Archive for October, 2008

Texas Clean Air Awards

October 31st, 2008

Clean Air Awards 

Last week, I was in Texas to give the keynote speech at the The North Texas Clean Air Coalition's "working for clean air" awards.   I had a great time meeting everyone involved with this important organization and I was impressed with all the amazing ideas the award recipients had. 

Clean Air Awards 2 

The beautiful venue was an old train station that was restored back to its former glory.  Train travel, appropriately enough, is actually one of the greenest ways of getting from Point A to Point B.   This upcoming Thanksgiving, I'm thinking of taking the Amtrak train to my holiday destination as a way to beat traffic and cut back on my carbon footprint.  

Stained glass 

Above my speech podium were these incredible stained glass windows.   You hardly ever see stained glass windows featuring an Americana theme, but here they were: a cowboy riding along the trails and an old steam engine train roaring about.  Whoever restored these did an amazing job and I couldn't stop looking up from my seat to admire them.

Cowboy Parade 

And speaking of cowboys, look what was marching around downtown right before the awards!   And old time cowboy parade.   I guess it's pretty appropriate for the event:  Riding a horse is definitely one of the greenest modes of transportation!

My thanks to the organizers and sponsors of the event.  I had a great time and enjoyed meeting everyone.

Fall Energy Savings

October 30th, 2008


This morning, I stopped by my local Lowe's store to get some air filters for my heating and cooling system.   It's one habitual thing I try do every 90 days: replace the filters to keep the air in the house as healthy and allergen-free as possible.

But while I was there, I couldn't help but notice all of these energy saving devices that I really needed for my own house.   So, in other words, I went nuts.   I bought some of the Philips LED holiday string light (okay 20 boxes) that I'll be using this Christmas season to light-up both indoor and outdoor trees.  Since they will last about 25,000 hours, I figure it's a good investment over the next 10 years or so of use.    And then I found amazing surge protectors, LED flashlights, some new CFL bulbs and a water heater cover.    So, I spent the morning getting my home energy-ready.

Energy 2 

I've been looking for a good surge protector for my some-time desk in the living room.  I sit here with my laptop and printer and other electronics when I'm just home for a day or so and need a plce to work.   This Belkin surge protector actually clips to the side of your desk, so it makes for easy access and won't be in the way.   I like how i can turn it all off with a flick of a switch.

Energy 3 

Down into the basement, I was reminded how much gutting I had done to the house months ago.   Here's the old boiler when the home was heated by heating oil.   I switched the whole house to a super energy efficient electric heat pump that both heats and cools so beautifully; it's called Acadia from Hallowell and it's considered the greenest of the green.   But, here, is the ripped out old system sitting in the basement.  I think I need to get this scrap metal recycled.

Energy 4 

I KEEP FINDING STUFF in this house!   Here is a box of old carving tools I found tucked behind a shelving unit in the basement.   How cool!

Energy 5 

And here's my electric water heater all snug and wrapped up now.     I'm actually researching going tankless with the house and have found some electric versions that are just hitting the market.  It's the greenest choice since you're not heating up a whole lot of water just waiting for it to be used; a tankless version gives you hot water when you need it.   No waste.   But every plumber I speak to says now is not the time to get an electric tankless system.    Any insight on that? 

The NYLO Hotel

October 29th, 2008


I travel quite a bit for my job, so to make these a bit more familiar when I'm on the road, I tend to stick to hotels that have become my home away from home.   I recently went to Texas to give a keynote speech at the Clean Air Awards and also had some meetings with my retail partner JCPenney in Plano, TX.   So, I decided to break my routine at staying a the Westin Hotel and decided to check out the new NYLO hotel.

First things I noticed: this is a hotel concept dedicated to creating a healthier, allergy-friendly room environment for its guests.    Case in point: the bed in my room.  It's one of the only hotels I know that actually uses encasement covers for its pillows and mattress, creating a barrier to keep any allergy-causing dust mites at bay.


Beside the bed, there is this little platform area made entirely out of either crushed bamboo or kirei wood.  I couldn't tell, but either choice would make it a very sustainable choice.   It also re-emphasized the spa-like environment they were going for.  I just wanted to go to sleep the second I walked in the room!


In the room was this little sign saying who cleaned the room and what their PURE allergy friendly standards were.  I was also equally impressed to learn the showerhead was an aerating one that also filtered out chlorine.   Chlorine, when in a steamy, gas form, can actually be toxic if you're taking a shower in a not-so ventilated room.


And here's a shot of the overall room.   They even have just concrete floors with modular carpet tiles in select areas.  This way, the carpet tiles can be cleaned or swapped out if they need to be replaced.   No dust mites or allergens here…plus, lots of eco elements.   I might just be calling the NYLO my new Plano, TX home away from home in the future.

But that said, I will say the Westin Hotel does have considerably better customer service and a much more accommodating staff.   The NYLO TRIES a bit too hard to be too trendy…but they do get an A+ for the rooms!

Junk Markets

October 28th, 2008

Junk Yard 

Can you imagine shopping at a store where you pay based on the honor system?   There's a store in Pennsylvania where the vendors set everything up outside and they trust you to walk all the way inside and pay for the item if you want to buy it.  In other words, when the store is closed, the outside shop is all right out there…in all the elements.      Amazingly, people don't steal from this outside shop and they say people pay for the items they want.   That said, if you're stealing a 10 cent terra cotta pot, then you must REALLY be struggling…

Junk Yard 2 

Here are some rows and rows of glassware and jars and the random (of course) Exit sign.  Everything has layers of dust and dirt on them, but a good cleaning and disinfecting can turn anything from unsightly into totally functional.

Junkyard 3 

Believe it not, I have found some amazing steals in this outdoor junk heap.   One of my favorite things was an old school galvanized washing tub that I repurposed into an outdoor bar.   That $5 find has been photographed a million times for magazines and it remains one of my favorite finds.

Horseshoe Chair 

Now, inside the store, I found some nicer, less "junky" items.   This horseshoe chair cracks me up.  I have a set of black horseshoe chairs at my cottage that were made from an Amish farmer.   I never thought I'd see something similar again, but here it is… how fun!

Eco Halloween on CBS

October 27th, 2008


Tune in Tuesday, October 28th to CBS The Early Show for my latest tricks and idea for throwing a fantastic eco-friendly Halloween party at your own home.

We have some really fantastic finds and easy DIY ideas that I think you'll love.   One sneak peek: you can take some leftover chocolate candy and make the best (and delicious) face mask ever.   Not a scary mask, but a spa-like mask that moisturizes and helps calm your skin.

Intrigued?   Tune in to CBS to find out how.