Weekend Review: Vegetarian Wednesdays Blog

This local blog first came to my attention via an article in the local paper about a University of Michigan medical student and his daughter who are operating a blog together that is encouraging people to eat vegetarian meals one day a week (on Wednesdays). The Vegetarian Wednesday blog began just this past summer. Originally founded by Josh Mugele and his daughter Eleanor, there are now a few other writers (relatives and med school classmates) who contribute to the blog as well.

"Vegetarian Wednesday started when my daughter wanted to become a vegetarian but couldn’t do it all at once (she loves her chicken nuggets). I told her I’d help her by doing it with her, and we’d start by becoming vegetarians one day a week. Thus was born Vegetarian Wednesday. She wants to become a vegetarian because she loves animals. I want to do it because it’s good for me and good for the planet. Did you know that the meat industry is one of the leading contributors to global warming in the world? Did you know that eating less meat lowers your weight and total cholesterol? Think of what we could do if we all stopped eating meat for just one day a week.

"The purpose of this blog is to encourage meat-eaters like me to make a difference in their health and in the health of the planet by trying to eat no meat one day each week. On this blog we can share recipes, stories about Vegetarian Wednesdays, and most of all spread the word."

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Green Building Elements: Warmboard

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<img src="/files/111/warmboard.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="194" align="top" />
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Radiant heating is a popular option in green buildings. Many green buildings feature it because it is a more efficient, and more comfortable, method of heating. If a building doesn't require air conditioning, it may be possible to eliminate ductwork altogether, or at least use a much smaller system that is sized for air conditioning. And even in buildings where air handling is still necessary, the systems that push the air around can be run less frequently because they are needed only to provide fresh air, and don't need to take care of the heating as well. Radiant heating systems don't cause the air to be dried out in the same manner that heated forced-air systems tend to do. Most of all, radiant heating is comfortable because it is warmest at floor level and slightly cooler at higher levels, matching the human desire for warmth for the feet, and less for the head.
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A recent <a href="http://jetsongreen.typepad.com/jetson_green/2007/09/solar-decathlon.html">blog post by Jetson Green about the National Solar Decathalon</a> reminded me of an intriguing product that can be used for in-floor radiant heat systems. Warmboard is a specialty subflooring for use in radiant-heated buildings that doesn't require a concrete slab to embed the radiant tubing. This makes it especially useful for multi-story buildings where a concrete slab floor may be less desirable. Warmboard is much lighter than a corresponding concrete slab, meaning that less structural material is needed to support the floor. It also does not need curing time, unlike a concrete slab, which is another factor that makes it appealing for use with modular and pre-fab construction. <br />
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<a href="http://www.warmboard.com/">Warmboard</a> is a plywood material that is slightly thicker than typical subflooring plywood. It has regular channels cut into it that the radiant heating system tubing can be laid into. On top of this, an aluminum plate is formed to the surface, providing a transfer surface to uniformly distribute the heat from the tubing across the floor.</p>

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Weekly DIY: Green Roofed Dog Veranda

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<img src="/files/111/doghouse_MEDIUM.jpg" alt="" width="267" height="200" align="right" />We noted a few weeks ago that Instructables, in conjunction with TreeHugger, was holding a <a href="http://www.instructables.com/blog/BSQXL28F5QTHVUT/">Go Green! Design contest</a>. We wanted to feature some of the DIY projects here on Green Options as well. We won't necessarily be featuring the winners, nor will we be spelling out the steps of the projects (after all, that's what the <a href="http://www.instructables.com/">Instructables</a> site is for). But we want to spotlight some of these wonderfully inventive green projects.<br />
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User &quot;<a href="http://www.instructables.com/member/Tool+Using+Animal/">Tool Using Animal</a>&quot; created a '<a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/EQU3EMKF5HVTD3D/">Green Roofed Dog Veranda</a>' that we were immediately drawn to as a project we wanted to feature on Green Options. While this wasn't the overall contest winner, vegetated roofs (or green roofs) are a regular feature in some green buildings (and even more green building discussions).<br />
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Green roofed structures are appealing to many people, but they aren't necessarily willing to take on putting one on their own home without more information. So there are growing numbers of green roofed doghouses and green roofed garden sheds and green roofed garages as people who are interested in green roofs try them out in less vital places where they have an opportunity to try it and see without putting their personal comfort at great risk.
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This project doesn't require any special materials or skills beyond those necessary for some of our other projects. A hammer and a saw and a few other woodworking tools are about all that is needed.</p>

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Green Building Elements: Better Partition Walls

Architect Magazine

Construction, as many of you know by now, is one of the biggest single sources for waste and may be responsible for as much as 30% of the volume used in some landfills. And, because commercial space is turned over more frequently, the interior build-out of office space is one of the biggest sources of construction debris and waste. As companies change their staff, the space they occupy fluctuates, and often old spaces are torn out and new spaces built with different configurations.

