I T ’S E A S Y BE I N G G R E E N
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PLENTY IT’S EASY BEING GREEN
CONTENTS DECEMBER/JANUARY 2007
VOLUNTEER VACATIONS Take a vacation and save the environment at the same time. By Nicole Davis
THE YEAR IN GREEN From business to politics to pop culture, the environment took center stage in 2006. By Victoria Schlesinger and Sarah Parsons
THE IMPERFECT GIFT Wealthy donors give hundreds of millions of dollars a year to environmental causes. Too bad it’s not being put to the best use. By Liz Galst
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT Today’s left-leaning activists don’t look like yesterday’s—and that’s okay. By Todd Gitlin
ON THE COVER GREEN GIFT GUIDE . . . . . . . . 37 BIG MONEY . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 SOCIAL PROTEST . . . . . . . . . 70
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FAST Dark skies at night; is the laundry ball for real?; what’s in our landfills; water, water everywhere.
PEOPLE Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand. By Kiera Butler
TECHNOLOGY Hybrid solar lighting promises a more energy-efficient future. By Carol Ekarius
BUSINESS The lowdown on certified coffee. By Sarah Schmidt
MOTION The electric car may not
be so dead after all. By Danielle Wood
THINKING Dale Allen Pfeiffer’s Eating Fossil Fuels; Roger Tory Peterson’s All Things Reconsidered.
GREEN GEAR Our annual green gift guide for a more sustainable holiday.
HOME A house that’s a giant sundial; making your own worm compost; green designer David Bergman.
CULTURE Snowbiking is easy and ridiculously fun. By Christine Richmond
RETREADS Do-it-yourself gifts for everyone on your list. By Christy Harrison
STYLE A profile of Passenger Pigeon; retailers who give your old duds new life.
HEALTH Some fats are better than others. By Rachel Wharton
FOOD Traditional holiday recipes; the greening of beermaking; eco-friendly spirits.
CHEAT SHEET Household cleaners for slobs.
ON THE COVER
IN EVERY ISSUE FROM THE EDITOR . . . . 6
Illustration created for Plenty by Catherine Cole.
CONTRIBUTORS . . . . . .10 LETTERS . . . . . . . . . . . 12 CALENDAR . . . . . . . . . 20
THE LAST WORD Tall Order. By Christopher Bonanos
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Hum to the tune of recycling.
Even the smallest contribution makes a difference. Feeling good is easy when you recycle your used rechargeable batteries once theyâ€™ve worn out. Check the rechargeable batteries in your cordless power tools, camcorders, cordless and cellular phones, laptop computers, digital cameras and two-way radios. If they no longer hold a charge, recycle them by visiting one of many collection sites nationwide, including those retailers listed below. For a complete list of rechargeable battery drop-off locations, visit www.call2recycle.org or call toll free 877-2-RECYCLE.
Recycle your rechargeable batteries.
Recycle at one of these national retailers:
ÂŠ2006 Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. Founded in 1994, RBRC is a non-profit organization dedicated to recycling rechargeable batteries and cellular phones. For more information: www.rbrc.org or 1-800-8-BATTERY. To learn more about the animal featured in this ad, visit our web site.
EDITOR IN CHIEF
From Marches to Carbon Offsets A NEW ORGANIZATION CALLED ecoAmerica recently completed a survey about our environmental values. In a world in which it seems that there are at least two sides to everything, ecoAmerica found that 93 percent of Americans like to be outdoors, and over 80 percent of us worry about the environment in general. But how are those concerns being translated into action? Environmental problems are complex; it can be difficult for people to find the link between cause and effect. For instance, only 63 percent of Americans believe cars contribute to global warming. This partially explains our lack of enthusiasm for remedies like a gasoline tax. According to ecoAmerica, only about 15 percent of the American public understands the causes of global warming. Still, many people do try to make better choices based on how they see the world. According to the Hartman Group, 66 percent of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally. Many of these people aren’t trying to change the world—they’re just trying to live a little better. Slightly more than one percent of the U.S. population (3.5 to 4 million people) either donates money to environmental groups or signs up as members. People we might call activists—those directly engaged in a progressive or environmental cause—are the smallest group yet, numbering under one million. Consumer activism—reflecting your values in your purchasing decisions—is perhaps today’s dominant form of progressive action, no doubt in part because it’s easy. It doesn’t require much effort— just a little cash (or credit). Yet it still has an effect: Sales of organic products grew by 17 percent in 2005. Consumers are gradually restructuring our economy through their purchases, and no one really argues that this isn’t a good thing. The real question is whether this is enough.
6 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
In his essay “The Kids Are Alright” (page 70), Todd Gitlin examines how social protest has evolved since the ’60s. From the highly visible marches of the Civil Rights era to the netroots activism of today, Gitlin, an expert on politics and civic engagement, looks at how each generation has found its own way to respond to the problems of its day. In “The Imperfect Gift” (page 64), contributing editor Liz Galst scrutinizes some of the potentially misplaced priorities of the major environmental groups. Most of the money donated to environmental organizations today is dedicated to protecting forest and wilderness areas—a laudable goal, for sure, but in a time when global warming threatens every aspect of our existence, is this where we (or they) should be putting most of our resources? Could more funds for grassroots organizations or lobbying groups mobilize greater support for the dramatic changes that many of us believe are necessary? Conservatives have been incredibly well organized and financed over the past couple of decades. By creating an intellectual center through the funding of think tanks in Washington, and rallying their base on Election Day, a radical minority of extreme conservatives has been able to hold sway over our politics and civic culture. It’s comforting to think we can all potentially unite around our common goodwill for the environment and concern over its degradation. But that might very well be naïve. It certainly seems like it’s time to reexamine our spending priorities and how we tackle the major issues of our day. We need to get organized.
—Mark Spellun Editor in Chief & Publisher
PLENTY Publisher & Editor in Chief Mark Spellun Creative Director Catherine Cole Editorial Managing Editor Deborah Snoonian Senior Editor Sarah Schmidt Political Editor Richard Bradley Food Editor Christy Harrison Associate Editors Kiera Butler, Alisa Opar Assistant Editor Jacquelyn Lane Copy Editor Molly Bloom Contributors Joshua M. Bernstein, Justin Tyler Clark, Bari Nan Cohen, Lisa Selin Davis, Liz Galst, Kate Siber Editorial Interns Sarah Parsons, Rabia Mughal Art Deputy Art Director Richard Gambale Online Producers Barry Lank, Meg Marco PLENTY Advertising 250 West 49th Street, Suite 403, New York, NY 10019 New York: Morgen Wolf, Assistant Publisher (Tel: 1-212-757-0048) Midwest and Detroit: Joe McHugh, BreakthroughMedia 21675 Coolidge Highway, Oak Park, MI 48237 (Tel: 1-586-360-3980) Published by Environ Press, Inc. Chairman Arnold Spellun
250 West 49th Street, Suite 403, New York, NY 10019 Tel: 1-212-757-3447, Fax: 1-212-757-3799 Subcriptions:1-800-316-9006 or go to plentymag.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or to PLENTY, 250 West 49th Street, Suite 403, New York, NY 10019. Copyright ÂŠ2006 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. PLENTY is printed on 80% recycled paper and manufactured with elemental chlorine-free pulp. Please recycle. PLENTY offsets its carbon footprint with eMission Solutions greenmountain.com
CONTRIBUTORS JACQUELYN L ANE used to edit the Contributors page, and she thinks it’s pretty gosh darn silly that she has to write her bio in the third person. “But I do enjoy choosing when to arbitrarily quote myself,” she says. Since becoming Plenty’s green-gear editor extraordinaire, Jacquie has observed lots of positive developments within the green market. “Companies realized that hemp fanny packs and organic granola weren’t going to cut it—consumers were demanding more,” she says excitedly. “And this was a wonderful thing, because it spurred innovation. Now, many eco-friendly products are even better than their mainstream counterparts.” The December/January 2007 issue marks Jacquie’s oneyear anniversary at Plenty. She lives in Queens, New York, and has a lovely view of the Triborough Bridge from her window.
ALEX BEC , who drew our fantasy beer factory on page 92, grew up on the south coast of the U.K., where he learned how to hold a pen and pencil. Since then, he hasn’t stopped scribbling, doodling, designing, and creating, habits which have led him to an ever-growing list of achievements, including cofounding, art directing, and independently publishing “if you could…,”an annual graphic design and illustration showcase. After stupidly drawing his entire apartment and all of its contents to scale, Alex rekindled his love of detailed line drawing and was awarded honorary membership in the Chartered Society of Designers. Alex still finds time to illustrate for pleasure and spent this past summer in New York City gaining experience and inspiration.
SARAH SCHMIDT , a senior editor at Plenty, first began to wonder about the coffee industry during her post-college stint as a Starbucks barista. She later parlayed that experience into a Village Voice story on the weird world of the Starbucks employee training academy (and handily convinced skeptics that the barista gig was a good use of her English degree, after all). Since then, Sarah has written all sorts of stories for all sorts of publications. Among other things, she’s written about Christian hipsters, a solar-powered bar, and people who make fake plastic food for TV commercials for The New York Times, radical prolife activists for Mother Jones, and a giant bagel in Illinois for The Forward. Before coming to Plenty, Sarah also worked at Budget Living, Harper’s Bazaar, and Mademoiselle.
TODD GITLIN is the author of 11 published books, including The Intellectuals and the Flag, Letters to a Young Activist, and The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. His next book, to be published by John Wiley & Sons in 2007, concerns the current American political landscape. In the ’60s, he was active in the New Left, serving as the third president of Students for a Democratic Society. Todd is on the editorial board of Dissent, a contributing writer to Mother Jones, and a blogger at TPMcafe.com. From 2003 to 2006 he was a member of the board of directors of Greenpeace USA. He is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University. In his spare time…he’d like to have some. 10 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
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Give the gift of Plenty for the holidays
“The real answer to
our water woes lies in federal funding, not privatizing water, which should be managed as a public trust.”
THANKS for the great August/September 2006 issue covering the bottled water habit and an important food-labeling debate. It is important for your readers to know how the food industry is trying to undermine labeling laws in California and states around the country. Unfortunately, your article titled “Liquid Assets: Clean water makes a splash on Wall Street” was disappointing. A magazine with a mission to help readers “make the right choices” should more thoroughly examine the moral implications of investing in private water-supply companies (as opposed to water filtration technologies). Private water companies have soaked communities across the nation with rate hikes, poor service, and environmental damage. While you noted that only a few of the holdings in PowerShares Water Fund are involved in international privatization that has been rightly criticized for profiteering, the U.S. subsidiaries of two of the holdings, Veolia Environnement and Suez France, are involved in disputes over water costs, quality, and service in several cities around the country. While private companies must focus on the bottom line and servicing shareholders far 12 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
from the community, publicly owned utilities can focus on delivering safe and affordable water to their customers. The real answer to our water woes lies in federal funding, not privatizing water, which should be managed as a public trust. WENONAH HAUTER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOOD & WATER WATCH
I WOULD JUST LIKE TO EXPRESS my gratitude to you and your staff for putting such an awesome publication out on the stands. Having it so readily available to whomever may be interested or caring enough to pick it up is such a convenience I almost feel guilty. Truly, your magazine is inspiring and informative. Most importantly to me, it makes me feel like I am not left so all alone to
bear the weight of the world upon just my shoulders. That, to me, is priceless. After reading Laurel Maury’s article, “The Limpet, the Sea Snake, and the Duck” (October/November 2006), I was happy to hear that such energy alternatives are actually being researched and developed. Hopefully these advances will not come too late. Within the article, however, I could not find any mention of the risk, if any, that these long water-churning turbines could pose to marine life in the vicinity. I have heard horrible stories of sea turtles meeting their deaths by propeller blades. Is this true for all the hydropower devices that have been designed and implemented to date? Please explain. JESSICA ENGLAND SEAL BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Photograph courtesy Ocean Power Delivery Ltd.
Send your letters, comments, kudos, and critiques to email@example.com
The Pelamis poses no physical threat to wildlife because it has no exposed moving parts. The Duck is a similar device—a long, flexible tube without external moving parts—but it has only been tested in swimming pools. The LIMPET sits at the shoreline in a gulley, and grates keep sea life out. —Ed. KUDOS on highlighting some green Republicans in your October/November 2006 issue (Boehlert is right: Republicans have done some great things for the environment). Likewise, Democrats have done some good for the environment. But shame on you for leaving out any mention of the political party that is actually focused on our natural resources as a top party: the Green Party. Why you made no mention of any Green
Party candidates in your 2006 election guide is a complete mystery to me. Yes, it’s clear that Democrats and Republicans dominate national politics, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Neither of these parties has a consistent or prioritized view on resource conservation, but the Green Party does. A few states may not have Green Party candidates, but Massachusetts has a GreenRainbow Party and many other states have strong Green (not rainbow) Parties. Next year, let’s have a little more representations of the dedicated Green Party. By the way, I love the magazine and was happy to see an article about politics—I’d just like to see a more inclusive viewpoint. LUKE MCDERMOTT ARLINGTON, MASSACHUSETTS
has n o i t u l evo R n e e r bal. o l g The G e n now go Get Digital Plenty on your desktop today from anywhere in the world at any time. Go to plentymag.com for more details.
FAST FACTS | FIGURES
STAR STRUCK Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes: If this splendid view of the night sky looks like something you rarely see, it’s because the photo was taken at a “dark site,” where the sky is unspoiled by light pollution, the reflective glare caused by artificial light streaming from buildings and streetlights in more populated areas. The International Dark Sky Association (darksky.org), a group of astronomy enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone else who’s interested in light management, works with cities and towns to curb this excess glow. Their strategy not only provides more stargazing opportunities, but also improves safety by reducing blinding glare and tamping down excess energy use. Sounds like a wish —Jacquelyn Lane come true.
plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 15
FAST Claim Check:
Can a laundry ball really clean your clothes without chemicals? Reusable laundry balls and discs advertised on TV and via multilevel marketing sound like the perfect option for eco-conscious consumers. Just toss one of these contraptions into your washing machine, and your clothes will come out clean and fresh without having touched a drop of detergent. They don’t come cheap—a set costs as much as $75—but manufacturers claim that they last for thousands of loads. Are these laundry aids too good to be true? The claims: Ceramic beads inside the gizmos change the molecular structure of the water, forming charged molecules that are able to penetrate fabrics and force dirt out, a process similar to the way detergents work. Some manufacturers claim that laundry balls (or discs) break up dirt by emitting electromagnetic waves. The facts: In 1999, the Federal Trade Commission, which works to prevent and help consumers spot fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices, issued a consumer alert warning that the science behind laundry balls was faulty—yet somehow the idea won’t die. Since then, numerous studies show that washing with laundry balls yields results no better than washing laundry with water alone. It’s possible that the handy little items could produce some peroxide (a.k.a. bleach) as well as charged molecules with greater penetrating power, but not enough to actually clean your clothes. And any claims that electromagnetic waves have an appreciable impact are exaggerated. The conclusion: The only thing these gadgets will clean out is your wallet. Save yourself the disappointment and put that $75 towards detergent that’s good for you and the environment. Opt for fragrance-free, plant-based products instead of petroleum-based surfactants, which may contain harmful ingredients and deplete natural resources. —Alisa Opar
Jaguar (the animal) Organic jeans
16 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Jaguar (the car) Destroyed jeans
J.A.G. (the TV show) Acid-washed jeans
What’s your eco New Year’s resolution? Rick Fedrizzi, President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council
While my professional goal is to double the number of LEED-rated green schools that will be built in 2007, on a personal note, I plan to get every member of my extended family to switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs. There must be thousands of lightbulbs among us, and together we will reduce energy use, carbon generation, and our electric bills.
Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
Enough with changing lightbulbs, important as that is. My New Year’s resolution is to try, as best as I can, to help build the political movement that we need if we’re going to get anything done about global warming in this country. A movement that demands that Congress take uncompromising and tough steps to slash our carbon emissions now.
Randi Rhodes, Host of “The Randi Rhodes Show” on Air America
I resolve to promote organic food and alternative fuels so that they are as commonplace as the pot and biodiesel are on Willie Nelson’s bus!
By the Numbers: Troubled Water 6 gallons 17,000,000 gallons
required to grow one serving of lettuce
needed to fill the tank created to film Titanic
49 gallons 17,000,000 gallons needed to fulfill the minimum drinking requirements of the state of California for one day
required to produce one eight-ounce glass of milk
2,600 gallons 1,580,000,000 gallons
required to produce one serving of steak
withdrawn from the Central California Basin aquifer per day for public consumption
39,000 gallons required to produce one car, including tires
90 gallons are used by the average American at home per day
of people worldwide do not have access to clean water
53 gallons are used by the average European at home per day
of people worldwide do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities
5 gallons are used by the average African person per day
of the world’s hospital beds
are occupied by people suffering from waterborne diseases
are needed by the average person per day to survive Sources: “River and Water Facts,” National Parks Service; International Office of Science and Education, iowse.usu.edu; movies.msn.com; U.S. Geological Survey; “Water On Tap: What You Need to Know,” U.S. EPA; ibiblio.org; 50states.com
plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 17
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Garbage in, Garbage out The U.S. produces more than 236 million tons of trash—or about 1,640 pounds of waste per person—per year. That’s a lot of garbage. What exactly are we throwing away? The truth may surprise you. It turns out the poster child for recycling—the soda can—is barely a drop in the bucket, whereas Tree Enemy Number One (paper, duh) is being disposed of at a level that’s criminal. And check out what else we found while sorting through the rubble.
18 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Quick Tip: SKI PATROL One question they didn’t answer in snow-bunny school: How does your ski resort measure up when its ecopractices are put to the test? To check the environmental ratings of slopes around the country, check skiareacitizens.com. High marks are given to those ski communities that encourage carpooling, use alternative fuels like biodiesel, protect habitats of threatened and endangered species, and employ good land management practices. Now you’ll know where to spend your hard-earned lift ticket money.
Give whole-heartedly™ Invite someone to share the joy of eating and living well with a Whole Foods Market Gift Card! We delight in offering a sensational variety of the highest quality natural food from around the world - from everyday to gourmet. Our passion for pure food includes everything from the freshest fruits, vegetables, and prepared foods to mouth-watering desserts and exotic cheeses. So introduce someone to Whole Foods Market, where grocery shopping isn't a chore — it's an adventure!
w h o l e f o o d s m a r k e t. c o m ©2006, Whole Foods Market IP, L.P.
The federal government oversees about 500,000 buildings, which amounts to about $3.5 billion a year in energy costs. That’s a lot of tax dollars—and it’s why builders, designers, architects, and federal officials come together at the EcoBuild Federal Conference in Washington to exhibit and discuss high-efficiency design. (ecobuildfederal.com)
Some 1,500 participants assemble at the Third National Conference and Expo on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration in New Orleans. With a special focus on coastal Louisiana and the northern Gulf Coast, this six-day conference offers plenary speakers and over 80 concurrent sessions addressing seven different areas of restoration. (estuaries.org)
Organized by the Animal Protection Institute in cooperation with the Avian Welfare Coalition, National Bird Day is a time to reflect and act on the conditions of captive birds, especially those kept as pets. Activists also call attention to the treatment of exotic birds, since they’re not protected by the same laws as native birds. (nationalbirdday.org)
The Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, CA, will feature over 70 eco-related films covering topics like global warming and biodiversity. Other fun activities include talks with filmmakers, art shows, and a wine tasting. (wildandscenicfilmfestival.org)
Politician and eco-activist Robert Kennedy Jr. turns 53.
The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, always addresses important political and social topics, and the environment is no exception: An Inconvenient Truth premiered at Sundance in January 2006. Check the festival’s website in December for a full list of film offerings. (festival.sundance.org)
The eco-frenzy goes international at the Middle East Natural & Organic Products Expo in Dubai. Over 400 exhibitors will showcase their green goods and educate retailers about the benefits of natural products. (globallinksdubai.com)
The 72nd annual International Green Week in Berlin will showcase thousands of exhibitors at this huge conference for food, agriculture, and horticulture professionals. The festival will also feature a Bio Market, which focuses on organic products. (gruenewoche.de)
The shortest day of the year, Winter Solstice marks the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a smashing-good cocktail made from ecofriendly vodka (page 94).
20 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Enjoy delicious organic meals, organic farm tours, and more at Eco-Farm 2007 in Pacific Grove, CA. Choose from over 50 workshops that will cover topics such as pesticide reduction, the future of biofuels, and childhood nutrition. (eco-farm.org)
Photograph courtesy Tampa Bay Watch (left column, middle)
enjoy the season
and feel good about giving JUST FOR YOU, we have tasted, sniffed and pared down the options to the most delicious ideas and sumptuous suggestions.
wholefoodsmarket.com ÂŠ2006, Whole Foods Market IP, L.P.
F O R WAR D P E O P L E
Slowpoke The founder of the Whole Earth Catalog believes in taking his time BY KIERA BUTLER The Whole Earth Catalog, some say, was the closest thing the ’60s had to the Internet (below). Catalog founder Stewart Brand (right).
