Archive for May, 2007

Summer Travel Eco-Food Options

May 31st, 2007

Takeout

Well, summer travel is upon us and many us will hit the road, trains and airports.

Recently, when I traveled down to Virginia for Memorial Day weekend, I stopped at off the highway to pick-up some nourishment at one of those mega rest stop food courts.

Nevermind trying to be healthy (I gave up the second I saw the Cinnabon next to the Taco Bell with a Haagen Daaz ice cream booth wedged in between).  Instead, I wondered if it’s possible to be green in a world of fast-food over-packaging.    As I looked at the overflowing trash cans of plastic cups, styrofoam burger boxes, and soiled napkins, I started to wonder what are some good green tips I could share when it comes to finding green food options when traveling.   Or is this a lost cause?

Okay, so in this summer travel tip post, I’ll start with the easiest:  beverages.

1.  Go glass or aluminum whenever possible.   Skip the paper/plastic cups and plastic soda bottles altogether.   Look for a vending machine that sells glass or metal cans; think Snapple or orange juice or even Red Bull (like I said, this is not a healthy-eating post).    Glass and aluminum are easily recyclable and desirable recyclables; aluminum and glass get recycled into new aluminum and glass.    Bring the drink with you, sip in the car, and drop in a recycling bin at home or at your final destination.    For flyers, the good news is that many airports have recycling bins throughout the terminal, so you can drop your can or bottle into the recycling bin right before you board the plane.

2.  For coffee drinks, look for Starbucks.   Yes, they are everywhere.  But they also encourage reuse of those metal coffee bottles in their chains.  Not only will you avoid getting a paper cup, but they’ll also give you a discount for bringing your own traveling mug.   Plus it keeps your hot drink, hot longer.  (Although in the hot summer heat, that may not be a great thing… hmmmm).   If you have a reusable SIGG water bottle, Starbucks will often fill it up for you with their filtered water for free.    Just be nice when asking.

A smile, I find…goes a long way.

Bountiful Beautiful Bamboo

May 30th, 2007

Bamboo0011

About eight years ago, I installed bamboo floors in my parents’ former home and shot it for one of my first books "Conscious Style Home: Eco-friendly Living for the 21st Century."  If you head to Ebay or your local used bookstore, you might be able to score a copy of this super-early primer on green design.

Today, bamboo seems to be everywhere: from sheets to pre-finished floors to furniture to the handles of utensils.

There’s a lot of talk about the true sustainability of bamboo.  For example, what is the chemical process used to transform the bamboo plant into soft, cotton-like fiber?   

While the jury is still out on bamboo fabric, I do think bamboo is a great ecological choice when it comes to flooring and furniture.   Here are some tips to shopping for bamboo:

-Choose the hardest bamboo floors you can find.   Ask the dealer if the bamboo comes from mature or young stalks.  The older the bamboo, the more durable the floors will be.  It makes a big difference.    The inexpensive bamboo floors you see selling for $1.75 a square foot is likely to come from young bamboo. It’ll dent easily, but you’re saving a ton of money, so if you don’t mind knicks here and there, go for it.    A good place to find high-quality, super-strong bamboo is from EcoTimber (www.ecotimber.com) and pre-finished varieities can be found at Lowe’s hardware stores nationwide.

-If you’re not renovating, look for bamboo cutting boards, serving bowls, serving utensils, desktop organizers and even somewhat reusable picnic bamboo plates & bowls from a company called–what else–Bambu.   Good places to find a nice selection can be found in a variety of discount stores and online at www.gaiam.com and www.vivaterra.com.

Eco-Disposable?

May 29th, 2007

Chinet

Hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing Memorial Day weekend.   

This 3-day weekend had me thinking about all the people grilling in their backyards and throwing outdoor parties.   Big parties usually means lots of disposable plates, cups and utensils.   Lots of disposables means one, big bag of trash brought to the curb.    Multiply that by a few million, and well, you know what the results are.

The greenest choice is reusable plates, cups and utensils, but that isn’t always the most practical.    So, I pose this question: is the phrase "eco-disposable" an oxymoron?

I spied these disposable plates at the supermarket recently.   (Yes, I take my digital camera grocery shopping…).    They are made by Chinet, come in a variety of colors like this sagey green and a light blue, cost about $3 for this pack of 44 and—get this–they are made from recycled fibers INCLUDING a high-percentage of post-consumer recycled fiber.    (Post-consumer, in case you’re wondering, means it’s made from paper we put out for recycling… like at the office or curbside at home).

So, this product is helping to "complete the loop" by using recycled materials.  And it does help busy people who can’t wash tons of plates.  But is it encouraging the use of disposables still?

Do you think it’s better to go green and make the effort to use reusables or is it OK to cheat a bit and still be green-ish by using these "eco-disposable" plates?

Last Minute Gift Box

May 28th, 2007

Before

Happy Memorial Day!   

This morning, as I was cooking up breakfast, I used up a bottle of my most favorite olive oil of all time.   It’s a California cold-pressed oil that I discovered on a trip a few months back and I ended up buying a whole case of the stuff.  Needless to say, I will probably not run out of olive oil for many many months.

Anyway, so I headed to the pantry and opened up another box and placed it by the stove.    Isn’t it a well-designed box?  They use a very sturdy cardboard that isn’t flimsy at all; in fact, I thought it could make a great gift box.

But why would I want to put a present in a box marked PASOLIVO OLIVE OIL when there is no olive oil inside?     That’s when I thought: wood grained contact paper to the rescue.

After_2 

Just measure the height and diameter of the box.  Cut a sheet of paper to those dimensions (a paper cutter works best to get clean, straight lines) and attach to box.   Tie up with a pretty ribbon and you’re good to go.   It was so easy and I think it looks so handsome, too.

One Change at a Time..

May 26th, 2007

Calendar

So, sometimes I get totally fixated on something until I get it absolutely, positively, perfectly right.

I’ve been working on this exciting new project that will be out later this year.   It’s a one-a-day calendar called Do Just One Thing that features 366 seasonal and eco-friendly tips on living greener all year round.   I’ve spent so much time on coming up with practical and innovative tips that A: are actually do-able and B: are truly meaningful. 

Anyway, the cover has been something I keep changing my mind on, much to the dismay of the publisher (sorry!).    But above is the final cover that I finally fell in love with.    I love the simplicity, modernity and cleanliness of the design.  What do you think?  Here’s what it used to look like:

Calendar2