Since the spaces in an office are not part of the structure (in most cases), the walls that divide offices and meeting rooms can be relatively quickly disassembled and rebuilt in a new configuration without affecting the building structure. This flexibility appeals to building owners and tenants alike, because space can be easily customized to meet the particular needs of any tenant. But it leads to an awful lot of waste, as well.

A new system of wall construction devised by Sean Dorsy, a graduate architecture student at The Catholic University of America, uses standard 4 x 8 sheets of plywood cut with slots so that the panel can be unfolded like an accordion to make a wall structure to replace standard stud construction.

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When Green Building Isn't Helpful

<img src="/files/111/audubonhouse.jpg" alt="Audubon House" width="288" height="400" align="right" />In this past weekend's local newspaper's Real Estate Section I saw an article with a number of &quot;award winning&quot; homes, including a 5 bedroom, 6,400 square foot house that was touted as the winner of a green building award. The principal basis for its green claim appeared to be that it was an Energy Star home.<br />
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A generation ago, that much square footage would have built a comfortable four-plex in which four families would have lived. Today, it is likely that this house will be occupied by a family of four.<br />
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To be truly green, the house cannot be thought of as a mere building whose impacts on the world stop three feet out from the face of the outside walls, but must take into consideration the impacts of the resources that will be consumed by dwelling in the house, as well. Life cycle, manner of use, and supporting infrastructure required are also matters that need to be examined.<br />
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The Audubon Society built one of the first explicitly green buildings in the country when they built a new headquarters building for themselves in the early 1990s. Rather than building a new structure on a greenfield site surrounded by trees and a lush lawn, they instead chose to renovate an existing 19th century building in downtown New York City. This choice allowed the use of existing infrastructure for building services and transportation, as well as the recycling of an existing structure and the savings of thousands of tons of material.<br />
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A new house built out in the exurbs quickly outweighs any green benefits it may have with the miles of roads that are built to reach the house and connect it to the existing grid of roads. The miles of travel required to travel between this house and the stores, workplaces and other places its inhabitants must go to quickly offset any potential benefits of greener construction for the house itself.

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Weekend Review: The World at Home: A Household Guide to Building

<img src="/files/111/CECcover.jpg" alt="" width="280" height="360" align="right" /><br />
<em>The World at Home: A Household Guide to Building</em> was produced by the <a href="http://www.cectoxic.org/">Citizens Environmental Coalition</a>, a non-profit environmental advocacy group based in Albany, NY. This is something between a book review and a website review, because this <a href="http://www.cectoxic.org/cec-greendg.pdf">book is actually a 100 page PDF</a> that is free for download. It is filled with good information about greening your house, particularly for remodeling or new construction. While it is full of good information, it is not overwhelmingly detailed or complicated. It is a well-balanced guide that covers its material with sufficient detail, but at the same time without becoming overly technical. <br />
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The guide is timely and up to date. (This is actually a recently revised second edition of the guide. The first edition was produced in 2004.) In discussing various materials or approaches to construction, the guide is very comprehensive in trying to include as many things as possible. Both the positives and the negatives behind each choice are addressed, and while the information is not exhaustive, it is an excellent starting point.<br />
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&quot;This guide is meant to enable you to compare building materials and make your own educated choices to affordably seek out safer, more sustainable products. It is also meant to help you evaluate the larger life cycle implications of all the products that you buy and use.&quot;<br />
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A section on &quot;<a href="http://www.cectoxic.org/buildgreen/talk.html">Talking with your Designer and Contractor about Building Green</a>&quot; is one of a number of sections that is excerpted on the website as well. This section approaches the beginning of a project in much the same way that I would: by asking questions. This helps to direct in figuring out your particular green goals and determining what is most important for you in terms of Energy and Water, materials and Toxins, and Space Use, Appearance and Purpose. It also addresses the (unfortunately all-too-frequent) view of green building as an add-on or a commodity, rather than as a fundamental and integral part of any building project.