In 1968, Stewart Brand launched the ﬁrst Whole Earth Catalog, a compendium of tools, designs, and ideas that started off as required reading for back-to-the-landers, and gradually became a counterculture classic. Publication of the catalog has since ceased, but Brand hasn’t stopped thinking about how people interact with the earth. A founding member of the Long Now Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting “slower, better thinking” in the age of the ever-shortening attention span, Brand believes that the solutions to Earth’s problems require serious perspective (think 10,000 years of foresight). Brand, 68, gave Plenty the long view on nuclear power, world population, and the importance of slowing down. What does the earth have to gain through “slower, better thinking”?
Life systems and climatic systems tend to work big and slow, and as we’re ﬁnding with climate change, engaging them takes a kind of patient activity. The best ecological studies are those that go on for decades, and preferably centuries, because many of the patterns you’re looking for have those kinds of cycles in them. Our way of grasping that time frame, symbolically at least, is by building a 10,000-year clock inside a mountain in eastern Nevada. When it’s completed, we hope it will be visited in a monumental way—like going to the Statue of Liberty or something—just to contemplate that time frame. If I were going to visit the clock, what would I see?
It’s not there yet. It will be, we expect, something that you climb to in the mountain.
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There will be a sequence of chambers and hallways—somewhat mysterious, somewhat labyrinthine. Eventually you’ll come to the display of the clock, which shows you where you are on a 20,000-year time frame. Power for the display of the clock will be provided by the visitors, who will have to wind the clock to see what time it is. Some of that long-term thinking has led you to become an advocate of nuclear power. There’s a long tradition of being antinuclear within the environmental community. What would it take for environmentalists to go nuclear?
It’s a question of taking climate change really, really seriously, of realizing it’s actually a civilization-threatening—as well as a natural environment-threatening—disaster in the making. And once you take it that seriously, you take nothing off the table when you’re thinking about what to do to alleviate, if not ﬁx, the problem. The major attraction of nuclear power is that the atmospheric effect from operating nuclear reactors is zero. Westinghouse, General Electric, and researchers in China, South Africa, and Germany have been looking into safer nuclear reactors. They’re realizing that smaller plants can be built faster, and that there can be more of them so you lose less power in long transmission lines. But safety is still a concern.
This is a pretty mature industry by now. We have half a century of experience all over the world and thousands of reactors. France gets more than 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, never had an accident. No great issues with storage of their spent fuel. We know this can be done, and it can be done pretty safely and quickly.
You’ve also argued that in the not-too-distant future, human population growth will level off, and that the decline isn’t necessarily a good thing. Why? Doesn’t having fewer people on Earth mean less impact on the environment?
It’s absolutely a good thing, generally. But it’s happening pretty suddenly—and in some interesting ways. Cities are growing by about 1.3 million people per week worldwide. When women move away from the countryside into the cities, it’s easier for them to get jobs, start businesses, and to get education for their kids. All of that leads to, in most cases, an immediately lower birth rate. So in the developing world, where you’re getting megacities now, those are mostly full of young people, while developed countries will have whole cities full of old people for the next few decades. There are a number of countries in the developed world that are already way below replacement level. Italy, Spain, and Germany are so worried they’re trying to ﬁgure out how to subsidize more babies. When you lose a lot of people, especially a lot of young people, as happens in these aging societies, the economy is hit in a hard way. We have to ask: Would a 1968-style Whole Earth Catalog make sense in 2006?
No. No need. The Internet is whatever the catalog was vaguely gesturing at. I got a demonstration yesterday at Google about Google Earth. The experience of zooming in from outer space to whatever part of the world you’re interested in, that’s a cognitive jump of the sort that there was when there was a photograph of the whole earth from space for the ﬁrst time in 1969. Only now, instead of being something that came through the eyes of the astronauts, and you took their word for it, now it’s your own personal experience of exploring the earth. ■
Spain and Germany are so worried about population decline, they’re trying to figure out how to subsidize more babies.
F O R WAR D TE C H
Let the sun shine Hybrid solar lighting promises a brighter, less energy-hungry future BY CAROL EKARIUS
Scientist Jeff Muhs of Oak Ridge National Laboratory tests some plastic fiber-optics used in hybrid solar lighting, expected to hit the market next year.
24 I Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
the collector. One problem with using all that plastic was heat. “When we told people we were going to do HSL with plastic, which melts just a little bit above the boiling temperature of water, they thought we were crazy,” says Earl. The team came up with a smart solution: Use an additional mirror to strip off the infrared range of light, the invisible portion of sunlight that holds the heat. This turned out to be one of the biggest assets of the new technology. “We can capture the infrared light and send it to a photovoltaic module or a solar hot-water heater, so we can use the thermal portion of the sunlight as well as the visible light,” says Melissa Voss Lapsa, program manager for the HSL initiative at ORNL. ORNL licensed the technology to Sunlight Direct, a company Earl formed to commercialize HSL. Together they are beta-testing the technology at 25 commercial facilities around the U.S., including a Staples store in New York, Aveda’s corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, and an ofﬁce building at San Diego State University (SDSU). They plan to roll out HSL collectors and light ﬁxtures for commercial buildings in early 2007; residential models will be available within a couple of years. “It’s not uncommon for some commercial users, such as retailers, to have 60 percent of their electricity expense attributable to lighting,” says Earl. “So we expect them to be our early adopters.” New users might realize other beneﬁ ts, too. According to a 2003 study Hybrid solar lighting uses a satellite sponsored by the California Energy dish–shaped solar collector mounted Commission on Productivity and Inon a building’s roof to gather sunlight, terior Environments, shoppers spend money in naturally lit spaces, and which is delivered to light fixtures by more productivity increases among workers fiber-optic cables. and students. Other studies show that daylit spaces reduce health problems such as sleep disorders, overeating, depression, substituted plastic ﬁber-optic cables and and joint or stomach pain. lightweight plastic mirrors for glass ones to What do people think about HSL in the concentrate solar light. They also pioneered a real world? “Everybody has a really positive light ﬁxture that marries sunlight with artiﬁview of it,” says Bill Lekas, the energy manager cial light to provide a steady amount of light for SDSU, who’s overseeing the HSL demonregardless of the weather. High-tech microstration project at the university. “The brightprocessors and GPS tracking equipment help ness of the artiﬁcial light adjusts automatically maximize the amount of sunlight that strikes Walk into almost any store, ofﬁce, or school during the day, and even if the sun is shining outdoors, chances are that the lights are blazing inside. Indoor lighting gobbles up about a quarter of the electricity used in the U.S., and conventional lighting is terribly inefﬁcient, with less than 25 percent of the energy it consumes converted to visible light. On top of that, the heat given off by artiﬁcial lights increases by about 10 percent the energy needed to cool buildings. But a recent project at the federal Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to develop hybrid solar lighting promises to make lighting more energy-efﬁcient. Hybrid solar lighting (HSL) uses a satellite dish–shaped solar collector mounted on a building’s roof to gather sunlight, which is delivered to light ﬁxtures by ﬁber-optic cables. Just as hybrid cars switch between a gas engine and battery power, HSL switches between the natural light of the sun and artiﬁcial lighting as needed. The idea to combine natural and artiﬁcial light was pioneered in Japan in the seventies, but remained simply an interesting concept for a long time. “Back then, the materials for this technology were very expensive,” says Duncan Earl, one of the coinventors of HSL at ORNL. “They were using glass ﬁbers, glass mirrors, and very extensive tracking equipment and electronics that aren’t as good as what we have today.” Earl and his collaborator, Jeff Muhs,
Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Lighting facts from the U.S. Department of Energy Buildings use 72% of all electricity and account for 80% of all electric expenditures. On average, lighting consumes more energy than air conditioning in U.S. homes. Lighting is the second-highest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions from building energy use, representing about 7% of total emissions.
There are over 156 billion square feet of lighted floor space in commercial buildings in the U.S. The heat given off by indoor lights increases the amount of air conditioning used in homes and commercial buildings by as much as 27%.
to the amount of sunlight available, so the light level is steady and of good quality.” Utility companies are intrigued by HSL’s potential, and four of them in California recently hired the California Lighting Technology Center at the University of California Davis to perform an independent evaluation of the technology. “The utilities want a quantitative assessment,” says Konstantinos Papamichael, associate director of the center and an architect specializing in daylighting and energy efﬁciency. The tests will assess issues like how much light HSL generates, how reliable it is, and how quick the payback period is. “In the mid-eighties I did presentations that talked about this technology like it was science ﬁction,” Papamichael says with a laugh. “Now the future is here, and we see the technology being realized. It is really promising.” ■
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F O R WAR D BU S I N E S S
Cool Beans Sustainable coffee is going mainstream. Is this a good thing? BY SARAH SCHMIDT
About ten years ago, just as Americans started noticing fewer songbirds stopping over in their backyards, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Council launched a program to address the problem. By buying coffee with SMBC’s special seal of approval, consumers could support farming methods in Latin America that preserved the rainforest habitat where the birds spent their winters. Around the same time, a small coffee roaster based in Massachusetts called Equal Exchange began promoting coffee that was Fair Trade–certiﬁed, meaning that the farmers who grew the coffee beans had safe working conditions and were paid a fair price. Suddenly, for a small cadre of socially conscious coffee drinkers, buying the right kind of coffee became a simple way to support sustainability in some of the most ecologically and socially troubled countries in the world. Since then, the sustainable coffee sector has grown exponentially. In 2005, American consumers bought $500 million worth of Fair Trade–certiﬁed beans, a tenfold increase since 2000. Other types of certiﬁed coffees have experienced similar booms, and while the market was once dominated by small, specialty roasters, Big Food is now jumping on the bandwagon. Dunkin’ Donuts now sells 100 percent Fair Trade espresso drinks, while
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McDonald’s offers certiﬁed-organic, Fair Trade coffee from Green Mountain roasters. Retail giants Costco and Sam’s Club both began selling Fair Trade beans last year. In May, Kraft announced that its Yuban brand would start carrying the Rainforest Alliance seal, a move that’s expected to bring the food giant’s certiﬁed bean purchasing to to more than 20 million pounds per year, surpassing the previous leader, Starbucks, which bought 12 million pounds of Fair Trade coffee in 2005. “Coffee is paving the way for sustainable consumerism, more so than anything else you can buy, really,” says Nina Luttinger, a sustainable business consultant and coauthor of The Coffee Book. But as responsibly raised beans gain popularity, it’s hard not to wonder: Is sustainable coffee doing as much good as roasters and retailers claim? The sustainable coffee sector now consists mainly of three different independent certiﬁcations. Fair Trade standards primarily address social issues and worker rights, though environmental concerns are also taken into account. The Rainforest Alliance certiﬁes coffee using standards that deal mostly with environmental issues and include some safeguards for workers’ rights. Coffee must be shade-grown, meaning it’s planted beneath the canopy of native trees rather than in full sun. Certi-
ﬁed organic coffee, grown without pesticides or other chemicals (like all certiﬁed organic products), has also become a major part of the market. The certifying organizations, along with some nonproﬁts and sometimes even the coffee buyers themselves, work with farmers to convert to sustainable methods. The coffee is then sold to importers, who sell it to roasters. Once a farm is certiﬁed it can command a higher price for its coffee. Farmers are happy with their improved business and healthier working conditions, and the environmental beneﬁts also become apparent. “I’ve seen coffee plantations go from dead zones with no biodiversity, contaminated soil, and polluted watershed to being ecologically healthy again. With the additional trees planted, ninety percent of the birds return,” says Florence Reed, founder of Sustainable Harvest, a nonproﬁt that trains farmers in organic and shade-grown techniques. But despite its rapid growth, sustainable coffee is still only about ﬁve percent of the market. “The coffee industry is ginormous, but the sustainable part is tiny, even though it’s huge in the public conscience,” says Mike Ferguson, spokesperson for the Specialty Coffee Association of America. That means the bulk of our coffee is still grown with a lot
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of chemicals on plantations cleared of native trees. But both the Rainforest Alliance and Transfair, the American certiﬁer of Fair Trade goods, say that they’re going to be certifying much more coffee in the future. “Right now we certify roughly two percent of all coffee produced. Our goal is to have ten percent certiﬁed by seven years from now,” says Sabrina Vigilante, senior director of marketing and business development for the Rainforest Alliance. Similar growth is also expected for Fair Trade, which now makes up another two percent of the market. Despite these efforts, some worry that as sustainability goes mainstream, big roasters and retailers will use their buying power to force compromised standards. “Smaller roasters don’t have the leverage to negotiate with certiﬁers like Transfair, but bigger ones might,” says Ferguson. He also predicts more companies will establish their own sustainability standards (as Starbucks has done), which may be less strict but offer the same cache in customers’ minds—a practice some independent roasters call “fair-washing.” “The early pioneers in the movement are really getting aggravated. The way they see it, these companies are doing just a little tiny bit sustainable and are then promoting it really well,” says Luttinger, who once worked for Transfair USA. The Rainforest Alliance has also taken some heat for its willingness to work with large farms and for having more relaxed standards than the other certiﬁers. “They appeal to a lot of big coffee sellers—they’re shade standards are looser, they have farmers, rather than roasters, pay for certiﬁcation,” says Luttinger. The Rainforest Alliance counters that it’s better to offer mainstream companies something they’re comfortable with than lose them entirely. “It doesn’t make sense to make the criteria so narrow that they don’t become widespread,” says Vigilante. But experts say there’s room in the market for several different certiﬁcations to ﬂourish. And one thing seems certain: Environmental and social beneﬁts of sustainable coffee will continue to grow. When you consider that rainforest trees can take twenty or thirty years to reach maturity, it’s easy to see that the greatest impact may be still to come. “There’s a lag time,” says Reed. “But soon we will reach the tipping point where the impact is going to be obvious.” ■
What’s in a Label? Almost all certified coffee in the U.S. falls into at least one of these categories—and it’s not hard to find beans that are doubleor even triple-certified. Though many of these blends will run a little more that your typical supermarket grounds-in-a-can, they undeniably taste better—and they rarely cost more than other specialty coffees. —SS
Fair Trade All coffee is grown on worker-owned cooperative farms where the use of agrochemicals is limited and the surrounding ecosystem is protected. Growers are guaranteed a minimum floor price for their beans to help protect them against sudden price drops in what has always been a volatile market. About 70% of Fair Trade coffee sold is also certified organic.
Rainforest Alliance All coffee is grown in ways that preserve the area’s natural ecosystem. For instance, all coffee bushes are planted beneath a canopy of native rainforest trees. The Rainforest Alliance also aims to establish certified farms as buffer zones surrounding national parks and other protected areas, so that large areas become viable wildlife habitat. Nearly 20% is also certified organic and the rest is minimally treated.
Certified Organic Like all USDA certified organic products, organic coffee must be grown on farms that have forgone the use of pesticides and other chemicals for three years. Because this method is usually much more suited to shade farms, most organic coffee also carries one, or even two, of the other certifications.
Bird-Friendly One of the original types of coffee certifications, Bird-Friendly coffee, a small but wellknown part of the market, is certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Council with the goal of rebuilding avian and other wildlife habitats. All coffee is shade-grown and plant species required for a healthy bird habitat must be incorporated into the growing area. All must also be certified organic.
plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 28
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F O R WA R D
Socket to You Maybe the electric car isn’t so dead after all AS FAR AS HE KNOWS, Rick Woodbury is the only ordained Zen-priest-turned-electric-carCEO on the planet. The combination seems a bit odd until you consider that many of the necessary qualities for the jobs are the same: enormous patience, unyielding determination, and an unwavering belief in the possibility of reincarnation. Because for all intents and purposes the electric car was dead, until Woodbury and a few others brought it back to life. Once General Motors pulled the last of its 800 EV1s off the road and crushed them into metal pancakes in 2004, no one thought there would be a second coming. The only thing that had gotten them on the road in the first place was California’s Zero Emission Mandate, which required Detroit’s biggest automakers to make ten percent of their line-
The Mini Cooper–esque Xebra EV is the perfect city car and costs an affordable $9,000.
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BY DANIELLE WOOD
ups completely nonpolluting by 2003. Once California caved to pressure from Big Oil and Detroit and repealed the mandate, GM scooped up the entire fleet—which had been leased, not sold, to customers—and sent them to the scrap yard. According to GM, nobody wanted them. Gas was cheap. The Hummer was a new sensation. Toyota, Honda, and Ford nixed their limited EV lines, too. How things have changed. This summer, oil reached an all-time high of $75.78 a barrel, and suddenly yesterday’s has-been is a great white hope. Hollywood types—like George Clooney, who bought the first Tango electric sports car from Woodbury’s Spokanebased Commuter Cars Corporation—are buying up EVs like they’re, well, Priuses. Chris Paine’s gripping documentary about
the EV1, Who Killed the Electric Car?, has been a surprise box-office hit. And in August, a Silicon Valley upstart called Tesla Motors unveiled the EV1’s racy successor, the Roadster, to great fanfare—and promptly sold out its first edition of 100 cars. Neither the Tango nor the Roadster is built in Michigan. While the Big Three automakers cry into their coffee about shrinking market share, a handful of start-ups thousands of miles from Detroit are tightening their belts and building EVs, one car at a time. With both greenhouse gas emissions and consumer interest steadily increasing, could these outsiders make a zero emission vehicle for the masses a reality? These new best-of-breed electrics are not like other sports cars. For one, they’re expect-
ed to be remarkably low-maintenance. There’s no clutch. No oil. No muffler. No fluids to top off or filters to change—in short, no tune-ups. And, of course, they’ll never have to cross a gas station threshold. Plug one into a regular, 110-volt electric wall socket before bed, and just like a cell phone, it will be charged and ready to go by morning. Both the Roadster and the Tango (which each cost around $100,000) go from 0 to 60 in four seconds flat. The 130-mph Roadster can travel 250 miles on a single charge—with its leather seats and sleek curves, it’s basically a green guy’s Lotus. The Tango is no slouch either—clocking in at over 130 mph. At 39 inches wide, it can also split lanes like a motorcycle. “It’s the time you’ll be able to buy your way out of a traffic jam,” says Woodbury. (Another bonus: four Tangos can fit perpendicularly into the average parallel parking space.) And those of us without $100,000 to spare need not despair. There are rumblings from several start-ups that an affordable, mass-produced electric could be around the corner. Some are available right now. Take the Xebra, a funky three-wheeled four-seater from ZAP (Zero Air Pollution), a 12-yearold, publicly traded, California-based company that started out making electric scooters. The Xebra’s no Tesla—it tops out at 40 mph and goes just 40 miles without a recharge. But the average American commute is just 30 miles per day round-trip, so it is an ideal city car. Plus, it’s a hoot to drive, with its Mini Cooper–esque tail and its bulbous body. The basic model retails for a mere $9,000. A mini pickup truck version is on the horizon, too. Then there’s the smaller-but-speedier NmG (short for “No More Gas”) from Myers Motors, founded two years ago in Talmadge, Ohio. The $24,000 one-seater has three wheels and looks like a bumper car on acid; at 52 inches long, it registers and insures as a motorcycle. Its range is only 30 miles, but unlike the Xebra, this baby can hit 75 miles an hour, so it’s highway-legal; it also has six cubic feet of trunk space (a grocery cart full), a tiltable steering wheel, and ports for both your laptop and your cell phone. And for those in search of a mate magnet without the Tesla price tag, look no further than World Class Exotics in West Palm Photograph by Rick Woodbury/commutercars.com (top)
George Clooney has room for one passenger in his Tango, an electric car that can reach 130 mph (above). The similarly speedy Tesla Roadster is like a Lotus for ecophiles (left).
plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 31
F O R WA R D
â€œThe train companies of the nineteenth century did not become the car companies of the twentieth century. And the gas-car companies might not be the people who World Class Exotics can set you up with an EV that looks just like a classic Porsche 911.
make electric cars a viable business.â€?
The NmG is highway-legal and has room for your groceries.
32 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Beach, Florida. “You can get a car based on a classic Porsche 911 for $45,000,” says owner Paul Liddle. The car will drive over 100 mph, go 50 miles without a rejuice, and charge to 85 percent full power in a mere 40 minutes. “And it will handle better than it did, better than it could, as a gas car,” he says. Demand, according to Liddle, “is up.” How up? So far, he’s built eight. And there’s the rub. For EVs to become more than a rich man’s hobby, regular people have to buy them. “They’re trying to attract a market,” says EV World magazine’s editor, Bill Moore, “but it comes back to the old chicken and egg. You’ve got to have a product that’s affordable for people to buy them, but you can’t make the cars affordable until you can make them in large enough quantities.” Woodbury agrees. “Let’s say you wanted to buy the parts to build a Geo Metro, which is probably a $10,000 car, and you went to a parts counter and ordered them. It would probably cost you over $200,000. There’s literally a 2,000 percent markup. By the time you’ve bought not even half the parts, you’ve exceeded the cost of the car, and all you have to show for it is a small pile of pieces lying on the ground.” Right now, Tangos sell for $108,000 each and the parts alone cost
$85,000, says Woodbury. So far, he’s sold six and taken orders for 100 more, but his plan is to secure enough funding to invest in the infrastructure for producing higher numbers. “If we were able to build 10,000 cars a year, with a $60 million investment, we’d be able to sell a car for $18,700.” There are several other companies in the same boat. AC Propulsion, the makers of the now defunct tzero and the current Tesla drive train, are working on a Scion EV with a target price of $75,000. Fueled by the latest lithium ion batteries, it will drive 150 miles without a recharge and will hit a top speed of 90 mph. But the car’s in prototype; a mere 20 vehicles are expected be released next year. Phoenix Motorcars, a renegade company out of Ojai, California, will produce at least 500 electric cars in 2007 for about $45,000 a pop, but they’re fleet orders, says founding partner Dan Riegert. “If we don’t fully subscribe to fleet commitments, we’d be willing to sell to individuals, but I doubt that will happen,” he adds. The truth is that these sub-$100,000 electrics have yet to hit the assembly line. They’re being built by hand, in garages across the country, in the hopes that interest will pick up. Detroit remains steadfastly belligerent to the idea.
