beyond the bulb> the best ideas in green design THE ULTIMATE HOME RENOVATOR’S GUIDE p.67
PLENTY The World In Green august/ september 2008
kristin gore kills her lawn | SAiling greece | gossip girL’S ECO STAR
Sustainable environments begin with sustainable communities. By helping people. And by helping the planet. Visit BeAGreenGiant.com and read about what GreenGiants like Cameron Sinclair are doing around the world. Share your own story. Or learn how you can become a GreenGiant. Sustainability for the earth and the people that live in it. That’s the difference between just being “green” and being a GreenGiant.
ÂŠ2008 Steelcase Inc.
Cameron Sinclair Architecture for Humanity It began with $700 and a laptop computer. Today, Architecture for Humanity is a worldwide network of pro bono architects and design professionals dedicated to helping communities in need. From India to Tanzania to the Gulf Coast, their sustainable design practices are touching lives and rebuilding communities in environmentally responsible ways.
Home Renovator’s Guide
Plenty’s complete manual for healthy, renewable, energy-efficient materials that will add value to your home and let you breathe a whole lot easier. By Brita Belli, Brian Clark Howard, and Tracy Tullis
Less Than Zero
A new wave of architectural thinkers is drawing up the blueprints for structures that, like living organisms, help regenerate the environment.
Rooftop turbines, bamboo bicycles, and the megapixel revolution: ten innovations that better our planet, as selected by the executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute.
By Lisa Selin Davis
By Elizabeth Thompson
2 | august-september 2008
The World In Green
©2008 Travelocity.com LP. CST# 2056372-50.
Travel Wish # 25: Give the kids some memories that don’t involve a couch. Kids today spend more than 45 hours a week indoors on things like TV and video games. We’re here to help. With inspiring nature-trip ideas and an in-depth list of adventurous road trips, Travelocity can get your family outside, reconnecting with nature and each other. And that’s healthy for our kids and our environment.
For more information and inspiration, visit Travelocity.com/nature.
6/12/08 3:45:28 PM
The World In Green
PLENTY The World In Green
contents> August/september 2008 IN EVERY ISSUE Plenty Online
6 10 Editor’s Letter 12 Letters 14 Land of Plenty 16 Contributors 18 Ask Plenty
Last Word Kristin Gore Kills Her Lawn
The super-strength, earth-friendly power glue. • Non-toxic • Packaged in 100% recyclable material • Bonds wood, stone, metal, ceramic, glass, cloth and more! Call us at
800.767.4667 or visit www.ecoglue.com
The Good Ship Junk China by the Numbers Pushing Kids Out the Door A Zipcar-esque Program for Bikes Toxic Tourism, Revealed Aurora Robson, the Recycling Rauschenberg + Adopt Your Own Olive Oil Tree + + + + +
30 Life in the Green Zone
Comedian Lizz Winstead conquers (recycling) separation anxiety.
+ The Soil-Altering Technique that Could Battle Climate Change + Breaking Down China’s Efforts to Green Up for the Olympics + Why Shark Attacks Rise as Their Population Falls
Gossip Girl TV Mom Kelly Rutherford (above)
+ Eco-Hopping Through the Greek Isles + Green City Guide: Buenos Aires
+ The Next Generation of Farmers’ Markets + Farm to Fork with Dan Barber + Cooling Off with Homemade, Mexican-style Fruit Popsicles
54 Trash to Treasure
Max McMurdo’s DIY Project for a Stunning Lampshade
56 The Green Fiend
Annemarie Conte on the lifestyle—oh yes, the lifestyle—that is extreme recycling.
+ Low-Impact Clothing Dyes Go Rainbow Bright + Critical Mass Major Label Sustainability News + Keeping Summer Alive with Sea Salt–Enhanced Beauty Products
60 Green Media
New Books and Films for the Ecophile
GREEN GEAR® Fun and Games
PLENTY LABS Tester’s Choice
40 Activist in Residence
85 Green, Greener, Greenest
+ B Lab Enters the Third-Party Certification Market + Adventurous Startups Bring Green IT to the Grid
+ The Race to Build a Green Rocket + Transforming Carbon Dioxide Emissions into Chalk + Mapping the Rise of Genetically Modified Crops
Bill McKibben finds a potential blueprint for linking modern-day environmental stewardship with religion in more than 20,000 pounds of free food.
Sustainable guitars, a digital shower timer, a special green edition Nikon camera, and more—returning to the autumn routine doesn’t have to be all work and no play.
+ The Best Nontoxic Laundry Detergents + Cosmetics Labels You Can Trust + Behind the Wheel of the Toyota Camry Hybrid + Design Within Reach’s Rainwater Hog
Three-Tiered Solutions with Lori Bongiorno COVER illustration: JOE ZEFF DESIGN, INC.
Back to School Special: Pencils, Textbook Rentals, and Getting on the Bus
Just can’t get enough PLENTY?
Check out plentymag.com to satisfy your daily craving for the latest news, blogs, and exclusive online series tackling nuclear energy, the imperiled polar regions, and other pressing environmental problems. web series
Designing the Future
Plenty Poll Would you watch a TV channel with only green programming? 42% “Yes, even if the shows are bad. Viva la revolución!” 10% “Depends if there’s a game on or not.” 13% “No, I prefer to read informative and entertaining magazines, and websites such as plentymag.com.” 35% “Never. I want my MTV.”
Biotech is making its way into our food and our fuel tanks. Every year, farmers across the globe are planting more genetically modified (GM) crops; and the fish, meat, and dairy from transgenic animals might not be in supermarkets yet, but GM livestock are multiplying in barns and laboratory fish tanks. In January of this year, the FDA approved the sale of food from cloned animals, though the Department of Agriculture asked producers to keep the meat off the market because of consumer fears. From agro to auto: Scientists are now cloning digestive enzymes found in the stomachs of some animals, with the goal of making cheap cellulosic ethanol—biofuel made from tough plant parts like corn stalks and tree bark. In September, we’ll explore the dangers and benefits of biotechnology in an exclusive online series.
PLENTY The World In Green August/September 2008
Editor in Chief & Publisher Mark Spellun Creative Director Tracy Toscano Deputy Editor Anuj Desai Senior Editors Alisa Opar, Mindy Pennybacker Associate Editors victoria schlesinger, jessica Tzerman Assistant Editors Tobin Hack, Sarah Parsons Associate Art Director Lindsay Kurz Photo Assistant Rachel Leibman Copy Editors Iya Perry, Dave Zuckerman Proofreader adam Stiles Fact Checkers Bryan Abrams, Christine Gordon, Nicole Scarmeas Intern Jessica Knoblauch Contributors dan barber, Josh Cochran, Annemarie Conte, Lisa Selin Davis, Liz Galst, Bill McKibben, Will Pope, Jameson simpson, Camilla Slattery, Felix Sockwell, Anthony verde, Lizz Winstead
Advertising & MArketing Associate Publisher Lisa Haines 415.887.9574 | firstname.lastname@example.org Western Manager Nina Sventitsky 949.276.5513 | email@example.com Midwest Manager Cheryl Kogut 312.494.1919 | firstname.lastname@example.org Detroit Manager Joe McHugh 586.360.3980 | email@example.com Marketing & Creative Services Manager Morgen Wolf 212.757.0048 firstname.lastname@example.org Published by Environ Press, Inc. Chairman: Arnold Spellun 250 West 49th Street, Suite 403 New York, New York 10019 Phone: 212.757.3447 Fax: 212.757.3799
Subcriptions: 800.316.9006 Unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, and other materials must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Plenty will not be responsible for unsolicited submissions. Send letters to the editor to email@example.com or to Plenty, 250 West
49th Street, Suite 403, New York, NY 10019. Copyright ©2008 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 (ISSN 1553-2321) is published bimonthly, six times a year. The annual subscription price is $12 per year. Plenty is a publication of Environ Press, Inc., 250 West 49th Street, Suite 403, New York, New York 10019. Periodical postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Plenty, P.O. Box 621, Mt. Morris, IL 61054-7568 or call 800.316.9006.
PLENTY is printed on body stock that’s free of elemental chlorine and contains 85 to 100 percent recycled content (20 to 30 percent post-consumer). Our cover stock uses 10 percent recycled content, is Forest Stewardship Council–certified, and is made using green power. Plenty offsets its carbon footprint with eMission Solutions, a division of Green Mountain Energy (greenmountain.com).
Beyond the Bulb The future of green design
mericans bought 290 million compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) in 2007. That’s 20 percent of all lightbulbs sold in the US and almost double the sales from a year earlier. Canada and Australia have announced that they are phasing out incandescent bulbs altogether. Besides the recycling sign, there’s probably no stronger symbol out there for being eco than the curlicue shape of the CFL. Still, why do we need to get beyond the bulb, as we suggest on our cover? Because of a few of the bedrock principles of sustainability: Use only renewable energy and avoid throwing items into landfills when possible. The things we use should last a very long time, or they should be fully recyclable or compostable. By this measure, CFLs, while a positive step, are not a solution. In this issue, we take a look at green design and its future. Besides serving as a gauge of environmental awareness, CFLs represent an evolution in design. But Elizabeth Thompson, the executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, helps us identify ten other eco-innovations that are bettering our planet today and will for decades to come (“Greenlined Design,” page 78). One of her top objects even speaks to the shortcomings of CFLs. Plenty regular Lisa Selin Davis takes a look at architectural projects that pose the question: What if our homes were not simply efficient but actually sent energy back to the grid (“LessThan Zero,” page 72)? Davis checks in on an emerging
group of architects who are thinking beyond existing green building standards about what will make our homes better designed and healthier. The future results could be staggering—buildings that function more like living organisms that help to repair and restore their immediate environment. We are still a long way from having all of our products last a lifetime or quickly degrade back into the earth. But we hope some of the possibilities presented in our design issue will eventually help change humankind’s relationship with the planet. Andy Warhol, who would have celebrated his 80th birthday this August, painted Campbell’s Soup cans, in part because they were all around him. So too was commercial culture. By May 1969, Esquire magazine was poking fun of Warhol’s Pop Art movement by showing him sinking into a can of tomato soup on its cover. Today, we’d like to think of CFLs and green culture as going through what soup cans and commercial pop culture once did. Canning CFLs on our cover helps us make a comical statement about the curlicue bulbs as a symbol for being green. But we are also suggesting in a more serious way that it’s time to set the bar a little higher. The next set of bright ideas needs to hit the mainstream.
Earth friendly luxury. Finally.
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THE SEVEN ECO WONDERS OF THE WORLD
The Travel Issue
THE WORLD IN GREEN JUNE/ JULY 2008
ROAD TRIPPIN’ USA
88 Places to Eat, Sleep & Explore p.82 LENNY KRAVITZ
THE HEAT IS ON
“Turn the Damn Light Off”p.45 SUMMER FUN
THE NEW ECONOMY
Why Carbon is the Next Gold p.86 Global Warming and the Future of Wine p.46
Gifts for Dad Beach Gear Safer Sunscreens
BEHIND THE WHEEL
How Intelligent is the Smart Car? p.93
10 Life Changing Adventures Iceland’s Blue Lagoon geothermal seawaters
“One of the reasons to buy locally is to reduce goods’ carbon footprints from travel miles—driving hundreds of miles to buy locally produced items negates that effect.” The Downside of Carbon Capture Your article on carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS (“Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” June/July 2008), was a far too simple review of a technology that does nothing but make us feel better about using fossil fuels and stall the search for renewable resources. What about the fact that CCS does nothing to alleviate the environmental and social destruction caused by coal mining? There are a lot of people in Pennsylvania, for example, whose children are sick as a result of coal mining in the area. Their land is being destroyed and water is being polluted, all because we can’t move past fossil fuels. Despite what the industry says, coal isn’t clean. This $275 million that the Department of Energy is putting into CCS research would be better spent on truly clean energy alternatives like wind and solar. Sara Montrone Washington, DC
Our Bad In our June/July 2008 issue, we failed to properly credit a chart illustrating national venture capital cleantech investment in 2007 (“Coming Clean”). The data should have been attributed to market research provider Clean Tech Group, LLC (cleantech.com). We regret the error.
Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Road ARIZONA Peak National Z Kitt Observatory You so want to sit back with the roof open and participate in the Nightly Observing Program. See Saturn and the stars. Off Hwy 86 near Tucson, AZ 520.318.8726; West Z Taliesin Frank Lloyd Wright HQ. Enhance your own ideas about organic architecture and conservation of the natural environment. In other words, get inspired. Cactus Rd and Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ; 480.860.2700, ext 494
CALIFORNIA Bay Oyster Co X Tomales Bivalve farm sells namesake oysters, mussels, and clams. Waterside picnic area for prime shucking. 15479 Hwy 1, Marshall, CA 415.663.1242; Buell House Z Save-the-planet politicos Mark and Susie Tompkins Buell’s peace sign– fronted barn is a legend in Bolinas. Tricky hike to Alamere Falls, but it’s worth it for the 50-foot cascade directly into the ocean. Off Mesa Rd, Bolinas, CA Directions at Grove Sanctuary Z Monarch Some 25,000 monarchs arrive from the Canadian Rockies and Alaska
e spent the night watching live lightning storms meant just for us. We unearthed a winery in Nebraska; and we putted our way through a round of enviro-themed mini-golf, all in the name of green. We’ve compiled 88 of our favorite spots across the continental United States (and 200 and counting online) to inspire eco-conscious road-tripping that supports local economies. With our list in hand, you can plot a day off or a month-long journey. However you go about searching for American majesty, remember—the country offers a vast terrain for eco-minded travelers. BY KIMBERLY FUSARO AND MADHU PURI
to new digs in Butterfly Town, USA. Locals work to preserve their habitat and that of the Australian eucalyptus. October through March. Ridge Rd (between Lighthouse Ave and Short St), Pacific Grove, CA 831.648.5716;
exposed to raw elements behind a barrier of glass. 14520 River Rd, Plano, IL 630.552.0052;
LOUISIANA Bourbon Orleans F Enjoy this centrally located hotel
Post Ranch Inn F Architecture fit for its surround-
(just steps from the gypsy booths!) knowing that it practices earth-friendly housekeeping and energy conservation. 717 Orleans St, New Orleans, LA 504.523.2222;
ings. Morning yoga, afternoon nature walks, and evening astronomy sessions. They know what you like. Off Hwy 1 (south of Carmel), Big Sur, CA 800.527.2200;
The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth) The roots of Nader Khalili’s futuristic subdivision and school. Called anything from eco-domes to super adobes to moon cocoons. Tours by appointment. 10177 Baldy Ln, Hesperia, CA 760.244.0614; La Jolla Cove Ecological Reserve Z Swim past the lounging sea lions, snorkel into a protected underwater ecosystem with Garibaldi fish and endangered giant black sea bass. 1100 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 619.260.1880;
Feliz Lodge F Los Live like an Angeleno who
ARIZONA Hotel Valley Ho F 1950s legend complete with a Trader Vic’s. Stylish clientele eat local foods, can take a fitness class or a guided hike, and use low-flow toilets. 6850 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ; 866.882.4484; Odell Brewing Company X Six-pack holders are made of
Rag Trade Happy Clothing Co } Shop for locally designed high-
recycled paper, all bottles made from recycled glass, and trucks run on biodiesel. A microbrew capital in our book. 800 E Lincoln Ave, Fort Collins, CO 888.887.2797;
end goods among thrift-store threads. Note the price tags made from recycled party flyers. Way cool. 4600 NE Second Ave, Ste 6, Miami, FL 305.573.1478;
Devil’s Thumb Ranch F Geothermal energy and fire-
places used for heating and cooling. Only 1 percent of land is developed. 3530 County Rd 83, Tabernash, CO 800.933.4339;
Dressing Room X Homegrown restaurant cooks up prime local produce. Located next to Paul Newman’s Westport Country Playhouse. Bravo! 27 Powers Ct, Westport, CT 203.226.1114
Farmhouse at the Inn X atTheSerenbe Casual fine dining in this eco community. Opt for the porch and chef ’s choice menu. Stay overnight in one
Saybrook Point Inn & Spa F Energy Star approved and pet
has compost, conscious lighting, vintage furnishings, and nontoxic laundry supplies. 1507 N Hoover St, Los Angeles, CA 323.913.1443; of eighteen rooms if you need. 10950 Hutcheson Ferry Rd, Palmetto, GA 770.463.2610;
at the Broadmoor ] Golfing Certified by the Audubon Sanctuaries, the three sprawling championship courses show their true colors. 1 Lake Ave, Colorado Springs, CO; 800.634.7711;
Pelican Harbor Seabird Station Z Nonprofit rescues and rehabs sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. Take a tour and see for yourself. 1279 NE 79th St Causeway, Miami, FL 305.751.9840;
Moose outnumber people around here. No joke. Scenery is best enjoyed from a canoe. 451 Moosehead Lake Rd, Greenville, ME 207.695.0242; Public Market House X Shared space plays host to several small businesses in an effort to create a sense of community and keep the little guys alive. 28 Monument Sq, Portland, ME 207.228.2056;
X Crust One of the few certified-organic pizzerias. Not-so-deep-dish but delish. Euro-style, wood-fired oven, and ecoconscious from the flour to the truck that delivers it. 2056 W Division St, Chicago, IL 773.235.5511;
living legacy, where the indoors meet the outdoors in seamless harmony,
X Fireplace Seafood doesn’t get any fresher than this: mussels, clams, and oysters, all from local waters, plus artisanal New England cheeses. 1634 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 617.975.1900;
MAINE Surfboards } Grain Custom and handmade from local sustainable wood. Feeling crafty? Pick up a build-it-yourself kit. 60 Brixham Rd, York, ME; 207.457.5313;
MICHIGAN Wickwood Inn F Country stay of The Silver Pal-
ate Cookbook’s coauthor, so the eats are seasonally driven. Complimentary nibbles never a letdown—a must. 510 Butler St, Saugatuck, MI 800.385.1174;
MINNESOTA Donna’s Delights } Yarn sellers offer some wool spun from their own herd. Nifty bamboo knitting needles. 110 N 1st St, Montevideo, MN 320.226.6457;
Grange Z Coyote Pick your own strawberries at this 54-acre organic farm. 3476 271st Ave, Appleton, MN 320.752.4462 Stag Supperclub X Red First LEED-certified restaurant in the state. Menu items from farm to table. The Friday fish fry is a nod to owners’ Wisconsin roots. 509 First Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 612.767.7766 Green Mini Golf Course ] Putting A hole-in-one eco education. Aim
Onyx House F Centrally located boutique hotel stocks organic sheets and snacks. Hybrid drivers get parking perks. 155 Portland St, Boston, MA 866.660.6699; South End Buttery X Buy a cupcake or twelve without
Pizza Fusion X Not your average pizza
Cozy Moose Cabins on F Moosehead Lake
here, as per the standards of the Kimpton Hotels Group. 225 N Wabash, Chicago, IL 866.610.0081;
FLORIDA chain: organic ingredients, biodegradable spudware utensils, pies delivered in hybrid rides. 1013 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale, FL 954.358.5353;
A 38-stop tour of the historic French Quarter. Hit all 38, or pick and choose your favorites. Download map from
Hotel Monaco F EarthCare program is in effect
The Farnsworth House Z Architect Mies van der Rohe’s
friendly. Working fireplaces. Chemicalfree cleaning and low-flow water usage. Super nice and relaxing, too. 2 Bridge St, Old Saybrook, CT 800.243.0212;
Quarter Self-Guided Z French Walking Tour
CALIFORNIA Twins Ice Cream X Three Certified-organic farmers’ market fave. Biodegradable and compostable servingware. 610 1st St, Napa, CA; 707.257.8946
MICHIGAN Ford Rouge Factory Tour Z Maybe the world’s largest living roof; a historical site gone green. 20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 800.835.5237;
feeling guilty—a portion of proceeds from the three most popular types go to animal rescue. 314 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 617.482.1015;
} Envi Gal-pal owners pick the finest planet-friendly fashions for their oh-so-chic boutique. “Not hippie, just hip,” they say. 164 Newbury St, Boston, MA 617.267.3684;
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MASSACHUSETTS Peak F Jiminy Mountain resort that uses a wind turbine to help meet electrical demands. Warm-weather activities include mountain biking, a climbing wall, and jousting. 37 Corey Rd, Hancock, MA; 413.738.5500;
plentymag.com | 83
Driving Me Crazy I was surprised to find an article encouraging countless miles of unnecessary driving (“On the Road,” June/July 2008) in what is supposed to be an eco-conscious magazine for people dedicated to living green. While I encourage supporting local and environmentally sustainable businesses, I fail to see why an article promoting them needs to take the road trip angle. Why not present them as a list of hidden gems in readers’ own communities? One of the reasons to buy locally is to reduce goods’ carbon footprints from travel miles—driving hundreds of miles to buy locally produced items negates that effect. So, while I support Jiminy Peak resort in Hancock, Massachusetts in its use of wind power, I don’t think I’ll drive the 3,000 miles to experience it myself. Kayje Booker Berkeley, California
The Price is Not Right I am a Plenty lover, but for some time I have felt that the items showcased in the Green Gear section are ridiculously overpriced, and probably targeted at ridiculously overpaid urbanites rather than the rest of us green folks in the hinterlands. A $68 veneer bracelet that doubles as a coffee cup cuff (April/May 2008) seems a bit over the top, and probably not a big seller in states like Nebraska or South Dakota. How about the “adorable tree-growing kit” with seeds, a little soil, a seeding pot, and a handy reference guide for successful sprouting? Probably not so adorable in Montana. I do like the idea of a $400 mulching mower (practical and green), and kudos for including the $78 rope hammock. Please consider shifting away from featuring silly and overpriced green gear to highlighting more practical and affordable items. Joe Furshong Helena, Montana
Make Movies, Not Carbon Emissions I was excited when I read about Earth Cinema Circle’s environmental movie service (“Keep it Reel,” April/May 2008), until I realized it involves production and delivery of one DVD per member, every other month. How about setting up a truly innovative member-to-member direct exchange program? The service can ship DVDs from member to member, cutting out returns to the distribution center. Members who are close enough neighbors can even exchange DVDs by hand, setting up an environmental peer network in the process. And of course, there is the obvious and proven solution of electronic distribution, either through iTunes or a private, members-only download site. Either of these practices could drastically reduce the environmental costs of shipping. I applaud the environmental advocacy of Earth Cinema Circle, but when you’re trying to do the right thing, your critics hold you to a higher standard. Let’s not dilute the message, especially when alternatives are available. Bernard B Yoo Via e-mail
land of plenty Our readers across the country (and around the world) are making strides toward living a green life and creating a modern Land of Plenty. We’ve selected a few of their eco-accomplishments—both big and small—to share. Send us stories about how you’re trying to make a difference; we’ll publish as many as we can in an upcoming issue of the magazine. E-mail us at email@example.com I’m always surprised when I hear someone say they don’t know how to live greener, or that they’re so overwhelmed by all the possibilities, they don’t do anything at all. In my mind, a person can always do something. In March, a fellow environmentalist and I launched a blog, Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet (ecowomen.word press.com). Our mission is to show people the easy changes they can make to live a greener life. Whenever I blog about something on Eco Women, I try to test that tip first, whether it’s switching to nontoxic cleaning products; ditching plastic produce bags and using my own cloth produce bags; or even recycling my daughters’ old pairs of Crocs. Every time we do something new and it sticks, it feels great. Not everything works—eco toilet paper, for example, didn’t go over too well—but I’m not going to beat myself up over that one failure when there are so many other things I’m doing—and still so many more tactics to try. Jennifer McDonald Brecht (aka Recycla; below) Charlottesville, VA
In the summer of 2005, I thought I’d been living a fairly green lifestyle. But then it hit me: Peak oil isn’t going away. I knew I had to do something. I called on my previous involvement in permaculture to launch the Portland Maine Permaculture Meetup Group (above; portlandmaine permaculture.com) in late 2005. Since then, the group has grown to more than 250 members, and its activity shows no sign of abating. In about two and a half years we have successfully created both virtual and real communities in which people are making changes to reduce their environmental footprints. Members include everyone from yoga instructors to elected officials, all of them interested in doing what they can with what they have. With permaculture, we are creating things like edible perennial ecosystems and low-impact homes and gardens. We’re building local resilience to live a truly sustainable and abundant life in the face of whatever challenges may come. Lisa Fernandes Portland, ME
june-july 2008 14 | august-september 2008
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plentycontributors Ben Whitford As a freelance journalist, Whitford writes our political blog and contributes to The Guardian, Mother Jones, Slate.com, and Newsweek. For this issue, he filed stories about the No Child Left Inside Act (“Brook Learning,” page 24), an ancient farming technique (“Smoking Grass,” page 33), and toxic tourism (“Magical Misery Tours,” page 26). He just moved to a new home in Pennsylvania that’s smack in the middle of the Delaware River floodplain. When it rains, he gets a bit nervous. His own most memorable toxic tourism adventure? Scuba diving in Hong Kong.
