How Green Is…?

September 18, 2008

More Great “Green” Orientated Links…

Filed under: Uncategorized — libbyswan @ 10:20 am – DIY Mecca – DIY Central – Along the lines of Gandhi’s great saying, “Live simply, so that others may simply live.” – Various green orientated articles and product reviews. – Stop junk mail. – Get together with others to discuss “green” related issues over drinks near you. – An LA girl’s take on various green orientated issues. – As the title would suggest… – The fact this “sustainable living store” has a “green” measurement system and employs people to execute it, is impressive. Maybe I was onto something when I started this blog ;-). My “green” measurement system is here:


Reisenthel Shopper Bag – Not quite as durable as I had hoped…

Filed under: Uncategorized — libbyswan @ 10:16 am

So my Reisenthel Shopper Bag died on me.  It died after approx. 4 months of intense day-to-day usage, in various weather conditions.

The inside lining started disintegrating and everytime I took something out of the bag, I was taking out peices of the inside lining – not fun.

Oh, and upon closer inspection of the inside label, I confimed that it’s made in China and NOT out of previously used materials.

August 12, 2008

Green Challenges…You ready?

Filed under: Uncategorized — libbyswan @ 8:28 am

Break the Bottled Water

As a reward for getting other people involved in this campaign you could win…
* Grand Prize: A $5000 Live, Learn, and Experience Climate Change Prize from Brighter Planet, which includes a commuter bike and a trip for two to rapidly melting Glacier National Park. More…
* Second Prize: Two second prize winners will receive package of one Wellness Kitchen S-III, and two Wellness H2.O Enhanced Water Bottle from Wellness Enterprises
* Third Prize: 5 third prize winners will receive a reusable Wellness H2.O Enhanced Water Bottle from Wellness Enterprises and one Nuun mixed flavor multi-pack
* Fourth Prize: Twenty fourth prize winners will each receive one Nuun mixed flavor multi-pack that includes nine tubes from Nuun Active Hydration
* Everyone who signs up for this month’s challenge will receive a 20% off coupon from Nuun Active Hydration

Here’s another source for on-going “green” challenges:

Brooklyn Green

Their latest challenge is five-minute showers.

August 5, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — libbyswan @ 7:44 am

I’m still alive. I just haven’t been posting here as regularly. My other blog has taken pole position. Stay with me. I’m sure I’ll have some more “how green is…” articles to share with the world once my travels through India come to a temporary halt.

July 4, 2008

Enviro-Friendly Plates and Cutlery

Filed under: Uncategorized — libbyswan @ 10:27 am

When partaking in the food eating frenzy at a celebration or festival in India, you will often, if not always, be served your food on what I consider to be one of the most environmentally-friendly plates around; a banana leaf. Some restaurants will serve their meals, in particular Thalis, on banana leaves also.

You will normally find a small glass of water (hopefully clean) next to your banana leaf, if seated at a table. With your right hand, you take some water from this glass, gingerly splash it on your banana leaf, then wipe it off as though you’re trying to smooth out all the bumps and creases in the leaf.

When eating off a banana leaf you usually (if not always) eat with your right hand. Eating with your hand (or hands, as is done in some other cultures) is a very environmentally-friendly approach to eating, as there’s no wasting of one-time usage cutlery (e.g. plastic knives and forks), nor the usage of harsh chemicals and energy in the washing up of durable forms of cutlery. Just be sure to keep your hands clean and wash them after eating. In India, before you start your meal and once you’ve finished your meal, you usually go in procession with the rest of your group to wash your hands at a set of taps and basins.

Here’s a picture of a cheerful banana leaf sales man in the Mysore Devaraja Market.
Here’s a picture of me enjoying a lunch-time meal on a banana leaf.

June 27, 2008

Kabadiwallahs – Powering India’s Recycling System

Filed under: Uncategorized — libbyswan @ 3:47 pm

“…kabadiwallahs, India’s army of worker ants – men, women and children – who stream out of their cardboard slums each dawn to scour the gutters and streets for useful trash, from foil medicine packets to rags, plastic bags, glass and iron. The trash is brought back to the slum where, among huts made of cardboard and plastic sheeting and lanes lined by black rivulets of sewage, it is sorted, weighed and packed to await buyers from recycling factories.” (Photo and explanation source: Miki Alcalda) It appears Miki relied on the following Planet Ark article as his source of information.