Will any of these start-ups ever be able to make the electric car the mass-produced reality that Detroit is so afraid of? “Absolutely,” says Paine. “The train companies of the nineteenth century did not become the car companies of the twentieth century. And I think the gas-car companies might not be the people who make electric cars a viable business. They’re too entrenched in the internal combustion engine; forty percent of their dealer profits come off aftermarket for the gas engine. The electric car is considered disruptive technology because it breaks their business model. They don’t want it. They want to make money the way they’re used to making money.” The innovation coming from these smaller companies is, continues Paine, “a shot across the bow letting major car companies know that there is a market for electric vehicles.” Of course, for the electric car to really take off, a lot of stars will have to align: tech, consumer demand, high gas prices. But looking around, it’s starting to seem like exhaust-free roads are more an inevitability than a pipe dream. “I think the handwriting on the wall,” says Moore, “is that electric cars in some form are going to be the way of the future. Will it be in my lifetime? Probably. But definitely in the lifetime of my daughter.” ■
PLUG IN YOUR PRIUS? The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) has been a reality for several years now, but usually only for skilled enthusiasts who’ve transformed their Priuses into plug-ins. Soon, though, those less mechanically inclined can join in as a few companies prepare to roll out conversion options. In a nutshell, a PHEV is a hybrid with an extension cord. Just like a regular hybrid, it can be filled up with gas. But unlike its hybrid brethren, it can be plugged into an electric socket. “Your car essentially becomes an electric vehicle with a gas-tank backup,” says Paul Scott of the advocacy group Plug In America. They can get approximately 1,000 miles per fill-up—the equivalent of 20 to 30 cents per gallon. Two companies—EDrive Systems of California (edrivesystems.com) and Hymotion of Canada (hymotion.com)— expect to start converting cars by mid-2007. You’ll be able to drop off your Prius (2004 or later model) in the morning and pick up your PHEV by early afternoon. Your newly transformed PHEV will act like a fully electric car for the first 50 miles, or until your speed hits about 40 mph. When you’re in danger of switching to gas mode, the
display will warn you. If you don’t slow down, the car will begin using gas. At 55 mph, three-quarters of your power will still come from electricity. The cost of this conversion will be around $10,000—but a cheaper option is also on the horizon for folks who don’t mind getting their hands greasy. CalCars.org, the nonprofit that built the first plugin Prius in 2004, is planning to offer a kit for do-it-yourselfers in early 2007. Two nonmechanics will be able to convert a car in a week for under $5,000, says founder Felix Kramer. An outfit called Electro Automotive also sells kits online for $6,500 to $15,000 (electroauto.com). Expect about 60 hours of sweat labor for the more expensive “custom” kits (available for specific models, like the Geo Metro), or well over 200 hours for the cheaper “universal” ones. Even the car companies are getting in on the action. Rumor has it that Toyota will have a PHEV on the showroom floor by the end of 2008. DaimlerChrysler is also testing a plug-in version of its Sprinter van. And GM, who squashed the EV in the first place, has announced a PHEV in development. Ironically, they may have the first such car to market. —D.W.
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F O R WAR D TH I N K I N G
Food Scare What will happen to agriculture when the oil runs out?
EATING FOSSIL FUELS:
Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture BY DALE ALLEN PFEIFFER NEW SOCIETY PUBLISHERS, $11.95
Are we on the verge of mass starvation? Has the planet reached its “carrying capacity?” Is a big “die-off” lurking around the corner of history? Dale Allen Pfeiffer thinks so. He’s the author of Eating Fossil Fuels, an alarming little book with a familiar ring to it, for those old enough to remember Paul
34 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Ehrlich’s 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb, and for those studious enough to remember Malthus two hundred years before that, with his own dismal projections about huge population increases. It’s an alarm we’ve heard before, an alarm we will hear again, and one always, in some ways, worth listening to. Pfeiffer’s particular brand of doom arrives under the umbrella of the Peak Oilers, and this book is aimed squarely at them, perhaps hoping to make a few converts along the way. Peak Oilers, as the name implies, believe that world production of oil will peak sometime soon—in 2010. Each year after that, they say, we’ll have a little less oil to go around. This will make getting to the mall harder and more expensive, yes, but Pfeiffer is more concerned about the impact of oil scarcity on agriculture, particularly on the industrial brand of agriculture that rules the United States. Large-scale agriculture requires a tremendous input of energy to produce food and move it from coast to coast. Rising energy prices could be “catastrophic” to mass food production, writes Pfeiffer, adding, “Hunger could become commonplace in every corner of the world, including your own neighborhood.” Drawing on a number of studies, Pfeiffer tosses out reams of scary statistics. We put ten times as much energy into our food as we get out of it, for example. With fossil fuels, he calculates, it takes about twenty minutes of labor to feed each American each day. Without the help of fossil fuels, Pfeiffer argues that it would take 111 hours of labor to feed each American each day. As with many numbers in this kind of conversation, this number looks right but feels wrong, or vice versa; humans, after all, did remain self-
sufﬁcient for millennia before the oil age, and it was not likely based on a 111-hour workday. But, still... “Quite plainly,” he goes on to write, leaving this odd ﬁgure, like so many others, behind, “as fossil fuel production begins to decline within the next decade, there will be less energy available for the production of food.” Many Peak Oilers worry that the decline in energy will be sudden, as rising demand panics in the face of shrinking supply. It would be devastating, of course, but it is not actually quite plain that Peak Oil will hit us in 2010. The truth is, no one knows when it will—or whether we’ll be able to develop technological ﬁxes to respond to the shortage when (or, better yet, before) it does. Meanwhile, efﬁciency measures, as demonstrated in the early eighties, can happen quickly and with astounding effect. For instance, according to Hunter Lovins, cofounder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonproﬁt energy-policy organization, we cut oil consumption 15 percent in the six years after 1979, while the economy grew 16 percent. Our end, then, may not be awful and right around the corner, but Eating Fossil Fuels is useful all the same, suggesting a number of ways to make agriculture more local, less environmentally
It is not quite plain that Peak Oil will hit us in 2010. The truth is, no one knows when it will. destructive, and less energy intensive. There are, after all, more than enough reasons to scale back on our use of fossil fuels—and soon—beyond the threat of running out of them. Global warming is a big one, of course. But local agriculture undertaken in a low-impact way provides aesthetic as well as world-saving beneﬁts. Industrial agriculture, while enabling us to feed the world, has also led to imbalances in the ecosystem, the conversion of too many small farms into subdivisions, and a real lack of lush and ripe tomatoes in our markets. Here’s hoping Americans don’t need the threat of an apocalypse to change all that—especially the part about the tomatoes. —Bryant Urstadt
Words of a Feather Essays from the man who brought birding to the masses ALL THINGS RECONSIDERED: My Birding Adventures BY ROGER TORY PETERSON HOUGHTON MIFFLIN, $30
In the past century, we’ve become a nation of birders. Bird fanatics (sometimes called “twitchers”) travel to the most remote corners of the world, compiling impossibly long “life lists” of birds they’ve sighted. And while birds were once considered the domain of bespectacled, binocular-toting dweebs, avian motifs have in recent years found their way into the mainstream, with boutiques and chain stores everywhere ﬁlled with T-shirts silkscreened with images of bluebirds and robins. In the early part of the nineteenth century, most ornithophiles believed that the only identiﬁable bird was a dead bird. The modern birding movement (when birders stopped shooting birds and started observing them) began in earnest in 1934 when, at the tender age of 26, Roger Tory Peterson published A Field Guide to the Birds. It was a radical departure from the shoot-then-study school: Peterson developed a system of illustrations that allowed someone armed with nothing more than a pair of binoculars to identify a bird in its natural habitat. Although he was trained as an artist and best known for the illustrations and photographs of birds in his guides, Peterson was also a writer. All Things Reconsidered is a collection of the columns he wrote for Bird Watcher’s Digest from 1984 until he died in 1996 and photographs he took throughout his career. Nonbirders take heed: Peterson’s intended audience was birdwatchers—and some of the pieces read that way. But even those who don’t dwell on birding minutiae will ﬁnd that the depth of Peterson’s obsession makes for some good stories. In one piece, he recalls hanging out at a bar in Botswana all day—not to get drunk, but to observe two kinds of swallows
nesting inside. In another, he tells the story of being on a boat that capsized because of a rogue wave that no one had noticed (they were too busy looking at a ﬂock of cormorants on the Maine shore). When the rescuers ﬁnally arrived, Peterson, who was 81 at the time, was drifting in and out of consciousness, but he was alert enough to realize that there were more interesting things going on than his own predicament. “Lying on my back, helpless, unable to move and gazing straight up into the darkening heavens, I thought I saw a Leach’s storm-petrel as it ﬂew out of the mist,” he writes. But above all, Peterson believed that birding was for everyone, and his populist attitude is reﬂected in many of his columns. Readers
don’t need a degree in ornithology to appreciate his exaltation at seeing a nearly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker in 1942 (imagine his shock had he lived to learn of its reported reappearance in 2005) or his affectionate descriptions (Atlantic pufﬁn babies look, according to Peterson, “like balls of lint retrieved from the vacuum cleaner”). Near the end of All Things Reconsidered, in a piece called “Memories of Manhattan,” Peterson reminds us that no one needs to travel around the world (or to clothing boutiques, for that matter) to ﬁnd birds: “Even where urbanization has locked the green world into a sarcophagus of cement and stone, there are opportunities to watch birds—if only house sparrows and starlings.” —Kiera Butler
New and Noteworthy THE OLD WAY: A Story of the First People by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (FARRAR, STRAUS & GIROUX, $25)
Anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has spent a lifetime studying the bushmen of the Kalahari desert, and she believes these “First People,” the world’s last hunter-gatherers, hold the key to the mystery of humanity’s past. GREEN TO GOLD: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston (YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, $25)
A corporate strategist and a Yale professor of environmental law team up to describe how all kinds of businesses—from Chiquita to Toyota— are turning green policies into profits. JANE GOODALL: The Woman who Redefined Man by Dale Peterson (HOUGHTON MIFFLIN, $35)
The first complete biography of the celebrated primatologist who exposed the social lives of chimpanzees, and, in the process, changed our understanding of what it means to be human. FERMENTING REVOLUTION: How to Drink Beer and Save the World by Christopher M. O’Brien (NEW SOCIETY PUBLISHERS, $17.95)
The dramatic history of beer goes back almost as far as civilization itself. Christopher M. O’Brien traces brewskis through the ages and explains how trends like organic beer and small-scale, local breweries are changing beer’s (and Earth’s) future for the better.
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CEREBRUM. On Sale Now!
Read just one page of The Intellectual Devotional each day, and you’ll ﬁnd a complete nugget of wisdom from one of seven categories — Philosophy, Music, Science, Art, Religion, History, and Literature. It’s the perfect way to round out your education and gain a better understanding of the world around you. From the history of the alphabet to Zoroastrianism, The Intellectual Devotional will expand your horizons and keep your mind razor-sharp. ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY AT WWW.THEINTELLECTUALDEVOTIONAL.COM
For more of our products, visit www.rodalestore.com or call (800) 848-4735.
the green gift guide You want to give your loved ones something special, but you don’t want to sacriﬁce your principles. No problem! We drooled over these superclassy green gifts— your friends and family will too.
18 WINDS OF CHANGE Own your own wind turbine! Thanks to its relatively small scale and the low wind speeds required to run it, the Skystream 3.7 can help more homeowners generate alternative energy. Plus, it shaves hundreds of dollars a year off energy bills and offsets as much as 6,000 pounds of greenhouse gases in its lifetime. Save energy AND become the town landmark—what more could a greenie want? About $8,000 including installation, skystreamenergy.com
28 WELL-READ Books nourish our minds and make great gifts, but let’s be honest—we kill a lot of trees to make them. Sony’s Reader might alleviate the green bibliophile’s guilt. Its high-tech display looks a lot like low-tech paper, so it’s easy on the eyes. And with up to 7,500 page views per charge, it’s surprisingly energy-efficient. Download tomes at Sony Connect’s eBooks store (the free software is similar to iTunes); you can also use the Reader to view PDFs and Word documents, and to listen to MP3s. $350, sonystyle.com
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GREEN G E A R
Plan on trekking through the wilderness? Doing some topographical mapping? Love tiny gadgets with lots of functions? If so, youâ€™ll have a field day over this multifunction GPS watch (the worldâ€™s smallest). This wearable computer comes complete with altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and compass. It also hooks up to your computer, so you can transfer routes, waypoints, and trip logs. $500, hammacher.com
BRIGHT IDEA No more cycling in the dark! Mount this solar light and battery charger to your bike, and three superbright LEDs will guide your way for up to 15 hours. $47, naturalcollection.com
EASY AS LIGHT Indoor lighting will make your temporary shelter feel like a palace. Expose the solar-equipped Woods Solar-Powered EZ-Tent to four to six hours of direct sunlight during the day, and the LEDs inside will glow for two to four hours at night. $230 for a four-person tent, canadiantire.ca
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WARM TOOTSIES If you’ve ever been camping on a chilly night, you’ll love these mountain booties. They’ve got toasty-warm PCR insulation and nonslip soles, making those latenight treks to the loo much safer. $35, bigagnes.com
BOIL OVER With superfast boiling times, the Eta Power Stove System (plus one 8-ounce canister of liquid propane) can cook two people three meals a day for six days. The system comes with a burner, 2.1-liter pot, fry pan and lid, windshield, and grip tool. Seriously, how delicious is fuel efficiency? $99, nagear.com
HOT WHEELS Even strangers will ooh and ahh as you coast around town in the ultraslick RatRod cruiser by Electra. They may even be compelled to trade in their gas-hungry SUVs for the new status symbol: low-impact, high-style transport. $450 for model shown, electrabike.com
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GREEN G E A R
MINUTE MAN Dress up your shirt with these Vintage Movement cuff links. Each piece is made from an early- to mid-20th century stem-winding watch and set in sterling silver findings. $120 per pair, eco-artware.com
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With its subtle sheen, the Absolutely Alpaca scarf is perfect for an afternoon stroll or a night on the town. Hand-knitted by a group of Bolivian families from all-natural alpaca wool, these scarves are free of chemicals and dyes. $35, worldofgood.com
DRESS TO IMPRESS This crisp, luxurious dress shirt by Boll Organics is made from 100% organic cotton and comes in five different sizes. $60, thegreenloop.com
FAIREST OF ALL The elegant Taxco necklace is produced by a fair-trade women’s artisan cooperative in rural Mexico from 100% recycled silver. It hangs from a faux-suede rope and comes with a sterling silver extender chain adorned with a single jade bead. $62, moonrisejewelry.com
LOVELY LOOPS If we could use one word to describe these striking Red Carnelian hoops by Jezebelle, it would be luxe. Handmade in Colorado from 14-karat gold and semiprecious stones, these earrings make a serious statement. $70, cocosshoppe.com
For that extraspecial someone, this tennis bracelet is sure to impress. Each piece is made with stunning nonconflict diamonds mined in Canada. Sparkly! $5,000, canadia.com
ABOVE THE FOLD Perfect for the fashionista in your life, the Origami clutch— handmade by designer Heather Stanley Heron—is crafted out of recycled army bags and looks like a million bucks. $360, finallystoppeddressingfortheboys.com
13 8 DEMAND DENIM For those not-too-cold days, a puffy vest offers just the right amount of warmth. This denim version by Loomstate is made of organic cotton with suede trim. $275, loomstate.org
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GREEN G E A R
Give your home a hint of drama with this one-of-a-kind Japanese vintage kimono. Handcrafted out of 100% silk and painted with intricate green and orange chrysanthemums, this opulent piece will enrich any room. $565, homeandplanet.com
Pieced together from recycled wool sweaters and lined with a lush velvet border, the Mulberry blanket offers the perfect excuse to cuddle with your honey by the fire. $295, uncommongoods.com.
COLOR ME ECO Add a splash of personality to your sofa or bed with the Rose Glass Herbarium kerchief pillow or another creation by Melissa Cotton Womack. Her pillows, wall hangings, and lampshades combine richly hued vintage fabrics with luxurious modern touches. $85, poppycotton.com
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THE GLASS IS GREENER
Incorporating striking lines with ecoawareness, the Karpos vase is made of 100% lead-free recycled glass and is hand-blown in electric furnaces powered by renewable energy. $380, vivavi.com
FRUITY TIME The Juice clock is made from recycled HDPE (the plastic found in detergent bottles) and packs a visual punch on your kitchen wall. Available in lemon, orange, or grapefruit colors—yummy! $45, re-modern.com
21 8 TOAST TO PEACE
Your wine collection will find a comfortable home in this ammunitions case wine rack, beautifully handcrafted from a vintage ammunitions box from the ‘60s or ‘70s. $300, uncommongoods.com
SMALL WORLD Ecospheres are a beautiful blend of art and science. These enclosed, self-sustaining ecosystems contain the right balance of microorganisms, red shrimp, and algae, so they never need feeding—only some indirect natural or artificial light. They’re made on demand, so order early to ensure holiday delivery. $58 to $413, greenfeet.com
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GREEN G E A R
24 8 FIGS GONE WILD You’ll be drunk with pleasure when you try Drunken Figs—organic figs filled with vintage port and covered in sumptuous organic dark chocolate. Need we say more? $22 for four, cocoavino.com
25 8 DELIVERY! You’ll receive thanks all year round for giving the Organic Sampler of the Month, containing a delectable selection of specialty greens, fresh herbs, veggies, and seasonal fruits. We know what you’re thinking: What about winter? That means wine, truffles, and dried fruit-andnut spreads. Delicious! $59 per month for 12 months, diamondorganics.com
POUR THE RED
27 8 GOURMET BUDS Add a dash of color to salads or other dishes with homegrown organic pansies. The edible pansy window box comes with one package of organically cultivated seeds and a nutrient-rich organic growing mix. $13, grassrootsstore.com
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Wine will breathe easy in this charming etched decanter made from recycled glass. Matching tumblers complete the set. $99 for decanter and four tumblers, vivaterra.com
DIVINE DAIRY Add a dash of presentation to your next cocktail party. This slate-board cheese set is perfect for labeling cheese names with chalk (so guests don’t have to guess what they’re eating), and it offers a secure cutting surface that’s easy to clean. Comes with two whimsical mouse knives. $69, vivaterra.com
10 Reasons to Join the World Future Society
As a member of the world’s largest and most enduring organization devoted to building tomorrow today, you will... 1. Stay on top of the trends that could change your world. 2. Participate in a network of accomplished professionals in many fields. 3. Learn from insightful articles and special reports by business and technology insiders, visionary scholars, and professional futurists. 4. Develop strategies that will make you a valued leader in your community. 5. Look at the world through a wider lens, with multiple perspectives. 6. Think more creatively, inspired by new ideas from innovative problem solvers. 7. Work more productively, using tools developed by experienced futurists and experts. 8. Discover innovations in fields you would not otherwise be exposed to. 9. Access vital resources on the future available nowhere else. 10. Receive THE FUTURIST, the Society’s premier magazine covering forecasts, trends, and ideas about the future. One-year membership in the World Future Society ($49) includes subscriptions to THE FUTURIST bimonthly magazine and Futurist Update, the monthly e-mail newsletter—and much more! Join online at www.wfs.org/member.htm, call toll-free 1-800-989-8274 Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, or use this form:
❑ Yes! I want to join the World Future Society and begin receiving THE FUTURIST and much more. Enclosed is $49 for my first year’s dues. (❑ Check here if this is to renew a membership.) ❑ Student membership ($20 for full-time student under 25). Age:
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World Future Society, 7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 450, Bethesda, Maryland 20814, U.S.A. • Fax: 1-301-951-0394 • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Photographs (clockwise from top left) courtesy Earthwatch; Greenforce; VFP; WWOOF Independence; Earthwatch; Habitat for Humanity
Just a few of the great volunteer trips available (clockwise from top left): An Earthwatch volunteer tags leatherback turtles in Trinidad; one of the breathtaking views you’ll see while taking species inventory in the Ecuadoran rainforest; Volunteers for Peace build housing in Mexico; planting seedlings in Dordogne, France, with WWOOF; on an Earthwatch trip to Thailand, volunteers dive to help study coral reefs; building a green home in Olympia, Washington, with Habitat for Humanity.
By Nicole Davis
ver feel as though we’re running out of time to save the environment? Try taking a vacation to solve the problem. In the span of two weeks, you can measure the effects of global warming on Caribbean coral reefs, help repopulate endangered lions in Zimbabwe, or go pesticide-free while planting vegetables on an organic farm in Provence. All three are examples of volunteer vacations, a style of travel that’s become so popular, it now has a nickname: voluntourism. We’ve cherry-picked trips from ten great organizations that allow green voluntourists to work in fabulous countries like Peru or Thailand. You’ll be so captivated by your surroundings, you’ll hardly notice you’re working. (Note: Prices don’t include airfare.)
