Holiday Season Giving Guide

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Holiday Season Giving Guide

It’s a fact: donations to charities increase every year around December.  Perhaps, with so many holidays crammed into the end of the calendar year, people are just in a more generous mood?  Or, more cynically, the public is seizing their last chance to make a tax-deductible write-off.  Whatever the reason, now is a good time to think about your favorite charities and non-profits, and we’re here to guide you to the wateriest ones.

In the past, we’ve promoted local groups and groups that work directly around issues related to the LA Aqueduct. Admittedly, we’ve even plugged ourselves a few times.  But this year, we’re going to try something new and take a more global outlook toward charitable giving.

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Charity:Water may not have the name recognition of some more famous charities, but that doesn’t mean their work isn’t worthwhile.  With Better Business Bureau accreditation and a reported 83 cents to their programs out of every dollar donated, Charity: Water will give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to providing infrastructure to deliver clean, safe drinking water to communities in need.

Other groups that give clean water to those without include Living Water International and Wine to Water.  Both also have their full information on the BBB website, and while their numbers aren’t quite as impressive as those of Charity:Water, they’re still solid charitable choices.

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Want to hear some really impressive statistics about giving?  The Waterkeeper Alliance utilizes ninety-three cents of every dollar donated to fight river pollution in the United States. 

Taking a moment to be a little bit selfish, most of California’s drinking water comes from Sierra snowmelt, and most of Los Angeles’s water importation methods begin in or around Yosemite National Park.  So if you want to make sure your drinking water remains clean and safe (not to mention preserving trails and monuments for our outdoors enjoyment) consider making a donation to the Yosemite Conservancy

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And to narrow our scope even more, did you know there’s a non-profit committed to preserving the Pacific Crest Trail?  The Pacific Crest Trail Association works to preserve and protect the land the trail passes through, including securing easements and Federal protections to ensure the trail won’t be subject to development or pollution.  The Pacific Crest Trail runs roughly parallel to the LA Aqueduct (and then some) and our crew met plenty of PCT hikers during our shoot –so let’s do them a solid and preserve their trail?

When you give the gift of water, you give the gift of life.  What could possibly be better than that?  So as you settle in to enjoy your holiday season, think of what you’re giving and spare a few dollars to continue to conserve the drop.

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Conserve-ify Your Cravings

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Conserve-ify Your Cravings

We’ve all seen those blog posts and books  and magazines offering healthy substitutions intended to satisfy your worst food cravings without spoiling your diet.  In theory, these are pretty handy guides – it’s good to listen to your body and recognize what it wants, but also good to recognize a difference between what you want and what you need.  The bad news about those sorts of guides is that they’re all about calories and fats and sugars, and nothing exists (yet) that tells you how to satisfy your cravings for water-intensive foods with green foods.  Drought Diaries to the rescue!

So this week, we’re looking at four cravings for foods that are virtual-water intensive, and their best replacements.  All numbers below are in liters per kilogram unless otherwise noted.

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WHAT YOU’RE CRAVING: Pasta

ITS VIRTUAL WATER IMPACT: 1,849

ALTERNATIVES: Have you heard of vegetable noodles?  The concept is simple: get a long, stringy vegetable and shred it into spaghetti-shaped pieces to replace your grain-intensive favorite Italian dish with a virtual-water-friendly one.  Carrots (120), squash (353) and sweet potatoes (79) all make for water-friendly pasta ingredients.

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WHAT YOU’RE CRAVING: Chocolate

ITS VIRTUAL WATER IMPACT: 17,196

ALTERNATIVES: Ladies, you know what I’m talking about with the chocolate cravings.  And, no, that’s not a stereotype: chocolate contains magnesium, a nutrient that many women don’t eat enough of.  The upside is that low-virtual water foods high in magnesium include leafy greens like lettuce (237) and avocados (less than 1 liter)  – yum!

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WHAT YOU’RE CRAVING: Steak

ITS VIRTUAL WATER IMPACT: 15,500

ALTERNATIVES: If you’re just a standard Mid-Western steak and potato eater like my family, we’ve already got an entire blog post covering exactly this issue.  However, there are many reasons people crave steak: it’s a good source of nutrients like selenium, iron, and zinc.  Brazil nuts (2,782)  tomatoes (214), and whole grain bread (1,648) are each virtual-water-friendly sources for those other nutrients.