Travel Wish # 25: Give the kids some memories that don’t involve a couch.
She was well prepared to write about boating for Plenty (“Eco-Hopping,” page 44)—van der Kwast grew up in the Caribbean and has been on boats all her life. The Brooklyn resident and author of Pounding the Pavement says her favorite part of visiting the Greek islands by catamaran was her cabin. It looked too snug at first glance, but it turned out to be the perfect little cocoon, with its skylights and view of the ocean and the rocking of the waves that lulled her to sleep.
Jameson Simpson Years ago, Simpson was offered his first job in infographics before he had any experience in the field. “Thank you dot-com boom,” is all he has to say about that. But he was a professional painter at the time and had been a techie as a kid, so it seemed to fit. Now, Simpson’s work appears in Wired, Esquire, and Outside. He particularly enjoyed working on this issue’s DIY canister lamp infographic (page 54) because it was “a cool and dynamic-looking object, and translating it into drawings was a fun challenge.”
Kids today spend more than 45 hours
a week indoors on things like TV and
Though she doesn’t usually like to kill things, Gore recently made an exception and really let her perfect, lush, water-guzzling LA lawn have it (“Herbicide in the First Degree,” page 88). Author of New York Times bestselling novel Sammy’s Hill (2004) and sequel Sammy’s House (2007), she got her start writing for TV. Her work for Saturday Night Live won her an Emmy nomination and a Writers Guild Award.
video games. We’re here to help. With inspiring nature-trip ideas and an in-depth list of adventurous road trips, Travelocity can get your family outside, reconnecting with nature and each other. And that’s healthy for our kids and our environment. For more information and inspiration, visit Travelocity.com/nature.
Elizabeth Thompson In pulling together her list of designs that have changed the world (“Greenlined Design,” page 78), Thompson aimed to challenge conventional understanding of what constitutes an eco-object and to include an item from each of the major systems upon which our existence depends: food, shelter, water, transportation, and communication. Executive director for the Buckminster Fuller Institute (bfi.org), Thompson lives in Brooklyn, where she enjoys simple pleasures, such as lying on the grass under a tree.
photo of kristin Gore by tipper gore
©2008 Travelocity.com LP. CST# 2056372-50.
Jennifer van der Kwast
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I know that lead is terrible for the environment and also a serious health threat, so I hesitate to use pencils. But plastic pens seem like a bad idea, too. What should I stock up on before heading back to college? —Lindsay, MI
Actually, pencils have always been made with nontoxic graphite, not lead. When a huge deposit of graphite was discovered in England in the 1500s, it was mistakenly thought to be a form of lead, and the name stuck, at least for colloquial use. So if you can get past those nightmarish, SAT-bubble-filling memories, feel free to return to the good old No. 2 pencil. Opt for ones made from reclaimed or FSC-approved wood, or even from compressed recycled newspapers. As with any type of recycled product, always look for the highest post-consumer recycled content percentage available—upwards of 50 percent is a good goal. Recycled and refillable pens abound as well, and there are even nontoxic highlighters on the market. Always go for the least smelly option you can find—strongly scented ink usually means your pen or marker is emitting unhealthy VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. For green office supplies, you should try Office Depot (officedepot .com/buygreen) or Staples’ Eco Easy section (staples.com/ecoeasy).
My college doesn’t have a good textbook collection system—is there a way to make sure my books get resold or recycled? I wouldn’t mind getting some money back, either. —Nick, OH Knowledge is power, but it’s also criminally expensive these days, so you can’t be blamed for wanting to get some money back while you help save trees. With
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Should I drive my daughter the 5.5 miles to her school in my 2006 Toyota Prius, or have her take the school bus? —Meredith, CO Calculations are cold, unfeeling things, and subject to lots of outside factors: Is your daughter’s school on the way to your job, or would you turn around and drive right back home? Would you take the neighbors’ kid along as well? What model is the bus, and would it be full to capacity? Would it retrace its route to a garage between the morning pickups and afternoon dropoffs, or wait near the school? But let’s do some rough estimating. If there are 180 school days in the year, you’re driving 5.5 miles four times a day (twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon), 180 times. That’s 3,960 miles total. According to Carbonfund.org, a nonprofit online carbon calculator, driving 4,000 miles in your Toyota Prius will produce about 0.65 tons of CO2. Now let’s talk about the bus scenario. Matthew Solomon, Mobile Source Analyst for nonprofit Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), estimates that the average school bus (carrying 72 students and getting about 7 miles to the gallon) would emit 0.089 tons of CO2 per passenger over the course of 4,000 miles. So no matter how you slice it, the bus is far and away your greenest option. Plus, putting your daughter on the bus at an early age will teach her to support public transportation— especially if you take the time to explain your logic to her.
Pressing eco-inquiries, conundrums, snafus? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
®,TM,© 2008 Kashi Company
student loans, meal plans, housing, and the rising price of watery beer, who wants to shell out a thousand bucks on new books each year? The best thing to do is to start your own program on campus. That way, your 600page astrophysics textbook goes straight into the hands of someone who’s taking the same course next fall, rather than being shipped across the country to some big textbook-rental warehouse and back again. Log on to eHow.com for tips on starting a campus-textbook recycling program. But there are some useful online options for cheap used-textbook rental as well. Check out bookrenter.com, campusbook rentals.com, or chegg.com—a rental agency that partnered with a reforestation company called Eco-Libris so that they could plant a tree for every book you rent. Chegg allows for only “minimal highlighting,” and notetaking is off-limits, so keep a separate document as you read—small price to pay for a healthy planet and a heavy wallet, right?
7 whole grains on a mission
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New York Magazine January 2006
photo by Peter Bennett/Ambient Images
This unusual raft, Junk, is crafted from 15,000 discarded plastic bottles, old fishing nets, an airplane fuselage, and a solar generator. Designed by Marcus Eriksen, director of research and education at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, California, the boat embarked on a 2,100-mile journey to Hawaii this summer. Eriksen and sailing partner Joel Paschal hope the vessel will draw attention to the â€œplastic soup,â€? some 3.5 million tons of debris that floats in the North Pacific Gyre, threatening birds and marine creatures.
plentymag.com | 21
> by the numbers
China’s been in the spotlight lately thanks to the Beijing Olympics. But despite efforts to green the Games, the country doesn’t exactly get the gold for the state of its environment. Take a look at how massive development and population growth are taking their toll on China.
22 | august-september 2008
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How they Roll
He Said/She Said
“I’m concerned about climate change, and not only because it means we might run out of ice floes for our elderly.… I’m concerned because people won’t shut up about it. We solved the energy crisis: The answer was ethanol. Corn plus magic equals gasoline.” Stephen Colbert, being his usual, sarcastic self
“I’m actually ashamed to tell you what
car I have now. [It’s a Mercedes S-class sedan.] I got into a long lease before I saw the Al Gore movie, so now I’m embarrassed. But my lease has to be up before I can buy a proper environmental car.”
ummer is the perfect time to take the bike for a spin. And for those without wheels, Washington, DC’s Department of Transportation has an innovative solution. This spring, the department and Clear Channel Outdoor, an advertising company, launched SmartBike DC, a new bike-share system designed to reduce emissions and cut traffic congestion. The program works similarly to Zipcar: Riders register online for $40 a year and then use ID cards to check out bikes from designated stations for up to three hours at a time. Unlike other bike-share operations, there is no hourly fee and no limit to how often a rider can access a bike. “The program is designed to become part of the city’s public transportation,” says Martina > policy
“I’m a green
Planet Green’s Battleground Earth star Tommy Lee, marking the first time in a While that he’s used “I’m a” and “virgin” in the same sentence.
“We are in a constant state of Earth Day–ness, mostly mandated by my wife.” Ben Affleck
“It’s like Hotdoggate …. Clearly, it’s a veggie dog [in the pictures]: They’ve been serving veggie dogs and veggie burgers at my kids’ baseball games for years now.”
Pamela Anderson, after she was caught eating a hot dog she claims was actually a veggie dog
Schmidt, director of SmartBike US for Clear Channel. Stations are located at strategic subway and bus stops and throughout business districts. While the endeavor is still small (ten stations harbor a total of about 100 bikes), organizers plan to expand as more people register. Though DC is the only American city offering SmartBike, Clear Channel operates the service in twelve European cities. Barcelona claims to have prevented the emission of 960 tons of CO2 in the program’s first six months, Schmidt says. Keep an eye out for SmartBike in a town near you. San Francisco has already signed up, and Portland, Oregon, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, are considering the idea as well. —Dianna Dilworth
The parental demand to “go out and play” seems to be losing its punch. These days, you’re more likely to find kids slumped in front of Xboxes than riding bikes or climbing trees. Researchers estimate that the average child spends more than six hours a day staring at a TV or computer screen and barely half an hour outdoors.
Congress may have the cure: Legislators are putting the finishing touches on the No Child Left Inside Act, which would provide $500 million over five years for programs designed to rekindle kids’ enthusiasm for nature. Most of the dough will fund training programs that help teachers plan field trips and outdoor classes to enhance science, math, and English skills. Getting kids out of the classroom could pay big dividends. Studies show that children who spend time outside get better grades and are less likely to suffer from obesity and hyperactivity disorders. “Kids can get information from Animal Planet,” says author Richard Louv, whose 2005 bestseller, Last Child in the Woods, helped inspire the legislation. “What
grolar bear [groh·ler] [ber] n. A half-grizzly, half-polar
they can’t get is that immersive experience of being outdoors.” The bill isn’t likely to pass until lawmakers revisit education reform after the November elections. Still, insiders say the bill’s focus on nature education—rather than more controversial issues like conservation and climate change—has helped it win bipartisan support. “We aren’t trying to train tree huggers,” says Brian Day, executive director of the North American Association for Environmental Education, a member of the coalition that drafted the legislation. “We just want to get kids outdoors again, whether it’s to teach preschoolers about the wonder of nature or to teach high schoolers about global warming and pollution.” —Ben Whitford
THE BIG PICTURE by Bob Eckstein
bear hybrid recently discovered in Canada. Scientists predict that if global warming continues to push grizzlies north while also melting polar bears’ icy habitat, the two species could mate and reproduce more often.
Sample usage: “Hey, Napoleon, what are you drawing?” “A grolar bear. It’s pretty much my favorite animal. It’s like a grizzly and a polar bear mixed, bred because of climate change.”
24 | august-september 2008
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Hunter Lovins Founder, Natural Capitalism Group
Marc Laliberte Michelle Kaufmann Eric Corey Freed Building Science Principal, Michelle Architect & Principal Specialist & Trainer Kaufmann Designs OrganicARCHITECT
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spectrum > sports
Salute Their Shorts n track and field—where onetenth of a second is the difference between the gold and going home— aerodynamic gear is a must. But on a planet overflowing with landfills, sustainable products are important, too. Nike presents the perfect combo: a new line of eco-friendly runners’ wear for pro and Olympic athletes, some of whom are sporting the threads at the Beijing Summer Olympics. The Swift Track & Field line includes items like unitards and socks made from
recycled polyester extracted from old soda bottles and fabric scraps. The apparel is as effective as it is eco, potentially saving an athlete two-hundredths of a second in the race for a medal. “We haven’t sacrificed an ounce of performance to create a sustainable product,” says Nike spokesperson Morgan Shaw. Look out for Chinese competitor Liu Xiang, who’ll be wearing a recycled (and recyclable) singlet/short combo as he leaps over hurdles at record speeds. —Molly Webster
Eco-tourism typically conjures up images of pristine forests and beaches. Now, some environmental groups are offering another type of trip—tours of places ravaged by pollution. Whether you’re after a glimpse of Texas’ Refinery Row or a journey through Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, there are sites to shock even the most intrepid traveler. We’ve collected “brochures” from a few toxic tourism destinations. —Ben Whitford
Wilmington Toxic Tour los angeles, california Run by Communities for a Better Environment Sights to see Visit neighborhoods overshadowed by massive port terminals and refineries. Typical crowd College students and high school kids Kodak moment Watch flares rise from the refineries. “It’s kind of like candlelight,” says program director Yuki Kidokoro—although, the rotten-egg stench can spoil the effect. Take-home message Overdevelopment stinks, especially if you live next door.
Mountaintop Removal Tour hazard, Kentucky Run by Catholic Committee of Appalachia Sights to see Father John Rausch leads a tour of vast coal mines created by blasting the tops off mountains. Typical crowd Religious eco-warriors Kodak moment Sing hymns just 200 feet from an exploding mountain. “It’s
26 | august-september 2008
like an earthquake,” says Rausch. “It’s visceral!” Take-home message Some mines are the size of Manhattan, and their waste has clogged 1,200 miles of mountain streams.
Superfund365.org nationwide Run by Digital artist Brooke Singer Sights to see Log on for virtual tours of the country’s most contaminated spots— one for each day of the year. Or, take a self-guided tour to a local landmark identified on the site and post your own material. Typical crowd Green geeks Kodak moment View interactive flower charts of each site’s pollutants— one petal per contaminant. Take-home message Some sites are so filthy that you’ll be glad you stayed home.
Suncor Energy Plant Fort mcmurray, Alberta Run by Fort McMurray Tourism and Suncor Energy Sights to see Behold the
massive machinery used to extract oil from oil sands— but don’t expect to hear much about the industry’s environmental toll. Typical crowd Plant workers’ parents Kodak moment Pose for photos in a bucket the size of a two-car garage. “We’ve put whole bus tours in there,” says tourism director Helen Daymond. Take-home message Oil extraction can be fun! And our tractors are bigger than yours.
Matamoros Toxic Tour matamoros, mexico brownsville, texas Run by Local activist Domingo Gonzalez Sights to see Cross the Rio Grande to see poorly regulated Mexican factories making goods for US consumers. Typical crowd Hardcore environmentalists Kodak moment Watch children scavenge in burning garbage dumps just yards from the US border. Take-home message NAFTA isn’t good news for everyone.
Magical Misery Tours
Nike’s Swift line: high-performance fabrics from eco-friendly materials.
illustration by josH
1 color logo green
1 color black
1 color logo blue
Vistors walk through The Jungle (right). Robson constructs The Great Indoors for Houston’s Rice Gallery (below).
> miss eco etiquette
Cut the Cord
Message in a Bottle S
ome might call Aurora Robson a “garbage picker;” but on closer inspection, a “recycling Rauschenberg” may be a more accurate description. Although Robson’s sculptures elicit descriptions like “breathtaking” and “otherworldly,” the pieces start as trash. Some of her main media include plastic bottles and junk mail. “My goal is to take something negative and turn it into something positive,” she says. That dirt-to-diamond goal also explains Robson’s unusual inspiration: She designs her ecofriendly sculptures, collages, and paintings based on images from childhood nightmares. Robson’s latest sculpture, The Great Indoors, is composed of 10,000 discarded bottles cut into various shapes and airbrushed with a water-based polycrylic spray. At the Rice Gallery in Houston, visitors can walk through the 40-foot-by-40-foot installation, immersing themselves in the guts of a strange organism. Smaller, glowing shapes lit by solar-powered LED lights line the inside of the sculpture. “You end up being consumed by that which you consume,” Robson explains. The show runs from September 18 through October 26. —Steven K Lee
For information on upcoming shows, visit aurorarobson.com
> act out
Oil-La-La Crusty bread dipped
in olive oil sure makes for a tasty snack—but it’s better if you know where that oil comes from. Largescale olive production can cause soil erosion and is often chemical intensive. Enter Nudo: The artisanal
28 | august-september 2008
olive grove in Le Marche, Italy, uses no pesticides and will soon be certified organic. The farm also allows customers to adopt an olive tree for a year. About $130 gets you two liters of oil in the autumn, three flavored oils in the spring, plus an adoption certificate and booklet with information about your tree. “We want to move away from massproduced, untraceable produce to very traceable produce,” says coowner Jason Gibbs. Added bonus: The farm welcomes customers to visit their trees at any time, providing a built-in vacation destination. —Nicole Scarmeas
To adopt, visit nudo-italia.com
To save energy, I unplug electronics when I’m not using them. Is it OK to do the same at a friend’s house?
t’s just not cool to tiptoe around your buddy’s home, ripping cords out of the wall like some kind of conservation fairy. It’s also rather rude to bombard your pal with accusations. (“It’s because of people like you that this planet is going to hell in a handbasket,” won’t be well-received.) Here are a few tactics that’ll make your friend think twice— about wasting energy, not about your friendship: Boasting Casually mention how much money you’ve saved. “About 75 percent of home electronics’ energy consumption occurs when products are shut off but still plugged in. I’ve saved big bucks on electric bills by unplugging.” Melodramatic humor Make a show of running over to the toaster and yanking the cord out of the socket. “Don’t you know that every time you forget to unplug your toaster a polar bear dies?!” Self-deprecating humor “I know I’m totally anal, but I’m really into unplugging stuff when I’m not using it. Mind if I unplug your TV before we go out?” —Kiera Butler
To improve your green manners, read Miss Eco Etiquette’s blog at plentymag.com/blogs
photo courtesy Aurora Robson (above left); nudo italia (Bottom left)
“This coming-of-age memoir is brave, emotional, and gorgeously written.”—Frances Mayes “SENSUOUS.”
