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Daily Dirt

Midwest Winter Report: Thundersnow!

Live from the snowed-in Midwest, Map Editor Andrew Matranga reports on a bizarre winter-weather phenomenon: thundersnow.

I am currently traveling in the Midwest, trying to get some work done in between shovelfuls of heavy, lake effect snows in Chicago. Hundreds are still stuck on Lake Shore Drive downtown, and the region's highways are closed and snowed under.

But last night's snowstorm that whacked the Chicagoland area and is still gripping most of the nation brought out an interesting weather phenomenon known as a Thundershower -- when lightning and snow fall at the same time. Read Full Story...
Thursday, February 03, 2011 in: News and Events, Nature and Wildlife
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Ski Madness: Grinding the Lift Line

Antoine Montant blows minds by skiing/flying down Chamonix and grinding a chairlift on the way down. Whoah.

The best part of BACKPACKER's Fall gear Guide—other than having an excuse to ski for work—is getting to cover the nuttier sides of backcountry skiing. Take for instance Frenchy Antoine Montant, who decides flying down Chamonix isn't impressive enough; he then grinds his way down a tram line. Jebus.

Well, that's one way to show the lift line who's boss.

—Ted Alvarez

via The Goat
Read Full Story...
Thursday, February 03, 2011 in: News and Events, Weird and Funny
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Winter in Yellowstone

Northwest editor Mike Lanza discovers Yellowstone's secret: Winter is best for best for scenery, wildlife, and a lot of hot air

The snowcoach rumbles away, leaving us in a wintry silence disturbed only by a slight breeze and the gastrointestinal emissions of a supervolcano that last let out a really big one 640,000 years ago. Back then, it ejected about 240 cubic miles of rock and dust into the sky. Today, as seems always the case with these things, it just sounds a little rude and smells badly.

My wife, Penny, and I, with our son, Nate, and daughter, Alex, have just stepped off the snowcoach with our cross-country skis in Biscuit Basin in Yellowstone National Park. Watching us disembark with our grade-school kids, the other passengers stared solemnly, as if expecting they would be the last to see us alive. Clearly, none of them are Nordic skiers, otherwise they might have realized that we’re setting out on one of the coolest half-day adventures in the entire national park system: ski touring along the Firehole River through Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin. Read Full Story...
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 in: Destinations, News and events
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Prominent Peaks=Pretty

French designer stacks Seven Summits to compare topographic prominence in sweet graphic

Look out, mountain nerds: Designer Audree Lapierre created the above infographic to illustrate the prominence of the Seven Summits—namely, the height of the summit as compared to its surrounding topography. Typically, this involves looking at a bunch of numbers on a page, but in this case, Lapierre posts the prominence ranking on a chart below the peak. Read Full Story...
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 in: News and Events
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Outdoor Retailer Q&A: Rocker Grace Potter

BACKPACKER jumps the tour bus to talk music and the outdoors with the lead singer of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

If you’re Grace Potter, apparently the only way to follow up a Wednesday night appearance on the Tonight Show is to head to Outdoor Retailer for a show to benefit OIWC (Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition) and the Love Hope Strength Foundation. Before she tore the roof off The Depot theater with a classic-rock-sequined-dress-swagger that floored the crowd, BACKPACKER Deputy Editor Anthony Cerretani sat down with Potter on her tour bus to talk about the marriage of music and the outdoors, her efforts with 1% for the Planet, and the crossroads moment of picking a sequined dress over a slalom suit.... Read Full Story...
Monday, January 24, 2011 in: Outdoor Retailer, Gear, News and Events
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OR: Cool New Gear Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt, Jacket, and Hoodie

Patagonia's latest line of down products may make you rethink how you layer from here on out.

