Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
June 29th, 2008
As I waited in line on opening night on Friday to see Wall-E, I thought it would be something of a robotic version of Nemo. Having loved Nemo, I was excited to detach from my work-week stress load and calmly watch the movie.
Little did I know I was in for one of the most moving, gorgeous, and dare I say “important” movie experiences I have had for a long, long while. This movie is a blatant and powerful indictment of our environmental destruction, and it is also a completely entertaining and warm love story. I humbly encourage everyone to see it.
**While this will be a glowing review, please scroll down to read my two complaints about the film as well.
Wall-E is the last remaining trash-collecting robot left on an abandoned planet Earth. He roams the smoggy, trash-covered landscape of our destroyed planet, crushing refuse and hanging out with his only friend, a plucky cockroach. But Wall-E has a video of Hello Dolly that he watches on endless loop, and he longs for something more: singing, dancing, and inter-personal (or inter-machine) contact. In short, he is love-sick.
Where have all the humans gone? We learn that they were forced to flee their dying planet over 700 years ago in a huge space-craft called The Axiom. On the ship they have become obese, immobile blob-beings who can only sit in their spaceship deck chairs and consume what is shown to them on their personal video monitors. The scenes on the Axiom are scarily reminiscent of present-day Las Vegas: the over-fed humans are detached from their daily cares and are free to sit on their backsides, consume, and be constantly entertained.
I won’t spoil the plot for you, but let’s just say that a beguiling robot named Eve comes from the Axiom down to Earth in search of life forms. She and Wall-E meet and indeed find a little sprout of a plant growing in an old boot. Life blooms on Earth, love blooms for Wall-E and Eve, and great changes befall the humans quietly sipping their smoothies on the Axiom.
But I do have two beefs with Wall-E:
+ Why did Pixar pass up the opportunity to help people learn what they can do to become better stewards of the planet?? The movie is an inspirational environmental call to action, and yet there is no mention of HOW or WHERE people can learn to cut carbon emissions, save water, reduce their trash production, etc. Why didn’t Pixar put up a simple screen with “ten recommendations for loving planet Earth” at the end of the film– or a link to a site with educational information? It pains me that MILLIONS of people will see this movie and learn nothing about what they can do to save the planet!
+ I also find the message at the end of the film a bit troubling. The humans return to Earth and it seems as if everything will just be hunky-dory. Yes they have some clean up to do, but it won’t be that bad. I was sad to see that Pixar took this easy out; we don’t need to be telling Americans that our environmental practices can be swept away with some kind of simple big broom.
Please share your comments on what you thought of the movie!
Popularity: 3% [?]
May 28th, 2008
I’m often pleasantly surprised at how much interest and passion you (our visitors) display for water-saving technologies. Renewable energy is sexy, and eco-friendly cars are top-of-mind for most people these days, but graywater systems? Rain barrels? Rain gardens? Even water-conserving toilets and showerheads? They’re pretty hot too … I for one am thrilled, for not only have I spent a good part of my career designing stormwater treatment systems but I believe that water shortages are a pretty pressing and difficult environmental challenge that doesn’t get enough attention in these days of $4 gasoline and global warming.
The beauty of any of these water-saving technologies is that a) they achieve multiple benefits, saving water while reducing wastewater or stormwater runoff and b) you can see the results right at home. It’s pretty satisfying to open the valve on a rain barrel, see the water flow out and know that you reduced pollution downstream and also prevented water from being siphoned from lakes or rivers tens or hundreds of miles away.
There are some challenges, though. In order to really make a dent in your runoff, you might have to use ten or more rain barrels - not so great if you don’t have space or your downspouts are on the visible side of your house (or if you’re not Ed Begley Jr and just don’t care!). Cisterns give you more capacity, but you’re talking about a real construction project with some possible permitting hurdles.
I recently saw another solution at a green show here in LA - the Rainwater Pillow, designed by Jim Harrington, a landscape designer in the Atlanta area. It’s basically a big flat rubber bag that allows you to store and then reuse rainwater for landscape purposes. The beauty of the system is that the pillows have capacities ranging from 1,000 up to 40,000 gallons, can be installed as a DIY project on Saturday afternoon , flatten out when not filled, and can be easily located in that unused space in your basement or crawlspace, out of sight but protected. They come with all of the prefilters, pumps, tubing and fittings needed to connect it to your drainage and irrigation systems, and also with a remote control so you can operate the pump from anywhere nearby.
I had some concerns at first. Rodent damage? Check - very strong materials used. How about stagnation / septic issues with the water? Check - very simple process using household bleach deals with that. How about freezing? Check - safe by design down to -30 degrees (except for pump and fittings, which must be protected). Cost? That’s where a little bit of “ouch” creeps in - they are a bit pricey (starting at $2,500 list price, although I’d hope there might be some negotiating room in these difficult economic times). They won’t pay for themselves anytime soon at that price, but if you’re considering graywater systems, cisterns or an army of rain barrels then you’re already thinking of making a substantial investment.