According to the Planet Ark article, in August 2002, India Today newsweekly celebrated the recycling efforts of kabadiwallahs as “one of the world’s most efficient and low-key systems” and declared it one of the 55 top achievements of India’s 55 years of independence. Interesting, given the environmentally hazardous situations these people are putting themselves in, in order to do this work. I wonder what the kabadiwallah mortality rate is?

One thing I’m starting to question as I spend more and more time here, is where is the government/political system in all of this? By “all of this”, I mean environmental laws, sanitation improvements, proper urban planning, etc. I hate to say too much on a public website given that “bucking the system” here isn’t looked upon too fondly, and India’s newspapers highlight the fact that the real truth to any matter seems very hard to come by. I heard someone say that it takes $500 (can’t recall whether or not that was rupees or USD) to knock someone off in Bombay…

June 17, 2008

Welcome to India

Filed under: Uncategorized — libbyswan @ 4:09 pm

I’ll be in India for the next two months, so my posts to this blog may become a little less frequent.

I’ve been in Bangalore for four days now and have already been impressed by some of the “green” initiatives going on here/throughout India, despite the on-going commercial and residential development that’s happening at the cost of the local environment.

For example, I read in today’s Deccan Herald that an organization here is supporting the farming of ragi; a very sturdy grain that requires minimal resources and is high in nutrients and protein.

Oh, and check out how the Dharvi Slum are recycling and re-using to the max –

Anyway, my time at this Internet cafe is coming to a quick close, so I must sign-off, for now. The Bollywood music that they’re playing at full-blast is getting a little too much…

June 12, 2008

Workplace Drinking

Filed under: Cups, Goodwill, locally, Mugs, Polystyrene, Recycled, Reuse, Waste, Workplace — libbyswan @ 9:30 pm

The friend who helped simplify my measurement system also told me an interesting story the other day.

His workplace was cycling through a significant amount of polystyrene cups (like most workplaces I know), so it was suggested that the company buy ceramic/china coffee mugs with the intention that employees would reuse these mugs and reduce their polystyrene waste.

Then someone said that in order to off-set the “waste” that occurred in making ONE ceramic/china coffee mug, you would have to use the mug 600 times. Hearing this, some people decided to revert back to the polystyrene cup.

I really like this story as I think it’s a great example of how people make assumptions, come to conclusions and react without further questioning.

Here are just some of the thoughts that went through my head as I heard this story…

1. Did the workplace in question already have a good system in place for recycling their polystyrene waste? (Can polystyrene even be recycled?)

2. Did the workplace ever consider prompting employees to bring in mugs that they already owned? And maybe consider not providing mugs/cups of any sort?

3. What did the workplace expect visitors would drink out of once the “solution” was put into place? The reusable mugs employees were using? (I’m *assuming* they would have kept polystyrene cups in supply for this purpose.)

4. How was the “600 times” measurement derived? Is it possible to apply the same measurement system to other reusable goods that require significant resources to produce (e.g. reusable bags)?

As I’ve said before, if there’s the opportunity to reuse something already in existence, I really think that’s the best bet. So prompting employees to bring in mugs they already own or giving them $5 to go to the Goodwill store to buy a pre-used mug, I think, would have been a better strategy. (I know the Goodwill store doesn’t appeal to everyone, partly due to what I believe are obsessions with hygiene/cleanliness, but that’s another story/post for another time. And most fittingly, that time will probably be while I’m in India.)

Now, in terms of visitors to the workplace, I think recycled cups (e.g. cardboard) that are sourced locally (ideally) and recycled locally (ideally) would be a good bet also. However, significant attention would need to paid to ensuring that they DO get recycled at the end of the day once all the employees have gone home and the cleaning staff get into full-swing.

Lastly, I’m going to see what I can find out about the measurement system that was used to come up with the “600 times” measure…

June 11, 2008

"Green" Measurement System Alternative

Filed under: Construction, Decompose, Green, Karma, Measurements, Recycling, Sakowski, Transportation — libbyswan @ 11:14 pm

I’m lucky enough to have some pretty smart friends, as well as friends who are interested in helping me out with this blog ;-). You can thank Aaron Sakowski for the following simplified version of my previously posted, more complex, “green” measurement system.

