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August 25, 2009
The ice cream of the future won't be cryogenically-frozen beads (sorry, Dippin' Dots) or freeze-dried and chalky (thanks, but no thanks, for the astronaut ice cream). Rather, it will be melted—or never frozen at all.
Unilever—proprietor of such brands as Ben & Jerry's, Good Humor, Popsicle, and Klondike—recently announced that they are developing a low-carbon ice cream. Because the process of freezing and storing ice cream is very energy intensive, this means that the best way to make the sweet treat eco-friendly is to make and transport it at room temperature. Consumers would then freeze the "ambient" ice cream, as the company calls it, at home. But now everyone is wondering—will it be as delicious as the Cherry Garcia we all know and love?
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August 20, 2009
The grandson of famous explorer Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the heir to his deep-sea-diving family's throne, Philippe Cousteau, Jr. would like you to think before you shop—but not just about the oceans that three generations of his family have lovingly worked to protect. Think instead, he said, about yourself. "Bono said, 'Shopping is politics.' I wish I had come up with that," said Cousteau. "[Consumer issues are] one of the most important places we intersect with choices that make a difference—not just for the environment, but for our health, for our kids, and for our families."
Cousteau is upholding his family's legacy in research, conservation and exploration through his nonprofit foundation, EarthEcho International, and his work as a television host on Animal Planet and Planet Green. He and his sister are the hosts of Planet Green's month-long Blue August programming, which focuses on water conservation. But you don't have to have the last name Cousteau to protect our oceans. Philippe sat down with U.S. News to share five green things that his grandfather and father would have wanted everyday consumers to do to protect our oceans and planet.
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August 13, 2009
Like an empty bottle in a recycling bin, demand for bottled water appears to have drained: Both the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post are reporting that the country's largest seller of bottled water, Nestle, has reported a decline of almost 3 percent in its bottled water division (which includes Pellegrino, Poland Spring and Perrier and Deer Park) for the first half of the year. As usual, the recession is to blame.
But penny-pinching consumers who have discovered the money-saving benefits of reusable water bottles aren't the only source of the slowdown. Analysts also credit the decline to environmentalists' campaigns, such as Take Back the Tap and TapIt, to encourage consumers to avoid bottled water. Their encouragement has also led cities from Takoma Park, Md. to San Francisco to cut bottled water out of their budgets, to the tune of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just this week, the Guardian called out the BBC for spending more than $600,000 per year on bottled water.
If mainstream bottled water companies are struggling, that doesn't bode well for niche bottlers, who market pricier bottled waters as though they were rare vintages of wine (remember the water sommelier micro-trend? No?). Same goes for the opposite of the water sommelier, Tap'd NY, which bottles local New York City water straight from the tap.
Have you cut back on buying bottled water this year?
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August 10, 2009
The biggest deterrent to going green is, for most people, a simple matter of habit: We're used to doing things a certain way, and it's hard to break the pattern. That fact is among the findings of an American Psychological Association study of the reasons Americans are resistant to changing their behavior to become more environmentally-friendly, despite recognizing that climate change is a serious issue. The APA's study examined the psychological impacts and barriers of climate change, and found that several factors were to blame. Among them:
- Uncertainty – Research has shown that uncertainty over climate change reduces the frequency of "green" behavior.
- Mistrust – Evidence shows that most people don't believe the risk messages of scientists or government officials.
- Denial – A substantial minority of people believe climate change is not occurring or that human activity has little or nothing to do with it, according to various polls.
- Undervaluing Risks – A study of more than 3,000 people in 18 countries showed that many people believe environmental conditions will worsen in 25 years. While this may be true, this thinking could lead people to believe that changes can be made later.
- Lack of Control – People believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing.
- Habit – Ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change while others change slowly. Habit is the most important obstacle to pro-environment behavior, according to the report.
In other words, even though 75 percent to 80 percent of respondents in a Pew poll said that climate change is an important issue, indecision and shortsightedness are among the reasons that respondents ranked it last in a list of 20 important issues. But habit is deceptive—it seems to be the easiest to change, but may be the hardest. That's why there are campaigns designed to help people remember their reusable bottles in lieu of buying bottled water, as well as the entrepreneurs behind Bagnesia, a system of reminders to bring reusable bags to the store.
One classic way to break a bad habit is to provide an incentive. Saving money is one major motivation, and the design of various smart meters, which tell people how much they're spending on utilities as they go, has been successful in encouraging people to turn down the thermostat. Competition is also a powerful incentive, and other utility companies have pitted neighbors against one another in energy efficiency, with positive results. How would you break a bad environmental habit?
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August 4, 2009
The program was once derided as "Handouts for Hummers" by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins, who argued for stricter fuel-efficiency standards for the trade-ins. But Cash for Clunkers, the nickname for the Car Allowance Rebate System, has proved to be extremely popular, necessitating a $2 billion boost from Congress. And while some Democrats may have objected to the less stringent environmental rules, their fears may be assuaged. Says the New York Times:
The Transportation Department reported that of 120,000 rebate applications processed so far, the average gas mileage of cars being bought was 28.3 miles per gallon, for SUV’s 21.9 miles per gallon, and for trucks, 16.3 miles per gallon, all significantly higher than required to get a rebate.
“The statistics are much better than anybody dreamt they would be,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who, with Senator Susan M. Collins, Republican of Maine, was the author of an early version of a “cash for clunkers” bill that would have required bigger improvements. The actual mileage gain seen so far, she said was not due to the details of the law but “the good judgment of the American people.”