Back in the day, down was reserved for big super-warm jackets that made you look like the Michelin Man. We all know that's changed in the past few years and Patagonia's most recent foray into down products has us salivating.
Read Full Story...
Sunday, January 23, 2011 in: Outdoor Retailer, Gear, News
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OR: Cool Stuff--Geigerrig Hydration Engine

A new hydration system asks why suck when you can squirt?

It’s always after you’ve climbed something tough, sweat pouring off you, that the thirst seems the most powerful. That’s when the old kung fu between air and water ensues: You stop breathing while you suck from the hydration hose, then you inhale mightily through your nose attempting to build up enough oxygen surplus to swallow the mouthful. Repeat, ad hydratium.
But what if you could turn your hydration reservoir into a low power water gun? The Geigerrig Hydration Engine (available in two and three liters, for $48 and $50, respectively) does just that. Using the same pump the doc uses to measure your blood pressure, the reservoir inflates with enough pressure to force out a liters per minute.
Read Full Story...
Sunday, January 23, 2011 in: Outdoor retailer, Gear, News
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OR: Cool Gear--Genesis Magik 1R Headlamp

Hands-free technology comes to the forehead

Part of the reason we so like headlamps is that they make life better: You don’t have to slobber up a flashlight while trying to open the Top Ramen package, or you can wield dual poles while keeping a beam of light on the trail.
But when it’s cold, you often have to take off a glove to work the buttons, or sometimes your hands arey too slop-covered to click on the lamp. With the Magik 1R by Genesis, consider those days over. 
Read Full Story...
Sunday, January 23, 2011 in: Outdoor retailer, Gear, News
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OR: Photos from the Floor

Half the fun of the Outdoor Retailer shows is the effort retailers take to get noticed.

The Mammut mammoth.
... Read Full Story...
Sunday, January 23, 2011 in: Outdoor Retailer, Gear, OR
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OR Gear Trends: Electronics

From OR Daily: High-tech gadgets emphasize simplicity

SPOT Connect
Spot Connect

Keep it simple--or rather make it simpler. At Winter Market, many of the new electronic products react that trend, with watches, as well as fitness and weather gadgets, plus other electronics getting upgrades and features that require thinner owner's manuals. Read Full Story...
Friday, January 21, 2011 in: Outdoor Retailer, Gear, OR
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The Pulse

The non-winter survival blog

Dry tinder is the least of your worries on Thanksgiving weekend

I always suspected that one of the biggest things I could do to improve my long-term survival odds is to make it through the Thanksgiving holidays without permanently gaining five pounds. So today I began what I call the Post-Turkey Training Series, where I'll attempt to do a long bike ride every day through the weekend in order to counteract the gravy and stuffing.

Read Full Story...
Friday, November 27, 2009 in: Survival, Skills & tips, Strange/funny
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Season of the hamster

Reflections and tips on winter bike training

I'm always torn at this time of year. On one side, there are the happy holidays, when you get to see family, go to parties, eat and drink and generally overindulge. On the other hand, the cusp of mid-winter also heralds cold, wind and long dark nights, which is cool if you're a vampire (and who isn't these days?) but not so good if you're into exercise, the outdoors, and adventure - and have a job.

But with physical training, it's all use it or lose it. And at my age, consistency means everything. It's hard to battle back into shape after a slack period. Combine these challenges with the seasonal evils of eggnog, Christmas fudge and Tivo, and the holidays could easily lead to a future of elasticized pants and Walmart scooters. Consequently I'm working hard to exercise daily in the brief daylight hours. Since my rural locale has no gyms, rarely sees skiable snow, and my  hip's too trashed for trail running (at least until my upcoming joint replacement) that leaves biking, or specifically, winter biking.

This is a tough transition for me. Cycling has never been my favorite sport, and over the years I've become  addicted to combining exercise with adventure. To quote the the famous tightrope walker Karl Wallenda "Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting." But I'm trying to readjust that attitude because fate and calcium dictate that I'll be biking a lot over the next year. Still, after a great summer of adventures from Alaska to Switzerland, it's tough to return to mere hamster wheel training.
Read Full Story...
Monday, November 23, 2009 in: Survival, Skills & tips
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The Leonids Return

Heads up night owls! Killer meteor shower on Monday night!