On a scale from 1 (so NOT environmentally/socially friendly) to 5 (the Michelin 3-star equivalent for being environmentally/socially friendly), rank the following aspects of the product you’re considering buying:

1. Construction & Construction Materials:
-> Consider: How is it made? What is it made from? How are the materials that it’s made from, produced? Etc.

2. Transportation:
-> Consider: Where are the materials sourced from? Where is it constructed? Where is it sold? What types of transportation is involved?

3. “The After Life”:
-> Consider: Can all of it be recycled once it’s been used/once it’s no longer wanted? Can it be decomposed of efficiently, and are there the facilities to decompose it where you live? Etc.

4. Karma:
-> Consider: By purchasing the product, the “who, what, how, where and when” you are helping?Image source:

June 10, 2008

Libby’s "Green" Measurement System

OK…Here it is, FINALLY! Version 1.0. Open to critique, suggestions, feedback, and input.

Use the following TWELVE questions to “score” the item you are evaluating. I’ve scored Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag, and Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag, as examples.

All I hope to promote here is CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION.

Q1. Is it made from recycled/pre-used materials?
2. 100% (made from recycled materials)
1. Less than 100%, but greater than 50%
0. 0%/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 0 (Unless I see hard-evidence)

Q2. Is it easy to recycle/make into another product?
2. 100% (can be recycled)
1. Less than 100%, but greater than 50%
0. 0%/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0 (Unknown; assume difficult)
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 0 (Unknown; assume difficult)

Q3. Can it be easily broken-down and returned without harm to the environment at the very end of its life-cycle?
2. 100% (can be easily broken-down/returned without harm to the environment)
1. Less than 100%, but greater than 50%
0. 0%/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0 (Unknown, assume no)
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 0 (Unknown, assume no)

Q4. Is it environmentally-considerate to maintain/keep in shape?
2. Yes (no chemicals involved)
1. Kind-of (some chemicals involved)
0. No (significant chemicals involves)/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 1
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 2

Q5. Can it be used for a long-time? (Is it durable?)
1. Yes
0. No/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 1
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 1

Q6. Will it be used for a long-time? (Is it timeless – e.g. not the latest fashion-fad and therefore won’t be put in the back of the closet after one/two uses?)
1. Yes
0. No/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0.5
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 1

Q7. Material Preparation Process: Getting the materials your item is made from, into the “state” they need to be in, in order to begin item construction.
2. (Based on appearances*) Not significantly energy and/or chemically intensive
1. (Based on appearances*) Somewhat energy and/or chemically intensive
0. (Based on appearances*) Extremely energy and/or chemically intensive/Unknown
Appearance indicators: Actual material (e.g. bamboo, cotton, plastic, etc.), roughness vs. smoothness, number of colors, types of colors, coatings, etc.
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 0

Q8. Manufacturing/Construction Process: The construction of your item.
2. (Based on appearances*) Not significantly energy and/or chemically intensive
1. (Based on appearances*) Somewhat energy and/or chemically intensive
0. (Based on appearances*) Extremely energy and/or chemically intensive/Unknown
Appearance indicators: Machine-made vs. hand-made, number of different materials used, number of different “parts”, number of seems, etc.
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 1

Q9. Transportation – A. Source Location to Manufacturing/Construction Location: Where are the materials sourced vs. where is the item constructed?
2. Not significant (distance traveled, transportation vehicles used)
1. Significant (distance traveled, transportation vehicles used)
0. Extremely significant (distance traveled, transportation vehicles used)/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 0

Q10. Transportation – B. Manufacturing/Construction Location to Consumer: Where is the item constructed vs. where you resided at the time of purchase?
2. Not significant (distance traveled, transportation vehicles used)
1. Significant (distance traveled, transportation vehicles used)
0. Extremely significant (distance traveled, transportation vehicles used)/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 1
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 0

Q11. Are you supporting good employment practices, by buying this product?
1. Yes
0. No/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0 (Unknown)
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 0 (Unknown)

Q12. Are you supporting a disadvantaged group of people/community, by buying this product?
1. Yes
0. No/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0 (Unknown)
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 0 (Unknown)

(NO additional personal measures.)

Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 3.5 (out of a possible total of 20)
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 5 (out of a possible total of 20)

Additional Personal Measures (Dependent on Consumer):
(These are my own additional personal measures. Add whatever other measures you consider during your purchasing decision process.)

