landowner applies to build a stadium on his property and is denied approval, he can collect the cash, then turn around and propose a shopping mall instead. “It’s an open-ended opportunity for developers to spend federal funds,” says Tim Male, a senior ecologist for the nonprofit group Environmental Defense. The House bill also politicizes the process of listing and delisting endangered species, green groups argue. “It allows a political appointee to determine what constitutes the best science,” says Male. At press time, the Senate was preparing to draft a similar bill. Green organizations suggest that you log on to saveesa.org and write your representatives to show your support for the ESA. —C.H.
Biodiesel bolsters Katrina victims hile green activists and politicians have used Hurricane Katrina to put the spotlight on many environmental issues, including global warming and the need for renewable sources of energy, one alternative fuel source has already proved its mettle in hurricane rescue efforts. The biodiesel advocacy group Veggie Van used vegetableoil fuel to power rescue caravans and boats that brought more than 15 tons of emergency supplies to people stranded in Louisiana over a three-week period, according to Veggie Van founder Josh Tickell. The organization, in partnership with an Iowa-based biodiesel cooperative, rounded up two massive ships—one of them entirely powered by biodiesel—and sent them to
deliver food, water, ice, and other goods to a part of southern Louisiana that was cut off from roads. Veggie Van acquired 13,000 gallons of donated biodiesel to power its vehicles and those of other groups, including an auto-based relief organization called Convoy of Hope. (Tickell says that half of the fuel is still available for groups who need it.) The original Veggie Van, the organization’s namesake, did not survive its trip to Louisiana. Tickell was in the driver’s seat when the approaching Hurricane Rita forced him to flee the area, and he had to abandon the van when it broke down en route. He is now soliciting donations through the group’s website, veggievan.org, to purchase Veggie Van II. —C.H.
STATES VOW TO SELF-REGULATE ine U.S. states are poised to throw a giant pie in the face of the Bush administration, which rejected the pollution-reducing Kyoto Protocol five years ago. The group of northeastern states, in an effort dubbed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is currently drafting its own set of Kyoto-like emissions control standards. The RGGI would take effect in 2009, with the aim of maintaining that year’s pollution levels in each state through 2015 and shaving off 10 percent by 2020. Called a cap-and-trade program, the RGGI would allot each member state a certain limited level of greenhouse gas emissions; power plants in one state with lower emissions than their share could then sell leftover pollution credits to other states. The initiative would target only power plants at the outset, but states may expand the program to include other pollution sources in the future. The states’ agreement is less strict than the Kyoto accord; still, the RGGI is a huge step compared to the alternative emissions agreements that the U.S. has signed thus far, which simply encourage the private sector to improve green technologies and share them with developing countries. —C.H.
16 | P L E N T Y
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PLENTY TIP OF THE MONTH:
Making Your White Christmas Green
PHOTO UPPER LEFT COURTESY VEGGIEVAN.ORG; PHOTO RIGHT COURTESY DEBORAH GARDINER
THE TREE Today, most Christmas trees are grown on farms. If you decide to buy one, don’t trash it or burn it when the holiday is over—compost or mulch it instead. There are also many alternatives to the traditional tree. You could decorate a tree in your lawn, using edible, birdfriendly items such as popcorn garlands or pinecones covered in peanut butter and sprinkled with bird seed. Faux Christmas trees are another option. They require energy to manufacture (and that energy often creates pollution), but if you choose a stylish “tree” that’s built to last, you won’t contribute much to global warming—and you’ll never have to use gas to drive to the tree farm again. GIFT WRAP Reuse wrapping paper—it’ll help save money and the planet. If you have some free time on your hands, try making your own fabric gift bags from old sheets or clothing. Newspapers, out-of-date atlases, and old calendars also work well as wrapping paper and can be easily spruced up with pictures, stencils, or paint. As for trimmings, be creative and think beyond the standard, wasteful stuff. If each household reused two feet of holiday ribbon each year, 38,000 miles worth of the material—enough to tie a bow around the planet—would be saved, according to the book Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions For Who We Really Are (Ballantine, 1998). DECORATIONS Turn off holiday light displays whenever possible and use energy-efficient bulbs such as LEDs. Instead of buying disposable wreaths and garlands, make your own from cranberries and evergreen clippings from the backyard. —Christine Richmond www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
P L E N T Y | 17
event calendar 4
13 Final day of the 2005 Fair 14
Final day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (unfccc.int), held in Montreal, Canada. Delegates will tackle fuel emissions and deforestation in conjunction with the first Kyoto Protocol meeting.
Trade Fair and Symposium (fairtradeexpo.org) in Hong Kong. Through December 16, this event will feature discussions on fair trade issues and an international craft fair.
Final day of Pollutec 2005 (pollutec.com), held in Paris, France. Some 1,400 exhibitors and 40,000 visitors—many from outside France—attend this eco-conference to discuss design, technology, and health issues.
Final day of Ecobuild 16 17 Federal in Washington, D.C (ecobuildfederal.com), a sustainable-design conference.
21 Celebrate the Winter
solstice, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere. On this shortest day and longest night of the year, followers of many religions reflect on the past.
31 New Year’s Eve. Have
a glass of organic champagne!
Final day of the 23rd Annual Winter Festival of Lights (wfol.com) in Niagara Falls, Canada. This year’s collection of lighting displays is greener thanks to the addition of 200,000 LEDs.
First day of the Wild & 13 14 Scenic Environmental Film Festival (syrcl.org/filmfest) in Nevada City, California. Through January 15, dozens of films dealing with ecological issues will be screened and judged.
16 Deadline to apply to 17 be an artist-in-residence at I-Park, a 450-acre retreat center in East Haddam, Connecticut (i-park.org). I-Park hosts visual artists, musicians, architects, and environmental artists.
Final day of the 71st annual International Green Week (gruenewoche.de) in Berlin. This massive agricultural fair hosts 400,000 visitors and 1,600 exhibitors from 50-plus countries.
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18 First day of Clean
Energy Power 2006 (energiemessen.de/engl/), held in Berlin through January 19. This renewable-energy fair focuses on wind power, biodiesel fuel, and geothermal energy.
25 First day of Eco-Farm
Sundance Film Festival (festival.sundance.org/2006/), held in Park City, Utah, through January 29. It’s more of a Hollywood scene now, but Sundance still screens films about important environmental and political issues.
2006 (eco-farm.org) in Pacific Grove, California. Through January 28, enjoy organic wine tastings and workshops on greenhouse design and alternative energy.
PHOTO © RICH MARSHALL / MOUNTAIN GUIDING
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
O T HOW I F T G E R D GET AN Y A W A T d I H W I Te to the perkssedangear for
N A guid of giving u Y HARRISO T ls pitfal days. CHRIS li the ho
OFTEN THE MOST TREASURED GIFTS—family heirlooms, old books, paintings, vintage clothing, jewelry—have had past lives. And whether you choose antique, vintage, or just, ahem, “previously loved” items, giving used gifts can be a great way to help out the environment (not to mention your bank account). Old stuff doesn’t come wrapped in layers of manufacturers’ packaging, so buying used means you’re helping to minimize holiday waste; and, of course, you’re rescuing someone else’s castoffs from the dump. Best of all for the buyer, picking out gifts in thrift stores or online reduces the trappedin-the-mall anxiety that the holidays can provoke. But Aunt Doreen probably wouldn’t appreciate that 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirt the way your twenty20 | P L E N T Y
something friend would. And giving used stuff can be misconstrued as “regifting,” the quintessential holiday faux-pas. So when is it appropriate to give retreads, and who should get what? Above all, make sure you’re familiar with your recipient’s tastes. “You have to know a person pretty well if you’re going to give vintage,” cautions manners maven Lesley Carlin McElhattan, co-host of the Web site etiquettegrrls.com. After all, traditional low-intimacy presents, like fruit baskets or gift certificates, aren’t sold in thrift stores. Giving a vintage gift is a step into more personal territory with your recipient, a leap of faith—so be sure you’re ready. A good rule of thumb: don’t give your boss a set of 1950s highball glasses unless you’re
willing to down a couple of White Russians with him after work. Buying used also means that, in general, the person can’t return or exchange the gift, and that’s a big risk. Sadie, a book editor in New York City, says the worst gift she ever received was “an empty metal olive oil canister in the shape of a watering can—I didn't even have a plant.” At least unwanted gifts that are new can usually be redeemed for store credit. Jake, a teacher in New York City, also knows the horror of the gift-wrapped handme-down. “Growing up, a family member gave me used gifts. They were things that didn't even match my taste, so the fact that they were used made them seem even worse. It came off as really random.” Givers of preDecember/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
“He thought it was really cool because they don’t make them any more and it came from Mexico. I thought, ‘I am holding a dead horse. I am putting my keys into a little dead horse.’ Not the most romantic thing.” owned gifts can seem even more out-oftouch than the average distant relative, so the perils (as well as the potential rewards) are greater. Then again, some objects lend themselves better to vintage gift-giving than others. Clothing items and accessories are often risky, not only because they might not fit. “My boyfriend gave me a vintage pony-skin purse last Christmas,” says Emily, an actress in Berkeley, California. “He thought it was really cool because they don’t make them any more and it came from Mexico. I thought, ‘I am holding a dead horse. I am putting my keys into a little dead horse.’ Not the most romantic thing.” Perhaps another rule of thumb, then, should be: don’t give objects made from nontraditional animal pelts unless your recipient is into hunting. “I’ve only had success with used books, usually poetry, often out of print,” offers Elizabeth, a writer in New York City. The rarity of such literary presents can make them more appealing than brand-new titles. “I generally prefer to give people used books—they’re more precious that way,” says Kamon, a lawyer in San Francisco. Whatever object you choose, make sure it’s not too rough around the edges. “Generally, you don’t want to give something that looks like it’s been used a little too much,” says McElhattan. “Giving a first-edition antique book is okay, but giving the dog-eared paperback you took to the beach is not.” While this distinction may seem obvious, judgment can go out the window during the holidays under the stress of last-minute shopping. Even with used gifts in excellent condition, givers may worry that they will be viewed as cheap; some people say they feel compelled to alert their recipient that their present has a past. But the jury is split on whether it’s absolutely necessary to confess. “You can include an explanation with the gift, but in most cases you’ll look really thoughtful for having gone onto eBay and gotten the thing that [the person] had men22 | P L E N T Y
tioned two months ago,” says McElhattan. But Lash Fary, author of Fabulous Gifts: Hollywood’s Gift Guru Reveals the Secret to Giving the Perfect Present (New American Library, 2005), is a big proponent of explanations. “Always come clean,” he says. “That way, you rob people of the power of finding out that your gift is used.” Of course, you don’t have to wax philosophical about why you buy used gifts—explaining a pre-owned present can be as simple as telling a funny story about it. “In your card, you can say something like, ‘Dad, you’ve always reminded me of Cary Grant, so I thought you should have something from the same era,’” says Fary. What if you want to give something used that’s not from another time—that is, the notorious regift? If you’re short on cash for the holidays but have some great little thing lying around that someone gave you and you’ve barely even used, is it okay to give it to someone else, just this once? The only other option is throwing it away, right? Controversial questions, all. “Regifting is just fraught with peril,” says McElhattan.
“It’s so hard to do it and get away with it; for me it’s not worth the anxiety. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting a gift and having another person’s card tucked inside the box.” Yikes. Fary has a solution, though: just repack and rewrap the gift, making sure there are no personal notes slid in between the cracks. And of course, he adds, always regift outside your close circle of friends. But with these caveats in mind, you can make a regift “something that really reminds you of the recipient—something you’re sure they’d love,” he says. “I’m a huge fan of regifting; the faux-pas only happen when people aren’t thoughtful about it.” When you regift, though, you’d often do better not to explain the present’s origins. “If a regift looks vintage or used you should acknowledge it; otherwise, a gift is a gift,” says Fary. Even this rule has an exception, though: call it the regifting prank party. “One time, years ago, some friends and I got into another friend’s apartment and stole back all the stuff we’d ever given her, wrapped it up, and gave it to her again,” says Kate, a graphic designer in New York City. “It was the most fun birthday party ever—and the best part was that she didn’t even remember that she had some of the gifts in the first place.” With some creativity and thought, even the most obviously recycled presents can become a totally new source of joy. ■ REACT Tell us about your thrift-shopping victories, antique-store defeats, and that weird musty smell in your closet: email@example.com. Or ask our expert advice on all things reused—your questions could end up as inspiration for our next column.
USED GIFT GUIDE Vintage gifts have to be very particular to your recipient, of course, but here are some suggestions to get you started when you’re making your list. GRANDPARENTS AND OTHER ELDERS: Timeless, classy objects, like antique crystal glasses or Tiffany lamps, are always a safe (if pricey) bet. Of course, if your gramps and granny or mom and dad are still hip young things at heart, you might try funky handkerchiefs or extravagant knickknacks. COWORKERS AND FRIENDS AROUND YOUR AGE: Kitschy stuff from the era of your childhood is a great choice. Try old games, books, records, or posters from your giftee’s favorite TV show or movie. A well-chosen grab-bag of used CDs or DVDs could also hit that nostalgia nerve. SWEETHEARTS: Splurge on second-hand luxe, like a vintage designer scarf or antique watch. If your darling is on the sporty side, try an antique tennis racket or football helmet (just make sure he or she doesn’t try to play full-contact games in it). For loved ones who love
to cook, vintage cast-iron pans, crazy-looking antique spice grinders, or funny ’50s cookbooks with names like Body-Building Dishes for Children will earn you plenty of kudos. TRENDY TYPES: Sure, it’s dangerous, but why not try giving vintage clothes or accessories? If your recipient is into fashion, s/he knows that vintage is all over the runways these days. A stylish person who takes sartorial risks is also likely to be excited about bold gifts. Fary suggests buying old jewelry and having it redesigned. “The cost depends on the designer, but you can find people to do it starting at around $40 to $80,” he says. Only revamp the piece yourself “if you can do it without making big glue-gun marks.” KIDS: “There’s a difference between hand-me-downs and vintage,” says Fary. He suggests trying old-school hobby-horses or vintage wooden toy chests for the youngsters. High-schoolers might appreciate classic books, cameras, or chemistry sets. Just be vigilant about small parts and sharp pieces: second-hand stuff doesn’t always meet modern safety standards for children’s toys.
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
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O N T E C H N O LO GY
CONVERTED COTTONWOODS drink mercury from the soil while a researcher in Rich Meagher’s lab monitors their progress.
THE GREENER CLEANER? Genetically modified plants could tidy up some of the world’s most polluted soil— but first, environmentalists and investors have to get on board. KATE O’ROURKE IN THE 19TH CENTURY, hat making was dangerous business. Milliners used mercury to produce the material for their fanciest hats, and the metal caused many workers to develop neurological conditions that earned them the label “mad hatters.” Today in Danbury, Connecticut, the former hub of hat making in the United States, mercury continues to contaminate the soil. But at one of the former hat factory sites, scientists have planted a grove of genetically engineered cottonwood trees. They hope the plants will be able to vacuum up the mercury that still lurks in the soil. This project—which began in July 2003, with private funding and some money from the Environmental Protection Agency—is one of the first two field trials that uses genetically engineered trees to mop up metal pollutants. If the technique catches on, it could help solve soil pollution problems worldwide. Scientists have known for years that plants, even non–genetically altered ones, can remove select contaminants from the environment, a process known as phytoremediation. Plants can store organic pollutants— carbon-based chemical compounds—in their 24 | P L E N T Y
leaves, stems, and roots. In some cases, they can metabolize contaminants, breaking them down into harmless chemicals and releasing them into the air. Plants are currently used to battle organic pollutants at 18 hazardous waste sites around the country. Few of our green friends, however, can remove metals like mercury from the soil. But a growing number of laboratories around the world have begun tinkering with genomes to change this. The trees in Danbury, for example, contain a gene that allows them to absorb a toxic form of mercury known as ionic mercury and transform it into the less harmful elemental mercury. The tree then releases the elemental version into the atmosphere as vapor. The go-getter gene is borrowed from mercury-resistant bacteria. (These soil-borne microbes thrive at sites polluted with heavy metals, a characteristic that first alerted scientists to their dynamic ability.) Researchers capitalized on the gene’s unique activity by inserting it into trees, using the plants’ roots to draw pollutants out of the ground. Cottonwoods are especially good candidates
for cleaning polluted soil because of their large root systems, propensity to thrive, and year-round life cycle. Scientists expect to start seeing results on the Danbury site in a couple of years. Leading this work is Rich Meagher, a professor of genetics at the University of Georgia and a cofounder of the company Applied PhytoGenetics (APGEN). His research team has also created other mercury moppers, including yellow poplars and tobacco plants, and phytoremediation projects are close to his heart. “I was an Eagle Scout,” says the 57-year-old Meagher. “My parents had me outdoors, backpacking, hiking, and canoeing, and very aware of concern for the environment. It’s a fun thing for me to think about doing this.” While Meagher and others see phytoremediation as a green godsend, not all environmentalists approve. The Sierra Club, for example, worries about transgenes escaping into the environment, and the group has called for a moratorium on the planting of all genetically engineered crops as a precautionary measure. Other groups, including December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
we share the sky
we share the future
Now is the time to join together to protect our world or we could lose all it gives us. To learn how you can help, order your free World Wildlife Fund Action Kit. 800.CALL.WWF
w w w. w o r l d w i l d l i f e . o r g / a c t
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O N T E C H N O LO GY Greenpeace, have also spoken out against releasing genetically modified organisms. “There are many environmental risks with GE trees, as the genetic engineering process is known to give rise to unexpected and unpredictable effects,” says Janet Cotter, a Greenpeace senior scientist. “In particular, outcrossing of GE trees to native trees is of concern, especially as tree pollen can travel a long way.” In Canada, genetically engineered plants have transferred herbicide-resistant genes to wild plants, creating populations of superweeds that are hard to control. These groups see other flaws as well. “The problem with using GE trees to remove mercury from the soil is that you are simply moving the mercury,” says Neil Carman, a member of Sierra Club’s genetic engineering committee. “Once the gaseous mercury enters the atmosphere, it can be converted back into the same harmful mercury form that was in the toxic hot spot originally.” In response, Meagher says that his genetically engineered trees will be handled safely. The cottonwoods won’t reach sexual maturity for at least seven years, he explains, and the trees will be cut down before they have a chance to release pollen.
simplest plants to work with; scientists are now meddling with other genes to enhance the plant’s affinity for arsenic. When they find the DNA sequences that make Arabidopsis thrive in arsenicrich environments, the researchers will insert these dynamo genes into bigger plants like trees that can be used in the field. If successful, this engineering feat could have major ramifications for countries in the developing world, such as India. There, in the 1960s, farmers needed to flood their fields to begin growing high-yield rice. Diggers hastily created thousands of wells whose poor construction allowed water to flow through exposed rock, bringing arsenic to the surface. India now has a crisis on its hands—and it’s merely one nation among many in the developing, as well as the industrialized, world with arsenic problems. In the United States, nearly 13 million people are drinking water that contains concentrations of arsenic above the level recommended by the EPA. Genetically engineered plants could be used to grab arsenic from both soil and water. Meagher is optimistic about the potential of genetically engineered plants and the future of phytoremediation in general, but, he says, the big hurdle is getting companies to invest. And grants from the main source of funding for phytoremediation research—the Department of Energy—have been cut dramatically in the past few months. This financial obstacle also applies to phytoremediation using natural plants, according to many who attended the Third International Phytotechnologies Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, last April. “There is a lot of work under way, beyond the garden-plot scale,” says Walter Kovalick Jr., director of technology innovation at the EPA. “But there just isn’t enough cost and performance data available for the engineering firms and others to embrace it fully.” “The biotech industry is so oriented toward big jumps in profit,” Meagher says. “If it was medicine and I was going to save people from cancer or let them have erections later in life, I’d get a lot of money. But this is not biomedicine. This is the environment, and the money is just not there.” ■
Contamination from one acre of land could be reduced to one barrel of ash.