   Meteors over Capitol Reef. The small streaks are shooting stars; the red streak is Mars.  pic: Howe

Start napping now, so you can stay awake on Monday night, when this old, well-used Earth is getting ready to hurtle at 147,000 miles per hour through the thickest section of tail debris left by comet Tempel-Tuttle. The collision could generate one of the best meteor showers in recent history - or maybe even a disaster of blockbuster proportions, kind of a lead-up to 2012 or whatever Nostradumus catastrophe is currently fashionable for cable TV 'history' channels.

But it'll probably just be a great sky show. And even if it does presage the end of the world by explosion, invasion, or alien viruses showering from the heavens, wouldn't you rather watch it all from atop some scenic ridgetop, wrapped in a blanket with your honey and a few bottles, instead of chewing your nails on the couch and listening to talking newsheads screech about stock market implications of the apocalypse?

Yes! Obviously! So here's your field-trip assignment campers: Read Full Story...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 in: Survival, Skills & tips, Wierd/funny
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Der Yodelblog

A photo preview from our latest Editor's Choice testing junket to Switzerland

Dusk near the top of Hannamoospass

Well, I'm still tired. All my stinky gear is STILL in the duffle it was hastily crammed into whilst leaving Grindelwald. I've got a wicked chest cold (again). And I've barely left the couch -or set down the remote control - since returning to Rancho Elvis. Sounds like my typical post-trip chaos and sloth...
Read Full Story...
Friday, November 06, 2009 in: Survival
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Off to the Alps

A few Alaska photos, an expedition website, and a quick update on Editor's Choice 2010

Sorry I'm late again teacher. No unique excuse, just got big-time busy turning around a bunch of article re-writes, editing all my Alaska slides, and getting ready to jet off in about five minutes on our annual Editor's Choice testing trip.

This time it's the Alps. The location's still kinda secret, but let's just say it's a place with lots of chocolate, discreet bankers, and cute little pocket knives

So, for eight days your tireless Backpacker testing crew is going into full yodel, splitting into two groups that will each backpack half of a long-distance alpine trek, meeting in the middle. Enroute we'll be shooting photos and video while lab-hamstering new standout gear that testers and staffers have nominated for 2010 E.C. .

Now, conventional wisdom might dictate that we'll just be junketing from beer hall to beer hall, waiting for payola to dictate our award  choices. But the sad reality is that we'll just be humping too-large loads of superfluous consumer goods on a magnificent high Alpine trek, and then arguing into the wee hours about our choices. Read Full Story...
Sunday, October 25, 2009 in: Survival
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Grand Canyon Summer

The Big Ditch had its share of rescues and deaths this season

As of press time, at least six actual hiker/backpackers had died in the canyon. Here's a brief recap of the more interesting incidents. Common themes  were solo travel, and/or lack of advance preparation - such as obtaining current information, carrying enough water, leaving a route itinerary, or getting a required permit. I hope these brief sketches will help others avoid similar mayhem, but I'm buried with magazine work right now, so visit the Grand Canyon National Park's Hike Smart page for specific tips.

April 30th: Three young men, Mark Merril (16), Joey Merrill (22), and Saif Savaya (16),  jumped into the spring-swollen Colorado River at Boat Beach near Phantom Ranch, where the main corridor trails cross on the Silver Bridge at River Mile 88, and attempted to swim across the swift current that runs through Granite Gorge. The trio were visiting the park in a 30-person Baptist church group on their annual Grand Canyon hiking retreat. All three were swept into Bright Angel Rapids, a swiftwater section that runs beneath the Bridge. Mark Merrill's body was found a mile downstream on May 1st. The other two weren't located until May 15th, below Boucher Rapids, over ten miles downriver from where they jumped in. Read Full Story...
Thursday, October 15, 2009 in: Survival, Skills & tips
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Smarten up

A smarmy checklist of 8 steps that would prevent most searches, rescues and deaths in the woods

Hey campers, I've been reviewing the summer's more interesting and/or instructional rescue incidents and basically yawning over 95% of them. Not to minimize the pain, suffering and pathos of the several dozen unfortunates who died or were injured by falls, heat stroke, hypothermia, or kayaking accidents this summer, but the vast majority of mayhem was caused by what park rangers call 'vacation brain', and what outdoor writers call 'the naturalist's trance.'

Basically, you're in the glorious outdoors, ecstatic to get away from urban or career hell, and you relax, watching the clouds, listening to bird calls, rippling water, and wind blowing through the pines. And then suddenly it's dusk, you're not sure where you are, the temperature's dropping, and it's started to rain. All of a sudden nature's not so fun.

This does not just occur to urban refugees btw; The modern ski-town crop of lycra-sheathed hardbodies has had their share of 'training mishaps' this summer, setting off on hammer trail runs without map, compass or awareness, and scrambling peaks in ultralight, ultra-clueless style.

Since survival is all about avoiding survival scenarios, not perservering through them, it's fairly easy to stay out of trouble (most of the time) using a few simple measures. This is not rocket science: Read Full Story...
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 in: Survival, Skills & tips
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The Guiding Life: Part III

Thoughts on leading a dozen guests through big, bad wilderness

Yo Campers. I've returned from guiding and am back in magazine mode (i.e. stuffed in a closet, pounding keyboard). But here's a a quick recap of my last foray through Zion and Bryce before I dive into assignment catch-up lest the editor's spank me.

Leading a 12-person group was awesome, and demanding, even with a solid assistant guide and a full compliment of upstanding, understanding hikers. For one, with any large group there will be differences in athleticism, pace, temperament and desire. Some people want to hammer. Some want to contemplate. Some are curious about geology and natural history, while others just want to ogle pink rock and blue skies. More people equals more variation in said parameters, but  you've got to keep everyone reasonably together, happy, interested, involved, and last but definitely not least, safe.

This can be a balancing act, and it requires reading each person subtly, especially when high temperatures and sun suddenly make a straightforward hike rather trying, as they did in Bryce. Taken as a whole, the week reminded me forcefully that leading groups is all about fun, but it's no simple walk in the park. Read Full Story...
Wednesday, September 30, 2009 in: Survival, Skills & tips
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The Guiding Life Part II

Escape from Zion -- with a 100% survival rate!

Greetings campers,  from Las Vegas, Sin City, Glitter Gulch, the Entertainment Capital of the World - if you're a male with weaning issues, anyway. I wanted to blog some from Zion and Bryce, but with a schedule that ran non-stop from 6:30 a.m to 9:30 p.m., that just wasn't gonna happen.

Now all the clients/guests/friends from our trip have bolted for the airport, and most of the post-trip chores are done - the food inventoried, the checklists checked, the expense report reported, the 15-passenger van cleaned and gassed - so I'm temporarily stored here with the rest of the equipment, awaiting the arrival of Lynn Gordon, my assistant guide for Round II, and the next dozen weary, interesting metro refugees yearning for blue skies, red rock and sore muscles.

I'm left with little to do but lounge poolside, just across Tropicana from the Hard Rock Cafe, working hard to tan some pasty body parts between neck and knees, and trying with modest success to think pure and wholesome thoughts. The square miles of racy billboards and acres of tanned flesh here at poolside do not make that easy. But I can always think of Mistress Betty's flashing blue eyes and the fact that I possess no Kevlar underwear, and voila! improper thoughts wilt faster than asparagus after a frost. Read Full Story...
Saturday, September 19, 2009 in: Survival, Humor/funny
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The Guiding Life

Wherein I return to a former profession, and invite you to join the fun.

I know you're all tired of hearing how manic my life can get, but GAAAAH! I've just finished a preliminary  draft of Alaska and honed the track logs. I've begun editing the photos. I'm getting ready to do re-writes on three separate features. I'm talking with the eds about another one. I've just unpacked all my stinky AK gear, washed it, and thrown it right back in the same duffle. Now, in moments I'm hopping into my ancient truck ("Yota") and taking off for two weeks of guiding in Zion and Bryce.

The half-dozen of you out there who actually read this blog might recall that I was a mountaineering guide in the late 1970's and early 80's. And I liked it a lot...most of the time...unless I had a demanding Type A client or someone who was just a natural born hazard. But that stuff comes with the territory, so I quit after a near-death experience involving guest-propelled rockfall.

Still, over the years I've occasionally enjoyed leading more pedestrian trips. I've taught whitewater kayaking, avalanche safety, backcountry photography, and led remote XC backpacks. I always find it rewarding to pass on skills, tales, and natural history to those who are sincerely interested, and motivated enough to value the experience. So I'm diving back into seasonal guiding in my Southern Utah backyard, leading trips through Zion, Bryce, Escalante and Capitol Reef with experienced outfitter Steve Kasper and REI Adventures. Read Full Story...
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 in: Survival
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Green Scene

Green Gear: ChicoBag Messenger RePETE

ultrapackable travel tote

When your backpacking trip involves international travel, or if you’re tackling a longer trail where you’ll take some time off when you won’t want to be carrying your pack (picking up groceries or wandering around town on a rest day), ChicoBag’s Messenger RePETE is the perfect day bag. It’s small enough and light enough that it will disappear in your pack when you’re not using it (it packs down to about the size of your fist), but it’s a messenger bag, not a grocery sack, so easier to carry. Unlike a lot of ultra-packable sil-nylon grocery style bags, this one has organizational pockets: a small one for wallet and keys, a larger one big enough to hold a guide book, and a spacious main compartment that I carried my camera in, as well as food for a nine hour bus ride in Southeast Asia, my book, and jumble of other small items. Stretchy side pockets held water bottles securely, as well as extra camera lenses I wanted to keep easily accessible. Read Full Story...
Saturday, December 12, 2009 in: Environment and Green Living, Gear
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BPA No Longer in Your Bottle

but it still lives in the linings of your food cans

There has been a lot of buzz around BPA, the chemical Bisphenol A, which was used for years in clear plastic (polycarbonate) bottles. In the past few years, every outdor company that made bottles containing BPA dropped them. The latest was Sigg, which got rid of the BPA in its bottles in the midst of a scandal.

According to Consumer Reports, BPA-containing bottles and food can liners have been restricted in Canada and some U.S. states and municipalities due to a link with reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. According to Consumers Reports, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of making a decision on what it deems a safe level of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA). Read Full Story...
Thursday, December 03, 2009 in: News and Events, Environment and Green Living
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Shop, but Don't Make the Planet Drop

Climate Cooler launches shopping site and picks up the carbon tab

While I'm not advocating conspicuous consumption this holiday season or really even, I do want to take this opportunity to point you towards the new shopping website of our climate partner, Cooler. They just launched this site with more than 350 participating on-line stores. The deal: buy through Cooler's site and you get the same items at the same prices from hundreds of on-line stores that you;d find by shopping on that store's site. Cooler, in conjunction with the sellers, eliminates the global warming impact of every purchase. It's easy to use--just register, pull out your credit card and go. Make your purchase and Cooler calculates the pounds of greenhouse gas produced in the process of manufacturing, shipping and selling the product you purchase. The store then pays Cooler a fee, which it invests to eliminate the greenhouse gas pollution created by the product you purchased. You can track your impact by viewing the pounds of global warming pollution you’ve eliminated by shopping at Cooler on-line. Read Full Story...
Monday, November 30, 2009 in: News and Events, Environment and Green Living, Gear
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Green Gear: Scarpa Epic

