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Recycled cardboard fort from Ecotopia


Cardboard is a great material for kid toys - it's light, it's customizable (with optional crayons, paint or felt pens), it's sturdy without being something the child can injure itself on. (We do love cardboard here at HS - see earlier posts on Class cardboard chairs, the grass armchair, the Eco crib and Recycled lamp lights things up, to name a few. Theoretically you can just "make it yourself, it's only cardboard", but theoretically you can make your own underwear - it's only a scrap of cotton and elastic! - but you almost certainly don't.) The cardboard fort in particular is something I'd have gone for as a kid (and did have a cardboard Fisher-Price castle, but this one is bigger).

Ecotopia cardboard toys are all made from 100% recycled cardboard, with no added chemicals, and are food safe (dry food that is - wet food would make the cardboard soggy).  Maybe I'm not too tall to fit in one of those.  Hold my calls, please, darling. [GT

May 31, 2006 in Kids stuff | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ross "Captain Organic" Lovegrove interview


Lovegrove is a designer with an ecological conscience - including a particular dislike of emissions-heavy vehicles - who wants to make beautiful, durable, green goods. His parents never replaced things or threw them out. In fact, a VitrA toilet has been in his parents' house for decades, and they still reuse the plastic water bottle Lovegrove designed. His favourite drawer handles are made from beach pebbles near that very dwelling. He's also designing a car with 1,200 Swarovski crystals embedded in the top - maximum bling and maximum juice for the solar panels.

Lovegrove nearly came to blows in Hyde Park over [cars]. He drove there with Miska to take a walk, and when they parked, "The guy in front of us was just running his engine, and this was a park, so I went up to him and asked if he had kids." The man looked dumbly (think two short planks) at Lovegrove and said yes, not knowing what was coming next. Lovegrove asked if he cared about their future and lectured him about leaving his engine running with exhaust belching out. The ensuing argument attracted stares from all the passersby ("including," Lovegrove adds, "the lead singer of Dire Straits").

It's the System X modular lighting in the Lovegrove slideshow that is most interesting here - white and orange X shapes that can be chained together in dynamic grids. Efficient, beautiful, environmentally sound lighting with the ability to add a new burst wherever needed - although the magnesium chair, pictured above, is what makes my heart go pitty pat. (Just don't let it catch fire.) [GT]

May 31, 2006 in Design & furniture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Handy Bike Maintenance Chart


One of the best ways to reduce emissions is to use human-powered transport, like a bicycle. Spring is nearly over, so if you don't have your bicycle out yet, you may be hopeless (like me). But if (like me) you're procrastinating because the bike needs an overhaul and you're a bit unclear on what's involved, Bicycles West has a terrific checklist. It tells you what to do every ride, every month, every six months and every year, from making sure the chain is lubed to, er, checking the spoke nipples for cracks. (It's less exciting than it sounds, but it can also save your life. Cracked spoke nipples can kill!) (via Armchair Environmentalist)

Most of the things suggested - checking for wear and tear - are common sense, but it's nice to have a list you can print out and keep in your repair box.  And if you abuse your bike, naturally it'll take more upkeep.  (Say, if you leave it in the basement and keep meaning to get nice new tires but instead it ends up sitting reproachfully by your desk, glinting aimlessly at you every time you shuffle by in your vintage 4 1/2" Cleo-Bottier stilettos.)  [<a href="http://www.hypercube.org">GT</a>]</p>

May 31, 2006 in Transport & travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

France shames high-emissions vehicles


The French Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development has a set of colour-coded labels that all French cars are now required to display.  The labels indicate how bad (or good) the car's emissions areFrench cars made today produce around 152g of CO2 per kilometer on average, compared with the general EU average of 160g/km.  They figure by naming and shaming the red-hot offenders, consumers will be drawn to more cheerful shades.  (via WorldChanging)

Despite a voluntary engagement from European carmakers to cut carbon emissions down to 140g/km by 2008-9, progress has been slow. Environmentalists have warned that the industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate and that significant reductions will never be reached without compulsory measures.

From July 1, an "energy label" will also become compulsory for French homes.   [GT]

May 31, 2006 in Energy saving, Transport & travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If 99,999 other people bought this laptop, would you?


Have $300 USD you're willing to spend on a laptop?  How about if that gets you a laptop, and gives two more laptops to children in Africa?   Mike Liveright has pledged to do so if he's one of 100,000 buyers.  The pledge drive isn't endorsed by One Laptop Per Child,  Nicholas Negroponte's project (with MIT Labs), yet - but you can figure if he gets enough takers (he's got 2,311 already) that they'll come on board.  There's a lot of discussion as to whether it's better to give food or tech, but I side strongly with the idea of giving tech - teach a man to fish and he eats for life.  (via Gizmodo)

These laptops would be preloaded with thousands of books, from school texts to health manuals, so each $100 represents a priceless library.  Your $300 is tantamount to giving a small child the keys to their own private Alexandria.  Their entire life would be transformed.  The ability to read is worth more than a limited supply of food; permanent knowledge is worth more than medicine that can run out.  (Speaking as someone with a lifelong disability, I know this; I have often had to make the choice between food and tech and tech wins more often than you would think.)