David Glass, CEO of APGEN, says any mercury that is released represents a minuscule percentage of the amount of mercury naturally present in the atmosphere. “The form of mercury sent into the atmosphere by APGEN’s trees is believed to be the least harmful form of this element and is known to remain airborne for long periods of time, where it is diluted in the global mercury pool,” he explains. Arsenic is another contaminant in Meagher’s crosshairs. Most arsenic in surface soil and water exists in its oxidized form, called arsenate. Meagher’s team has inserted genes into a member of the mustard family named Arabidopsis thaliana that give it the ability to suck up arsenate. The plant stores the toxin in its leaves, which can then be safely harvested and burned in an incinerator. Contamination from one acre of land could be reduced to one barrel of ash. Mustard plants are often preferred in this kind of research because they are among the 26 | P L E N T Y
Mop up your yard Many everyday plants and trees can remove soil pollutants. If chemicals have marred your garden in the past, try these green solutions. Consult a gardener to see what will work in your yard. Hybrid poplars can be grown in most regions, except for the most arid. Bermuda grass is found in southern states.
Red mulberry, hybrid poplars, and cattail These plants can absorb and destroy organic compounds such as pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons from oil and gas spills, and chlorinated solvents, which frequently end up in the soil because of their widespread use in dry cleaning and manufacturing. The plants can also mop up polychlorinated biphenyls, chemicals that are now banned in the United States but are still found in yards near hazardous waste sites.
Algae, stonewort, hybrid poplars, black willow, and bald cypress These can take care of phenols, which are found in soap and can be deposited in soil through backyard car washes, and herbicides, which can kill good plants and animals as well as weeds. They can also absorb pesticides and chlorinated solvents.
Grasses Grasses such as fescue and Bermuda grass can serve as sponges, keeping chemicals from hitting the water table and running off into your neighbor’s yard. Experts say the key is choosing a plant that is suited to your particular problem. Talk with a phytoremediation consultant and get your soil tested. For more information, visit clu-in.org/download/citizens/citphyto.pdf and envirotools.org/factsheets/phytoremediation.shtml.
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
American ingenuity is everywhere.
Just not in AmericaÕs energy policy.
TodayÕs energy policies disregard American know-how and compromise our national security. America is a nation of innovators, but youÕd never know that from the plans that Washington is cooking up. They rely on yesterdayÕs polluting technologies and do almost nothing to free us from Middle East oil or create jobs at home. ItÕs time for a real solution. American technologies exist that could save millions of barrels of oil and billions of dollars every month. Go to www.nrdc.org and learn about an energy policy that strengthens our economy, protects the environment, and actually makes us more secure. Natural Resources Defense Council
GREEN RIDE ROUNDUP A guide to your eco-vehicular options
Remember when $3 per gallon was the breaking point that would trigger an alternative fuels revolution? Well, the revolution is finally happening. Vegetable oil is starting to look cheap. The federal government and many states are increasing tax credits to boost sales of “clean fuel” cars. And when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast last summer, our nation became acutely aware of the vulnerability of its domestic oil supply. No doubt we will be burning fossil fuels for decades to come. But the lineup of high-mileage and alternative fuel vehicles is growing, and it’s pointing the way toward some degree of energy independence. Plenty rounded up seven fuel options to help the green-leaning driver choose the best ride. (Note: Mileage figures based on EPA highway estimates. Per mile operating costs based on a gasoline price of $3 per gallon.)
THE FUEL: Hybrid EXEMPLARY RIDE: Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV COST: Starting at $33,030 MILEAGE: 28 mpg WHAT’S DIFFERENT: Hybrids switch from battery power to internal combustion and back again, depending on road conditions, and whether the driver is accelerating, cruising, or coasting. A hybrid charges its battery with the kinetic energy generated during braking, and the battery takes over from the gasoline engine during slowing and stopping. HALF FULL: Automakers are eager to create hybrid versions of their unholy gas-guzzling SUVs. The Highlander Hybrid costs less than 11 cents per mile to operate on the highway, 10 percent less than a conventional Highlander. HALF EMPTY: Demand for hybrids, such as Toyota’s flagship Prius, may continue to overwhelm supply in the coming years.
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THE FUEL: Hydrogen EXEMPLARY RIDE: Honda FCX Fuel Cell Vehicle, Coupe/Hatchback COST: The car is not yet available to most consumers, but some municipalities are leasing the cars for about $500 per month. MILEAGE: 51 mpg (gasoline gallons equivalent, as hydrogen is a gas, not a liquid). A full tank of pressurized hydrogen will take you about 190 miles. WHAT’S DIFFERENT: Hydrogen offers zero greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipe. (Its chief by-product is water vapor.) Hydrogen is also ubiquitous, although it must first be “cracked” (extracted) from other sources. HALF FULL: Hydrogen is a favorite, if fantastical, fuel alternative for politicians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governator hopes to make California a hydrogen car powerhouse by 2010. HALF EMPTY: The FCX is a demo, driven by only a few municipal workers and selected families. Having hydrogen as a primary fuel source will likely require the burning of coal and natural gas and the construction of new nuclear power plants, many experts say.
THE FUEL: Electricity EXEMPLARY RIDE: Zap Xebra Electric Vehicle COST: Starting at $8,995 RANGE: 40 miles on a single charge (with a top speed of only 40 mph). Each charge takes about eight hours, but the manufacturer doesn’t have exact specs on battery capacity. WHAT’S DIFFERENT: Zero emissions. Likely to get you labeled as the neighborhood eccentric. HALF FULL: The manufacturer of this three-wheel vehicle hopes to get it approved as street-legal for use in major U.S. cities. Its size and efficiency also make it great for running errands, and parking, downtown. And it costs only 2 to 3 cents per mile to operate. HALF EMPTY: This industry has not gotten much further than the golf cart, and a full battery will barely get you to Grandma’s house in the suburbs. (The good news is that you can steal her electricity while chowing down on her dry turkey.)
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
GLOSSARY HYBRID Cars with hybrid engines use a mix of gasoline and electricity. Hybrids are the fastest-growing alternative fuel vehicles for American buyers. In September, Toyota announced that in the future, all of its passenger vehicles and trucks will be hybrids. ETHANOL Once derided as a mere subsidy for American farmers, ethanol (grain alcohol) is sexy again, thanks to high gasoline prices and politicians’ continued willingness to back the ethanol industry. Made from corn and other heartland crops, ethanol is blended with gasoline as either E10 (10 percent ethanol) or E85 (85 percent ethanol). E10 can go straight into the gas tanks of unmodified cars; E85 can only be used in special vehicles. BIODIESEL This is diesel as it was meant to be: made from clean soybeans or other vegetables, not stinky petroleum. (Some people believe that engine inventor Rudolf Diesel was whacked by Big Oil for promoting plant sources.) COMPRESSED NATURAL GAS (CNG) Yeah, it’s a fossil fuel. But CNG prices have historically been more stable, and CNG vehicles emit dramatically lower levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants. That’s why many city buses now use natural gas. HYDROGEN This gas is most often used to power fuel-cell cars. The fuel cell—which works somewhat like a battery—splits the hydrogen, creating electrically charged particles that power the car. The only by-product is harmless water. The problem is that producing the hydrogen in the first place requires electricity from the grid.
THE FUEL: Gasoline—but less of it EXEMPLARY RIDE: Mini Cooper COST: $16,000 MILEAGE: 36 mpg WHAT’S DIFFERENT: Fuel economy, for starters. The ultrahip English gas sipper costs only 8 cents per mile to operate. HALF FULL: You’ll feel like a British spy as you dart into tiny parking spaces and battle Big Oil in your own way. HALF EMPTY: You’re still burning fossil fuels. But can you give me a lift?
www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
THE FUEL: Biodiesel EXEMPLARY RIDE*: DaimlerChrysler Jeep Liberty CRD SUV COST: Approximately $27,000 MILEAGE: 26 mpg WHAT’S DIFFERENT: Not much. The Jeep Liberty CRD ships with a full tank of B5, which means it contains 5 percent biodiesel. It's a start. HALF FULL: Biodiesel reduces emissions of carbon monoxide, particulates, and hydrocarbons. Diesel rides also get better gas mileage than gasoline cars. The Jeep Liberty CRD costs about 12 cents per mile to operate. That’s pretty good, considering that some SUVs get as little as 14 mpg, making their cost per mile about 21 cents. HALF EMPTY: Automakers are loath to warranty biodiesel blends above B5. (The industry is rife with accusations that some biodiesel retailers are selling “bad stuff,” and car manufacturers don’t want to risk letting too much of that stuff get into their engines.) And if you can’t find a B5 retailer, you’re back to burning plain diesel. The Jeep Liberty CRD does not meet environmental regulations—and is not available—in states where diesel passenger vehicles are prohibited. * THE GREEN GREASE ALTERNATIVE: Instead of buying new diesel cars, many eco-conscious drivers get old bangers with diesel engines and convert them to run on waste vegetable oil (WVO) from restaurants or straight vegetable oil (SVO) from wholesale agricultural suppliers. Veggie oil conversions can cost between $850 and $4,000. But with filtered WVO selling in some areas for $1 per gallon, a small converted Volkswagen diesel ride costs less then 3 cents per gallon to operate.
THE FUEL: Compressed natural gas (CNG) EXEMPLARY RIDE: Honda Civic GX NGV Sedan COST: Starts at $21,760 MILEAGE: 34 mpg (gasoline gallons equivalent). WHAT’S DIFFERENT: The car has a special CNG tank. HALF FULL: Fill-ups at natural gas stations take less than four minutes. Better yet, you can fill up in your own garage, with an appliance that taps your home’s natural gas supply. Leak sensors and hardware make using the gas safe. HALF EMPTY: The Civic GX NGV is not for road trips. Its 200-to-250-mile range per tank is low enough to leave you stranded far from any natural gas station. The car is currently available for retail only in California.
THE FUEL: Ethanol EXEMPLARY RIDE: SAAB 9-5 BioPower sedan COST: Starts at approximately $37,000 MILEAGE: 30 mpg WHAT’S DIFFERENT: The 9-5 BioPower’s tank and hoses are able to withstand E85’s higher corrosiveness. HALF FULL: Ethanol blends cost 5 to 20 percent less than straight gasoline, which means the 9-5 BioPower costs about 10 cents per mile to operate. E10 also lowers tailpipe carbon monoxide emissions by up to 30 percent and particulate emissions up to 50 percent, according to researchers working for the ethanol industry. HALF EMPTY: Ethanol fueling stations are hard to find outside the Midwest. There were only four E85 stations in California as of fall 2005. Most E85 cars are sold only to municipal and corporate fleets. Oh, and did we mention the 9-5 BioPower is only available in Sweden? That could change if demand for ethanol increases, a Saab spokesman says.
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VENTURES IN THE
Why financiers think film solar technology is the next Internet ANN MONROE
THE BIG NEWS ABOUT SOLAR POWER right now isn’t the technology. It’s the money. Specifically, it’s the venture capitalists (VCs)—the same types whose investments jump-started companies like eBay and Google, and who are now investing in nascent solar companies. Make no mistake: venture firms have not turned into tree-hugging do-gooders in the post–dot-com years. “We don’t invest against societal objectives,” says Bill Green, a managing director at VantagePoint Venture Partners. “The only reason we invest money is to drive venture returns for our limited partners. We want to make money as quickly as possible.” These days, many VCs believe that solar is where the dough is. Green’s San Francisco–based firm invests in high-tech industries as disparate as communications and health care. It first dipped its toe into the solar energy business in 2004, leading a group that invested $4.5 million in Miasolé, a San Jose–based maker of one of the hottest new technologies, thinfilm solar cells. Thin-film manufacturers print or vacuum-deposit a microscopic layer of photoreactive materials onto substrates that are slimmer and more flexible than aluminum foil, similar to the way chemicals are printed on celluloid to make camera film. The technology has the potential to make solar power ubiquitous and the materials needed for it almost invisible. Says Nancy Floyd, cofounder of San Francisco–based Nth Power, a venture firm that specializes in clean energy, “You could have solar thread woven into fabrics. Your imagination can run wild.” VantagePoint isn’t the only firm to recognize the potential of thin-film technology. Last June the great-grandaddy of all venture firms, the Bay Area–based Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers (joined, among others, by VantagePoint), gave Miasolé a $16 million boost. In the same month, a group led by another prominent Bay Area firm, Mohr Davidow Ventures, put $20 million into the locally based Nanosolar, a thin-film solar cell producer. The VCs, though, aren’t thinking about fashion. They like thin film because it’s far cheaper to produce than conventional solar panels. For one thing, it requires less material; and manufacturers can also print it continuously instead of in small batches. Add to CAUGHT ON FILM: Konarka’s thin solar film is a big hit with venture capitalists, who see it as a power source of unique versatility.
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December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
See the beauty of science at work.
For 52 years, The Nature Conservancy has raced against time to preserve the diversity of life on Earth. That’s why we make every second count. We use science-based plans and innovative tools to protect our natural world for future generations. So far, we’ve preserved 117 million acres—and counting. But there is still much more to do. Help us achieve lasting results. Visit nature.org or call 1-888-2 JOIN TNC.
printing the cells is simpler and less expensive than setting up the kind of sterile production facilities that silicon-based cells need. Add to that a demand that’s growing by 35 percent a year—much faster than the supply—and you’ve got a recipe for profits. Thin-film and other innovative solar manufacturers haven’t sent many products to market yet, but they’re beginning to line up manufacturing contracts. “There is no indication that demand is cooling,” says Green, “so we expect that alternatives to crystalline silicon, notably less expensive alternatives, will do well.” There are lots of thin-film technologies available, and different investment firms are betting on different horses. One of the most renowned companies, in addition to Nanosolar and Miasolé, is the Massachusetts-based Konarka Technologies, which prints its solar film on carbon-based organic materials. Not only is carbon cheaper than silicon, it can also be structured to respond to many more types of light rays. Konarka’s cells can be printed on almost anything—including a cell phone or BlackBerry.
Don’t be afraid to ask me.
If you ask me . . . I’ll tell you. Go to lohaschannel.com. Learn about healthy lifestyles and sustainable living.
this material in it, or shingles, or tarplike applications that you roll out like a blanket,” says Eric Straser, a partner at Mohr Davidow. With these products, an ordinary-looking house or office building could generate all the electricity it needs and more. None of these applications has yet made it to market. But next year, Pasadena, California–based Energy Innovations, which specializes in so-called solar aggregators, will start shipping its Sunflower 250, a boxlike contraption with rows of mirrors that follow the sun and magnify its rays while reflecting them onto a receiver. The company—whose Web site disarmingly details its earlier, failed models—is marketing the Sunflower to companies with big rooftops that want environmental kudos. Down the road, says CEO Andrew Beebe, are smaller installations for houses as well as the huge portions of the globe that aren’t yet wired. “There are places where the cost of electrifying is so high that using solar is a no-brainer.” In the solar business, cost is the magic word. So far, solar companies have been supported largely by government subsidies (38 U.S. states have allocated a total of $3.8 billion to subsidize clean energy). Add the military—which sends soldiers into many unwired areas—environmentalists, and companies that are willing to spend a bit more to earn environmental bragging rights, and you’ve got today’s market. But as more money pours into solar, things are speeding up. “There are breakthroughs happening at every point of the value chain,” says Ron Pernick, cofounder of clean-technology consulting firm Clean Edge—not only sexy new technologies but also innovative ways of financing solar projects, more efficient installation methods, and better techniques to get the current to a plug. The goal of the VCs is to drive the solar market until getting power from the sun becomes cheaper—without subsidies—than getting it from local utilities. When a technology “beats the grid” in this way, fortunes are made. How far off is that moment for thinfilm solar power? Beebe, for one, expects his Sunflower to beat the grid in the expensive California market in four years or so. “It’s like the early period of the Internet,” says Pernick. “The whole rich universe that makes industries happen is moving to energy and clean technology.” ■
“There are places where the cost of electrifying is so high that using solar is a no-brainer.”
And its technology is sensitive to indoor as well as outdoor light, allowing gadgets made of solar-printed plastic to recharge almost anywhere. Konarka has contracts with a number of companies to manufacture products using its technology, including a partnership with the German manufacturer Leonhard Kurz GmbH & Company to develop light-activated plastic. As Konarka’s ability to fine-tune organic material improves, its chairman and CEO, Howard Berke, envisions much more adventurous products. Among the projects in Konarka’s lab (or at least Berke’s imagination) are greenhouses covered in solar film that absorbs the frequencies that make electricity and lets through those that feed plants, and film that creates electricity from infrared rays, capable of generating power even at night. Nanosolar, meanwhile, is working on putting solar cells into conventional building materials. “You might have Spanish tiles with
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
Certain emotions can’t be captured
in a text message.
For instance, the satisfaction you feel after shaking ten miles’ worth of desert sand from your boots. On an Outward Bound wilderness adventure, you’ll meet challenges both physical and mental, and return with a deeper knowledge of yourself and the world in which we live. To learn more, call 1-888-88BOUND or visit www.outwardbound.org. photo © Leen Thijsse for Stockland Martel.com
An ecologist becomes radioactive, and a writer observes Antarctic scientists. GET A LIFE BY NADINE GORDIMER FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX, $20
WHEN PAUL BANNERMAN, an impassioned ecologist in his mid-30s, undergoes treatment for thyroid cancer, the results render him so radioactive that he must retreat to his parents’ house for an indefinite period of recovery. His mother and father welcome him back to his childhood nest to spare his wife and child from possible contamination, and one of the many ironies of this story is that a man who dedicates his life to saving his homeland from toxic interference should himself become a source of contamination. Get a Life is Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer’s 14th novel, and it is set in the territory she knows so well: South Africa, a country that teems with vivid contrasts and contradictions (and is in many ways not unlike the United States). Blacks and whites live in an uneasy truce; the urbane, upscale world of Paul’s parents, Lyndsay and Adrian, is only a few steps removed from terrible squalor; vast untamed tracts of land, home to fabulous wildlife, are daily threatened by the encroachment of so-called progress. And Paul is married to a woman who is wildly successful in the advertising world, a field with dramatically different values than the ones he espouses in his battles as a conservationist (how these two ever got together is never quite explained). But this is less a story about recovery or clashing values than of a family’s efforts to come to terms with the imperatives of the individual in the context of blood and marital ties. Lyndsay suffers from guilt and remorse over a four-year affair that took place many years earlier. Adrian, nearing retirement, longs to pursue his interests as a novice archaeologist after years of working at a dull white-collar job to support his family. Paul’s wife, Benni, wants another child even when there is some risk that her spouse’s medical condition has rendered him sterile or will endanger a new life. 34 | P L E N T Y
Like any good novelist, Gordimer has surprises up her sleeve that alter the aspirations and fates of her protagonists. She writes in a prose style that is alternately maddening and lyrical, sometimes in the same breath, as in this description of an eagle: “A flat dark head holding the great black polished orbs that are eyes, ringed with gold. These orbs separated by a broad white scimitar ending in a black hook. A nose a beak—it’s impossible to take in the feature of any face as a total vision—if this creature has what could be called a face at all, it is received as a certain feature of a face.” Yet the upshot, if one doesn’t mind stumbling through the occasional verbal thicket, is a satisfying tale of smart characters struggling to make sense of their place on a difficult and possibly doomed planet.
