Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Over is better. So there.

Distractions abound today–and here’s a new way to save the world. Hang your toilet paper properly! It’s a highly entertaining post pointing out in a scientific manner why it’s better for the earth (and the user) to hang your toilet paper over, not under.

Right vs. Wrong

Essential Life Lesson #1: Over is Right, Under is Wrong

Thanks to Treehugger for pointing me to this one.


Greendex: A usable, “green”-ness map of the world

On Treehugger this morning, I saw a blog entry about National Geographic’s recently published Greendex, an international study measuring how “green” people in each of seven different countries live.

The Greendex uses a simple rollover map with different shades of green to clearly illustrate differences in  consumer behavior. While the mouseover behavior can be a little tricky at times, the simplicity of the map format is ingenious.


No surprise, the US is at the bottom of the green scale, while Brazil and India are doing the best. The map points out that consumer-istic, wasteful behavior has got to go.

The really fun part of it is that you can take a quiz to see what your own “Greendex” is, so you can compare how well you stack up against the masses. They also have a guide on how to improve your Greendex.  It’s a very well-done site.

Well done, National Geographic!

Solving Global Warming with Architecture 2030

Architecture 2030Architecture 2030 has published a document with a simple concept for solving global warming, which also would save consumers money and boost the economy. It’s based on the principle of phasing out coal, boosting energy efficiency in buildings, then slowly replacing fossil fuel-based energy with renewable sources.

It sounds so simple … and is already being adopted by several organizations.

Here’s their Blueprint.

A Portrait of American Consumerism

Back to the subject of Americans and our overabundance of Stuff, I ran across an article about Chris Jordan’s photography on I think I’d seen some of his photography before, but Chris takes statistics about our consumer-istic lifestyle and turns them into giant, visual works of art that convey the scale of our overabundant consumeristic nature. It’s another well-done, impactful view of the Story of Stuff.

As Shea on Ecogeek says:

 Chris thinks that the green movement is happening, but is stalling out. He used the analogy of the finish of a bike race – everyone is waiting for the other person to make the first move toward the finish line. He also believes that the green movement is hampered by the lack of cool. Michael Jordan changed the face of basketball fashion overnight when he showed up to the game wearing baggy shorts. Although people like Al Gore and Paul Hawkin are necessary to the environmental movement, they lack the cool factor of a green Michael Jordan.

I’ve experienced this first-hand when I go to the store and use my reusable shopping bags. Everyone looks at me like I’m a little crazy. A few comment on how cool my bags are, but for them it’s all in the design of the bag, not the concept of reducing our consumerism and saving the environment. When I use my flourescent “Live Green” bags with the cool design, everyone thinks I’m cool. When I pull out the bunched up, plain-jane eco-sack from my purse, they look at me like I’ve grown a third head or something (but it’s so much more convenient for a forgetful, busy mom!)

I guess I’ll try to use the “cool” bags more often, to get the message across to other shoppers to consider reducing their use. I wish we weren’t so shallow, though.

The Story of Stuff

It all started with a trip to the iRise blog to read about Made to Stick, which was very intriguing and made me want to write about usability and stickiness all over again, but I took a side trip to the Made to Stick blog which led me to the Story of Stuff. It’s such an impactful video, I’ve got to say, it’s changed my whole way of looking at life. Talk about usability done well! The simple, stick-people graphics in this video combined with the passion and common sense of Annie Leonard are so incredibly well-done. They even split the video up into chapters so you can watch the whole thing, or you can skip to or re-watch portions of it. And at the end of the video, they provide a link to what you can do–a clear call to action. They did everything right, and it’s a good thing because this is a message that needs to be heard.

I e-mailed it to all of my friends and made a mental note to write it up on my blog and everywhere I went I started challenging the way I was doing it. I ran across another blog entry this morning about Water Bottle Guilt (with entertaining diagram!), which reminded me I GOTTA blog about this!

We detoxed our home a couple years ago, switching all our cleaning products, personal care products, etc. to Melaleuca. I’ve been sharing the “get-rid-of-toxins” message with people ever since then. But now when I go to the coffee shop, I order my coffee in a washable mug, rather than a throwaway cup. (And next time I need it to go, I’m gonna bring along my own travel mug to put it in!) My friend had given me a reusable shopping bag over Christmas, but I kept forgetting to use it, until I saw The Story of Stuff. I’m finally refusing to use plastic bags at grocery stores–either I bring my own bags (I got lots of “love your bags!” comments when I used my bright green “Live Green” bags yesterday at the store!) or I just carry my items. “Don’t you want a bag?” they ask. No, I don’t. I am against using them, against our whole consumption-oriented society. It’s insane how much waste we generate every day, and we all need to take steps to stop it and create a sustainable system that won’t destroy our earth. I’ve also decided that when we go to the convenience store for fountain pop, I’m gonna reuse the cups we bought last week. I’m not buying the plastic bottled pop anymore. These are just some little steps I’m taking.

My daughter and I are going to get together and brainstorm some more ways we can help save our planet together. She’s really excited–and so am I!

Where’s your journey to helping sustain the earth going to take you? I hope you will start by watching the Story of Stuff.

(By the way, I did notice sometimes that the Story of Stuff web site has trouble loading. I think it’s getting a lot of traffic. If it doesn’t work the first time you visit, reload the page and try again. It’s well worth it!)

EPA shows Air Quality on Google Earth

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just unveiled their Google Earth version of air quality emissions sources on Google Earth.

The KMZ file from the EPA shows different colored markers for different sources of air pollution:

  • Cement Facilities
  • Chemical Manufacturing
  • Electric Generating Units
  • Natural Gas Pipelines
  • Oil and Gas Production
  • Petroleum Refineries
  • Pulp & Paper Industries

Clicking on any of the multitude of colored markers on the globe brings up an info balloon that shows a graph of the carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds for that facility.

This is a great step forwards in making air quality data more usable because it provides the geographic context, but you have to be an air quality expert or a pretty determined researcher to interpret the data. The questions that pop into my mind looking at it are:

  1. What does a high level of volatile organic compounds (or particulate matter or …) mean to my health? There is information on these topics on the EPA web site, but it’s provided separately. A more usable approach would pull in the relevant information right in the balloon (or at least as links from the info balloon).
  2. How far from the facility location would the effect be felt? What is the potential coverage area impacted? I’m sure it varies by weather conditions, but polygons or circles showing the potential impacted area would be more helpful. Even more helpful would be a calculator that would allow you to enter wind speed and direction and see the affected area as an overlaid polygon on the earth.

It’s nice to see the EPA taking steps to make their information more accessible. Some simple usability enhancements would make the information much more relevant to the average public.