Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Where is all the eco-friendly luggage? Found one...

I've been traveling for work, and my old luggage is finally wearing out on me. The zippers are breaking and losing their grip, the handle doesn't stay up, and the inner plastic is broken (making the luggage less sturdy). It did a good job for me, and I don't see any reasonable way to salvage it.

I looked for something local, but the luggage companies did not have anything "eco-friendly." I was surprised, since I live in a place that is really good about offering eco-products. I guess "eco-luggage" has not caught on yet with the average consumer.

I found quite a few luggage options online, but many are no longer available (again, didn't sell well apparently), didn't meet my personal needs, or were really expensive (over $500).

Finally, I found something that would provide what I needed, even if it wasn't as "green" as I was hoping for.
McBrine Eco Friendly Three Piece Luggage Set 

I wanted to have the spinner wheels and a hard exterior shell. The eco-friendly part is the 50% recycled plastic on the outside. The best part was that the price was reasonable for a 3-piece luggage set made from recycled materials, about $150 US.

I was a little unsure about ordering it online, but I am very happy with what I got. It is exactly what I was hoping for. The inside has a nice liner with pockets and straps, to help separate the clothes, and prevent them from spilling out when you open it. That was a nice bonus. This is a sturdy product and well made, not something that feels cheap or that will get easily damaged. That being said, it is also lightweight, which helps reduce the weight of the aircraft, and is nice when the escalators are down at the airport : )

The smallest piece will fit under the seat, so I can carry it on the plane, without checking my bags, which was one of my other concerns.

Hopefully, if more of us start asking for "green" luggage, the manufacturers will start providing more options for us. You can help out by ordering the luggage above (or something similar).

Now, what to do with my old luggage...any ideas?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 10 most fuel efficient vehicles for 2014

The latest "Model Year 2014 Fuel Economy Guide" was released on November 19th by the US Department of Energy, listing the fuel efficiency of over 1000 vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

The winner was the Chevy Spark EV, with a 119 mile per gallon (MPG) rating.

Here are the top 10 vehicles based on the combined MPG rating. Vehicles with an asterisk are listed with their MPGe rating. MPGe is used to compare energy consumption of advanced technology vehicles (alternative fuel, plug-in electric, etc) with the fuel economy of conventional internal combustion vehicles expressed as miles per US gallon.

You can also search the fueleconomy.gov website by vehicle type, to find the most fuel efficient vehicle by category (trucks, SUVs, sedans, hatchbacks, vans, etc).


Monday, July 29, 2013

Sustainable Buying and Disposal Decision Guide for Non-Environmentalists

Do you have friends, family or co-workers who have no sense of being sustainable or environmentally-friendly? That can be very frustrating, especially when you have to see the decisions they make on a regular basis. You drop hints and ask questions, but nothing seems to get through to them.

The other frustration is when they dispose of items that could have been recycled on-site, or recycled by taking somewhere else. They look for the nearest trash can, and the item goes off to a magical place, never to be seen again. Ugh!

Even when I make decisions, I don't always choose the best decision for the environment. I might buy something in anticipation of a need, and it turns out I didn't need it after all (microphone for recording audio). Other times, I'll forget to ask to borrow an item for a short-term use (video camera). In other cases, I'm buying products that have packaging that is not recyclable, or I throw something away that I could have taken back home and recycled.

Since my background is in process improvement, I decided to think about what the purchasing and disposal decision process should be, and document it. We've tested it out on a few purchases, and it works really well.



Download the PDF file here and try it out!

The document is broken into two sections: Purchasing an item, and Disposal of an item.

On the purchasing side, the idea is to use existing resources first, before buying anything. Once you've tried all of these options with no luck, then you can evaluate buying something new. The next set of questions evaluate the environmental impact of the item, and the last section focuses on the packaging.


    • Do I really need it, and do I need it right now?
    • Can you borrow or rent the item (item not needed very frequently)?
    • Can you buy it used or refurbished?
    • Are you buying the minimal quantity or amount of this item you possibly can?
    • Is there a compostable or biodegradable option?
    • Is there an option made from recycled content?
    • Is there a sustainably produced option (organic, fair trade, chemical free, or carbon offset)?
    • Is there a local option to minimize transportation distance?
    • Is there a high quality/durable option that will last a long time?
    • Is there a package-free option?
    • Is there a compostable or biodegradable packaging option?
    • Is there a packaging option made from recycled content?