ON THE ICE BY GRETCHEN LEGLER MILKWEED EDITIONS, $15.95
IN THE PAST YEAR ALONE, at least four books about Antarctica have been published, including an update of the Lonely Planet guide to the coldest (and probably loneliest) place on earth. The sleeper film of the summer was a documentary about the mating rituals of emperor penguins, lovable birds that en masse make an annual epic trek to lay their eggs on ice. If these are earmarks of any
sort, the South Pole may be to our generation what the so-called Dark Continent was to our 19th-century forebears. It was to the largely unexplored Antarctic region that journalist Gretchen Legler traveled under the auspices of the National Science Foundation’s Artists and Writers Program. Legler’s account of several months at McMurdo Station, Antarctica’s largest community, is by turns meditative, reportorial, and deeply personal. As she discovers early on, this is a forbidding terrain that imposes its will on visitors. “The place encourages, indeed demands, a different kind of relationship with weather and time,” she writes. When weeks turn to endless night or endless sunlight, the clock does not break down into definable working and sleeping hours. And personality shifts occur as the traveler is pared down to his or her essence: “Your old self virtually disappeared, or became unimportant,” Legler notes. “Relationships were reduced to the most basic of levels—what kind of a person were you?” Parts of her narrative relate the adventures of the continent’s first explorers, including an enigmatic artist-scientist named Edward A. Wilson, who left visual records in watercolor of the amazing Antarctic skies. (Today the heavens over the continent are even more spectacular because of the gradual destruction of the ozone layer.) Legler also records her encounters with modern-day explorers and scientists, whose practices—“collecting, ruminating, musing, sorting, arranging”—remind her of her own as a writer. And threaded throughout her amiably impressionistic memoir is a love story, an unexpected bonding with another woman. (Legler had emerged from the closet only a short time earlier and embarked on her trip still smarting from a recent breakup.) Both the romance, whose continuation after the Antarctic adventure is left open-ended, and the experience of the continent and its dedicated researchers lead the author to a bittersweet conclusion: “Even scientists, with all their sophisticated seismographs and telescopes, aren’t sure what the universe is made of, and we know even less about love, about the hidden, mute matters of the heart.” —ANN LANDI December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
GLOBAL WARMING WE CAN. The science is documented. The threat is real. But now there is a weapon you can use to help undo global warming: undoit.org. Sign the online petition supporting vital legislation, discover a few modest lifestyle changes, and more. To learn all about global warming, and how you can help undo it, go to undoit.org
ÂŠ2003 Sea Turtle Restoration Project
To find out how you can help save the Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle from extinction, visit savetheleatherback.com.
Presents with Principles Spread cheer to everyone on your list with these affordable and eco-friendly gifts.
$42 for four (greensage.com) These simple, elegant frosted glass vases are made from the bottom portions of wine bottles.
SEA E H T â€™TIS www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
TO N SO
YC C E R
$25 (eco-artware.com) Salvaged circuit boards grace the top of these business card holders. No two are alike.
$30 (resourcerevival.com) Resource Revival takes junked bike parts and gives them new life. Here, a cog becomes a desk clock.
VINYL REPLAY $16 (plasticashop.com) This brightly-colored wallet is made from 100% recycled polypropylene and polycarbonate.
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DECK THE HALLS $14 (eco-artware.com) This delicate ornament is filled with slivers of aluminum taken from discarded oxygen tanks left on Mt. Everest.
ECO TO-GO $21 (vickerey.com) For your busy but eco-conscious friends, this handy bamboo cutlery set can be tucked into a purse or glove compartment for lesswasteful eating on the go.
6 RUN THE NUMBERS $14 (realgoods.com) No batteries requiredâ€”this calculator runs entirely on tap water.
gadgets for a greenie 8 SIGNS OF RENEWAL $65 for four (elsewares.com) Guests will be happy to use these hip, colorful coasters, which are made from recycled street signs.
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December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
KITCHEN KITSCH $14 (tiffanytomato.com) Designer Tiffany Threadgould gets her inspiration—and her materials—from the garbage she sees on city streets. This salt and pepper shaker set is made from mini vodka bottles.
COZY UP $24 (blissen.com) Even checkbooks can be stylish with Blissen’s handmade fern-stripe cozy, crafted from thrift store bed sheets.
SPARKLING WATER $13 (kleankanteen.com) Help your friends be less wasteful while freeing them from plastic-tasting water with this stainless steel carafe.
12 DEAR DIARY $25 (undercoveruk.com) These candy-colored notebooks are made from recycled leather and paper and are sized just right for toting around.
www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
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GREEN GEAR $11-20 (willowtherapeutics.com) Handmade in Vermont, Willow Botanicals bath products come in five aromatherapy blends, including “warming” (orange, cinnamon, ginger, and rosemary) and “invigorating” (peppermint, spearmint, birch, and rosemary).
KEEP IT SIMPLE $4 (organic-guy.com) For the people on your list who don’t like overly fussy, fragranced products, the Organic Guy company makes items like this cedar soap, simply scented and packaged.
$12 for 20 (joshawipes.com) Great for the yogaphiles on your list, these portable wipes clean the surfaces of yoga mats without leaving behind a heavy fragrance. Bonus ecopoints: the outer bag is 100% recyclable.
FF T H AT STO CKIN G
SUGAR AND SPICE $3 (sweetgrassonline.com) With its warm and spicy clove-cinnamon-bay scent, this is the perfect soap to put out for holiday guests. It’s also minimally packaged and contains no synthetic ingredients.
$20 (philosophy.com) Philosophy is donating 100% of the profits from sales of this fresh-scented Message in a Bottle shower gel to the Rainforest Foundation.
TOUGH AS NAILS $13 (isabellacatalog.com) Strengthen nails and cuticles with this mild blend of jojoba, vitamin E, chamomile, and lavender.
$14 (pookapureandsimple.com) This preservative-free moisturizer-in-a-tin mends dry skin with a blend of shea butter, avocado oil, and beeswax.
$8 (chinaberry.net) Instead of creepy anti-bacterial chemicals, this portable hand sanitizer uses the germfighting power of essential oils.
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December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
22 ABOUT FACE
$34 (sundari.com) Part of model Christy Turlington’s Ayurvedic skin care line, this Neem and Green Tea Cleansing Mask tones and soothes all skin types.
$25 (lalicious.com) Give the sweet tooth on your list this set of three dessert-scented soufflé scrubs: brown sugar vanilla, coconut cream, and coffee bean. Made with all-natural ingredients, they’re (almost) good enough to eat.
$16.50 (laverausa.com) This lip gloss has a natural berry scent and a nonsticky feel, and its color comes from minerals instead of petrochemicals.
MINTY FRESH $7 (pookiestore.com) Pookie’s lip balms don’t contain any petroleumderived ingredients, and this Stocking Stuffer flavor tastes just like candy canes.
$36 (dshperfumes.com) Perfumer and aromatherapist Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has garnered a cult following for her hand-blended essential oil fragrance line, DSH. These portable rollers come in scents such as Pamplemousse, a grapefruit blend.
ROLL WITH IT
BEST TRESSED $24 (hamadibeauty.com) This luscious Shea Hair Mask smells like buttercream frosting, is made from 100% organic essential oils, and is completely biodegradable.
give green 27 28
SHINE ON $28 (johnmasters.com) With organic mango butter, avocado, and organic essential oils and plant extracts, this nourishing conditioner protects hair from harsh winter weather.
KEEPING TABS $28 (hipandzen.com) Escama’s lightweight zippered pouch is made from more than 200 recycled soda-can tabs. Use it as a cosmetics bag, cell phone carrier, or change purse.
www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
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CUDDLY CRITTER $10 (babybunz.com) Made entirely of soft organic cotton, this machine-washable mouse teething toy is designed to be easy for babies to hold.
toys and treats
FOR KIDS , C AT S A ND DOG S
DRAW A BATH $10 (canusgoatsmilk.com) Cleaning up is more fun with these five crayon-shaped, fruitscented soaps, each made with essential oils and moisturizing goat’s milk.
UDDERLY ADORABLE $10 (kidbean.com) This organic terry-knit cotton cow doubles as a washcloth in the tub and a puppet during playtime.
$20 for five (grembo.com) Grembo’s organic French-terry cotton burp cloths also work great around the house or as washcloths.
LITTLE LAMB $13 (greenbabies.com) Not only is this hat with ears ridiculously cute, it’s also made from 100% certified organic cotton.
HEALTHY HUES $15 (kidbean.com) These vegan Germanmade fingerpaints get their colors from vegetables and minerals instead of petrochemicals or heavy metals.
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December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
FIR-SCENTED FUR $11 (petaromatics.com) Between baths, Pet Aromatics’ Woodsy Woof fur spritzer keeps pets (and the house) smelling clean. Eucalyptus and fir needle naturally repel insects, while lavender calms itchy skin.
$5 (animalessentials.com) These herbal drops freshen pets’ breath the all-natural (and easy) way. The blend of parsley, fennel, peppermint, and champignon mushrooms works within 15 minutes.
COLORFUL COLLARS $16-22 (shoredog.com) Mix and match: these hemp collars come in three widths, six colors, and a range of sizes. Matching leashes are available too, in three different lengths.
$8 (pigweedpress.net) The Biodiversity Coloring Book teaches children about endangered species and shows them how to build their own backyard wildlife habitats.
$25 (planetdog.com) Planet Dog’s products are natural and recyclable, and the company donates to environmental and animal welfare charities. Their Wag Bag features their most popular pet toys in new holiday colors.
STUFFED VEGGIES $7 (castorpolluxpet.com) Cats love these hand-sewn, refillable veggie toys, which are packed with certified organic cat nip.
$12.50 (californiababy.com) Gentle on children’s delicate skin, this Holiday Cheer bubble bath is made from organic and sustainably harvested essential oils and includes a bubble wand.
www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
TREAT YOUR PET $4.50 (cloudstar.com) Cloud Star’s all-natural Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuits come in a variety of flavors, including the new wheat-free “sweet potato madness.” The company also uses soy-based inks on their recyclable packaging.
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SALT OF THE EARTH $35 (realsalt.com) RealSalt’s Mini Mushroom grinder set comes pre-filled with unrefined grains of their salt, which is extracted from protected salt deposits in central Utah.
$6 (tinytrapeze.com) Forget supermarket marshmallows—Tiny Trapeze’s, made from natural and organic ingredients, are supremely fluffy and fresh. (Vegans: they’re changing their gelatinfree marshmallow recipe but hope to have the new product out soon.)
AY D I L O
GOOD CENTS $9 (theconsumerlink.com/sierraclub) The Sierra Club’s chocolate-and-coffee flavored coins are fair trade, organic, and kosher, and a portion of sales funds the Sierra Club’s environmental protection efforts.
IGH L E D
PRESERVE THE PLANET $7 (giftsthatmatter.com) Food for Thought blends fresh apricots and organic chardonnay to make these tasty preserves.
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IN BLOOM $17 (numitea.com) To create their “flowering tea,” Numi Tea handsews organic tea leaves into bundles that blossom when steeped in hot water. They also sell teapots customdesigned to display the blooms.
$10 (fitchfarmand gardens.com) Extravirgin cold-pressed organic olive oil meets organic rosemary— great for the foodies on your list.
THE DAILY GRIND $2-5 (rayesmustard.com) Raye’s is the only remaining mustard mill in America that still stonegrinds its mustard seeds. Winter Garden is one of their 19 sweet, savory, and flavored varieties.
50 MOUTHWATERING MARINADE $6 (lavignefruits.com) La Vigne is a biodynamic and certified organic farm outside of San Diego, California. Try their tangy Persimmon Chipotle sauce as a marinade on meats or veggies.
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
FORGET HIBERNATING! PHOTO BY RICH MARSHALL/MOUNTAIN GUIDING
It’s time to GEAR UP and get
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December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
From ice climbing to bobsledding, these ten trips will help you make the most of the season. By Kate Siber
www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
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Ski wild snow stashes in Golden, British Columbia
DIGS: Kicking Horse River Lodge, a resort made of Douglas fir logs that opened in July, was designed with community in mind—but think sweet ski condo, not scruffy hostel. Its two-story den has nooks for reading and chatting, and there’s a deluxe kitchen in which guests make their own meals. (If you’re not up for the culinary challenge, the lodge’s restaurant, Bugaboo Café, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) In the winter, the ice rink hosts pick-up games of hockey and broomball. And while the accommodations are luxe, they’re also green. The resort uses compact fluorescent bulbs and a geothermal heating and cooling system that reduces emissions by as much as 77 percent. Employees clean with biodegradable products and recycle almost everything. Dorm beds cost $25 per night; private doubles are $64 (877-547-5266; khrl.com). EATS: Stock up on local organic ingredients at the Living Well Market (250-344-4848) and concoct your own dinner in the lodge’s kitchen. Or head five minutes south of town to Cedar House Café (250-344-4679; cedarhousecafe.com), a restaurant with primo views of the Columbia wetlands. Spot bald eagles, deer, and magpies while munching on fresh organic greens and wild Atlantic salmon and sipping locally produced organic wine. PERKS: Rest your wobbly legs for a day and meet canines Wiley, Maya, Moeb, Tuk, and Aspen at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center ($10 per person; 877-377-9653; northernlightswildlife.com). The small refuge is open year-round, and owners Shelley and Casey Black, wolf-conservation activists, offer daily educational tours and adventure hikes with the wolves. 48 | P L E N T Y
PHOTOS LEFT TO RIGHT: SHELLY BLACK/NORTHERN LIGHTS; JORG WILTZ/MOUNTAIN GUIDING; RICHMARSHALL/MOUNTAIN GUIDING; AND UPPER RIGHT COURTESY DOLOMITEN HOLIDAY EVENT SERVICE
ACTIVITIES: A rowdy gold-mining hub in the 19th century, the town of Golden, located in far eastern British Columbia, is still a little rough around the edges. Nowadays, it’s a hub for a different set of adventurers: skiers, mountaineers, and climbers. Surrounded by six national parks and one large alpine resort— Kicking Horse, which opened in 2000—there are endless opportunities for outdoor exploration. For a day trip, hire veteran guide Rich Marshall of Mountain Guiding, based in Golden, and escape the lifts. At Roger’s Pass in Glacier National Park, 50 miles away, you’ll have your pick of high-alpine glaciated peaks, steep tree runs, or wide, gentle bowls, all crammed with the area’s signature powder. A one-day trip for two costs $380 (250-344-7243; mountainguiding.net).
WINTER WONDERLAND: Hire a guide and tackle the slopes of Glacier National Park in British Columbia.
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
FROZEN WATERFALLS Rope up and ice climb in Northern Italy ACTIVITIES: Delightfully off the beaten path for Americans, Italy’s mountainous South Tyrol region has a distinct GermanItalian culture, a result of the land belonging to Austria before World War I. No adventurer would be in want of distractions there; activities range from iceskating to alpine skiing to winter mountaineering. Base your stay near the city of Merano, which is surrounded by beautiful, high-alpine peaks. If the weather is cold enough, learn to ice climb for a day. Many of the guides at the Alpine School Dolomiten have more than 20 years of experience; they’ll take you to one of five nearby valleys, all with a wide variety of routes. Choose between short or long and shallow or steep frozen waterfalls, then rope up and ascend using ice axes and crampons. A daylong excursion for up to three people costs $520, including all equipment, transportation, and insurance (39-0471-705343; dolomiten-alpin.com). DIGS: Post-adventure, take a vintage cable car from the village of Lana, just outside Merano, to Vigilius Mountain Resort. Nestled in the silent, snowy peaks at 5,000 feet, Vigilius blends into the landscape with its grass roof and larch-and-glass facade. As for the interior, it’s pure, ecologically sound indulgence. Minimalist-chic rooms have floor-to-ceiling views of the misty pine forest and include organic beauty products. Vigilius was built with no toxic chemicals, boasts superior insulation, and runs off a low-emissions wood-chip incinerator, which helps support the local farmers who gather the wood. Other amenities include a library and movie theater. Rates start at $271 per night for a double room, breakfast, and the cable car ride (39-0473-556600; vigilius.it). EATS: Vigilius’s upscale, glass-walled restaurant, 1500, serves an intriguing blend of international and local specialties. The menu changes daily, and ingredients are organic, local, and seasonal when possible. Don’t miss the local wine, called Vernatsch; red and fruity, it’s best savored young. When you return to Merano, try Yosyag (390473-204-765), a sleekly designed restaurant that serves typical South Tyrolean and Italian dishes made with 100 percent organic ingredients. PERKS: Perusing the list of treatments at Vigilius’s spa, Panta Rei, is like choosing goodies in a candy shop (polenta apple honey peel, anyone?). Back in Merano, be sure to check out the Thermal Baths (39-0473-252-000; termemerano.it). In addition to offering its namesake, this extravagant, ecologically operated health and wellness center houses saunas, a spa, and a bistro serving light, organic food. www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
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ACTIVITIES: About 80 percent of northern Idaho is densely forested with Douglas fir, grand fir, cedar, hemlock, and lodgepole pine; 2.5 million acres of that land make up the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Translation: vast tracts of pristine snowy playgrounds. Hidden Creek Ranch (800-446-3833; hiddencreek.com), located just outside Harrison (population: 267), has access to more than ten trails right from its stables and offers riding lessons, too. Instructors teach students to focus on balance and move in harmony with the horses, a method known as Centered Riding that has been called the tai chi of horseback riding. Don’t be surprised to see black bears, deer, and elk meandering through Hidden Creek’s 570 forested acres. DIGS: Pretty much everything about the ranch was designed with 50 | P L E N T Y
health—our own and the planet’s—in mind. Owners John Muir and Iris Behr built the six cabins and main lodge with wood that was harvested from dead but standing trees. When they remodeled, they either recycled or gave away their discarded sinks, bathtubs, and other furnishings and fixtures. They have helped restore the local elk herd by restricting hunting and have donated to environmental and humanitarian causes. Rates start at $824 for two people for two nights, including all meals, horseback riding, yoga classes, nature walks, and fly-fishing instruction. EATS: Surprise, surprise: Hidden Creek’s food is primarily sustainably grown. You’ll get three meals a day, including a four- or seven-course dinner. Think cornmeal-crusted trout with fresh December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
LARGE PHOTO BY CHRIS HOLLO; INSET BY IRIS BEHR
Saddle up and trot through Idaho’s Panhandle National Forests
GONE COUNTRY: Try your hand at horse wrangling (above); rest easy in Hidden Creek’s eco-friendly lodge (below).
asparagus or seared ahi with wasabi mashed potatoes and soy vinaigrette. Meals are shared around long communal tables in the lodge. On the way to or from the ranch, stop for lunch at Pilgrim’s (208676-9730) in Coeur d’Alene. This family-owned natural-foods market sells organic beer and wine and has a juice bar and an organic deli with items such as veggie-and-hummus wraps and hearty seasonal soups. PERKS: Bald eagles go on vacation, too, and from November to January, on their way south, they take a breather to dine at Lake Coeur d’Alene, less than an hour from Hidden Creek. Amid the Douglas fir and ponderosa pine of Wolf Lodge Bay, watch the eagles hunt for spawning kokanee salmon. www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
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PARADISE FOUND: Whatever your pleasure, Yosemite has it, from cross country skiing to luxurious lodges like the green-friendly Tenaya, pictured above right.