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LEED Gold Costs an Extra… Nothing

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<img src="/files/111/sg3a.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="158" align="right" />Advocates of green building, and specifically of the US Green Building Council's (USGBC) <a href="/2007/01/03/concrete_jungle_getting_greener">LEED program</a>, have maintained that green building does not have to mean extra cost. An exceptional case for this argument is found in a recently completed multi-purpose university building. The less-than-poetically named <a href="http://www.shadygrove.umd.edu/about/SGIII/">Education Building III</a> (SG III) at the University of Maryland's Shady Grove campus was built with the intent of attaining LEED Silver certification and ended up being certified as LEED Gold, but <a href="http://www.edcmag.com/CDA/Articles/Web_Exclusive/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000092336">without an increase in the budget</a>.<br />
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The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is a collaborative effort by eight institutions in the University System of Maryland, begun in 2000. Due to its popularity and convenience, the demand for classes and services at the Shady Grove location grew quickly and necessitated the construction of a new, multi-purpose building with classrooms and services.</p>

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Weekly DIY: Instructables 'Go Green' Contest

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<img src="/files/111/FLGINRLF46WOFZA_MEDIUM.jpg" alt="" width="250" height="250" align="right" /><br />
Instructables.com is currently holding a 'Go Green' contest for green projects. The contest is being co-sponsored by <a href="http://www.popsci.com/popsci/"><em>Popular Science</em></a> and <a href="http://www.treehugger.com">Treehugger</a>. Prizes include a hybrid commuter bicycle, subscriptions to Popular Science, and T-shirts (what contest doesn't have T-shirts as prizes?). Full details and <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/EERH1BLF40F7ELU?ALLSTEPS">guidelines for the contest</a> can be found at the Instructables site.<br />
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If you aren't already familiar with it, <a href="http://www.instructables.com/">Instructables</a> is a website that offers step-by-step instructions on creating all kinds of DIY projects, ranging from relatively easy crafts to complicated robotics projects. While they are focusing on green projects for this current contest, they regularly have all manner of do-it-yourself projects. The site's focus is on not just making things, but on showing other people how to make the cool things you have made, and how you did it.
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There are many <a href="http://www.instructables.com/tag/keyword:green">green projects</a> on the Instructables site, beyond those that are already <a href="http://www.instructables.com/group/gogreen/?show=instructables&amp;sort=PUBLISHED&amp;limit=500">entries in the current 'Go Green' contest</a>. Anything that you can create, and more importantly, that you can show someone else how to create, is a candidate for this contest:
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&quot;You can <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/E86165FIENERIE2PV6/">reuse vintage floppies</a>, make your own <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/E7MAWRPF2FRVA89/">cloth grocery bags</a>, build some <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/EE28IW9UQ5ES84ILEL/">recycled modular shelving</a>, a <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/E3UXT5HGT7EUOJJIYE/">sun jar</a>, a <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/EMU06ULZ1MEY95WRNU/">solar heater</a>, or a <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/E0T6AVT19OEP286NG5/">wind generator</a>. Move onto <a href="http://www.instructables.com/group/solarenergy/?show=instructables&amp;sort=PUBLISHED&amp;limit=500">solar energy</a>, <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/EHII4ZKZN5EPH67CKF/">worm compost</a>, or even ditch your car for an <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/EI5NYF6F0R12WA0/">electric bike</a>!<br />
Need more ideas? Check out <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/">TreeHugger's</a> great list of <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/gogreen.php">simple ways to Go Green</a>, and the <a href="http://popsci.com/future_enviro/index.html">green coverage on PopSci</a>.<br />
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&quot;So, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, and rebuild, then show us what <em>you</em> are doing to make your life a little bit greener!&quot;<br />
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The contest is open through August 19, 2007. If you have submitted an entry to the contest, be sure to let us know about it in the comments. </p>