Scarpa goes green with recycled materials and a biodegradable midsole

Five of Scarpa's new trail runners and light hikers are being built to meet the parameters of their new 'Planet Friendly’ initiative--Scarpa's commitment to using recycled content materials, and seeking and developing cutting edge technology to lessen its carbon footprint. Scarpa's Epic is one of those new hikers. It's got 100 percent recycled webbing and lace, 100 percent recycled lining, 40 percent recycled synthetic leather, 29 percent recycled polyester mesh, 25 percent recycled rubber outside, as well as a midsole that biodegrades in 20 years not a thousand years like standard EVA. 

What does Kim Miller, President of Scarpa North America have to say?
Read Full Story...
Monday, November 30, 2009 in: News and Events, Environment and Green Living, Gear
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Green Gear: GoLite Jam Pack

a comfortable weekend/summit pack with 70% less environmental impact

For the past three years, GoLite has been fully focused on reducing its impact on the planet. Company principles have analyzed every detail of every item that it makes as well as the minutiae of its operations to figure out how to reduce the energy GoLite use, the carbon it pumps into the environment, and any and all of its eco impacts. After GoLite participated in Backpacker's 2009 Zero Impact Challenge for sleeping bags, GoLite designers told us that they were taking what they learned and applying it across their line to every product they make. Voila the Rolltop.

Made from Tier 1 Recycled Nylon, it's uses 70% less energy and CO2 production to make than a traditional nylon pack, but has all the performance benefits of a pack made from virgin nylon (lighter, tougher and stronger than polyester). Plus, Tier 1 Nylon is infinitely recyclable.

Being green is all well and good, but only if the pack holds up in the field, which it did with flying colors. Read Full Story...
Monday, November 23, 2009 in: Environment and Green Living, Gear
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Toothpaste: Not Just for Brushing

in the backcountry, toothpaste can be part of your first aid and kitchen kits

You probably use toothpaste to brush your teeth--a perfectly reasonable use of the stuff. But did you know that it's the answer to a number of backcountry first aid and personal hygiene challenges? Toothpaste can be used to treat any oozy skin irritations like bug bites, athlete's foot and even blisters. It;s a disinfectant, antiseptic and fungicide. Toothpaste will stop itching and reduce swelling when applied topically. It dries up blisters if applied before bed, healing you while you sleep. It cools and soothes minor burns if applied immediately after they happen. Have a zit from too many days without a shower? A dot of toothpaste left on overnight will shrink it. Hands stinky from chopping garlic, rub them with a little toothpaste. Stepped in tar--rub it off with a little toothpaste. And when you're stuck in the tent or taking a rest day, don't forget how useful toothpaste is for a backcountry manicure. For clean, shiny, strong nails, brush them with you know what.

Many of the toothpaste benefits listed above are in fact the benefits of baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, a primary ingredient in toothpaste found in white non-gel toothpaste. But commercial toothpastes contain a lot of other chemicals and additives that fall somewhere in between 'you don't need them' and 'they're bad for you.' Homemade toothpaste is also way less expensive and takes up less space in your pack.

You can make your own chemical-free, all natural toothpaste by mixing baking soda with hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of peppermint essential oil. Use baking soda as dry or wet deodorant.

-Berne Broudy

Read Full Story...
Monday, November 23, 2009 in: Environment and Green Living
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Who Do You Trust?

Is protecting the environment your top priority?

Edelman's recent GoodPurpose survey of consumers (6000 people, 10 countries, 18-64 years old) showed that  91 percent said that protecting the environment is the cause they personally care the most about.

That leads improving the quality of health care (89 percent) and reducing poverty (87 percent), according to the study by Edelman.