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Sorting organic olives in Andalucia, Spain (right); British estates, like the grounds of a mansion in Sussex, England (below), and the forest surrounding a Scottish castle (below, inset) can be as pristine as national parks; a WWOOF volunteer pitches in on a farm in the Dordogne region of France (opposite).
Grow Organic—Anywhere in the World Six years ago, Craig Priestley became a Wwoofer—a funny-sounding acronym for one of the thousands of volunteers with World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that pairs industrious agritourists with farmers in 75 countries. Today, Priestley himself hosts Wwoofers on his own vegetable farm in the south of France—a testament to how addictive Wwooﬁng can be. For a small membership fee, you can join the WWOOF organization in the country of your choice. (Many have their own national chapter, but those without one fall under the group WWOOF Independents.) Within a month, you’ll receive listings for farmers seeking workers, many of which read like Craigslist for tree huggers. (One olive grower in Spain boasts: “Great walking in the fresh Alpujarran air, wild Sierra surroundings and nearby river, solar power, strong recycling ethic, kinesiology and holistic massage, food to write home about.”) In exchange for chores such as weeding vegetables, picking currants, milking cows, and sometimes even making cheese, Wwoofers get free accommodations that range from stone farmhouses without running water or electricity to B and Bs, where workers are treated to four-course haute-cuisine meals along with the guests. Another bonus perk: free cooking lessons. “I have a whole recipe book that I’ve learned from WWOOF hosts,” says Priestley, whose ratatouille and quiche would now impress even the most discriminating French cook. “It makes what you’re doing not a job but sharing somebody’s lifestyle.” Duration: depends on the farm, but two weeks is recommended Cost: around $20 to $50 to join each WWOOF chapter Contact: wwoof.org
Protect Britain’s Green Isles In Britain, the sprawling estates of royalty can be as densely wooded as U.S. national parks. You can help maintain these wildlife habitats by volunteering with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV). The 47-year-old environmental group offers over 200 projects in the United Kingdom that involve everything from rooting out overgrown reedbeds on the grounds of a Georgian mansion in West Sussex to maintaining footpaths in the forest surrounding a castle in Scotland. (BTCV also offers many similar projects in Britain’s national parks.) The group mainly attracts local Brits, but Americans are increasingly signing on for the chance to work in some of the most beautiful parts of the U.K. You can volunteer beyond Great Britain, too, on one of BTCV’s 35 international trips, which have included exotic options like a three-week tree-planting expedition in Nepal. Volunteers there spend half their trip working while staying in the homes of local people, where they’re fed a simple diet of dal bat (vegetables, lentils, and rice). The other half of the trip is spent sightseeing in the Kathmandu Valley and trekking the Annapurna circuit in the Himalayas, stopping in teahouses along the way. (The Nepal trip is scheduled for 2007 pending the country’s political situation.) Duration: one weekend to one month (most are one week) Cost: $113 to $1,666 including accommodation and meals Contact: btcv.org.uk
Photographs courtesy British Trust for Conservation (this page, bottom and inset); WWOOF Independence (opposite and top right)
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An Earthwatch Thailand trip (clockwise from top left): a team heading out to sea; surfacing after a coral reef dive; studying marine photos; a giant sea clam, one inhabitant of the coral reef.
Protect Endangered Marine Life In 1971, Earthwatch became the ﬁrst American organization to popularize the notion of taking time off to work. This year alone, the company funded 155 sustainable scientiﬁc projects in 48 countries and 16 U.S. states, all of which were open to its 4,200 volunteers, who help the research teams monitor rainforests, reefs, wildlife, and archaeological sites all over the globe. “It’s work,” says Lisa Silliman-French of her trip to Trinidad to tag endangered leatherback turtles. Her duties also included patrolling a ﬁve-mile stretch of beach, to measure how close the turtles were laying their eggs to the shore and to discourage poaching. “It’s not like you tag the turtles and you’re done—you gotta go home and enter data and clean everything. I lost about seven pounds on that trip from walking in the sand.” (And that was after feasting on local curries!) Silliman-French’s work was rewarding enough to merit another Earthwatch trip early this year to Thailand, to study the effects of global warming on area reefs. “I love doing the grunt work for them. These are great opportunities to see what’s really going on in the world—and you get to experience a little bit of the wild, too.” Duration: two to twenty-one days Cost: $395 to over $4,000 including accommodation and meals Contact: earthwatch.org 50 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Photographs courtesy Georg Heiss/Earthwatch (this page); Habitat for Humanity Puget Sound (opposite, top); Greenforce (opposite, bottom)
Habitat for Humanity volunteers in Olympia, Washington, build green (left). Even in the rainforest, it’s possible to find a great bar, as volunteers from Ecuador’s Jatun Sacha Biological Station discovered (below).
Build a Green Dream Home Habitat for Humanity has been building homes for low-income families since 1976—5,549 in the U.S. last year alone. The South Puget Sound afﬁliate in Olympia, Washington, is one of the organization’s greenest chapters. Since 2002, it has built six green homes; a 15-home development using mostly eco-friendly materials is also in the works. “Our families deserve a decent, affordable place to live,” says construction supervisor Jerry Fugich. “Formaldehyde—that’s what ﬂuffs up [normal] insulation, and that’s also what they use to embalm people,” he points out. The nontoxic insulation that he uses instead makes walls about a foot thick, which lowers heating bills, as does positioning each home to receive maximum heat from the sun. “Having these houses that are really energy efﬁcient frees up the owners’ money so they can pay their mortgage and support their families,” says Sarah Winikoff, 19, who worked on two Habitat homes without having any prior construction skills. “Everyone was so helpful and if you couldn’t do something, there was always someone there to back you up.” There are other perks to the job: On your two days off, Seattle, the Olympic National Rainforest, and Mount Rainier are all within 60 miles. To ﬁnd other green building opportunities in cities like Denver and El Paso, contact Habitat directly. Duration: a minimum of five days is recommended Cost: free, though you provide your own food and lodging Contact: habitat.org
Watch Wildlife in the Rainforest The Amazon rainforest, which houses the world’s largest collection of animals and plants beneath its lush green canopy, has been diminishing by as much as six million acres a year. Greenforce sends its volunteers to inventory this fragile, shrinking ecosystem. “The amount of colorful and unusual plants was astounding,” says 19-year-old U.K. native Alastair Rickey, a Greenforce volunteer. “And the wildlife was very apparent—if you were walking with the park guards. They would turn over a leaf with a tiny frog on it, or spot catlike mammals from miles away. And they could call almost any type of bird.” (There are 535 species identiﬁed in this rainforest.) The guards work for the Jatun Sacha Biological Station, a ﬁeld research station on the edge of the eroding jungle that includes a nursery, organic farm, and accommodation in the form of rustic huts. You can arrange to volunteer directly through Jatun Sacha, or book a trip through Greenforce, a volunteer-travel company that sets up everything from orphanage work in India to trips to a surf camp in Brazil. Greenforce trips are aimed at students, but the station itself houses a diverse group of locals and older volunteers who take turns collecting the seeds of rare plants, clearing an area to plant them in, and lending a hand on its farm. After a hard day’s work, volunteers can break for happy hour, which in the Amazon means a 30-minute walk down a dirt road to a small bar stocked with cold beer. Duration: one week minimum (Greenforce can tailor trips to your time frame) Cost: $1,900 including accommodation and food Contact: greenforce.org or jatunsacha.org plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 51
Bring Cleaner Energy to a Peruvian Village Even if you can only get away for a week, you still have enough time to do good in an exotic locale. Kimberly Haley-Coleman understands the average do-gooder’s time constraints, which is why she created Globe Aware in 2000. Instead of two or three weeks of international work, her new nonproﬁt offers weeklong vacations that combine unique projects and side trips in six fantastic destinations. In Peru, for instance, volunteers stay in a state-of-the-art facility in Cusco where they teach children English and computer literacy. Or they can travel to rural Andean villages, which often lack electricity and running water, to build adobe stoves for cooking—a huge environment- and health-saver, since they use only a fraction of the energy of traditional wood ﬁres and eliminate carcinogenic smoke exposure, which can be equivalent to smoking three packs a day. Like every Globe Aware trip, the extracurriculars are just as eye-opening: Volunteers can visit Machu Picchu and other ancient sites, as well as explore the cobblestoned, colonial city of Cusco. The nonproﬁt offers other ecominded vacations too, like a trip to Laos, where volunteers build wheelchairs from recycled parts for locals victimized by land mines, and a Costa Rican restoration project in a national forest reserve. Duration: one week Cost: $1,050 to $1,390 including accommodation and meals Contact: globeaware.org
BEFORE YOU GO ✓ Before signing up to volunteer halfway around
you’re not a numbers person, you probably
medical insurance, like Travelers Emergency
the world, it’s worth investigating your potential
won’t want to collect data for a field research
Network (tenweb.com), even if your
job, the job’s organizer, and your financial
team—even if you’re in the Caribbean.
organization offers basic liability coverage.
● Ask about the intensity of the labor. Will you
● Make sure to ask what the other volunteers
and director of Voluntourism.org, offers a few
be spending a full day under the African sun
are like—are they mostly retired? College
doing backbreaking work? Or will you get
students? Church groups?—to find a group
● Volunteer with an established organization
you’ll be comfortable with.
concerns. David Clemmons, industry expert
(like the ones we‘ve suggested). If yours
● Speak to former volunteers about their
● And finally, because you will be donating
offers fewer than 20 trips a year, or serves
experiences. If your organization can’t
your time to a charitable cause, it’s possible
fewer than 200 volunteers a year, you may
produce one, there’s probably a reason.
you can write off your entire vacation. But
find yourself a victim of its inexperience. ● Determine if you have the right skill set. If 52 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
● Since you will be working in the great—and unpredictable—outdoors, sign up for traveler’s
before booking that first-class flight, ask your accountant if your trip is tax-deductible.
The Virgin Islands National Park is a stunning place to relax after a morning of trail work (top); the view from the ruins of a sugar plantation on St. John (below). On Globe Aware trips, volunteers may help build housing and adobe stoves in Peru (opposite, top), sightsee in Laos (opposite, lower left), or work on a site in Huasampata, Costa Rica (opposite, lower right).
Help Maintain a National Park in the Caribbean There is an old adage of Sierra Club founder John Muir’s, which roughly goes, “To get people to care about wilderness, you have to lead them to it.” One of the group’s many carrots comes in the form of a volunteer vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. On its St. John service trip, volunteers spend half of their days engaged in strenuous projects like maintaining trails and clearing brush from nineteenth-century sugar mills on national park land. Afternoons are spent kicking back: snorkeling or kayaking the crystal-clear Caribbean, hiking the petroglyph-dotted trails, or sipping the local rum during happy hour at the ecological station on the island’s remote southern side. There, volunteers sleep in rustic cabins and dine on buffet dinners (lasagna, ﬁsh, and tacos are some recent offerings). The Sierra Club also offers plenty of projects stateside. They run the gamut from challenging nine-mile hikes to a base camp in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, where participants perform trail maintenance, to less taxing trips on Martha’s Vineyard, where volunteers can stay on a 90-acre farm and collect native seeds for the on-site nursery. But one feature remains a constant: comfort. Even on a backpacking service trip, food and tools are hauled in for you to lighten your load; you’ll have more energy to work and the leisure to enjoy your time off. Duration: one week Cost: $295 to $1,645 including accommodation and meals Contact: sierraclub.org
Photographs courtesy Sarah Stout/Sierra Club (this page); Globe Aware (opposite)
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Restore Ecosystems in the American Desert Steve Cole’s ﬁrst trip with Wilderness Volunteers into Utah’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area was a bit of a challenge. “We had to walk, with full backpacks, eight miles cross-country without shade or water—just trudging across the hot, stinking desert,” says the Californian retiree. Once he and his trailmates arrived at their base camp, however, he immediately felt the payoff. The remote, red-rock backcountry, says Cole, is “an incredibly beautiful place, and the ranger knows it like the back of his hand”—a real treat during days off, when volunteers got to hike secret canyons few others know of. The work itself is also rewarding: On return visits in the past six years, Cole has helped remove Russian olive, a thorny, invasive weed that is choking Western waterways, from thirty miles of the Escalante River Corridor. Most Wilderness Volunteers’ trips involve similar trail-maintenance work, but some are in the front country, like their invasive species-clearing trip to Kauai, Hawaii, where participants stay in the heart of Koke’e State Park. And budget travelers take note: Each weeklong trip costs just $239. Duration: one week Cost: $239 including accommodation and meals Contact: wildernessvolunteers.org
Go Solar in Vermont For the past 16 years, a farmer in the bucolic town of Tinmouth, Vermont, has erected SolarFest, a weekend-long world-music and green-lifestyle festival in July that attracts over 2,000 people—and now he’s enlisting Volunteers for Peace (VFP) to help prepare his 100-acre farm for guests. The project is one of VFP’s most popular “workcamps”—a socialist-sounding term for the international volunteer opportunities they offer each year. A quarter of their 3,000 camps are conservation-minded, and all go for the bargain rate of $500 or less per week, no matter where you go. You’re also guaranteed to meet a lot of internationals on each VFP trip, since usually no more than two people from the same country can attend one camp. For ten days this past summer, for instance, VFPs from Slovakia, Denmark, Korea, China, Spain, England, and France joined the SolarFest camp, where they cleared footpaths in the woods for the festival’s theater and dammed a rushing stream to create a swimming hole. They also took plenty of breaks to hike a nearby section of the Appalachian Trail, visit a local bluegrass festival, and eat communal dinners at the property’s nineteenthcentury farmhouse. After the work is done, VFPs get to kick back and enjoy SolarFest. Eclectic acts (like folk songstress Dar Williams) perform, and participants can attend seminars to learn valuable eco-skills like how to make a car run on veggie fuel or how to solar-heat your home’s water supply. It’s probably VFP’s most action-packed conservation project, though trips to fortify the eroding dunes on a tiny island in the North Sea and to maintain biodiversity on the 31 acres of the Mendocino Ecological Learning Center in California sound enlightening, too. Duration: two to three weeks Cost: $250 to $500 including accommodation and meals Contact: vfp.org
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Photographs courtesy Volunteers for Peace (left); Steve Cole (center); African Impact (right)
By volunteering with African Impact in Zimbabwe, you can help protect endangered lions (below); Wilderness Volunteers head to the backcountry of Utah’s Glen Canyon (left); promoting the eco-friendly lifestyle in Tinmouth, Vermont, during SolarFest (far left).
Walk With the Lions in Africa The king of the jungle is no longer: While 250,000 lions used to roam the African continent, now less than 15,000 remain, a result of disease, poaching, and the settling of once-nomadic tribes in prime roaming areas. Volunteers with African Impact can help the big cats by participating in its repopulation project in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Developed by wildlife biologists, the program gradually reintroduces captive-bred lions into the wild, and volunteers are expected to do everything from bottle-feeding cubs (which look more like lions—a 13-month-old weighs 200 pounds) to cleaning their cages (which are the size of three city blocks) to walking with the adult cats and observing their killer instincts in the bush—which is shared, incidentally, by other big game. “When we were there, we saw herds of 200 elephants—the earth just shook under you as they ran by,” says Mary Alice O’Connor, a time-strapped New Yorker who worked just two weeks with the lions. (Many of the college-age volunteers stayed on for months.) The U.S. government discourages Americans from spending tourist dollars in Zimbabwe under President Mugabe, but it’s hard to argue that African Impact itself is not a good cause. The group has projects in six other countries, too, though the draw of Victoria Falls is hard to beat: During off-hours, adrenaline junkies can get their ﬁx on the Zambezi River’s Class V rapids, while the less adventurous can opt for high tea at one of the town’s 1880s colonial hotels overlooking the falls. Duration: two weeks to two months Cost: $1,520 to $4,850 including accommodation, meals, and in-country transport Contact: africanimpact.com
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Green. With envy.
What shade are you? Green is feeling it more, not less. Green is living a lifestyle that supports innovation. Green is never compromising.
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Someday historians may look back at 2006 and decide that this was the year when environmentalism became a mainstream American movement adopted by people of all political persuasions, businesses small and large, and churches both progressive and conservative.
2006: the year in green Here at Plenty, we’re not going to wait that long to render our verdict: When it comes to the environment, 2006 was huge. Okay, not all the news was good. Global warming remains a daunting challenge, and the White House isn’t helping. That one-two punch is scary, but there are lots of reasons for optimism. While George W. Bush dithered, Al Gore crusaded and converted. In the absence of the federal government, the states and the private sector picked up the slack. Slammed by high gas prices, even Detroit got the message that going green is good business. In books, movies, and magazines, our popular culture promoted the urgency of environmentalism. More and more consumers Business & Politics 58 turned to organic and locally-grown foods. Meanwhile, Discoveries 60 scientists trekking around the world discovered dozens of Pop Culture 62 exotic new species, dramatic and inspiring illustrations of our planet’s beauty. There’s still room for improvement—there always will be. But just for a moment, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back, and remember: It was a very green year… —The Editors This story was researched and compiled by Victoria Schlesinger, with assistance from Sarah Parsons.
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& Politics With a deteriorating war in Iraq and mid-term elections looming, the White House didn’t spend much time saving the environment this year. But where the federal government feared to tread, numerous states chose to take action on their own. The private sector also stepped up to the plate: Rising gas prices ramped up the pressure on Detroit, as the Motor City raced to introduce new hybrid cars and SUVs to catch up to Toyota and Honda. Elsewhere, it was increasingly hard to find a chief executive—Virgin’s Richard Branson, for example—who didn’t take the crisis of global warming seriously. Motivated by public pressure, civic responsibility, and market forces, corporate America began, finally, to realize that going green is good for the bottom line.
HYBRIDS HEAT UP/NEW MODELS IN 2006
Mercury Mariner Hybrid $29,225 mpg: city 33/highway 29
Honda Accord Hybrid $30,990 mpg: city 25/highway 34
Ford Escape Hybrid $28,525 mpg: city 36/highway 31
Lexus RX 400h $46,060 mpg: city 33/highway 28
Toyota Prius $21,725 mpg: city 60/highway 51
Honda Civic Hybrid $22,150 mpg: city 49/highway 51
ONCE-MISBEHAVING COMPANIES ARE CLEANING UP THEIR ACTS
BUSINESS AS USUAL
Used to produce Benlate, a pesticide blamed for crop failure and gruesome birth defects in children.
Has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to 72 percent of its 1990 levels.
In 1998, the company squelched a California plan to study the health risks of semiconductor chemicals.
Trying to reduce emissions of PFC—a greenhouse gas-causing chemical—by 10 percent from 1995 levels.
Increasing its part-time workforce from 20 to 40 percent, apparently to cut back on expensive health benefits.
Making a major push to promote green purchasing by doubling its roster of organic products.
Building a power plant that allegedly produces three times the allowable level of pollutants—next to a California school.
Will invest $1.5 billion in green technology and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by one percent by 2010.
United Parcel Service
Paid $12 million to settle a 1999 lawsuit alleging that the company wasn’t hiring blacks as full-time drivers.
Has amassed a fleet of 1,700 alternative fuel and 50 hybrid trucks.
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0 20 40 60 80 100
Sales of SUVs (in tens of thousands)
45,862 MIDDLE SUV
MIDDLE LUXURY SUV
LARGE LUXURY SUV
2.00 2.25 2.50 3.00
George Bush’s approval rating May June July Aug Sept
15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
30 32 34 36 38 40
2006 BY THE NUMBERS: KEY DATA FROM THE YEAR SO FAR
$2.42 $2.31 $2.28
Cost of a gallon of gas Jan Feb Mar Apr May
Sales of hybrids (in thousands)
WHILE WASHINGTON FIDDLED, STATES ACTED states and cities are suing the U.S. >> Eleven government for ignoring greenhouse gas emissions. The plaintiffs include: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Maine, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Attorney General filed suit >> California’s against six automakers—Chrysler, GM,
California legislature passed a bill, >> The signed by Governor Arnold Schwar-
zenegger, reducing state carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Ford, Toyota Motor North America, Honda North America, and Nissan North America—for building vehicles whose pollution has contributed to global warming.
New laws in Alabama aim to reduce mercury pollution from in-state power plants by 70 percent.
of Northeastern states agreed White House >> Atogroup >> The cut their greenhouse gas emissions to During his last State of the Union ad1990 levels. Participating states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.
dress, President Bush declared, “America is addicted to oil.” The powerful rhetoric was followed by...nothing.
Photograph by Jennifer Graylock/AP (lower right) Sources: American Research Group, Inc. (approval ratings); U.S. Department of Energy (gas prices); WardsAutoWorld.com (SUV sales); HybridCars.com (hybrid sales)
Virgin Sacrifice In September, Sir Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group, swept the alternative energy industry off its feet when he announced that, for the next decade, his personal profits from his airline and rail companies will be earmarked for research and development of green energy sources. The donation is estimated at $3 billion.