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Fear of a Green House

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<img src="/files/4/sunsetbreezehouse.jpg" alt="" width="240" height="120" align="right" />&quot;Greenfear&quot; is a term I first recently came across in an article on The Daily Green: '<em><a href="http://www.thedailygreen.com/2007/07/25/want-to-build-green-your-neighbors-may-try-to-block-you-is-it-greenfear/4303/">Building Green? Your Neighbors May Block You. Is It Greenfear?</a></em>' The premise is that people are afraid of new and green technologies, and that they will act to block it. In this particular case, a couple in Marin, California wanted to build a house with a number of green features. Neighbors raised objections that &quot;the modernist home would severely clash with the more traditional feel of the neighborhood. Some dubbed it 'trailer like.' A petition against the home was launched.&quot;<br />
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While the green elements of the design may not have endeared the plan to the neighbors, the objections seem less about the fact the house was incorporating green technologies and more about just the appearance being out of character with the rest of the neighborhood. In this particular case, the house in question is a rather attractive, contemporary, modular home. It includes such green features as &quot;solar panels, recycled materials and a living 'green' roof.&quot; But, it is more likely that the resistance against this house was based on its general appearance, rather than specifically wanting to prevent a house from having the green features that its owners wanted.
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Roll Your Own RECs

<img src="/files/111/wind-sun.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="225" align="right" /><br />
Last week I wrote an article titled &quot;<a href="/2007/07/26/real_renewable_energy_vs_renewable_energy_credits">Real Renewable Energy vs. Renewable Energy Credits</a>&quot; where I looked at the issue of <a href="/guide/renewable_energy_credits_rec">renewable energy credits (RECs)</a> versus direct purchase of renewable energy. (For some followup to that story, a <a href="http://www.wdetfm.org/rss/archives/listen.php?show=1&amp;date=1186113600">podcast</a> of the WDET radio program 'Detroit Today' where the issue of the local REC program was discussed is now online. In addition to discussing the DTE Greencurrents program, the Austin (TX) green energy program was also explored and compared with the REC program.)<br />
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While buying renewable energy credits helps to support the development of alternative energy solutions, many times these programs are not specifically local. The credits you are buying may be for energy produced in a different region entirely. If part of your goal in purchasing RECs is to support and encourage the development of local renewable energy, then a generic REC may not be what you want.<br />
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The state of Michigan has recently started a new <a href="http://www.michigan.gov/cis/0,1607,7-154-25676_25774-170154–,00.html">program called MI-REX</a> (Michigan Renewable Energy Exchange), which is intended to bring together people interested in purchasing renewable energy credits with the owners of small renewable energy systems who have credits to offer. At this point the program is just in a pilot phase, and no RECs have been sold yet. The state website has an application form to gather more information about the systems people would like to register and offer credits.

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Green Building Tour: FCNL Building

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<img src="http://www.fcnl.org/images/building/building_lg1.jpg" alt="FCNL" width="333" height="222" align="right" />Although there is a growing push for incresing sustainability for buildings, our nation's capital is lagging behind other cities when it comes to green buildings. Though there are over <a href="http://www.usgbc.org/LEED/Project/CertifiedProjectList.aspx?CMSPageID=244&amp;CategoryID=19&amp;">600 LEED certified buildings nationwide</a>, only 6 of them are in Washington DC.
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The <a href="http://www.fcnl.org/index.htm">Friends Committee on National Legislation</a> is a Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC. Their building is the first &quot;green&quot; building on Capitol Hill. The building received <a href="http://www.fcnl.org/press/releases/green_building071307.htm">bipartisan congressional recognition</a> at an event last week. They are anticipating LEED certification (which normally takes a few months after the building is substantially completed), and the building has already received other accolades, including the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarding a presidential Citation for Sustainable Design.
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Is There a Perfect Green?

