When you hold an item in your hand and think about its connection with the environmental problems you've heard about, use your imagination and think about the parts you can't see: where it came from, and where it's going. That's a mind-shift that politicians haven't made yet, but the most innovative thinkers about sustainability are focused on what they call "cradle to cradle" analysis. Plastics, for example, are made from petroleum products, fossil fuels. "Fossil," because oil and coal are the remains of forest life in the early days of [...]

June 14th, 2006|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , |

Dishwashing mania

The first book I wrote about environmental issues was called Home Ecology, and was published in London in 1989 and in the United States in 1990. In it, I was something of a hairshirt environmentalist, critical of microwave ovens and also of dishwashers--neither of which, you'll not be surprised to hear, I had in my tiny basement flat in London, where the kitchen was really just a little entrance hallway cramped with a stove and sink. Since then, I've lightened up. Microwaves are astonishingly energy-efficient, and are not simply for [...]

June 2nd, 2005|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

How to wash dishes

Washing dishes is apparently one of the many household skills that has been lost, left behind in the 20th century I guess, though it's possible to watch YouTube videos to learn how. (And here's a rather fun overview of methods for handwashing dishes.) But I'm no longer the purist I was when I wrote the following in my first book, Home Ecology: A dishwasher probably saves time for a large family and certainly keeps the kitchen a lot tidier, but there are sound arguments against having one. You need more [...]

May 31st, 2005|Categories: Oddments|Tags: , , |

Unbottle your water

"The Armchair Environmentalist is filled with wisdom for those who want to live an environmentally responsible life. For example, simply saying no to bottled water will save energy and measurably reduce carbon emissions. Karen Christensen has incorporated more environmental advice in this crisp, tightly written volume than in anything I've seen to date."--Lester R. Brown, President, Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. I'm glad to have Les Brown's blessing on my advice about water, because a friend complained [...]

March 11th, 2005|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

One drop at a time

Midwinter is when the gardening bug strikes me, because I’m so much in need of greenery and flowers (and folic acid!). One thing I’m doing is growing sprouts, sick of the high prices and dreariness of the salad greens in the shops (they’re clearly labelled as coming from California, with signs apologizing for the high price). I was rinsing my sprouts last night, filling the jar with tap water and letting it run out through the screen lid, and realized that while it’s cheap to grow sprouts (one tablespoon of [...]

February 10th, 2005|Categories: Oddments|Tags: |