Other folks think they’re pretty swell too - This Old House just listed them as one of the greatest new green products.
We haven’t seen one in action yet, but some day I will have one of these at my home … and I’ll fall asleep knowing the rain is being squirreled away in my own rainy-day pillow.
Popularity: 3% [?]
May 23rd, 2008
It often seems that the US is alone among wealthy countries in our reluctance to drive smaller cars, use public transportation, or generally make the changes necessary to combat global environmental ills. According to a study recently released by a Japanese ad firm, however, that’s not completely true - our friends in Tokyo easily give us a run for our money!
More than four in 10 Tokyo residents — 41.6 percent — said they “don’t want to sacrifice a convenient lifestyle to prevent global warming,” according to the poll results published recently by Japanese advertising agency Hakuhodo. This despite the fact that 90% of Tokyo residents feel threatened by global warming and that Tokyo dwellers also came out on top when asked whether environmental protection is more important than economic growth.
Residents of two European cities scored best in the study–apparently Parisians and Milanese were the most willing to change their lifestyles to save the planet, it said.
If you’d like to read the entire study and see where the US representative on the list ranks (New York), click here.
Popularity: 3% [?]
May 5th, 2008
Do you like to come home and take a nice deep breath as you relax? You may be getting more than you bargained for! It may come as a shock to learn that according to the EPA the air in our homes is often two to five times more poisonous than the air outside.
There are many sources of indoor air pollution: furniture or cabinets made of pressed wood products, damp carpets, pesticides, cleaners, tobacco smoke, hobby supplies, mold and the list goes on. These chemicals can cause and aggravate allergies, some have been linked to nervous system disorders, and some of them are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Immediate effects can show up as sore throats, itchy eyes, headaches or fatigue. Longer term effects can be much worse.
Here are 10 ways to improve your home’s indoor air quality.
1. Open the windows — get some fresh air into your house! Best of all, it’s free.
2. Change your furnace/AC air filter at least a couple of times each year. Definitely do it before winter heat season starts– your air filter has trapped all kinds of junk while it has been sitting idle. Find replacement air filters here.
3. Don’t use chemical air fresheners. Most air fresheners sold at your local grocery or drug store are laden with chemicals. If you need to freshen your air, trying getting a natural essential oil and some of those wooden “soaking sticks” to spread sweet fragrance around your home.
4. Similarly, be careful about candles. Paraffin wax candles are made from a petroleum derivative, and the fumes from the paraffin wax have been found to cause kidney and bladder tumors in laboratory animals. “Gel candles” are also dangerous; they are the ones that are clear, often colored, and usually come in a glass container. Most gel candles are also scented with artificial fragrances. Many types of scented candles (not just the gel type) are unhealthy–some scented candles include acetone, benzene, trichloroethylene, and a host of other toxic chemicals. Be sure to try to get soy candles and read the labels carefully– do you recognize the essential oils they are using as scents? If not, ask or don’t buy it!
5. Use non-toxic home cleaners. More and more people are coming to realize that standard home cleaning supplies contain many chemicals which are dangerous to breathe or touch. You can either click here to buy safe pre-made cleaners, or consider making your own natural cleaners– it’s cheap and easy!
6. Consider getting rid of your carpets– or get natural carpets. Carpeting can be one of the biggest air-quality culprits in your home: most carpets are treated with chemicals that off-gas and carpets act as traps for dirt, allergans, mold and other nasty items. If you can stand to part with your carpet, it will improve your air quality. If you must have carpet, consider natural area rugs.
7. Consider getting room air filters for your home. A HEPA filter can seriously reduce the presence of toxins, allergens, and particulate matter in your home. See air filters here.
8. Limit or remove vinyls from your home. Did you know that your vinyl shower curtain is releasing toxic gas? Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) has been found to discharge softening chemicals called phthalates into home air, increasing respiratory problems.
9. If you’re doing any painting or staining, be sure to use no- or low-VOC paints and finishes. Volatile organic compounds are found in most traditional paints and their off-gassing can be dangerous for your family. Find safe paints and stains here.
10. Obviously, make your home a smoke-free zone!
Popularity: 4% [?]
May 2nd, 2008
We are very excited to go to the Green West Expo taking place at the LA Convention Center May 20-22. And we’re especially looking forward to checking out the Sustainable Living Spaces installation. Eric Lloyd Wright and his associates at Design Integration Group (DIG) are designing the 1,600 square foot exhibit. It will include a foyer, kitchen, bath, landscaped patio, den/eco resource library, nursery, dining room, and living area. The entire installation will highlight the use of sustainable, natural, and non-toxic materials, as well green construction practices.
If you’re tired of reading about green home design and want to see it and feel it in person, definitely make it to the Green West Expo. Low Impact Living will also be exhibiting so come by our booth and say howdy!
GET 50% OFF REGISTRATION to Green West by clicking here. Use priority code BF.
Popularity: 3% [?]