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WHAT YOU’RE CRAVING: French Fries

ITS VIRTUAL WATER IMPACT: 1,480

ALTERNATIVES: Fries are listed among the top unhealthy cravings for America, and it might come down to a craving for sodium or carbohydrates.  Nuts will also feed those cravings, with 2,782 liters  – which may seem like a lot more than the French fry water impact, but you can sate a craving with just two nuts, meaning you can eat a lot less for the same benefit.

Did we get your favorite guilty pleasure food, or do we need to write a follow up?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Looking Back with a Thankful Heart

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Looking Back with a Thankful Heart

This past year has been a big year for all of us at The Longest Straw.  Our movie premiered for the very first time.  We attended a festival and the 2017 Fandango. And, at the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, we got to share all of it with you.

Of course, November is pretty much synonymous with giving thanks.  So for this week’s post, we’d like to honor and give thanks to certain individuals who really allowed this year to be a good one.

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Santiago Escruceria, Mike Prather, and Sage Romero, who shared our premier with us and attended an amazing Q&A after our first festival screening to talk about water issues that persist throughout California. 

The good folks who run the New Urbanism Film Festival, who not only hosted our first ever Los Angeles screening, but also work hard to promote those film and art projects that raise awareness of our environmental needs.

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Governor Brown, who has continued to fight for and pass policies designed to preserve our resources in the face of an administration that doesn’t see the value of a clean and renewed earth.

All those who financially supported our movie back when we were still in the fundraising stage.  (And it’s not too late to give.)  You should – finally – receive your perks soon if you haven’t already.

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And everyone else who has supported this project in some way over the course of the past four years.  If we were to list every single contributor, this blog post would have no end, so if you’re not named, please don’t take that to mean we’re not thinking of and appreciating you.

Thank you.

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Giving Back

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Giving Back

This is a time of year when many people think about opening their hearts (and their wallets) and giving back.  Heck, “giving” is even in the name of our next major holiday.  So as we think of opportunities to express our charity during the last month of the year, let’s also look at ways to give that will benefit our planet and help us to conserve water.

We’ve brushed up against this topic before, exploring local organizations in Los Angeles and elsewhere along the LA Aqueduct that work hard to preserve our resources and could put your dollars to good use.  The Mono Lake Committee, the Owens Valley Committee, and Tree People all have long and storied histories of working tirelessly to preserve our natural spaces – so why don’t you throw a few bucks their way in order to help them with their work?

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Living sustainably is often a multi-pronged effort.  Whether you’re paying to install a greywater system or investing in extra-large rain barrels or replacing your old and outdated fixtures with low-flow ones, all those efforts cost money.  If you have the cash to spare, that’s great, but consider any one of the charities on this extensive list of Better Business Bureau accredited environmentalist non-profit organizations.

And if giving financially just isn’t in the picture, you can always give an even more valuable resource: your time.  Consider participating in one of the Friends of the Los Angeles River clean-up events or volunteering with Water LA

Sharing is caring and the holiday season has to be one of the most generous times of the year.  How are you planning to give back?

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Our Favorite Things: Ways to See Our Movie

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Our Favorite Things: Ways to See Our Movie

You’ve probably seen a new posting on our website: a list of screenings

The core idea is this: we’ve already toured the length of the aqueduct once, when Samantha hiked over 400 miles along the length of the LA Aqueduct.  Now, we’re going to travel again, and this time around, we’re doing it in style.  So many of the people and communities along the LA Aqueduct were instrumental in telling the story of LA’s water.  Now, we’re sharing their story with them, and giving people all along our route a first chance to see the finished cut.

You may have already heard about our screening at the Fandango event in Big Pine, or our screening at the New Urbanism Film Festival in Los Angeles.  If you missed those screenings, though, no fear, because there’s more to come!

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Specifically, this weekend will be jam-backed with three Owens Valley screenings.  First, on Friday, November 17, we'll be in Lone Pine at the Smokehouse.  The very next day, November 18, we'll be at the Inyo Council for the Arts in Bishop.  And then on the 19th, we'll be back into Independence at the Owens Valley Growers Co-Op.  Each of these screenings is generously co-hosted by the Owens Valley Committee.

This is what we’ve been working toward for four years, but this aqueduct tour isn’t indefinite.  Act now to get to a showing before it’s too late!

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Alternatives to Living Green

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Alternatives to Living Green

For years, we’ve posted weekly blog posts giving you tips to save water and also live a more sustainable lifestyle in general.  Our tips have ranged from the simple to the intense, and we’ve even pitched how to speak to your less conservation-inclined friends about why their consumption matters.

But we get it.  Maybe you just can’t be bothered to save water or reduce other unsustainable habits.  So this week we’re going to look at your alternatives to sustainable living.  Really, you don’t need to consider the impacts of your choices if you do these things.

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Option 1: carry a snorkel with you at all times.  If you don’t have access to a snorkel, a SCUBA kit or kayak would work as well.  When I was young, I heard warning after warning that the sea levels would soon begin to rise, and now it’s happening.  It’s gradual now and you’re not likely to get washed away in a tidal wave when you’re just walking down the street, but if you can’t work to avoid sea level rise, you could at least be prepared for the inevitable.

Option 2: go on an inedia diet.    As rainfall and hot periods become less predictable, our agriculture will become less reliable, meaning there’s less food to go around.    Add to that the fact that short-sighted growing methods mean some familiar foods may go extinct, and you’ll be happy you got a head-start on not eating.

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Option 3: become a bubble boy or bubble girl.  Climate change can create ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes and other disease-carrying nuisances.  Expect to see more instances of diseases that were once so rare we never needed to consider them, like malaria and cholera. 

Option 4: win the lottery.  We already touched above on how global warming can cause food shortages, but even when food is available the prices will go way up.  You can also expect to pay more for your water, and if you live in the regions hit hardest by climate change you may even have to pick up and move entirely.  The best way to prepare is to make sure you’re independently wealthy now.

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Option 5: have a well-written will.  Because whether it’s attributable to polluted air, more hurricanes and other extreme storms, or even climate-change related car accidents, you’re going to see an upswing in deaths in under twenty years.  No matter how many of the preparations we listed you take, you can’t avoid all the impacts of climate change.

So by now, you’ve probably figured out this article is a bit tongue-in-cheek.  We don’t recommend you prepare for the worst-case scenario while there’s still a chance to avoid the worst-case entirely.  Think green; live green!

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Never Fear When Halloween Decorations Are Here

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Never Fear When Halloween Decorations Are Here

A few weeks ago, we delved into Halloween costumes and the virtual water impact you may make in your annual dress-up celebration.  This week, we continue our exploration of what is objectively the best holiday of them all with a peek at Halloween decorations.

First of all, what is Halloween without a jack-o-lantern on your front porch?  The nice thing about jack-o-lanterns is that it’s fairly easy to track their virtual water impact as they have only one ingredient: a pumpkin.  Squash require only 31 gallons for every pound of produce, and your average jack-o-lantern -quality pumpkin will weigh between 7 and 10 pounds.    Consuming up to 310 gallons of water on a decoration may sound like a lot, but in the grand scheme of virtual water, it’s actually next to nothing. 

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Need more reasons to get your spooky smiling gourd on?  The filling can be put to work, too, meaning you get even more enjoyment without additional virtual water content.  Roast the seeds for a crunchy snack.  Bake the fillings into a pie if you’re craving something sweet instead. 

But we’re not all handy with the carving knife and tools.  What if you were to buy an artificial jack-o-lantern instead?  On the upside, it can be used year after year (unless, like my family, you buy your decorations while your puppy is going through a chewing phase).  On the downside, it’s made of artificial materials like plastic, ceramic, and foam.  Every brand will be different, but unless you can find an eco-friendly manufacturer, expect your fake jack to vastly outpace the real ones in terms of water consumption.

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Not everything is about jack-o-lanterns, though.  I’ve always enjoyed the spooky abandoned mansion feel I get through the generous application of fake spider-webs.  Like the fake jack-o-lanterns, every fake spider web manufacturer will have a different recipe and a different eco-footprint, but you can also make your own out of glue.  Buyer beware, though, because rubber cement is made of artificial materials including latex, so you can expect a higher footprint.    Maybe you’d be better off letting your real spiders go a little crazy?

