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November 24, 2009
What, exactly, is in your household cleaning products—and is it harmful for you and your family? Two recent bills aim to make the labeling of household products clearer and safer for families. Here's what you should know:
1. To sum it all up: "Each covered product introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce shall bear a label that states completely, accurately, and legibly all of the ingredients of such product."
2. Introduced over the summer, the Senate bill is the second by Sen. Al Franken. Said Franken:
"How many times have you heard on the news or read in the paper about a new drug or chemical that has been recently linked to health or environmental hazards? It happens all the time. An ingredient that a company claims is 'perfectly safe' today could be reclassified as 'dangerous' tomorrow. And an ingredient that is safe for most people could be a major irritant for a child with asthma. Eventually, I hope that manufacturers will take pre-emptive action and eliminate potentially harmful chemicals from their products. In the meantime, this legislation is a common sense step in the right direction."
3. The House bill has been introduced by Rep. Steve Israel, who said in a statement:
"Like big tobacco, the big chemical industry in American has gotten away with too much for too long. They’ve deprived us of basic information about the chemicals being used in our homes and workplaces, some of which are downright dangerous. The people who are the most at risk are the ones who spend all day with these chemicals at work and we can’t let big chemical take advantage of them anymore."
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November 19, 2009
It's time, once again, for Americans to give thanks and enjoy a bountiful meal. It's also a day to watch what you eat—and not just in regards to your waistline. The year 2009 was notable for an emphasis on greener, more sustainable eating, from the White House garden to the movie Food, Inc. Last Thanksgiving, I wrote about saving money, starting traditions, decoding turkey labels and defending your vegetarianism. Here are seven more money-saving tips for a green Thanksgiving.
1. Use a slow-cooker. Fall is the season for slow-simmered soups, so there's no better time to bust out the Crock Pot. As an added bonus, the slow-cooker is one of the most energy-efficient devices in the kitchen. According to Planet Green: "When compared to a conventional oven which uses 2.7 pounds of CO2 for one hour of use, a slow cooker uses .9 pounds of CO2 for seven hours of use." The Daily Green offers some slow-cooker Thanksgiving recipes here.
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November 13, 2009
Earlier this week, my colleague Matt Bandyk listed the 15 best cities for people who crave shorter commutes and less time in the car. And while, to most people, that means hopping on a train, bike, or bus, Matt was good enough to highlight arguably the most difficult of those options: walking. In many of the communities highlighted, residents get themselves to work in less than 20 minutes via the lowest-impact method of all: their own two feet. But they are a rarity. Our communities have been designed for cars, not pedestrians, so in many places, it's all but impossible to walk safely to work.
Transportation for America has issued a report on the safety and walkability of America's biggest cities, and some of their findings are cringe-worthy. In the past 15 years, more than 76,000 American pedestrians have been struck and killed on our roadways. Children, the elderly, and minorities are disproportionately affected. Transportation for America has developed a Pedestrian Danger Index that accounts for the pedestrian fatality rate of a metropolitan area weighted by the amount of residents who walk to work, since cities wth more pedestrians are likely to have higher fatality rates. The more pedestrian commuters in a city, the safer is it likely to be for them. Therefore, the cities with the fewest pedestrians and the highest fatality rates are considered the most deadly for these commuters.
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November 10, 2009
It's one of the first things you're taught in preschool: Sharing is caring. Be nice. A recent crop of sharing websites has proven that sharing is nice for the planet, too—not to mention our wallets. Think about it: Each website that hooks you up with a loaner dress, car, or tool will save you cash, eliminate needless purchases, and reduce waste. Check out these sites that help facilitate sharing.
Transportation: Zipcar is old news. For urbanites in Washington, D.C. (and soon, Boston), bike sharing is the new way residents are getting from point A to point B cheaply and healthily. Like car sharing, anyone can pay for a membership and can pick up bikes at depots scattered throughout a city—Washington's year-old system has more than 10 ports. Bike sharing is picking up speed: D.C.'s program is receiving extra funding for more stations and bikes, and unlike European bike-shares, the system has had few incidents of theft or vandalism.
Office space: Small business owners or solo entrepreneurs need not toil away in solitude from a home office. The practice of coworking allows individuals and small businesses to share office space, and with it, resources like copiers and printers. Many who cowork love the collaborative aspect of it—sharing space, and also ideas. EcoSalon recommends this site as a resource for finding a coworking space near you.
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November 5, 2009
People who care about the environment are often people who also care about animals—the kind of folks who take in stray cats and adopt shelter dogs, driving them home in a Prius. But over the past month, the tide of green opinions seems to have turned against those sweet-faced puppies and kittens, which some environmentalists view as a waste of precious resources. Instead of having a pet, you may as well get an SUV.
Much of the impetus for this anti-pet sentiment comes from Robert and Brenda Vale, scientists and authors of “Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living.” In it, the Vales argue that cats and dogs consume resources, devastate wildlife populations, and contribute to pollution and the spread of disease. Thanks to their calculations, we get this graphic from New Scientist, which displays the footprints (pawprints?) of hamsters, cats, large and medium-sized dogs, a Toyota Land Cruiser, and a Volkswagen Golf. As you can imagine, you're better off seeking companionship with rodents, based on the amount of resources they consume. Cats are second best, but owning either of the vehicles is better than having a dog—mostly for the amount of meat they consume. Also unnerving is this chart from Wired, which displays the amount of land required to produce food for all of the pets in America, versus land needed for enough solar panels to power the whole country. Turns out, feeding Fido takes up 17 times more land than meeting our entire electricity demand.