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November 29, 2015
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Mixed Greens

Turning the tide

I felt relief and gratitude last Friday when President Obama rejected the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. After years of debate about TransCanada’s proposed 1,179 mile pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands oil (also called bitumen or heavy sour crude) from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast, the President stated decisively that the project was not in the best interests of the U.S., either economically or environmentally.  Read more

Tricks and treats

Like a child’s haul of candy on Halloween, the environmental news over the past few months has been a mixed bag. First the treats, starting with the news that 36 companies around the world have pledged to transition to 100% renewable energy, some as soon as 2020. Last month nine additional companies took the pledge, including Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Proctor & Gamble and Starbucks. The pledge, called RE100, was introduced by The Climate Group, an international non-profit, to highlight the investment that forward-looking companies are making in addressing climate change.  Read more


Last month I finally found the time to visit Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1936 masterpiece in western Pennsylvania. I’ve been looking at pictures of this famous house since I was in my twenties, so I thought I knew what to expect and how I would feel about it. But, like many iconic places, this one defied my expectations and delivered a more complex and visceral experience than I had anticipated.  Read more

Styrene: The scary sequel

Last month I wrote about the environmental and health hazards associated with polystyrene food containers like coffee cups and clamshell boxes for takeout food. Dozens of U.S. cities have banned these containers because, in addition to creating a huge waste disposal problem, they allow styrene to migrate from the container into food.  Read more

Independence Day

New York City’s ban on polystyrene single-use food containers took effect July 1, just in time for Independence Day. The largest American city to enact a ban joined the ranks of San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle and more than 100 other municipalities, including our neighbors Ulster and Albany counties.  Read more

The more things change...

I’m enjoying a fascinating book by Bill Bryson called “At Home: A Short History of Private Life.” The home in question is a Victorian vicarage in southern England, which serves as Bryson’s springboard to explore the evolution of ideas, customs and technologies that affect daily life right down to our own time. For example, the chapter on the dining room explains the origins of the word “luncheon,”  Read more

Buyer beware

Over the past few weeks, American homeowners have learned that millions of square feet of laminated flooring manufactured in China and sold by Lumber Liquidators contain levels of formaldehyde many times higher than the safety standard set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a standard that will become federal law later this year.  Read more

Health, climate and poverty

I’m a long time allergy sufferer, and my sinuses serve as a barometer signaling changes in air pressure and as a weathervane announcing the arrival of exotic pollens borne on southerly winds. Moldy buildings activate an early-warning system of sneezes and watery eyes. Mold is a key long-term problem associated with the heavier rains and increased flooding caused by climate change, so I always listen up when the health impacts of global warming are discussed.  Read more

Dream house

I suppose most of us carry around a mental notion of the perfect house. I can’t remember a time when this idea wasn’t percolating somewhere in my consciousness, starting with childhood memories leafing through design magazines with my mother. We sketched numerous “perfect” houses over the years, just for fun, and exchanged photographs and floor plans, but I can’t recall that we ever thought about energy bills. Nowadays, I revisit the notion of the perfect house with my husband, especially during a tough winter.  Read more

Pondering ‘the public interest’

The PBS program NYNow created a furor last week with an opinion poll on the Constitution Pipeline that asked: “Should public interest override a private landowner’s control over their property?” As many outraged respondents noted, the premise of the question is seriously biased. Since the pipeline will perpetuate our reliance on fossil fuel and facilitate the export of natural gas for private profit, the assumption that it represents “the public interest” is highly debatable.  Read more

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