Feeling spooky yet?  Having fun getting scared is a great way to celebrate the holiday, but let’s not lose sight of the genuinely scary fact of climate change.  Think green for Halloween!

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Screening of The Longest Straw at New Urbanism Film Festival

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Screening of The Longest Straw at New Urbanism Film Festival

The red carpet.  The step-and-repeat.  The photographer.  The big screen.  If our premier screening in Big Pine was all about community engagement, our screening in Los Angeles was all about Hollywood glamour.

The Longest Straw screened the third day of the New Ubanism Film Festival, and we were the first feature of the day on Saturday, October 21.  We were pleased to see a decent-sized turnout for the movie, and while we didn't quite have a sold-out show, supporters turned out in encouraging numbers, excited to see the story of Sam's journey for the first time.

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After the main event of our screening, we then had the opportunity to have a panel - or as the festival calls it, "pub urbanism" -  and discuss the water infrastructure issues raised in our movie.  Director Samantha Bode and Producer Angela Jorgensen joined local landscape architect Aja Bulla-Richards and festival co-founder Joel Karahadian to explore ways that the city of Los Angeles can implement the changes proposed in our movie.

Besides our crew, attendees included several on-camera interviewees featured in The Longest Straw, including activist Conner Everts and Melanie Winters of Water LA.

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Feeling like you missed out?  That's OK!  We'll have more screenings to come, just keep checking back for more info! 

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The Longest Straw's World Premier in Big Pine, California

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The Longest Straw's World Premier in Big Pine, California

October 13 at 5:00 PM - some people may think of Friday the 13th as an unlucky day, but it brought good tidings to the crew of The Longest Straw as we premiered our first ever public screening as part of the opening ceremony at the Big Pine Paiute 2017 Fandango celebration.  

Several local residents poured into the Paiute Wellness Center for our screening, but we were also pleased to see attendees from Los Angeles, Lancaster, and beyond.  Our goal with this movie is for everyone in California to learn where their water comes from - and to inspire people outside of California to learn about their own water systems - so a diverse turnout was greatly encouraging.

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After the screening, our crew had an opportunity to do a brief Q&A session with attendees.  Besides our director Samantha Bode and producer Angela Jorgensen, several interviewees from the movie attended, including Santiago Escruceria, Mike Prather, and Sage Romero.  We enjoyed the opportunity to explore the movie further with the lucky attendees who got to see it for the very first time.

Feel like you're missing out?  Never fear, because another screening is coming to Los Angeles soon - and very soon.  Saturday, October 21, our movie will screen once again with the New Urbanism Film Festival.  Seats are limited and admission to our movie costs only $12 - or you can buy a day pass or a festival pass to see the other projects being screened.  Either way, we'll see you soon.

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Don’t Fear These Halloween Ideas

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Don’t Fear These Halloween Ideas

The decorations.  The costumes.  The candy.  The haunted houses.  Halloween is the best holiday of the year – and that’s an objective fact.

Personally, I’ve been a long-time fan of home made costumes over those bought from a store.  Something about putting your creativity to work just makes a disguise all the better, whether you’re a master crafter or just someone who threw some paint on an old T-shirt.  But is your Halloween costume really water conscious?

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The average store-bought Halloween costume is made of cheap materials, meant to be worn once and then thrown away.    Think plastic (24 gallons of water for every pound) nylon (we couldn’t find a number, but it’s not good) and polyester (about 830 gallons per pound).   Even if some of those items may not sound water-intensive in and of themselves, do you really want to leave that footprint for one night of revelry?

But let’s delve into our creative side a bit and assume you’re making your own Halloween costume.  If you’re the crafty sort, you might break out the sewing machine and some scrap cloth.  250 grams of cotton (i.e. about a shirt’s worth) require 2,495 liters – that’s worse than the polyester listed above.    A pound of wool requires 101 gallons of water    All in all you may be better harvesting fabric you already own (like old sheets or ripped or stained clothes you can’t donate) rather than buy new.