82 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to trust a company for making progress on environmental initiatives. That was the seventh-ranking trust item, with the leading vote going to companies that trust their employees. Nearly six out of ten consumers (58%) are looking for brands to do more for them than just provide them with a product or service. 64%of consumers say they expect brands today to do something to support a good cause.

Read Full Story...
Sunday, November 15, 2009 in: News and Events, Environment and Green Living
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Wilderness Conservation Cooperation

Mexico, Canada and ths US sign on to work together to protect wilderness

It shouldn't be news, but it is. Mexico, Canada and the US just signed the first ever agreement to work together to protect wilderness in North America. The "Memo of Understanding" (MOU) signed at the WILD 09 Conference last week in Merida,Mexico is the first trilateral continental vision of wilderness protection--the first time that all three countries have formally agreed to cooperate on wilderness conservation.

In a speech given by Mexican President Calderon, he said, "This agreement will facilitate the sharing of successful experiences, monitoring, and training of human resources, as well as the financing of projects that will protect and recover wilderness areas." After flying home from Los Angeles on Friday and marveling out the plane window at how completely jam packed the landscape is with humans and concrete as far as the eye can see, I hope it will include provisions for wildlife corridors throughout the continent. It looks like it does (access the document here). It also addresses ecosystems and natural resources that defy political boundaries, while encouraging cooperative research. It promises to consider and respects indigenous customs and conservation strategies, national environmental policy,  and prioritize species survival. It recognizes the importance of wilderness conservation in mitigating and monitoring and surviving climate change.

What it means on the ground: stay tuned and we'll see if it's just government fluff or if it will inspire substantive change.

-Berne Broudy

Read Full Story...
Monday, November 09, 2009 in: News and Events, Environment and Green Living
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Green Gear: P3 International Kill A Watt EZ

A meter that calculates how much energy your electronics use each day

During the energy audit and renovations that I recently did at my home, I was trying to figure out how to drop my energy usage. Wash clothes and myself less, turn off lights, shower at night when the solar panels have heated my water and lay off the dishwasher were all obvious suggestions. But what I really wondered about was how much juice my computers, hard drives and related electronics were costing me and the planet. I'm good about slicking off the light switch. But those are the things that I often forget to turn off.

After chatting about this with my electrician, he showed up at my house one day with the Kill A Watt EZ, a consumer power meter. You plug any 110 volt device with a cord into the meter, and it actually tells you exactly how much energy any appliance you plug it into is using, as well as what it's costing you per year (it allows you to enter the rate your electric utility is charging you).

I followed the straightforward instructions to set up the unit (took less than a minute) and then plugged in my laptop (a MacBook Pro). It's costing me about $3 per month to run it. My all in one HP printer: cost $1.19/month. My desktop plus eight bay external hard drives are costing me $7.80 per month when they are on. Guess that's the power strip I really need to turn off.I am curious to note how much electricity they use when they are off.
Read Full Story...
Monday, November 09, 2009 in: Environment and Green Living, Gear
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Green Gear: Mountain Hardwear rEva

A laptop travel case made from backpack leftovers .

Protect your computer and the environment at the same time with Mountain Hardwear's rEva.

When the padding for backpack shoulder straps, hipbelts and backpanels gets punched out of oversized slabs of EVA foam, even if the patterns are strategically placed for maximum efficiency and minimum waste, there are leftovers. Those leftovers normally get trucked off to a landfill where they are often burned. Mountain Hardwear is now reclaiming that waste. The company now has the waste gathered up from the factory floor and chopped into vaguely uniform pieces. They won't tell us what they do next--the next step is proprietary -- but it looks like they suck all the air out of the pieces somehow vacuum packing them into a "remolded" panel with a texture like a bunch of different kinds of dried beans mixed up inside. The remanufactured EVA is dense and protective, perfect for stashing a computer inside. Mountain Hardwear says the tech will soon appear in their backpacks, but we haven't seen it yet. Read Full Story...
Monday, November 09, 2009 in: Environment and Green Living
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