ACTIVITIES: Yosemite is one of the country’s iconic and most frequented national parks. Take advantage of the low season and the park’s 700 miles of trails open to human-powered snow travel. Start at the Badger Pass Cross-Country Center (209-372-0200; yosemitepark.com) and rent snowshoes for the day for $15. Then head to Dewey Point, where the view across the valley is beyond words. You’ll stare El Capitan right in the face with Yosemite Falls to the east and Cathedral Rocks towering to the west. For multiday trips, contact the Yosemite Mountaineering School (209-372-8344). Around the park, you’ll likely notice hybrid buses; they were unveiled this spring and have reduced in-park vehicular emissions by as much as 90 percent. All buildings use nontoxic cleaning products and most waste is recycled or composted. And that’s only the beginning: Delaware North, the company that handles concessions at Yosemite, has achieved the prestigious ISO 14001 environmental certification, awarded by the Swiss-based International Organization for Standardization to companies that work to minimize their impact on the planet. DIGS: The Tenaya is a classic mountain lodge located two miles from the south entrance of Yosemite. With three floors and 244 rooms, it might look like a typical upscale hotel. But it’s one of the few American lodges to have achieved the ISO 14001 certification.
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December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOS FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: CHRIS FALKENSTEIN; DEBBIE MUSTAPICH FOR TENAYA LODGE; CHRIS FALKENSTEIN; LARRY TURNER
Tour hundreds of miles of trails in Yosemite National Park
Last year it reduced its water usage by 14 percent and its wastewater by 11 percent. It also diverted 45 tons of trash into the recycling bins and 300 tons of concrete from a roof renovation into new construction projects. Rates start at $99 per night (888-514-2167; tenayalodge.com). EATS: Sit near the limestone fireplace and snack on fresh local produce, fish, and meats at Tenaya’s Sierra Restaurant. Or for a real splurge, shell out $85 for a six-course extravaganza at Erna’s Elderberry House (559-683-6800; elderberryhouse.com) in Oakhurst, about ten miles south of Tenaya. Chef James Overbaugh heads to the local farmers market twice a week to gather seasonal and organic ingredients for his menu, which changes nightly. PERKS: The bears are all asleep and the mergansers have flown south, but there’s plenty of wildlife to see and learn about. Take an hour-long ranger-led snowshoe tour from Badger Pass, Yosemite’s historic ski area. You’ll learn about the park’s history and ecology and the adaptations that help its furry residents—including mice, weasels, and squirrels—survive winter. You might also spot woodpeckers, Stellar’s jays, and chickadees, or an occasional turkey vulture (209-372-0200; nps.gov/yose).
TAMING TAOS Test your skiing and snowboarding skills in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains ACTIVITIES: The funky art community of Taos lies in a small cranny in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Tucked even farther into the mountains is Taos Ski Valley, one of the last vestiges of pure, uncommercialized ski culture. The runs may look impossibly steep at the base—Taos has even erected a sign letting nervous skiers know there are calmer slopes above—but there’s something for everyone, from the ass-whooping Kachina Peak to laidback groomers like Bambi and Powderhorn. To help maintain the area’s beauty, Taos hasn’t made a new run in years and is downright stubborn in its refusal to clear trees and develop the land. STAY: El Monte Sagrado’s 35 adobe casitas and suites expertly blend luxury and serenity. A stay there is a serious splurge, but the resort is gentle on the environment: it recycles twothirds of its water, partially runs off solar panels, uses only biodegradable and nontoxic cleaning supplies, and stocks rooms with organic beauty products. Doubles start at $325 per night (800-828-8267; elmontesagrado.com). EAT: Under no circumstances should you miss Joseph’s Table (505-751-4512; josephstable.com). Located on Taos Plaza, this warm, welcoming restaurant opened two years ago and is working to serve 100 percent organic cuisine. Try the signature organic grass-fed elk tenderloin or the organic lamb grown in the nearby hamlet of Tierra Amarilla. Wash your meal down with a bottle from the extensive organic wine list. PERKS: Spend an evening learning to make authentic New Mexico cuisine at the Taos School of Cooking. Director Lisa Cancro arranges one-night workshops that range from crafting rich mole sauces to experimenting with tamales. All profits go to the scholarship fund at the Yaxche Learning Center, a local alternative school. Rates start at $50 per class (505-751-4419; taoscooking.com).
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Heli-ski in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains ACTIVITIES: Sure, sustainable heli-skiing sounds like an oxymoron. But if you have an insatiable thirst for powder and must try heli-skiing once, we have the solution: Pantheon Helisports (866-404-4354; pantheonheli.com) in British Columbia. The 700 square miles of highalpine terrain between Whistler and Bella Coola offer countless opportunities for first descents. And Pantheon is the first outfitter in the area to offer a HeliAssist format: instead of riding the bird all day, skiers spend a week alternating heliskiing with alpine touring, which involves climbing and descending mountains with the help of special ski bindings and equipment. And in a further effort to cut down on gas costs and emissions, Pantheon’s base camp, Whitesaddle Ranch, is also completely off the grid, powered by a low-impact hydroelectric system. To make sure that the local mountain goat population isn’t disturbed, Pantheon stays at least a mile away from the roving animals. It also helped implement a zero-clear-cut policy in the area. A weeklong HeliAssist package costs $4,000 and includes lodging, meals, and local transportation.
ACTIVITIES: If you’re the type who needs your space now and then, head for the Allegheny Mountains in New York’s bucolic southwestern nook. Unlike the Hamptons or the Adirondacks, the Alleghenies are blissfully undervisited. Allegheny County has 23 state forests and more than 56,000 public acres; much of the county was overfarmed land until the government bought it back from local farmers and reforested it after the Depression. Rent cross-country skis at the Alfred Sports Center ($9.50 per day or $18 for a long weekend; 607-587-9144) in the tiny, tranquil college town of Alfred, then enjoy the 28 miles of nearby trails. DIGS: Located seven miles outside Alfred, Pollywogg Hollër Eco-Resort is warm, welcoming, and fabulously eclectic. Stay in sustainably and locally harvested pine-log cottages with names like Love Shack and Phantasy Dome, or relax in the resort’s main lodge, which has solar electricity and gravity-fed springwater. Owners Barb and Bill Castle build their own furniture, grow their own organic food, and make their own wine. Relax in the sauna or the sculpture garden and, if you’re around on a Wednesday or Sunday, check out pizza day, which features wood-fired pies and live music. Rates start at $110 per person per night and include breakfast and dinner (800-291-9668; pollywoggholler.com). EATS: Meals at Pollywogg Hollër are hard to beat, from the free-range eggs at breakfast to the homemade vegetarian lasagna. But if you venture into town for lunch, try Nana’s (607-587-8335), a Japanese café that attracts devotees regionwide. Nana’s serves plenty of vegan and homemade goodies, including yaki soba and bento boxes with organic tofu. If you’d rather grab something on the go, Kinfolk Natural Grocery (607-587-8840) is a small, independent market with organic and local provisions. PERKS: If you can pry yourself from the comfort of Pollywogg, visit the ScheinJoseph International Museum of Ceramic Art (607-871-2421; ceramics-museum.alfred.edu), located at Alfred University. Open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, the museum houses an exceptional array of historic and international pieces, including Chinese funerary jars, Byzantine lamps, Neolithic potsherds, and Nigerian market pottery.
DIGS: During your trip, you’ll stay at a rustic canvas-tented base camp in the wilderness, beginning and ending with a day at the comfy Whitesaddle Ranch, a working cattle outfit. EATS: At the backcountry camp, the hot soups, steaks, and fish tacos will taste doubly good after a day of skiing. And most of the ingredients come from the ranch, including organic veggies, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken. PERKS: Your base-camp chef doubles as your yoga instructor, so you can stretch out in the snow before strapping on the planks. At the end of the week, treat yourself to the deep-tissue massage at the Whitesaddle Ranch. INTO THE WOODS: After a day of skiing, relax in Pollywogg Hollër’s futuristic Phantasy Dome.
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PHOTOS THIS PAGE, UPPER LEFT COURTESY PANTHEON HELISPORTS; LOWER LEFT COURTESY POLLYWOGG HOLLER; RIGHT PAGE COURTESY WOODSTOCK AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, WOODSTOCK, VERMONT
Cross-country ski through secluded paths in New York’s Allegheny Mountains
Explore Woodstock, Vermont, by snowshoe ACTIVITIES: With its historic homes and colorful forests, Woodstock, Vermont, is classic New England. Take in the sights on snowshoes by hiking up Mount Peg to the south or Mount Tom to the north. Woodstock Sports rents snowshoes ($15 per day; 802-4571568; woodstocksports.com) and provides maps and advice on trails. You can also try the Appalachian Trail, which runs within a mile and a half of town, or start out with less rugged terrain at the Woodstock Ski Touring Center (802-457-1100; woodstockinn.com), where you can explore 37 miles of groomed trails, including paths that wind through a local golf course and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. DIGS: Hidden ten miles outside the small-town bustle of Woodstock is Bailey’s Mills, a three-room bed-and-breakfast. Innkeeper Barbara Thaeder turned the quaint, early-19th-century brick house into an enviable model for small-business sustainability. She religiously composts and recycles, and she installed low-flow water fixtures, compact fluorescent lights, insulated shades, triple-paned windows, and an energysaving washing machine. The best part? If you drive your hybrid to the inn, you get a 10 percent discount. Rates start at $125 and include homemade country breakfasts (800-639-3437; baileysmills.com). EATS: At the Woodstock Farmers’ Market (802-457-3658; woodstockfarmersmarket.com), a year-round grocer, you can grab handmade pastries for breakfast; soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch; and, of course, local and organic produce. For dinner, head to www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
the Jackson House Inn and Restaurant (802-457-2065; jacksonhouse.com), where chef Jason Merrill abides by Slow Food’s fresh-and-local philosophy, serving dishes such as a Niman Ranch tenderloin with chanterelle mushroom ragout. PERKS: If you’re a health nut who can’t break the sugar habit, maple syrup, with its complex sugars, is your salvation. Discover how it’s made at Sugarbush Farm (800-281-1757; sugarbushfarm.com) in Woodstock. HOLIDAY CELEBRATION: Woodstock’s annuPrime time is March, when al Wassail Parade, held this year on December 10, includes carriage rides. the Luce family—the second and third generations to work the farm—harvests the sap from some 6,000 trees. Sample the different grades before touring the sugarhouse and hiking into the woods to see the sap spilling into pails. Exhausted your sweet tooth? Sugarbush also ages its own cheeses, including nine varieties of cheddar. P L E N T Y | 55
PEAK VIEWS: Gaze out at the Cascade Mountains from the comfort of the Sleeping Lady lodge.
Bobsled in Lillehammer, Norway ACTIVITIES: The ridiculously tidy, quaint, and friendly Norwegian town of Lillehammer is like a theme park for anyone who has daydreamed about competing in the Winter Olympics. You and two friends can arrange for a bobsled ride at Olympic Park, where, along with an authorized pilot, you’ll reach speeds of more than 75 miles per hour and sustain 5 g’s of force. There’s also a ski-jumping arena, an indoor climbing wall, and a luge track. Bobsled rides cost $132 per person (47-61-05-4200; olympiaparken.no). DIGS: The Birkebeineren Hotel offers simple, clean lodging in hotel rooms, motel rooms, or apartments. Certified by the Eco-Lighthouse Program, a Norwegian environmental accreditation agency, the hotel recycles, composts, uses compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and conserves water. Amenities include saunas and nearby indoor golf and ice-skating facilities. Rates start at $84 for a motel room (47-61-26-47-00; birkebeineren.no).
PERKS: Learn to travel over snow the old-fashioned way: by dog. On a two-person sled, you’ll follow a guide into the mountains near Lillehammer, stopping for snacks, ice fishing, and photo ops along the way. Hafjell Aktiv offers daylong excursions starting at $155 per person (4761-28-57-77; aktivhafjell.no).
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IMAGES THIS PAGE DUOMO/CORBIS BY STEVEN E. SUTTON; RIGHT PAGE IMAGES COURTESY SNOWY MOUNTAIN RETREAT
EATS: Mingle with the Norwegian locals at Bryggerikjelleren, one of Lillehammer’s beloved hot spots (47-61-27-06-60). The brick-walled former brewery is known for its steaks, fish, and salads.
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Immerse yourself in central Washington’s cross-country ski community ACTIVITIES: The Upper Wenatchee Valley in central Washington is packed with hundreds of miles of prime cross-country ski trails. Start off in the lively Bavarian town of Leavenworth, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where there are at least 26 miles of rolling trails right outside town and often two to four feet of snow in the woods in winter. Leavenworth Mountain Sports (509-548-7864; leavenworthmtnsports.com) rents skis, boots, and poles for $14 per day. For trail maps and local ski information, contact the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club (509-548-5477; skileavenworth.com). DIGS: With its concert series, group dinners, and other community activities, Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat is the place to mingle with like-minded folk. And while meeting people from all walks of life, you’ll tread lightly on the earth. Sleeping Lady’s wood floors were cut from recycled beams, and the outdoor deck material is made of recycled grocery bags. Not only has the retreat installed compact fluorescent lighting, but it is also experimenting with LEDs, which can drastically reduce energy use. Doubles start at $170, including breakfast and dinner (800-574-2123; sleepinglady.com). EATS: You’ll probably end up sampling the hearty (though touristy) Bavarian food of Leavenworth, but save room for Sleeping Lady’s flavorful, lighter fare. Many of the ingredients come from its backyard organic garden, and the kitchen turns out dishes such as grilled radicchio and avocado citrus salad, spinach soufflé with roasted pine nuts, and chutney-glazed chicken with pecan stuffing. PERKS: Two Fridays per month in winter, Chumstick Grange Hall hosts the Leavenworth Community Coffeehouse. You might hear blues, rock, folk, or jazz while savoring cider, tea, coffee, and cookies. Kids are welcome. Admission is $2, plus donation (509-5487374; leavenworthcoffeehouse.com).
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It’s natural to make personal resolutions this time of year—but it’s also a time to think globally and contemplate what’s on the horizon. In 2005, environmentalists saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina spark widespread conversations on climate change, and the poststorm hike in gas prices forced Americans to reconsider our energyuse habits. Throughout this issue, Plenty explores the eco-trends that will shape things in 2006 and beyond, from clothing made with solar-powered fabric to zero-emission electric cars perfect for picking up some locally-grown organic produce in town. In the pages that follow, you’ll read about promising large-scale innovations, from wind power that’s more efficient (and safer for birds) to the brilliant transformations of formerly polluted industrial sites across the United States. Plenty also asked seven of the nation’s brightest environmental thinkers to reveal their wishes and fears for the years ahead. Here’s hoping that it’s even easier to be green in 2006.
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PAINTING BY STEPHEN BUSH, ELEVEN ACRES, 2005, OIL/ENAMEL ON LINEN, 72” X 72”, COURTESY GOFF+ROSENTHAL GALLERY, NEW YORK, WWW.GOFFANDROSENTHAL.COM
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EYEING THE FUTURE LET YOUR LAWN GO Theo Colborn Environmental health analyst President, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange I THINK THE NEXT BIG ISSUE IS WATER—potable and alible [nutrientrich] water. We have very little left. How are people going to get the water they need? Especially in the West, where I live, everyone’s fighting over water rights. The federal and state governments have not assumed the responsibility to protect our water supply. Water is going to become privatized. People in Washington, D.C., don’t understand this situation. They think that the Colorado River looks like the Potomac or the Delaware or the Hudson. They don’t realize that in many places during the year, you can wade across the Colorado. We need to start protecting the water that we have already, especially the underground aquifers. We could do that through conservation measures that could change things almost overnight in many areas. People have got to stop growing lawns, for example.
SAVE MEGAFAUNA Paul Butler Vice-president for programs, Rare (an international conservation group) POPULATION ISSUES ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF MY MIND. As places like China and India continue to develop, every commodity you can think of, from copper to steel to timber to oil, is going to be in greater demand, and this demand is going to place increasing pressure on all developing countries to exploit their natural resources. I’m also concerned about the impact on wildlife. Over the course of the next couple of decades we may lose some megafauna—tigers, gorillas, orangutans. What happens when we lose something that every single person knows about? “Sorry, guys, there are no more tigers, that’s it, gone.” If we can’t preserve a species like the tiger, how can we save the species that are of lesser interest to the broader public? Even so, I’m optimistic. All over the world, I see local, often impoverished people working hard. In St. Lucia, for example—an island where I’ve spent many years—they’ve protected virtually all the animals except for mongooses, mice, and rats. If these people can remain optimistic, then I should be optimistic.
WATCH THE ANIMALS Dr. Jonathan Epstein Veterinary epidemiologist, The Consortium for Conservation Medicine WE REALLY NEED TO EXAMINE HOW WE INTERACT with animals and impact ecosystems. We’ve seen an increase in emerging infectious diseases, and about three-quarters of those come from animals. It’s largely because of human activity—international wildlife trade, travel, agricultural practices, expansion into wildlife habitats. We’re creating opportunities for disease to emerge. Avian flu is knocking on our door, but we also need to worry 62 | P L E N T Y
about the things we don’t know anything about yet. The key is understanding the ecology of the virus. We need to really look into wildlife reservoirs for disease, and then we need to understand how we interact with those animals. There’s a relationship between human health, animal health, and environmental health. We can’t be naïve that there’s a growing human population that’s going to have demands, but we have to find ways to balance those demands with the rest of the environment.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF SHARKS Susan Casey Author, The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks WHAT I’M REALLY AFRAID OF IS THE END OF PREDATORS—the end of sharks. I can’t see how they can survive very much longer without drastic changes in commercial fishing quotas and methods, and not just in the United States but globally. Ninety percent of large predator fish have disappeared from the ocean since 1950. These animals have been around longer than trees, they’ve survived four global mass extinctions, and we’re going to wipe them out in the space of two generations. And what happens when the top of the food chain is lopped off? We’ve got no idea. One likely outcome is that the lower levels of the food chain start to sprawl—there’s nothing to keep them in check. In my book, I said that an ocean without sharks is likely to be a pestfilled place, and I think most biologists would agree with that. So 70 percent of the planet, the part that’s underwater, is reduced to a guppie tank, and the magnificent apex predators are gone. That’s what scares me—and it scares me a hell of a lot more than great white sharks do.