(And yes, it's already been pretty much established that the laptops generated by OLPC aren't going to look exactly like this picture.  The idea is that if warlords rip them off, it should be clear that those scumbags stole from children - and that's such a sensible idea that we can expect to see the ultimate design retain the childlike sensibility.) [GT]

May 31, 2006 in Energy saving, Ethical & green gifts, Green gadgets, Kids stuff, Renewables | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rogueland heirloom seeds

HeirloomtomatoesHeirloom seeds are "old fashioned, non-hybrid, non-genetically modified". Roguelands Seed Company has lines going back to 1920, including tomatoes, peppers, melons, strawberry, asparagus, and hundreds more. Shipping is only £0.88 and many of the seed packets are available for £0.74. So start that garden off right, with the best seed. [GT]

May 30, 2006 in Plants & gardens | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Midsummer Night's Flower Dream


Want somewhere to take your best vegetarian girl or guy?  How about the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show?     3 July 2006, 6-11pm.  Enjoy exclusive access to the Royal Horticultural Society’s premier summer flower show and savour stunning gardens and floral masterpieces in comfort and style.  This year's entertainment theme is 'The Best of British'.   Tickets start at £60 (which includes a half bottle of champagne) and go as high as you want - it is for charity, after all.


For £130 you get two passes, a free bottle of champagne, a voucher for the car park, and access to all the musicals and fireworks. For £280 you get that plus a Fortnum and Mason picnic hamper and seating in the picnic tent. At £245 you get the one pass plus dinner - or for £2,650 you get ten passes plus dinner. Or if you're really generous, you can set your own terms (at a price of their choice). [GT]

May 30, 2006 in Plants & gardens | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Carbonfund.org offers free carbon offset for links

SmokeFor every blog that links to CarbonFund.org, Technorati shows 147 links (so it'll be 148 in a minute). 

“In working with Carbonfund.org, I hope to encourage bloggers to go beyond the debate about climate change,” said Eric Cahoon, who writes the DeepMarket.com blog.  “This challenge to bloggers is to help create awareness of actions they can take now – such as taking advantage of energy efficient appliances and reducing the energy they use.  In working with Carbonfung.org, they can have further impact by reducing carbon emissions, supporting renewable energy and reforestation projects.” (via Treehugger)

Like the Hunger Site and its siblings, participating is one of the best things you can do to make a better internet.  It's free, it's beneficial, and it takes you very little time.  G'wan, fellow bloggers, link it up.  [GT]

May 30, 2006 in Renewables | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How much miles would your mileage save if your modern car saved mileage?


Sierra Club launched a miles per gallon calculator (although the rest of the world wishes they'd also made a kilometers per liter version - it's just math, guys!).  You plug in the make and model of your car, and it tells you how much you would save on gas, how much less gas you would use, and how much less evil you would release into the environment if automakers were forced to make better vehicles.  (Given that we identified yesterday that finding fuel efficient cars is a problem in the UK) we could use a calculator like this that worked globally.)  How much savings?

Since my dashing young man has a Mazda Protege, I plugged that in.  Said his car currently got around 21 mpg, but if it were 'modern', it would get around 36mpg, saving him over 250 gallons of gas a year, $766 USD, and causing over 7 tons less pollution.  Over your car's lifetime (12 years on average), you'd save $9,192!  Goodness.  Honey, we could use some of that.  [GT]

May 30, 2006 in Energy saving, Transport & travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Germany plans 20% wind power by 2020

_41640046_geturbincloseup203_1Not only has Germany decided to phase out all nuclear power plants, the German government has committed to 20% wind power by 2020 as part of meeting the Kyoto Protocol.  They aim for 28,000 megawatts of power from onshore windfarms and 20,000 megawatts of power from offshore windfarms in the Baltic and North Sea.  Why 20%?  Wind power has the terrific advantages of not generating emissions or toxic waste, but it does have some drawbacks - it's expensive and it's unpredictable.

Germany's energy agency says this will cost 1.1bn euros ($1.4bn; £750m) or an extra 17 euros a year for each household.  Or more. [E]nergy specialist Professor Wolfgang Pfaffenberger, of Bremen International University, says these figures are too low and it will be domestic customers who will foot the bill.

"It is a big problem for industrial users to pay these extra prices because other countries have cheaper energy. To keep the jobs here, and stop businesses from leaving, more of the costs will be pushed to the domestic sector."

Valid concerns, but what about the big picture?  80% of power is going to come from other sources, and one would hope there are plans to extract at least some of that power from predictable areas such as geothermal and solar.  Sure, wind power is expensive now.  But reduced emissions will lead to reduced health care expenses, less pollution-related infrastructure damage, and other related savings.  It's a complicated web and overfocusing on one aspect leads to paralysis.  Kudos to Germany for plunging ahead in this vital area of planet care.  But we can all help by buying our own turbines.  [GT]

May 30, 2006 in Renewables | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack