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Four good green reads, from edible fashion to your pet's eco-pawprint

Today's green news: reading about edible clothing, your dog's eco-pawprint, a green plane, and lightning's effect on the environment.

By / November 4, 2009

Does Porter, a 70-plus-pound chocolate lab, have a larger carbon footprint than this gas-gulping SUV that gets about 17 mpg? Some New Zealanders say so. A new study argues that resources required to feed a dog give it about twice the eco-footprint of an SUV.

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Who says that environmental news always has to be about cap and trade or disappearing glaciers? Some of our green reading today tends toward the offbeat: edible clothing (think pasta blouses and a cabbage-leaf  bikini) and calculating the eco-pawprint of your dog or cat.

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Then take a peek at Southwest's new green airplane and consider an environmental side effect of the world's yearly 1.2 billion lightning flashes.

Edible fashion
You get the feeling that Joe Laur had fun compiling From the Fig Leaf to Fig Newton’s….Edible Clothing can grow on you! at Greenopolis. He documents Chocolate Fashion in Greece and clothes made using flowers and seeds.

So far, we haven't seen any studies about the environmental impact of  a Nike hamburger.

How green is your pet?
According to Robert and Brenda Vale,  architects specializing in sustainable living at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, a medium-size dog has more of an adverse impact on the environment than driving a Toyota Highlander.

And a cat isn't much better. It's slightly less than a Volkswagen Golf.

In their book, "Time to Eat the Dog," the Vales measure the environmental paw-print of pets by analyzing what they eat. You know where this is going, of course: Eating meat is terrible for the environment.

The Vales suggest that animal lovers get more eco-friendly pets – such as hamsters and goldfish (which have "the eco-finprint of two cellphones," reports Marty Durlin) – or  "edible pets" like hens (which come with a bonus of organic eggs) and rabbits.

But not everyone's sold on that idea. While agreeing that owning a dog is an extravagance, observers such as Judy Gruen aren't so sure that it's the carbon footprint of Bowser that does it. And she points to the emotional benefits of dogs.

Added later: And Clark Williams-Derry crunched the numbers – and says it isn't so.

A look at a new green airplane
Air travel has adverse environmental impacts because of noise, emissions, and fuel. And while there are things that travelers can do to ease their impact, greener planes are definitely the wave of the future.

Many of the ideas are still experimental – although getting closer – but here's a look at a "green plane" that's in commercial use today. It hasn't solved the big environmental problems but decided to go for the interior issues – including carpet that's 100 percent recylable and is returned to the manufacturer at the end of its service to be remanufactured into new carpet and seat covers made from recycled materials that are more durable and lighter in weight than leather.

Lightning's environmental impact
Not only is lightning noisy and destructive, each flash "produces a puff of nitrogen oxide gas (NOx) that reacts with sunlight and other gases in the atmosphere to produce ozone," says NASA.

Recent research at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has determined that "lightning may have a considerably stronger impact on the climate in the mid-latitudes and subtropics — and less on surface air quality — than previously thought."

Here's more detail.

Editor’s note: For more articles about the environment, see the Monitor’s main environment page, which offers information on many environment topics. Also, check out our Bright Green blog archive and our RSS feed. Or become a Twitter follower.

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