GET UNHOOKED Bruce Babbitt United States Secretary of the Interior, 1993-2001 Author, Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America I THINK THE CURRENT IMPASSE over the environment is going to lead to a resurgence of interest and a demand for a new vision of what we can do. Right now, the environmental groups are understandably locked in day-to-day combat trying to slow down this administration’s attempt to repeal environmental laws, but it looks like the president is increasingly a lame duck and we must now begin to focus on the future. Here in the United States, we’re going to need a river management policy. New Orleans showed that. And we need reform of the Army Corps of Engineers—either reform them or abolish them. It’s our largest land-use planning agency, but they have been relentlessly destroying the rivers of this country in the name of development. And of course energy policy. It’s the twin of the global warming problem. I’m certain that the American people are ready to hear some sensible debate about getting unhooked from fossil fuel and moving toward alternative energy sources. I am optimistic about that. One must begin each day with an affirmation of our ability to improve the environment and our presence on the planet. ■ December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
THE FUTURE Plenty asked seven environmentalists what keeps them up at night when they think about the future. Their answers? Everything from the end of sharks to worldwide pandemics. And, oh yes, global warming, global warming, and global warming. Below, a few hard doses of reality—and how you can respond. Interviews by Richard Bradley. STOCK THE SHELVES EAT YOUR (ORGANIC) VEGGIES Deborah Koons Garcia Filmmaker; writer, producer, and director, The Future of Food WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE OR TEN YEARS the fate of the food supply will be decided. There are two competing dynamics. On the one hand we have industrial agriculture: huge multinational corporations are patenting plants and buying up the seed supply so that farmers can’t trade seeds or replant them. They’re pushing corn syrup and processed foods, which leads to poor health. On the other hand, organic food is the fastest-growing segment of the food industry. People love buying organic. We have this very dynamic model happening all over the country where people have fresh, local, good food that they actually eat with family and friends. And this idea of people enjoying food together, restaurants that have a relationship with farms, community gardens, school gardens— those are powerful changes in the food supply. The question is, Will people translate this turning back to healthy food into political action? Because that’s what it’s going to take to sustain this trend. www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
Ted Ames Fisherman; Board chair for Penobscot East Resource Center, a research center that studies fishing patterns, Deer Isle, Maine. 2005 MacArthur Award winner WHAT I SEE IS THE GRADUAL, CONTINUAL EROSION of diversity and abundance of commercial fish stocks along the coastal shelves. In Maine, all the spawning habitat for cod, haddock, winter flounder, herring—the list goes on—are on the coastal shelf, and the stocks are extremely depleted there. As you go farther inshore you find that the fish species that are part of the forage base for these coastal stocks are also depleted. It’s clear we need to address pulp fishing—when someone finds a large group of fish and calls over the telephone to his friends, and the first thing you know is, instead of having one or two boats harvesting fish from a location, you have 20 or 30. The technology used to catch fish is so powerful that the stock just never gets the chance to get off the ground. If there’s no fish, there’s no fishermen. So protecting the species has to be the first priority. Still, my research indicates there’s a great deal to be optimistic about. A little democracy, a little stewardship, good cooperative science, and a little less greed from the parties involved is about all that’s needed. P L E N T Y | 61
PAINTINGS BY STEPHEN BUSH COURTESY GOFF+ROSENTHAL GALLERY, NEW YORK; WWW.GOFFANDROSENTHAL.COM
WILL THE MELTDOWN CONTINUE? Stephen Bush’s painting Viminalis (2005, oil/enamel on linen, 72” x 72”) plays with an apocalyptic vista in acid colors.
Here in the United States, we’re going to need a river management policy. New Orleans showed that. And we need reform of the Army Corps of Engineers— either reform them or abolish them. www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
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Af te r ye ar co s nt of am ne i na ar gl ec e te fin t d b al so ro ly m w ge nf e tt ie at in ld te g nt si te io s n.
AMERICA’S INDUSTRIAL PAST have long appeared like bruises on the urban landscape: dilapidated factories, garbage-strewn railroad crossings, vacant lots, and garbage dumps left dormant for decades. But after years of neglect, those bruises—or brownfields, as they’re called—are being transformed. Thanks to recent legislation and funds allocated for redevelopment, people now live, work, and play on former wastelands. The term brownfield is used broadly, and classification varies greatly between state and the federal governments. The Environmental Protection Agency recently estimated that over the next 30 years as many as 350,000 brownfields will require cleanup, according to current regulations, at a cost of up to $250 billion. Others put the number even higher. The U.S. Conference of Mayors counts 600,000 brownfields, and new sites are identified each year. The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (H.R. 2869), which was signed into law on January 11, 2002, makes the redevelopment of neglected sites more attractive to private interests and municipalities by eliminating liability for preexisting contamination. The law also allocates up to $250 million annually to state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and Indian tribes for assessment and cleanup,
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although Congress has only appropriated an average of $165 million each year. The new regulations and increased funds have made overhauls more profitable than ever before; brownfield reclamation has become big business. But will this development bring lasting change? “The law gives control of brownfield remediation to the states,” explains Bob Hersh, brownfields program director at the Center for Public Environmental Oversight (CPEO), an environmental watchdog group. “Cleanup is becoming increasingly privatized.” What groups like CPEO are worried about is the lack of federal oversight: cleanup is done on a site-by-site basis, according to the different standards of each state, and there’s little regulation once remediation has been completed, leaving the long-term success of cleanup uncertain. Nevertheless, the renewed attention to brownfield remediation has so far been a net positive. Cleaning up brownfields means addressing contaminants on long-ignored properties, revitalizing urban areas and making them safer, creating new jobs and business opportunities, reducing sprawl, and providing habitat for wildlife. In the following pages, Plenty showcases five U.S. redevelopment projects executed with sustainability in mind. These reimagined lands not only celebrate the possibilities of urban renewal but also are prime examples of innovative environmental architecture and design.
IMAGE COURTESY FARR ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTURE | PLANNING | PRESERVATION, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
THE PROJECTS PROJECT: Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT or Chicago GreenTech) and Rancho Verde eco-industrial park, Chicago, Ill. FORMER USE OF SITE: Sacramento Crushing Company, an illegal dumpsite PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Remediation of 17-acre brownfield PROJECT FEATURES: Transformation of 40,000-square-foot building into “green technology center” with wetlands and construction of new sustainable industrial park ARCHITECT: Farr Associates Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Chicago, Ill. COMPLETION DATE: CCGT, January 2003; Rancho Verde groundbreaking, October 2005 DOUG FARR IS THE KIND OF MAN who uses the words “sexy” and “urbanism” in the same sentence. The principal architect and founder of Farr Associates, he is passionate about what he has dubbed “green urbanism.” His firm is the prime architect in the landmark redevelopment of a 17-acre brownfield and illegal dump site at 445 North Sacramento Boulevard in Chicago. This city-funded remediation took 18 months and cost more than $9 million, and encompassed two projects: the redesign of an existing 40,000-square-foot building to house the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT), and the creation of a master plan for the Rancho Verde eco-industrial park. The CCGT building is so “green” inside and out that it’s nearly impossible to mention all of the specifics. But here are a few: solar panels, recycled building materials, a green roof and a rooftop greenhouse, a rainwater-collection system, electric-car recharging stations, showers for bike commuters, and an elevator that runs on canola oil. Solar energy provides 20 percent of the building’s electricity; the structure uses 40 percent less energy than others of similar size. The building has earned a platinum LEED rating (Leadership in Energy www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
THEN AND NOW: With 70-foot high piles of rubble, it took 45,000 truckloads to clear over 600,000 tons of concrete, some of which was recycled and used by the city in other projects (above); photovoltaic panels line the roof of the CCGT (opposite page).
and Environmental Design), the U.S. Green Building Council’s certification system for sustainable construction. The center’s design capitalizes on its proximity to railroad transportation to reduce its dependence on trucks for delivery of supplies. Along with developing other sustainable concepts for lighting, pedestrian access, and energy, Farr Associates has created an innovative storm-water management system: runoff will drain via surface grade (i.e. no pipes) to a pond toward which all tenants will have a view. P L E N T Y | 65
DOWN BY THE SEA: Aerial rendering of the Olympic Sculpture Park (above); The Heifer Center’s ampitheater design allows the greatest possible amount of sunlight into the building (opposite page).
PROJECT: Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Wash. FORMER USE OF SITE: Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) fuel storage and transfer station PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Remediation and development of 8.5 acres on Elliott Bay PROJECT FEATURES: Creation of urban shorefront park, sculpture garden, and indoor pavilion, traversing rail and auto corridors with land bridges ARCHITECT: Weiss/Manfredi Architects, New York, N.Y. COMPLETION DATE: January 2006 SEATTLE IS SURROUNDED BY WATER, yet the public has no substantial access to it. When the Seattle Art Museum selected architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi to design its new Olympic Sculpture Park, their award-winning architectural firm turned a dormant brownfield into an opportunity to reconnect the city of Seattle with its shores. By following a 2,200-foot-long, Z-shaped path of crushed stone, 66 | P L E N T Y
visitors to the park will meander through its 8.5 acres, from Western Avenue in downtown Seattle over the Elliott Avenue thoroughfare, along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks to a restored beach. “We thought it would be ideal if we could introduce a slalom—or ‘slow’ path—and create pedestrian land bridges,” says Weiss. In this way, the people and the city would be “interconnected.” The park will be a showcase for sculptures from the Seattle Art Museum’s permanent collection, including works by Richard Serra, Mark Dion, Anthony Caro, and Louise Nevelson. Landscape designer Charles Anderson is also creating four diverse natural “exhibitions”—a valley, a grove, a meadow, and a shoreline—as part of what he calls a “mountain-to-sea narrative.” A new beach will be built, restoring original tidelands, which, in combination with an innovative method of capturing rainwater runoff and conveying it to the shorefront, will invite migrating salmon to return to the area. “It’s really more of a water garden celebrating the waterfront environment of the Northwest,” says Manfredi. “It was an opportunity to reintroduce an ecology that had once been there but was lost.” December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
HEIFER INTERNATIONAL IS A 60-YEAR-OLD NONPROFIT that donates farm animals to poor communities and families and promotes selfsufficiency and sustainability worldwide. The completion of its new headquarters marks the largest brownfield cleanup in Arkansas. And the innovative design of the building, located next to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in downtown Little Rock, means that a former warehouse district on the banks of the Arkansas River is now host to some of the most cutting edge architecture in the country.
The glass-sided structure is narrow, about 60 feet wide, and its semicircular shape invites the maximum amount of sunlight into the interior offices. Additional energy-efficient components include sensors to adjust interior lighting as daylight decreases; a combination of overhangs and reflectors that cast indirect light into the offices; and a “light shelf ” eave that minimizes solar heating in summer and maximizes it in winter. Eco-friendly materials—recycled steel, bamboo, and recycled carpet for flooring—were used extensively in construction, as were materials from the original site, including cornerstones and old steel beams that offer a historical link to the past. Heifer received an EPA design innovation grant for the lot, which collects rainwater in a vegetation-filled water feature called a “bioswale.” Water collected from a sloped roof, likewise, is funneled to a tower for use as a nonpotable water resource on-site. The three-acre bioswale will filter stormwater runoff, cleaning the site of pollutants and providing habitat for native plants and animals. “A community like this is not used to doing things out of the ordinary,” says Gerald Cound, director of facilities at Heifer International. “But with sustainable concepts and an eye to the public, we are trying to put together a wonderful story.”
PROJECT: Heifer International Center, Little Rock, Ark. FORMER USE OF SITE: Union Pacific Railroad rail yard; Superior Trucking Company depot PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Remediation of 28 acres on banks of the Arkansas River, adjacent to the new William J. Clinton Presidential Center PROJECT FEATURES: Construction of 94,000-square-foot headquarters building, three-acre wetland, and future site of Global Village, a learning center devoted to Heifer’s work fighting hunger worldwide ARCHITECT: Polk Stanley Yeary Architects, Little Rock, Ark. COMPLETION DATE: December 2005
With sustainable concepts and an eye to the public, we are trying to put together a wonderful story
PROJECT: Brockton Brightfield, Brockton, Mass. FORMER USE OF SITE: Brockton Gas Works PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Remediation of 27 acres PROJECT FEATURE: Construction of solar energy park ARCHITECT: T.B.A. COMPLETION DATE: Spring 2006 BROCKTON IS THE UNLIKELY HOME of energy innovation. The industrial city made its name as the largest producer of shoes during the Civil War. By 1929 it employed some 30,000 workers in more than 60 shoe factories and was known as Shoe Town. In 1883, Thomas Edison chose the city as his laboratory for standardizing electricity in a central power system. Soon after, Edison watched as the world’s first centrally powered shoe factory, and Brockton, got wired. Today Brockton is home to the Northeast’s largest solar-energy park, thanks to Lori Ribeiro Colombo, the city’s brownfields coordi-
nator. In remediating the brownfield on the former Brockton Gas Works site, a 27-acre area near downtown, she was inspired by its connection to the city’s electrical past and set about turning it into a “brightfield,” or solar energy park. Due to contaminants capped below ground, the development needed to be “low impact,” with nothing penetrating more than 18 inches into the soil. A solar array matched the site’s needs. The park will boast as many as 6,720 photovoltaic panels, making the Brockton Brightfield the largest solar array in New England. The site will add 425 kilowatts of clean energy to the local electricity grid and will generate 505 megawatt hours per year. In green energy terms, Colombo explains, “this is like taking 53 cars off the roads or planting 106 acres of trees.” The benefits of solar power are well known, but pushing the project through has been “a fight you wouldn’t believe,” Colombo says. Massachusetts had to pass a special law to approve construction.
BRIGHT IDEAS: The Brockton Brightfield will generate 425 kilowatts of clean energy (below); Hartford’s new science center is part of a larger effort to reconnect downtown with the Connecticut River (opposite page).
This will be the
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PROJECT: Connecticut Center for Science and Exploration, Hartford, Conn. FORMER USE OF SITE: Coal gasification plant PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Remediation of larger 33-acre brownfield at Adriaen’s Landing PROJECT FEATURE: Construction of science museum ARCHITECT: Cesar Pelli & Associates COMPLETION DATE: Spring 2008 THE CONNECTICUT CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND EXPLORATION is part of a larger redevelopment area in Hartford known as Adriaen’s Landing. A public-private initiative, the 33-acre site includes a new convention center, a hotel, a parking facility, a residential/entertainment district, and now a new science museum designed by the renowned architectural firm Cesar Pelli & Associates. The main challenge for the architects was working around the pollution left by a coal gasification plant, which cooked coal to power the old gaslight grid in downtown Hartford. The by-product was coal tar, used by ancillary manufacturers in the area to produce paint and even colognes and perfumes. An excavation of the site
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uncovered coal tar vats, which were then capped. The science center will be built on piles, which is as much an engineering choice as an environmental one: the soil is too soft for a regular foundation, so a deep foundation of concrete columns, 30 or 40 feet long, will be anchored to the bedrock beneath. The vertical orientation of the building represents a deliberate choice not to create any further disturbance to the site. In addition, there are plans for a photovoltaic wall on the building’s south side and an orientation to take advantage of daylight, bringing it directly to the greenhouses within. The architectural firm is aiming for a silver LEED rating. According to Matt Fleury, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the science center, the 145,000-square-foot museum will meet the community’s long-held desire for such a learning institution. Visitors will have an “interactive experience inside the museum,” says Fleury. “Kids will be putting on lab coats and safety goggles” for hands-on learning. The center will also keep a strong focus on alternative energy sources and efficient energy use, says Fleury: “With the museum demonstrating these technologies, we can back up what we say about energy in our exhibits with an active building” that embodies those principles. ■
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FOR ALL THE WIND IN
DENMARK DOMINATES the wind-power industry. Danish researchers began exploring the alternative-energy source in the 1890s, and today Denmark gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind—more than any other country in the world. The Danish Wind Industry Association hopes to raise that figure to nearly 35 percent by 2015. Compare this situation with the one in the United States, where wind turbines provide less than 1 percent of the nation’s energy, and 70 | P L E N T Y
where new wind-power projects routinely meet with opposition from concerned homeowners and environmentalists alike. Turbines still have their opponents in Denmark, to be sure, but most Danes have accepted them: a 2001 survey showed that 86 percent of Danish people support wind energy, and 68 percent favor further development of the industry. So why do Danes love wind power so much? Don’t they know that turbines are
ugly, noisy bird killers? The answers have a lot to do with culture, technology, and ecofriendly policy. Danish engineers have greatly improved turbine technology since their country’s wind industry took off nearly 30 years ago, and the environmental and aesthetic problems with wind power have been addressed accordingly. Good urban planning minimizes the noise and visual intrusiveness of turbines, and the well-designed December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOGRAPH THIS PAGE: JAN WINTHER; OPPOSITE PAGE: VESTAS WIND SYSTEMS A/S
Will the rest of the world learn to love turbines as much as the Danes do? By Marie Bonhommet
WHIRLING FORCE This page: the offshore turbines at Middelgrunden. Opposite page: turbines hug the coast beautifully at Kappel.
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THE TURBINES AT HORNS REV hover above the morning fog.
THE AMERICAN COMPARISON The biggest U.S. wind farms were built during the California “wind rush” of the 1980s, when public alternative-energy subsidies were so high that companies constructed turbines quickly, without much attention to design. California’s 5,400-turbine Altamont Pass wind farm is physically the largest in the world. For many Americans it’s the face of wind power, and it’s a shame the face is such an ugly one. The windmills there form an impenetrable wall that not only visually dominates the landscape but also kills as many as 4,700 birds each year, according to a 2004 California Energy Commission survey. The wall runs directly through a migratory route—a fact that no government officials or private utilities thought much about during its construction. 72 | P L E N T Y
arrangement of the machines—in curving lines that hug the landscape rather than in staggered rows that form a solid, impenetrable wall—helps minimize the number of bird deaths, because it leaves more space for the creatures to pass by. Such technological developments come easily to a country with a history of green energy policy. A decade before ratifying the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, Denmark instituted emissions taxes on all energy production and consumption—even private households pay a pollution surcharge for the power they use. (In the United States, by comparison, there is no mandatory tax on carbon dioxide emissions. Regional emissions-trading programs in the States allow low-emitting businesses to sell their allotted shares of pollution to other companies that pollute more, but these programs are voluntary and do not apply to households.) With such high December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOGRAPH THIS PAGE: TORGNY MOLLER; OPPOSITE PAGE: COURTESY EXPORT PROMOTION DENMARK; INSET: AP PHOTO/ERIC RISBERG
Our customers say the windmills are a new attraction
taxes on fossil fuels in the Scandinavian nation, wind energy looks cheap by comparison. Denmark’s government also has given heavy subsidies (between 15 and 30 percent) to wind-farm construction projects, which gave a much-needed boost to the industry in its early days. Although Denmark has stayed broadminded about wind power, it is a small country without much open space for turbines. Recognizing that even the best urban planning cannot completely eliminate the consequences of wind farms on the landscape, Denmark began testing offshore turbines in 1991 and launched a full-scale offshore wind-power program seven years later. From the small village of Vindeby to the capital city of Copenhagen, offshore turbines hover over the horizon in six locations throughout Denmark. The offshore program not only minimizes the turbines’ impact on the land, but it also helps create economies of scale, because it is easier to build large-scale wind parks at sea. “The winds [on the ocean] are stronger, and that’s appealing for countries that don’t have much open land,” explains Steffen Nielsen of the Danish Energy Authority, a government-run utility. Furthermore, a 1999 Ministry of Energy study of Denmark’s two largest offshore wind farms—Horns Rev, in the North Sea, and Nysted Roedsand, in the Baltic—found that it is impossible to hear the turbines from shore; seal behavior has not been affected; birds have changed their flight trajectory to avoid the turbines; shellfish live on the turbines exactly as they would on a dock or pier; and the majority of citizens accept the projects. With such promising findings, could offshoring work in the United States? The ambitious Cape Wind project, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, would be the first offshore wind park in the country, and it is the subject of intense debate. The privately held, 130-turbine wind farm would provide three-quarters of the electricity for the Cape, including the swank islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Construction is slated to begin in 2007, but opponents are determined to stop the project, arguing that the turbines—each 100 feet higher than the Cape’s famous Bourne and Sagamore Bridges—would block vistas and deter the 5 www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
million tourists who visit the area every year. “We dealt with the same fears when we decided to build the offshore park at Middelgrunden, [about 1.25 miles] from the coast of Copenhagen,” says Hanne Jersild, a consultant at the nonprofit Danish Wind Industry Association in Copenhagen. “But now people are very accepting.” In fact, offshore wind farms have become tourist destinations. Jan Toftdal, tourism director for Blaavandshuk, the city adjacent to the Horns
Rev wind farm, told reporters last year that he has seen an unexpected rise in tourism since the turbines were installed. “Our customers say the windmills are a new attraction,” adds Inge Vad Wodskou, a real estate agent who manages 700 rental cottages in Blaavandshuk. As she told filmmakers for Clean Power Now, a nonprofit group advocating the Cape Wind project, she hadn’t anticipated that people would find the turbines so beautiful. ■
A TURBINE OF ONE’S OWN The key to Denmark’s wind-power windfall, some say, is community involvement. “When people are well informed and feel they have power over how the turbines are set up, it works,” says Nielse Lund, one of the principal engineers of the Middelgrunden offshore farm. Today nearly 85 percent of the country’s windmills are privately owned or owned by cooperatives, in which more than 100,000 Danish residents own shares. “Danes grew up with wind turbines,” says Lund. “Shareholders [in wind power] are more willing to accept the drawbacks.” Torgny Möller, editor of the international magazine Windpower Monthly, built his own turbine in 1996. It provides heat and electricity for his home, his neighbor’s house, and two businesses—a total of 2,300 square feet. He sells any surplus energy to the local utility company. And he likes the view: “In 29 years I’ve never been disturbed by the noise or the shadows,” he says. P L E N T Y | 73
NATURE’S CATHEDRAL: Sedona’s Cathedral Rock is home to one of the area’s purported vortexes, energy flows that some say “the soul can soar on.”