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And that leaves those of us who want to get creative but have two left thumbs when it comes to fashion.  (Don’t feel bad – I’m in that category with you.)  The good news about re-purposing existing clothing is that it has very low virtual water impact – shop used or raid your own closet to turn that striped shirt into a mime outfit  or your old red skirt and white T-shirt can transform you into a gumball machine

Of course, there’s more to the perfect Halloween costume than your threads.  We’ve touched base before on the virtual water impact of your makeup.   Aiming for colored contacts or false nails?  Both are made of plastic, and have the footprint listed above.  Wig?  Unless it’s a high-end wig made of human hair or horse hair, it too is plastic

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There’s enough spooks and thrills in the Halloween season – you don’t need to be afraid of your costume’s water use on top of everything else.

Are you wearing an extra green costume or is there some key tip we missed?  Share your thoughts in the comments or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter!

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Fall Into Water Savings

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Fall Into Water Savings

Believe it or not, the first day of fall was last week.  You may not be thinking about your lawn now, but mid-fall is actually the perfect time of year to convert from a grassy lawn to a drought-tolerant one. 

Why should you convert?  The answer is simple.  The drought isn’t over yet.  Even if it were, Los Angeles imports the majority of its water from hundreds of miles away, meaning all the water we use in our city impacts people we’ve never met, but who also rely on that water to survive.  If that’s not a reason to save the drop, I don’t know what is.

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What does a drought tolerant lawn look like?  Lucky for you, it’s not all desert-scapes and cacti.  You may be surprised to find that drought tolerant plants include lavender, sage, and poppies.  And sure, not all drought tolerant plants are succulents, but don’t let yourself believe succulents can’t be beautiful.  I’m personally partial to aloe for its medicinal properties, but there are plenty of other water-wise options. 

Want to go the extra mile on an eco-friendly lawn?  Choose low-water plants that are also edible, so you can also save on the virtual water footprint of your food (not to mention your grocery bill.)  Low-water common garden fruits and veggies include tomatoes, eggplant, strawberries, and raspberries

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This is also a good time to think about installing a grey water system.  There’s nothing so relaxing as soaking in a nice warm bubble bath, but our water-conscious readers know baths use an average of 35 to 50 gallons of water.  You could justify an occasional soak by putting your bath water to work, and adjusting your plumbing to drain into your yard.  That, my friends is greywater.  Unfortunately, grass doesn’t flourish with greywater systems, so you’ll still be tearing out that lawn in favor of honeysuckle, roses, and oaks

Grass may be synonymous with summer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think of your lawn needs in autumn.  In fact, with the turning of the season, nothing is more thematically appropriate than changing out your yard’s flora.

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Our Favorite Things: LA’s Water Sources (And How to Get Involved)

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Our Favorite Things: LA’s Water Sources (And How to Get Involved)

Imagine, for a moment, that you lived in this city in 1913.  Many things would have been different.  Los Angeles only had a population of about 100,000.   The city received all the water it needed from the Los Angeles River

Today, with a population around 4 million people, a single water source isn’t going to cut it.  The Los Angeles Aqueduct was the first attempt for the City of Angels to import water from far away, but since then we’ve also taken water from the California Aqueduct and the Colorado River

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Let’s begin by looking at the LA River.  Decades ago, out of fear of flooding, the city lined the bottom of the water with concrete in order to steer the water away from peoples’ homes and toward the ocean.  Like many engineering projects born of hubris, the concrete channeling created more problems than it solved, and now several groups have begun the slow work of returning the river to its natural state.  You can support those groups and also experience the beauty of a natural Los Angeles River by booking a paddling tour

The California Aqueduct has held a prominent place in the news in recent years due to the many controversies surrounding its management.  Whether we’re debating preserving the Delta Smelt or building tunnels to direct more water south, feelings about the water source to the west of the Sierra Nevadas run strong.  Bypass the second-hand information and check out the California Aqueduct itself by taking a guided kayak wildlife tour to see all the plants and animals that rely on your drinking water before it reaches the city

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The Colorado River’s most famous outdoors destination is certainly the Grand Canyon.  The downside is that like the river itself, this national park destination is ecologically threatened.  Being famous for your beauty can be a curse.