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Discoveries Sometimes it seems that every piece of environmental news is dire: More pollution, more glacial melting, more endangered species. But the news isnâ€™t always grim. Around the world in 2006, researchers and explorers discovered animals that no one knew existed previously. Meanwhile, in university labs and corporate offices, scientists concocted new ways to study, preserve, and safely harness the environment and its riches.
SALMON, RUN Three English scientists developed a DNA computer chip that monitors the health of salmon by identifying genes that increase or decrease during infection. The chip could help increase the health and safety of farmed salmon. LOVE THAT DIRTY WATER
Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory use a sophisticated x-ray machine, called an advanced photon source, to analyze pollutant behavior in water.
Department of Energy scientists discovered new ways that ions, electrically charged particles, interact with minerals in waterâ€”revealing how contaminants such as lead affect water quality.
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Photograph courtesy Argonne National Laboratory (lower left)
LET THERE BE (GREEN) WHITE LIGHT Scientists Mark Thompson and Stephen Forrest announced the invention of an LED that can replace fluorescent bulbs, facilitating more stylish white lights and using 20 percent less energy than standard fluorescents.
5 6 3
THE WORLDWIDE WEBS
Researchers at Tufts University and elsewhere found ways of using spider webs to regenerate ligaments, as well as for artificial tendons and sutures for sensitive areas such as around the eyes. TILTING WINDMILLS
NATURAL WONDERS 1. New Daddy longlegs species (Alaska) 2. Giant predatory fairy shrimp, a.k.a. “raptor” (Idaho) 3. Mouse lemur (Madagascar) 4. New type of babbler, a tropical bird (Arunachal Pradesh, India) 5. Epaulet sharks (Indonesia’s Papua province) 6. New species of parrot and mouse (Philippines) 7. Six new species of frogs (Laos) 8. Golden-mantled tree kangaroo (Indonesia’s Foja Mountains)
MIT engineer Paul Sclavounos completed the latest design phase of his oceanic floating windmills, a potential sustainable energy source. The windmills could be located up to 50 miles offshore, mitigating the impact of their enormous size and loud rotors. DOMO ARIGATO, MR. ROBOTO Engineers at the University of Illinois designed a solar-powered robot for use by farmers. The robot picks weeds and places herbicide on the cut stems, a less toxic method than the total-field spraying generally used in modern agriculture.
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Pop Culture In 2006, environmental themes permeated our culture like never before. Environmentalism stopped being a grassroots issue, a liberal passion, or the province of wellmeaning “special interests,” and truly went mainstream.
BOOKS Books like Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge (about Hurricane Katrina) and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (a natural history of our meals) addressed the monumental and minute ways that the environment drives our lives. An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s companion book to the film, was a New York Times bestseller.
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MAGAZINES Wired, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Elle.... It was as if every magazine editor in New York got the same memo—time to do a special issue on the environment. Like they say in the business: Three makes a trend.
FILMS Movie houses teemed with real-life ecodramas, from Gore’s surprise blockbuster An Inconvenient Truth and Spike Lee’s HBO film When the Levees Broke, to Sony Pictures’s murder mystery Who Killed the Electric Car? (above) and the animated adventures of nearly extinct creatures in Ice Age II: The Meltdown.
MUSIC Groups such as The Dixie Chicks, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, and Pearl Jam pledged to offset the carbon dioxide generated during their tours through donations to environmental groups and clean-power companies, while Radiohead singer Thom Yorke’s solo album about global warming, The Eraser, hit number two on the Billboard 200 chart. And the ubiquitous Al Gore made a surprise pit stop at the MTV Video Music Awards to spread the warning about global warming.
WEB ACTIVISTS LOG ON The Internet offered a flood of ways to learn about and support environmental causes, notably websites for calculating carbon footprints and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. Blogger Amanda Congdon, above, of Rocketboom mini-fame, made a pilgrimage across America via hybrid car in search of ecoenlightenment. And MTV promoted its “Break the Addiction” campaign with a comprehensive website about stopping global warming.
BEYOND HEMP Eco-fashions evolved from patchouli to Prada this year, with actress Natalie Portman (left) promoting Italian microfiber high heels, Levi’s introducing 100% organic cotton jeans, and the debut of bamboo-and-hemp silk in an Adidé Jan Klingberg gown worn at the Academy Awards (and later sold at auction).
Photographs from amandacongdon.com (top left); Alex Brandon/AP (top right); Sony Pictures Classics (opposite, bottom middle); Mark Seliger (opposite, bottom right)
LA-LA LAND’S GREEN ENVY When they weren’t adopting African babies, Hollywood celebrities made the environment their cause in 2006. Actress Rene Russo touted indigenous plants in lieu of water-hogging lawns; Angelina Jolie’s lesser half, Brad Pitt, a fan of sustainable design, chaired the jury for a green architecture contest that drew 3,000 applicants. Droves of celebrities arrived at this year’s Academy Awards in hybrids; among them were Naomi Watts, Joaquin Phoenix, George Clooney, Jennifer Aniston, Felicity Huffman, Frances McDormand, and David Strathairn.
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The Imperfect Gift Wealthy donors give hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the environmental movement. Too bad it’s not being put to the best use. By Liz Galst “Shouldn’t you be on the beach somewhere?” I ask retired hedgefund manager Robert Wilson. It’s a balmy summer afternoon, not terribly hot, but not cool either. And given that Wilson’s worth upwards of half a billion dollars (that’s right, half a billion), and could be almost anywhere in the world right now, sticky, overbaked Manhattan seems, well, an odd choice. But then, “This is my beachfront property,” says the lanky, bespectacled 80-year-old, dressed in white slacks and a black polo shirt. With gentlemanly ﬂourish, he opens the French doors to his terrace. The views of Central Park below are spectacular: the vast expanse of green, the rowboats on the lake, the luxury homes of the Gold Coast far across the way. Yes, Wilson is worth a lot of money. A lot of money. And since, at this stage in his life, he’s only too aware that he can’t take it with him— and that he has no children to leave it to—he’s decided to give it away. To environmental groups in particular, luckily for everyone on Earth. In the last few years, Wilson has offered environmental challenge grants—donations dependent upon recipient organizations raising matching funds—that will total $300 million. The money is to be doled out to three separate organizations: The Nature Conservancy, which purchases and safeguards environmentally sensitive land in the U.S. and abroad; the Wildlife Conservation Society, which works in more than 60 countries to protect endangered species and habitats; and the Environmental Defense Fund, the most market-oriented of the
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nation’s large environmental advocacy groups. Like major funders everywhere, Wilson has given to groups whose philosophy he embraces and whose track record and way of doing business he endorses. As it happens, Wilson is a libertarian, “somebody who believes in sodomy and the free market,” he says, with an impish sparkle in his eye. Which is why, at least in relation to the free-market aspect of his philosophy, he chose Environmental Defense over, say, the more litigious, federally focused Natural Resources Defense Council or the grassroots-powered Sierra Club. “What distinguishes Environmental Defense from all the other environmental groups,” Wilson notes, “is they are really interested in trying to use the free price system. Most environmental groups are left-wing.” A deﬁnite turnoff for this former stock trader. Wilson’s generous donations makes him one of the largest environmental donors in the U.S. in recent years—right at the top with Intel’s Gordon Moore and the late William Hewlett, cofounder of Hewlett-Packard. Like Wilson, they have given out their money through foundations and charitable trusts. (The other major players in environmental philanthropy are freestanding foundations, groups such as the Ford Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the New York Community Trust, which are now largely independent of the families and groups that ﬁrst set them up.) According to experts, environmental giving tops out at about two billion dollars a year. And though that may sound like a lot of money,
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it’s essentially chump change compared to the billions of dollars the socalled “polluter-industrial complex” offers up in political contributions, lobbying efforts, pro-industry think-tank donations, and advertising that challenges the scientiﬁc validity of an entire host of environmental problems, from global warming to solid waste. Still, $2 billion is not nothing. Using Wilson’s challenge grant, Environmental Defense has brought in more than $60 million in new money, most of it from other major donors. “The Wilson challenge has advanced our mission in many areas,” says Carol Kinzler, a senior development ofﬁcer. “It’s launched our oceans program and seeded partnerships with some of America’s leading corporations to address global warming.” That’s the problem that Wilson and environmentalists
quick look at where environmental funders are putting their money reveals one staggering fact. Almost half—half!—of all eco dollars in the U.S. go directly to one organization: The Nature Conservancy. Established more than 50 years ago with the express purpose of “saving the last great places on earth,” The Nature Conservancy (TNC) reported almost $950 million in revenue in 2005. In fact, TNC is so richly funded that the watchdog group Charity Navigator ranks them as number 25 on the list of largest-grossing nonproﬁts in the U.S., just behind 14 major universities and such other tax-exempt biggies as the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society. Of TNC’s revenue, at least 35 percent comes from foundations and corporate partners, including General Motors, Shell Oil, and Tom’s of Maine, the toothpaste people. A sizable part of the remaining 65 percent likely comes from other big donors—ones who don’t give through foundations, but simply write large, tax-exempt checks. (In TNC’s recordkeeping, major donor giving isn’t separated from the smaller gifts.) And, indeed, there’s something intuitively appealing about the work of TNC and other land conservancies. If an area is threatened, why not purchase and save it? The problem with this approach, says Brulle, is, quite simply, that it won’t save the earth. Land conservation doesn’t change the system that threatens environmentally sensitive areas in the ﬁrst place. “Nothing about land conservation in any way rocks the boat,” he says. TNC, of course, disputes this criticism. “Some academics could legitimately make the argument that preservation is not all that important, what you need to work on is sustainability,” says M. Sanjayan, the organization’s lead scientist. “But like most dichotomies, this one is false.” He points out that once TNC purchases land, the group’s reforestation efforts have broader social and ecological beneﬁts. For example, one of the group’s projects in China provides fuel-efﬁcient stoves to rural villagers. “That improves air quality. It reduces deforestation. Sustainability is embedded in the work we do,” Sanjayan says. Nobody disputes that such efforts are worthy. Deforestation accounts for approximately 20 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, after all. But U.S.-based conservancies hardly make a dent in that total. Their methods are simply inadequate ways to address the task at hand, which should be, quite frankly, stopping global warming where it starts: right here in the belly of the beast, in the carbon capital of the world, the United States of America. Whither the rest of the cash, the half of all environmental giving that doesn’t go directly to The Nature Conservancy? According to a study of environmental advocacy and philanthropy by Brulle and his collaborator, Ohio State University’s sociology chair, J. Craig Jenkins, a signiﬁcant majority of the remaining environmental funding ﬁnds its way into the ledgers of what the pair calls “reform” environmental groups—large organizations staffed by scientists and lawyers, economists and policy analysts—such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Environmental Defense whose members are, by and large,
“In the face of global climate change, groups like The Nature Conservancy can purchase all the land they want.
That’s not going to do the trick.” everywhere agree is far and away the greatest challenge of our time. Wilson’s money has helped Environmental Defense in the worthy endeavor of pioneering, with Federal Express, a hybrid delivery truck that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one-third. Now others, including Frito-Lay and the U.S. Post Ofﬁce, are testing the technology too. Without major funders like Wilson, U.S. environmentalism would be signiﬁcantly poorer—20 to 40 percent poorer, actually. But because major funders give out such a large percentage of environmental groups’ budgets, they play a special, leading role—they steer American environmentalism. But steer it in what direction? That’s perhaps the most important and relevant question.The nation and the world are in far worse environmental shape now than we were at the time of the ﬁrst Earth Day, back in 1970; the devastating threat of global warming looms ever nearer. Critics believe that many major funders have done a disservice to the movement, and by extension, the world as a whole, by giving inefﬁciently, with too many stipulations attached, in a way that hamstrings the political effectiveness of the environmental movement. Moreover, many of these same critics charge that much environmental giving is quite simply going to the wrong places. Rather than building and strengthening the grassroots of the movement—the activist core needed to create change—too much money goes into the politically safe strategy of land conservation. “In the face of global climate change,” says Robert J. Brulle, an associate professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University, “groups like The Nature Conservancy can purchase all the land they want. That’s not going to do the trick.” Given our planet’s precarious state, maybe it’s time for major funders to rethink the uses and direction of environmental gift-giving.
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make it happen, whether or not they believe this is the best use of their contributors rather than active volunteers. Reform environmentalism money or their time. “There’s always a temptation to chase money, receives about 30 percent of the foundation total. (Environmental simply because it’s money,” says Peter Massey, director of grant funding Defense and NRDC are the two largest of these; each operates on a at the L.A.-based TreePeople, an urban forestry and environmental budget of around $60 million to $70 million a year.) education group. Massey recalls a foundation that offered TreePeople How effective a use this is of money is open for debate. (More on a grant in the mid ﬁve-ﬁgure range, provided TreePeople reorganized that discussion later.) Regardless, the consensus in the environmental the way it worked with several classes full of schoolchildren. “We world, and among academics who study it, is that the way foundations said, ‘We’ll try to do that,’” Massey remembers. “A lot of extra time give the money hamstrings the movement through micromanagement. was devoted. But it wasn’t necessarily the best way to work with the Rather than giving grants that allow groups to use funding as they see schools.” ﬁt, most environmental grants are focused on speciﬁc projects and Is there a better approach? tasks, be they scientiﬁc studies, marketing campaigns, or educational If environmental funders want their dollars to work smarter, publications. Because funding is often so tightly earmarked, a group Faber says, they should look at the incredible success that a coterie that might want to ramp up its work in response to an unanticipated of conservative foundations have had in remaking American political crisis—like, say, Hurricane Katrina or an Alaskan oil spill—often culture in the last 30 years. These foundations—Olin, Scaife, Coors, can’t. “When Katrina hits, and you have to take nine months to get and Heritage—have underwritten the development of a tightly a grant, you miss the news cycle,” says political consultant Michael networked infrastructure of think tanks, policy institutes, attack Shellenberger, coauthor of the widely circulated manifesto “The Death groups, spin doctors, and front organizations that have beat the drum of Environmentalism.” of antienvironmental political conservatism, making it the potent Indeed, “the vast majority of funds come with so many strings political force that it is today. attached that foundations are really placing severe restrictions on Working in concert, Faber says, these foundations have offered organizations,” explains Daniel Faber, an associate professor of unrestricted, long-term, general support to strategically targeted sociology at Northeastern University who studies foundation giving. organizations. “If you look at the way they give those grants,” Faber Moreover, “foundations—traditional, large, liberal foundations— continues, “it’s designed to maximize the autonomy and ﬂexibility of aren’t willing to fund base-building and organization work,” says the recipient organizations, so they can be most effective. However an Maryll Kleibrink, development director of the Center for Health, organization thinks is the best way to spend that money, they’re free Environment and Justice, which aids local communities in ﬁghting to spend it in that manner.” If a conservative group receiving general polution and toxic waste. Organizing efforts are key to building prosupport thinks it can do best by ramping up its Internet presence, its environmental sentiment and grassroots action. But in this age of sofunding allows for that. Double the size of the communications staff so called “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” foundations expect quantiﬁable their cause gets more media attention? It’s allowed. Compile a database returns on their philanthropic “investments.” “Foundations are looking of sympathetic radio hosts? Go for it. for outcomes that they can measure in one year,” says Kleibrink. “But Says Faber, “the result of what the Right has achieved over the last with organizing, it’s really hard to measure. It’s long-term work.” 20 years has shown that method is very, very effective.” Further complicating matters is that a number of environmental funders lay out tasks and projects they personally want performed and ﬁnd organizations to accomplish them. (Wilson, by the way, he old dictum may isn’t that type of donor. Instead, he declare that money changes relies on Environmental Defense everything, but when it comes Who Gets How Much? President Fred Krupp to recommend to environmental philanthropy it funding priorities.) Critics charge that seems the opposite is more often The annual revenue of some of the biggest— this creates redundancy and allows the case. “The big foundations don’t and smallest—environmental groups funders, rather than environmental support radical views,” observes (all figures are fiscal year 2005 unless otherwise noted): groups, to decide the movement’s Christopher Bosso, author of priorities. The most extreme version Environment, Inc.: From Grassroots to The Nature Conservancy $950 million of this comes from the Pew Charitable Beltway. After all, he explains, many Sierra Club $85 million Foundations, which established its major funders, especially those with Environmental Defense Fund $69 million own offshoot organization in the ’90s family foundations like Bob Wilson Natural Resources Defense Council $61 million to address the issue of old-growth or Gordon Moore, made a lot of Greenpeace $8 million forests, and, more recently, its own money in the marketplace. “They’re TreePeople* $5 million climate-change center. Even at the not antiestablishment. They’re not Rainforest Action Network $3 million local level, where the ﬁnancial stakes anticapitalist. They want to make the Center for Health, Environment and Justice $2 million are considerably lower, funders often system work.” As a result, Bosso says, *fiscal year 2004 formulate their own agendas, and “activists to the extreme left of the environmental groups often scurry to environmental community critique
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TreePeople, a small urban forestry group, fosters environmental education by working with schoolchildren (above); using a grant from multimillionaire Robert Wilson, Environmental Defense helped bring hybrid delivery trucks to FedEx’s fleet (right); The Nature Conservancy protects threatened land, like this wildlife habitat in Tanzania (below).
these big foundations for essentially driving what they see as a middleclass, middle-of-the-road agenda. And the answer is, of course they are. That’s their orientation.” So can groups underwritten by a lot of foundation and major donor money ever make much progress on the environment’s behalf? Some critics say no. Relying on the economic elite has never been the way to create the kind of mass social movement the world needs right now. “Major donors in particular don’t feel so comfortable with protest or with trying to mobilize the grassroots,” says University of Miami political scientist George Gonzalez, author of The Politics of Air Pollution. “They’re rich and they often feel comfortable in the social system as it is.” (Bosso believes this incongruence between the goals of major funders and the needs of the environment may be the cause of much foundation micromanagement.) And it’s true that activist groups aren’t getting a lot of attention from foundations. Take the example of the San Francisco–based Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which focuses not just on saving the rainforest but on changing the ecologically damaging aspects of the American marketplace. RAN is best known for two things: its success in getting concessions from corporate giants like Home Depot and Citigroup; and for its ﬂashy, nonviolent approach to environmental direct action. When Citigroup ﬁnanced palm oil plantations that would destroy an endangered orangutan habitat in Indonesia, RAN demonstrated outside the Citigroup headquarters by wearing orangutan suits and hanging a 50-foot anti-Citigroup banner on the building across the street. They aired a TV commercial that featured a group of celebrities cutting up their Citibank credit cards. Not long
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Photographs courtesy Karen Broderick/TreePeople (top); Environmental Defense (middle); Emily Whitted/TNC (bottom)
thereafter, Citigroup negotiated a sustainability policy with RAN that has since become a model in the ﬁnancial sector, inspiring even farther-reaching guidelines from ﬁnancial powerhouses like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. Yet, RAN operates on an annual budget of just over three million dollars. “Some of our campaigns are a little more edgy than some foundations would be able to support,” notes development director Branden Barber. Were signiﬁcantly more money to pour into the organization’s coffers, he believes, “we could really kick butt. It would give us a whole new range of opportunity in making a difference in the marketplace.” That money, however, doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. And when you think about it, it’s not exactly surprising that there’s a shortage of billionaires lining up to fund plans to undermine corporate interests. Maybe it’s not where the money comes from, but where it goes that’s the problem. Drexel’s Brulle believes that regardless of the source of their wealth, environmental funders desperately need to reorder their giving priorities. First and foremost, land conservation should not be the preeminent concern. “The task of changing from a society that’s not ecologically sustainable to one that is, is an immense task. But buying and preserving more land, especially in the face of global climate change, isn’t a strategy that’s even remotely going to get you there,” he says. What will work? What should be funded? That’s the question currently up for debate. Almost everyone Plenty contacted, activists and academics alike, stressed the importance of building a broad constituency based on existing and new social networks like those that have powered the most successful political movements of our time, from the Civil Rights Movement, which drew much of its strength from African American churches, to the Religious Right, which has also been fueled by churches, most of them white evangelical. “The social science on this says that you have to tap into existing networks, like friendship networks or congregational networks,” Brulle explains. “This strengthens social organization.” Funders can help facilitate this by giving, for example, to religiousbased environmental groups, which, according to Brulle and Jenkins, currently receives only 0.6 percent of all the environmental foundation money they’ve tracked. And the truth is, to some extent, working directly with big business can be really effective in some cases. If, with Wilson’s help, FedEx can cut its delivery ﬂeet’s greenhouse gas emissions by a third, more power to ’em. Whether reform environmentalism should remain a a major focus is currently up for debate. Critics such as Brulle and Shellenberger charge that the large, federally focused groups like the NRDC haven’t been able to accomplish much since the Republicans took over Congress in the mid-’90s, and therefore aren’t particularly effective uses of foundation cash. Others disagree. “Would the environment be better if the mainstream environmental groups didn’t exist? I don’t think so,” argues Robert Duffy, Colorado State University political scientist and author of The Green Agenda in American Politics. Working on legislation and policy, using the court system, and supplying experts to counter those offered up by industry might not be glamorous, Duffy notes. “But until we have a different political system, that’s how
the game is played.” There are plenty of other ways to strengthen environmentalism’s political muscle and broaden its base while working within the current system, Duffy says. He highlights important recent electoral victories spearheaded by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and the Sierra Club and powered by coalitions of environmentalists, labor unions, minorities, and women’s groups. “LCV and the Sierra Club could do much more election work if they had more money,” says Duffy. Increased funding of the environmental justice movement, which addresses the disproportionate effects of pollution, toxins, and other environmental threats on the poor, could also be a key strategy in strengthening the environmental movement. It would allow environmentalists to reach communities that often feel neglected and alienated from the green movement.
