Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Recommendation: EcoDesign Sourcebook

For the growing number of people looking to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle without sacrificing high style, ecoDesign — now fully revised and updated — is the ultimate one-stop shopping resource. The latest edition of this definitive sourcebook includes up-to-the-minute listings for more than seven hundred consumer products — from clothing to kitchenware, electronics to furniture — that have a minimal impact on the earth while remaining useful and beautiful. This remarkable compendium also directs readers to little known gems and handcrafted objects from artisanal studios. Detailed, illustrated entries describe the products, while an extensive reference section defines new and hybrid materials and provides information on manufacturers, design studios, and green organizations. ecoDesign remains the total resource guide for the new generation of contemporary design.

Buy it now

Is Your Child’s Car Seat Toxic?

Most popular 2008 child car seats being tested for toxic chemicals

Vote for Your Choice at by Monday, June 23

Last year the Ecology Center released the first-ever consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars and child car seats. (You may have read about it here on Black Bear Speaks last year.) This included 62 brand new infant, convertible and booster car seats. In December they released a holiday shopping guide to toxic chemicals in toys at Now, these Ann-Arbor based environmental scientists are testing 2008 models, and they want to hear from YOU. wants to know which child car seats parents are most interested in having tested. Parents can go to the Test My Car Seat feature at and vote by Monday, June 23. Test results of the most popular car seats will be released on Tuesday, July 22nd at along with updated data on toxic chemicals in 2007- and 2008-model vehicles.

While there are numerous substances in car seats that can lead to health and environmental problems, the Ecology Center is looking for those with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment. Chemicals tested for include: bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; and heavy metal allergens. Such chemicals have been linked to major health problems such as liver, thyroid and developmental problems in children. Babies are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure to chemical-laden dust and inhaling toxic fumes, since their systems are still developing.

Anyone looking to buy a new car or car seat, or wondering if their current car or child’s car seat is safe, can visit after July 22 and search by model, or comparison shop between different models.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chicago Green Festival This Weekend on Navy Pier

Head's up! Knú will be exhibiting at the Chicago Green Festival on Navy Pier!

Show Hours:
Saturday 10AM- 8PM
Sunday 11AM- 6PM

Venue and Address:
Navy Pier
600 E Grand Avenue, Chicago

Celebrating what works, the Green Festival showcases more than 350 diverse local and national green businesses displaying and selling eco-friendly, fair trade and sustainable products. Annie's Mac&Cheese, Dr. Bronner's soap, Utne Reader and NOLS will be there, plus lots, lots more.

Knú is bringing in a truckload of Michigan made unique, modern, high quality sustainable furniture, including: new home office desk designs, an entertainment center, a lateral file, privacy screens, and more. Knú furniture is built using Forest Stewardship Council certified wood products, recycled content steel components, low-VOC finishes, and it ships in fully recyclable packaging. Knú does not produce junk mail catalogs! We are 100% carbon offset through our business partner, last year we offset 389 metric tons! Check out our website at or to learn more about our sustainability efforts.

In addition more than 150 visionary speakers will appear for standing-room-only panel discussions, presentations and main stage speaking events. Look for Amy Goodman at noon on Saturday and Winona LaDuke at noon Sunday, to name just a few.

With more than a dozen speakers covering topics such as permaculture and sustainable architecture, the Green Home Pavilion will be one of the top places to be during the festival. Look for the Knú booth directly in front of the Green Home Pavilion. We'll be the big guys in grey shirts with the funky green Knú logo on them, can't miss us.

Click here to find the Chicago Green Festival speakers list and schedule.

Also at the festival, you'll enjoy great how-to workshops, green films, a fair trade pavilion, yoga and movement classes, kids' zone, delicious organic beer, wine and cuisine, and live music. Look for the Knú guys in the grey shirts.

To learn more about the Chicago Green Festival, check out their site at

If you have any questions regarding Knú or the Chicago Green Festival, give Knú Customer Service a call toll free at 866.451.5541!!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Congress moves will support major coal interests, not renewables

On April 15, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources & Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands conducted an oversight hearing on state and community impacts from the West-Wide Energy Corridor Process. The process, mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, would designate energy corridors across large swaths of land throughout the U.S. At worst, this is an example of bureaucratic bungling that threatens some of our most pristine, ecologically important habitats and could waste millions of taxpayer dollars. At best, this process represents a missed opportunity to design a forward-looking policy to address our energy needs.

Here is some background on the West-wide corridors:

Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires the Departments of Energy, Interior and multiple other federal agencies to designate West-wide energy transmission corridors for oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines as well as electric transmission facilities. The federal government responded by issuing a draft environmental impact statement in November 2007 that proposed corridors on public lands within the 11 states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and California. Once designated, the corridors (averaging 3,500-feet wide but ranging up to 5 miles in width) will cover 6,000 miles and almost 3 million acres of public lands. As proposed, the designations will damage wildlife habitat, cultural resources, recreation opportunities, and many other resources on federal lands across the West. The impacted areas include such renowned places as the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge on the Arizona/California border, New Mexico's Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, and Utah's Grand Staircase National Monument and Arches National Park.

