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It’s a Hardrock Life

In Wisconsin’s picturesque Northwoods, a big battle over iron-ore extraction is pitting environmentalists and Native Americans against mining companies and their political allies.

The cab of Bill Heart’s Ford Ranger is cluttered with pamphlets and fishing gear, and as we pull out onto Highway 77, just north of the high ridge formed by Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills, a warm August wind rushes through the open windows and whips up patches of fur left behind by his pack of dogs. “My wife has a habit of collecting strays,” he quips. It’s summer and Heart would rather be…
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by: Mary Catherine O'Connor – Summer 2014

California Suing Bottlers Over Biodegradability Claims

The State is Enforcing a 2008 Law Designed to Stop Greenwashing in Bioplastic Containers

In Breaking Down Bioplastics  (Summer 2011 issue), we took a close look at the pros and cons of a range of packaging materials called bioplastics. This week in California, Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit aimed at addressing one of the…
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by: Mary Catherine O'Connor – October 28, 2011

Gaming Environmentalism

Recyclebank says its members eat up online gaming, but less than 60 percent of the players said it makes them greener.

The past April, Recyclebank—a company that encourages recycling by rewarding members with coupons and other special offers based on the frequency at which they recycle—launched a new gaming platform. This effort, called the Green Your Home Challenge, enticed users to play along…
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by: Mary Catherine O'Connor – June 22, 2011

Breaking Down Bioplastics

Is the Bioplastic Cup Half Full or Half Empty?

You’re standing in front of three bins – one for compost, one for recycling and one for landfill – holding an empty container called a “PlantBottle” and a clear plastic cup embossed with the recycling triangle and the number seven. Now what? Your instinct might be to put that “PlantBottle” in the compost bin, and to put the clear plastic cup in the recycling bin. But in this case, you’d be wrong…
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by: Mary Catherine O'Connor – Summer 2011

Peddling Up Power in the Developing World

Fenix International looks to spark a new small-scale power infrastructure in the developing world.

The problem is not just that there are roughly 500 million cell phone subscribers in the developing world who do not have easy access to a power grid*. One solution to this conundrum – using a car battery to juice up phones…
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by: Mary Catherine O'Connor – March 17, 2011

Major Clothing Lines Launch Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Many of the world's biggest clothing manufacturers are banding together to measure and manage the environmental and social impacts that stain their industry.

Of all our possessions, clothing may seem largely benign in terms of environmental impact. Alas, it is not. From the water that goes into growing fibers to the fuel used to ship products to the working conditions in the factories and the…
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by: Mary Catherine O'Connor – March 1, 2011

Saving the World, One Made-Up Word At a Time

The Plastiki crew is setting sail on a new adventure. Will it prove seaworthy?

Saving the world—or rather, trying to save the world—can be rather tedious and difficult and boring. It’s not so sexy or compelling to your average Joe or Jane. But when a charismatic, handsome, worldly (read: rich) individual puts his resources (and charisma…
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by: Mary Catherine O'Connor – January 12, 2011

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