If you've fully evaluated all of the above questions, then you can proceed and make the purchase (hopefully making the best environmental choice)

On the disposal side, the idea is to find as many ways to avoid the landfill, from fixing, donating, and including storing and waiting for the future when it might be recyclable.


    • Can the item be fixed or repaired so it is still useful?
    • Can the item be resold?
    • Can the item be donated to a charity or given to someone?
    • Can the item be repurposed for something else?
    • Can the item be composted or biodegraded?
    • Can the item be recycled locally?
    • Can the item be transported where it can be recycled?
    • Can the item be broken down into smaller pieces that can be recycled?
    • Can the item be stored until a recycling option is made available?
    • Can the item be burned safely to extract the stored energy?

If you've fully evaluated all of the above questions and didn't find another viable solution, then you can proceed and safely dispose of the item in the landfill.

Download the PDF file here >>>

Please share this document with your family, friends and co-workers, to help them make better decisions about buying and disposing of items with the environment in mind.

What do you think? Did we forget some questions?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Key West organic cafe hits the spot

One of the best drives I've ever taken is between Miami and Key West. It takes about 3-4 hours to drive down there, but it's definitely worth it. All you can see is bright blue water on either side of the highway, with many different beaches to stop at along the way.

When we arrived, we wanted to find someplace unique to eat. After we found a place to park, we started walking towards the famous Duval Street, and lucked out by finding Le Petit Paris Organic and Natural Cafe, one of the newest french-themed eateries in town.

Their menu includes organic smoothies, coffees and juices, along with crepes, sandwiches, paninis, salads and omelets (made from cage-free eggs). I ordered the Portabellawich (mushroom panini) and the Very Berrylicious fruit smoothie. They were delicious and very filling, and as always, eating organic makes it even better. The location of the cafe is also ideal, since there is seating outside, so you can do some serious people-watching.

To learn more, visit their website at http://www.lepetitpariskeywest.com

Le Petit Paris on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Organic and vegan options on your next Yellowstone vacation to Jackson Hole

On our visit to Yellowstone Park this summer, we stayed in nearby Jackson, Wyoming. If you haven't been there, it's a great place to visit. Very quaint and cozy. A little expensive, but you get what you pay for, and it was well worth it. We would definitely go back, so plan a trip if you haven't been there. Jackson is located on the south end of the Yellowstone Park entrance, and it was where we flew into, before heading to the park.

There are many great places to visit and eat in town, but one place we ate twice, the Lotus CafĂ©. They offer fresh organic and natural meats, vegetarian, vegan, and raw choices. Their dishes are from around the world including American, Asian, Indian, Thai, and Latin. They prepare everything in house from scratch including all sauces, dressings, curries, soups, dumplings, breads, pitas, kimchi, sauerkraut, chai tea, coffee syrups, juices and more. They also organically grow greens, herbs, and sprouts. They offer vegan and gluten-free options, and most of their selection is vegetarian. 

For breakfast, I had the "2, 2, and 2", which was a tofu scramble with toast, handmade veggie patties, strawberry jam and roasted "zesty" potatoes. It was delicious, and a healthy way to start our trip. My wife has the "Flap Jackson", which was eggs, veggie patty between two blue corn griddlecakes, served with organic maple syrup. The griddlecakes were amazing! I also had a fresh extracted juice, made from parsley, celery, beets, green apples, and carrots.

We stayed in Jackson at the end of our trip, so we went back for dinner. I ordered an appetizer, the bison wontons, that came with sesame-tamari and korean BBQ sauce. I've never had them before, but it was really good! I also tried the Snake River OB-1 (Organic Beer Number 1), and my wife ordered the Snake River Lager. It's nice to have an organic beer choice for a change.