“Kim Sunée tells us so much about the French that I never learned in 25 trips to Paris, but mostly about the terrors and pleasure of that inﬁnite octopus, love. A ﬁne book.” ––Jim Harrison author of Legends of the Fall and Returning to Earth
poetic memoir is like a piece of dark chocolate— bittersweet, satisfying, and ﬁnished all too soon.” —Laura Fraser, author of An Italian Affair
Available in hardcover and as an eBook www.hbgusa.com
Author photo: JMM
Hachette Book Group USA
Life in the Green Zone Lizz Winstead comes across a bad case of separation anxiety and channels her inner therapist to save the day
Lizz Winstead is the cocreator of The Daily Show and former cohost of Air America’s Unfiltered. She currently stars in Shoot the Messenger, a satirical review of the media world running in New York City (shootthemessengernyc.com).
“Look, I’m no pillar of the environmental community either. I have some habits that many would say are as bad as owning a Humvee dealership.” 30 | august-september 2008
beth perkins (top);
he didn’t want his neighbors to know he enjoyed a “laddie mag” now and again. His argument renders me speechless. But then my inner eco-therapist, Dr Glasshouses, kicks in. Dick is a reasonable man, and so with the right argument, he will understand the error of his ways, Glasshouses assures me. Still hanging on to my apple core, I make my case. “Look,” I begin slowly, “I’m no pillar of the environmental community either. I have some habits that many would say are as bad as owning a Humvee dealership. I don’t care about your interest in magazines featuring female contortionists who”—wait for it, it’s pretty bad—“look good on paper.” He’s still listening, so I continue. “But maybe when you are done, you could shred her?” It’s all awkwardly phrased, I admit, but Dick starts to get the point. “At the very least, can’t we all make sure, no matter who comes over to visit, they separate their cans and bottles from the rest of the trash?” A calm comes over the room. Dick realizes I’m being reasonable. I remember that I like Dick, so I should call him Richard. I toss my apple core—which by now is close to the color of cardboard—in the trash. Together we separate the cans, the bottles, and the magazines. After we’re done, Richard and I head out for a couple of beers. And for once, he’s less spitty and table poundy. ✤
e’s that friend we all have. You know, the one who could bore even Al Gore with his dinner party monologues about phantom energy this and fluorescent lightbulbs that; the guy who always remembers to bring the canvas bag; the guy who does a shift at his local co-op; the guy who makes you feel like you should do more. To make matters worse, he—let’s call him Dick—is not just aware of all things eco, but after one too many wheat beers, gets spitty and table poundy while making his point. So there are certain things you assume are environmental absolutes with the Dick. But as the old saying goes: When you assume, you make an ass out of (yo)u and me. As it turns out, old, self-righteous Dick isn’t hip to that obscure, little environmental concept called recycling. One afternoon, I stop by his place to borrow the DVD of the second season of the tragically defunct comedy Arrested Development. (I am always a few years behind the zeitgeist.) I walk up the steps of his crumbling brownstone on Saint Marks Place while finishing off a perfectly tart Granny Smith apple. To get rid of my apple core, I tap the opener on the bottom of Dick’s kitchen trashcan and find … a pile of beer bottles and cans mixed with old porn magazines and coffee grounds. I shriek in horror. “What?” Dick says to me, afraid I might go all schoolmarm on him. A paralysis overcomes me as I stare into the domestic landfill he has created. Finally I choke out the words, “I can’t believe you have this in your trash.” “Are you gonna judge me with some neo-feminist rhetoric about porn’s ghetto-fication of women?” he counters. I might if I weren’t so blindsided by the bottles and cans. “The bigger problem here is that you don’t have separate containers for glass, plastic, and, um, magazines,” I point out while waving my apple core around. Realizing he’s busted, Dick tries to backpedal. “I had some buddies over last night, and they probably threw their stuff in there by accident. I didn’t notice it. I’ll pull ’em out later.” “Did your buddies throw your copy of Double Ds Do the Darndest Things in here by accident, too?” That doesn’t go over so well. Dick starts in on some lame tirade about how the bottle-can mix-up was an honest mistake and how
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Scientist Mingxin Guo has shown that biochar-infused soil vastly improves winter wheat growth rates compared to regular soil.
Smoking Grass An ancient technique for enriching soil could revolutionize farming and curb climate change
photo by Mingxin Guo and students, delaware state university
n 1542, Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana returned from the New World with tales of bustling cities lining the banks of the Amazon River. “They have a great wealth of gold and silver,” wrote his chronicler, “and great cities of white stone glistening in the sun.” But when missionaries retraced Orellana’s steps a century later, they found no sign of the settlements he’d described. Even the soil seemed to contradict his claims; it was yellowish and barren, apparently incapable of sustaining more than a few scattered bands of hunter-gatherers. Lately, though, researchers have realized that Orellana might have been telling the truth. It turns out that the Amazon basin is dotted with patches of rich, black loam known as terra preta del Indio, or “Indian dark earth.” Studies show that these soils, which Indian farmers created by mixing charcoal and fish bones into their fields, can be almost nine times more fertile than unaltered earth and could once have fed tens of millions of people. “There are hundreds of thousands of these patches,” says William Woods, a University of Kansas geographer. “The implication is that there were a lot of people in pre-Colombian Amazonia sustainably producing food.” There might be a lesson here for modern farmers. The recipe for terra preta was lost long ago, but in theory, its effects could be replicated by sowing fields with biochar, a type of charcoal. By fixing nutrients in place
Farmers who use biochar could actually help combat global warming. and altering the soil’s microbial balance, biochar could boost crop yields and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. The early signs are promising: Mingxin Guo, a soil scientist at Delaware State University, recently found that wheat grown in charcoal-spiked soil yielded 45 percent more biomass. “With a one-off addition, the soil quality appears to be permanently improved,” he says. The real payoff, though, is that farmers who use biochar could actually help com bat global warming. All plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow; ordinarily, that greenhouse gas is released when the plants decompose. But converting plants into charcoal can stabilize their carbon: While plants store carbon for months or years, biochar can trap it for hundreds or even thousands of years. According to Robert Brown, director of Iowa State University’s Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies, charring half the crop residues from one square mile of farmland would lock
away enough carbon to offset the emissions from 330 automobiles. What’s more, when plants are charred, they give off fumes that can be condensed into a carbon-negative bio-oil capable of powering an auto engine. A handful of companies are already producing fuel from this organic waste. Johannes Lehmann, a biochar specialist at Cornell University, calculates that by the end of the century, bio-oil and biochar production could sequester 9.5 billion metric tons of carbon a year—more than enough to offset all global fossil-fuel emissions today. That’s especially exciting, Lehmann says, because unlike biodiesel and corn ethanol, biochar doesn’t take land away from food production. “We can simply use material we don’t need, like crop residues or waste products,” he says. “This has humongous potential.” There’s a downside, of course. Careless charcoal production can generate toxic waste, and the energy needed to produce,
plentymag.com | 33
Researchers in the central Amazon measure soil composition.
Fuel from manure burns cleaner and costs less than traditional fuels. By feeding cattle waste into digesters that convert the material into bio-gas, families in rural India used 60 percent less firewood and kerosene. The $250 systems paid for themselves in two years.
Fewer but more-intense hurricanes will form over the Atlantic Ocean this century because of global warming, predicts a NOAA climate model. The study challenges prevailing theories that warmer sea surface temperatures will generate more hurricanes.
Soot, already linked to respiratory and cardiovascular problems, might be even more dangerous than previously thought. Researchers discovered that soot-filled smog may cause blood clots that can be deadly if they travel from the lower leg or thigh to the lungs.
Whether they’re homeless or live in a McMansion, Americans’ carbon footprints are more than twice as large as those of people living elsewhere. Most emissions come from housing, transportation, and food. A new housing trend could cut carbon emissions in the US. Increasingly, people are opting for co-housing arrangements—private houses with shared gyms, offices, and more—in which they consume about 60 percent less energy than single-family homes.
Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon, emit the fewest greenhouse gases per capita of 100 US cities, reports a new study. The survey examined transportation fuel and energy use in homes but didn’t take into account industry or commercial buildings.
Good news for marine dwellers: A 20-year study revealed that overall contaminant levels in US coastal waters have dropped. Most notably, PCBs and DDT numbers have decreased dramatically, though flame retardants called PBDEs—found in furniture, electronics, and other products—are on the rise.
Long considered a barren expanse with occasional bio-oases at hydrothermal vents, the seafloor appears to be teeming with microbes that “feed” on the earth’s crust. Scientists found thousands of times more bacteria on the ocean bottom than in the water above, suggesting that early life possibly began on the seafloor.
ask a SCIENTIST george burgess
Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research and curator of the International Shark Attack File
Q. If sharks are in decline, why are shark attacks on humans more prevalent now? A. You hear more about shark attacks because there’s better media coverage and
because there are more people entering the sea each year. Aquatic recreation has developed beyond sticking your toes in the water or going for a quick swim into surfing, diving, sail boarding—and many of these activities are provocative to sharks. We investigate shark attacks worldwide and maintain a compilation called the International Shark Attack File, which was founded in 1958. Actual investigations go back to the 1500s. Part of the reason I decided to accept responsibility for the file was that it offers an opportunity to talk to the press about issues other than shark attacks; the need for conservation and understanding that these animals and other sea creatures are declining is the core of the conversation. In many ways, sharks and their relatives are poster children of sorts for the overall decline of the sea. —as told to Susan Cosier
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photo by William Woods (far left)
transport, and bury biochar could outweigh the carbon savings. Even biochar’s fans admit it’s a work in progress: Scientists don’t know how much charcoal farmers should use, how they should apply it, or which feedstocks work best. “We just don’t know enough about it yet,” says recently retired USDA scientist John Kimble. “It’s got potential, but it’s going to take a lot more work.” The biggest barriers, though, are economic. With farmers reluctant to spread unproven products on their fields, the few companies manufacturing biochar have struggled to find buyers. Dynamotive, a Vancouver-based energy company, simply gives it away to farmers willing to try it. “The market for biochar is basically nonexistent,” admits Desmond Radlein, one of the company’s directors. Analysts say that won’t change until carbon markets are established, allowing farmers to earn credits for applying biochar to their fields. “People aren’t going to invest until they can show they’ll get a return on their investments,” says Debbie Reed, coordinator of the International Biochar Initiative, a nonprofit working to promote the commercialization of the fertilizer. Still, lawmakers hope to jumpstart the industry. The current Farm Bill contains several high-priority research programs for which $10 million per year is authorized for biochar studies, and the Senate is considering a $500 million grant program. “There’s been a paradigm shift at the highest policy levels,” Reed says. If that’s true, it could just be a matter of time until the biochar industry hits pay dirt. —Ben Whitford
The Trying Game China’s efforts at a clean and environmentally sensitive Summer Olympics
hina’s winning bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games had a lot to do with the government’s $12.2 billion plan to reduce pollution, particularly in the air, and to launch a legacy of environmentally progressive Olympics. That has been no small undertaking. Over seven years, the People’s Republic has taken steps ranging from innovative to inhumane in an effort to make
good on its promise of a green Olympics in Beijing, a booming metropolis of 16 million. Playing host to the world in August, China wants more than anything for its house to sparkle. But while some initiatives portend positive, lasting change, others seem short sighted, like jamming the coat closet full of junk before guests arrive. —Victoria Schlesinger
Greenery> Trees and plants cover roughly 6,300 square miles in and around Beijing, an area that grew from 41.9 percent in 2000 to 51.6 percent this year. City officials built the 580hectare Olympic Forest Park and planted 900 hectares of native species on the Olympic Green. <Air quality To clean up Beijing’s infamous cloak of smog—a mixture of greenhouse gases and particulate matter—most taxis and buses must use cleaner fuel and the city’s 3.3 million autos will be limited to every-other-day use during the Games. While businesses that emit air pollutants have been retrofitted and even relocated, coal facilities and the city’s geography contribute to its persistently poor air quality. Water> Demand for water could increase by 30 percent during the Games. With fourteen new plants, Beijing will treat 90 percent of its waste water, up from 40 percent in 2001. Olympic Village faucets will dispense potable water, a luxury the government vows it will soon provide to locals. Underground rainwater-recycling pools at the National Stadium will supply water for landscaping, cleaning, and firefighting. <Public transportation Beijing’s notoriously bad traffic, combined with its promise that all Olympic venues will be no more than a 30-minute journey from the Olympic Village, prompted the city to improve buses and expand rail capacity by 1.5 million users daily. A public education campaign encourages walking and biking, already the primary modes of transportation for 39 percent of the population. Smoking> Starting in May, Beijing outlawed cigarette smoking in most indoor public places, including museums, hotels, and medical facilit ies. Restaurants are also required to designate smoking and nonsmoking areas. That angered eatery owners, who say the regulation is driving customers away. <Food After the USDA discovered that fish imported from China last year were drug-laden, the Chinese government developed a long list of new seafood-safety standards. Nonetheless, the US Olympic team, worried consumption of tainted foods could lead to accusations of drug use, decided to bring its own food. China then banned pre-prepared food in the Village, citing extensive food-safety controls now in place. Cleanliness> In an effort to clean up Beijing streets, the government banned the common practices of spitting and littering. It’s also rounding up stray cats believed to represent a health risk, according to Humane Society International. The organization is investigating concerns that the felines are being killed inhumanely.
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“This change of a few words gives legal permission and protection to directors and officers to consider other stakeholders in day-to-day business.”
Stamp of Success By evaluating whole companies instead of products, B Lab aims for a new standard in business practice These days, there are a number of labels and certifications that designate the difference between genuinely progressive companies and poseurs for consumers. But B Lab, a Berwyn, Pennsylvania, nonprofit that anoints select companies with its B Corporation—B for beneficial—stamp, is approaching certification from a new angle. In an effort to increase corporate accountability—for both actions and impact—B Lab appraises entire businesses rather than individual products. Founders Bart Houlahan and Jay Coen Gilbert, who previously started a basketball apparel company together, and Andrew Kassoy, who is also a private equity investor, wanted to start a venture that would address social and environmental issues they cared about. “We spent a long time talking to people in the private sector,” Gilbert
says. “There were no standards, legal framework, or unifying brand,” Gilbert explains. “So B Corporation is our attempt to integrate those things into a certification and brand for good businesses that are competitive, profitable, and take care of all their stakeholders.” To earn the B Corporation stamp, a company must score at least 80 out
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of 200 on a comprehensive survey that takes stock of environmental and socialresponsibility performance (the best companies have so far scored between 90 and 110). The board and shareholders must also be willing to amend the company’s articles of incorporation. Doing so, B Lab reasons, publicly announces the company’s intention to balance the interests of customers, employees, the local community, and the environment with its responsibility to be profitable. Gilbert explains, “This change of a few words gives legal permission and protection to directors and officers to consider other stakeholders in day-to-day business.” B Lab’s reach is broad but not yet all that deep. Its 100 certified B Corporations, which include King Arthur Flour, Seventh Generation, and Method Products, represent 30 industries but only $700 million in revenues, less than one-fifth the earnings of the smallest company in the Fortune 500. Right now the companies seeking certification are already doing good; the B Corporation label is just another way for them to be recognized for it. But at least one early B Corp member hopes that other companies will use the process to make themselves more responsible than they might have been previously. “It does no good if only companies that are already committed get involved,” says Allison Furbish of King Arthur Flour. “We hope that by doing this we’ll challenge assumptions about what it takes to run a successful company, and that other companies that were not always inclined to be socially or environmentally responsible will try it.” That would make the B in B Lab both beneficial and big time. —Eileen P Gunn
photo by Trevor Dixon
B Lab founders (from left to right) Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy.
A Smarter Spark
Adventurous startups are taking the energy industry out of the dark ages by introducing green IT to the grid
photo courtesy of enerNoC
he electric meters on the outside of your house haven’t changed in nearly a century. They’re starkly visible symbols of a utility system that’s riddled with outdated practices and age-old inefficiencies. But now a handful of startups are pushing to create a “smart grid” that could discourage excess energy usage by both utilities and consumers. These companies stand at the heart of a broad and powerful push to reduce energy consumption and deliver it more efficiently. In the fight to reduce global emissions, this initiative could prove even more critical than developing new and renewable forms of energy; it tackles the demand-side issues, where people use it, rather than the supply side, where it’s generated. “The global potential for saving energy is huge,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, the United Nations’ Special Envoy on Climate Change, at a Nordic Investment Bank colloquium held in New York earlier this year. “The US has half the energy efficiency of Japan, and China only has one-ninth.” The demand-side approach has caught the attention of Foundation Capital, a Silicon Valley venture firm that has invested in three emerging smart-grid innovators: Silver Spring Networks, eMeter, and EnerNOC. The technology these companies have developed can, for example, send data to the power companies every six seconds instead of every 30 days. The constantly updated information enables utilities to charge more for energy at peak times, when it costs more, encouraging conservation. If green IT can help the grid operate more efficiently, the thinking goes, utilities won’t need to build more plants to meet increasing demand but instead can tap “nega-watts” created by conservation. Each startup has its own approach. Silver Spring Networks, in Silicon Valley, puts wireless devices on power lines, transformers, and home meters to send information to utilities, which can then monitor and control electricity, water, and gas usage. Silver Spring is known as a “Cisco for the grid,”
a reference to the tech company whose routers and switches are the plumbing of the Internet. Also in Silicon Valley, eMeter provides software that crunches data the utilities get from companies like Silver Spring, enabling them to see who is using what power, when.
vocates worry that the cost of implementing smart-grid technologies will raise rates. And while smart-grid advocates say they can reduce peak-hour demand, environmentalists fear they’ll only be pushing power use to the off-peak hours rather than
EnerNOC’s Boston operations center tracks electricity usage for more than 2,800 commercial clients.
“You can charge different rates based on the cost of generation” at different times, says Cree Edwards, eMeter’s CEO. That’s a game-changer: With existing energy pricing structures, consumers have no incentive to alter their habits. EnerNOC, based in Boston, reins in the vast amount of energy wasted in buildings. In a process known as demand response, EnerNOC pays factories and big box retailers to install a device that can shut off unnecessary power during peak demand so clients can sell that power back to the utilities. “Participating in demand response can be seen as a gateway to energy efficiency,” says Kevin Ashton, EnerNOC’s vice president of marketing. “If you see power that you don’t need at the peak, you start to question whether you need it at all.” Implementing the advances of these smart-grid startups may not be easy or automatic. Utilities are monopolies that have been slow to change, and regulation makes the field incredibly complex. Consumer ad-
reducing overall use. Ralph Cavanagh, codirector of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s energy program, says the problem lies in how plants are typically powered during peak and regular hours. “If you shift consumption from on-peak gas-fired power plants to off-peak coal-fired power plants, that’s not obviously an environmental gain,” he says. All sides agree that consumption must be cut because changing the supply has proven to be a massive challenge. Solar, wind, and other renewable sources aren’t yet economically feasible enough to push the world onto a clean-energy path. Green IT, on the other hand, is both financially viable and deployable almost immediately, according to Steve Vassallo, a principal at Foundation Capital. “We think we can look at the demand side and use the existing infrastructure more effectively,” he says. “The IT approach is all about doing things more efficiently. Better, faster, cheaper.” —Dan Fost
In the fight to reduce global emissions, cutting energy consumption could prove even more critical than developing new and renewable forms of energy.
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When rockets built by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic (right) and Xcor (below) launch next year, they’ll be greener than existing spaceships.
All Systems Go Green S
pace may soon be a tourist destination. A handful of well-funded private companies are jockeying to be the first to blast paying customers to the edge of space, where they’ll experience weightlessness and stare out into the void. These suborbital flights are expected to begin next year. And there’s a surprising twist to this new space race: The companies aren’t just competing to launch first; several are also vying for bragging rights to the greenest rocket. Firing off rockets to give rich tourists a 50,000 feet, at which point the rocket’s enstellar view may sound inherently un-eco, gine ignites, shooting off the smaller craft especially given the conventional airline in- for the final climb. While Virgin’s rocket fuel dustry’s contributions to global warming. is more toxic than Xcor’s, Virgin says its deThere’s no arguing that the practice will emit sign is environmentally superior because of greenhouse gases, but space industry leaders its “air launch” system. Xcor Aerospace and Virgin Galactic tout their “To launch something from the ground programs as “environmentally benign.” through the very thick atmosphere and get “The motivation wasn’t necessar- out to suborbital space, you have to do a ily that we wanted to join Greenpeace,” huge blast—you have to detonate a bomb, says Xcor spokesman Doug Graham. His basically,” says Virgin Galactic CEO Stephen company sought to build a fuel-efficient Attenborough. The Virgin system uses less vehicle that would keep costs down. Xcor fuel because the rocket engine has to fire also needed a nontoxic fuel that would be for only 90 seconds to reach thinner atmoeasy to handle. So it built a small, two-seated sphere. Attenborough says Virgin calculated vehicle powered by kerosene and liquid oxy- that each of the rocket’s six passengers will gen, which burns cleanly at about 6,000°F and have a carbon footprint totaling 0.8 metric emits no smoke or particulate matter. Xcor has tons of carbon dioxide; in comparison, a pasalso helped design a methane-fueled engine; senger on a 747 jet from New York to London it’s an even greener technology because, un- is responsible for two metric tons. like the petroleum-based kerosene, methane is Global warming activists haven’t taken a renewable energy source. “Theoretically, we much notice of space tourism yet. That’s could get the methane from anywhere, even fine for now, according to Deron Lovaas, from cow manure,” Graham says. who studies transportation and energy Virgin Galactic plans to send passengers for the environmental nonprofit Natural 62 miles up using an innovative two-vehicle Resources Defense Council. The space design that may give the company a green companies are already selling tickets for edge. The larger mothership takes off from future flights costing between $100,000 a runway and carries an attached rocket to and $250,000. At that price, their flights 38 | august-september 2008
aren’t likely to become a major contributor to global warming, Lovaas says. “These customers will be the same people who don’t hesitate to buy a top-of-line Jaguar. To use that analogy, we don’t even look at the emissions of a Porsche or a Bentley, because they are just dwarfed by the emissions from the big automakers.” Lovaas thinks that if ticket prices drop, which is the goal, space tourism could become a larger source of pollution. In fact, the business minds behind these schemes hope that eventually, as happened with air travel, suborbital flights will become cheap enough to lure average vacationers. They believe the initial revenues from the highticket sales will speed technological advances while decreasing costs overall. If prices drop and space tourism becomes commonplace, environmentalists may one day set their sights on the industry. However, both Virgin and Xcor say that bringing the masses to space will have surprising benefits. Virgin magnate Richard Branson rhapsodized in a speech about how viewing the Earth from above could transform passengers, a phenomenon called the overview effect. Former astronauts have reported that the sight “helps one to wake up to the fragility of the small portion of the planet’s mass that we inhabit and to the importance of protecting the Earth,” Branson said. Maybe space travel as eco-tourism isn’t such a far out idea. —Eliza Strickland
photos by xcor (top); Thierry boccon-gibod (top inset)
As private space tourism nears launch, some companies are climbing to new heights for less-polluting rockets
57.7 10.1–20 1.1–10 0.1–1 <0.1
Full of Crop
AREA OF BIOTECH CROPS (IN MILLIONS OF HECTARES)
Farmers are planting more genetically modified plants worldwide every year market worth $6.9 billion in 2007 and projected to rise to $7.5 billion this year. Most of the expansion last year occurred in devel oping countries—led by India and Brazil—where the growth rate was 21 percent. According to the ISAAA report, that trend is likely to continue. Right now, about 90 percent of biotech farms are small, low-income operations.