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Sedona’s famed energy vortexes promise spiritual enlightenment and even doors to other universes. A skeptical KATE SIBER makes the trek.
HEN IT COMES TO HOROSCOPES and fortune cookies, my rule of thumb is to believe in them only when they’re optimistic. In July, when the entry for Cancer in the local alternative rag read that there would be a momentous turning point in my life, I paid attention. Would I win the lottery? Would my boyfriend propose? Would I sign a book deal? Maybe it was something simpler, like how I had recently rented my first office or adopted an eightweek-old kitten. I’m of the instant-gratification generation, so I figured I’d take matters into my own hands. I decided finally to go on a trip to Sedona, Arizona, that I had been meaning to take for years. Famed, maybe a little drolly, for its new-age community, purported energy vortexes, and stunning natural beauty, Sedona is the Southwest’s spiritual hub. Having been to a meditative retreat only once, when my mother took me to Kripalu in Massachusetts at age 10—I terrorized the other fifth graders during yoga practice—I was skeptical. Nevertheless, I knew it was high time for my first spiritual checkup, especially if it was an excuse to explore Sedona’s beautiful backdrop. My first priority was to relax and reflect. My second priority? To investigate the spiritual community—and perhaps learn something about myself along the way. The first day did not bode well. After driving in a 110-degree heat wave, without air conditioning, for six hours through the desert between my home in Durango, Colorado, and Sedona, I was not exactly feeling rejuvenated. And I was disappointed. Instead of cathedrals of red rock punctuated by tasteful adobe structures, I found a tacky strip of tourist bric-a-brac. There were T-shirt shops, faux Native American art galleries, and trinket-and-souvenir stores. www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
Cantankerous RVs and sprightly Jeeps jostled for position on Main Street. Tanned, bikini-topped women window-shopped alongside trios of old ladies in Keds. I nearly sideswiped the narrated trolley tour as I ogled the ice cream parlor. But things turned around when I entered the cool sanctity of my hotel room, where a plate of chips and guacamole and two Coronas awaited. I couldn’t think of a single thing more fitting for my current disposition: tired, hungry, hot. Was this a sign from above? For some, divine signs come through crystals and meditation. For me, beer and chips. After I spent a morning reading magazines on a feather bed—my version of shameless luxury—and an afternoon perusing town, it was time to start some real work. First: get to the bottom of this vortex baloney. According to Sedonans, a vortex is a physical spot with an unusual amount of energy. Some say that the iron in the soil, which makes the rocks red, increases the area’s magnetic power. I have heard that this influences one’s own spiritual energy, although nobody can explain exactly how. Devotees go to vortexes to pray, meditate on a turning point in their lives, or search for divine direction. Bill, my trolley driver from the previous evening, who sounded more like a game-show host than a semiretired tour guide, said I might see doors opening to other universes. I had no idea what that meant, but it certainly fed my anticipation. There is some scientific basis for the vortexes. Pete Sanders, an honors graduate of MIT and the author of You Are Psychic! (Ballantine Books, 1990), posits that the vortexes can be explained by superstring theory, which physicists developed only in the last 20 P L E N T Y | 75
years. “Superstrings say that everything exists in ten or more dimensions,” Sanders explains, adding that so far there is no scientific equipment to measure most of the ten or more dimensions. “I believe that there are energy flows in those deeper dimensions that the soul can soar on,” he says. Whether the vortexes exist or not, Sedona is making a killing off them, with locals peddling vortex tours, vortex books, and all sorts of spiritual schlock. Though I mostly considered it a bunch of hooey, the mystery was enough to get me out of bed at dawn to hike to one of the proclaimed energy swirls, of which there are as many as 15 in Sedona. In five minutes, I drove from my hotel to the base of the small, craggy mountain on top of which the vortex was supposed to work its charm. As I got out of the car, the sky was already assembling whipped-cream N. C. Wyeth clouds in preparation for the afternoon monsoon, though everything was preciously cool and quiet at that moment. I had heard that at points where there is more energy entering or leaving the earth, such as these vortexes, the juniper trees twist more violently. As I walked farther up the knoll, the junipers became contorted, as if wrung out of the earth. I found a nook overlooking the waking city and wedged myself into it, quietly observing the cliff descending beneath my feet and the ravens circling sleepily below. In all directions, hulking bodies of red rock cropped out of the flat valley floor like prehistoric creatures. The landscape looked almost unreal—the blue of the sky too royal, the red of the rocks too rich, and the green of the canyons’ scrub too pristine. Disappointingly, I saw no divine doors nor any other dramatic expression of otherworldliness. I did feel intensely peaceful, however, in such a magnificent corner of the earth. As the town below began to stir with the pulse of daily life, I was alone, safe, tucked in my tiny, precarious perch in the red rock. Spiritual or not, Sedona has a charismatic—perhaps for some, transformative—beauty. Westerners have been traveling to Sedona for spiritual rejuvenation and guidance since the 1960s and ’70s, though it was a mecca 76 | P L E N T Y
long before then. The Yavapai, Havasupai, Hopi, and Navajo, among other Native American tribes, considered the area sacred. Now people from all over the world make the pilgrimage. According to a Northern Arizona University survey, more than 60 percent of Sedona’s visitors come for spiritual reasons. I wondered if perhaps they came not for all of the psychics and healers but simply for the soul-soothing beauty of the place, apparent the second you step outside the downtown area.
AFTER A SPLURGE ON A HEALING MASSAGE—a sugar scrub, shea butter wrap, and full-body extravaganza that left my muscles and mind blissfully soggy—I was starting to consider this spiritual journey thing just a good excuse for some R&R. But it was time for more rigorous soul-searching: I arranged to meet with a psychic. I had always envisioned psychics as scamming phonies on the other end of a “900” number, but the one I visited, a transplant from a well-known metaphysical center in Germany, was straightforward and no-bull. As I waited for her in the new-age bookstore below her room, thumbing books like How to Communicate with Spirits and Conversations with the Dream Mentor: Awaken to Your Inner Guide, I imagined what she might look like. Long hair? Flowing skirts? Lots of jewelry? Short and dark-haired, with green eyes, she in fact looked like a middle-aged mom. She acted more like a stern schoolteacher and delivered my reading with little sympathy—or hesitation. Of course she did close her eyes while trying to channel energies from the spiritual world, during which I thankfully succeeded in suppressing my juvenile snickers. As if I were part of some silly experiment, I tried to tell her as little as possible about myself to see how accurate she could be. And though I thought that she could have surmised many of the things she told me from my appearance, there were a few bizarre coincidences. She knew that I travel a lot, and, she said, I would travel more. She guessed that I’m some sort of communicator. She said I would marry a strong partner (Matthew McConaughey?) and that I would likely teach someday. I would work with rich people (really?), and the universe had many blessings in store for me (great!). I should be extra careful if I didn’t want children soon (uh-oh), because apparently two little souls are antsy to be reincarnated with my help (gotta tell Mom that one; she’ll be psyched). The strangest coincidence came when she said I will definitely work with a foundation; my mother is in the process of starting one. The gist was that I would be successful and wouldn’t have to worry too much about money. According to the psychic, the universe has good things in store for me, and I should accept them graciously, without guilt. The only thing I had to be wary of were people who would put me down and try to crumble my confidence. Though what she said didn’t necessarily change my life, I left with a renewed faith in myself and a pervading sense of goodwill. I wondered if she told everyone the same wonderful things, but to be honest, it didn’t really matter. December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
IMAGES COURTESY SEDONA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
I wondered if perhaps they came not for all of the psychics and healers but simply for the soul-soothing beauty of the place, apparent the second you step outside the downtown area.
YEAR-ROUND INSPIRATION: Sedona only gets more beautiful in winter, when the snow arrives and the crowds thin out.
Next came the hard part, or at least as hard as it would get for a spiritual-discovering newbie. It was time to test my limits with a horseback ride. Everyone has a phobia, and horses are mine. I developed the fear after the third horse I ever rode galloped out of my control and fell unexpectedly in a patch of jagged rocks. I managed to jump off at the last minute, incurring only a few scratches and bruises, but I was told the accident could have been serious. I hadn’t been on a horse since then. I arranged a two-hour guided ride with a ranch five miles outside town. As I drove over the scrub-scattered hills, the clouds thickened in anticipation of the monsoon, and I reconsidered what I was about to do. Despite myself, I arrived at the small dusty ranch. It started to sprinkle the kind of light rain that makes the desert smell impossibly fresh, as if it had been musty for millennia. By the time Kelly, the cheerful, pony-tailed, college-age guide, had saddled up the horses for the seven people in our group, the rain had gained confidence. With the horse edgy beneath me, I was jumpy. No, terrified. Thankfully, I had to keep up some sort of facade: in the line of horses, I was sandwiched between two perfectly fearless teenage girls without an inkling of sympathy for me. As my horse navigated the steep scree trails through several canyons and streams, I flinched wimpily at any sign of my horse slipping. Slowly and steadily, however, he plodded along, carrying me safely by cliffs www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
leading down to Oak Creek and over rough, rocky hills. With some concentration, I managed to zone out a few times, almost forgetting about the horse, and watch the charcoal clouds roll across the sky, hurling down streaks of rain miles in the distance. Glowing threads of lightning tangoed on the horizon, perhaps attempting to out-wow one another. We were heading straight for the storms, or maybe they were heading straight for us. I tried simply to feel present within my surroundings—the enormous sky, rich red stones, and junipers and sage turned glossy with rain. The moment was simultaneously beautiful, exhilarating, and terrifying. We made it back to the ranch just as the sky unceremoniously turned from gray and pink to a deep dark blue. The horse hadn’t fallen, and I hadn’t tumbled down any ravines or drowned in any stream crossings, as I suppose I had known I wouldn’t. Still, I felt a sheepish sense of relief and accomplishment. Though I’m not convinced that I had any guidance from the spirit world, I wondered if there were something to the idea of Sedona’s magnetism. Maybe it’s not so much the psychics, spiritual soothsayers, massage therapists, or even vortexes that attract everyone from old ladies in Keds to exuberant trolley-tour drivers. Perhaps Sedona’s magnetism lies in the simple fact that it’s one of the few places still wild and beautiful enough for all of us to craft our own stories of self-discovery. ■ P L E N T Y | 77
CELEBRATION AND RITUAL OFTEN GLORIFY THE ENVIRONMENT, THUS HELPING TO PRESERVE IT. IN THIS PHOTO ESSAY, THE SEA AND SKY CARRY AWAY WISHES AND WORRIES; THE SOIL HOLDS BOTH PROMISE AND MEMORY. CURATED BY NANCY SCHWARTZMAN AND JENNIE PAKRADOONI. 78 | P L E N T Y
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During Loi Krathong, the November festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand, people release thousands of hot-air lanterns into the sky to carry away their earthly worries. Photograph by Gabe Weisert.
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Dancers in Porto Alegre, Brazil, perform bumba-meu-boi, a narrative drum and dance ritual that takes place annually in various parts of the country (above). In Brazilâ€™s Upper Xingu region, deep within the Amazon, indigenous Kuikuro express a creation story through dance (left page). Photographs by Tatiana Cardeal.
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Artist Lauren Bonâ€™s fire circle and surrounding 32-acre cornfield, called Not a Cornfield, located outside of Los Angeles, California, is a living sculpture as well as a reclamation of abandoned industrial land: the site was a Pacific Railway depot and is the future home of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. The corn will be harvested and used to make biodegradable containers. Photographs by Jaime Lopez.
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During the Yemanjรก festival in Salvador, Brazil, women and men wear white and make offerings of flowers and other gifts to Yemanjรก, the Yoruban goddess of the sea. Fishermen take some of the offerings by boat, while others are brought directly to the shore. Celebrated on February 2, the ritual is said to bring good fortune for the coming year. Photographs by Marcella Haddad (top left) and Elcio Carrico.
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HOW WE LIVE
FAIREST OF THE MALL?
Replacing the malls of old are “lifestyle centers” designed to make you feel like you’re shopping in a real downtown. Will they do the trick? LISA SELIN DAVIS I SPENT THE BEST PART OF MY YOUTH at the mall. That’s where we went on Friday nights to play Space Invaders and watch boys toss pennies into ebullient fountains; to be ironically photographed with Santa; and, of course, to shop. It was the mid-1980s version of cruising the strip, and even though I lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, and we had a perfectly good downtown strip we could have cruised, the mall was our social center, inviting those from both sides of the 86 | P L E N T Y
tracks to stroll its not-so-hallowed halls. That malls drew all manner of folk away from town and city centers—and replaced them with cheap facsimiles—was only one criticism levied by architects, planners, and lovers of downtowns. Spawned by the growth of the national highway system, malls capitalized on consumers’ growing dependence on cars and helped move business from local to regional hubs. They replaced the architectural diversity of downtowns with
unbecoming concrete bubbles. And as the design of malls improved, new ones were simply plopped down elsewhere, leaving a trail of abandoned malls in their wake. Mall, in fact, has become such a dirty word that developers have coined and, according to them, created an alternative: lifestyle center. “We bristle when people say ‘mall,’” says Deirdre Major, senior vice president and creative director of Americana December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PHOTO COURTESY ROBERT B. AIKENS & ASSOCIATES
If kids will continue to spend the best part of their youth at the mall, at least those at the lifestyle center will be getting some fresh air.