<img src="/files/images/need-glass_0.jpg" border="0" alt="Alesina Design" width="207" height="270" />Image: Alesina DesignHow much is enough? How much is too much? How do you figure out whether something is what you need or just something you want? Should you switch out your incandesent light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs now, or should you wait for a better option that doesn't contain mercury? <br /><br />CBC Radio producer Richard Handler wrote a very engaging article a couple of months ago that took a look at the idea of perfection (<a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/vp_handler/20070519.html">&quot;Facing up to imperfection&quot;</a>). He starts with men's razors (are five blades really necessary for shaving?) and ends up at the philosophy of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derrida">Jacques Derrida</a> in a one page essay. He cites Barry Schwartz, author of <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&amp;location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FParadox-Choice-Why-More-Less%2Fdp%2F0060005696%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1184171507%26sr%3D1-1&amp;tag=greeopti-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325">The Paradox of Choice</a><img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=greeopti-20&amp;l=ur2&amp;o=1" border="0" width="1" height="1" /></em>, about how we make some of these decisions:<br /><br /><blockquote>Schwartz recounts how he used to walk into a Gap and spend a couple of minutes buying an ill-fitting pair of jeans. Now he spends an hour or so trying on all the different kinds. The jeans he purchases fit much better, but he feels much worse about the entire experience.<br /><br />So, yes, choice is good — but up to a point.<br /><br />Schwartz divides consumers into two categories: Maximizers and satisficers.<br /><br />Maximizers want to make the right decision, every time. They want the best, most perfect pair of jeans offered. They drive themselves crazy.<br /><br />Who hasn't felt these fits of indecision when faced with 25 varieties of off-white paint or 100 different styles of kitchen tile?<br /><br />But satisficers buy merely what is &quot;good enough.&quot; What that means, for each person, well, that's the problem. But the take-home message is this: The perfect pair of jeans (or job or plasma TV) doesn't necessarily lead to the perfect life.</blockquote><p></p>

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New Lighting Technology?

<p><br /><img src="/files/images/Ceravision1_72-080207_0.jpg" width="300" height="170" alt="Image courtesy of Global Witness" />We've all heard about how much better compact fluorescent lights (CFL) are over incandescent bulbs for most general lighting tasks. The articles about LED lights are interesting, although there aren't readily available, affordable LED replacements for ordinary lighting purposes. But recently, I've seen some discussion about a new light source that has some interesting features. The <a href="http://www.ceravision.com/technology-introduction-2.html">Ceravision</a> light contains no mercury (the biggest drawback in compact fluorescents), and is highly efficient in producing light (the biggest drawback with incandescent lights).<br /><br />Hank Green over at <a href="http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/736/">EcoGeek</a> first brought the Ceravision light source to my attention last week. And since then, I've seen some <a href="http://www.blog.thesietch.org/2007/06/24/a-light-bulb-that-lasts-forever/#more-2152">other writers</a> <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/06/never_ending_li.php">picking up on it</a> as well. The technology behind it is interesting. It is not a new breakthrough so much as it is a development of existing technologies:</p><p></p>

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Weekend Book Review: The Rough Guide to Shopping with a Conscience

<p><img src="/files/images/rough_0.jpg" border="0" width="240" height="369" />There are layers upon layers of complex issues to be faced when one deals with a question of grave importance such as, &quot;What coffee should I buy this morning?&quot; Ethics are hard to keep straight when so much of the information about a product is a mix of marketing, spin, and carefully crafted image. The truth is often well concealed (and usually deliberately so). To be a conscientious consumer is not easy, with the marketplace stacked against any revelation of the truth the way that it is.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&amp;location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FRough-Guide-Shopping-Conscience-Reference%2Fdp%2F1843537249%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1182012181%26sr%3D1-1&amp;tag=greeopti-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325">The Rough Guide to Shopping with a Conscience</a><img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=greeopti-20&amp;l=ur2&amp;o=1" border="0" width="1" height="1" /></em> looks to provide some guidance for getting behind the layers of obfuscation and presents the issues that need to be considered in many of these decisions. The book is divided into three parts. Part I: <em>Issues</em> lays out the alternatives and some of the standards for ethical decisions. Part II: <em>Products &amp; companies</em> goes through different categories in more detail. And Part III: <em>Find out more</em> deals briefly with sources for further information.<br /><br />The <em>Issues</em> section looks at five approaches to ethical decisionmaking: Going green, Fair trade, Boycotts, Selective shopping, and Buying locally. The authors recognize the complexities in all of these issues, and point out the (sometimes conflicting and contradictory) arguments that can be made about deciding one way or another. In most circumstances, they lay out the different viewpoints, but do not offer any definitive answer, because no such solution exists.</p>

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ChallengeX – GM Supports Alternative Vehicle Research