Breaking Down Is Hard to Do Scientists at the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute and several universities are looking at microbes that could help make cheap cellulosic ethanol—biofuel made from tough plant parts like corn stalks and leaves. Microbes swimming in the guts of cows, termites, Asian long-horned beetles, and Tammar wallabies (above) produce enzymes that break down the fibrous materials into simple sugars. By cloning these digestive enzymes and inserting them into transgenic biofuel crops, scientists hope to make plants that will naturally break themselves down once they’re harvested. —Nicole Scarmeas
With food and resource scarcity a growing problem, the demand for higher-yield crops could intensify. The report also predicts that more poor farmers will gain the tools and incentive to switch to engineered plants in the coming years. A number of factors will drive that growth, including better food-crop enhancements, greater international acceptance of engineering, and the potential for Southern
Hemisphere pioneers like India, Brazil, and South Africa to help their neighbors transition. Still, some countries aren’t embracing biotech ag. Last year, Poland became the eighth European nation to adopt the practice, but activists have succeeded in keeping engineered plants out of much of the EU. The map above shows which countries grow modified crops. —Dave Zuckerman
chalk it up Carbon Sciences, a California cleantech startup, hopes to turn carbon dioxide emitted by power plants into a useful, valuable substance. By mixing the gas with calcium powder, the company is transforming CO2 into calcium carbonate, or chalk, which is found in everything from toothpaste to plastics. Carbon Sciences’ process creates chalk in a few hours, under high temperature and pressure. The company is working to make the method carbon neutral, less energy intensive, and cheaper than traditional calcium carbonate production. —Sandra Upson ROCK PARTICLES CHALK DRYWALL
Genetically modified crops like insect-resistant cotton and herbicide-tolerant soy are rapidly gaining acreage around the globe. According to a report from the nonprofit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), global biotech crop area grew by 12 percent between 2006 and 2007 to 282 million acres. Twentythree countries now grow biotech foods and fibers—a
BRICKS TOOTHPASTE COSMETICS
plentymag.com | 39
To help provide those in need with free organic produce, Garden O’ Feedin’ volunteers grow organic sugar snap peas, cantaloupes, herbs, and more on land adjacent to Vineyard Boise church.
activist in residence
Bill McKibben finds a potential blueprint for linking modern-day
ere’s the first thing I like about Bill Meeker, head gardener at the Garden O’ Feedin’, which provides free, fresh, organic food for poor people all over the greater Boise, Idaho, area: When I ask him how his one-third acre of raised beds could possibly have produced 20,776 pounds of vegetables last year, he answers, “Well, God’s involved.” Indeed. Meeker and 115 volunteers grow their crops on land that abuts Vineyard Boise, a church in aptly-named Boise suburb Garden City, Idaho. Vineyard Boise is evangelical in all the ways that freak out an increasingly secular world. Their long statement of faith (available online) is full of turns like, “We believe that the whole world is under the domination of Satan and that all people are sinners by nature and choice.” But here’s the second thing I like about Bill Meeker: When other churches visit to ask about setting up their own gardens, he tells them the secret is “three crucial things—compost, compost, and compost.” Parishioners now arrive at Vineyard Boise carrying table scraps. They collect lawn clippings, but “only if they didn’t use any chemicals on the lawn,” cautions Meeker. Volunteers turn, turn, turn the compost bins. Companion planting—sugar snap peas with radishes, herbs with tomatoes— is practiced. Bible school classes help with the harvests on Tuesday and Friday nights. When those in need arrive each Wednesday and Saturday, they start at a tent with a regular food bank—stuff in cans and bags. Then they visit the free medical clinic.
And then they stop at what’s informally known as a “benevolent farmers’ market for no-cost produce.” Exchanges aren’t always Sunday-school sweet. “You see a lot of people come in who aren’t very thankful. They want more or not what you have. But they’re God’s children, just like me,” Meeker says. “If you keep that in mind, it’s okay.” Actually, it’s better than okay. This year the Garden O’ Feedin’ farmers are doubling the land under cultivation. Before long the church will have 5 acres yielding organic fruit and vegetables—and bearing witness not only to its faith, but to the possibilities for all kinds of people to get involved in the fight for a workable future. “We have several people who used to get food here, and now they come volunteer,” says Meeker. These days, Vineyard Boise is a model of green Christianity. The pastor of the church, Tri Robinson, was an ecology major and a high school biology teacher who lived off the grid in the mountains of California. When he eventually became a pastor and took over the Boise evangelical congregation, he brought many of his old values with him. Thank heaven. “If the statistics are true and Christians do comprise one-
40 | august-september 2008
third of the world’s population, then what would happen if more than 2 billion people became serious about upholding the value of environmental stewardship?” he asks. We got some sense of the answer last year when many leading evangelicals signed on to a statement calling for federal action on climate change. It began to change the politics of the issue, to break down its left-right, Republican-Democrat stalemate. In fact, it’s hard to imagine ever managing to build the political momentum for change without the involvement of religious communities around the world. Overcoming vested economic interests will require a moral charge—and our churches and synagogues and mosques are the last institutions we have that can still posit an idea for human existence beyond “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But that’s an abstraction. Churches offer something else: a physical location, with ground to plant. They can provide a place to start making real the commandment from Genesis to till the earth and the Gospel sanction to feed the hungry. Last year the Garden O’ Feedin’ alone grew 2,200 pounds of cantaloupe—how do you like them apples? ✤ Bill McKibben is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, the author of a dozen books about the environment, and the cofounder of the current 350.org campaign, a global grassroots effort to fight climate change.
photo courtesy of vineyard boise (top right)
environmental stewardship with religion in more than 20,000 pounds of free food
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Photo: Cesar Rubio
Victoria De Silverio
12 questions for
Gossip Girl’s pampered mom whose real-life motherhood sparked her green lifestyle
or Kelly Rutherford, a star on the white-hot show Gossip Girl, having a baby created pangs of eco-consciousness. “They come into this world so pure,” she says. “You want to keep them that way.” Two years ago, when Rutherford was pregnant, she and her husband turned their house into a treehugger’s paradise. The conversion included a graywater system, denim insulation, and organic carpeting and furniture. “The architects we used were not eco, but they ran with all our ideas,” she recalls. A TV veteran, Rutherford is back on the air for Gossip Girl’s second season this September. She plays Lily van der Woodsen, an uptight Manhattan socialite married to a billionaire while involved in a love triangle. “I think of Lily as going to the eco–dry cleaners and having her housekeeper shop at Whole Foods,” she says. While it seems a stretch to imagine Lily caring much about mulch, it’s the only Gossip Girl spoiler that Rutherford will dish.
Favorite animal My dog, Oliver, an
Australian cattle dog. He rescued me. I don’t think we rescue animals— they rescue us.
If she were President I’d make
all transportation hybrid or biofuel.
Green car of choice A Prius.
It’s a different kind of status symbol. It says, no matter how much money you have, you’re aware. I used to have a Porsche with a big engine, but I didn’t need all that power anyway—I was just stuck in LA traffic!
Seventh Generation baby wipes. Last good eco-deed
I just bought an organic reusable shopping bag, called Feed 100, at Whole Foods. Proceeds feed 100 hungry school children in Rwanda.
Restaurant takeout. But I am doing it less and less! I try to go to places that use biodegradable containers, like Urth Caffé and Le Pain Quotidien.
Is it easy being green?
Yes! We create our own realities, so why not create one in which you know you’re doing the best you can?
Favorite place on earth
Cuddled up with my husband and my son and my dog in bed.
Hotel that knows her best
There are two. My father’s boutique hotel in Westwood called the Hilgard House and the Hotel Wales in Manhattan. They allow dogs and even tell you about dog-friendly restaurants.
Environmental pet peeve
A lack of awareness of the impact we have. We think we’re important in ways we’re not, and we don’t realize we’re important in ways that we are.
Ideal carpool partners
Bill Gates, Barbara Walters—it would be like having all the people she’s interviewed there—and Amma Bhagavan, a spiritual leader from India who started the Oneness movement. She’s the lady who hugs everybody.
Um, I’m still learning to whistle!
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Jennifer van der Kwast
Picturesque Kastro village on the island of Sifnos.
KYTHNOS SERIFOS SIFNOS FOLEGANDROS
e have a mission. Two friends and I have taken it upon ourselves to seek out a greener side of the Greek isles via catamaran. Despite outwardly stark, barren ap pearances, the Cyclades, a group of rocky islands in the southwest part of the Aegean Sea, hold many secrets and splendors to explore. With no airports and limited ferry connections, these are the isles that have been forced to rely on local resources and to cultivate the land with mostly traditional farming methods. Hopping between sustainably attuned islands involves another ancient Greek tradition: sailing. When the conditions are right, we’ll cut the engine, hoist our main, and let the wind alone transport us to our next destination.
28 | august-september 2008 44
Photographs by tracy
toscano; map by jameson simpson
A modern-day Greek odyssey that cruises the Aegean Sea by (mostly) wind-powered means, taps unspoiled destinations, and zeroes in on sustainable island life
Often overshadowed by Folegandros, Sikinos is relatively new to the tourist crush. As such, it maintains a rare, undisturbed ecosystem where hawks, snakes, and endangered monk seals thrive.
Three hours after we’ve left Athens, I’m sitting at the back of the boat with a glass of Sigalas, an organic white wine from Santorini. Behind us, the mountains of mainland Greece wear the gossamer negligee of dusk. When night falls, the horizon ahead glimmers like a strand of Christmas lights, our first glimpse of the islands that will be the site of our eco-adventure. KYTHNOS
It’s after midnight when we pull into Kythnos, the only island in the Cyclades to get its electricity entirely from either wind or solar parks. The harbor of Loutra in Kythnos has the ghostly glow of an empty department store parking lot. Marina bars blare music, but there are few eager revelers. After we secure our boat at the end of the pier, Yianni, the fresh-faced, exuberant owner of Sofrano Taverna, welcomes us with kisses and joins us at our table for dinner. This type of friendliness, which can border on excessive, is distinctly Greek. But it also has something to do with the fact that Yianni has known our skipper, Vaggelis (aka Vagos or Angelo), for more than 16 years. Vaggelis, who is Greek by way of Australia, loves boats and cigarettes, but hates footwear. He sits at our table barefoot. We let Yianni and Vaggelis sort out the details of our meal. In their hands, we kick off with rakomelo, a grappa liqueur spiced with clove and honey that Yianni lights on fire. After that, a symphony of homemade dishes arrive: eggplant with a creamy yogurt, classic Cycladic tomato fritters, grilled octopus, and, the big hit, goat cheese fried in ouzo. Yianni tells us that all but one grown ingredient on our menu is organic and from Kythnos. The only exception is the eggplant, which came from Syros, 22 miles away. Probably none of the ingredients consumed on the entire trip will have
knee-deep and imagine the little waves are whirlpool bubbles in a private Jacuzzi. SERIFOS
(From top): Serifos’ blue-domed church; the writer’s boat, Dynamis, docked for the day; and Sifnos’ oven-baked chickpeas served in a pot made of the island’s signature red clay.
traveled more than 50 miles. Two hours and several dishes later, we stroll around the marina to a hushed, honeysuckle-lined road that brings us to the Xenia Hotel. The hotel is home to the most famous attraction on Kythnos—the thermal spa, where people come to soak away aches and pains in the curative, iron-rich hot springs. It’s 3 AM and the spa is closed, but Vaggelis encourages us to take off our shoes and dip our toes into the deliciously warm runoff on the side of the road. The spring water drains to the edge of Schinari Beach, where a natural hot tub has been erected with a handful of wellplaced rocks. Here, we submerge our legs
Our next stop is Serifos, where a proposal to erect a massive 87-turbine wind farm is being opposed by locals who fear it will tarnish the simple, unobstructed island views tourists want. Serifos is one of the few islands in the Cyclades where the dazzling white crown of the hilltop hora, the medieval city that features prominently on many of the Greek isles, is visible from the main port. A 30-minute hike up a wildflower-strewn footpath gives way to the winding, white steps of the village. At the very top of the hora there is a square of cafes, clustered in front of a striking, bluedomed church. As tempting as it might be to sit down and order a freddo, the Greek frappucino, I already feel a tug for the sea. Back at the dock, an easy sailors’ camaraderie has formed. Conversation floats between boats. Serifos has revealed another secret of the sea: While at any whim we can hoist the sails and transform our boat into an eco mode of transport, we can just as easily turn it into a social hub of eating, drinking, and entertainment, where the stars are mini disco balls and the beating of the waves against the boat is our soundtrack. Who needs those party islands like Mykonos and Ios, anyway?
by sea Companies that offer catamaran excursions include Sailing in Blue (sib.gr), Apollonia Yacht Charters (apollonia-yachts. gr), Istion Sailing Holidays (istion.com), and DMS Sailing (dms-sailing.gr). For more information about sailing in Greece, also visit
sailingissues.com. Expert Diederik Willemsen will lead you through the chartering process, and requests for price quotes forwarded by Willemsen tend to get quicker responses. Also ask Willemsen about companies that plan on using the Lagoon 420 Hybrid, the first boat of its kind available with gas and elec
tric propulsion. This system—which experienced hiccups in its infancy—recharg es a cabin’s batteries via propel lers that turn while you sail. Catamaran charter prices range from €3,600 to €6,500, depending on the company and season. As a general rule, peak season runs from July 26 to
August 30; shoulder seasons, which have cooler temper atures but fewer tourists, run from May 17 to July 26 and August 30 to October 4. Low season is anytime before May 17 and after October 4. Re member to bring along extra cash for skipper, chef, hostess, and fuel and port fees.
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(From left): Mojitos with freshly clipped mint at Dolci bar; artisanal ceramics at To Tsoukaloudi; Captain Vaggelis at the helm; the goats behind Sifnos’ tasty cheese.
Including Sifnos on our itinerary is a compromise. In recent years, the island has been discovered by tourists, so it’s not as far off the beaten path as our first two stops. On the other hand, Sifnos is more lush than the other islands. Age-old cultivation of the land helps produce not only the signature ruddy clay but also the verdant valleys where tomatoes and chickpeas grow fertilizer-free. We arrive on Sifnos on Sunday, the only day local tavernas serve traditional revithia tou fourno, an oven-baked chickpea dish cooked and served in ceramic pots made from the local clay. There may be no better way to experience the unique flavor of an island than to savor a meal in which both the food and the cooking vessel itself are locally and organically produced. At the To Tsikali beach taverna, we make another important gastronomical discovery: Sifnos cheese—a softer, smoother, and, frankly, tastier version of feta that’s also local and organic—served with a Greek salad. One of the benefits of traveling by catamaran is that we get to skip the frenzy of the ferry port at Kamares and spend the night in Vathi, a sandy clamshell harbor that is the prettiest on the island. A regular
bus service runs from Vathi to Apollonia, the island capital, chock-full of bars and bougainvillea. From there, footpaths lead to the medieval village of Kastro, where it’s easy to get lost among lemon trees, tomato gardens, and sheep feces before finally arriving at the ruins of ancient fortress walls. At Dolci, an openair bar, a European couple splays out on pillowed banquets reading paper backs, their shoes kicked off under the table. We sit down and order mojitos garnished with mint leaves clipped from a bright blue, Sifnos-made planter, and take in the sunset. FOLEGANDROS and SIKINOS
No three people have come to the Greek islands less qualified to tie a knot or lower an anchor than we were. Gradually, we’ve turned into bona fide pros. “Raise the head sail!” Vaggelis barks. Once we tie the sail rope to the cleat, he rewards us with a, “Well done, girls,” then turns off the engine and sighs blissfully. We’re finally becoming sailors. Wind and water take us seven knots to Folegandros, an island we’re eager to explore because Vaggelis has told us it has “the most enchanting” hora in the Cycla-
on land KYTHNOS Sofrano Taverna Loutra, 30-22810-31436 Leave room for the fresh grilled octopus, which is simple, clean, and exquisite.
Taverna Takis Livadi, 30-22810-51159 Enjoy standard but wellexecuted classic Greek dishes at a table right on the sandy beach.
Health Spas of Kythnos Loutra, 30-31217-31460 The thermal spas are open June–October, 8 AM–2 PM.
SIFNOS Dolci Cafe & Creperie Kastro, 30-22840-32311 Savor sweet cocktails and dessert crepes under a thatched umbrella on the airy outdoor patio.
SERIFOS Thenalokion Bakery Livadi, across from the jetty Of the many bakeries in Livadi, this one is arguably the best. Order the boutgatzas or a deliriously flaky ham and cheese pie.
To Tsikali Vathi, 30-22840-71177 The busiest restaurant on the beach, with excellent Sifnos cheese, traditional chickpea dishes and—most surprisingly— what might be the best French fries in all of Greece.
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Antonis Atsonios Vathi, 30-22840-71119 It would be criminal to leave Sifnos without any of its signature ceramics. If you’re lucky, you can catch the old-school potter at his studio working on a foot-operated lathe. To Tsoukaloudi Vathi, 30-22840-71116 Stick to tradition and stock up on the simple white-andblue painted handicrafts.
des. But soon the elements betray us. The swells in the bay pick up, looping our boat around in circles. In search of safe harbor, we’re forced to weigh anchor and sail roughly ten nautical miles east to the island of Sikinos. Once we’re safely moored in the calm bay of Alopronia, we’ve spent a full ten hours at sea. Often overshadowed by Folegandros, Sikinos is relatively new to the tourist crush. As such, it maintains a rare, undisturbed ecosystem where hawks, snakes, and endangered monk seals thrive. This is an island that attracts respectful and environmentally conscious travelers who’d prefer to snorkel, hike, and birdwatch than to party. Despite the change in plans, this is by no means a bad day. In fact, it’s an ideal day. And herein lies both the problem with and the beauty of eco-hopping. It’s far too easy to do absolutely nothing— to let the gentle rocking of the boat cradle us into mid-day naps deep enough to content the undead; to read paperback novels in the sun; to get hungry and hop right off the boat and onto the wooden stool of a beach taverna in one fluid motion; or to drink white wine on the waterfront. All while not wearing any shoes. ✤ EN ROUTE Skip Santorini. This Disneyland for honeymooners is lousy with T-shirt vendors and restaurant barkers. Adding this far-flung island to your itinerary will cost you a good two to three days of sailing and limit your opportunity to explore more authentic Greek islands. Instead, consider the romantic island of Amorgos, on the eastern end of the Cycladic loop. At the port of Katapola, you’ll find the Elichrisos Gallery jewelry store, perfect for picking up precious-stone necklaces designed by local artists and komboloi, traditional Greek worry beads. There might not be any five-star restaurants on the island, but just off the dock, you can dine on fresh grilled fish at Mouragio. The fisherman who caught the evening’s special will probably be sitting at a table next to you.
photos courtesy of Faena Hotel & universe (top); Sara Ritten (above right); Arte al dia (bottom middle)
rgentina’s capital lags behind other major metropolises in offerings like solar energy and green architecture, but it compensates with several earth-saving customs (often prompted by necessity) that are ingrained in the city’s daily life. Thousands of scrap recyclers known as cartoneros salvage enormous heaps of material as their primary income; and pretty much anything—from shoes to disposable lighters—is repaired or refilled at a cost amenable to the customer. Overall, the extensive recycling and reusing means far less gets trashed in the capital affectionately known as BA, one of the few grand cities where the American greenback still packs a punch. —Fernando Cwilich Gil
TASTE The land of the
SEE Buenos Aires is one of Latin America’s most park-filled capitals. Palermo is the city’s grandest, but another standout is the Ecological Reserve along the Rio de la Plata. The Botanical Garden, just off dapper Santa Fe Avenue, is an oasis of winding red-brick paths, exotic flora, and hundreds of stray cats that call the garden home. For cultural offerings, don’t miss Gallery Nights (below right; artealdia.presencia. net/gallery), a walking tour of the city’s top art spots, or the popular film-under-the-stars series Proyeccine (proyeccine. blogspot.com), which benefits nonprofit ProyectArte.