Instead of the Grand Canyon, visit the Colorado River’s terminus in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.  For years, due to over-diverting, the river dried well before it reached its natural endpoint.   Thanks to restoration efforts, now the river touches the sea once more, a reminder of the victory that comes with ecological vigilance.

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New Urbanism and What It Means for The Longest Straw’s Premier

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New Urbanism and What It Means for The Longest Straw’s Premier

Urbanism?  Based on the word’s root, you know it has something to do with cities.  But what, exactly?  And how about when it’s new?

Well, urbanism is a study of both people and their environments in studies.  It’s a broad topic, but becomes a bit more specific when you look at the principles of new urbanism: an exploration of city design with an eye toward sustainability.

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Our movie is a perfect fit with the concepts of new urbanism.  The technical complexity of the Los Angeles Aqueduct wouldn’t be possible in a small town, and the competing values of a city’s need for water, a state’s need not to export those water resources, and the humans who will be impacted on both sides of the equation all speak to the core of the new urbanism movement.

That’s why our movie is such a perfect fit for the New Urbanism Film Festival.    In late October, this festival comes to Los Angeles with a variety of movies focusing on sustainable city planning and development.  And on October 21 at noon, you can see the premier of The Longest Straw on the big screen at 135 North La Brea Ave.   Get your tickets now!

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Of course, it’s an honor to be featured in any festival, but we’re particularly thrilled to be featured in one that reflects our own values and message so closely.

So come on out.  Be sure to check out our screening, and while you’re around sit in on some other movies, panels, and environmental activities as well.

See you on the big screen!

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The Drought Is Over: All Hail the Drought

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The Drought Is Over: All Hail the Drought

Quick: pop quiz: is California currently in a state of drought?

If you answered “no,” then you’re right.  As of April, the drought emergency that mired the state was over, and even before the official proclamation many news organizations had already declared an end.  And yes, that was three different links.

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If you answered “yes,” that we’re still in a drought, you’re also right.  The California Drought Monitor still lists about 8% of the state in a drought, has done so pretty consistently for most of the calendar year.

So which is it?

First, let’s begin with every pedant’s favorite tool: a definition.  And for climate debates, we’re not going to go with your standard dictionary definition, but instead, look at the National Oceans and Atmospheric Association’s definition: drought is a shortage of water that is evident, impacts agricultural crops, and impacts communities that rely on that water. 

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Pretty vague, right?  And that also explains why we get so much conflicting information about whether or not California is in a state of drought.  Our reservoirs and lakes are in many cases still low, and many communities still suffer from water shortages.   So in the midst of engorged rivers and flooding, we can still somewhat meet the definition of a drought-stricken state.

Drought or not, we need to think seriously about California’s water future.  A growing population will soon exceed what we can provide in all but the years of most plentiful rainfall. And worst of all, with climate change an ever looming threat, we can anticipate less rainfall and more evaporation that will exacerbate these shortages.

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The best steps you can do?  Keep conserving.  And if you want something more definite than that, keep checking back every week (plus you can follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds) for the best water conservation tips.

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State or Federal – Nothing Beats a Park

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State or Federal – Nothing Beats a Park

Even as early as the nineteenth century, people understood that if they didn’t take action to preserve natural spaces, those spaces would become a lot less natural as they succumbed to development, settlement, and resource exploitation.  President Grant was the first president – not just in the United States, but in the world – to recognize a national park when Yellowstone National Park was threatened by developers. 

Parks and wilderness areas can be valuable to everyone.  Whether you’re a hardcore backpacker looking for an undeveloped patch of land in which to sleep or a day-camper who wants a light stroll and a picnic, there are few opportunities better than a park or wilderness area to get in touch with nature.

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Parks, forests, wildernesses, and recreation areas – you might need to keep Wikipedia on-hand just to know the difference between the different wild options you have to visit.  But our nationally- and state-protected lands are rife with natural claims to fame, from the largest tree in the world to the deepest lake in the US.  And Californians, you’re in luck, because we have the most national parks of any state except Alaska, with which we are tied.

Like any other natural resource, though, parks and wilderness areas need our help.  While they may be Federally protected, the government can’t prevent graffiti, poor camping etiquette, and the general wear and tear that comes from high-volume usage. 