Q13. Compact/travel-friendly – e.g. can it be folded/squashed so it doesn’t take up a lot of space?
1. Yes
0. No/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 1

Q14. Is it “appealing to the eye” and therefore, will it promote further usage? (Remember, “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.”)
1. Yes
0. No/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 1

Q15. Does it do the “job” better than anything else you currently own?
1. Yes
0. No
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 1

Q16. Is it worth the price it’s being sold for?
1. Yes
0. No/Unknown
Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 0 (Only because I made the decision not to buy it already; I already have something that performs the job of the Mimi bag (see Q15).)
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 1

(WITH additional personal measures.)

Mimi the Sardine’s, “The Shopper” bag = 3.5 (out of a possible total of 24)
Reisenthel’s, “Mini Maxi Shopper” bag = 9 (out of a possible total of 24)

June 9, 2008

Beach Driving (Pismo Beach/Oceano Dunes, CA)

Filed under: ATVs, Beach Driving, California, Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach — libbyswan @ 5:03 pm

I’m sure this isn’t that great for the environment. Firstly, there was a car (3-day rental) and driving involved. Secondly, well, if you haven’t guessed it already, we were driving on the beach.

If you want to find out more about where these pictures were taken, see:

Sorry if these images upset anyone. Feel free to complain. At least I’d know then that I have “real” readers :-).

P.S. These photos were taken with my friend’s iPhone. Pretty impressive I must say.

"Green" Product Review: Reisenthel’s "Mini Maxi Shopper" Bag

Filed under: Bags, Fillmore Hardware, Reisenthel, Reusability,, Shopping — libbyswan @ 4:32 pm

(Above: Bag + its case.)

Libby’s “Green” Measurement System Score = 5 (out of a possible total of 20. See June 10th posting.)
Brand: Reisenthel
Product: “Mini Maxi Shopper” Bag
Seen at (and purchased at): Fillmore Hardware Co Inc, 1930 Fillmore St., San Francisco CA 94115
Available at: Worldwide; see Reisenthel’s Dealer Locator @ Online in the USA:
Designed in: Germany
Manufactured in: China. According to various other websites that sell Reisenthel products, Reisenthel bags are manufactured in China “responsibly”. (Remember, I’m simply the “messenger” here!)
Primary material: Tear-proof, polyester. Some websites claim that the material used is recycled, tear-proof, polyester. However, I can’t find any hard evidence on this, nor any information on how recycled, tear-proof, polyester is made. (I’ll edit this post if I do find out.)
Source of primary material: ???

The “green” spin:

Their reusability. The Mini Maxi Shopper bags really are quite durable and easy to care-for. They can either be “shoved” into your handbag (the strategy I take), or they can be put in the little case they come with, and then put in your handbag. Either way, they hardly take up any space.

The one I purchased is in black. I haven’t tried washing it yet, but I haven’t needed to; the “beauty” of black, durable polyester ;-).

What attracted my attention/why I purchased it:

I needed a reusable bag that was more compact than what I already owned – e.g. one I could easily “shove” into my handbag. Plus, I didn’t have the facilities to make my own out of pre-used materials; especially one so durable.

Oh, and then there was price. I think it was like USD $4.95 or something (correction: USD $8). The “beauty” of manufacturing in bulk in China…


My Mini Maxi (oh gosh, it sounds like a menstruation pad!) has gotten some SERIOUS usage since I purchased it at the start of May (menstruation pad + serious usage = gross; sorry for the visual). So far, I’ve been able to avoid getting a lot of shopping bags (plastic or paper) because of it.

Having done some further research and having found out where these bags are made, I may have reconsidered my purchasing decision. There ARE other bags out there that are similar in terms of reusability, durability and versatility, that ARE made locally (I’m talking primarily to consumers in Australia, England and the US). I’ll look to come up with a list of purchasing options in this category, based on location, and post it to this blog; sometime in the not so distant future I hope.

June 6, 2008

June 5th – World Environment Day

Filed under: Carbon Footprint, CO2, Peter Drucker, UN, WED, World Environment Day — libbyswan @ 1:15 am

I wonder whether or not the UN General Assembly considered the fact that June 5th was my birthday, when they decided to name today as “World Environment Day” (WED). Oh, no, they couldn’t have. I wasn’t born until seven years AFTER the deceleration. Maybe someone had a premonition…;-)

This year’s host of WED is New Zealand (otherwise pronounced as, “Nya Z’lund”) and the slogan for this year is, “CO2, Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy.”