Gauchos isn’t just for grill-loving carnivores anymore. Organic stalwart La Esquina de las Flores (esquinadelasflores.com.ar) packs in health-conscious boutique shoppers who flock to Palermo Soho. Just a few blocks away, diminutive Krishna is a popular afternoon café and restaurant. For a unique dining experience, hit meatless speakeasy Casa Felix (left; diegofelix. com). Using indigenous South American products, young and talented Argentine chef Diego Felix and his girlfriend, Sanra, prepare delicate multicourse meals behind the unmarked door to their home. But for those who can’t resist the urge for one of those renowned Argentine steaks, hit classic La Brigada (labrigada.com) steakhouse in Buenos Aires’ picturesque San Telmo district. Hugo, the owner, is an undisputed master in all matters meat-related and serves only top-of-the-line, strictly grass-fed beef grilled to sublime perfection.
STAY Booming tourism has resulted in bountiful options for visitors, but few if any are eco. Jetsetters flock to Faena Hotel + Universe (above; faenahotelanduniverse.com); boutique hotel junkies like Home (below; homebuenos aires.com) and 1555 Malabia House (malabiahouse.com.ar); and thrifty visitors hit hostels like El Aleph (hostelaleph .com) or Palermo House (palermohouse.com.ar). But a popular alternative is to book an apartment through a site like apartmentsba.com or bairesapartments.com. You’ll get more space and many of the same hotel amenities for far fewer pesos. Plus, even if the listings aren’t eco, at least they’re local.
BUY Grab a tome from Eloisa Cartonera (eloisacartonera.com.ar), an innovative nonprofit publishing house that teaches cartoneros how to turn their recycled cardboard into beautiful books. Clean up with handmade soaps from Sabater Hnos (left; shnos.com.ar), a thirdgeneration suds maker in Palermo Soho that crafts inventive and all natural varieties. Finally, nobody should leave Buenos Aires without a gourd and bombilla for sipping verdant, smoky yerba mate. The custom is de rigueur for locals—and mate is touted as quite the health tonic, too. Pick one up at the weekend crafts fair at Plaza Francia. Mate is also known around town as unos verdes, making this drinking vessel the ultimate green souvenir.
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The clock at Seattle’s Pike Place Market is one of the oldest pieces of outdoor neon on the West Coast.
Thanks to engaged vendors, enterprising organizers, and hyper-local efforts to serve their communities, today’s best farmers’ markets are changing more than just our diets
lot bustling with shoppers perusing booths laden with produce, local honey and cheeses, maybe even bouquets of peonies and sunflowers—20 years ago, this would have been a rare sight in most American cities. Today, farmers’ markets are the lifeblood of a thriving movement to eat locally and sustainably. Americans are relearning what their great-grandparents knew—food fresh from the farm just tastes better. Initially, we set out to compile an updated list of the best producer-to-consumer markets in the country. But after canvassing friends and food lovers, we discovered that farmers’ markets have evolved beyond the familiar model introduced by
pioneers like San Francisco’s Ferry Building and New York City’s Greenmarket. From Hollywood, California to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, markets are doing more than providing good food and keeping local producers afloat. They’re also improv-
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ing health care, supporting underserved populations, spurring urban renewal, even bridging cultural divides and redefining what it means to be organic. A new generation of paradigm-shifters has set its own standards for success— without sacrificing attributes like accessibility, quality control, and a strict commitment to sustainability that drew people to farmers’ markets in the first place. Thanks to their ability to adapt to the changing needs of their communities, these ten innovators hint at a future when farmers’ markets might provide every American with fresh, affordable food—and more.
Clockwise from far right: The day’s offerings at Frank’s Quality Produce, a regular stall at the Pike Place Market; Portland Farmers’ Market: organic fall produce from Gee Creek Farm, a batch of summer blueberries, Mr Moua sells flowers and Asian vegetables.
Hollywood Farmers’ Market Hollywood, California
Sundays (year-round) farmernet.com
Seventeen years ago, when organizers chose a two-block section between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards for their market, they saw it as a chance to take back the street. The once glamorous strip had become one of the seediest in LA. Today, the Hollywood Farmers’ Market is the largest of its kind (producer-to-consumer) in Los Angeles County. Each week the market draws 150 farmers, vendors, and artisans, who offer California-grown produce, free-range poultry, and even crepes and omelets prepared on-site. Austin Farmers’ Market Austin, Texas
Saturdays and Wednesdays (year-round) austinfarmersmarket.org
Texas doesn’t require that vendors sell their own produce, but this growers-only market does. Thanks to its rigorous farm inspection program, the market boasts a delicious array of locally raised foods, including heirloom black-eyed and zipper peas in June, as well as southwestern favorites like empanadas. The market’s inspection program also serves as an organic certification of sorts for produce farmers, some of whom have opted out of the USDA’s certification program either because of the cost and paperwork involved, or because the Austin market offers a more sustainable, community-centric model. Portland Farmers’ Market Portland, Oregon
Saturdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (April–December) portlandfarmersmarket.org
Founded in 1992, Portland’s market is one of the few in the country that receives no government aid. Instead, its four locations are funded exclusively through vendors’ fees, fundraising, and sponsorships. The market also hosts professionally taught cooking courses kids can attend while their parents shop for local seafood, fresh breads, and fruit from the Columbia Valley’s outstanding nearby orchards.
Central Market Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (year-round) padutchcountry.com
Lancaster County farmers have sold their goods at Central Market for nearly 300 years—first from the backs of wagons in the 1730s, and later in the Romanesque Revival building now on-site. Throughout its long life, America’s oldest continually operating market and its vendors—some running family stalls for five generations—have kept local traditions alive despite changing times and fortunes. Today, Amish farmers sell meat and produce, other vendors offer Pennsylvania Dutch specialties like scrapple and chow chow (a vegetable relish), and everyone agrees the future looks bright. “Ten years ago there were empty stands,” says vendor Nelson Rohrer. “Now there’s a waiting list of about 20 vendors.” Pike Place Market Seattle, Washington
Every day (year-round) pikeplacemarket.org
Downtown Seattle is a wasteland in terms of convenient grocery shopping—except for Pike Place, one of the few spots in the neigh-
borhood where you can find fresh produce, meat, and dairy. The market has also helped support local Hmong refugees, who first moved to the Seattle area from Vietnam in the 1970s. Don’t leave without buying one of the Hmong vendors’ famed bouquets of daffodils, tulips, or other seasonal flowers. City Farmers’ Market Fair Haven Fair Haven, Connecticut
Thursdays (July–October) cityseed.org
In 2005, organizers at the Fair Haven market (one of four Connecticut markets run by City Seed) were searching for an innovative way to continue providing access to low-income residents while also ensuring economic viability for vendors. Their solution? Start a community-supported market (CSM). Similar to a CSA (community-supported agriculture), in which people purchase shares of produce from an individual farm, the CSM pools a portion of each farmer’s produce (the rest is still available for on-site purchase) and sells shares to local businesses. The setup provides guaranteed income for farmers and fresh, affordable food for local residents. And CitySeed now offers subsidized shares to seniors and low-income families. Simi-
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29 additional markets at Kaiser Hospitals in California; Colorado; Washington, DC; Georgia; Hawaii; and Oregon. Webb City Farmers’ Market Webb City, Missouri
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Saturdays (year-round); Tuesdays (May– October); Thursdays (July–September) santafefarmersmarket.com
Until this year, Santa Fe’s market hopped from parking lot to parking lot nearly every season. Now, its 150 members have found a permanent home in a new mixed-use, LEED-certified building, part of a growing downtown development that locals expect will revitalize the area. Nearly all of the market’s vendors come from the fifteen New Mexican counties north of Albuquerque, and they sell everything from grass-fed buffalo to native Chimayo chilies to bread made from locally grown wheat. Kaiser Permanente Markets Varies by location
In 2003, Preston Maring, a doctor, helped start a farmers’ market at his Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Oakland to help show the link between fresh produce and good health. The market was an immediate success, and Maring has since helped set up
A recent influx of Latino migrant workers and Hmong farmers sparked tension over immigration laws in this small, mostly white community. To help ease the tension, the Webb City Farmers’ Market hired Hmong and Spanish translators, installed wireless EBT machines that allow vendors to accept food stamps, and helped Hmong farmers set up shop at the market. “We’ve worked very hard to make this market accessible to everyone,” says market manager Eileen Nichols. East New York Farms Brooklyn, New York
Saturdays (June–November) eastnewyorkfarms.org
The Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York is one of the poorest in all the five boroughs (it’s still hard to find fresh produce at local bodegas). Yet green thumbs in the neighborhood—mostly South American, Caribbean, Russian, and African immigrants—have cultivated about 60 community gardens and empty lots, and around 30 of those farmers sell their mostly organic produce at East New York Farms. And now, thanks to aspiring local beekeepers, the market also offers a stellar variety of unfiltered honey. ✤
Pure Perfection Amber-colored,
caramelly, and 100 percent raw, Zambezi Forest Organic Honey comes from one of the world’s highest-density wild bee colonies, located at the source of the Zambezi River in a remote area in northwest Zambia. The bees feed on nectar from flowering trees found deep within the governmentowned wild forests (naturally free of pesticides) that blanket the region, producing a rich honey that 5,000 beekeepers then harvest using traditional methods. Former US Peace Corps volunteers (now Ohio residents) Jenny and Keith Gelber started the business to help improve the lives of Zambian farmers and stop the spread of deforestation. The logging-free area had been drawing intense interest from foreign timber companies, but once the government realized the earning potential of honey production, it left the forests intact. In addition to providing employment in poor communities, the Gelbers also donate a percentage of Zambezi’s proceeds to fund school scholarships, small-business development, and training in sustainable agroforestry. What a sweet deal. —Kristine Hansen $8.95 to $9.95 for a 12-ounce jar, zambezihoney.com
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esidents of North Carolina’s Research Triangle compete for everything from scientific breakthroughs to basketball bragging rights. But thanks to LocoPops founder Summer Bicknell and her partner Connie Semans, Triangle dwellers have finally found something they can agree on—popsicles. LocoPops, named after the store that sells them, are a quirky, refreshing twist on paletas— Mexican-style frozen treats on a stick that Bicknell spent three months in Mexico learning to make. From the moment the first LocoPops launched in Durham in June 2005, the unique treats have been a hit. Since then, Bicknell and Semans have opened three more locations. Unlike traditional paleterias, “[we don’t] limit our palates to one culture,” Semans explains. Instead, LocoPops experiments with sophisticated combinations of native and exotic fruits and adds herbs like lemon verbena, tarragon, and basil, which they buy mostly from SEEDS (South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces), a Durham-based nonprofit that connects urban children to nature through local, garden-based programs. In addition to the ten “regular” paletas that are always on the menu (divided evenly between water- and cream-based options), LocoPops offers eleven “guest flavors” every week. Semans says they derive inspiration from all over—a ripe pear at the farmers’ market, an aroma that strikes a chord, even suggestions from customers. The result is a truly original, all-natural dessert (or snack) that the locals go loco for. — Jessica Tzerman
Rosemary Lemon Paletas Recipe courtesy of LocoPops
¾ cup fresh rosemary, chopped 1½ cups water 1 cup sugar 1⅓ cups fresh lemon juice Place chopped rosemary into a lidded, nonreactive container large enough to hold 4 cups of liquid. Make simple syrup: In a pot, combine water and sugar. Heat on high, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove simple syrup from heat and pour over chopped rosemary. Cover and allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight. Strain out rosemary, and add fresh lemon juice. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.
anthony verde (left); christa wessel (top)
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market
Tuesdays and Fridays (April–October); Saturdays (June–July) webbcitychamber.com
lar plans are underway 30 miles south at the Westport Farmers’ Market (westportfarmersmarket.com), which was founded in part by Paul Newman.
®,TM,© 2008 Kashi Company
7 whole grains on a mission
farm to fork
An enterprising farmer transforms already sublime tomatoes into out-of-this-world fruit with a bit of salt and a careful hand. Try them alone, or in this simply amazing late-summer salad
un Golden Cherry, Green Zebra, Red Zebra, Arkansas Traveler, Speckled Roman, Orange Glow, Purple Cherokee— what’s better than a perfect tomato? Apparently, a perfect tomato irrigated with seawater, or so I was intrigued to learn last year from a group of Italian farmers. They spoke of tomatoes that were smaller—usually less than half the size of those fed freshwater—but packed with added nutrients and sugar. With visions of impossibly sweet tomatoes riding the ocean’s tide, I ran out to the field to tell Jack Algiere, Stone Barns’ vegetable farmer. Seawater irrigation was not an immediate option, given our location in the Hudson Valley. But perhaps, I suggested, we could sprinkle some salt on the tomato beds just to see? Jack responded with the half-amused, half-stumped expression of a man trying to explain algebra to a kindergartener: “If it was just the salt, you could sprinkle it on the tomato slices and not have to get smaller tomatoes. The difference isn’t just the salt in the seawater. It’s what’s in the salt in the seawater.” Sea salt, he explained, contains mineral
elements that feed the field. On the flip side, however, it can stress the plant, which explains both the lower yield and Jack’s reluctance to try seawater on his crops. Jack developed his own solution, another kind of magical osmosis. Instead of irrigating the fields with seawater,
he applies dried sea kelp to the tomato beds before planting; kelp carries the same trace minerals as seawater, plus additional nutrients to enrich the soil and keep the plant strong. It turns out I’ve been eating sea tomatoes all along. ✤
Tomato Salad 3 1 1 1 4 1 3 3
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large heirloom tomatoes (the more colors the better), cut into ¾-inch wedges or cubes cup cherry tomatoes, halved cup seedless watermelon, cubed peach, cut into wedges apricots, quartered cup fresh ricotta cheese (sheep’s milk) tablespoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil tablespoons chopped, mixed fresh herbs (basil, lemon thyme, mint, purslane) sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
❶ Divide heirloom and cherry tomatoes and fruit among 4 bowls. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and let rest for 10–20 minutes, until they begin to give off their juices. ❷ Dot the tomatoes with spoonfuls of cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with herbs. Serve immediately. Dan Barber is the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill restaurant in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located within Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a pioneering farm and education facility in Pocantico Hills, New York (bluehillnyc.com).
photo by jen munkvold (top right)
The founder of UK design company Reestore (reestore.com), Max McMurdo takes everyday, landfill-bound objects and turns them into charming yet functional furniture and accessories.
> trash to treasure
Fit to Be Lit x8 Holes
Rinse canister inside and out—though any lingering coffee bean fragrance is just fine by me! Mark eight equally spaced points around the topx8ofPoints the container.
Drill holes (20 mm diameter) neatly and file until smooth.
Between and perpendicular to the holes you just drilled, mark and drill x8 Holes eight holes another on the top of the side wall, just below where the canister tapers.
Draw a petal-like shape on the sheet of recycled paper, making sure the top width is the same as the distance between the lower holes. Trace petal template eight times, linking the holes on the side of the canister.
MATERIALS 1 coffee shop–size coffee bean canister (We use a 100 oz Illy tin, but any metal canister will work) 1 hanging light fixture 1 can of low- or no-VOC white paint (ideally not solvent based) 1 can of brightly colored paint (Orange, green, and pink look great)
With the tin snips, carefully cut out your petals.
54 | august-september 2008
Using a large tube—or just your hands—roll back each petal until you achieve an organic-looking curve. (Don’t worry, the metal is thin.) File edges until smooth.
In a ventilated area, paint several coats of white paint on the outside, followed by several coats of color inside. Fit the hanging light fixture into the neck of the container, using the tin snips to trim if necessary.
Hang and wait for gasps when you tell friends you made the shade yourself.
tools • Pair of tin snips (available at home or craft stores) • Marker • Sheet of A4-size recycled paper • Drill with a 20 mm drill bit (also known as a hole saw) • Fine metal file • Safety goggles for drilling • Ventilation mask for painting
Max McMurdo transforms a discarded industrial coffee canister into a stunning, flower-inspired lampshade
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0ACTICALLY 0OSH <ZfK`gj KXb\j_fik\i#Zffc\ij_fn\ij1 Water heaters account for nearly one fourth of your home’s energy use, so try to limit your hot showers. Plus, beauty babes: non-scalding showers won’t dry out your skin.
I\jlii\Zk`fe9flc\mXi[1 The next time you’re looking for a loveseat, check out Freecycle.org—a grassroots website where people can give and get quality stuff in their own towns.
?Xm\Xe\Zf$Z_`Z_fd\1 Beautify your home with the huge array of Earth-friendly accessories, like organic cotton sheets, low-odor and low-chemical paints, and bamboo products, which are naturally lovely and more sustainable than wood.
DXb\pflifneeXkliXcZc\Xe`e^gif[lZkj1 Use baking soda to scrub the tub or to neutralize refrigerator odor (just place an opened box in the back). Mix one part water to one part vinegar in a spray bottle for an allpurpose disinfectant and deodorizer. A half of a lemon dipped in salt will clean and shine your brass and copper.
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the green fiend
Eco-Cycle’s zero-waste measures include (left to right) separating comingled containers; sorting through electronics for reusable parts; and gathering recyclable paper into bales.
The Green Fiend
Annemarie Conte extreme-recycles for a day, tending to all the urinals and floppy disks people stockpile in their garages
Don’t be a recycling slut That’s right, be choosy about who you recycle with. “Some people get upset that they have to pay to recycle certain items, like hard drives,” explains Kary Schumpert, EcoCycle’s Longmont community outreach coordinator, as we direct the business end of a donated toilet to the commode holding pen. But many free programs just ship their e-waste to African and Asian countries, Schumpert says, creating dumping sites around the world. Organizations that are part of the Basel Action Network (ban .org) ensure American trash is recycled responsibly—within the US. Invite some worms to dinner Yes, worm bins are one of the greatest ways to compost because they poop out rich soil for you to use in your garden. “Worms make great pets: They don’t bark, you don’t have to walk them, and they don’t mind if you come home late from work,” Schumpert says. Point taken, but if you’re squeamish about
having creepy crawlies in your kitchen, she’s willing to let it slide and suggests a regular tumbler composter or a chickenwire bin in your backyard. But worms are definitely more hardcore. shop at home Don’t worry, this isn’t a call for DIY or an endorsement of the Home Shopping Network. Eco-Cycle’s anti-overconsumption philosophy means that if you have a fancy apple peeler whose blade has become dull (guilty as charged), you don’t throw it out and buy a new one—you find out if the company sells replacement blades. In my case, they do. Duh. Now take this realization and apply it to everything in your house. Consolidate office supplies You know the drill: Every time you print single-sided, a giant redwood clutches its trunk and dies. Okay, not really, but simple stuff can save a bundle. Eco-Cycle also recommends asking to see if office
managers can arrange a monthly supply swap with other divisions in your company or building. I mean, who needs to continue stockpiling highlighters for the end of the world? “Next, you can get your office cafeteria to begin composting,” Schumpert says. Let’s baby-step it with the highlighters first, though. Which brings me to the last tip I picked up from Eco-Cycle ... Start with the bathroom It’s often overwhelming to reduce in-home consumption all at once, so Schumpert suggests zero-wasting one room at a time, beginning you know where. “If you haven’t already, put in a low-flow showerhead; cut back on your toilet’s water consumption by putting a weighted two-liter bottle in the tank; and take shorter showers,” she says. While riding that wave of accomplishment, zero-waste the next room. “People get too hung up on the zero in zero waste,” Schumpert adds. “You do what you can and it will build.” ✤
“Worms make great pets: They don’t bark, you don’t have to walk them, and they don’t mind if you come home late from work.” Send Annemarie your wackiest DIY ideas at email@example.com 56 | august-september 2008
photos by annemarie conte (above, center); courtesy of eco-cycle (above, right)
don’t have to extol the virtues of recycling. It’s like buckling up in the car: If you’re not doing it at this point, it’s because you’re ignoring it, not because you’re ignorant. But while I’m glad there are so many people who dutifully sort their stuff every week, it’s time to step it up. Because, really, how hard is it to stack your newspapers in a pile? That’s why, on a sunny Saturday during a recent trip to Colorado, I worked with the folks at Eco-Cycle (ecocycle.org), a Boulderbased organization on the forefront of the zero-waste movement. Zero waste, if you can’t tell by the name, is all about doing everything possible to keep stuff out of landfills by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Throughout the day I spent with Eco-Cycle, people brought in all kinds of hard-to-recycle items like lawn furniture, toilets, and kids’ plastic toys, which we then sorted for recycling of some kind or another. Consider this your primer on the lifestyle—oh, yes, the lifestyle—that is extreme recycling.
