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Amtrak Redefines the Cattle Car

okdot.jpgOn its daily four-hour trip across a swath of southwest oil country Tuesday, Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer was blazing a new trail of sorts: one fueled by biodiesel.  The run marks the Earth Week inauguration of a 12-month test of alternative fuels along the 206-mile route.  

The fuel, a blend of 80% diesel and 20% beef by–product (if the train industry is shunning Texas oilmen, at least they’re tossing a shank bone to region’s cattle industry), performed well in lab test.  Carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions were reduced by 10%, particulates by 15%, and sulfates by 20%, so hopes are high for the track test. 

And, no, the fuel does not smell like burgers.

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Celebs Climb Kilimanjaro for Clean Water

With last week's devastating earthquake in Haiti, we're reminded of the value of life's most basic necessity—water. So, efforts to raise awareness about this precious resource couldn't have come at a better time.

A group of celebrities, activists, and philanthropists—actress Jessica Biel, actor Emile Hirsch, musician Santigold, and activist Alexandra Cousteau (of Jacques Cousteau lineage), to name just a few—recently banded together to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as a part of Summit on the Summit (SOTS), and shine a spotlight on the importance of clean drinking water.

The crew reached the top of Kilimanjaro—which, at 19,340 feet, is Africa's tallest peak—last Tuesday, where they stopped briefly to take a photograph (below) before beginning the (much less arduous) trek back down to the bottom. (The ascent took a grueling 6 days, while the descent took just 2.)

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Go Native: Handy Transit Apps

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Hit the ground running. CityGoRound.com, a remarkably useful new website, has compiled tools that can help you get around wherever it is you’re heading. Just type in your destination city for up a list of websites and easily-downloaded apps for mobile phones (not just iPhones) that can get you up real-time help in navigating the mean streets.

Some of the available tools are tried-and-true favorites like Google Maps, but others possess that tingly magic of future must-haves:

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Smart Power Rovers to Light Up New Year's Eve in Times Square

A couple weeks ago in Times Square, Duracell marked the opening of their Smart Power Lab by unveiling the newest design for their Power Rovers.

At this point, you might be wondering: What is a Smart Power Lab? And what are these Power Rovers? Well, as most people know, one of the biggest celebrations to happen in New York City is the dropping of the New Year’s Eve ball. No doubt a tremendous amount of electricity is used for this iconic event.

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When Flying is the Greener Choice

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If you’re traveling more than 1,000 miles, hopping on a carbon-squandering jet is actually the greenest choice for lone travelers or couples. (Well, honestly, bus travel is a more conscientious choice, but traveling by bus for 1,000 miles sounds like the plot of the most boring yet frightening horror movie ever.) Air travel even beats out trains for this distance, though the carbon equation shifts for trips shorter than 500 miles, when train trumps plane travel.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which bills itself as “the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world,” knows you’re not going to give up travel and they don’t think you should.

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Green Living Project Goes Domestic: A Visit to Primo Restaurant in Maine

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This past August, I traveled as a writer and social networker with Green Living Project, a non-profit organization that films sustainable programs across the world for inspirational and educational purposes. In GLP's two-year history, the organization has documented over thirty diverse projects in ten countries across Latin America and Africa. I joined Green Living Project’s first domestic trip in the land of plump lobsters, historical small-town reminiscing, and tongue-staining summer blueberries in Maine.

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First LEED-Built Ritz-Carlton Opens

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With so many people—and companies—“going green” these days, it’s hard to know who’s in the Eco Revolution for real. When it comes to buildings, however, there is one way to be certain: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.  The strict guidelines developed by the U.S. Green Building Council focus on construction and energy consumption. In the world of travel and hotels, this seal of approval helps separate serious change agents from so-called green properties touting towel re-use programs. Every little bit helps, but there are shades of “green” to be sure.

To date, there are only 16 LEED hotels in the U.S., with a handful more pending the arduous certification.

On October 1, Ritz-Carlton will open its first-ever LEED-built property in Charlotte, North Carolina’s Uptown neighborhood. (We even hear the president, CEO, and founding chairman of the USGB, Rick Fedrizzi, will be doing the ribbon cutting.)

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Look Ma, No Wheels!: Tips for World Carfree Day

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Tomorrow, September 22—besides being the first day of fall—also marks the 10th annual World Carfree Day! It’s not that we’re anti-driving (far from it), but it’s a great moment to consider using public transportation when you’re on a trip. The bonuses: you travel like a local, save money, and usually get there faster. Here are some tips to get you started:

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Off the Grid in Zion National Park

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Zion National Park in Southern Utah, is a spectacular place to hike. If you are considering a vacation there, and being completely immersed in the quiet, scrubby, gold and green desert with otherworldly red rock domes towering above sounds appealing, I recommend renting Los Gatos Cabin (below).

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New Golf Shirt Made from...Corn?

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Call it Corn of the Loom. Verterra Sport has unveiled an eco-friendly golf shirt made from corn. Though corn fibers have been used before, this durable and blendable formula the cream of the crop. The shirts come in two varieties: 52% corn available in five classic colors and 88% corn available in green or black.

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