I was hoping to go to LA Green Drinks in Culver City tonight, to join other environmentally-conscious peeps in paying “homage” to WED, but given my limited transportation options (largely thanks to poor urban planning on LA’s part), I had to decline. I do hope to get to one of these Green Drink sessions in the future, somewhere in the world.

Well WED’s nearly over (it’s already over for the Nya Z’lunders). If you are interested in kicking your CO2 habit, then start here: I am a strong believer in “what gets measured, gets managed” (thanks Drucker), so having a tool to help measure your CO2 output (albeit, not that accurately), helps.

Personally, I’m struggling with off-setting my current level of airline travel. My justification for my next trip is that I’m going somewhere to provide assistance to those less-fortunate. Surely that’s a good enough off-set? I’ve also done pretty well at reducing other activities that have a CO2 output; I have no car, I’ve been staying with other people since April, I’ve been walking as my main mode of transport, I’m not commuting to a place of work because I’m not working ;-), etc. Anyway, like any other human-being, I can do a pretty good job at finding a way to justify my actions. However, I’m pretty positive that my readers (if I have any at this point) aren’t interested in hearing my “justification rambles”. Plus, I want to get off my computer!

June 3, 2008

"Green" Product Review: Mimi the Sardine’s "The Shopper" Bag

Filed under: 10 Swedish Designers, Bags, Eco, Green, Mimi the Sardine, Oeko-tex, Reuse, Sweden, Tiogruppen — libbyswan @ 7:04 pm

Libby’s “Green” Measurement System Score = 3.5 (out of a possible total of 20. See June 10th posting.)
Brand: Mimi the Sardine
Product: “The Shopper” Bag
Seen at: Whole Foods, Palo Alto, CA
Source of primary material: Sweden
Manufactured in: San Francisco, USA

The “green” spin:

“Eco-coating” (listed on the label). From their website: “All of our products are made from Swedish cotton prints that have been treated with an environmentally sound coating to make them permanently water and soil resistant. Just wipe and wear and machine wash as needed. The fabrics are produced in accordance with strict environmental laws and are Oeko-Tex certified; the coating is made from acrylic and not PVC. We use no chlorine in the production process, and only water soluble dyes.”

What attracted my attention:

They reminded me of my beloved Tiogruppen (aka 10 Swedish Designer) bags, that I first picked-up in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2001, BEFORE my purchasing decisions also took environmental/social impacts into account. (Might I defend myself with the fact that I’ve always been somewhat of a prudent shopper; purchasing only what I really want/need, with a penchant for cool/distinct designs.)

Other (potentially) interesting info.:

The fabric prints offered by Mimi the Sardine, aren’t as “sweet” as Tiogruppen’s, but they’re pretty close. (The name behind Tiogruppen refers to the 10 Swedish designers who originally formed the company in 1970. Three of the original 10 designers still remain.)

Tiogruppen responded to me with the following information on their oilcloth: “Our oilcloth is…100% cotton, printed in an ISO certified printing house. The coating is PVC, but ftalat (aka phthalate) free and is classified as “Baby Standard”. Fabric production and coating is done in (Eastern Europe).” Hmm…having Googled “ISO standards”, PVC and phthalate, I’m pretty certain that Mimi the Sardine’s products are environmentally superior to Tiogruppen’s. I’ll ensure I keep using my Tiogruppen bags for as long as possible! (I do wonder whether or not Mimi the Sardine is sourcing from a fabric supplier based in Sweden, who in turn sources from Eastern Europe. Another “hmm”.)

What’s great about bags made out of coated fabric (preferably eco-friendly) is their durability; they are water and soil resistant. If I find myself in a down-pour, the contents of my Tiogruppen bag remain dry. With my Tiogruppen bags I’ve been able to take off any exterior marks with windex (I should use a more environmentally-friendly cleaner in the future), and I’ve even put them through a few cold washes (albeit the Tiogruppen website advises against this). Mimi the Sardine’s bags are advertised as being able to withstand the same wear and tear. As a bonus, Mimi the Sardine’s bags HAVE been approved for machine washing.

