Greengeeks and grist
Environmental blogs offer a view into a better world
I never realized how super amazing cyberspace is until I took a virtual jaunt among green blogs. The experience was nothing short of a panoramic view of the world through “green” colored glasses. In one evening, I hopped from country to country, stopping in on what felt like virtual mixers where I could stay a while, have an intellectual conversation of sorts or hang out like an eavesdropping wallflower and rummage through everyone else’s posts, then casually slip away to my next destination.
So before I enjoyed myself too much, I wanted to know what made blogs so reliable. Part of the beauty of blogs is that anyone can post, from researchers to Joe Blow and everyone in between. Where’s the journalistic integrity that tells me I can believe what I’m reading?
I quickly found myself gobbling up this “the secret’s in the sauce” answer from an IM convo between David Roberts, founding editor of Gristmill, one of the leading authoritative green blogs, and Gregory Dicum, an environmental journalist from San Francisco.
“'Having thousands of readers bird-dogging you keeps you pretty honest,’ [Roberts] IMs, likening green blogging to the pamphleteering tradition of early American journalism 200 years ago. Anyone can say anything, but it has to stand up to the scrutiny of an involved readership to get much traction,” writes Dicum in his article, “Green Blogs: The green revolution moves online.”
OK, so it’s scrutiny, standards, and checks and balances that lead certain green blogs to emerge as the authoritative leaders. Some of the notable powerhouses are gristmill.grist.org, worldchanging.com, treehugger.com and inhabitat.com. And for the softer side of green, there’s idealbite.com, Eco-Chick.com and GreenLAGirl.com (focused on green living in Los Angeles but applicable to non-Angelenos, too.) Once you’re on a site, check out the links to other green blogs. I found one of my favorites, greengeek.ca, this way.
So here’s where I went and what I found. I was hanging out at treehugger.com and, believe it or not, McDonald’s is trying to make a believer out of me. Earlier I snubbed them as a non-socially-responsible company for their lack of commitment to humane treatment of food animals and their grave contribution of methane-gas production, et al. It turns out they’re converting their fleet of delivery trucks in the United Kingdom to run on biodiesel—an 85 percent mixture of grease from their own grills and 15 percent rapeseed oil by next year. In Austria, they’re making big plans to rethink their packaging and improve recycling efforts. And now they’re buying milk from organic dairies to promote healthier meals for kids. All right, so I’m warming up … a little.
And after reading a post on Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park—“an army of aspens, a rest stop for salmon … the sense that Carson, Muir and Ehrlich are there with me”—I have to make my way back to Seattle, one of my favorite vacation spots, sooner than I had planned.
A stop off at greengeek.ca and I was reassessing my grocery list. Here’s the top 12 fruits and vegetables that retain the highest levels of pesticides: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries. The message? Go organic when you buy these produce items to reduce your pesticide intake by 90 percent.
Here’s what you can keep on your list, these fruits and veggies retain the least amount of pesticides and you’re fairly safe purchasing them at your local grocer: asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples and sweet peas. Good stuff to know!
OK, and then I went crazy over Greengeek’s biomimicry postings that take natural solutions to environmental crises to a whole new level. Biorock, a new technology, is building coral reefs by passing an electrical current through seawater, causing a calcium carbonate coating (the substance of seashells) to form along electrodes constructed in the shape of natural reefs. Coral appears to thrive in the engineered reefs and they are able to direct more energy toward growth and reproduction, rather than protection, like natural reefs must do, enabling them to rebuild quicker.
In Japan, scientists are mimicking the properties of a lotus blossom to create self-cleaning surfaces that switch from water repellent to water absorbent on demand. Australian scientists have engineered molecules that function like a leaf—a simple, yet amazingly efficient solar cell to harvest energy. MIT has developed a material designed to collect drinking water in arid locations after a beetle’s method of obtaining water in the desert.
Hip and sassy GreenLAGirl.com founder, Siel, uncovers Home Depot’s worst case of green washing: “Plastic-handled paint brushes were touted as nature-friendly because they were not made of wood. Wood-handled paint brushes were promoted as better for the planet because they were not made of plastic.” Uhh, the nerve!
Gristmill.grist.org/ introduced me to Amory Lovins, deemed “one of the most influential American voices” in efficient energy use.
And Inhabitat.com’s very cool worldly approach to sustainability has me wanting to sleep in huge concrete pipes typically used for sewer system, water supplies and storm drains. No, I haven’t gone super-frugal; I simply want to stay in the DasParkHotel, a group of concrete pipes converted into individual pint-sized hotel rooms, plopped in the middle of the grass against lush greenery along the Danube River.
And while this is only a rudimentary introduction to the vastly rich sea of incredibly diverse green efforts, victories and people, I hope you are inspired to explore the world of green blogs—where the goal of sustainability begins to feel possible.