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July 2009


Driving a Hybrid: Weighing the Costs & Benefits

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6a00e550ae4e83883401157148061b970c-200wi Thinking about buying a hybrid, but concerned over the high premium (price difference) that would counteract your gas savings? Depending on the way you drive, how long you’ll keep the car, and what you decide to buy, a hybrid could (in its lifespan) either save you money or end up costing around the same as a non-hybrid version. With hybrids, not only does gas mileage increase, it flip-flops: most cars have a higher highway mpg rating than city, but hybrids do much better in the city than on the highway because of their reliance on electric power up to 40 mph. So city drivers have the advantage when it comes to buying hybrids, but there are models that benefit highway drivers just as much.


Hybrid versions of cars that are already known and loved seem appealing – and while their environmental impact is reduced, which is an awesome incentive on its own – gas savings and other hybrid incentives may not make up for the higher cost. For example, while the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid (41 city/36 hwy, $25,293) gets almost twice the city rating of its non-hybrid cousin (22 city/31 hwy, $18,272), there’s only a 5 mpg highway increase, and about a $7,021 premium (that is, the difference between the averages spent on a Ford Fusion Hybrid and a Ford Fusion).


Just because a car gets better mileage than its cousin doesn’t mean it’s the best deal out there. However, there is, admittedly, one car whose price is definitely worth the extra miles per gallon: the Prius. The 3rd Generation Prius gets 51 miles to the gallon on the city, and a whopping 48 on the highway, for about $24,011 – so it’s a win-win no matter where you drive.


As far as hybrid SUVs go, improvements are improvements, but they’ll always guzzle more gas than a smaller vehicle. For example, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s gas mileage, at 27 city/25 hwy isn’t much – if at all – better than the non-hybrid Ford Fusion, and it costs about $15,855 more. Imagine the comparison between the non-hybrid Highlander and the Hybrid Fusion (hint: there’s a $2,735 savings involved, on top of far-improved mpg). After all, you’ve gotta spend money to make money – not to save money.


For more earth-friendly information, visit RTM's Planet Driven Section.

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One Stop Earth Shop: Green Depot

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Building - or even decorating - a home the entirely "green" way seemed to me like an impossible task. Where would you find all the little things needed in a home, that were all green in some way?

All I could say when I found Green Depot was - well, it's not so appropriate, but I was pretty excited. Everything is green, and they sell everything (for your home). Need eco-friendly paintbrushes? They've got 'em. A cool-looking recycling bin? Yep. A bamboo kitchen counter? Well, of course! And the site's "green filter" takes care of any possible greenwashing. Do I dare to say it's even better than IKEA?

Locations are currently just in New York state and Chicago, but their website's worth a look or two. 

Visit RTM's Planet Driven Section for more green lifestyle news.

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Movie Review: Six Degrees Could Change the World

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By Sara Hoffman

Another enlightening and thought-provoking environmental film, National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the World is a methodical yet scary prediction of each increasing degree's effect on our planet. Simply navigating the Scene Selection Menu is astonishing: Our World + One Degree, Our World + two Degrees...all the way to a horrific six degrees. narrated by Alec Baldwin, the theme is that something big is happening. With every degree of global warming, irreparable damage occurs - damage that could not only ruin our environment, but the social structures that keep people sane.

But global warming, like some cynics argue, can't be all bad - during some stages of the warming, farmers on colder continents will be able to grow crops they never could before - enabling the possibility of a British-grown wine. The film's pressing interviews, with people from corners of the globe that are already seeing the effect of climate change degree by degree, makes it all seem much more real.

To see the experience the future in the midst of global climate change, buy National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the Worldon amazon.com.  

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Green Memories: Earth-Friendly Scrapbooks

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Scrapbooks Scrapbooking can be addicting. So can buying all the cute new stickers, papers, and albums to support your hobby. Green? Not so much. Some scrapbook enthusiasts even subscribe to scrapbooking magazines to get layout ideas. Well, this tip will not only make your scrapbook more authentic, it's totally green as well.

At this eco-friendly turning point, there are basically two choices:

1) Go natural: Use all recycled materials. Make your own cover by stringing together two equal sizes pieces of a thick material like cardboard or wood. Use papers you have laying around as background pages - even your junk mail and newspapers can serve as interesting backgrounds, especially years later. Use old greeting cards as matting paper, old buttons or flowers as decorations. Really incorporate your life into the book, not the items you found at the scrapbook store.

2) Go digital: Photo-book creating websites like Picaboo allow you to design each layout of every page, while putting your digital photos to use. No need for layer upon layer of paper - everything's digitalized, then printed onto single pages. Perfect.

For more green lifestyle ideas, check out RTM's Earth Tones Section.

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Green Festivals: Helpful or Harmful?

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Festivall The word festival may not strike one's green-thinking mind as sustainable; picturing tons of waste from food and drink, paper flyers handed out nonchalantly and CO2 released into the atmosphere as thousands of people drive to the gathering.

However, many festivals are now backed by awesome festival-greening companies like Firefly, which provides festivals with solar energy, Clean Vibes, premiere waste manager for festivals, and Green Mountain for carbon and travel offsets. By taking huge initiatives to leave no environmental impact, all festivals - from music to Earth Day - inspire people to reduce their own footprint. The fact that big gatherings like these attempt to leave no trace pales attendees' own efforts or motivates even bigger lifestyle changes.

Though the details of green festivals may be questionably un-green, getting people together, with setting a sustainable example as a purpose is nevertheless a good thing. Forward-thinking attendees feel the pressure to make the event a contribution to the environment, not another strain on reducing their ecological footprint.