May 31, 2008

"It’s getting hot in here, so…"

Filed under: Bush, Fossil Fuel Combustion, Global Warming, Greenhouse Gases, LA Times — libbyswan @ 12:01 am

…question, “why”? Is planet earth simply just evolving? Or have we helped expedite the process? Quite the hot topic…No pun intended ;-). Feel free to debate the issue here on my blog using “comments”. I know you’re just dying to!Anyway, I found this article in today’s LA Times, by Margot Roosevelt and Kenneth R. Weiss, pretty interesting: “White House report backs climate change warnings”.

To quote, “President Bush’s top science advisors issued a comprehensive report Thursday that for the first time endorses what most scientific experts have long asserted: that greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion “are very likely the single largest cause” of Earth’s warming.”

What I hadn’t realized is that it seems Bush was trying to delay the report. Again, to quote, “A U.S. District Court in August ordered Bush to comply with a 2004 deadline for an updated report, after the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups filed suit.”

Poor Bush. He can’t do anything right! (I say that mockingly OF COURSE!) Interestingly enough he comes from a state that’s well known for its “fossil fuel” industry.

On another note…

I’ve been a bit slack in posting for the past few days as I’ve been busy trying to make plans to expand my 2008 carbon footprint; I’m off to India in two weeks to do volunteer work (predominantly) for approx. 2.5 months. I’ll look to get in touch with Goonj (see post below) to see if I can help them out/learn from them, while I’m there. Guess we’ll (Aussie for I) wait and see! I’m doing the trip “military style”. 20% up-front planning (in this case a little more); the rest, on the ground. An ex-GE colleague once gave me that advice when I was deliberating over a vendor selection and causing myself some distress. Good advice I must say, given it’s stuck with me since 2001.

May 27, 2008


Filed under: DIY, laptop, make, open-source, Paper bags, Ponoko, Reuse, sunshade — libbyswan @ 10:16 pm

Further to my previous post re: extending the life of paper and plastic grocery bags, here’s one for you: the DIY Laptop Sunshade made out of paper grocery bags ;-).

A friend and I were talking the other day about how great it would be to have a portable, “good-looking”, laptop sunshade, that we could attach to our laptops, so we could sit outside, enjoy the sun, and still see our monitor.

I did a bit of research and came across some pretty fuggly and/or cumbersome solutions, and started thinking about coming up with a design/manufacturing one myself, using the likes of Ponoko.

However, given my desire to re-use/extend the life of materials already in existence, I thought I’d bite the bullet and produce a sunshade for my laptop out of some of the paper bags I have lying around here (actually, they’re in a neat pile under the sink).

I’ve posted instructions/pictures on how I created version 1.0, so that others who might be interested can follow-suit. See: DIY Laptop Sunshade (posted to the website,

The finished product: Laptop with DIY Laptop Sunshade.

Versus: Laptop without the DIY Laptop Sunshade.

Don’t hesitate to ask further questions and make suggestions on my instructions page on

Oh, and after I finished uploading the photos for this posting, I wrote this entire entry outside in the beautiful Santa Monica sun!

Bags, bags and more bags…

Filed under: Bags, Freecycle, Grocery, Paper, Plastic, Recycling, Reuse, Shopping — libbyswan @ 7:30 pm

As you may have noticed, it seems as though everyone and their dog has decided to design, manufacture and market their own so-called “green”, “eco”, “fair-trade”, etc. bag as an alternative to the paper or plastic supermarket (aka grocery) bag. (Supermarket?!? Yep, that’s my Aussie coming out.) Hey, even I’ve thoroughly researched the idea of coming up with my own line of bags! Walk into any Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Vons, Ralphs, Gristedes, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Safeway, Coles, Welcome, etc. and you’ll have the option to purchase a bag, instead of using a paper or plastic bag, to carry your groceries home.

While moving away from paper and plastic seems to be a step in the right direction, I’m concerned that many people don’t realize that the alternative, so-called better-for-the-environment bags, simply aren’t. And even if they are made with the best-of-the-best, enviro-friendly material, additional resources were consumed in order to manufacture them and bring them to you. Some of them aren’t even made anywhere near the store in which you’re purchasing them (e.g. China), so consider the resources used to get them from A to B.