The corridors process also shortchanges the commitment of Western states to producing renewable energy. Not only would the proposed West-wide energy corridors slice through high-value public lands, they would hard-wire a coal economy onto the 21st century West. The proposed energy corridors show the administration's multi-billion dollar grid to be little more than a network connecting existing and proposed coal-fired power plants that bypass many areas rich in renewable energy potential. If the federal government is going to invest millions in solving the energy transmission bottleneck, it only makes sense that it does it in a manner that moves us toward efficient use of clean energy sources.

At the hearing, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) said, "The current map looks like a giant extension cord to existing coal sources. Transmission is key to the development and sustainability of renewable energy. If that wasn't taken into account, that's a huge step backward.”

Designating corridors to meet our needs to transport energy across the nation can be part of a common sense approach to meeting the need for energy, but it is only one part – in conjunction with considering how we conserve energy and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. It is vital that these corridors are located only in appropriate places, and that their construction and use are also carefully determined with true consideration of their likely effects on the surrounding areas. Thoughtful planning is the best way to protect people and the rest of the natural environment.

The designation of energy corridors across the West simply cannot be permitted to proceed unless and until these serious concerns are addressed. The agencies need to generate a new proposal and conduct real consultation with all interested parties, fully disclosing what the corridors will do to all the affected lands, and including alternatives that avoid or minimize impacts to sensitive resources and prioritize improved efficiency, distributed generation, and renewables. Such an approach would ensure that this can be a meaningful and ultimately useful process.

To learn more about the West-wide Energy Corridor designation process, please visit

Saturday, May 03, 2008

37 Yellowstone National Park Wolves Shot Dead

The restoration of the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies is one of America's greatest environmental success stories. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and the central Idaho wilderness in 1995 after being exterminated by settlers, trappers and the federal government. Since then, these new populations have increased to 1,500 or so animals. Wolves play a crucial role in the ecosystems of the Northern Rockies, helping to preserve riparian forests and maintain healthy populations of raptors and coyotes. They are also a boon to the region's economy, generating tens of millions of dollars in tourist revenue each year.

But Rocky Mountain wolves are now in grave danger. In March 2008, idiots in the Bush Administration stripped gray wolves in Greater Yellowstone and across the Northern Rockies of endangered species protection. Earlier in the year, these same idiots in the administration issued a new rule allowing the slaughter of hundreds of these wolves. Entire packs of wolves could be gunned down from airplanes in minutes. In fact, the federal government has already spent our tax dollars to buy two planes for the purpose of aerial gunning. 37 wolves have been shot dead in the past month.

Both Idaho and Wyoming have made it clear that they intend to take their wolf populations down to minimum levels. In Idaho, the governor himself boasted, "I'm prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself." The Bush Administration's new rule would allow Idaho to realize its dream of killing every last wolf -- 60 in all -- in the Clearwater River wilderness region. Ultimately, the state wants to kill up to 85 percent of its approximately 780 wolves. Even pups will be killed.

Wyoming's plans are equally brutal. The state classifies wolves as "predatory animals" in most of the state. As predators, wolves could be shot on sight anywhere by anyone at anytime. In the 80 percent of Wyoming outside the Yellowstone area, wolves will now be killed in unlimited numbers -- with no licenses or permits required.
By authorizing these wolf killing plans, the Bush Administration is catering to the hunting community, which wants the ease of hunting elk in the same places and in the same numbers that they've grown accustomed to. Yet, elk populations are at all-time highs across the Northern Rockies and above objectives in all three states. In fact, the game and fish agencies in the region are taking steps to reduce their elk herds.

Wolves are being targeted because of a few cases where elk herds have declined. But these declines have been caused by many factors, including drought, shrinking habitat and human hunters -- not just wolves. Under the Bush Administration's plan, wolves alone will be blamed for any and all declines in a few elk populations. And that will be grounds enough for shooting and trapping hundreds of more wolves across two states. Wolves will be killed for doing what they are supposed to do: maintain a healthy ecosystem by preying on elk.

Instead of killing wolves, Wyoming and Idaho should be redoubling their efforts to protect them in the face of mounting development and other habitat destruction. The Bush Administration should protect wolves under the Endangered Species Act until the states have plans in place to ensure that wolf populations will flourish in the future. They should make certain that connections are maintained between the three populations in the Northern Rockies so that these populations remain genetically healthy. These ecological bridges are increasingly important as rural sprawl and industrial development continue to fragment wolf habitat throughout the region.