Manhasset, a Long Island, New York, lifestyle center—or as she prefers, “open-air center”—that I visited recently. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), a lifestyle center has several defining characteristics that differentiate it from a mall: it’s located near affluent residential areas; it covers more than 50,000 square feet; it’s multipurpose and leisure oriented; it includes restaurants; it considers “design ambience and amenities”; it typically has one or more department stores; and it’s en plein air. A lifestyle center is designed to evoke an old-fashioned city street, a kind of dramatic reenactment of a downtown. Shops are laid out along a street grid, complete with patron-friendly accoutrements like park benches. Because each store is responsible for designing its own facade, there is, in theory, some architectural variety from shop to shop. And compared with regional malls, lifestyle centers are smaller, use fewer resources, and are built closer to large pockets of residential development, which combats traffic, sprawl, and other environmental woes. Centers often provide parking on streets or in smaller lots to help shoppers avoid the misery of searching for their vehicles in a sea of cars—as well as to avoid the blight of a huge empty parking lot. The ICSC reports that there are now more than 130 lifestyle centers in the United States, with 16 more slated for construction this year alone. Americana Manhasset is a few quick turns off the Long Island Expressway in the tony town of, yes, Manhasset, surrounded by gated communities with names that often include the word estates. I parked my borrowed 1999 Honda Civic in the parking lot—which had some lovely ginkgo trees and more Infinitis, Land Rovers, and BMWs than I’d ever seen in one spot—and stopped by the outdoor café for a decaf cappuccino and yogurt with fruit and granola (which, by way of full disclosure, were charged to the PR account while I poked around the property). The café was only a few tables in a narrow space between buildings—not the sort of coffee house that would host open-mic nights and poetry readings, but one that would encourage www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
patrons to partake in a brief recess from shopping and sit awhile beneath the canopy of effulgent bamboo. In some ways, Americana Manhasset looks like a mall, except that it’s not enclosed under a giant dome, and the “street” is lined with luxurious plantings, purple flowers popping up along the sidewalks. In other ways, it looks like a downtown. The shops run along what resembles a street, albeit a privately-owned one, and each of the building facades is different. “It has a very New York feel—it’s happening,” says Major. “It’s almost the feeling of Main Street.” And this, it seems, is what many Americans want. As we warm once again to the attributes of city life, as evidenced by the proliferation of New Urbanist developments, people are choosing downtowns rather than malls. And if the mall of yesteryear re-created the downtown without certain undesirable elements—for instance, the mall has the right to eject patrons at any time and is immune to the unpredictability of weather—the lifestyle center re-created the mall, without its limitations. Built in 1956 as a strip mall and reenvisioned in 1985 as a lifestyle center designed to evoke Fifth Avenue, Americana Manhasset is one of the oldest lifestyle centers. It’s not as flashy or comprehensive as some of the newer ones like Novi’s Fountain Walk, in suburban Detroit, which has a skate park, comedy club, and fancy restaurant, all along a “Main Street” rimmed with park benches and lampposts. The Village at Rochester Hills, in downtown Detroit, has winding tree-lined walkways that interweave nature and commerce. The Shoppes at Grand Prairie, in Peoria, Illinois, even has a Holocaust memorial, along with a children’s play area. Other lifestyle centers have conference centers and hotels. The idea is to build community, to recreate the public, lively nature of a real downtown. But this is, of course, an illusion. The “street” is very much maintained by a private entity, and exclusivity is integral to the lifestyle center. If the three-level malls of the 1990s went from low- to highbrow, a sort of cruise ship model with the steerage-class cheapo stores on the bottom level and the high-end boutiques at the top,
then the lifestyle center goes a step further, excluding the steerage class altogether. It’s a kind of shopping segregation; affluence, after all, is one of the ICSC’s main criteria for a lifestyle center. My visit to Americana Manhasset almost made me nostalgic for the relative inclusiveness of the old-school mall. But when I visited Ingleside, a mall of my childhood in Holyoke, Massachusetts, I was confronted with the cacophony of what now passes for Muzak—pounding Top 40 music bouncing off the polished vinyl tile floors—and the canned air, and the year-round Christmas shop, and the Uno pizzeria with its facade of a real building affixed to its entrance. Still, the mall functioned as a kind of social center for its patrons, who, in my thoroughly unscientific polling, seemed to be primarily poor (there were lots of rusty Chevys in the parking lot) and of color, as if the wealthy had abandoned the mall, leaving the less affluent to inherit it. By contrast, the lifestyle center was serene, and the design much more aesthetically pleasing. If kids will continue to spend the best part of their youth at the mall, at least those at the lifestyle center will be getting some fresh air. But for my money, the lifestyle center repeats some of the mall’s grave mistakes. For instance, the shoppers may be local, but the stores aren’t: there are only two locally owned shops among 60 or so at Americana Manhasset; the rest include such high-fashion staples as Donna Karan, Gucci, and Talbots. It is like Fifth Avenue, only you can park right out front, within minutes of your gated community estate. At the end of my journey, I visited Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. The buildings were taller, and hundreds of speeding cars zoomed down the very real, public street. I walked through a wall of tourists, stepped around a homeless man, and gazed up at the high-end chain stores, coming to a kind of full circle: real downtowns have been reinvented as malls. Certainly, we have learned architectural skills from our past mall mistakes, replacing the concrete boxes with gentler structures. But one thing we don’t know about is staying power. If the mall is now officially déclassé, and the lifestyle center is au courant, it remains to be seen if the legacy of megastructure abandonment will continue. Someday, we may see a string of dead lifestyle centers spread out across the land, too. ■ P L E N T Y | 87
S H E LT E R
PAPER-THICK WALLS Discarded phone books and old newspapers stage a comeback—as durable, Earth-friendly building materials. JOSHUA M. BERNSTEIN crete has recently exploded, with structures ranging from experimental builder Sean Sands’s New Mexico domes (using fidobe, a combination of paper, water, and earth with a high clay content) to Fuller’s Paper Palace I, a curvaceous 500-square-foot “pueblo modern” building in arid Arizona. Upon completing it in April, Fuller will use the Paper Palace as a papercrete guinea pig, testing structural stress, wind pressure, and heat and moisture infiltration. It will join 50 or so papercrete structures in the United States, most of them found in the Southwest. Why there? Hot, dry weather: papercrete absorbs water. Yet building in low-humidity zones is merely a precaution. Paper-based homes can thrive in soggy conditions (like the one-level home Andy Hopkins built in snowy, mountainous Crestone, Colorado, in 1999, weatherproofing it with a layer of hard stucco). And Paper Palace I’s 2,000 building
on property surrounding their century-old home—he focused on domed architecture. The design merited a lightweight, environmentally friendly building material. Hello, papercrete. The couple collected newspapers and junk mail, even scoring a truckload of phone books from nearby San Angelo. They began creating the bricks, and each one was used, no matter how lumpy or ugly—20,000 in total. You could even see the funny papers on some of the blocks. Once the walls were assembled and painted, of course, any lumpiness (and comic strips) disappeared. By doing the work themselves, Curry and Thayer completed Eve’s Garden at a cost of about $30 per square foot, compared with more than $100 for traditional construction. Their three guest rooms are as unique as they are eco-friendly: the Garden Room, full of curtains and sweeping arches, overlooks the organic garden. The gold-drenched Orchard Room is as spacious as the Texas plains. And if you sit in the center of the domed Lotus Suite and sing, says Thayer, “your voice echoes back to you.” The couple is careful to conserve energy, and in the coming months Curry will rig up a solar energy system. “This will bring us one step closer to becoming totally self-sufficient,” he says. Their commitment to environmentalism has, somewhat surprisingly, proven attractive. “Guests weren’t sure if they wanted to be here or not,” says Thayer. Now, she adds, green-living types seek out Eve’s Garden. The bed-and-breakfast is so successful that Thayer and Curry are utilizing a refined papercrete mixture that includes reused Styrofoam (to control shrinkage) to build four additional papercrete bedrooms. After that, 13 more are planned. And then, if all goes well, they’ll begin a startlingly ambitious project: the construction of a 500-person eco-village. “We’re using papercrete as a building block to change the way people live,” Curry says, “one piece of paper at a time.” ■
“We’re using papercrete as a building block to change the way people live, one piece of paper at a time.”
They’re built from papercrete, a cocktail of repulped waste paper that forms lightweight, Superman-strong building blocks. Papercrete follows a simple recipe: take paper; add water and stir; then pour in cement, sand, clay, or other additives; blend until porridgesmooth; pour the mixture into molds; and let everything air-dry. Voilà! The blocks are fire resistant (because the cement coats the paper and doesn’t burn) and heat retentive, and each weighs only 13 pounds or so. Papercrete isn’t exactly a new idea. “Patents have been around since the 1920s,” says Barry Fuller, an Arizona-based papercrete researcher and builder. But back then, “it cost more to make paper than to chop down trees for wood.” Now Americans discard enough paper yearly to construct a 48foot-high wall around the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s taller and longer than China’s Great Wall. It’s not surprising that interest in paper88 | P L E N T Y
blocks sat outdoors, enduring eight months of downpours, prairie dogs, and termites. “Critters just didn’t like the brick’s alkalinity,” Fuller says. In the next several years, Fuller says, his testing will “prove that papercrete can build perfectly safe homes.” “It’s a matter of saving the planet,” says Clyde Curry, 52, co-owner of Eve’s Garden along with his wife, Kate Thayer, 58. Their papercrete journey started six years ago when Thayer hired Curry to paint her home. Before the second coat was dry, they say, they fell in love. (“I tell my friends I married him so I didn’t have to give him a paycheck,” Thayer jokes.) Around that time, Curry, an experimental architect, built the straw-bale Adobe Posada, a sixperson home that the couple now rents. Curry considers the Posada a success but notes that he still used “a tractor-trailerand-a-half of ponderosa pine to build the roof; it seemed wasteful.” So for his and Thayer’s next project—Eve’s Garden, built
For more information on Eve’s Garden, visit evesgarden.org. December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAUL CONE AND CLYDE CURRY
WEST TEXAS, a place where mountains meet grassy plains and winds whistle beneath impossibly starry skies, is home to Marathon, a former train-stop town with a population of 600. In the early 1900s, Marathon bustled with silver shipments and branded cattle. These days, it’s filled with art galleries and bed-and-breakfasts, including one with peculiar pastel domes and undulating arches that make it look like a misplaced Middle Eastern temple. Yet the domes aren’t as odd as what they’re fashioned from: recycled paper. The domes are part of Eve’s Garden Organic Bed and Breakfast and Ecology Resource Center, a true desert oasis. There, a 4,000-square-foot greenhouse provides guests with organic vegetables and flowers. Vibrant artwork and sculpture adorns nooks and crannies. Fountains are made from old paint cans, buckets, and beer bottles. Most impressive, though, are the guest bedrooms.
BRICK BY BRICK: Some of the papercrete domes and arches found at Eveâ€™s Garden (top four photos); the block-making process (bottom three).
Eco-designer Deborah Lindquist gives recycled fabrics a tough edge. WHEN IT COMES TO ECO-CONSCIOUS FASHION, Deborah Lindquist has always been well ahead of the curve. As a fledgling accessories designer in New York in the 1980s, Lindquist made her first belts from an old leather jacket. At the time, she was both looking for ways to cut costs and scouring vintage clothing stores for inspiration and materials. “I’ve had my business for 21 years, and I’ve always worked with something recycled,” she says. “I was doing it before it was cool.” From these modest beginnings, the Los Angeles–based designer has built a thriving line of mostly one-of-a-kind garments made from the exotic and the unusual—old kimonos, gauzy saris, floral scarves. Unapologetically feminine and unabashedly sexy, her clothes have a rock ’n’ roll sensibility that appeals to the likes of Charlize Theron, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, and the all-too-ubiquitous Paris Hilton. Born on a farm in Minnesota, Lindquist learned her craft at an early age. “My grandma taught me how to sew,” she says, in a voice still laced with Midwestern sweetness. After a couple of years VISIONS OF VINTAGE: Lindquist (above) at the University of Minnesota showcased a bustier in vintage sari fabric in Minneapolis, she moved to (right), along with a recycled cashmere New York, where she studied shrug, in her fall 2005 collection. at the Parsons School of Design. From there she went to work in the rough-and-tumble garment industry, eventually designing her own line of belts from a material known as Milanese mesh. Though Lindquist stayed in the city for nearly a decade, urban existence was never a comfortable fit. “I kept moving around, trying to get closer to the park and the water,” she says. “I’m a farm girl, and I always felt I didn’t have enough nature around me.” A few years after launching her accessories line, Lindquist went through what she describes as a life-changing experience. With her boyfriend at the time, the personal trainer of a filmmaker, she ventured into the Costa Rican jungle for nearly a month. “We were supposed to be laying the groundwork for a documentary about a remote group of Indians who had retreated to the interior when the Spaniards first arrived,” she says. “It was the rainy season, the rivers flooded, there were all kinds of poisonous snakes and spiders and scorpions around. At one point we were stalked by a leopard.” In spite of the dangers, Lindquist’s time in the jungle changed her outlook on urban living. Having faced the difficulties of survival every day, she discovered some adjustment problems on returning to New York. “I didn’t feel like I was fitting in properly,” she says. The adventure also sparked an interest in ecology. “It taught me a 90 | P L E N T Y
lot about the environment and my own inner strength.” Soon thereafter Lindquist moved to the Los Angeles area, where she had relatives and industry contacts, eventually settling in Topanga Canyon. “If there’s a rural part of Los Angeles, this is it,” she says. “In the late ’60s, it was a hippie enclave. Now it’s more about people who build huge houses with fences around them.” She lives next to a state park and finds that “California living really helps me out in my head. I need ASPIRING SENSATIONS on the CBS reality show Rock Star sport Lindquist’s water and trees and plants vintage wool tweed bustier (top) and around me.” refigured vintage cashmere sweater (above). The move also inspired her to branch out beyond accessories. “There was something about a different coastline and the need to invent a new life,” she says. Lindquist admits that when she launched her clothing line, she wasn’t thinking ecologically. “I simply decided that it would be easier for me to do things that were one of a kind, instead of buying bolts of fabric that anyone else can buy.” The upshot is frankly flirty stuff: flounced, tiered skirts; babywww.plentymag.com December/January 2006
doll dresses; and bustiers with lingerie straps and images of exotic fauna and flora worked into the fabric. For the past four seasons, she has been playing with vintage cashmere, turning Grandma’s twin-sets into bolero tops, strapless sweaters, and appliquéd capelets. (Paris Hilton bought a black sleeveless sweater and matching arm warmers with a skull-and-crossbones pattern. Who knew she had a dark side?) For both her adult and children’s designs, Lindquist likes to incorporate familiar and time-honored emblems—fleurs-de-lis, peace symbols, ankhs, and cupids—as well as fanciful images from the natural world, like butterflies and spiderwebs. Her inspiration is wide-ranging: the skull and crossbones, for example, comes from the recent movie Pirates of the Caribbean; Lindquist notes that the vaguely menacing aura of the symbol makes it a “really good rock ’n’ roll motif.” The designer says her clientele ranges from teenagers to 60somethings: “This is a hip customer who appreciates fashion and doesn’t mind paying a little bit more for it.” She sells her line through high-end boutiques around the country, including Planet Blue in Los Angeles, Blush in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Jirisuda in New York, and is now researching the possibility of incorporating sustainable fabrics made from hemp and bamboo. “I don’t know that the message of my recycling and ecological awareness really comes through to each customer,” Lindquist admits, but she sees a growing trend. “A lot of the stores that have been contacting me recently are trying to increase their merchandise in the eco segment. More and more, there’s a community of like-minded people out there.” ■ P L E N T Y | 91
As these eight pieces of jewelry prove, environmentally conscious accessories are definitely in fashion.
SUBSTANCE WIRE SERVICE $40 (charcoll.com/kolbusz/ ellipticalenvy.html) This tough yet feminine necklace is constructed from recycled alternator wire.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP $60 (elsewares.com) Artist Dana Roth turns empty beer and soda cans into these sturdy, colorful bracelets. Choose from Tab, Guinness, and eight other styles.
I LOVE LUCITE $6 (thecarrotbox.com) These vintage Lucite rings from the ’50s and ’60s come in 14 vivid colors, including “grape juice” (shown) and “mocha stripe.”
SWEET CHARITY $22 (world-shoppe.com) Purchasing this fair-trade glass-bead necklace helps fund educational, health, and environmental programs in India.
CAP IT OFF $48 (beamerarts.com) Using heavy-duty machining tools, artist Laura Beamer punches out the inner section of old bottle caps to make her rings.
PRETTY IN PINK $12 (copacetique.com) Baltimore-based accessories label Art School Dropout took vintage pink beads and crafted them into these fun earrings.
PETAL TO THE METAL
ALL BOTTLED UP
$12 (fashioncounts.com or chiceco.com) The silver Pop Can Posy floral lapel pin is made from juice and soda cans.
$76 (clinea.com) The elegant Amber Garden bracelet gets its golden hue from recycled beer bottles.
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PLEASE EAT ME: By choosing heritage breeds for your holiday feast, you are actually preserving their future.
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THERE ARE ONLY ABOUT 2,500 TAMWORTH PIGS left in the United States, and I’ve just braised the belly of one of them. That may sound destructive, but my dinner is actually the Tamworth’s saving grace. The purebred pig is among the 150 heritage or heirloom animals now endangered by the agribusiness’s decision 60 years ago to cross-breed livestock for fast-growing, cheap meat. Now, 123 years after the Tamworth first arrived on our shores, the British breed has been corralled to the edge of extinction by the more than 100 million crossbred swine processed every year. Fortunately, when we buy from small farmers and purveyors of heirloom animals, we help to preserve these breeds, which heritage-meat entrepreneur Patrick Martins calls the “panda bears, spotted owls, and koalas of the food world.” This unusual animal-rights movement first took off with turkeys. Martins, cofounder of the online food store Heritage Foods USA, helped put heirloom meats on the map when he and co-owner Todd Wickstrom started Slow Food USA’s “Heritage Turkey Project” in 2001. Their mission was to help these disappearing birds proliferate, thereby helping preserve genetic diversity. Now that diversity is in decline, because agricultural powerhouses like Butterball raise only one type of bird, known as the Broad-Breasted White. Selectively bred for 30 years to have the maximum amount of lean white breast meat, these puffy-chested birds are too top-heavy to walk around or mate. (Even the free-range variety have a hard time ranging.) To perpetuate their flocks, producers of Broad-Breasted Whites must artificially inseminate the oddly shaped animals. Some life. Over on Frank Reese’s farm, though, turkeys act like turkeys—running, flying, ranging, and mating without human interference. Reese, a small-scale farmer in Kansas, raises five turkey breeds (Narragansett, White Holland, Black, Bourbon Red, and Standard Bronze), selling them through Heritage Foods USA’s Web site and a few local stores. “There’s a protocol inherent in the definition of ‘heritage,’” says Martins, who wants to ensure that the term does not lose meaning, as December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PHOTO © PETER DAZELEY / CORBIS
Heritage pork and turkey are a tasty, eco-friendly alternative to your typical roast. NICOLE DAVIS
the labels “all natural” and “hormone free” have. To be truly heritage, a breed must have a long, purebred lineage in the United States and be raised sustainably, with pastures to roam in, good food, few or no antibiotics, and no help whatsoever in the mating department. Most often heritage animals are endangered, too, though some are simply rare compared to the number of industrial-breed birds. “To say the meat is organic would just be one small piece of what we’re promoting,” says Martins. Heritage meat also benefits small family farmers like Reese, who can’t compete with “Big Turkey.” Heritage breeds take more time to reach market weight and to reproduce than their crossbred brethren, and time equals money. So why does Reese go to the trouble? “Because the birds are going to go extinct if we don’t do something,” the farmer explains. “And I knew if people ever tasted them, they would see the difference.” The difference is definitely visible: the Standard Bronze that I ordered from Reese’s farm had a narrower breast and longer legs than your typical bird—evidence of a healthy life with lots of free ranging. But was the taste discernibly different? Using sage-infused butter, salt, and pepper to flavor the meat—along with a generous stuffing of carrots, onion, and celery—I roasted it beneath a tent of foil, which I took off for the last half-hour so the turkey could brown. The skin wasn’t as crisp as I would have liked, but the meat was juicy and dense and didn’t fall apart the way “regular” turkey meat can. Even better, it required no basting, because the turkey had lived long enough to develop a lovely, rich layer of fat. Unfortunately, though, my group of tasters didn’t notice any difference in flavor. This could have more to do with the Standard Bronze in particular than with heritage turkeys in general. Galen Zamarra, head chef at New York’s Mas restaurant, tried Bourbon Reds last year and said, “The flavor is out of this world. I served it to many people who don’t care for turkey, and they all were astounded.” He plans on serving Bronzes at the restaurant this year.
Now that Martins and Wickstrom have helped Reese and other farmers get their turkeys on menus and tables across the United States, the Bourbon Red is officially off the critically rare list monitored by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Yet sales of heritage turkeys account for less than 1 percent of the roughly 265 million birds sold by Butterball and Purdue each year. That’s partly because of the costs involved in raising fully documented animals. My Standard Bronze, for instance, came with a tracking number that told me how long it had lived, what it had eaten, and where and by whom it had been processed (a third-generation slaughterhouse owner named Kevin Kopp). These purebred gobblers average $5 to $6 per pound, versus the average $1 to $2 per pound for regular birds. Martins does not believe that prices will drop. “That’s what food costs,” he says. “But no one’s saying you have to eat heritage meat seven days a week. I don’t.” So Martins caters to consumers who are willing to pony up for the occasional heritage bird, and his mail-order company is now one of a handful of businesses that connect small fowl-farmers with consumers. But after turkey, no meat is selling as well as heritage pork. Unlike lean crossbred pigs, such heirloom breeds as the Tamworth and the Gloucester Old Spot are marbled with fat, the way nature intended them to be. “Their taste is stunningly delicious,” says Dan Barber, the chef at Blue Hill restaurants in New York, which feature Berkshire pigs on their menus. “The flavor hasn’t been bred out of them.” But taste isn’t the only reason some chefs offer heritage meats. “Being a restaurateur, I have some power,” says Zamarra, who buys his pork directly from Flying Pigs Farm in upstate New York. “By making a stand and putting rare meats on my menu, more dollars go toward saving these breeds.” In the process, he’s also educating his patrons. Too many people, he says, don’t know or care where their food comes from. Thanks to the efforts of entrepreneurs like Martins and chefs like Zamarra, we’re learning. ■
By making a stand and putting rare meats on my menu, more dollars go toward saving these breeds.
BRAISED FRESH PORK BELLY 1 tbs. peanut oil 2 lbs. pork belly, skin on Kosher salt Ground pepper 1 onion, peeled and chopped 2 carrots, peeled and chopped 2 celery stalks, chopped 1 leek, white part only, rinsed and chopped 2 garlic cloves, peeled 3 cups chicken stock (can be homemade or store bought—preferably from an organic line such as Pacific Natural Foods or Health Valley, available in most grocery stores)
1: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Warm oil in large, ovenproof skillet. Season pork with salt and pepper, and add to skillet, fatty side down. Brown on all sides (about 15 minutes), then remove. 2: Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat and add vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. 3: Return pork to pan, fat side up, and add enough chicken stock to cover the meat. Bring to a simmer, then move pan to oven.