Your best option, in my opinion, is to AVOID getting/buying a new bag. Rummage around your closets and FIND A BAG/BAGS THAT YOU ALREADY OWN and take it/them to the store.

Now, there are some of you out there who haven’t made the greatest purchasing decisions in the past, and have ended up with bags that you are either thoroughly embarrassed to walk around with, or that just don’t meet your shopping requirements. What then? Buy a used bag at a thrift/recycled clothing store that you like even better, or try (US and pretty much worldwide) to find people giving away bags (amongst everything else under the sun) for free.

OR, even better, make your own bag out of materials and resources that you already have – e.g. old clothing/bed sheets, the bags you don’t like, etc. There are plenty of sites out there with instructions on how to make your own bags. I’ve yet to do the research on what I think are some of the “cream of the crop”; let me get back to you on that one. Given that most people I know don’t own a sewing machine or possess hand-sewing skills, I’ll try and find options that require very minimal resources, time and effort.

For those of of you find themselves in situations where you decide to do an un-planned for/last minute shop, and you don’t have a bag on you to carry whatever you purchased to your next destination (e.g. home), then slap yourself for being a dumb-ass (behavioral changes are hard; do whatever works best for you if self-slapping isn’t an option in public places), and choose whatever bag option (paper or plastic) you think your local community does a better job at recycling.

How would you know whether or not you local community does a better job at recycling paper or plastic? Try your local council’s website; it probably has some information on local recycling efforts and schedules. Or try Googling it. In the meantime, I’d say follow this advice from Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, that I found in an MSNBC article (“Paper or plastic – what’s the greener choise?”) by Anne Thompson: Plastic bags threaten wildlife along the coasts, so if that’s where you call home, Hershkowitz says the choice should be paper. In the heartland, he says it’s plastic.

Now, whether or not you end-up choosing a paper or plastic bag for this un-planned for/last-minute shopping event, do your best to re-use the living-daylights out of whatever you ended up with, before recycling it. E.g. If it’s paper, use it as the bag to capture your weekly recyclables, or use it as wrapping paper (if you’re giving a gift to someone who you know also recycles), or use it on your next shopping trip. If it’s plastic, put it in your hand-bag as the bag to use in case you find yourself deciding to make an un-planned for/last minute shop in the future. Think about all the “life-extension” options there are…it’s not that hard ;-).

May 26, 2008

Thank you WIRED…

Filed under: 100 Mile Diet, Carbon Footprint, Cows, Green, Hummer, Organic, Prius, WIRED — libbyswan @ 4:55 am

So Wired magazine’s 15th anniversary issue (June 2008) is entitled:

“Attention Environmentalists:
Keep your SUV.
Forget organics.
Go nuclear.
Screw the spotted owl.
If you’re serious about global warming, only one thing matters: Cutting carbon. That means facing some inconvenient truths.”

What the article “Inconvenient Truths” and follow-up article “It’s Not Just Carbon, STUPID” (by Alex Steffen) highlights, is the questionable nature of so-called green and environmentally hazardous products/processes, and how we must seek to understand the interlinked nature of environmental problems and their causes before coming up with knee-jerk responses/”fire-fighting” solutions that could end-up doing more harm than good. This is by no means a new revelation when it comes to considering or solving ANY problem in life; the Wired article authors and Alex simply do a great job at prompting readers to question what they already know/believe is “good” or “bad” when it comes to the environment.

Some facts/ideas raised, in Wired’s “Inconvenient Truths” article:

#1 – A Manhattanite’s carbon footprint is 30% smaller than the average Americans, seemingly largely due to the fact that 65% of Manhattan’s population do not use a car to commute to and from work. (I know I didn’t (own a car) when I lived AND worked there. Why did I move again? Well, the winters are pretty harsh, which leads to another interesting point…)

#2 – It might be better off to live in a place where the temperature does not need to be significantly adjusted (e.g. raised from negative or 0 to 70 Fahrenheit) to be able to operate/live comfortably. Oh, and it evidently takes less energy to cool a place by one degree than the energy it takes to heat a place by the same amount. (I probably should have known that, but didn’t.)