"C=B -G :CF /CF@8 /5H9F %CB=HCF=B; 5M People from around the globe are invited to give their local water bodies a “checkup” anytime between September 18 and October 18 in celebration of World Water Monitoring Day. In 2007, some 40,000 people monitored their waterways in 43 countries. Don’t miss your chance to participate in this global water quality awareness event!
For details about the most recent World Water Monitoring Day™ effort, see the 2007 Year in Review report online at:
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Rainbow Brights Think sustainable clothes mean neutral colors? Well, think again. Low-impact dyes paired with organic and recycled fabrics let you wear nature’s brightest hues and keep her waterways free of toxic colors and pesticides, too. —Starre Vartan Melissa tee and Hailey cardigan by Toggery These brights are fancy-free: The rich colors of this organic cotton T-shirt and shrunken cardigan are created with reactive dyes (which use less water and energy during the dying process). A few accessories will go a long way. Tee, $50, cardigan, $51; thegreenloop.com Empire blouse by Loyale Over a bikini at the lake or paired with skinny slacks at work, this organic cotton blouse, colored with low-impact, heavy metal–free dyes, will keep you covered from summer into fall. $132, loyaleclothing.com (available mid-August)
Micro Puff Vest by Patagonia Layer up for cooler evenings in this windproof vest made in Japan from recycled (and recyclable) polyester. The country’s super-strict environmental laws ensure a pollution-free dying process. $125, patagonia.com
Love patterned dress by the Pursuit of Harmony Show your love in this soft and sexy organic cotton and soy/bamboo sundress with water-based screen printing. $86, thegreenloop.com
Board shorts by Loomstate Catch a wave with these organic cotton shorts from Loomstate, artfully printed with heavy metal–free dyes. $120, at Bloomingdale’s nationwide
Diaphanous blouse by Ciel Sheer, organic French silk chiffon looks chic over a tank or dress, and the ripe berry hue comes from nonpolluting, AZO-free dyes. $188, cielshop.co.uk
The fashion industry has been very “welcoming of organic dyes. I like to use red onion peels, which
give a sweet pink color to silks; the plant root rubia, which is great on silks and velvets; and the andrika dye technique from my native Ghana, where tree bark is the traditional fabric dye.
Master dyer for couturier Sylvia Heisel; he also teaches workshops at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City
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A boring old jacket gets a mod makeover with a few simple snips. The result: an inexpensive look equally suited to the urban safari and vests-are-everywhere trends du jour. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can DIY. If not, take the jacket to your tailor. Either way, this is an easy project: ❶ Turn jacket inside out and cut stitching, holding jacket body to sleeve. Use small sewing scissors, or better yet, a seam ripper, so you don’t accidentally cut the fabric with too-large scissor edges. Only clip the threads holding the two pieces of fabric (arm to jacket body), not the fabric itself. If lined, do the same thing with the jacket lining.
❷ After you’ve worked the sleeve free, simply hem the shoulder neatly with a machine or (if you’re good) by hand. Turn right-side out. ❸ Repeat on second sleeve. ❹ Pair with a belt (wide or skinny) in a contrasting color and revel in your chic reuse. —SV
Victoria’s Secret has debuted tees, robes, pajamas, and sleepshirts in organic cotton produced in Burkina Faso, where cotton growers are primarily women. Hopefully they don’t make the lady farmers wear but hook them up with more sensible bikini undies instead. But seriously, employees at Vicky’s report that the company is committed to going green, issuing regular internal directives (about what exactly remains a Secret) for how workers can make stores more eco-friendly… Physicians Formula Organic Wear makeup comes in a paper compact or recyclable packaging; is made with organic ingredients (checked by Ecocert) and without synthetic preservatives or fragrances; and is guaranteed cruelty-free. The powdered bronzer is a standout, the tinted moisturizer goes on smooth and blends perfectly, but the brand betrays its drugstore provenance with too-yellow concealer and limited hues … H&M continues to expand its organic cotton use in all lines, including men’s, baby, kid’s, and women’s. And it has improved organic options from last season, with flirty dresses, office jackets, boxers and tees for men—and lots of color. All of H&M’s cotton—organic and otherwise—is grown under the standards of the Better Cotton Initiative, which aims to reduce the negative impact of conventional cotton growing … Eileen Fisher’s eco-line includes anoraks
photograph of clothing by anthony
verde; eco-styling by camilla slattery
made from water bottles, hemp tunics and wrap sweaters, and lots of organic cotton and linen separates, all with the classic, relaxed style the brand is founded upon (read: comfy beyond belief). —SV
Bronze Standard To help maintain a sunny vibe when you get back to town, try a mineral-based bronzer. Conventional ones can be loaded with synthetic chemicals linked to cancer or hormone disruption. Though there are many “natural” offerings, you may feel safer stroking on a product certified petrochemicalfree by a reputable third party. Two bronzers for your face and body that bear the impeccable BDIH seal are Lavera’s Sunless Tan ($27.50, lavera.com) and Dr Hauschka’s Translucent Bronze Concentrate ($34.95, drhauschka. com). Physicians Formula Organic Wear ($13.95, physiciansformula.com) delivers an Ecocert-certified brush-on bronzer. For more on seals, see page 84. Shimmer on, synthetic-free. —Alexandra Zissu
When it comes to summer, parting is beyond sweet sorrow. But while there’s no turning back the clock, you can recapture the ocean air in products infused with sea salt, a traditional cleansing ingredient that’s trendy again. To keep that sexy, unruly hair, spritz liberally with John Masters Organics Sea Mist Salt Spray ($16.50, johnmasters.com). It’s just water, certified-organic lavender, and sea salt, but the combination turns flat into instantly poufy. To prolong your marine connection, soak in Perfect Organics Bath Therapy ($22.99, perfectorganics.com), which blends sea salt and organic plant oils. Then exfoliate with a Pacific Salt Scrub from Hawaiian Body Products, with lehua honey, passion fruit, and coconut and kukui nut oils ($22, hawaiianbodyproducts. com). For that refreshing sea-foam taste, dab some Weleda salt-and-baking-soda toothpaste on your brush ($5, shop.weleda.com). —AZ
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> green media
New reading and film for the ecophile Mike Reynolds pounds tires in New Mexico (above, left); Tsunami relief projects in India’s Andaman Islands (above).
Garbage Warrior Directed by Oliver Hodge, Open Eye Media garbagewarrior.com, $24.98
Irresistibly irreverent architect Michael Reynolds has spent 30-plus years building houses out of garbage—old beer bottles, plastic water bottles, used car tires, you name it. The result is a groundbreaking model for entirely off-thegrid commun ities of recycled “cellular” homes called Earthships—self-sufficient units that look to the sun for energy, the sky for water, the earth for heat, and the backyard for food. But US zoning and housing laws aren’t quite as trash-friend-
ly as an experimental architect might have hoped; Hodge devotes much of the film to the Man vs Red Tape battle that ensues when New Mexico state authori ties revoke Reynolds’ architectural lic ense and ban his radical building techniques. Eventually, he and his team buck authority by marching out to the tsunami-hit Andaman Islands and post-Katrina New Orleans, offering their services to grateful, open-minded, and deserving home-seekers. Reynolds’ Earth
ships are as ugly as they are ingenious, but with water supplies drying up and oil at over $100 a barrel, they could start to look pretty good, even to the McMansion set. He claims he’s only trying to “save [his] ass” from global warming, pollution, and infrastructure breakdown, but the twinkle in his eye suggests he’s also in it for a good laugh, the thrill of rocking the boat, and the challenge of creating safe havens in an unstable world. — Tobin Hack
The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler At the turn of the 20th century, the world faced an unprecedented problem: global starvation. Natural sources of fertilizer were nearly tapped, and unless someone developed an artificial source, a food crisis was imminent. Then scientists Carl Bosch and Fritz Haber invented a machine that produced ammonia, the main ingredient in fertilizer, out of thin air. Considered one of the greatest discoveries of all time, the technology created the means for feeding billions of people. But the success carried a heavy price. Arms makers used the same process that generated man-made manure to make explosives that killed millions in the world wars. Nature has also suffered from the discovery—nitrogen pollution has poisoned our air, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Hager’s latest book, Alchemy is a gripping account of the partnership between two Nobel Prize winners whose efforts to save the world had tragic consequences we’re still sifting through today. —Alisa Opar 60 | august-september 2008
photos by Oliver Hodge (top)
By Thomas Hager Harmony Books, $24.95
The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens our Health and Well-being By Nena Baker North Point Press, $24
It’s no fun to be told that toxins in the shampoo you’ve used for decades, the fire-retardants covering your electronic equipment, or the nonstick Teflon pan you love so dearly could be hijacking your body’s systems—just as they do the planet’s ecosystems— and contributing to cancer rates, diabetes, and birth defects. But unfortunately, in the span of only about 100 years, we’ve rushed headlong into “better living through chemistry,” and we’ve done it all blindly, thanks to an antiquated 1976 Toxic Control Act that does not mandate toxicity testing for chemicals used in everything from carpeting to liquid cleaners to cosmetics. We’re our own lab rats, effectively, and the test results coming back today don’t look good. But Baker is neither obsessive nor alarmist. She calmly presents two decades’ worth of critical research into the science and industries behind leading chemical culprits such as phthalates, pesticides, and PFOAs. In an appendix, she outlines the reasonable, manageable steps she’s taken to detox her own home, body, and lifestyle—a good place for anyone to start. —TH
The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America By Roger Tory Peterson Houghton Mifflin, $26
By John Michael Greer New Society Publishers, $18.95
A look at the coming “deindustrialization” period, Long Descent brings little to the conversation about peak-oil survival technologies, but it offers an intriguing discussion of spirituality. Society must ask what values and goals will lead us through peak oil and beyond; these questions, Greer posits, will lead us away from our almost religious faith in technological progress and toward a more nature-based set of spiritual beliefs. Long Descent is a provoking read for those interested in religion and spirituality, so long as they can stomach the occasional rant (Palm Pilots and iPods are usurping our health and happiness) and a few melodramatic comments about the US sliding “down the long slope into history’s dumpster.” —TH
The Book of Animal Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know is Wrong By John Lloyd and John Mitchinson Harmony Books, $19.95
From the authors of the bestselling Book of General Ignorance comes this gleeful, quirky compilation of littleknown animal facts. Coauthors Lloyd and Mitchinson offer up an A-to-Z guide full of entries on more than 100 animals, from common beasts like the monkey and dog to the more exotic capercaillie (a grouse) and pangolin (a type of anteater). A sampling of the book’s titillating tidbits: Spiders don’t eat but dissolve and drink their prey. Dogs can detect lung and breast cancer just by smelling a patient’s breath; and although a silverback gorilla weighs in at about 350 pounds, his penis is only an inch-and-a-half long. Think of the countless (shocking) conversation starters you’ll take away. —Sarah Parsons
Arguably the father of birding, Roger Tory Peterson is celebrated this August, on what would have been his 100th birthday, with an updated version of the renowned Peterson Field Guide. The new guide combines North American birds from the East and West with updated painted plates and range maps, and includes species not previously found in North America. The guide’s companion website offers descriptions, photos, video podcasting, and bird calls for select species. —Victoria Schlesinger
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POOLTRADESHOW August 25–27 | Las Vegas, NV | www.pooltradeshow.com C5 Entrance of Central Hall — Las Vegas Convention Center
photographs by anthony
AusPen Markers are 100% recyclable, easily refillable, and nontoxic—and made from recycled materials. Teachers love them because they don’t have that noxious dry-erase marker smell, and kids love their Pantone-esque array of vibrant colors. We like that they won’t end up in landfills. $70 for a set, ecosmartworld.com
Summer’s winding down and fall has come a-knockin’. Here are ten reasons to embrace earlier mornings, spending more time inside, and, yes, the inevitable daily grind— you may even have a little fun while you’re at it.
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Editor’s Pick Shower time
Nikon’s new super-slim Coolpix S52 camera is not only equipped with superior resolution (9 megapixels) and lead- and arsenic-free optical glass, but it also comes in a cool special-edition green model, thanks to a partnership with Ritz Camera. With every purchase, the retailer will offset 1.91 tons of carbon (roughly the amount of the average American’s monthly carbon footprint) through carbonfund.org. $250, ritzcamera.com
Whether you’re getting ready for class or just another day at the office, this digital shower timer will keep your water-usage to the, er, bare minimum. Just set it and forget it—the alarm will sound when time is up. The timer’s maker, Ripple Products, walks the walk, too: The company runs on green power, prints on recycled and locally sourced paper, and encourages its staff to participate fully in sustainability initiatives. $20, rippleproducts.com
These crafty, classy Uncle Goose Alphabet Blocks are carved out of basswood grown and harvested in the Great Lakes states. They’re embossed with animals, letters, and numbers—the perfect learning tool—and brightly colored with nontoxic inks. They also come in French, Spanish, Hebrew, and braille. Pretty progressive for oldschool toys. $30, kidbean.com
Message in a Bottle
Phthalates. BPA. In environmental circles these hormone-disrupting chemicals are four-letter words. They’re present in everything from baby rattles to canned ravioli and get stored in virtually every part of our bodies. But thanks to CamelBak, we don’t have to worry about finding them in our water bottles. Made from a new plastic called Tritan, the Better Bottle is reusable, recyclable, and totally BPA- and phthalate-free. $6, rei.com
You’re So Money
Set to debut in August, Hasbro’s new, heavily guarded Monopoly: The World Edition (they wouldn’t even give us a picture!) swaps utilities like Water Works and the Electric Company (way ’80s) for renewable Wind and Solar Energy. As if that’s not enough, all the paperboard (gameboard, cards, etc) is made from post-consumer recycled paper and printed with vegetable-based inks. This game’s going to be a hit—you can bank on it. $35, target.com
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We know what you’re thinking: An eco-friendly blow dryer seems like a stretch. Well, maybe a bit. But when you consider that most hair dryers use 1,800 watts of energy, the ceramic Barbar Eco-8000 seems pretty friendly, after all. It uses about half the energy an average does and also emits less electromagnetic radiation. $150, barbarhairtools.com
TREND ALERT Guitars Music may be the universal language, but lately it’s represented by one color—green. Everyone from drumstick manufacturers to audio outfits to music festival organizers has jumped on the eco-train, and now guitar makers are climbing aboard, too. Here are three models that really rock.
First Act’s Bambusa is the first bamboo guitar on the market. And it’s coated with a water-based finish and crafted with food-safe glue. Environmentalist and Guster front man Adam Gardner is a fan, and so are we. $400, firstact.com for retailers
Launched in 2005, Martin’s Sustainable Wood Series guitars are made from FSC-certified cherry, birch, and other renewable alternatives, as well as old-growth hardwoods like mahogany and rosewood. The company held an inaugural wood summit last year to promote sustainability and conservation within the industry. $1,700, martinguitar.com for retailers
What’s cooler than cool? The Gibson Les Paul SmartWood guitar. Crafted from Rainforest Alliance–certified wood in four exotic finishes (ambay guasa, banara, curupay, and peroba), it’s an eco take on the king of iconic instruments. And part of the proceeds benefits Rainforest Alliance. $1,275, gibson.com
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Keeping your household clean isnâ€™t easy. But it can BeGreen Now.
Learn more about offsets, find out how to balance out the emissions from your car or home, and check out our Gift of Green products at www.begreennow.com.
Home Renovator’s Guide by Brita Belli, Brian Clark Howard & Tracy Tullis
Photograph by Anthony
The complete Plenty manual for healthy, renewable, energy-efficient materials that will add value to your home and let you breathe a lot easier
Benjamin Moore’s Aura line meets California’s strict low–volatile organic compound (VOC) standards and ranked third in performance among 21 green and conventional paints in a March 2008 Consumer Reports test.
Whether your home just needs a touch-up or you’re feeling more ambitious, it’s a very good time to go green. Ecohomebuilding is expected to double its market share by 2013 to between 12 and 20 percent, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. Energy savings and improved quality of life are top drivers of this growth. >>>
$54.95 per gallon, benjaminmoore.com
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And green products are getting the job done. “Many sustainable materials perform as well as, but often better than, traditional products,” says Sarah Beatty, founder of Brooklyn, New York, building suppliers Green Depot. They’re also just as beautiful, if not more so, these days, and can be designed to please any taste. When Thom Filicia, interior designer on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, created a model apartment for Riverhouse, the new green luxury high-rise in New York City (the-riverhouse.com), his goal was an elegant, sophisticated design appropriate for an urban lifestyle (Leo DiCaprio and Tyra Banks will reportedly be moving into the building). Under his direction, everything from reclaimed wood to natural-fiber fabrics was styled with an innovative flourish. “People think that when you go green, it has to look it—but not everything has to look like ‘hemp world,’” Filicia says. For Plenty’s first Home Renovator’s Guide, we’ve put
together a list of building products that are healthier for you and the planet—the two complement each other, we’ve found—along with tips from green building and decorating pros. The US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which is certifying Riverhouse, now covers green home remodeling as well. For guidelines, go to greenhomeguide.org and click on “ReGreen.” To find eco-building architects and contractors in your area, search usgbc.org, greenbuilder. com, greenbuilding pages.com, coopamerica.org, and nahb.org. With those resources and the following product information, the dream green home is within reach.
Stock cabinets are frequently made from formaldehyde-laced fiberboard or plywood. A healthier route: Start from scratch with low-VOC materials.
Many popular countertop materials are not kind to the environment: Conventional solid-surface products are often petroleum-based, and granite mining scars the landscape. The following surfaces are more gentle on the environ ment but just as durable. Squak Mountain Stone is made
from coal fly ash, recycled glass and paper, and low-carbon cement. About $56 per square foot, squakmountainstone.com IceStone (above) sparkles with flecks
of recycled glass set in concrete and is manufactured in a day-lit factory in Brooklyn. It’s Cradle to Cradle–certified for energy-efficient and socially responsible production, and healthy materials (c2c-home.org). $100–150 per square foot, installed; icestone.biz
Colorful TrendQ Engineered stone uses up to 72% post-consumer material. $15–30 per square foot, trendgroup-usa.com
PaperStone, selected by Filicia for
Riverhouse, is tough (originally used for skateboard ramps), stain- and heat-resistant, and Forest Stewardship Council–approved. It resembles soapstone but is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and cashew-nut resin. From $40 per square foot, uninstalled; paperstoneproducts.com
+ Its production is energy- and resourceintensive, but concrete does have some salutary ecological properties: A local fabricator pours it in place in a custom mold, so very little energy is consumed by shipping, and there’s almost no waste. Erika Doering, a Brooklyn designer, gussied up her concrete counters with glass from her building’s recycling bins.
Have your contractor check with manufacturers before cutting composite materials to fit, to minimize splintering or cracking.
For cabinet boards, Environ makes Biofiber from wheat stalks (agricultural waste), and Dakota Burl from sunflower-seed hulls. bettencourtwood.com
For veneers, bamboo has become popular; but Rick Hilton, green building specialist at the Rainforest Alliance, says that increased demand could lead to “clearcutting natural bamboo forests.” Best choice: bamboo with the FSC label. plyboo.com Kirei (pronounced key-
ray), is VOC-free and made of sorghum stalks from which the edible parts have been harvested. Its striped pattern resembles tropical wood. kireiusa.com
Conventional materials can off-gas toxic formaldehyde, a probable human carcinogen. 68 | august-september 2008
To protect standing old-growth forests (and pandas) ask for FSC-labeled bamboo.
“With every decision, we asked: ‘What is it made of?’” says thom filicia
walls> paints Not so invigorated by new paint smell? You might be sensitive to VOCs, which off-gas for weeks after paint is applied. VOCs like ethylene glycol can trigger skin rashes, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. “From paints to countertops and more, with every decision, we asked: ‘Will this have off-gassing? What is it made of?’” Filicia says, noting that he chose low-VOC paints and materials for Riverhouse.
wallpaper The fading, yellow wallpaper in your grandmother’s kitchen is most likely toxic PVC vinyl, which can also trap moisture, encouraging mold growth. Nowadays, one can choose breathable, natural materials.
AFM Safecoat’s new zero-VOC Ayurveda Essence line is intended to help you find balance through colors that suit your personality.
+ The wallpaper paste should be chemical-free, too. Try Ecofix. roosintl.com
From $38.90 per gallon, afmsafecoat.com Yolocolorhouse (above) divides its
no-VOC palettes into categories like air, grain, and petal. There’s also a “little Yolo” line, and tinted or white primer.
Mythic Paint has no VOCs and is also,
Yolo, $39.95 per gallon, little Yolo, $10.95 per gallon; yolocolorhouse.com
About $38.95 per gallon, mythicpaint.com
Envirosafe’s no-VOC paint comes in fast-
drying satin, flat, and semigloss finishes. $29–$45 per gallon, envirosafepaint.com
According to Paul Marquis of Green Home Solutions (green homesolutions.net), milk-and-clay-based paints often don’t need a primer. How ever, they should not be used in humid bathrooms or basements, which are more likely to support mold growth.
the company claims, free of carcinogenic chemicals. It comes in subtle earth tones.