On a side note about organic beers, on our way back from Jackson, we had a layover in Denver, and ate at the New Belgium restaurant. I was saddened to hear that they will no longer be making the organic Mothership Wit beer. Better stock up at your local grocery store, if you like it. Read more about this story >>

For dinner, my wife ordered the gluten-free Bombay Bowl, which was steamed brown basmati coconut rice, broccoli, red pepper, zucchini, red onion, spinach, and carrots. The tikka sauce was made from grapeseed oil, lemon, cinnamon and ginger. I ordered the Indian gluten-free dish, Chicken Tikka Masala, made with grapeseed oil, lemon, cinnamon, ginger, tomatoes and spices. Both dishes were large helpings that we couldn't finish (and I can eat a lot of food)!

If you want to support a great local restaurant that minimizes their impact on the environment, this is the place to go.Visit their website to view the full menu at http://www.tetonlotuscafe.com
The Lotus Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to make people care about an issue, like fossil fuel subsidies

In order to get people to care, you have to personalize your issue for them.

There has been a lot of talk about fossil fuel subsidies recently. But what is missing is the impact to me, as an individual. It's often know as the WIIFM (what's in it for me) approach. It is an effective method to making someone change their mind, or motivating them to do something above and beyond what they were planning to do.

There are numbers thrown out all the time about how many billions of dollars that we give to companies, who are reporting billions of dollars in profit. Sounds like large numbers, but over a million dollars, and even I get lost in how big that is.

From 2002 to 2008 (7 years), the US Government gave the fossil fuel industry over $72 billion in subsidies. I've heard in the past that we spend around $10 billion per year, so that's close enough. The US Government has a budget of around $3.6 trillion dollars (yes, trillion, or 3,600 billion to make the math simpler).

So if we divide the $10B by the total budget of $3600B, we calculate that 0.28% of the US budget is spent on these subsidies.

So in order to personalize it, I need to figure out how much I am personally paying to these subsidies.

I paid in $17,500 in taxes last year, so I can multiply that by 0.28%, and that comes out to $48.60. We'll round to $50, to make it simple. Now we take that one step further, that's about $4 per month. That number doesn't seem that much, but essentially you're buying the fossil fuel industry a sandwich each month, and they're not even hungry. Click to retweet >>

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Water bottles are bad, so why are you still using them?

I recently came across an article about bottled water, and it provided me with even more reasons not to use them. If you or someone you know still uses bottled water, you need to read this, or share this article with them.

1) Bottled water is not tested, nor do the companies have to tell you where they get it from. Tap water is regulated, and your city must submit reports to the EPA listing the results, and disclose the results to the public. Laboratory results of bottled water have shown far worse performance than tap water. A company could literally fill up bottles from the tap and sell them as "Pure Glacier Stream" and you would have no idea if that was true or not. Approximately 25% of bottled water comes directly from municipal (city) tap water.

2) It's expensive. The average price of bottled water is 240-10,000 times more expensive than tap water. Per gallon, it is more expensive than gasoline! Over 90% of the cost of bottled water is associated with the bottle, lid and label.

3) Plastic bottles made from PET and Tetra Paks have a higher rate of leaching into the bottled water, the longer it sits in the container. The results continue to come in, and they don't look good. Many of the leaching substances are hormone-mimicking, like estrogen.

4) Most people cannot taste a difference. Here is a blind statistical study we conducted that compared bottled water, tap water and filtered water. Our testers could not taste a difference.

5) Water bottling companies destroy the water aquifers of communities. Most of the water bottle companies are large corporations, like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Pepsi (to name a few). They come into a community, extract the water for almost no cost, dry up the ecosystem, then take their profits and leave.

6) Manufacturing the plastic bottles (from oil), pumping and filling the bottles, packaging and transporting the bottles greatly increases carbon emissions. Most of the time, the bottles are shipped far away from where the water is collected and filled, so this can have a huge impact on our carbon footprint.

7) Most plastic bottles are STILL not recycled. Only 1 out of every 4 bottles (about 25%) are actually recycled. Even if that number was 100%, recycling doesn't make the problem go away. We need to REDUCE our usage, to avoid the carbon impact in the first place (see #6)

Recommendation: Use a reusable aluminum water bottle filled with filtered tap water. You may not even need to filter the water depending on where you live.

Here is a good pamphlet developed by the Sierra Club that summarizes these same arguments against bottled water.