#3 – I’m sure you’ve heard how hazardous cow flatulence is by now, so it makes sense that “organic” cows are potentially more hazardous than your average (whatever average is) or hormone-enhanced cow, if it takes 2 more organic cows to get the same amount of milk/meat. My personal conclusion (and the same conclusion that author, Joanna Pearlstein, arrives at) – start considering the virtues of becoming a vegetarian and and consume goods that are locally produced as much as possible (think transportation costs/emissions plus local economic development). I’ve yet to read the book “The 100 Mile Diet“, but I think the title says enough.

#4 – Along the same lines as above, if you can produce more with less (e.g. more milk/meat with less cows/less cow flatulence) then why wouldn’t you? That’s the supporting argument for genetic engineering.

#5 – Does carbon trading sound confusing/like thin air/like selling a mortgage to someone who can’t pay? Trust your gut feel and question it…profusely.

#6 – Thank-you Matt Power for highlighting that “pound for pound, making a Prius contributes more carbon to the atmosphere than making a Hummer, largely because of the nickel in the hybrid’s battery”. And thank-you also for highlighting the fact that extending the life of something already made (e.g. a used car) is much better for the environment than buying something brand new, especially if that something brand new is being made in China.

#7 – And the mother of all facts in my mind, raised by Spencer Reiss: “(We have) 62 years before atmospheric carbon will reach critical levels EVEN IF drastic steps are taken now.” In 62 years, I’ll be hitting my 90s, and my kids (if I’m lucky enough to have/adopt them) will be in their 50s/60s. That’s a pretty scary thought…

May 22, 2008


Filed under: Goonj, India, Lonely Planet, Recycled Clothing, Recycling — libbyswan @ 4:18 am

I said my next post would be about bags, but I just came across something quite exciting. (It’s very strange, writing, knowing I have no audience…yet, or potentially never.)

Anyway, I came across Goonj thanks to an article on Lonely Planet’s website.

Goonj is an organization in India that’s essentially taking someone else’s wastage (primarily clothing) and turning it into a resource for another. I love it!

I might just have to go an volunteer with them in person after my India volunteering teaching stint. Still trying to work it all out…

May 21, 2008

How will this blog/site work?

Filed under: Green, Organic, Plenty Magazine, Socially Friendly, Sustainable — libbyswan @ 11:58 pm

How will this blog/site work?
To begin with, it will provide information on just how green/socially friendly, certain products are. It may also include other posts on certain green/social subjects that take my fancy ;-).

In the future? We’ll wait and see. I hope to come up with a system whereby I, as well as readers, can assign codes/symbols that represent just how green/socially friendly, certain products are.

How did this come about?
Well, just yesterday, I decided that it would be great if there was a site to go to, for information on just how green/socially friendly certain products are, because I’m getting bloody frustrated with the purchasing decisioning process these days, and I’m sure others are too.

In the past, my purchasing decision-making process used to take into account such factors as whether or not I really needed the product, how expensive it was, did it look good, matched what I already owned, etc. Now I want to factor in what it’s being made out of, where it’s being made, how it’s being made, does it need to be shipped/trucked across long distances to get to me, etc. That’s a lot of information to factor in! And it’s often information that product manufacturers or distributors are not willing to share.

I know that buying something that’s pre-used, or sticking to what you already have/extending the life of what you already have, are some of the best avenues to take, but that’s not always an option for certain consumers.

So I figured I’d do my part and share whatever information I find with whom ever decides it will help them.

Why yesterday?
I was reading Plenty magazine and looking at page 60’s article, “Hit the beach in eco-friendly style”. (Yes, I purchased a magazine, not very green of me I admit – I’m so NOT perfect.) Once again I mocked (not openly) at the green/social friendliness of the products being presented. For example, the leopard-print towel made entirely from organic cotton being sold by a certain well-known retailer; it might be a step in the right direction, but it’s not a huge step, especially IF it’s being made in a sweat-shop in China, being shipped from China to the US, trucked from a central warehouse in Boise, Idaho (lets just say) to the retailer’s store in California (lets just say) so that I can go to the store (in my big black Escalade) and buy it for my daughter, who already has a towel but has decided she doesn’t like her old one (tiger-print). (No, I don’t have a daughter OR a big black Escalade, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that the stores of most of those well-known, large, retailers are set-up with ample car-parking space to support such gas-guzzlers and the demanding, over-consuming children that spill out of them.)

So, stay posted. My next post will be on shopping bags…a favorite topic!

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