mportantly, there’s some indication that big environmental funders are starting to move in the right direction. In recent years, the Ford Foundation, one of the nation’s largest environmental givers, has introduced an environmental justice portfolio. Grants have gone to projects like the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, an activist group in New Orleans, Montana-based Native Action, a Native American grassroots organization, and Oakland, California’s Urban Habitat, which focuses on the impact of global warming on low-income people and and on environmental health. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, another of the nation’s top-tier environmental funders, has also started to address climate change by working with what they call “new voices.” Among them are Twenty Five by Twenty Five, a group of farmers interested in hosting alternative energy sources such as wind turbines on their land; and the Campus Climate Challenge, a network of college students who want to reduce their schools’ globalwarming footprints. Still, more funding for these groups is desperately needed. The Campus Climate Challenge, for instance, which now has chapters on more than 300 college campuses, would love to expand its work to every high school and college campus in North America. “We’re training the environmental leaders of the future,” campaign director Jessy Tolkan observes. But to make a great impact, CCC needs to increase its staff from the current total of four. Says Tolkan, “We have one digital organizer for a campaign that’s happening in every state across the country and in many places in Canada.”
ack on his terrace, Robert Wilson worries that the time available to address global warming is rapidly running out. “We have to do everything we can,” he says, tilting his chin downward and folding his long hands pensively across his lap. We have to do everything we can. That goes for every one of us, from $25 donors to regular old billionaires. Building the movement’s base and political power, empowering organizations to do what they do best—these are the things that may well stabilize the climate—and with it, all life on Earth. That’s a big task. But environmentalism is a big movement. Perhaps, when put to the right uses, money really can change everything. ■
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By Todd Gitlin
I were to claim that political activism has never galvanized more Americans than in recent years, it might sound as though I’d taken leave of my senses. We’ve all read that Americans don’t vote, the young least of all; that every year fewer people read newspapers or watch TV news; that our political impulses are ﬂattened by irony, despair, and indifference. By and large, young Americans nowadays don’t demonstrate, don’t disrupt, don’t give up their summers volunteering to mobilize the unmobilized and save the planet. Have they decided to let the world burn, the icebergs melt, the Middle East tear itself apart while they busy themselves with their iPods, Xboxes, and Game Boys? Make no mistake: No one but the congenitally giddy should be conﬁdent that present generations are rising to the occasion—the grand occasion that is the fate of the earth. In light of all we’re up against, efforts at rescue and repair have a way of looking paltry. How to assess whether it’s sunup or sundown is no easy matter. But it’s premature, way premature, to conclude that the game is over and that the citizens of a fading republic have decided to let the world twist in the wind. In truth, I don’t know that there are more political activists today than ever before—but I don’t know that there aren’t. And neither does anyone else. Some skeptics miss the abundant signs of citizen activism because, when they look around, they don’t see replicas of past protests, and so they conclude that everyone is drowning in apathy. This is a case of overrating appearances. You can’t assess the scope or effect of activism by whether it uses a particular set of tactics. Rather, the question is: Are people banding together to build momentum and get results? Much of today’s activism is either invisible or operates (in the words of a ’60s curse) “inside the system.” It is the spirit of this age that activists would rather vote with their dollars, whether for hybrid cars, fair-labor sneakers, or tribal-made goods, than put their bodies on the line. They take initiative with their purchases; they seduce, humiliate, and otherwise pressure institutions into change. They promote incentives. They create markets. There are other new forms of collective action. Consider, for example, Critical Mass, the campaign to promote bicycle use and conserve energy in our cities. It involves large bike-rides which slow down trafﬁc…for a few hours a month. Better known, enough to be demonized by the Republicans, is MoveOn.org, the Internet-based group
Slacktivism in action: a flash mob in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, August 2003.
Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Todd Gitlin is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of The Intellectuals and the Flag (Columbia University Press). In 2007, his new book on the current political landscape will be published by John Wiley & Sons.
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Author Todd Gitlin (right) speaks to investigative journalist I.F. Stone (left) at a demonstration against nuclear arms, Washington, February 1962.
that organized against the Clinton impeachment ﬁasco and remains a mobilizing force for progressive volunteers. No violence results from these efforts, but activists get revved up to keep on keeping on. Now, it’s deeply and grievously true that such projects are limited in their effects—in no small part because constructive action is blocked by a national government that holds science in contempt, pays huge dividends to the perpetrators of climate change, and serves in a thousand ways the forces of corporate business-as-usual. A counterforce, the green economy, has grown rapidly. But it started from barely above scratch and still accounts for only a small fraction of overall production. In the world at large, industries that spew greenhouse gases are expanding faster than the nice green stuff. Still, buying green does more than make the buyers feel good: It demonstrates how much better things could be if governments stopped subsidizing the worst forms of production and got serious about promoting the best. This is why environmentalists and other world-changing activists in growing numbers are turning to the grueling, compromised work of electoral politics.
One of the premium movement targets of the late ’60s was Dow Chemical, manufacturer of napalm, the jellied form of gasoline used in bombs. Antiwarriors boycotted Dow’s Saran Wrap and demonstrated against the company and its recruiters; liberal institutions and shareholders sold their Dow stock. Eventually, a new CEO was persuaded that napalm was indeed an indefensible weapon, and the company got out of the jellied gasoline business. By contrast, in 2003, Greenpeace (on whose board I used to sit) ran a direct action campaign against ExxonMobil, aiming to nudge the company out of its romance with greenhouse gases. Here’s a difference in times and companies: ExxonMobil went to court and beat back Greenpeace’s campaign, and continues to lobby against sane greenhouse gas policies and to bankroll junk science propaganda. As long as oil-regime Republicans run Washington, ExxonMobil has cover. In the ’60s, practical pressures—namely, the draft—inspired activism. Today, practical pressures have the opposite effect. What with the cost of living and the exigencies of jobs, Americans have less time to spend on public activities of all sorts. The young take longer to graduate college than their parents did. They hold down jobs while if they’re any good, choose tac- taking classes, and even so, they frequently graduate buried in mounds tics that suit the circumstances of debt. Even after six years of the Bush regime’s catastrophes, they are in which they ﬁnd themselves. not inclined to take to the streets. Perhaps that would seem a luxury, To confront the present with the tactics of the past is to be hypnotized or retro, or futile. If the president can steal an election, what hope do by the glamour of technique, doped by an anesthetizing nostalgia. It is they have? to be imprisoned in media images—of which the fabled ’60s (when I Meanwhile, the institutions of power have adapted to past modes got my own activist start) surely offer many photogenic displays. of protest; politicians and policemen ban rallies in New York City’s But the objective of political activism is not to be photogenic (or Central Park by claiming that they are trying to protect the grass, refuse to be). The objective is to win. Toward that end, front-page designate “ofﬁcial protest areas” a mile away from the target, and haul pictures may be useful, as well as behind-the-scenes approaches that protesters to jail until the event—a political convention, a campaign hadn’t yet taken shape in 1968. speech, a gathering of state—is over. Partly as a result, many dispirited The tactics we associate with the ’60s—sit-ins, freedom rides, mass young people succumb to an immense and growing attachment to the marches, mass boycotts, “counterinstitutions,” psychedelic symbols, motley forms of popular culture. Others settle for measures that cost a raft of disruptions—made sense in their time for two reasons. First, nothing and mean about as much; they practice “slacktivism,” deﬁned they were fresh, which excited novices and unsettled opponents. Secby Wikipedia as do-little activities, including “signing Internet petiond, they rested on more or less realistic premises about the balance of tions, the wearing of wristbands with political messages on them, and political power—in particular, the existence of a predominantly liberal taking part in short-term boycotts such as Buy Nothing Day.” consensus about what was desirable and possible. Those who went out But here is a hopeful sign: The largest and fastest-growing bloc in the streets, risked their bodies, and otherwise confronted power were of progressives is a wave of new-style activists, the so-called netroots, not only moralists emoting against war and corporate capitalism, they applying themselves to election campaigns. They helped make Howard were also strategists. They felt that their tactics were urgent, but they Dean a force two years ago; they cost pro-war senator Joe Lieberman didn’t simply ﬂing those tactics into the wind and hope they would a win in his recent Democratic primary. Frightened at their incipient land somewhere fertile—they reasoned about their prospects for effec- loss of opinion-shaping hegemony, mainstream political commentativeness. The tactics of the time didn’t always work, but when they did, tors have called the Internet protesters wild-eyed left-wingers, even it was because they ignited the enthusiasm of larger numbers of people “blogofascists.” Some things don’t change—they applied similar labels than they offended. They applied popular strength at their enemies’ to those who took to the streets 40 years ago. weak points. When the tactics didn’t make sense, it was because they Such alarms miss the point. The online activists of MoveOn, Daily drove away as many potential supporters as they attracted, or more of Kos, and many similar aggregations are not meant to tear down the them. American house. They are surely angry—who shouldn’t be angry at
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Bush’s ruinations?—but they are informed, and most of all, they are alert to the indispensability of political power if the disastrous Bush years are to be overcome. Today’s activists have transcended the interest-group politics of the ’70s and ’80s, but not under the banner of the radical rhetoric of the ’60s. In truth, the anticapitalist verbiage of that time was more theatrical than substantial—it was rarely matched by action that actually threatened private ownership of the means of production—and today’s activists have dispensed with rhetoric almost entirely. (Who are the eloquent speakers, the Kings and Kennedys, of this generation?) Today’s activists are not radical: They don’t think that overthrowing the main social institutions is either plausible or desirable. They doubt the merits of a sweeping transformation beyond liberal capitalism, and have no interest in beating their heads against walls. We don’t even know yet how effective they are—they haven’t yet elected many
Photograph courtesy Todd Gitlin
ofﬁcials. But while they steer clear of utopian hopes, they are deeply dedicated to moving the country onto a sustainable path. The most sophisticated assessment of Internet activists that I have seen comes from Scott Winship, a Harvard graduate student in social policy who is also the managing editor of Democratic Strategist, an online magazine. According to Winship, in 2004, 1.6 million Internetsavvy, left-of-center activists attended campaign rallies, donated money to campaigns, knocked on doors, and worked phone banks. That number is considerably larger than any single liberal interest group—the Sierra Club, for example, has 750,000 members, while the National Resources Defense Council has 1.2 million. Now, 1.6 million is less than the sum of liberal interest groups, and it is only about one-seventh the number of union members in the U.S. And certainly none of the environmental, pro-choice, gay-rights or other groups should be counted out as contributors to activist currents.
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Antiwar activists demonstrate against the Vietnam War in Bryant Park, New York City, April 1969.
Many activists work many fronts. But what the 1.6 million (and that number has surely grown since 2004) has in common is not any single issue. It is that, every two years, they focus on elections, in which, like it or not, politicians take power. What’s striking about electoral-minded netroots activists is that, for the most part, they don’t deﬁne themselves as protestors. They don’t see themselves as doomed to occupy the margins of politics, deploring liberal capitalism, while the right continues to run away with the big stakes—the laws, executive orders, court decisions, and wars. They want leverage and inﬂuence. They recognize that the strength of the pseudoconservative right, over recent decades, has stemmed from its ability to channel movement energies into an apparatus that can achieve political power and then hold it responsible. They want to do the same. I do not mean to say that the new activists are indifferent to principle or naïve about the normal pressures of politics. They care passionately about the environment, health care, abortion, globalization, afﬁrmative action, Iraq, American safety, a rational foreign policy, and many other matters. But they are more than an assemblage of issue activists. They are not just liberal, they are partisan—not because they think the Democratic Party is a band of saints, not because they are ignorant of the power of big money in both parties, not because they are indiscriminately impressed by the quality of Democratic politicians, but because they are realistic about how to get results in a political system rigged for two dominant parties. They know that in politics, you ﬁght in alliance with the people you have, not the people you wish you had. In fact, for the electoral-minded activists of the center-left, realism is a badge of honor. They have seen how their parents’ grand idealism declined into Baby Boomer self-obsession, and wonder if there was really ever any difference. They saw how Ralph Nader’s purity crusade culminated in the ﬁasco of Bush’s ascendancy to the White House. They care about defeating Republicans because they know that as long as George W. Bush is president and his allies run Congress, they stand no chance at all of approximating their desires, let alone realizing them. They understand deeply the concept of necessary conditions— that retaking the White House is the necessary condition for a live and decent politics. And this meant that they have been compelled, no matter how reluctantly, to think of themselves as Democrats. The new activists don’t ﬁt the Central Casting imagery of an activist movement. They aren’t especially partial to beads or sandals. They sport no more tattoos than anyone else. They do not long for counterculture. Their rhetoric may be angry, but they doubt that a transcapitalist system makes sense. Their very normality is one of their strengths; they cannot be easily stigmatized. It makes sense to call the Democratic netroots a movement, because in 2004 and since, they moved—they acted, they mobilized. They are energetic, experimental, feeling their way, full of verve. They have learned one of the crucial lessons of our time: that even if they aren’t interested in politics, politics is interested in them. ■
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Photograph by Bernard Gotfryd/Getty Images
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Light the way.
Pledge to make your next light an ENERGY STAR速 at energystar.gov/changealight and join a growing number of people doing their part to preserve energy resources and help reduce the risks of global climate change. With your help, others will surely follow. Change a Light. Change the World. ENERGY STAR is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy.
CHO ICES HO M E
In Sync An architect’s house gets back in touch with nature BY DAVID SOKOL
If you feel disconnected from the seasons, architect Carrie Meinberg Burke thinks the little device strapped to your wrist is partly to blame. “We’re part of a natural system, but we’ve somewhat forgotten it, thanks to clocks and calendars and other artiﬁces like packaged foods,” she says. “They’re layers of removal from what we’re deeply connected to.” To reunite with Earth’s rhythms, she designed an ingenious house for herself and her family (husband Kevin and daughter Ava) in which one of the main living spaces acts as a giant sundial.
Clad in sheets of copper, Timepiece House is angled to take advantage of natural light all year round. The owners grow Thai basil and lemongrass on the roof garden.
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CH O I CES H OM E From left to right: A mezzanine overlooks the dining area; tables on wheels make rearranging easy; the concrete floor, furnishings, and finishes are low-maintenance and durable; a shaft of sunlight penetrates the oculus at noontime on the equinox.
Altering perception with sunlight had captured the 49-year-old’s imagination ever since she was a graduate student in architecture at Yale. So when the Burkes decided to build their home in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, Kevin “wanted me to be able to build my theory. I hadn’t figured out how to build these ideas—they were literally paper-thin.” Timepiece House is located in a historic district, where the streets are lined with Victorian homes. In 1995, when the Burkes first saw the empty half-acre lot, it had been on the market for five years, which Carrie attributes to community anxiety over shoehorning a McMansion between the older homes. Immediately, Kevin (also an architect) imagined a solution: hiding the structure from the road and making it look like a barn or carriage house for one of the mansions. To afford the land, the Burkes purchased a quarter-acre of it while neighbor Marla Ziegler bought the road frontage. The house’s exterior marks the passage of time. It is clad in recycled copper, which matures from a shiny-penny surface to the color of purplish earth. Since the Burkes finished the cladding several years ago, streaks
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of green have formed where rainwater drains from its surface; ultimately, this verdigris patina will let the house fade into the landscape. Since the panels released copper before developing the oxidized coating, the Burkes transformed part of their property into a wetland, where native cattails—which clean up heavy metals—thrive. The day-to-day timekeeping, however, takes place inside. In the observatory room, located on the second level of the house, light filters through an oculus, a 24-inch-diameter circle of clear glass suspended from a 9-footlong skylight. A beam of sunlight tracks through the room around midday. Using the precise latitude and longitude coordinates of the site, Burke placed the house along the true north-south solar axis, and calculated the unique roofline, placement of beams, and floor plan so that, at winter solstice, the rays skim the surface of the ceiling. At summer’s peak, the oculus projects a beam of light into the stairwell. Planning the interior of the 2,000-squarefoot Timepiece House was, she says, like scripting the day’s activities according to the sun’s movement. Bedrooms and baths are placed on the ground floor, where morning
light creeps in to wake the occupants, who ascend to the kitchen, where the sun shines throughout the day. In addition to the kitchen, this main level, which is overlooked by a mezzanine work area, includes the observatory. “I started realizing that living a sustainable life is all about the incremental details of one day,” Burke says. “Habits tend to accrue into larger issues.” Indeed, the Burkes are vegetarians, and they enhance their connection to the outdoors by growing herbs and vegetables on a roof garden. The garden sits atop the concrete mechanical room, which itself is a showcase for the house’s environmentally friendly features. Inside is the heat pump for the geothermal system; a control panel for the radiant floors, which are warmed by hot water running through embedded tubes, and heat the interiors more efficiently than forced-air systems with ducts; and a gas-fueled water heater, which Burke hopes to power someday with solar panels. There’s even a worm composter for the family’s food scraps.
“Especially having our daughter grow up in the house, it’s been really important that this affects her decisions about the way she lives and acts toward the environment, and even generates solutions we haven’t thought of.” Timepiece House continues to be a laboratory for green living. When the Burkes became annoyed by the hum of their airconditioner, for instance, Carrie began collaborating with a couple of friends—one an
“Living a sustainable life is all about the incremental details of one day,” says Carrie Meinberg Burke, who designed and lives in Timepiece House. engineer, the other a contractor—to develop a prototype radiant cooling system, with panels installed on interior walls for this purpose. So far it’s worked well, thanks to Burke’s resourcefulness: Where some might see the condensation that collects on the panels as a problem, Burke sees filtered water that could be channeled to the roof garden. ■ plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 79
CH O I CES H OM E
QUESTIONS FOR A GREEN DESIGNER NAME: David Bergman, architect and product designer COMPANY: David Bergman Architects and Fire & Water, New York City
Wiggle room One New Yorker aims to put worm compost bins under every kitchen sink BY EMMA JOHNSON
Let’s talk about one of your areas of expertise: lighting. You say that fluorescent lights aren’t just for office buildings anymore. Why is that?
A lot of people are scared off by the old issues with fluorescents: the buzzing noise, the greenish light, the flickering. But the technology has come a long way, and those things aren’t a problem anymore. And more manufacturers are making decorative lights for homes that use fluorescent bulbs. Plus, there is growing regulation in the area of home lighting. I’m doing a project in California, where a new standard requires the use of high-efficiency lighting and/or dimmers and motion detectors almost everywhere in the house. So fluorescents will be a part of that, naturally, since they’re so much more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Their standard will drive the market for innovations, since California is so huge—whatever happens there happens elsewhere a few years later. Do you really need special fixtures, though? Can’t we just use compact fluorescent lightbulbs in our old lamps?
Well, yes. Technically, the ones you screw into the fixtures you already have are called replacement CFLs, because you can swap them for incandescent lightbulbs. The downside is, replacement CFLs can be re-replaced with those old inefficient bulbs. To prevent that, Energy Star has just come up with a new standard for bulb sockets for CFLs. The standard will make it easier for manufacturers to make CFL-ready lamps and light fixtures, and the bulbs with the new sockets will start becoming more widely available, too. How about light-emitting diodes? People seem to be really excited about them.
LEDs are edging their way into home lighting, but there are still problems with them. They have the potential to be a lot more efficient than they are now, for instance. And the color they give off used to be very blue and cold, but that’s getting better too. I’m using LEDs in one of my projects to light up a stairway to a loft bedroom. For that kind of application— low-level lighting—LEDs are wonderful. But what’s most exciting is the design potential they offer. With CFLs, we’ve been reinterpreting incandescent fixtures, where you still have a bulb that emits a single source of light. But with LEDs, you’ve got tiny pinpoints of light, so you can arrange them in clusters, bands, curves, all different shapes. I think they’re going to change everything in terms of what new light fixtures look like in five or ten years. —Deborah Snoonian
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Zidar has developed educational materials about worm composting (this page). Her other eco-related activities include overseeing a free fishing clinic in East River Park for the Lower East Side Ecology Center (opposite).
Kate Zidar is making composting her mission in the most unlikely of places: the concrete-covered metropolis of New York City. “Composting is perfect for high-density urban living, and it’s critical because of New York’s poor soil quality and waste management problems,” Zidar says. “And worm composting works fast and take up a small amount of space.” Zidar, 29, who works for New York’s Lower East Side Ecology Center, says that individual composting—as opposed to community-wide programs—is the only way to make a signiﬁcant dent in slashing the amount of trash generated in urban areas. New York City alone generates 9.5 tons of food waste each week; Zidar calculates that if all eight million New Yorkers fed their table scraps to worms in their own compost bins, the city could reduce food waste by 75 percent. Zidar, who began experimenting with worm composting at home in 2004, has created a model that can help make that happen. While working her daily shift at the Green Dome community garden in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood in the summer of 2005, Zidar encouraged curious passersby to check out the garden’s whirlpool-sized compost bin, which was writhing with worms. By that Thanksgiving, she had composted
nearly two and a half tons of waste that had been donated by area residents who had stopped by to learn about her project. “I don’t know if that is one elephant or two,” Zidar says of the mass. [That’s eight to ten baby African elephants by our count.—Ed.] The popularity of this effort led Zidar to host a free worm composting workshop for the people she’d recruited through her impromptu summer lessons. Twenty people showed up; ten went home with compost bins. She repeated the workshop in the summer of 2006, and was pleased that a few of the previous year’s waste donors didn’t show up—she assumes they’re at home feeding table scraps to their own worms.