<p><br /><img src="/files/images/gm%20012_0.jpg" border="0" alt="Terrence Williams from UC-Davis (Team Fate) plug-in hybrid" width="240" height="320" /><strong>Terrence Williams from UC-Davis (Team Fate) plug-in hybrid</strong>I had the opportunity last week to visit General Motors' headquarters in downtown Detroit for an event with the <a href="http://www.challengex.org/">ChallengeX</a> program. ChallengeX is a program co-sponsored by GM and the US Department of Energy. Teams from universities across the US (and one from Canada) were given a stock Chevrolet Equinox to use as the base vehicle platform and were challenged to improve its efficiency and reduce its fuel use. &quot;Seventeen teams have been challenged to re-engineer a GM Equinox, a crossover sport utility vehicle to minimize energy consumption, emissions, and greenhouse gases while maintaining or exceeding the vehicle's utility and performance.&quot;<br /><br />This is a multi-year program, which has already gone through two years of evaluations and awards. And, while the initial information I had about the program was that this was the conclusion of the challenge, I learned that there is going to be a fourth year to the program, which will focus on consumer acceptability issues.<br /><br />The top three programs for this year's competition were Mississipi State (1st place), University of Wisconsin (2nd place), and Virginia Tech (3rd place). The vehicles went through a multi-day testing at GM's proving grounds, and were judged on numerous criteria. More information about the ChallengeX results can be found on <a href="http://fyi.gmblogs.com/2007/06/challenge_x_comes_to_completio.html">GM's FYI blog</a>.</p>

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Save the Books

Kansas City StarPhoto Credit: Kansas City StarA bookstore in Kansas City has a huge glut of books in its warehouse. There are books that have gone unsold for more than a decade. Copies of books that had huge print runs, but now no one wants. Books that are decades old. Books that are in foreign languages. And, unfortunately for the store's owner, books that are not selling.

The owner has decided that the best way of dealing with this problem is to burn the books. So he loaded up a cauldron in front of his store and burned a pile of books in what he saw as a protest against what he sees as, "society's diminishing support for the printed word." But this isn't necessary at all, there are a number of online services that facilitate the exchange of books (as well as a range of other things). One of these, Paperback Swap, has begun an online petition to save the books and is offering to collect all the books from the store's warehouse, and then distribute them to people for free on a road trip from Kansas City to the company's hometown of Atlanta. This seems to be a much greener way of dealing with the glut.

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Weekly DIY: Pedal-Powered Clothes Washer

<p><img src="/files/images/saladspinner.jpg" border="0" alt="Homeless Dave" width="240" height="195" />Image Credit: Homeless DaveSome people looking to reduce their home power use may be interested in alternatives to the typical clothes washer and dryer. While the washer and dryer aren't the appliance with the biggest energy budget in the typical household (that distinction belongs to the refrigerator), an opportunity to save energy here may be something to consider. </p><p>The dryer is the easy part. A clothesline is about the simplest, cheapest alternative to a clothes dryer you can find. But the washer is harder. Hand-washing clothes is a difficult task. And wringer washers are a hand-operated option, but they aren't very efficient. A bicycle powered clothes washer is a more efficient, and much more ambitious project. While it's not likely that most of you will rush out to build one of these for yourselves, it offers a wonderful insight into how far you can take DIY if you are inclined to.</p><p>The pedal-powered washer was designed and built by <a href="http://www.homelessdave.com/abouttt.htm">Homeless Dave</a> (who is not really homeless, but whose real name <em>is</em> Dave), a local advocate for community and for human-powered tools in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His website, <a href="http://www.homelessdave.com/totterhome.htm">Teeter Talk</a>, features interviews with &quot;folks from Ann Arbor … Detroit … and beyond&quot; which are conducted on a teeter-totter in his back yard.</p>

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Is Green Building an Oxymoron?

<p><a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f"><img src="/files/images/greenenvy_0.jpg" border="0" alt="San Francisco Chronicle" width="200" height="200" /></a>Image credit: <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em>An opinion article by Jane Powell in the <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em> titled '<a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/13/CMGA7PCMDH1.DTL">Green Envy</a>' begins by saying, &quot;'Green building' is the feel-good trend of the moment. Cities stipulate it, builders market it and home buyers supposedly demand it. Who could be against it? It's the panacea that will combat global warming, prevent sprawl, revitalize our downtowns, contribute to the region's economic growth and keep California on the leading edge,&quot; and goes on to declare, &quot;'Green building' is an oxymoron.&quot; <br /><br />I have a different opinion about green building. I spent all day yesterday attending a USGBC Technical Training Seminar, in order to become a LEED-accredited professional. To dismiss all green building as an oxymoron overlooks much of the good that is involved. Green building is not an oxymoron. Green building is taking steps for real change, improving the performance of buildings, and establishing methods for construction of buildings that will improve the spaces where we spend as much as 90% of our lives.</p>

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