environment


The Huge Hybrid – Few Takers for a New S.U.V. Twist – NYTimes.com

General Motors and Chrysler are betting that their 5,500-pound, eight-seat S.U.V.’s — long the scourge of environmentalists — can be reformed as hybrid models, albeit ones getting 20 miles to the gallon.

Consumers have been slow to embrace the first two models from G.M., which are relatively new to the market.

G.M. has sold about 1,100 of its Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon hybrids since their introduction in January, according to company sales briefings. That pace is well behind its goal of 12,000 sales a year, and a fraction of the more than 100,000 hybrids sold so far in the United States this year.

“To this point, the G.M. hybrids aren’t getting any traction at all,” said Mike Omotoso, a senior manager with the research firm J. D. Power & Associates.

Giving a four-wheel drive Tahoe a gas-electric hybrid engine raises fuel economy for city driving to 20 miles a gallon from 14.

Okay—am I the only one who thinks this is stupid? Can someone just give the Detroit automakers a kick in the head and a boot in the ass? It’s a hybrid and it gets 20 MPG instead of 14MPG. What a waste of $53,000!

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I made beef stew yesterday because it was supposed to be cold and I knew that cooking it would warm up the house. Little did I know when I bought the ingredients that it would turn out to be warm outside.

There is something terribly wrong with temperatures in the 60s on February 17. People are wearing flip flops and the crocuses are shooting up out of the ground. While on a walk, I found some forsythia branches by the road and brought home a sprig with some blooms. Forsythia have always been the harbingers of spring for me – but not in February! What will it be like in July?

Forsythia in February

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I work in DC where there is a Starbucks on every corner (so it seems). While I was out in the distant burbs of DC (near Leesburg, VA) I saw this Starbucks drive-thru – complete with 6 cars in line. I hate to think of all the emissions being released as these cars are idling in line. It’s just a coffee, people! Get out of your car and walk in. Or just make it at home, huh?

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San Francisco sprouts a “Chia” nightclub | Crave : The gadget blog

A San Francisco nightclub installed on Monday what it’s promoting as the city’s first vertical garden. Several plant-filled boxes turned on their sides and bolted outside near the entrance are the first step in the Zen Compound‘s plans to cover the facade of the building in greenery.
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For now, the Zen Compound serves organic spirits with corn-based cups and straws that get composted rather than trashed. Club marketing is moving away from using paper fliers, even if recycled, to online-only promotions with Flash animation.

This story comes via crave.cnet.com. I do think it’s a great idea even if it’s just a gimmick. The more green space in any city is a good thing.

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EcoLogo and Green Seal labels

NPR : Eco-Friendly Product Claims Often Misleading

Another NPR gem. Look at the logos above. The one of the left has no meaning since CFC’s have been banned since the 1970s so everything is CFC free. However, the logos on the right have real value.

America’s store shelves are filled with products claiming to be good for the environment. Everything from shampoos and cleaning agents to granola bars claim to be “natural” and “earth friendly.” But some environmentalists think you’re being “greenwashed.”

One of them is Scot Case, with the environmental marketing firm TerraChoice.

The firm says it found 1,018 products that made environmental claims, ranging from toothpaste to office paper, on retail shelves of six big-box retailers.

“When we dug a little deeper, we were actually shocked to discover that all but one were committing what we’re now calling one of the Six Sins of Greenwashing,” Case tells Steve Inskeep. The one product was paper napkins, but Case says the firm decided not to name specific products.

Check out the podcast and the article has links to TerraChoice, Ecologo.org, Green Seal and many other helpful articles including the “The Six Sins of Greenwashing”.

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Can baking soda curb global warming? | CNET News.com

Some scientists have proposed compressing carbon dioxide and sticking it in underground caves as a way to cut down on greenhouse gases. Joe David Jones wants to make baking soda out of it.

Jones, the founder and CEO of Skyonic, has come up with an industrial process called SkyMine that captures 90 percent of the carbon dioxide coming out of smoke stacks and mixes it with sodium hydroxide to make sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. The energy required for the reaction to turn the chemicals into baking soda comes from the waste heat from the factory.

“It is cleaner than food-grade (baking soda),” he said.

The system also removes 97 percent of the heavy metals, as well as most of the sulfur and nitrogen compounds, Jones said.

I really hope there is something to this story – I’m all for more baked goods.

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Tavares' cocoa plantation. A cacao tree in a yard in eastern Brazil.

NPR : How Chocolate Can Save the Planet

Sounds so ideal – grow cacao and save the planet. Well, not quite but there is a group trying to save the Brazilian rain forest using selective tree removal and then planting cacao trees in their place. The product yield isn’t as high as traditional farming but the benefits (less disease, fewer insects, less invasive farming) can give the farmers a premium price for their crop since it’s more environmentally-friendly.

Check out the podcast or read the linked article. There are more pictures and links to other related sites.

Also, keep eating chocolate so we can make this happen.

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Colorful Maple leaves

NPR : In New England, Concern Grows for Sugar Maple

In central New Hampshire, a pair of sugar maple trees frames the doorway to a historic house. The trees were likely planted by the family that originally built the house around 1790.

“They’re wonderful gnarled trees,” says lumberman Jamey French, whose parents live here in central New Hampshire. “They’re in the latter stages of their life, all cabled now.”

The French family is enormously beholden to the sugar maple for the butcher blocks, bowling lanes and squash and basketball courts its wood has been prized for. It is wood that has been harvested and sold by four generations of this hardwood lumber family.

At heart a steward of the forest, French has been watching many tree species for signs of decline, particularly the sugar maple. It’s a touchy species living in a landscape of tangible, environmental change.

“I’ve seen multiple species of birds wintering over that were not common in my childhood: mocking birds and cardinals and titmice,” French says. “Look along the sides of roads, and between the salt, acid rain, potential heat and drought cycles, you see trees stressed and dying. Boy, this is happening right in front of our eyes.”

This is really scary. The thought of New England losing it’s beautiful maples because we killed them if just awful. We’ve been in a terrible drought in Virginia this year , in fact all through the mid-Atlantic and south. It really makes me wonder if anything can really help at this point. Is it too late already?

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