Her enthusiasm for vermiculture struck not long after she moved to New York City in 1997, when she learned that the city was responsible for New York State’s No. 1 ranking as a garbage exporter, and her home state of Pennsylvania’s No. 1 ranking as a garbage importer. “I could just imagine throwing away a paper cup, it going into a garbage can, then being carried away by a truck that drives around my neighborhood,” she said. “I imagined it would be transferred to a longdistance hauler and eventually I’d be sending my cup back to my mom on Route 51 south of Pittsburgh. I took it a little bit personally.” Zidar earned a master’s degree in city and regional planning and began working for the LES Ecology Center before graduating. Her job involves environmental advocacy, grant writing, and conducting workshops for kids and adults about composting, ﬁshing, and the various powers of worms. “I had no affection for the red wiggler worm until I started showing them to a bunch of disinterested kids,” she says with a laugh. “In every teaching situation, the worms always win. Kids and adults might start out totally grossed out, but that melts away in the course of 20 minutes. Resistance is futile. Worms have total charm.” ■
CREATE YOUR OWN WORM COMPOST MATERIALS Compost bin (available at lesecologycenter.org or composters.com, or make your own) ● One pound of red wiggler worms (available at lesecologycenter.org or cityfarmer.org) ● Black-and-white newsprint (no colored or glossy paper) ● Fruit and vegetable scraps ●
PROCEDURE 1. If you’re not buying a compost bin, make one out of a wood or plastic container that’s at least 12 inches deep and about 18 inches square. Cut or drill a few holes on the bottom and sides for proper drainage and ventilation. 2. Identify a storage location where temperatures will remain between 40 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, such as a kitchen cabinet, pantry, or garage. 3. Shred the newsprint into one-inch strips and
soak them in water until saturated. Squeeze out the excess moisture and fluff the strips, filling the compost bin to three-quarters capacity. 4. Add the red wiggler worms. They’ll rush to the dark, warm bottom of the bin. 5. Start feeding your wigglers! Always place food scraps underneath the newspaper strips. Worms are vegetarians; they love fruit and vegetable scraps, including citrus rinds, as well as coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, crushed eggshells, paper towels, and plant trimmings. Chop these goodies into one-inch chunks to help them decompose faster. Do not feed your worms meat, dairy, grains, woody plant prunings, or nonbiodegradable materials. As your worm colony thrives, add moist newspaper strips to maintain a 6-inch layer, which provides fiber to the worms and stabilizes the temperature and humidity of the bin.
6. Two to three months after you’ve begun, it’s harvest time! First, don’t feed your worms for two weeks, then pile the dark brown compost on one side of the bin and place fresh food and bedding on the other. Wait another two weeks for the worms to vacate the compost material in search of fresh food. You can then remove the compost material from the bin. Be sure to harvest it every few months, as the compost is poisonous to the worms if it remains in the bin for too long. 7. To stave off fruit flies, follow these tips: Microwave or freeze tropical fruit skins to kill larvae before adding them to the bin ● Add a few tablespoons of lime juice to the bin to raise the material’s acidity ● Create a fly trap inside the bin by placing wine or beer in a plastic bottle with the neck removed ● Attach fly paper to underside of the bin’s lid. —E.J. ●
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C HO I C ES C U LTU R E
Trail Blazer Snowbiking is surprisingly easy to learn—not to mention ridiculously fun BY CHRISTINE RICHMOND The first time I attempted to ski, on the bunny slope of an unimpressively sized mountain in Massachusetts, I pointed my skis straight down the hill and took off. Within seconds, I realized I didn’t know how to stop. I screamed as I barreled down what felt like a huge hill, tears streaming off my face, until I reached the bottom and my father scooped me up. My sister, who had been standing next to him, decided at that moment to never take up the sport. So you can imagine my trepidation, 20 years later, when I stared down the face of a much more imposing descent at the Sunshine Village ski resort in Banff National Park, Canada. Only this time, I was straddling a snowbike. I was there with an instructor and about six other people—all adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s—learning how to ride the contraption. A snowbike, sometimes called a skibike or skibob, consists of a basic bike frame that’s built low to the ground. Instead of wheels, snowbikes have short skis; riders also wear boots with little skis attached to the soles. Our sprightly, middle-aged instructor, Dan Joja, told us to head down the mountain in a serpentine motion, just like a skier or snowboarder would. To move right, he explained, we’d simply press down on the handlebars with our right hands and lift our right legs off the ground. If we wanted to stop, we were supposed to turn up the hill and dig in. He also urged us to keep our legs close to the bike; sitting with your knees apart can make you tip over. Of course, I ignored his instructions the second we started doing practice drills. Stretching my legs out and using my feet like training wheels made me feel safe—wobbly, but safe. Then it was time to actually head down the trail. The group took off, but I lagged behind, awkwardly plowing as wide and slow a path as I could. Families on skis stopped
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to watch our oddball group slide by. When I reached the ﬁnal descent, I noticed the hill was crowded and realized that the only way to avoid a collision was to head straight down. I swallowed hard, recalling that harrowing afternoon on the bunny slope years ago, and went for it. As I picked up speed, my fear changed to cautious enthusiasm, and then ﬁnally exhilaration. The snowbike was surprisingly stable and easy to control. It took only one more trip down the mountain before I was completely transformed. I started cutting across trails at full speed. I attacked moguls recklessly, laughing like a maniac. Rather than obsessing over my technique (which I do whenever I snowboard, a sport I’m terrible at), I let loose and actually had fun. And I didn’t fall once. As a snowbiker, I felt the way snowboarders must have in the mid-eighties. I got a lot of strange looks around the mountain, although most of them were followed with comments like, “That looks fun. We should try it.” Using the lift was clunky—I had to angle my handlebars through the outside of the chair so that the bike could dangle without falling (scary—I gripped it desperately during the entire ride). But I’m sure the lift situation will continue to get better as snowbiking catches on. And it will catch on—not only is it easy to learn, but it’s also ridiculously fun, and it’s a sport that people with back problems, weak knees, and other health issues can enjoy. During my last run, giddy and overconﬁdent, I rounded a corner too fast and nearly slammed into a group of snowboarders who had stopped to talk. Finally heeding my instructor’s advice, I turned my bike up the hill in one rapid motion, spraying a wave of powder at them. They looked at me quizzically. I felt like I needed to say something, so in a moment of unbridled gusto (and dorkiness), I yelled, “EXTREME!” Then I pointed my bike straight down the hill again, and took off. ■
A snowbiker hits the trail at the Sunshine Village ski resort in Banff National Park, Canada. Unlike skiing or snowboarding, snowbiking is easy on the joints.
Where to Snowbike Ready to get “extreme”? These ecofriendly North American ski resorts are among those that teach snowbiking. —C.R. Sunshine Village, Banff National Park Alberta, Canada (skibanff.com) Because it’s part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sunshine has strict environmental stewardship programs in place. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep during the drive up. Vail Resorts Vail, CO (vail.snow.com) Vail’s green initiatives include purchasing wind-power credits to offset 100% of its electricity use. Sugarbush Resort Warren, VT (sugarbush.com) Sugarbush has partnered with local environmental groups like Friends of the Mad River to help preserve natural resources and the surrounding wildlife. Much of the resort’s heavy machinery runs on biodiesel, and low-energy nozzles on the snowmaking machines reduce CO2 emissions by 65%. Telluride Ski Resort Telluride, CO (tellurideskiresort.com) Telluride’s water-conservation and energy-efficiency programs have earned the resort several environmental awards. It’s currently phasing in the use of biodiesel for much of its equipment.
Photograph by Brian Stolle
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F O R WAR D R E TR E A D S
Holiday Giving Your Way Two easy, eco-friendly items you can make for the people on your holiday list BY CHRISTY HARRISON Tired of running around looking for the perfect presents for the folks on your list? Or maybe the thought of all that holiday packaging waste is getting you in a preemptive tizzy? Relax, and let Plenty be your guide with these simple DIY gifts. Using mostly materials you already have around the house, you’ll be able to whip up offerings that are far more personal than anything you could buy premade.
STURDY PERCH Adapted from dangerouslyfun.com With all the boxes you’ll have lying around after the holiday gifts are opened, this project presents a great opportunity for reuse. It also makes a useful host or hostess gift on New Year’s Eve, when seating may be in short supply. Requiring just three large sheets of cardboard, this two-foot stool can seat folks up to 250 pounds. If you don’t have any boxes big enough to fold to the necessary dimensions, stop by your local art-supply store and pick up some recycled cardboard —it should only set you back a few bucks. Materials
the pen or marker, mark every two inches along the borders and every inch along the middle rim, then connect to make a series of 18 diamond shapes (to 36 inches, halfway along the sheet). Using the box cutter, carefully cut out the centers of the diamonds, which will allow the cardboard to fold in and create the stool’s hourglass shape. Cut out the large shaded areas shown to create the seat’s rims. 3. For Section B, you won’t need to draw or cut anything—just roll the sheet of cardboard up tightly to create a column. This will be the weight-bearing element of the stool. 4. Test-ﬁt everything before gluing together as shown. If anything does not line up, trim off excess cardboard a little at a time until it
ﬁts. Be sure Section B will ﬁt inside Section C before gluing. Glue all parts together along the seams as shown, taking care to make sure none of the glue is visible. 5. Let the glue dry completely (a full day is best) before you sit on the stool. It should be quite sturdy, but always sit fairly still on it, avoiding tilting or leaning, which will wear it out quickly. ■
Three 3/8”-thick corrugated cardboard sheets: One 30” x 40” (Section A) One 23.5” x 48” (Section B) One 24” x 72” (Section C) White glue Extra-large compass Box cutter Pen or marker Yardstick
Procedure 1. Start with Section A, which will form
the seat: Set your compass to an 11.5-inch diameter and draw six separate circles (make them close together so that you have enough room for all six on one cardboard sheet). Cut the circles out, glue them together in a stack, and set aside to dry. 2. Next, for Section C, measure and draw lines along your cardboard as shown, to make a two-inch border along the top edge and a one-inch strip along the middle. With 84 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Photograph and diagram by dangerouslyfun.com (this page); photograph courtesy Danny Seo (opposite, top right)
MATERIAL WORLD It’s easy to go overboard at craft stores, but with a little guidance, it’s also easy to go green By Danny Seo
● Avoid kits. Anything that contains everything you need to make a pottery bowl or stained glass coaster is neither ecological or economical. Instead, buy individual materials as you would buy ingredients at a supermarket. ● Wrap real. Imitation cellophane is everywhere, but real clear cellophane wrap is made from tree cellulose (translation: biodegradeable) and can be used to wrap a basket of fresh organic fruit as a last-minute present. ● Choose quality. Avoid the temptation of cheap, disposable foam paint brushes. Instead, invest in bristle brushes that you can wash and use over and over. Get good scissors that will stay sharp for a long time. ● Think thrift shops. Many thrift shops have bins of odds and ends that are perfect for crafts. At a local Goodwill, I scored a collection of ’50s holiday cards for just a few dollars. Authentic—and a bargain, to boot. Danny Seo is the author of Simply Green Giving, a new gift guide that’s chock-full of crafty projects. He’s also host of Simply Green on both Lime TV and Sirius Satellite Radio.
SUNDAE BATH Adapted from craftbits.com These refreshing bath bombs masquerade as ice cream, but you won’t need a freezer to make or store them. The baking soda and citric acid react when they hit water to produce a ﬁzzy, great-smelling bath. Instead of the standard-issue gift basket, carefully wash out an empty ice-cream container, line with tissue paper, and place bath bombs inside (bonus Plenty points for reuse!). Materials A handy seat made entirely of cardboard (opposite); bath bombs that look good enough to eat (above).
1 ½ cups baking soda ½ cup powdered citric acid (a natural product often used in preserving fruits and vegetables or in making sprouted foods; ask your local health-food or vitamin store if they carry it) 2 ½ tsp almond oil or apricot kernel oil 1 Tbsp water
10 to 15 drops fragrance oil or essential oil 5 drops natural food coloring (optional) Makes 7 medium-size “scoops”
Procedure 1. Combine dry ingredients in a large glass or
ceramic bowl. Stir until well mixed. 2. Slowly add almond oil and stir until dry
ingredients are moistened. Add fragrance oil and food coloring (if using) and stir until well mixed. Add water a few drops at a time until the mixture holds together without crumbling. 3. Roll the mixture into two-inch balls by hand, or portion out individual “servings” with an ice cream scoop for an authentic “freezer-fresh” look. 4. Place the scoops on a sheet of wax paper and leave them to dry until hardened (may take up to several days). To use: Add one bomb to running water in the bathtub. ■
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Flights of Fancy Heather Schibli draws inspiration from an unexpected bird BY ELIZABETH BARKER LAST AUTUMN, when Toronto-based designer Heather Schibli decided to give her line of girly, sophisticated fashions an eco-makeover, she made sure to select a label name that revealed her fondness for our feathered friends. “Passenger Pigeon” (passengerpigeon.ca) refers to a North American bird that became extinct in the early 1900s after being hunted en masse by those who perceived their immense flocks as pesky. For Schibli, the name is a way to “show my appreciation for urban animals.” It also serves as a reminder of how powerfully humans can impact their surroundings—and, the 27-year-old hopes, lends the motivation to make that impact positive. Identifying herself as “more interested in the environment than in fashion,” the Ontario College of Art and Design grad never intended to launch her own label. “A few years ago I was visiting a friend in Halifax for the summer, and I didn’t have a job so I started making these little granny purses to sell in local stores,” she says. At the urging of her friends, Schibli decided to turn her talent for crafting into a business. She named her company Calledyourbluff, but she eventually tired of making hand-embroidered bags and instead moved on to clothes. Now, with five collections in Schibli’s catalog, the first three seasons of Passenger Pigeon feature classically feminine pieces made mod by the designer’s endearing touches: One bamboo-cotton jersey wrap dress is screen-printed with storybooklike illustrations of tree stumps, while a handdyed, organic cotton-hemp wrap skirt bears both a hemp–silk satin sash and screen86 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Designer Heather Schibli (above); the Mod Dress is a bamboo-linen blend lined with silk (right).
information about Passenger Pigeon’s ecoresponsible fabrics and production practices, along with a nod to the label’s namesake and number-one inspiration. “Whenever I start feeling cranky that environmentally friendly textiles are more expensive, I just go back to that name,” says Schibli, who donates a portion of her profits to a Toronto charity that helps protect migratory birds. “It’s always a reminder that I want to be doing something that I feel really good about.” ■
The first three seasons of Passenger Pigeon feature classically feminine pieces made mod by the designer’s endearing touches. printed drawings of Schibli’s beloved birds. Describing her customers as “women who support local industry but who aren’t necessarily well-read on environmental issues,” Schibli aims to educate about the eco-bonus behind those breathable fibers: Each piece’s recycled-paper tag includes
Ready to Rewear Mainstream retailers give your old duds new life By Erika Villani ALUMINUM, GLASS, PAPER, PLASTIC, and… T-shirts? Now you have good reason to clean out your closet, as more and more clothing companies are finding ways to recycle or reuse that pair of pants you never wear (or wore so much they fell apart). It’s not an entirely revolutionary idea: Nike has been recycling footwear since 1993, when it launched the Reuse-A-Shoe program. The company encourages customers to mail old sneakers to the Nike Recycling Center in Wilsonville, Oregon, where they’re ground into materials to cushion playground surfaces and create tennis courts. And last year, Patagonia, known for its ecoforward policies, began recycling its sportswear through their Common Threads program. “Our goal is to take responsibility for our products, from their inception to their end,” says Patagonia spokeswoman Jen Rapp. When customers drop off their old garments, the fabrics are shipped to a recycling plant to be broken down and spun into fresh fibers. Then Patagonia weaves those fibers into new long underwear, T-shirts, and other garments. Beyond saving space in landfills, “we realized that through a recycling program, we could have enormous energy savings,” says Rapp. Among the program’s positive side effects, Patagonia reports, are a 76% decrease in energy use and a 71% decrease in CO2 emissions. The company hopes to include all its products in Common Threads by 2010. But the impulse to reduce and reuse is spreading to other companies. Last year, Banana Republic papered their stores’ windows with signs that read DROP YOUR PANTS. The signs were part of the Drop Your Pants campaign, a partnership with charity organization Goodwill—if you donated a pair of used pants to Goodwill through a Banana Republic store, you’d get a discount on Banana Republic merchandise. This year, ads for Martin + Osa, a grown-up version of campus favorite American Eagle, request that you “dispose of your old clothes properly.” To help you do just that, they’re running a denim donation program—bring any old pair of jeans to Martin + Osa, and the store will donate them to participating charities.
PATAGONIA COMMON THREADS Any of Patagonia’s Capilene garments that are at least 95% polyester can be recycled (patagonia.com/ recycle). Patagonia recommends that you drop off your garments while running other errands, to reduce your environmental impact. Just bring them to any Patagonia store, or ship them to: Patagonia Service Center Attn: Common Threads Recycling Program 8550 White Fir Street Reno, NV 89523-8939
MARTIN + OSA DENIM DONATION Drop off any brand of old jeans to a Martin + Osa store (martin andosa.com), and they’ll find their way to participating charities. There are currently two Martin + Osa locations in the U.S., with plans to open more throughout the year.
While Banana Republic and Martin + Osa are quick to point out that they are not “green” companies, that hasn’t stopped them from dabbling in decidedly green marketing campaigns. In past years, Banana Republic’s parent company, Gap Inc., has flirted with organic cotton and teamed up with natural body-care company Kiss My Face to create a line of earth-friendly lip glosses and lotions, while Martin + Osa provides shoppers with recyclable bags and wraps purchases in paper bearing the tagline DISPOSE OF YOUR OLD CLOTHES PROPERLY. They may not be green companies, but they’re obviously taking notice of their green-leaning customers. And isn’t it nice to be noticed? ■
Photos by Katama Bouabane (opposite page); Rupert Hennen (above)
NIKE REUSE-A-SHOE Nike’s recycling program (nikereuseashoe.com) accepts any brand of old sneakers, provided they don’t contain metal components. Check the website to find the Nike drop-off center nearest you, or mail them to: Nike Recycling Center c/o Reuse-A-Shoe 26755 SW 95th Avenue Wilsonville, OR 97070 plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 87
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The Lowdown on Lipids
Some fats are better for you—and the earth— than others BY RACHEL WHARTON You already know the bad news about eating too much fat: It can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system, increase the risk of certain cancers, and make you, well, fat. But somewhere in all of this discussion, it seems like one simple fact has gotten lost: A certain amount of fat—about 30 percent of your daily calories—is always going to be part of a healthy diet. Furthermore, some research suggests that it’s not so much the amount of fat, but the type of fat that causes health problems. So rather than laboring in vain to reduce your dietary fat to ascetic levels—and dooming yourself to a grim array of unappealing, unsatisfying meals that aren’t really all that healthy anyway—maybe it’s best just to learn which fats are best for you (and the planet) and enjoy them in moderation. While all fats have the exact same calorie count—120 per tablespoon— they each offer a different set of pros and cons. Trans fats have recently trumped lard as the big heart-disease baddie, while vegetable oils are cholesterol free, says Marisa Moore, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. And just as with produce, some fats and oils are produced in more eco-friendly ways than others. For help maneuvering the supermarket shelves, here’s the lowdown on the most common fats you’ll ﬁnd for preparing food. Just remember: Always read the label.
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OLIVE OIL Olive oil is a superstar vegetable oil. It’s high in unsaturated fats (the most heart-healthy type), highest in the monounsaturated fats which help lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind that gums up your arteries), and it helps raise HDL (the “good” kind which helps clear them). Plus, it tastes great. The most ﬂavorful—and eco-friendly—varieties are extra-virgin, organic, boutique oils from “single-estate” operations that are labeled as “cold-pressed” or “expeller-pressed.” These are produced without chemical solvents like hexane, a petroleum product often used to reﬁne cooking oil. (Only a trace amount of hexane makes its way into the oil, but it can leak into the air and water supply during the production process.) These fancier oils are meant to be used for drizzling over pasta or salads, since cooking destroys their delicate ﬂavor. Cheaper varieties (those labeled either “virgin” or just “olive oil”) have less ﬂavor and are meant for sautéing. It’s best not to cook with olive oil at high temperatures, though, since it can start to smoke. CANOLA OIL Created in Canada in the ’70s from a type of rapeseed (a mustard-green relative), canola actually stands for “Canadian oil, low acid.” This is another healthy choice. After olive oil, canola contains the lowest level of saturated fats and the second-highest percentage of monounsaturated fats. (The remaining is polyunsaturated, which is almost as healthy as mono—it also raises the good cholesterol and lowers the bad, just not quite as much.) Canola oil is neutral-ﬂavored and can be used at higher temperatures; it’s often cheaper, too. One potential drawback is that a large percentage of rapeseeds are genetically modiﬁed. While genetic modiﬁcation has not been linked to human or environmental harm, critics worry about its effects on insects and cross-pollination with organic crops, as well as its potential to add allergens to foods. You can avoid both genetically modiﬁed seeds and chemical solvents if you buy organic, expeller-pressed varieties.
