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August 23, 2014
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On the brink

Recently, my husband and I indulged in a spate of Masterpiece Theater and BBC mini-series (I call them high-class soap operas), spurred on by our earlier delight with “Cranford” and “Downton Abbey.” We’ve since hunkered down for marathon sessions of Dickens’ “Bleak House” and “Little Dorrit,” as well as the 2002 version of “The Forsythe Saga.”  Read more

Beyond befuddlement

Now that spring is upon us and we’re ready to don lightweight fabrics, I researched bamboo as an alternative to environmentally unfriendly cotton. What I discovered reinforced the fact that it’s often really, really befuddling to make sustainable choices.  Read more

Hemp

In last month’s column, I wrote about the good news and bad news regarding recycled polar fleece. I also mentioned that cotton acreage covers 2.5 percent of our planet’s cultivated land, yet uses more insecticides than any other single major crop.  Read more

Fleeced

I was encouraged when in I read Susan Freinkel’s book, “Plastics: A Toxic Love Story,” that manufacturers of polar fleece garments, such as Patagonia, REI and The North Face, are hungry for recycled PET plastic bottles. They prefer to make fleece from cheaper recycled bottles rather than using more expensive virgin polyester made from our dwindling supply of petroleum. It takes about 25 recycled bottles, otherwise whisked away to a landfill, to make one garment. (If the label doesn’t say the garment is made from recycled fleece, it’s not.)  Read more

Happy Winter?

Count me among the odd for (at least) two reasons. First, I like winter. I like the cold and the snow and the way the trees sparkle with ice like stars in the night sky. I like the briskness and the brilliance of it.

Second, I like reading books that would send shivers down other people’s spines. Not horror stories, but nonfiction that delineates with excruciating details all the ways in which our planet is doomed. Books so upsetting that I can sometimes read only a few pages of agonizing truths before I have to run for cover in more pleasant pursuits like poetry or a walk in the woods.  Read more

Let's review

Way back in August 2007, members of the The River Reporter editorial staff asked me to write a sustainability column. I felt woefully unqualified. What did I know about environmental issues? But I plunged in, viewing it as an opportunity.

I have learned a great deal, and gradually made lifestyle changes, none of which have caused hardship or sacrifice. In fact, simplifying my life seems to have enhanced it.  Read more

We have the power

A few weeks ago on WJFF’s broadcast of “Alternative Radio,” I heard Paul Cienfuegos, a community organizer for over 30 years, deliver a speech he titled “We the People.”  Read more

DIY clean

A friend sent me an article regarding laundry detergents that claim to be “green” and “natural,” even though these particular products are anything but good for the environment.  Read more

That’s absurd

I am writing this a few days after Irene left town. Nearly twice the size of a typical hurricane on August 26, she joins nine others weather disasters so far this year that have each caused one billion dollars in damages and 589 deaths. The New York Times called Irene “one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in the nation’s history.”  Read more

Going forward to the past

Last month I promised that in this month’s column I would write on update on my No Car Week experience.

I began my driving moratorium in the middle of July’s alarming, record-breaking heat wave, a perfect time to stay put in our tree-sheltered house, which is at least 10 degrees cooler than life on the road. Between cool showers, running cold water over my wrists and lying under the ceiling fan, I write, read and try to muster energy to make iced tea.  Read more