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May 13, 2014

Politically, America may still have a long way to go before everybody’s on the same page with regard to anthropogenic climate change and the imperative to take immediate action. But culturally, the idea is moving ahead full-steam. Climate-themed...

January 30, 2014

If you thought things were back to normal in West Virginia after the Elk River chemical spill, which cut off drinking water to 300,000 people earlier this month, you thought wrong.

Over 2,000 residents have called the state’s poison center to complain of symptoms—the most common of which appear to be red, itchy skin and upset stomachs—and 533 people with similar concerns have been...

January 13, 2014

Years ago, perhaps after I served them a rustic-looking crème broulee, my in-laws gave me a miniature blow torch, the better to caramelize future desserts. It’s a neat tool—efficient and exciting to use—but I can’t say I’ve precision-melted sugar more than four times in the last twelve years (crème brulee leaves behind too many egg whites for a household that doesn’t love angel food cake). And so the gadget sits above my refrigerator, a slight risk for explosion but mostly just taking up...

December 5, 2013

Part of OnEarth's Answers from the Past month, in which our contributors explore how contemporary thinking on sustainability has been influenced by wisdom handed down to us from previous generations. Read more here.

The greenest commercial building in the world sits on a slope...

November 21, 2013

Beginning next summer, landfill-bound garbage trucks in Massachusetts might smell a little less putrid than usual, thanks to a new regulation that would prohibit any generator of more than a ton of food scraps per week from hauling those scraps to the dump. As the state finally gets serious about diverting food waste, it expects to be sending much of it elsewhere: to hungry people, animal-feed producers, commercial composters, and the high-tech contraptions known as...

October 23, 2013

As you dutifully deliver your recyclable soda bottles and soup cans to the curb each week, you’re probably not thinking they’ll soon be embarking on an intercontinental voyage. But there’s a good chance that they are. The United States ships 50 to 75 percent of the material collected from curbside recycling programs to China each year, along with such scrapyard staples as junked cars, wire cables, broken motors, and other industrial and commercial castoffs. Add it all up, and that’s 46...

September 12, 2013

Kristin Murphy spent two years listening to a portable radio that, thanks to a broken antenna, delivered only AM broadcasts. A Columbia University PhD student and a self-professed news junky, she refused to buy a new one, but she lacked the tools to fix hers. So when she learned this past spring that a pop-up repair shop would be opening in her northern Manhattan neighborhood, she was thrilled. “I thought the idea was brilliant,” she says. “I began collecting broken things...

July 23, 2013

When my phone rang two months ago, a stranger invited me to visit a Portuguese cork-oak forest. I'd never seen one, so I was intrigued. My caller, Patrick Spencer, executive director of an Oregon-based nonprofit called the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, explained why seeing and understanding this landscape was so important: the forests are fragile, among the most biodiverse in Europe, and threatened by people who buy wine closed...

June 13, 2013

Not long ago I found myself stranded in Williston, North Dakota. You might have heard of it. Despite being the eighth-largest city in the 48th most-populous state, Williston has won some infamy in recent years. It's at the center of an oil boom that’s likely to make the United...