SOY, SAFFLOWER, PEANUT, AND CORN OILS Low in saturated fats and relatively inexpensive, these oils can be used to fry at high temperatures or sauté without adding a strong ﬂavor. Look for pure oils or blends that have more monounsaturated fats than polyunsaturated fats on the labels. (Peanut oil is especially high in monounsaturated fat.) These oils are also often processed with hexane unless labeled otherwise, and it’s a little more difﬁcult to ﬁnd cold- or expeller-pressed versions of them than of olive or canola oils. However, they are generally available in organic varieties. GRAPESEED, SESAME, WALNUT, AND OTHER FLAVORFUL OILS These days, plenty of ﬂavorful oils are available for adventurous cooks. Like olive oil, many are appreciated for their unique tastes, whether it’s the fruitiness of grapeseed for a salad or the smoky tang of sesame for a marinade or stir-fry. Others, like ﬂaxseed oil, offer health beneﬁts like omega-3s, the essential acids found in salmon and other fatty ﬁsh. (Fish oil, often recommended as a dietary supplement, is not suitable for use as a cooking oil or as an ingredient in recipes.) These specialty oils tend to be two to three times as expensive as other vegetable oils, but they’re not really meant to be used as everyday cooking oils. They’re best for drizzling, salad dressings, and special recipes. Organic varieties from small estates abound on grocery-store shelves. BUTTER AND LARD It’s true that animal fats should be a rare treat since they consist mostly of saturated fat. Butter actually has the most saturated fat of the two; both are high in LDL cholesterol. Still, experts now agree that these products are not as bad for you as margarine and partially hydrogenated oils, which are so unhealthy that a few U.S. cities are considering banning their use in restaurants. It’s okay for people in good health to use a little bit of butter or lard every once in a while in cooking, especially in place of trans-fat-laden margarine or shortening. Tastier and more
sustainably produced varieties of beef tallow and lard (the key to a stellar pie crust), as well as better butter, can be found at farmers’ markets, where sellers tend to offer organic goods or maintain small farms with happier animals and more earth-friendly practices. (Buying local also cuts down on “food miles,” the amount of refrigerated shipping required to get food around the country.) MARGARINE AND SHORTENING Created as substitutes for butter and lard, margarine and shortening are usually blends of vegetable oils, ﬂavorings, and additives. While they don’t have butter’s cholesterol (or ﬂavor), they do have saturated fat and trans fats, thanks to hydrogenation, a process that adds hydrogen to unsaturated fats (usually soybean oil) to make them act like saturated fats so they’ll stay fresher longer and have a smoother texture. Trans fats appear to increase your risk of heart disease even more than saturated fats. They also raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol (saturated fat raises both). Since trans fats are also abundant in processed foods and fast food, check labels or ask restaurants about the oils they’re using. Anything with partially hydrogenated oil has trans fats, and nutrition labels must now list trans fats as well. While manufacturers have recently created trans fat–free varieties of many products, many are highly processed and some have unhealthy palm oil (see below). TROPICAL OILS Tropical oils like palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil are higher in saturated fats than many animal fats. In addition, palm oil’s production on plantations typically harms the tropical rainforest, due to harvesting techniques that destroy plants and animal habitats. The Center for Science in the Public Interest discourages the use of palm oil for both health and environmental reasons. While few Americans cook with these oils, they’re increasingly being used in place of partially hydrogenated fats to ﬁll out processed foods or margarines, so check labels carefully and ask about the oil they’re using to deep-fry at restaurants. ■
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+ A Classic Christmas Feast Two retro holiday foods are ahead of the sustainability curve By Christy Harrison THE HOLIDAYS ALL HAVE their culinary big guns: latkes and brisket for Hanukkah; blackeyed peas for Kwanzaa; the indispensable champagne on New Year’s Eve. And in the U.S., Christmas usually means roast turkey or ham, accompanied by dishes like mashed potatoes and stuffing. Though green options like heritage hogs, free-range fowl, and organic produce have become more widely available, there’s a stealth-eco holiday meat choice that also happens to be a true classic: the Christmas goose. And as a side dish, another old-school fave—the chestnut—is an especially eco-forward option. THE DISH ON GOOSE
Once central to the American Christmas table, roast goose was popular in Victorian England (as evidenced by its role in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol), and became trendy on this side of the pond in the early 1900s. Though goose is still common in countries like Israel, Russia, France, and 90 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
Germany, nowadays Americans consume less than 1/3 pound of the fowl per person yearly. Why the difference? The answer lies in the way most meat and poultry are produced in the U.S. Geese are among the few species of meat animals to have escaped factory farming, largely because it’s difficult to get them to reproduce. Artificial insemination generally doesn’t work, and geese are usually monogamous; males and females need to live together for a month or two before they will produce fertile eggs. Eggs are generally laid in springtime, goslings hatch around June, and the birds aren’t ready for slaughter until midautumn. “We raise geese once a year for Christmas,” explains Jim Galle, vice-president of Grimaud Farms, a sustainable duck farm in Northern California. “This year we’ll have about 1,000 geese—they’re just not something you can grow year-round.” So most geese are still raised on small, family-run farms, grazing on pastures instead of being confined in cages.
Of course, this also means that the birds cost more than mass-market meat, because it’s more expensive for producers to raise them. Still, the extra cost may be worth it to supporters of small-scale agriculture—and to foodies and health-conscious eaters alike. Because waterfowl make up such a small market in the U.S., drug companies haven’t bothered to get antibiotics certified for use on geese and ducks; thus, the FDA prohibits giving the drugs to these birds (unlike turkeys, which are routinely pumped with antibiotics to speed production). While goose is a bit fattier than the traditional holiday turkey, much of that fat melts away during cooking (or it can be trimmed beforehand). Goose meat is rich in beneficial fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, and has fewer unhealthy saturated fats than meats like beef or lamb. Many chefs say goose has a firmer, less mushy texture than turkey; it tends to be darker, moister, and more flavorful, with a crispier skin.
CHESTNUTS ON THE SIDE
Until about a century ago, chestnuts were abundant in the U.S. The American chestnut tree flourished along the East coast and as far west as the Mississippi River. The sturdy tree was integral to the ecosystem of these areas: it was the top food source for a vast array of species; it provided farmers with healthful feed for their livestock; and many rural economies depended on the sale of its nuts and lumber. At the turn of the twentieth century, though, the American chestnut tree was struck by a massive blight that had been imported along with Asian chestnut trees. By 1950, the native tree had essentially disappeared. Now there are concerted efforts to bring it back. Agricultural researchers, like a team at the University of Missouri, are experimenting with techniques to make the endangered tree more blight-resistant. Meanwhile, the few remaining domestically grown chestnuts are produced by small farmers using other species, like the Chinese chestnut. Experts estimated U.S. chestnut production at just 1.5 million pounds annually, compared with 200 million pounds worldwide. So buying American-grown chestnuts helps support small-scale farming, and burns less fossil fuel in shipping. The tree is also particularly well suited to eco-friendly growing practices. “When you grow a bushel of corn, you lose two bushels of dirt through erosion, but when you plant chestnuts, you lose only a teaspoon of soil per acre per year,” says John Wittrig, cofounder of the organic J&B Chestnut Farm in Winfield, Iowa. Moreover, the Chinese and Japanese chestnuts grown in the U.S. are easy to raise without pesticides, as they have only one natural pest, which gestates in the fallen nuts around the tree—so it’s easily eradicted by removing the nuts. Both Chinese and hybrid AmericanEuropean chestnuts have a sweet taste that’s somewhere between a hazelnut and a yam, with a potatolike texture (especially when roasted or boiled). And as for nutrition, chestnuts are rock stars: Low-fat, gluten-free, and a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and beneficial fatty acids, they’re a great addition to a healthy holiday table. ■
Buying American-grown chestnuts helps support smallscale farming, and burns less fossil fuel in shipping.
Photograph by Michael Paul/Getty Images
Roast Goose with Chestnut and Fruit Stuffing Adapted from James Beard’s American Cookery (Little, Brown, 1972) Ingredients: One goose*, 9 to 12 pounds 24 to 30 prunes which have been brought to a boil, then marinated one week in sherry or port 6 cooking apples, peeled, cut into sixths, and tossed in lemon juice and sugar 2 to 3 cups whole shelled and skinned chestnuts** (fresh or canned in brine) 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind 2 teaspoons grated orange rind Salt and freshly ground pepper *Available at farmers’ markets, or contact Grimaud Farms three to four weeks before Christmas at email@example.com. ** Available at empirechestnut.com or chestnutgrowersinc.com, or contact J&B Chestnut Farm at 319.257.3377 to see where their chestnuts are sold.
Procedure 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the goose for roasting by rubbing it well with salt and pepper, and rub the inside cavity with lemon. 2. Roll the marinated prunes in the grated lemon rind, and the chestnuts in the grated orange rind. 3. Stuff the bird with alternate layers of prunes, chestnuts, and apple pieces. Close the cavity with several layers of foil, or sew it up. Rub the goose again with salt and pepper, and prick the skin. 4. Place the goose in a roasting pan, cover with foil, place on rack in oven, and roast for about 2 hours. 5. Remove the foil, prick the skin of the goose very well, and return to the oven for 15 to 25 minutes or until the skin is crisped. 6. Transfer to a hot platter and serve. plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 91
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Brewing a Beermakers are using a variety of environmental tactics BY JOSHUA M. BERNSTEIN
t’s medically proven that a pint of beer does a body good—but what’s the environmental cost of brewing? For each barrel of suds produced, beermakers sully an average of eight barrels of water. Spent grains are typically sent to landﬁlls, and brewing itself consumes many a kilowatt-hour. (Recycling your organic beer bottles is but a drop in the keg against these ills.) Thankfully, brewers are increasingly taking an earthﬁrst approach, employing renewable energy, recycling wastewater and, through unlikely alchemy, turning surplus beer into auto fuel. Creating a dream green brewery is as easy as following a few simple steps.
5 Illustration by Alex Bec
Feed spent grains to our furry friends: Nutrientrich brewing leftovers of yeasts and spent grains, also called mash, are the perfect dietary supplement for livestock. Portland, Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company sells its mash to local farmers.
Cut out cars: Northern California’s Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s dual-horsepower delivery system uses two equines to make local beer deliveries, while employees of Australia’s Mountain Goat Beer receive bonuses for commuting via bicycle or public transportation. And Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery gives each employee a new bike after one year of service.
Conserve rainwater: Mountain Goat collects rooftop raindrops to reduce water usage. The water is filtered and stored in an 11,000liter tank; it’s suitable for both drinking and toilet flushing.
Create “beer-anol”: Thanks to Coors Brewing Company, Colorado’s cars are chugging more beer than the tailgaters at Broncos games. Through a moonshine-like distillation process, Coors’ beer and brewing waste is turned into 3 million gallons of ethanol every year.
Dig a treatment pond: Anderson Valley (which uses solar energy) recycles its brewing water through a three-pond wastewater treatment system. This filters byproducts like excess nutrients, creating water fit for irrigating the company’s 30-acre spread.
Lessen your energy impact: New York City’s Brooklyn Brewery purchases wind-generated energy, but New Belgium uses byproducts as an energy source. Naturally occurring bacteria digest the company’s pond-stored brewing waste, creating methane, which is captured and piped to an engine powering 10 percent of the brewery’s annual energy needs.
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The Holiday Spirit
rganic and sustainable spirits are relative latecomers to the American eco-food scene—largely because the organics movement initially focused on more, um, essential nourishment. These days, though, people are recognizing the beneﬁts of organic and small-scale production for all kinds of goods, and the green drinks market is consequently taking off. In the U.S., it’s starting with vodka, the top-selling spirit in the nation. Here are three of our favorite sustainable vodka choices—plus a couple of eco-friendly mixer ideas—that are sure to spice up your New Year’s celebrations. —C.H.
Soda-Club Home Soda Maker (sodaclubusa.com) We got a bit obsessed with this DIY soda machine, which turns tap water into club soda without using electricity: It runs on CO2 canisters that you send back to the company when empty (they refill and reuse them). Once you’ve made the soda, add any flavoring you want. Ditch the syrups that come with the machine and make your own using juices, fruits, or herbs. (Check out plentymag.com for our homemade tonic recipe—a perfect complement to your fave eco-friendly vodka.)
Square One Organic Vodka
RAIN Organic Vodka
Charbay Green Tea Vodka
Modmix Organic Pomegranate Cosmopolitan Mixer (mod-mix.com)
One of the first totally organic spirits to be made in the U.S., this vodka is ultrasmooth and creamy, making it a great choice for dry martinis—or straight up. The production specs made us feel extra-good about drinking it: Square One is made entirely from organically grown North Dakota rye, and it goes through a certified organic fermentation process before being distilled in small batches.
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A pioneer in the organic spirits world (the brand has been around since 1996), this vodka is made from 100 percent organically grown Illinois corn. It lacks the smoothness of Square One and some other premium vodkas, but it mixes well and works nicely in a sweet martini. With its sleek, sexy bottle, it also looks great in your home bar.
Everybody’s jumping on the green-tea bandwagon these days (often with not-so-tasty results) but this vodka, made with real green tea, is an exception. We loved its authentic flavor, which hits the palate first, along with a subtle hint of sweetness. The family-run California company also offers excellent plain and flavored vodkas, made with real fresh fruit, including blood orange and grapefruit.
Launched last spring, Los Angeles–based Modmix aims to organicize the entire alcoholic beverage experience. We found this cosmopolitan mix perfectly pomegranate-y, and not too sweet—nothing like the cloying pink concoctions you drank in college (or while watching reruns of Sex and the City).
PlentyLabs Greener Cleaners
My household cleaning habits are, shall we say, of an infrequent nature. So even though I’m all for eco-friendly cleaning products, I’ve always assumed that I needed the harsh stuff to tackle the kind of grime that can accumulate after weeks (okay, months) on end without routine scrubbing. But when I ﬁnally tried a few green cleaners, I was pleasantly surprised at how effective they were at doing my dirty work. Here’s what I found. —Sarah Schmidt
Whole Foods 365
Shaklee Basic H2
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day
All-Purpose Cleaner $2.99, 32 oz. wholefoodsmarket.com
All Purpose Surface Cleaner $4, 28 oz. methodhome.com
Countertop Spray $4.99, 16 oz. mrsmeyers.com
This plant-based cleaner from Whole Foods’ house label has a light, citrus scent and no artificial dyes. It vanquished a sticky layer of scum that had accumulated on the seldom-cleaned area atop my fridge. At three bucks a bottle, it’s one of the best deals in the bunch.
With its technicolor hue, nontoxic, biodegradable formula, and Karim Rashiddesigned bottle, Method’s cleaner should appeal to greenies and design geeks alike. The spray eliminated the ring around my tub; the cucumber scent was pleasant, though a little strong.
Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate $11.95, 16 oz. shaklee.com The cool graphics on the bottle drew me to this concentrate. One bottle is supposed to make 48 gallons of the lightly-scented cleaner, which means it’s a bargain, but I recommend doubling the concentrate, otherwise it’s a little weak.
Free & Clear Natural All Purpose Cleaner $5.39, 32 oz. seventhgeneration.com Those with sensitive noses will love the Free & Clear line, which eschews all fragrance and dyes. This all-purpose cleaner is a workhorse, too. Crusted spaghetti sauce inside the microwave? Gone. Unidentifiable sticky substance on the counter? Buh-bye.
Dilemma Q: I love a fire in my fireplace, but I hear it’s not the best thing for air quality. Is there anything I can do to make building a fire less polluting?
Mrs. Meyer’s biodegradable cleaner smells great—it’s really effective, too. A few squirts were enough to take care of the grease on my stovetop after a messy stirfrying incident. The fresh geranium scent also helped kill lingering cooking odors.
A: It’s sad but true that a cheery ﬁre in your hearth spews out not-so-cheery particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other chemical compounds. Not only that, a ﬁre offers lousy energy efﬁciency; more heat is sucked out of your home and through the chimney than is produced by the ﬂames. Still, a few tweaks can help minimize these problems. Since a hotter ﬁre gives off fewer emissions, strategies that maximize temperature will make your ﬁre burn cleaner and heat more efﬁciently. To that end, many experts recommend an EPA-certiﬁed ﬁreplace insert, which is essentially a wood stove that ﬁts inside your ﬁreplace (they start at around $800). If you’re not willing to forego the snap, crackle, and pop of an open ﬂame, though, you might consider an EcoFire grate (650.330.1051), which positions logs
to maximize air circulation and has an attached electric blower that acts as a bellows. This will run you about $500 to $600. If you’re only an occasional ﬁre-builder, you might be content to simply use more ecofriendly fuel. A company called GoodWood (summitviews.com) makes logs of compressed wood chips and sawdust reclaimed from millwork and forest-trimming operations. These are $10 each and burn hotter and cleaner than cord wood—they emit ﬁfty percent less particulate matter. And there’s always the Java Log (java-log.com), which is made of spent coffee grounds. Weird as the idea sounds, these $5 logs are a more efﬁcient, less-polluting option. (And yes, they do smell a little like coffee.) Got a dilemma of your own? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
plentymag.com Dec/Jan/07 | 95
THE LAST WORD
Would you give up your backyard and move to the 80th floor to save the planet? BY CHRISTOPHER BONANOS I HAVE A UTOPIAN FANTASY, and unlike many visions of the future, it doesn’t have anything to do with flying cars or silver jumpsuits. Mine looks a lot like my home today, in fact, and if it were to come to pass, our environmental woes would vanish in a hurry. Manhattan Island, where I live, covers 23.7 square miles and holds roughly a million and a half residents. That’s about half of one percent of the population of the United States. In other words, 200 Manhattans would hold just about all of us in an area smaller than Connecticut. And in my imagination, they do. Everyone in America moves to a dense urban environment, to live in skinny townhouses or high-rises. Nobody has to own a car, though some people do, and others buy them to share in groups of four or six. Mass transit rules, and much of our tax money goes to keeping the infrastructure of this supermegalopolis humming. Energy consumption per capita is a lot lower than it is today, because big blocks of buildings retain heat, and because people live in small spaces and drive less. The outskirts of this giant city are devoted to its support—the power plants, factories, and airports that demand too much space for the urban grid. The outskirts of the outskirts are, in turn, farmland; those Americans who just can’t stand living in close quarters, the ones who really love rural life, can embrace that existence, raising organic food, for which they will be well paid (because so much wealth will be concentrated in the megacity, and so little will be spent on, say, airlifting tomatoes from California to Boston). The tight urban grid means consumption and circulation patterns will be predictable, so that rail, rather than exhaust-spewing trucks, brings in most of our consumer goods. The rest of the country—something like 45 states’ worth!—is reverted to wilderness. The prehistoric tallgrass of the Great Plains grows back. So does the forest of the Northwest, since we’re not building stickframe houses anymore. When people yearn for wideopen space, they can visit a national park and stand agape as they think about how close we came to denuding an entire continent of such marvels. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this mega-Manhattan is
going to exist, ever. (For one thing, the people who say New York City is “a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” would consider it the seventh circle of hell.) But it surprises me that idealized planned communities through the years, from Columbia, Maryland, to Celebration, Florida, have focused on the small-town picket-fence ideal. To me, the supreme American achievement is not Main Street (as pretty as those white picket fences can be) but Bleecker Street— a messy and vital part of the multitentacled, impossible-to-stop creature that bred Teddy Roosevelt and Sonny Rollins and Lou Gehrig, the Woolworth Building and the George Washington Bridge, Rosemary’s Baby and Annie Hall. And if the habits of Americans are any indicator, city life is booming as never before. Middle America is losing population while rents in Los Angeles, New York, and other big cities explode. A migration to the coasts is already underway, and city life—long perceived as dissipated and crime-ridden—has acquired a glamorous new image. You can argue over why, but what these folks are seeking is fundamentally a higher quality of life, especially if that life does not involve an hour and a half spent sitting in traffic every day. A desire to avoid isolation and accept the pleasures of communal life—especially without the grubby details that often exist on an actual commune—is also part of leading an eco-friendly existence. Sharing resources is better for the planet than holing up on one’s own. But what people want, versus what benefits the common good, is, of course, what dooms my little scheme. It eliminates one’s ability to choose where and how to live—something that violates the American ideal in a most basic way. In short, we would all have to agree to a pact: In exchange for ceding the pleasures of your own backyard, we receive the implicit promise that Earth will be kept temperate and habitable for a long time to come. Would you give up your back porch or your basement to save the planet? Think about it—maybe while you’re stuck in traffic. ■
Everyone moves to a dense urban environment, to live in skinny townhouses or high-rises along the waterfront.
Christopher Bonanos is an editor at New York magazine. He lives in a very tall apartment building.
Got an eco story to tell? E-mail us at email@example.com. 96 | Dec/Jan/07 plentymag.com
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