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What can you do to preserve our natural spaces?  First, be aware of proper behavior when hiking and camping.  Different wilderness areas have different policies regarding fires and waste disposals.  When hiking, stay on-trail and don’t tread the plants growing in native areas.  And no matter how cute they look, don’t feed or pet the wild animals

If you just follow the rules above, you can reduce the degree to which you damage our parks and wilderness areas.  Want to do more, though?  You can always donate or volunteer to push your contribution from “neutral” to “positive.”

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You can’t love that which you don’t know, so nature lovers around the world should see the value in getting outside in natural areas.  Do you have a favorite park or wilderness area?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Among the Weed(s)

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Among the Weed(s)

Years ago, we wrote a blog post that could be characterized as salacious.  We’ve covered the virtual water footprint of your food, your clothes, your “adult beverages,” and other modern conveniences.  So what of some peoples’ extra-legal hobbies?

Since that post went live, marijuana in California has been legalized for recreational use.  And so, we return to this topic to explore the question: to the teetotaler who never smoked the illegal drug, what are the ecological costs and benefits associated with giving it a whirl now that it’s legal?

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The key to legalization is regulation of marijuana production.  If an illegal growing operation must hide its crops, it can’t be held to water use restrictions.    So now that weed is legal in California, is there more of an effort to keep production green?

In fact, now that marijuana growers in California can go legit, and even those who were once under-the-radar support measures to permit and regulate the industry.    Prior to legalization, 70% of all weed grown in the state was done so illegally, and since marijuana requires double the water of grapes, finding ways to reduce that footprint can mean major water savings.  Colorado, another state with legalized marijuana, is already pioneering low-water growing methods. 

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A final consideration comes down to how it’s consumed.  If you tend toward edibles, spare a thought for what you’re eating.  This is where knowledge of your food’s virtual water footprint comes in handy.  Brownies use chocolate with a whopping footprint of 17,196 liters per kg, whereas a product like gummy bears is far more eco-friendly. 

As with any other drug, be it legal or illegal, medicinal or recreational, we strongly urge our readers to consider the impacts of usage before partaking.  Where appropriate, consult a doctor.  That said, California’s now a green state in more ways than one, so think green if you decide to light up.

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Party the Green Way

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Party the Green Way

Summer is waning, which means it’s the last chance to call up your friends, fire up the grill, and enjoy a guilt-free dip in the pool before it’s back to autumn and responsibility.

Or maybe you’re a student, and you’re looking down the barrel of a school year filled with epic nights drinking and making bad decisions (but not too bad) with friends and classmates.

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Whatever your attitude toward partying, one fact is true: your party offerings can make or break your get-together.  If you want to be the talk of the town, you need the right booze, the right foods, and the right activities.  With stakes so high, is there really room to think about conservation?

In a word, yes.  Making green choices at your next get-together will at worst go unnoticed and at best earn you major brownie points among your other eco-minded friends.  Putting out recycle bins for discarded soda or beer  or serving food on reusable plates can mean big savings for our natural resources.

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Give an extra thought to what you serve, too.  We’ve covered extensively the ways that a diet low in animal products is infinitely greener than a vegetarian one, but if you feel you must serve meat, remember that chicken has less virtual water than beef or pork, fresh or un-processed foods are greener than processed, and chocolate or cheese, while delicious, are like poison for water conservation.

And whatever you do, avoid straws

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It’s a season for celebrating.  Trust us: we know, with a premier date coming soon.  So get your groove on, throw back and relax, and just make a few minor changes to your party style to ensure that your soiree will both be a party for the ages and also preserve our planet for the ages to come.

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Our Favorite Things: The Crew’s Passion Projects

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Our Favorite Things: The Crew’s Passion Projects

The Longest Straw could never have been possible if our crew hadn’t been utterly devoted to making the movie happen.  After all, the production process was grueling, time-consuming, and expensive.  Nobody finishes a documentary unless they’re passionate about getting movies made!

And passionate our entire crew was.  So passionate, in fact, that many members of our production crew have made other documentaries and creative projects outside of The Longest Straw.

Samantha Bode, the director, apparently didn’t get her fill of filming epic journeys after her nearly 400 mile hike up the Longest Straw, because she’s now part of Yukon Calling.  This summer, she’s canoeing the length of the Yukon River – and you’ll see a video eventually, but not until after ours is released!

