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The joys of 'virtual hiking'

THE WEST
Couch potatoes, rejoice: Pretty soon, you won't have to actually set foot on a trail through the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone national parks. Instead, you'll be able to enjoy an online "virtual hiking expedition," compliments of the energy-bar maker Nature Valley. The company hired crews with 360-degree cameras to hike 100 miles through each national park in order to "bring the parks experience to the indoors and outdoors-oriented alike," reports fastcompany.com. Nature Valley marketer Scott Baldwin explained that showing a picture of wilderness is easy, "but people want to have deeper experiences." And what could be deeper than experiencing something on your computer screen? So sometime next year, prepare to kick back, click on Trailview and let your virtual muscles do the walking.

COLORADO
Jefferson County's schools in the Denver area have long been innovators in the world of marketing, engaging in efforts that Click and Clack, the "car guys" who have an hour-long program on National Public Radio, might mock as "shameless commerce." But what's a school district to do in this era of starved budgets and crowded classrooms? Jeffco's latest foray into advertising is selling 2-inch banners on the bottom of all report cards; the client is an education savings plan called CollegeInvest.

UTAH
Fed up with a husband who interacted only with videogames, Alyse Bradley of Logan, Utah, put Kyle Bradley up for sale on Craigslist, calling him "easy to maintain, just feed and water every 3-5 hours." She quickly got some takers, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, though a few people felt that Kyle, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, deserved whatever time he needed to play "Modern Warfare" from the safety of his couch.

THE NATION
It may not make intuitive sense, but the Washington Post reports that even as we clutter our homes with just about every winking electronic gadget that's ever been made (usually in some faraway Asian country), Americans are on the path to using less electricity. Demand is leveling off because of several factors, with the main reason being greater efficiency. Light bulbs and other electric appliances are being manufactured both to use less energy and last longer; houses are shrinking and being made tighter; and there's a growing consensus among consumers that, especially given the grim economy, it's time to stop being profligate with electricity. "In general, it is now cheaper for utilities to help customers cut back than to build a power plant," the experts say. Still, this could change if some irresistible new product comes along that requires lots of juice, or if electric cars that plug into the grid go mainstream.

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