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January 27, 2010
Apple's game-changing iPad, unveiled today, has both techies and green bloggers starry-eyed - the latter because the company is keeping it green for the new touch-screen device.
Here are some of the green features for the iPad: It's BPR-free, PVC-free, has arsenic-free display glass, a mercury-free LCD display, and a glass and aluminum enclosure that is highly recyclable. That gives the device relatively the same eco-cred as the MacBook Air. The device will also feature a 10-hour battery life, and more than a month of standby battery capacity, meaning it will hold charge after long periods of inactivity.
So far, so good. But Martin LaMonica of CNET rightfully points out that these measures only go so far - the rest is up to users. New product launches put techies on an Sisyphean quest for the newest gadget, but that means a constant cycle of replacing still-working technology. And what happens to those old netbooks that will be discarded in favor of an iPad? Chances are, they won't be recycled properly, and will sit in a drawer or box somewhere for a decade before ending up in a landfill. There, they'll leach toxic chemicals into groundwater. Though the iPad may contain fewer harmful chemicals, the device's longevity matters: the more often it has to be replaced, the more resources it will consume.
The iPad's iBooks application puts it in direct competition with e-readers like the Kindle and Nook. E-readers cut down on the amount of resources used in book production, offsetting the gadget's own emissions after one year of use, according to a study by the Cleantech Group. Recycling rates for paper are much higher than they are for electronics, though. But the iPad is more than just an e-reader, so it would presumably displace the purchase of additional mobile gaming, music and video devices, as well as books.
Of course, none of this matters to the most die-hard Apple fans, who are clamoring to get their hands on an iPad, green or not. If you're one of them, and have an old computer that you'll subsequently retire, here's how you can recycle it responsibly - and some earn some cash for it, too.
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January 22, 2010
You wouldn't eat a panda burger. If you saw rhino nuggets on a menu, you'd probably be appalled. But many fine-dining restaurants serve up endangered and threatened species, and you may have even eaten one without knowing it. It's not steakhouses or bistros flaunting their lack of environmental ethics, but rather, seafood and sushi restaurants. There, you'll find critically endangered species of tuna, eel and other fish on the menu - and that's what one British journalist is trying to change.
Charles Clover, a reporter for the Telegraph, is the author of The End of the Line, a book that details our bleak future if we continue to overfish our oceans. Many of the fish we eat today are on the verge of total collapse - some are already there - and experts in predict that if we do not modify our fishing practices, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048. A documentary based on Clover's book made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival last year featuring scientists, fisherman and industry whistleblowers. It also featured Clover's lengthy quest to talk to the restaurateurs of upscale sushi chain Nobu about the endangered bluefin tuna they serve at their restaurants worldwide.
A year later, Clover has launched Fish2Fork, a sustainable seafood dining guide that rates restaurants not just on their food, but on the environmental ethics of their menus. Clover has ranked a limited sample of top seafood restaurants in the U.S. and the U.K. on factors that include the species and sourcing of their food, their transparency, and their sustainability policy, or lack thereof. Restaurants were rated on a scale of red and blue fish, with five blue fish representing the highest score, and five red fish representing the worst score.
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January 8, 2010
Last year, green bloggers seemed excited that the Consumer Electronics Show was trying to be more environmentally-friendly. It appears that their tone for 2010 has changed. Treehugger titled a post "Consumer Electronics Show 2010: A Steaming Pile of Hypocrisy?" On the Huffington Post, blogger Robert J. Elis noted that the press room was no longer giving out notebooks to save paper. "This is the Consumer ELECTRONICS Show -- the place is loaded with ELECTRONICS. Everywhere. You're bombarded by ELECTRONICS. Electricity, batteries, flashing lights, electronics, electronics, electronics are coming out of every year. And they're "going green" by eliminating paper?? I don't think so."
He certainly has a point. But there's plenty of green to go around at CES, from the innovative to the ire-inducing greenwashing. A few highlights:
- Pay more attention to Nokia products when you're looking for a green gadget. According to Greenpeace, Nokia ranks the highest in their Guide to Greener Electronics, ahead of the pack for their elimination of many toxic chemicals in products, despite a weak recycling record. Greenpeace ranked Nintendo and Microsoft at the bottom.
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January 4, 2010
The Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday about the numerous benefits of working from home, which I'll reiterate here: saving money on transportation, having a more relaxed work environment with flexible hours, getting a tax-write off, and working in your pajamas, of course. But they neglected to mention that working from home is good for the environment, as well.
It's something that I discussed with Christine Esposito, president of Terracom Public Relations, for an article about saving money by going green in our upcoming personal finance magazine issue. Christine moved her business into her home, and estimates that she saves several thousand dollars a year as a result. She no longer has to worry about a commute in Chicago's snowy winters. She saves money on gas, and has shrunk her carbon footprint. She's found the practice to be especially good for her green PR firm.
"If you're a green business in particular, it not only saves you money but supports your green brand," said Esposito. "It's one way to walk your green talk." Esposito said that working from home can feel isolated at times, but loving the space that she's created for her office—which is on a separate floor from the living space in her home—and the time and money she saves makes it all worthwhile.
You don't have to be an entrepreneur to work from home and reap financial and environmental benefits. It's easy to stay connected to your office through conference calls, webcams, and frequent email check-ins. If you have a traditional office job and are worried about losing touch with your office, you might consider asking you boss for permission to work from home only one or two days a week. If you're an entrepreneur, or self-employed, and worried about the price of outfitting your home with expensive equipment, consider coworking, an office-sharing arrangement.