Producer Angela Jorgensen has written several web videos, the most recent of which include four episodes for the conspiracy-themed animated comedy web series The Lizardmen

Cameraman Ian Midgley was no stranger to documentary production when he joined the crew at The Longest Straw, especially since he’s shot, directed, and produced a documentary all his own called Reversing the Mississippi.  Ian explores alternate lifestyles with a distinctly American flavor in this PBS-airing movie.

We also had a camera woman for many of our shoots, Angela Wood, who shot the video series 2 Guys Named Ben.  The series follows, well, two guys named Ben who travel and explore the Bluegrass scene – what is it about our crew and travelogues?

We promise – The Longest Straw will be released very soon.  But if you’re feeling impatient in the meanwhile, check out the amazing work the rest of our crew has done.

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Eating Green When Eating Out

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Eating Green When Eating Out

This is restaurant season.  When I’ve got the air conditioner cranked, the last thing I want to do is heat the house back up again by turning on the oven.  Add the fact that I’m outside more, taking more weekend trips, and the reality of eating at restaurants is omnipresent in summer.

We’ve covered before that quite a few restaurants can be absolutely terrible in terms of the eco-impact of their menu items.  But we’re all going to go out to eat every now and then.  How can we go green when we’re out?

If you’re staying relatively local – say, still in the state of California, plenty of restaurants have already accommodated for our green leanings.  What if you’re travelling outside California, though?

Several restaurant chains have already committed to making sustainable choices regardless of geography.  Familiar favorites like In-N-Out, Starbucks, Souplantation, and Chipotle will provide you with tasty food while keeping their footprint as small as possible.

If chains aren’t your thing and you’re looking to expand your horizons when you go out, check for LEED certification on the building.   Another international organization that can serve as a guide both in the USA and abroad is the Sustainable Restaurant Group, which includes a list of member restaurants on their website.

Other signs that your favorite restaurant is eco-conscious?  They won’t serve water until you request it, they’ll use cloth napkins, and the bathrooms have hands-free dryers. 

Like most sustainable practices, you can make the best choices if you’re willing to do a bit of research in advance.  Whether it means keeping a list of go-to places or planning your stops during a trip, the Internet is full of guides to help you identify restaurants that are serving green food while conserving.

And if that seems like too much work for you, just memorize this list of seven green fast-food items.

If you are what you eat, then be water-wise with your restaurant choices.

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Another Scorcher

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Another Scorcher

I used to make the same joke over and over again after I moved to Los Angeles: “I’m from Iowa, and we have this weird thing called seasons…”

Given that it’s always sunny in Los Angeles, that the city almost never sees snow and rarely receives rain, one might naturally assume that the City of Angels exists in a perpetual state of summer.  That presumption would be wrong.  Based on my own experiences of living in the city for almost a decade, I can safely say that LA still has four seasons, but those seasons are non-traditional.  The seasons are:

·         The rainy season

·         The sunny season

·         The oh-God-why-is-it-so-hot season

·         The slightly cooler than the rest of the year season

Bad news for Angelenos: August marks the start of oh-God-why-is-it-so-hot.

Are you still reading?  Your computer hasn’t melted yet?  That’s good, because there’s more bad news.  Bad enough to live with triple-digit weather that assaults you the moment you step outdoors, but for the past several years, LA has consistently set record-high temperatures

Sure, you may think.  But it’s a dry heat.  I’ll admit, I wouldn’t trade the humidity I grew up with for a nice liquid-less dew content, but humidity or not, 111 degree days are no good no matter what the other conditions are.

And it looks like things will only get worse.  While some may still try to deny the existence of climate change, global warming is no longer a hypothetical up for debate.  It’s here.  Temperatures have steadily climbed, the California coast line has already begun to erode, and while the drought may technically be over, most agree that the next one may be around the corner.

So stay cool.  Drink plenty of liquids, keep to the shade, and stay safe.  That’s not just temporary advice for the occasional 113 degree day – it’s soon going to be a part of everyone’s lifestyle year-round.

On the upside, our planet isn’t quite yet doomed.  But the time is past for debating.  Conserve today.  Tomorrow will be too late.

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