These "un-green" details - the plasticware, the littering, the travel arrangements - are changing substantially. Most green festivals have ride-share programs, recycling initiatives or super-convenient recycle bins, and employ biodegradeable "plastic"-ware and plates that can be composted right with the food scraps left on them.

Some environmentally-inspired or eco-conscious festivals to attend:

  • Lollapalooza, Chicago
  • Rothbury, Michigan
  • Green Festivals, U.S.

For more green news from RTM, visit the Planet Driven Section.

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Green Living Tips for Apartment Dwellers

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Apartment Imagine your dream eco-friendly apartment of all apartments: everything you see is repurposed, recycled or used, eco-friendly, or alive (winebottles used for candleholders, thrift store shelves, tons of plants). Because apartments are often small spaces, it's easier to keep track of all your stuff, so you can cycle what comes in and goes out in a no-impact way.

The Cycle of Stuff: When incoming "throwaway stuff" arrives, plan on it being in your apartment for a long time, just maybe not in the same form. Don't bring stuff in that you can't repurpose, reuse, recycle, give away or compost later. Soon you'll have a green haven, filled with only things that are truly necessary, that have been salvaged and made into something useful.

Utilities & the Environment: Your apartment's ecological footprint is mailed to you every month, in the form of a bill. In smaller spaces, it's easier to keep track of water and electricity usage. Apartments are easily and efficiently heated. Simply keep an eye on how much water and electricity are being used, turn down the heat or A/C when you're not around, unplug appliances that aren't being used, and soon you'll be competing with yourself to get the lowest bills possible. 

Click here for more green living tips from RTM.

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Eco-Adventure in Manitoba Province, Canada

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Polarbearr Just North of the United States' Dakotas, the Manitoba Province of Canada is unexpectedly quirky - with dozens of different festivals from summer to winter, diverse wildlife within reach, beautiful forests and rivers, and rich French culture. 

Adventure lovers can zipline through the Pembina Valley, while others navigate Winnipeg's urban mature elm tree forest. Visitors who wish to exist among the bears can sleep on a tundra train lodge in the white bear habitat as the northern lights stream across the sky. Or choose the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, where humans are essentially caged in, watching polar bears' activities.

Eco-adventurists are welcome at one of Falcon Trails' eco-cabins in Whiteshell Provincial Park, and can take a yoga-or bellydance-themed canoe trip through one of the area's four urban or boreal rivers.

And, finally, what Manitoba is famous for...incredible beluga whale-watching - but from early July to mid-August, you can even swim with them! Guided snorkeling adventures on the Churchill River or Hudson bay bring wildlife enthusiasts bell-to-belly with pods of belugas.

Visit RTM's Adventure Travel Section for more ideas like this.

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Movie Review: National Geographic's Strange Days

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By Sara Hoffman

Ntllll geo This series is a four-part explanation of strange phenomena that have occurred and are occurring due to human impact on the Earth. Like a murder mystery about the environment, each part walks the viewer through several real-case scenarios, starting with the problem, then putting all the intricately connected clues together to figure out a logical, yet unpredictable, answer.  

Part 1: Invaders discusses globalization and invasive species like myconia, termites and water hyacinth. "When everything moves everywhere, what will survive?" asks narrator Edward Norton. Because many researchers believe that a single piece of land can support far fewer species than the same area carved up into isolated islands and continenets, species without borders (caused by globalization) means many fewer species.

Part 2: The One Degree Factor proves just how much a single, tiny change can affect the natural world, like a butterfly effect. The environment is so delicate and cyclical that changes in Africa's landscape affect the health of children in the Carribean, and how the increase by a single degree in temperature can lead to changes that slowly kill off an entire species.

Part 3: Predators explains the significance of predatory animals that humans have always feared. "Humans expand, nature contracts," ponders the narrator. The mystery here is, why did aspens stop regenerating the same year that the last wolf was removed from Yellow Stone National Park?

Part 4: Troubled Waters, more science-y than the others, describes how "chemical cocktails" in water affect the health of living organisms - land and marine. It shows a clear link between land management, coast management, and obscure chemical mixtures.

Buy Strange Days on Planet Earth Collection on Amazon.com.

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On-the-Go Beverages That are Better For the Planet

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Eviable Still can't kick the old bottled drink habit? You can feel a bit better about drinking these more sustainable options. From water to drink mix to juice, you can have your eco-friendly beverage and drink it too!

Naked Juice - Their bottles (made from other bottles, what a concept) are recycled and recyclable. Their juice is free of added sugar and preservatives. Every banana that goes into the drinks is sourced by the Rainforest Alliance. It's a win-win-win.

O.N.E. Water - Amazon Acai, Cocnut Water, Coffee Fruit are just some of the exotic flavors of this water, packaged in renewable TetraPak cartons.

Flavrs Drink Mix - Though Flavrs' concentrated organic drink mixes sweetened with agave nectar are the main draw to their site, the online Flavrz Store is committed to selling only eco-friendly products.

Find more advice on sustainability in RTM's Planet Driven Section.


Stepping Stones to a Green Career: Getting Started

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Greencareers So, you want your career to have green makeover. Where do you even start? If you're not in the market for one of those new green degrees or certifications, you can still be professionally "green". First of all, if you're fine with not having the actual degree on paper, there are plenty of free online college classes to take in the environmental field. Here are 100 of them that'll give you hardcore environmental prowess.

Also, consider taking on a green project at your current job - if it is something that can benefit the company financially, it may even pave the pathway to a new job title. Be the one to relentlessly take recyclables to a recycle bin when they're on the way to the dumpster, to set a good example and show that you really do care.

Find more environmental advice from RTM in our Earth Tones Section.