4: Cook uncovered for about two hours, adding more stock if necessary, until pork is fork tender. 5: Remove pork from pan and strain liquid, discarding vegetables. Use a gravy separator to filter as much of the liquid from the fat as possible. (In a pinch, you can also use a spoon to skim the edges of the liquid.) 6: Slice the pork and drizzle it with the strained stock. Serve with polenta or mashed potatoes. Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from Craft of Cooking: Notes and Recipes from a Restaurant Kitchen, by chef Tom Colicchio.
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TEN WAYS TO YOUR DIGS Air pollution levels are often higher inside homes CHRISTINE RICHMOND
ILLUSTRATION BY JACKIE BESTEMAN
than outside. Our tips will help you breathe easy.
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December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
BUY A PEACE LILY. In 1973 NASA discovered that the materials used to build the Skylab III space station had leaked more than 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the airtight interior. VOCs are compounds that evaporate easily; in high concentrations, they can cause a host of health problems. To neutralize the chemicals, researchers used a secret weapon: houseplants. Peace lilies, spider plants, Gerbera daisies, and bamboo palms are among the 50 or so houseplants that can actually pull VOCs out of the air. You can find the complete list in the book How to Grow Fresh Air (Penguin, 1997), written by former NASA researcher B. C. Wolverton.
RUN THE FAN EVERY TIME YOU COOK. If you have a gas stove, you’re filling your kitchen with more than the aroma of fresh herbs and garlic. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cooking with gas can release a number of toxins into the air, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and formaldehyde. An efficient stove releases fewer chemicals; to evaluate yours, take a look at the color of the flame the next time you’re making dinner. If the tip is blue, you’re fine; but if it’s yellow or any other color, have the gas company adjust the burner. And be sure to run the exhaust fan or open a window every time you use your stove.
TOSS YOUR TEFLON FRYING PAN. In June 2005, an EPA advisory panel classified perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—an ingredient used to make the nonstick coating Teflon—as a “likely” human carcinogen. This conclusion was largely based on animal studies, so further research is needed to figure out exactly how PFOA might affect human health. Don’t feel like waiting around for the results? Pick up a cast-iron skillet: when seasoned properly, it’s nonstick. It’ll also last you a lifetime, so that Teflon pan will be the last one you have to throw away.
PASS ON PARTICLE BOARD FURNITURE. A bookshelf or desk with an “oak finish” is most likely made from particle board—chips of wood that are fused together with industrial-strength glues. This stuff’s cheap for a reason. Also known as pressed wood, the material leaks formaldehyde (a potential cancer causer) into the air, often for years. If you have particle-board cabinets in your kitchen, the heat from your stove might coax out even more formaldehyde. Sealing your pressed wood pieces with a varnish labeled “low-VOC” will protect you from the fumes, but first you’ll need to completely dismantle everything to be sure you cover every inch of surface area. If you’re not up for channeling your inner Bob Vila, opt for solid wood.
CHOOSE GREEN CLEANERS. Soap scum is gross, but it does wipe up pretty easily. There’s no need for the corrosive chemicals, petroleum-based solvents, and other VOCs found in most household cleaning products, especially when countless eco-friendly companies are making equally effective products, some of which, including Seventh Generation and Ecover, can even be found in your local grocery store. You can also make your own cleaners from ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Nontoxic cleaning guru Annie Berthold-Bond, author of Better Basics for the Home (Three
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Rivers, 1999) and the forthcoming Home Enlightenment (Rodale, 2005), has posted recipes for oven cleaner, floor wash, and more on the Web site care2.com. TEST YOUR HOME FOR RADON. This radioactive gas occurs naturally and can be found in the soil, rock, and groundwater underneath homes. According to EPA estimates, radon causes 21,000 lung cancer–related deaths each year. Professional inspectors can measure your home’s radon levels, or you can purchase a do-ityourself kit. For more information, visit the EPA’s radon testing page at epa.gov/radon/radontest.html.
BE A CANDLE CONNOISSEUR. Scented votives and tapers are a cheerful way to welcome guests, but many are made from petroleum-based paraffin wax, and some even have metal wicks. As you’ve probably guessed by now, lighting one of those will release a number of chemicals into the air (vanilla cookie and cinnamon apple are suddenly sounding a bit treacherous). Fortunately, there’s no shortage of eco-friendly candle companies offering products that range from natural beeswax pillars to tea lights made with soybean wax and pure essential oils. Try Bluecorn Naturals and the Honey Candle Company.
BRUSH UP ON HEALTHY PAINT. The dizzying scent gives it away: paint is basically chemical soup. In addition to benzene (a known human carcinogen), some paints—even low or non-VOC ones—can contain fungicides and other additives. The good news? Even mainstream paint companies such as Benjamin Moore now offer non-VOC paints. Choose water-based/latex paint, which gives off less fumes than oil-based formulas, or consider a hue from The Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company. Its 16 colors are made with milk protein (casein), lime, and mineral pigments. BioShield, Miller Paint, and YOLO Colorhouse also offer products with earth-derived ingredients. No matter which variety you choose, however, the EPA suggests that you air out the room for at least two or three days after you’ve finished.
BAG THE CARPET. A typical carpet comprises more than 120 different chemicals, and the adhesives needed for installation aren’t much better. Also, those plush fibers end up collecting dust and dirt from shoes. If you do decide to cover the floor, use carpeting made from organic, natural material, without PVC or commercial rubber backing. Tack down the rug instead of gluing it, and look for a camel-hair or wool-needled carpet pad. Try to do the installation in warm weather—that way, you can air out your home for a few days afterward.
SPLURGE ON ORGANIC BEDDING. A good chunk of each day is spent sleeping, so you may as well rest your head on fibers that were grown without chemicals or pesticides. There’s no need to sacrifice style; these days an organic bedroom doesn’t have to be bland. Companies such as Gaiam and Coyuchi offer sheets, comforters, and other bedding with bold colors and prints—all made with eco-friendly dyes, of course. ■
P L E N T Y | 97
H E A LT H pylori, a type of bacteria. Scientific research is suggesting that wine can help wipe out those germs. One study, recently published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, examined more than 10,000 people and found that those who drank three to six glasses of wine per week had an 11 percent lower risk of H. pylori infection than those who drank no wine. But lay off the wine late in the evening if you suffer from acid reflux. That’s because booze can relax the lower esophagus and aggravate your symptoms, according to David Johnson, M.D., vice president of the American College of Gastroenterology and chief of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.
3. LIFE PRESERVER
TO YOUR HEALTH An occasional glass of wine can benefit your body. Here are four reasons to pop that cork.* RACHEL GRUMMAN WINE, MUCH LIKE CHOCOLATE AND COFFEE, was once considered a guilty pleasure but is now being studied for its healing properties. We can thank the French for this change in attitude—researchers started examining wine once they realized that our European cousins eat cheese, butter, and cream but have lower rates of cardiovascular disease than Americans do. Their smaller portion-sizes certainly help, but chances are the saving grace of the French is the wine they sip with their meals. Most types of alcohol can be beneficial, but wine— red in particular—may be the healthiest choice because it’s rich in antioxidants. Here’s a roundup of its illness-fighting abilities.
1. HEART PROTECTOR If you compare people who have one to two drinks a day with abstainers, the drinkers have about a one-third lower rate of heart attacks, says Emanuel Rubin, M.D., professor of pathology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “That’s the same general range as statins, drugs that lower cholesterol,” he says. “But 98 | P L E N T Y
alcohol is cheaper and tastes better.” One possible explanation for liquor’s statin-like effects is that its anti-inflammatory properties allow it to combat atherosclerosis, a condition that hardens and narrows the arteries, reduces vital blood flow, and is a primary cause of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol also raises levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol), which is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, according to Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University. One word of caution for females: while drinking wine can help ward off heart disease, the leading cause of death of American women, even one drink a day slightly increases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer, and two drinks up her risk by 31 percent, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.
2. STOMACH SOOTHER Most people think that stress causes ulcers, but the main culprit is actually Helicobacter
4. BLOOD SUGAR BALANCER Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes is considered an epidemic in America, where, according to the American Diabetes Association, more than 16 million people suffer from it. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can protect against the condition, and new research shows that wine may help, too. A metaanalysis of 15 studies published in the journal Diabetes Care last March found that moderate drinkers were about 30 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. One possible explanation for the results, according to lead author Lando Koppes, Ph.D., is that moderate alcohol intake improves insulin and HDL levels, which in turn helps regulate sugar and fat in the blood. *According to the National Institutes of Health, men should have no more than two 5-ounce glasses of wine a day, and women should stop after one glass. All of wine’s above-mentioned health benefits dwindle once you exceed these limits. ■ December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PHOTO B. PEPONE/ZEFA/CORBIS
The fountain of youth may be found in a bottle of wine. A nine-year study of 490,000 men and women aged 30 to 104, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that overall death rates were lowest among men and women who reported having about one drink per day. Moderate drinkers were also slightly less likely to die in middle age (ages 35 to 69). Of course, more research is needed to prove there’s a link between moderate drinking and longevity. After all, social drinkers also reap the stressreducing, mood-boosting benefits of companionship, which could certainly play a role in lengthening a person’s life span.
We get by with a little help from our friends
Photo © Walker Stanberry
This holiday season Adopt-A-Manatee . Help a species survive. ®
www.savethemanatee.org 1-800-432-JOIN (5646) Save the Manatee Club ®
Plenty editors get to know their palates and pick their favorite organic red wines.
’TIS THE SEASON FOR RED WINE—on the table, under the tree, down the hatch. We at Plenty wanted to recommend some organic wines and decided to do a tasting. With gas prices in mind, we picked vintages that are affordable, easy to find, and versatile—wines that would shine at holiday gatherings and work equally well the next night with a plate of leftovers. But as boxes began piling up in our office, we realized we were in over our heads. That’s why, with wine bottles in tow, we headed to Counter, a three-year-old organic vegetarian restaurant and wine bar in New York City’s East Village. Co-owner Donna Binder, who has years of experience touring vineyards and sampling wines for her extensive wine list, offered to host our tasting. We started by lining up all of the bottles on a long table in the back of the restaurant, uncorking each to let the wines breathe. Binder brought 100 | P L E N T Y
us glasses of mineral water and a silver spit bucket, which we eyed nervously. “Some of the best wines are organic,” she said as she poured a table wine from the Nevada County Wine Guild, swirled it vigorously in her glass (“This opens up the bouquet,” she explained), and then brought it to her nose for a hearty Sideways-style sniff. We grabbed our glasses and did the same. “It smells . . . oaky?” one staffer volunteered. Binder agreed, adding that she also detected some sour cherry. Our olfactory confidence growing, we noted cinnamon as well. After sipping, we agreed that the wine’s light, mild flavor would work well with most food. Next, we tried Coturri’s Zinfandel. We declared the nose to be smoky, but Binder did us one better, saying that she smelled “currants and cassis—and deep, dark vanilla spice.” As for the taste, we were delighted by the balanced flavors of caramel and raisin and the lingering sweet finish. Once we settled into the sniff-andsip routine (and had each downed about a glass of wine), we began taking more risks with our descriptions. “This almost tastes like mulled cider,” one staffer remarked of the Lolonis Cabernet Sauvignon, which had a dried berry scent and a flavor marked by pepper and clove. Binder enjoyed the “warm and round” taste of Heller Estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon, and when we sipped it, we detected plum, mellow oak, and even crushed flowers. Counter’s head chef, Chad Sarno, joined the party, bringing along plates of olives and seasoned almonds. The Frey Sangiovese, which had a burst of fennel flavor when we first drank it, mellowed to deep cherry once we had eaten a few of the savory snacks. Although we never bonded with the spit bucket (Binder and Sarno used it freely, but we just gingerly poured the contents of our glasses into it), we did leave the tasting with an advanced knowledge of wine etiquette, a heightened appreciation for organic vineyards, and, it must be said, a bit of a buzz. ■
THE FRUITS OF OUR LABOR Below are the seven wines that emerged as our favorites by the end of the tasting. All are made with organically grown grapes, and some (noted with an asterisk) have no added sulfites, a type of preservative. Look for them at your local wine store or contact Organic Vintages (877-674-2642, organicvintages.com), a distributor that can help you locate a bottle.
2002 Syrah (Vintner’s Estate), $15
2001 Syrah (Mendocino County), $15
2003 Zinfandel (Chauvet Vineyards, East Block— Old Vine Cuvee, Sonoma Valley)*, $27
2003 Sangiovese (Mendocino)*, $16
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, $40
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Redwood Valley), $22
Nevada County Wine Guild
2004 Our Daily Red (California)*, $9
PHOTO S. HAMMID/ZEFA/CORBIS
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
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OFF THE GRID
THE LIFESTYLIST A Southern California ecophile is putting her home— and any car that catches her fancy—on a petroleum-free diet. JUSTIN TYLER CLARK
COLETTE BROOKS HAS 13 CARS parked in her narrow Malibu driveway. One of them is a 1979 Cadillac El Dorado, pristine and expansive, with a sumptuous white leather interior. “The reason I got the El Dorado is that when I was eight or nine my girlfriend’s father got one,” says Brooks giddily, her hands on the car’s wheel. “I didn’t know about boys or sex, but I swear that when I saw it I had my first orgasm.” That sentiment is not uncommon in Brooks’s city, one of the world’s most car dependent. (When asked if she might consider parting with one of her prized rides, she wears a stricken expression. “I can’t help loving them all,” she confesses.) But Brooks is no gas-guzzling SUV owner: nine of her 13 cars are lowemitting biodiesel vehicles, as their license plates announce (“off oil,” “soy ride,” “kick gas”). And that crowded driveway leads to an elegant house that she and her husband are remodeling to run on solar power. Once the renovations are complete, the home will use almost no resources from the municipal supply (though during the summer, the dry climate will require them to buy water from the city). To minimize material waste, the couple is preserving most of the original late-1940s construction, a modestly sized but attractive home at the top of a winding, brush-lined road overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway. Brooks, a vibrant 47-year-old surfer whose brown corkscrew curls are (intentionally) streaked with platinum blond and copper, has figured out how to integrate environmentalism with a glamorous Los Angeles lifestyle. She is the brains behind the 18-year-old L.A. advertising agency Big Imagination Group (BIG), which made a splash in the green world when it enlisted a group of Hollywood stars to drive Toyota Prius hybrids to the 2003 Oscars. Last spring Brooks launched a new company named BioBling, whose mission is to connect green-minded drivers with cars that run on low-emission vegetable oil fuel. She began amassing her personal collection of biorides last year, after meeting the big-name biodiesel promoter Joshua Tickell. PHOTOGRAPH BY LIZ GOETZ
GREEN-EYED LADY: Colette Brooks is proud of the eco-armada that flanks her home. “I can’t help loving them all,” she says of her nine biodiesel cars. www.plentymag.com December/January 2006
Brooks’s husband, Eric Cadora, cringes slightly whenever Brooks asks him to back one of the cars out of the queue. But Cadora, a former actor and set builder who met Brooks at a rock-climbing gym, fully shares her ecoethos (and acknowledges that he may be partly responsible for her biodiesel obsession). The couple’s desire to convert their home to solar power “started with reading an article about somebody doing this somewhere,” says Cadora, a longtime Greenpeace supporter who says he formally introduced his wife to environmentalism when they got married. They decided to install solar panels to provide the home’s electricity; “then it
DC power from the house’s rooftop photovoltaic panels to AC power for use indoors. “I can’t wait.” Neither can the neighbors who have stopped by to ask about the renovations. “We say, ‘The house is going to be green,’ and they ask, ‘You mean you’re painting it green?’” says Brooks, laughing. “But as heinous as some of these McMansions are, we’re seeing more Priuses in the driveways.” For now the couple is still a few steps ahead of their neighbors. Beside the front gate lies the solar-powered, 330-gallon biodiesel tank that feeds Brooks’s personal armada. She has shipments of the green fuel
She and a group of other biodiesel motorists eventually plan to establish a co-op fueling station at a central location in the city. became solar hot water, and as we accumulated more knowledge, we decided we had to do it the whole way—what would be the point otherwise?” With plenty of sunshine year-round, Malibu is a logical place for a green renovation, but, Brooks says, they are the first in their gated community to add low-flow toilets, a wastewater reclamation system, and solar panels. They are renovating the interior exclusively with sustainable building materials such as cork flooring and palm-wood furniture, and constructing a new staircase and partitions using certified sustainably harvested wood. “We had to teach ourselves what green materials were,” says Cadora. It wasn’t his first building experience; he honed his skills on a backyard guesthouse using conventional materials a few years ago. But, he says, they are learning as they go and becoming more ambitious, and impatient, with each step. Cadora has relied on what he calls “the bible of green building,” The GreenSpec Directory (available at buildinggreen.com). He also does plenty of Web research, which has led him to companies like Richlite, whose hempfiber countertop he is installing in the kitchen and bathroom, and Duravit, whose elegant waterless urinal he’s putting in the master bathroom. Locally, he has contracted with Permacity for the house’s solar power and Environmental Solar Design for its solar water heating. “As soon as the house gets stuccoed, the solar inverter is going up,” says Cadora, referring to the device that converts
delivered each month to her house, but she and a group of other biodiesel motorists eventually plan to establish a co-op fueling station at a central location in the city. In the meantime, her BioBling clients have to come to her office, where she keeps 55-gallon drums of the fuel. Brooks also drives a Prius to her day job in advertising. She chose the car for the BIG company fleet in 2002, adding several biodiesel cars later. Altogether, the seven vehicles in the fleet serve as mobile branding satellites for BIG, visually aligning the ad agency with environmental consciousness. When Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, and eight other celebrities rolled up to the 2003 Oscars in Priuses, the arrival of the stars was an advertising windfall for Toyota and for BIG, as well as a chance for Brooks to see the fruit of her personal and professional passion: demonstrating that green is not only an obligation but also a sexy choice. “Whether you’re selling something green or otherwise, you can’t say, ‘This is a lifestyle you have to adopt,’” she explains. “If I tell you to buy a Toyota and spend a gazillion dollars, you may do it, but you won’t have a real relationship with the brand.” Brooks continues, “But if a green product is something you discover and become passionate about, I don’t care if another brand comes along and tries to woo you with ad dollars—you’ll be loyal to the first brand. With green products it is a lifestyle choice that has to come from the soul.” ■ P L E N T Y | 103
REASONS TO BE HAPPY ABOUT 2005
Tom Cruise out; penguins in.
Tom DeLay indicted—twice. (Karmic payback for calling the EPA “the gestapo”?)
Long lines at the gas pump = more time to think about buying a hybrid—or a bicycle.
7. 6. 5.
The ivory-billed woodpecker, back from extinction; Pale Male and Lola, saved from eviction.
McDonald’s Fruit & Walnut Salad. (May it fare better than the McRib.)
PLENTY turns one!
3. 2. 1. 104 | P L E N T Y
SUV sales, down 43 percent.
Trippin’ Cameron Diaz.
The giant squid. (Who knows what else is out there…)
December/January 2006 www.plentymag.com
PHOTO UPPER RIGHT COURTESY JEROME MAISON, 2005 BONNE PIOCHE PRODUCTIONS/ALLIANCE DE PRODUCTION CINEMATOGRAPHIQUE; GOOGLE 2005 EARTHSAT; PHOTO LOWER RIGHT ASSOCIATED PRESS, NATIONAL SCIENCE MUSEUM
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