For a timeless, gentle look, the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company’s Safepaint (below) combines milk protein and lime with pigments. It arrives as a powder and you add water. $45.95 per gallon, milkpaint.com
Brilliant, hand-printed, natural fabrics and grasscloths from Brooklyn design studio Twenty2 (above) can vitalize a room. $32 per yard, twenty2.net
Juicy Jute grasscloth from phillip jeffries is not only a renewable resource that provides great texture but it also comes in vivid vegetabledyed hues. About $28 per yard, phillipjeffries.com Innovations carries PVC-free wallpaper but only sells “to the trade,” so ask a decorator pal to order.
Choose wallcoverings, flooring, and other products that are free of PVC vinyl, a nonrecyclable plastic that can release phthalate chemicals, linked to hormonal and respiratory problems.
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floors> flooring When it comes to flooring, you can have it all: beauty, strength, and sustainability. To help preserve old-growth trees, choose products certified according to FSC standards as coming from wellmanaged forests (fscus.org). Look for the distinctive tree logo.
To find local old wood, check the yellow pages for demolition contractors and salvagers, says Matt Ford, a Houston designer who put a recycled gym floor in a new house.
carpets Conventional carpet glues, backings, and treatments can off-gas toxic formaldehyde (classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA), toluene, and xylene. The following all-natural or recycled carpets are VOC-free.
Made from plantation-grown trees that no longer bear fruit, Coconut palm floors from Smith and Fong have a distinctive grain, and the tongue-in-groove planks can be installed like a traditional hardwood floor. Smith and Fong also sells FSC-labeled bamboo flooring. Coconut palm, $11–12 per square foot, installed; bamboo, $7–9 per square foot; plyboo.com
The wood in reclaimed floors, which may come from a defunct warehouse, barn, or pickle-barrel factory, among other places, may not be perfect, “but that’s part of its character,” says Emily Fisher, an eco-minded developer in Brooklyn. conklinsbarnwood.com or mountainlumber.com Marmoleum (above, right), or true linoleum (not to be confused with vinyl), made from wood flour, jute, flaxseed, and linseed oil, is a retro-modern green choice. It comes in tongue-in-groove planks, which can be laid over almost any existing floor and clicks together without the use of glues.
About $6 per square foot, forboflooringna.com
The wood in reclaimed floors may not be perfect, “but that’s part of its character.”
Cork flooring from Globus is LEED-qualified, made from
the recycled waste of bottle-cork manufacture, and comes in deep, rich colors. $5.60 per square foot, corkfloor.com
Get creative with recyclable carpet tiles from FloR (below, left), which can easily be replaced and returned to the company when worn. $12–14 per tile, flor.com Fibreworks makes carpets from jute, a soft plant fiber, with a variety of borders. $60 per square yard, fibreworks.com Loomful of Hues sells wool rugs (right) handwoven by Jeanne Heifetz. $1,800 for a 4 x 6 foot rug, loomfulofhues.com
Carpets made of sisal, which comes from the agave cactus and is durable and easy to clean, are available from Eco Rugs. From $678 for an 8 x 10 foot rug bound in cotton, ecorug.com Earthweave offers Bio-Floor undyed-wool carpets in different hemp- and cotton-blended weaves, using rubber and jute as backing. About $100 per square yard, earthweave.com
Take care: Spills, including water, can stain some plant-based carpets; wool is easiest to clean, says Wyatt Whiteman, owner of Natural Fiber Carpets & Rugs. (naturalfibercarpet.net)
structure> walls & Ceilings Drywall (aka sheetrock) comes from destructive gypsum mining; its manufacture produces 16 pounds of greenhouse gases per sheet, while plywood and other composite woods can off-gas formaldehyde.
plywood from Columbia Forest Products makes great panelling and cabinetry. Its FSC-labeled Purebond is formaldehyde-free and has a variety of finish choices. columbiaforestproducts.com
To make greener drop ceilings, Ecophon, a Sweden-based manufacturer, uses recovered household glass and recycled glass wool. ecophon-us.com A better drywall, made from 100% recycled content, is sold at Green Depot. And a recyclable Ecorock, to debut in late 2008, will be made with 85% post-industrial recycled content. seriousmaterials.com
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roofing Conventional asphalt shingles are made of petroleum, and they are notoriously difficult to recycle, not the most durable option, and absorb heat. Many are opting to paint their roofs white or choose materials that reflect more heat. Nu-Shake highly durable polymer shingle panels from
Armorlite Roofing look like cedar or slate but are eight times lighter, use fewer nails, and are 100% recyclable and Energy Star compliant for their heat reflectivity. armorliteroofing.com
Classic Metal Roofing Systems claims their Aluminum Roofs help reduce attic heat by up to 34%, saving up to 20% on energy costs. Made from 95% post-consumer recycled aluminum, the roofs hang tight in high winds. classicmetalroofing.com
Consider adding photovoltaic panels for solar energy or just to heat your water; check out eere.energy.gov/solar for info. Solar roof shingles for homes are now on the market at uni-solar.com and powerlight.com.
insulation “It may not be sexy, but one of the smartest things for home owners in terms of long-term investment is green insulation,” says Green Depot’s Beatty, pointing out that standard pink fiberglass has formaldehyde. You can breathe easier with the no-VOC products below. Beatty recommends either CEL-PAK, a cellulose insulaton made from recycled paper that is blown into walls (nationalfiber.com), or Bonded Logic’s recycled denim insulation (above), which Adrian Grenier, star of HBO’s Entourage and Planet Green’s Alter Eco, chose for his Brooklyn green pad. bondedlogic.com
framework Demand for wood to build homes has meant widespread deforestation and the introduction of composites, such as plywood and particleboard, which can emit formaldehyde. Using wood more efficiently can reduce the amount needed, slashing framing and sheathing costs, says Alex Wilson, founder of BuildingGreen and author of Your Green Home (New Society, 2006). FSC-approved, low-VOC wood products are now stocked by many stores. “For wrapping the house, we’ve got FSC plywood or oriented strandboard sheathing,” says Frank Banks, a building consultant with Green Depot. FSC-labeled redwood and TemPlus framing lumber is sold at Home Depot (homedepot.com). FD Sterritt Lumber Co ships FSC-approved lumber and plywood nationwide. sterrittlumber.com
For a non-wood option, consider Superstud recycled steel (up to
80% post-industrial material). “No insect, mold, or mildew worries,” Banks says. greendepot.com
For decking, FSC-labeled cedar and tropical hardwoods are sold at ecohaus.com. For more materials, including recycled plastic composites, see building green.com and certifiedwood.com.
To protect against insects, mold, and mildew, Green Depot’s Beatty recommends hardwood framing with Everwood, a nontoxic borate treatment. ibpna.com/everlast
Weather Shield’s Zo-e-shield 7 Triple-glazed windows can produce energy savings of 1530%. $740 for a standard casement window, weathershield.com While they add 10% to 15% in cost, low-e (emissivity) coatings reduce heat loss by up to 50%, according to the Department of Energy. Or you can cover existing windows with low-e films (above), which deflect up to 70% of incoming solar heat and 99% of
Windows with multiple panes, filled with a lowconductivity gas for insulation, keep a home cooler in summer and warmer in winter. For cold climates, BuildingGreen’s Alex Wilson recommends tripleglazed windows (below), the “standard practice in Sweden for more than 30 years.”
Sealing cracks can save energy, but choose low-VOC products so you don’t hem in toxins.
UV radiation. At $2.25 to $2.50 per square foot, the payback period is two to three years, and the films last 15 to 20 years. SnapTint will cut the PVC-free film to size and provide instructions. snaptint.com Solar screens, or shades, can reduce cooling loads in summer and glare in winter. Hunter Douglas sells PVC-free, recyclable Greenscape fabric screens.
Try sealant from OSI GreenSeries, Titebond’s Greenchoice, or AFM Safecoat caulk. environmental homecenter.com
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Forget simply cutting a building’s footprint. A new wave of architectural thinkers wants to create buildings that help regene rate the environment like living organisms. Structures that give back: Is that future so far off? By Lisa Selin Davis
72 | august-september 2008
he first green buildings were the first buildings, period. Mud brick huts, a kind of early adobe, were built in Hierakonpolis, Egypt, almost 5,000 years ago.
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Eco-Sense in British Columbia, Canada, a Living Building Challenge entry, is made of clay, sand, straw, and pumice.
They were built with local materials,
near where people farmed or hunted, in sizes that made sense—maybe just big enough to dry out your goatskins. And these early dwellings were built in concert with the weather: Homes in hot, dry climates were ventilated to push air through, and those in cold ones were sealed with thick, heavily insulated walls, oriented toward the sun for natural heat. Architecture didn’t have much of a carbon footprint, and it was local. Flash forward to the mid-twentieth century, and you can see how buildings lost their green sheen. In the 1930s, technological innovations like structural steel, air-conditioning, vinyl siding, reflective glass, and panelized, prefab construction allowed for more buildings, faster. The Federal Housing Administration, created in 1934, provided mortgages for middleclass Americans, making the dream of single-family home ownership both realistic and ubiquitous. And the Federal-Aid Highway Act initiated the construction of 40,000 miles of highways, allowing people’s homes to be far from their workplaces. In part a miniature history of sprawl, these events also tell the story of how buildings got de-greened; how we no longer had to build in a vernacular manner. Homes got bigger and farther away and more toxic, and the tract homes in the sprawling suburbs of heat-soaked Phoenix appeared in the icy environs of Minneapolis.
“The building sector is really the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country and the world.”
“The building sector is really the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country and the world,” says Edward Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced by new construction. Today, buildings consume up to 76 percent of the United States’ total electricity and emit 43 percent of our greenhouse gases. And the same mistakes are repeated in the 5 billion square feet of built space created nationwide every year. But now, the next phase in the history of green building is underway. A band of visionary architects, designers, engineers, and builders have recognized how far we’ve strayed from the principles that informed our earliest architecture. They’re harnessing both advanced and ancient technologies to dream up structures that make even the current standard of responsible building—the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system—pale in comparison. While LEED certification measures and rewards a reduction in energy use, for instance, the architects behind the nextgeneration, beyond-LEED structures, called “carbon neutral” or “regenerative,” are aiming for designs that use no energy at all—to be energy positive or net-zero. The green building of the future doesn’t just do less harm to the environment; it improves it. It won’t just use less water; it will collect and treat it. It won’t just force air; it will filter it. And it won’t just save energy; it will create it. Buildings are not only about to breathe like people—they’ll also give back like good Samaritans. 74 | august-september 2008
illustration courtesy of June key delta house (top); bNim architects (middle)
Green building as we know it today didn’t take hold until 2000, when the USGBC, which was formed in 1993, released its LEED rating system. The LEED program established national guidelines for green building and presented them as a checklist that any architect, designer, or building owner could follow. From there, sustainable practice leapt forward from the fringe. Suddenly our images of green homes transformed from yurts or cob-earth hippie hideouts to glass skyscrapers with wind turbines humming away on living roofs. Nearly 1,500 LEED-certified projects stand today. There are more than 11,000 under construction and awaiting the silver, gold, or platinum imprimatur, plaques received on earning up to 69 credits for everything from outdoor air–delivery monitoring to water-efficient landscaping. But even buildings that are LEED Platinum—the highest rating in the system—can use 80 to 100 kilowatts of energy per square meter, and some say the bar is set far too low. “LEED Gold is kind of a C right now,” says James Brew, principal architect with Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) Built Environment Team. “Maybe LEED Platinum is a B or an A-minus.” What would an A-plus look like? RMI’s team—a group of Boulder, Colorado–based architects, analysts, and consultants that function as a green think tank—spend their days reimagining structures as what they call “high-performance buildings” that actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions, rather than just stabilizing them. They call the initiative “Cooling the Warming.” Under their tutelage, buildings will become giant air or water filters in which people happen to live or work. Extra energy will be produced through concepts like RMI’s Next-Generation Utility—smart meters and programmable controls allowing homeowners to automate their own home energy use—or the Smart Garage, where electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (another of RMI’s favorite research topics) can tap in to the power grid, either for charging batteries or supplying energy to the grid if they’ve saved more than they need. One structure on which RMI consulted that has not yet broken ground looks like a long lost hanzi, or Chinese character. Dubbed Energy Plus and planned for the occasionally dreary Gennevilliers area of Paris, the structure’s arms jut out at awkward angles, maximizing exposure to the sun. It will hold 10,800 square meters of photovoltaic cells on the roof—the largest building-integrated solar array in the world—and the Seine River’s water will be used for cooling purposes; no air conditioner needed. Energy Plus is set to consume only 16 kilowatts of energy per square meter, a whole lot less than the 80 to 250 so common among traditional office buildings. In fact, it could produce up to 20 percent more energy than it consumes—hence the building’s name—which the French government will buy back. Its architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, describe it as “a revolution in a glass box.” 90° Energy Plus is an example of what could be the next step beyond LEED, just one of many projects Brew and the RMI team have been conjuring. And while RMI has been instrumental in shaping LEED, among other rating systems, they don’t offer such a blueprint themselves. “It’s not a rating system,” Brew says of RMI’s approach, “but a way of applied thinking.”
From top: Living Building challengers June Key Delta House in Portland, Oregon, which features reused cargo containers; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York, which has a filtration system capable of treating 5 million gallons of water; Paris’ Energy Plus, a commercial building designed to produce 20 percent more energy than it consumes.
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the Cascadia Region Green Building Council (CRGBC), a regional equivalent to the USGBC that focuses on the Pacific Northwest, prefers tough love. In January 2006, it created the Living Building Challenge (LBC), which implores designers to create buildings that meet sixteen prerequisites. “It’s all or nothing,” says Thor Peterson, research director for CRGBC. “You achieve all the requirements, or you don’t have a Living Building.” Living Buildings must generate their own energy with renewable resources; capture and treat their own water; operate efficiently; and, believe it or not, make some effort to be beautiful. They may only be sited on previously developed lands, like grayfields (parking lots or abandoned commercial spaces) or brownfields (formerly contaminated land); and they must be more than 50 feet from wetlands and far from sensitive ecological spots. The structures must also be net-zero energy, use all FSC-approved wood, and incorporate habitat exchange (which involves setting aside an equal amount of land for every acre developed). A materials “red list” denotes forbidden substances like lead, neoprene, or anything with formaldehyde. “It’s extremely difficult to get the Living Building designation,” Peterson admits. Living Building is not intended to be a competitor to LEED, but to raise the bar higher than Platinum and focus on what LEED is missing. That includes bioregionalism—advocating different buildings for different ecosystems. “A building built in the Pacific Northwest will respond one way, and one in Tucson, Arizona, will respond another way,” says Peterson. It’s like growing “a cactus versus a Douglas fir.” No Living Buildings exist yet to hold up as a hallmark—they must be in operation for a year before they can earn the rating—but there are seven announced winners of the 2007 Living Building competition, both in operational and blueprint stage. One of the winners under construction, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York, features a water filtration system that uses plants, bacteria, algae, snails, and fungi to treat approximately 5 million gallons of wastewater a year, which is then funneled into an aquifer on site. For this reason, among others, it’s the closest thing we’ll have to a building that’s alive—and it’s LEED Platinum, too. But greener buildings aren’t necessarily dependent on complex LEED checklists or high-tech equipment. Architecture 2030’s Mazria maintains that the revolution can be as simple as altering building codes and tweaking public policy. “We don’t give out plaques and gold stars,” he says. “We try to affect policy.” The state of California has already amended its building code, a change inspired by Mazria’s call for all new buildings to cut fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2010 and be carbon neutral by 2030. Since launching in January 2006, Architecture 2030’s goals have been adopted by nearly 1,000 individuals and groups, including the American Solar Energy Society, the US Conference of Mayors, and the state of New Mexico.
The Sustainable Energy Centre at Cambrian College, Ontario, is a Living Building finalist that will house learning facilities for resource conservation studies.
The know-how and the will clearly exist to transform the building sector—one holdup is money. Energy Plus is still waiting on a tenant willing to pay the premium for its office space (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill won’t say exactly how much that is), despite the potential for substantial utility savings. Thomas Behr, an associate with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and one of the architects working on the Energy Plus project, says the French government has agreed to buy back the building’s excess energy at five times the going rate. That’s the only way that energy positive buildings can make financial sense at the moment, Behr says. You must have a customer for your excess energy, and “you need to be subsidized by your government to do it.” Other barriers exist as well. Though twisting a building to face the sun will do wonders for energy efficiency, most developers won’t do it. “For hotels or condos, you orient toward the views, not the sun,” Behr says. Maybe supermarkets and bigbox stores could make that shift, but those who want to look at the mountains or the sea will have to find another way. Laurentian University in Northern Ontario is aiming to be Canada’s first institutional building to gain LEED Platinum certification.
photo courtesy of busby perkins + Will (bottom)
If RMI favors radical reimagining over ratings systems,
illustration courtesy of iredale group architecture
The Robert Bateman Art and Environmental Education Centre in Victoria, Canada is a Living Building competitor that will create zero greenhouse gas emissions.
While he applauds the work done by LBC and RMI, Scot Horst, chair of the LEED Steering Committee, thinks LEED’s more populist approach is still the best way forward. “We need to engage all of society at a common level,” he says. “If we’re only focused on moving to the very top, we know it won’t work.” That said, a new set of LEED guidelines, Version 3.0, is set for release in November, and it will look a lot more like the Living Building Challenge and RMI’s Cooling the Warming. LEED’s governing body is reassigning the value of credits for the carbon-neutral era, with energy reduction earning more points than, say, bamboo floors. Regional concerns have also been integrated into the guidelines. The combined changes, Horst believes, means that “we’re going to see another level that’s beyond zero” carbon.
Until now, the second wave of green building has been largely divorced from the first, a shunning of what might have been seen as out-there hippie building, irrelevant to the production building sector or the masses sprawling into suburbia.
For all the building codes enlightened, milestone policies passed, and high-tech solutions proffered by think tanks, the most innovative methods of greening the construction industry are almost embarrassingly simple. Twenty-first-century green buildings will also feature a good dose of the past. “You don’t need any new technology,” Behr says. “Everything is there.” Green building first took shape in the 1970s, part of that decade’s nascent environmental movement. Two groundbreaking books were published: Victor Olgyay’s Design with Climate introduced the concept of designing in harmony with the climate; and Ralph Knowles’ Form and Stability detailed how buildings affect the environment and vice versa. Rising oil prices led to the formation of national groups like the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on Energy and the Solar Energy Research Institute. The pressure was on to create buildings that both saved energy and embraced nature. But the route to creating those buildings was and still is surprisingly low-tech. The effectiveness of passive-solar technology is largely determined by how a building is situated—orient it toward the sun and the bulk of your work is done. Catching rainwater to use for irrigation is also far less technologically demanding than treating water and pumping it from a distant reservoir. Some architects brought these nature-loving building techniques to the mainstream. Norman Foster, for instance, created his first grass-roofed building, the Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters, in England.William McDonough built the country’s first solar-powered house in 1977. But many experiments in sustainable architecture were conducted by fringe types like Michael Reynolds, who uses recycled bottles, tires, and cans to build dwellings in New Mexico called Earthships, which generate their own off-the-grid electricity while collecting and treating their own water and waste. The Earthship sounds a lot like a Living Building—perhaps an early cousin of Energy Plus or the Omega Center—and it would probably qualify for LEED Platinum. But until now, the second wave of green building that started with the USGBC’s formation has been largely divorced from the first, a shunning of what might have been seen as out-there hippie building, irrelevant to the production building sector or the masses sprawling into suburbia. “There might have been a gut reaction away from that stuff in the 1990s, to define green building as this forward-thinking, technically-oriented approach,” says CRGBC’s Peterson. In the second wave, eco-structures were high tech and high-rise, many of them camouflaged so as not to draw attention to their green attributes—and that, of course, is what allowed green building to become mainstream. Tomorrow’s green buildings will benefit from advanced structure codes, policy, and technology, but they’ll also have Earthship-like living walls of greenery inside that clean air and filter water. Buildings that strike a balance between the first and second wave will shy away from the sun in desert climates or hug it in colder regions. Passive solar technology will be found just as readily in some off-the-grid mountain cabin as in a skyscraper. The emerging third wave of green building, then, might be most likely to succeed when it borrows from the past to shape the future. “Look at the natural world to inform design decisions,” Peterson says. “We’ve got millions of years of R & D out there.” ✤ plentymag.com | 77
Ten Innovations of the Last Century that Better our Planet
Greenlined Design by Elizabeth Thompson / photo Illustration by Joe Zeff Design, Inc.
hen I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty,” said noted designer and futurist Buckminster Fuller, whose inventions and ideas took into account natural resource use long before sustainable development became a part of our lexicon. “I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”
For Fuller, who passed away in 1983, it was his way of saying form should follow function. In the twenty-first century, function also needs to consider planetary impact. So compiling this set of top eco-design innovations required a reconsideration of the rules that might in the past have applied to so-called groundbreaking design. Conventionally defined, eco-objects are confined to products for the home, and materials and aesthetics are emphasized. What is rarely acknowledged is that we need to lighten our ecological footprint by producing and consuming fewer objects. That’s why our list—which includes electronics, transportation, food, and energy—rewards design
that enables us to do more with less. Each of these ten items represents ideas and innovations that have the potential to radically alter our lives, if they haven’t done so already. Spanning the twentieth century, give or take a decade, this list covers inventions and new uses of resources that play a significant role in inspiring more earth-friendly practices. In choosing each object, we considered the materials used in creating it, its purpose, and the potential impact of the object’s wide-scale adoption. What about beauty, you ask? It’s not in the eye of the beholder—it’s in the object’s ability to persuade humankind to act differently.
1 Personal Computer
People worldwide can now access reams of information online without traveling to centralized repositories, like universities and libraries. We can also telecommute and conduct meetings via Web-conference, eliminating more nonessential travel. And in the long-term, computers reduce paper usage. While there are serious issues regarding existing e-waste and the materials currently being used to make computers, innovations to evolve this worldaltering machine’s life-cycle are well underway.
Bamboo Bicycle Though the bicycle is hard to beat as a low-carbon, local transportation system, the Earth Institute at Columbia University’s Bamboo Bike Project (in collaboration with Craig Calfee at Calfee Design) has pushed the evolution in bike design: According to their research, bamboo bike parts are cheaper than others; production isn’t factory-friendly, thus helping to support local small-scale manufacturers; and there’s no need to import the fast-growing trees to much of the developing world, as they are already flourishing across the globe. Besides the obvious environmental benefits, those of economics and health give bamboo bicycles added green momentum. plentymag.com | 79
Reusable Water Bottle
AeroVironment’s rooftop wind turbine, which the company launched in the test market in late 2007, is designed specifically for cities, where the devices would rotate at much lower wind speeds than conventional wind towers and could be anchored safely atop buildings. They come in a range of models, don’t require a support tower, are easy to install, and offer reduced noise and vibration. AeroVironment is one of several companies exploring new ways to use buildings not only for living and working but also to produce energy. Together, these rooftop turbine manufacturers might someday add to urban skylines in the way that water tanks have made their mark on New York City’s.
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Tofu Sure, it’s not an object in the traditional sense; and yes, it’s hardly a twentieth century invention. But as far as the modern-day green movement goes, tofu, said to originate in ancient China, is a major symbol of both ethical and environmental concerns that engage a growing number of people today. Tofu makes us think of vegetarians, vegans, and the like. It’s a progressive emblem for anyone who has reconsidered the way they eat because of animal treatment or environmental concerns. It’s also undeniably better for the planet than meat. Compared to tofu, meat production takes up approximately 17 times as much land, 26 times as much water, 20 times as many fossil fuels, and 6 times as many chemicals.
Buckminster Fuller’s breakthrough in shelter design, the geodesic dome remains unsurpassed. This überefficient bubble encloses more space while utilizing less energy and material than any other shelter system invented to date, and it increases in stability as it increases in size. The triangle lattice creates a self-bracing framework that gives structural strength while using minimal resources. Montreal’s Biosphère (above) and Disney World’s Epcot Center are among the most iconic examples of these domes, but the triangular framework can also be found in Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower (he was influenced by Fuller), and at playgrounds all over the world. Geodesic jungle gyms, known for their durability, have been around for more than four decades.
photos courtesy of the race point group (previous page); morgan meredith (previous page); aerovironment; sigg; terri meyer boake
Urban Wind Turbines
The trend toward bottling water, which started last century, has dangerous environmental consequences. Every day we trash some 30 million plastic water bottles nationwide that could each take a thousand years to decompose. The widespread adoption of reusable, nonplastic water containers would make a huge difference for the environment and might also benefit personal health. As reusable water bottles become increasingly attractive, other choices might emerge. But for now, Swiss manufacturer Sigg deserves credit. Their near-ubiquitous design is extremely durable, lightweight, and lined with a nontoxic material that doesn’t affect taste. And it’s equally comfortable in a backpack headed for the top of a mountain, or appearing at an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.
photo courtesy of bedrock industries (second from right)
Electric Car Here in the US, we’re still hooked on cars. As we inch closer to realizing a massmarket history of electric vehicles, it’s time to honor the Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) of the past. BEVs were among the earliest autos, and before the preeminence of light-andpowerful internal combustion engines, electric cars held many vehicle speed and distance records. Most notable perhaps was the breaking of the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed barrier by Camille Jenatzy on April 29, 1899, in his rocket-like EV named La Jamais Contente.
Digital Camera Photo processing—equipment, chemicals, transportation to and from the camera store—is not really a major environmental threat. Even so, the digital camera reduces the need for filmrelated waste while creating unexpected benefits. It places serious citizen-power into the hands of those documenting (then uploading and broadcasting) social, political, and environmental injustice on a local or global scale. The twenty-first century digital camera evolved out of earlier electronic imaging innovations. In August 1981, Sony released its Mavica electronic still camera, the first commercial electronic model. Images were recorded onto a disc and then put into a video reader that was connected to a television monitor or color printer. Even if the early Mavica cannot be considered a true digital camera, it started the megapixel revolution.
Recycled Glass We have been making use of glass for centuries, but it was Oregon’s Bottle Bill of 1971 that inadvertently kick-started US recycling programs as we know them today. Glass recycling saves used containers that previously would have been sent to landfills, and less energy is used to melt recycled glass than to melt down raw materials. (Recycling also reduces the need for quarrying raw materials, thus saving resources.) Bottles can be converted into jewelry, sand, an asphalt composite, storage vessels, stained glass windows and other works of art, and so much more. Discovering all the uses of glass in a closedloop fashion speaks to its versatility, and one can hope, a strong cultural preference for it over plastic.
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) From whale blubber to paraffin to natural gas to electricity, our need to light the night has produced a steady stream of innovation—all of which, over time, has led to a reduction in our use of resources. Although compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) may offer dramatic energy savings over traditional incandescents, they also contain hazardous materials like mercury. Modern LEDs surpass CFLs in energy efficiency and are free of hazards. And they can achieve better than 100 lumens per watt, meaning this low-powered light is nearly a third brighter than the average fluorescent when using the same power.
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!WAKEN YOUR SENSES Growing up enveloped by the aromas of her mother’s spice stall in Kuala Lumpur, Christina Arokiasamy developed an artist’s sense of how to combine and use spices in traditional and innovative ways. In The Spice Merchant’s Daughter, she shares her family’s spice secrets, expertly guiding and enticing home cooks to enliven their cooking repertoires. The tantalizing blend of 100 Southeast Asian–inspired recipes include favorites such as Lemon Pepper Wings, Spicy Beef Salad, Steamed Snapper with Tamarind-Ginger Sauce, and Cardamom Butter Rice with Sultanas. With a guide to cooking with fragrant herbs and spices, evocative photography, and stories from Arokiasamy’s childhood, The Spice Merchant’s Daughter brings the flavors of Southeast Asia to your table.
Available Wherever Books Are Sold August 5, 2008 Clarkson Potter/Publishers
A Good Green Wash
Detergents that won’t drag the planet down the drain Though eco-laundry soaps may not have gotten raves in the past, today’s green cleaners are up for the war on dirt. Many of them get clothes spotless without leaving a blot on the environment or your health. But because cleaning ingredients are not required to be listed and “green” claims are unregulated, it’s sometimes hard to know whom to trust. We picked the following detergents because they’re free of the most toxic substances; they’re concentrated (reducing the 400 gallons of water a year wasted in diluting detergents); and they’re tested for cold-water washes, which can lower carbon emissions by 90 percent. —Deirdre Dolan
photograph by anthony
verde; eco-styling by camilla slattery
Ecos by Earth Friendly Products Free & Clear This favorite left clothes soft and garden-fresh without fragrance. Erased grass stains from the knees of my daughter’s yellow pants—a nice surprise. $6 (50 oz), ecos.com
Sun & Earth Cleaned my spit-up-soaked duds with no trouble—but if you don’t love a strong orange smell, steer clear. $5 (50 oz), sunandearth.com
Method Free & Clear An odorless formula is a welcome change from flowery blends, but it does have a very small amount of nonnatural preservative. Washed well, if not top of the heap. $8 (32 oz), methodhome.com
Seventh Generation Free & Clear It smells a tad gluey but works better than most, even managing to revive a mildewed dress. No filmy residue and leaves clothes crisp. $9 (50 oz),
Mrs Meyer’s Clean Day The label admits to some “nonnatural ingredients.” Still, it cleaned tanning makeup from my facecloths, which is impressive. $11.99 (64 oz), mrsmeyers.com
Arm & Hammer Essentials It took care of a tomatosauce-stained baby shirt, but I didn’t love the way it left clothes feeling soft and treated (though some might), possibly due to washing soda, a natural water softener it contains. $3.99 (50 oz), armandhammer.com
Dropps Dissolving Liquid Pacs
Gentle scent, not too foamy, and leaves barely any residue. Good for the sensitive-skinned and for eliminating chocolate stains.
These mess-free polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) pouches dissolve in cold water and are six-times concentrated, with a fresh scent that’s delicate and appealing. But like other plastics, PVA’s ability to biodegrade is limited.
$19.95 (128 oz), biokleenhome.com
Ecover Ultra Hands down, one of my favorites for tough, sudsy cleaning, with only a faint trace of (plant-based) lavender scent. Works well on sweaty yoga towels and gym clothes. $12.50 (100 oz), ecover.com
$6 for 20, dropps.com INGREDIENTS All detergents selected contain surfactants made from plants, such as coconut or corn, rather than toxic petrochemical alkylphenol ethoxylates (eg, APEs, NPEs), which harm aquatic life. These are also free of glycol ethers. Each lists specific natural plant oils, not “fragrance.” So skip the synthetic fragrances with phthalates linked to hormonal and respiratory problems.
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plenty LABS Seal Watch
Desperately Seeking Standards How organic is organic in personal-care products?
rganophiles lacking chemistry degrees often refer to cosmetics shopping as a Wild West adventure in lawless label territory. Adding to the confusion is a multiplicity of standards, along with an array of new seals, which will appear this fall. The most credible seals set clear, uniform standards that are verified by independent third parties rather than industry self-certifiers. “Eventually, we want to get to the place where there’s one legal standard for organic and one for natural,” says Stacy Malkan of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (safecosmetics.org). (Natural is currently a completely unregulated term.) Until then, to help you pick cosmetics with the fewest toxic, synthetic petrochemicals, here’s a US and European Union (EU) seal cheat sheet. —Alexandra Zissu USDA Organic Requires independent third-party certification and a minimum of 95% certified–organic plant ingredients; 70% qualifies for “Made with Organic.” No synthetics or dirty chemistry permitted. ams.usda.gov/NOP NSF This fall, NSF International extends its food, water, and water filter third-party certification to cosmetics. Requires that products have 70% organic ingredients and very limited chemical processing or additives. NSF.org BDIH This EU seal’s stringent definition of natural bans all petroleum-based ingredients. Third-party certified. kontrollierte-naturkosmetik.de Soil Association Somewhat weaker EU counterpart of USDA Organic; allows some synthetics. soilassociation.org NPA The new Natural Products Association’s third-party US standards are much like NSF’s but without the organic requirement. naturalproductsassoc.org Whole Foods Premium Body Care An in-store label developed with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for products sold in Whole Foods Market that are free of 250 toxic chemicals. wholefoodsmarket.com/wholebody/pbc Organic And Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS) Industry-vetted EU label requires that products be 85% organic, going up to 95% by 2010. Allows some synthetics. oasisseal.org Eco-Cert A looser EU third-party seal requiring 95% natural ingredients, with a minimum 10% of those certified organic. ecocert.com
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behind the wheel
rom tiny little compacts to massive trucks and SUVs, gas/electric powertrains are now available in a vehicle variety that should make hybrids more attractive to Americans with a range of lifestyles. Chief among the more practical, flexible offerings is a hybrid version of the bestselling car in the country, the Toyota Camry. If you consider it a Prius in mildmannered clothing, that’s fine—just don’t mistake it for a dud. To start, Toyota takes the Camry features people love—rock-solid quality, high safety ratings, a smooth ride, and a host of amenities—and jacks up the miles-per-gallon (mpg) substantially. The Camry Hybrid is rated at 33/34 mpg (city/ highway), a considerable jump from the Camry XLE four-cylinder’s 21/31 mpg. Even more impressive, this represents the best mileage found in traditional midsize sedans equipped with hybrid or strictly gasoline powertrains. Like the Prius in electric-only mode, the Camry Hybrid is shockingly silent and produces no emissions. And once you get up to speed, this hybrid is every bit as drivable as the gas-only Camry. The increased fuel efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of performance, thanks to the extra horsepower (29 more than the Camry XLE) and torque the electric motor provides. All this translates into stronger acceleration—I clocked about nine seconds to 60 mph—and enhanced passing power on the highway. Similar to the regular Camry, the hybrid won’t win any drag races, but the added torque upped the acceleration ante between 50 and 70 mph. City driving range (568 miles) also stands out compared to the XLE (389 miles). Even with a federal tax credit, the cost premium of hybrid technology has, until
now, been proportionally higher than the fuel savings buyers realize in the first few years of ownership. But here’s the bonus: Toyota is introducing the 2008 Camry Hybrid at a base price that’s only $200 more than a similarly equipped XLE. That, as we’re all too painfully aware, can be the price of a couple of weeks’ worth of gas these days. Can the automaker that sold the world more than a million Priuses pass their hybrid magic on to an already fabulous product like the Camry? I say yes. Pros Great gas mileage, good passing power, attractive instrumentation, and a rockin’ stereo system. Cons A loss of trunk space because of battery placement, and the four-cylinder engine is quite loud under strain. Verdict Considering the negligible price premium and enhanced performance, you have officially run out of excuses. toyota.com
Green, Greener, Greenest with Lori Bongiorno
Is it worth it to drink eco-friendly brews, and what are my options? —Silas L, Brooklyn, NY
Conventional beer production can be tough on the environment, so it’s definitely worth it to seek out alternatives. A cocktail of highly polluting chemicals are used to grow barley and hops, beer’s primary ingredients. Shipping the full bottles or cans around the world also consumes fossil fuels. Luckily, there are some widely available sustainable options. Here are my Green, Greener, Greenest ideas for summertime sipping.
Green Buying local reduces the amount
best of the rest
Rain Barrels It’s all right to be a pig when you’re gulping rainwater, especially if you’ve got a slim silhouette. The long, lean Rainwater Hog (71 x 20 inches), from Design Within Reach, catches a full load and fits flat against the side of your house. One tank holds 47 gallons, and because it’s only nine inches deep, children can’t fall in. Its modular design permits more units to be added anytime. Made of recyclable polyethylene plastic and shipped without packaging, this tall drink of water also saves waste. $650, dwr.com
of fossil fuels used to ship beer and supports nearby businesses. Microbreweries have become much more common over the years, so you’re likely to have some options in your area. To find one nearby, visit Beer Advocate’s website, beeradvocate.com. Also, always recycle bottles and cans, and if you’re having a large enough party, consider going for a keg and reusable cups to cut down on waste.
Greener Buy beer from a brewery that follows sustainable practices. Brooklyn Brewery, for example, donates its used grains to farmers who use it for feed. New Belgium Brewery in Colorado is built sustainably and powered 70 percent by wind and 30 percent by methane gas created with the aid of its beer waste. Organic beer is one of the fastest growing categories of organic beverages, and as demand grows, larger players like Anheuser-Busch are jumping into the market. There’s been some controversy over organic beer be-
cause the USDA allows producers to use conventionally grown hops if they can’t find organic versions, so it’s best to ask a brewer what they use.
Greenest Brew your own organic beer. You’ll save money and help the planet by cutting down on things like packaging and fossil fuels used for shipping and in-store refrigeration. Get educated on all the nuances of brewing at beeradvocate.com. You can shop for supplies like bottles, caps, and brew kettles at Seven Bridges Cooperative (breworganic.com). Finally, learn how to toast in 30 different languages at language museum.org. My favorite? Laissez les bons temps rouler! Lori Bongiorno is the author of Green, Greener, Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-Smart Choices a Part of Your Life (Perigree Trade Paperback Original). Ask Lori a question about living green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The ultimate ecoshopping guide
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Herbicide in the First Degree s a general rule, I avoid anything approaching murder. I can’t even bring myself to kill a bug. When I was little, accidental caterpillar casualties reduced me to tears and turned pleasant bike rides into guilt-ridden funeral processions. I’m less melodramatic in adulthood, but my tendency toward overwrought compassion remains. When it came to killing our lawn though, I didn’t bat an eye. In fact, I leapt at the opportunity. And the lawn never even saw it coming. A couple of years ago, my husband and I demonstrated our exquisite sense of timing by purchasing our first home in Los Angeles at the tip-top peak of the soon-to-burst housing bubble. At the time, I had a vague hunch that I might be a sucker, but since this wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar feeling for me, I managed to successfully ignore it and forge full-speed ahead toward financially stressed home ownership. Hooray! Luckily I love the place for which we overpaid, though it’s nothing like the house I fantasized about owning when I was younger. That house, enthusiastically rendered in childhood drawings, had zip wires, trampoline floors, chocolate water slides, graham cracker furniture, and a marshmallow lawn that allowed for both cushiony zip wire landings and convenient s’more assembly. Our new actual lawn, by contrast, was made of boring, old, water-guzzling grass when we first acquired it. Now, nearly three years later, we don’t have a lawn at all; we have an array of low-water plants better suited to the frequently drought-plagued, Mediterranean climate in which we live. In the big scheme of things, it was an easy transition from lawn to sustainable landscaping,
but in actuality, the journey between the two was rife with disapproving neighbors, sprained lower back muscles, avian sabotage, and cold-blooded herbicide. By conventional standards, the original lawn was gorgeous: lush and green, complete with pop-up sprinklers that kept it fresh, misted, and utterly and out of sync with its surrounding ecosystem. Maintaining a lawn in general is a questionable pursuit because it takes so much water and energy to keep the alien grass alive and nourished. Maintaining a lawn in the desert is just plain silliness. It requires diverting large amounts of water that then get inefficiently used, creating dirty runoff that drains through sewers and eventually into the ocean, poisoning marine life and polluting our beaches. All in all, not the most brilliant cycle around. So we opted out. Shortly after moving into our new home, we simply stopped watering our lawn. The hot southwestern sun did its business and before long, bare patches of dirt cropped up, giving our formerly spectacular front yard a sickly, mangy appearance. This did not endear us to our new neighbors. No one said anything outright, but I imagined disappointed head shaking and accusatory glances. I pictured our neighbors lamenting that we were bringing down property values with our disrespectful, slovenly ways. When the housing bubble burst soon after, I felt personally liable. We’d moved in, killed our lawn, and turned it into a dirthole, and there went the neighborhood. On a couple of occasions, we attempted to reassure people by describing our master plan. We might have tossed around
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the word xeriscape (an organic landscape composed of native plants, designed to conserve water and protect habitats) for extra sizzle, and it’s possible that a corny joke was made about how the grass can’t seem greener on the other side of the fence if there’s no grass! Responses ranged from bewilderment to concern. I’m fairly certain the size of my pupils was checked. But we backed up our crazy talk by bringing in an eco-savvy gardener to help us remake our outdoor space into a sustainable landscape. Out went the dead grass, in went low-water trees, plants, and shrubs. The sidewalk that previously split the lawn was recycled into a prettier broken-slab path that better complemented our climate-friendly vegetation. Our embarrassment over being the blight of the block was transformed into excitement about the new buds, butterflies, and birds that arrived overnight. We love them all, except for whichever bird it is that insists on plucking up our new ground cover shoots. Just because they look like little, delicious worms does not make that behavior okay. We still spend a lot of energy on our new yard—replanting ground cover, applying organic mulch, and finding other ways to hurt our lower backs. Satisfaction helps soothe the spasms though, because we genuinely love our new anti-lawn. And the time I used to spend stressing about wasted water I can now spend buying HD-DVDs. Clearly, they’re a smart investment. Trust me, I’m never wrong about these things. ✤ Kristin Gore is the author of New York Times bestselling novel Sammy’s Hill (2004) and the sequel Sammy’s House (2007). She has no regrets about killing off her lawn.
How to kill your lawn and not feel bad about it
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WHOLE SOY: A SOURCE OF good karma.
Cosmic effects of SOYJOY may vary. All-natural ingredients like whole soy and real fruit will not. Available in six flavors at a store near you! ®
Everyone can appreciate technologies that go from gas-friendly to gas-free. That’s why Chevy™ offers eight models with an EPA estimated �� ��� highway or better,1 plus more vehicle choices today than any brand that can run on cleaner-burning, mostly renewable ��� ethanol.2 It’s also why we’ve introduced both Malibu® Hybrid3 and Tahoe® Hybrid 4 — America’s ﬁrst full-size hybrid SUV.5 And why we’ve put tremendous design and engineering resources in place to make Concept Chevy Volt6 — our extended-range electric vehicle — a reality. Now that’s technology everyone can appreciate. Find out more at chevy.com
1 Based on EPA estimates and segmentation. 2 E85 is 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline. For more info or to ﬁnd an E85 station near you, go to chevy.com/e85. 3 Malibu Hybrid very limited availability. 4 At participating dealers only. 5 Excludes other GM vehicles. 6 Concept Chevy Volt not available for sale. ©2008 GM Corp. Buckle up, America!
Published on Mar 10, 2012
Published on Mar 10, 2012
beyond the bulb> the best Ideas In green desIgn krIstIn gore kIlls her laWn | saIlIng greece | gossIp gIrl’s eco star