Tag Archives: shopping

5 Reasons to Attend Green Festival

Green Fest Banner NYCWhen we think of festivals, we oftentimes think of a community celebration – typically centered on music, food, or art. So it’s apropos that the “largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event” in America is the Green Festival®. Attendees enjoy music, food, and art as well as education and “green” products/services. Over the past 13 years it’s grown into more than a festival – it’s Festival Plus.

Green Festival visits five U.S. cities each year: New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Chicago’s Navy Per is the next stop, with more than 250 businesses showing their wares over three days. We’ve attended several times in Washington.

Here are the five reasons it’s worth going.

 1. Green Festival Exhibit Floor DCSustainable Stuff. I’m always amazed at the range of exhibitors and presentations as well as the quality of the food and products in the marketplace. On the exhibit floor, there’s everything from Ford showing its latest electric and hybrid cars to a small natural soap maker called The Fanciful Fox. You’ll see brands you know, such as Clif Bar, and many you don’t. We talked with some of the vendors who were still operating out of their homes. And there are many free samples!

2. Ideas. The event is also a great chance to learn new things about living sustainably. The upcoming Chicago event, for example, has almost 50 speakers – including authors, filmmakers, politicians, musicians, and scientists. Ralph Nader spoke at the Washington event. There were 83 speakers at the recent Los Angeles festival. Topics range from gardening to yoga to solar power.

GFCommunityAward3. Awards. Green Festival offers a Community Award at each location – a $5,000 grant awarded to a deserving local non-profit, chosen by the public on-site at the festival and online. Selected at the Washington D.C. event was The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, which is dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area.

4. Low Cost. Admission is reasonable and family friendly at only ten bucks per person (16 and under free, discounts to seniors and students). Volunteers enjoy free admission.

Kids Activities NYC5. Children and Adult Friendly. There’s a play area, puppet shows, dancing, plus plenty of products geared to children. And with kids (and adults like me) it’s always great to have a ready source of inexpensive and tasty food (some spicy!) nearby. Plus fashion shows, musical performances, and more for the grownups.

Green Festival is a fun way to learn more about sustainable living, through food, music, art, shopping, and discussions.

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Green Wheels — How to Buy a Eco-Friendly Car on Budget

Me and my green wheels

A couple of years ago I traded a minivan for an elderly Corolla. It recently became time to retire those four wheels into assisted living, as my 70-mile daily commute was simply more than she could handle. I left her is the able hands of my college son, who no matter how hard he might try, is way too busy to drive even one-tenth of that. Plus he was willing to pay to keep it running, so no more skin off my wallet.

But I digress. Again I was faced with a consumer decision that was going to have repercussions every day for several years. What could I get within my budget? How could I balance the tradeoff between mileage and price? How could I reduce my carbon footprint with this purchase, or at the least keep it about the same?

I approached the process with over-analysis and a ridiculous amount of research that I’m known to exhibit in such situations. (Of course one first should evaluate alternative methods for transportation. For me, driving is the only viable option.) Yet I had a process, and the outcome was one with which I am content.

Step 1. Establish a budget. I defined a price range. Then I lowered it because I decided I didn’t want to spend so much on a car. My line in the sand was $100/month.

Step 2. Keep to the budget. Buying a car is an emotional experience. We’re culturally convinced that what we drive is an extension of who we are. The automobile industry has spent the last half-century telling us that a car is more than transportation. So we tend to see cars as more than transportation. Which makes it easy to lose one’s discipline in the process and overextend financially.

Step 3. Review how you will use the vehicle. My analysis showed I would be alone in the car commuting for 95% of the miles. No hauling a bunch of kids or junk. No super long trips.

Step 4. Calculate monthly gas expense at different MPG rates, based on your driving patterns. With the high cost of gas, most of us need to budget for gas. Seeing the real amount is helpful. Remember to consider hybrids, not only from their gas savings advantages but also their tax advantages. And consider manual transmission, as it is both a gas saver and price reducer. For my commute, a 10 MPG difference at current gas prices means a one-dollar difference each direction each day. While that does not seem like a significant amount by the time I pay off my four year loan it would have made (at least) a $1,900 difference.

Step 5. Based on usage and MPG, determine car type. I decided on a small sedan or coupe.

Step 6. Find the mileage and year ranges that fit your criteria.

Step 7. Read independent reviews of cars that meet your selection criteria. Consumer Reports online and Edmunds.com are credible sources.

Step 8. Narrow down to a few makes, models, mileage combinations.

Step 9. Shop! Besides Edmunds, I found Cars.com useful. I also searched online inventories of the largest local used-car dealerships. And look at the Carfax for those you seriously consider; it shows accident repairs and previous ownership specifics. Most dealers I came across offered the Carfax for free. It was important to test drive several cars; I tried the Hyundai Elantra, Honda Fit, Nissan Sentra,Toyota Corolla, Toyota Yaris/Echo, and others.

Step 9. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. If it doesn’t meet your selection criteria, don’t buy it. I liked the Elantra a lot, but couldn’t find one in my price range for the model years that it was decent. Honda Fit was OK but seemed overpriced, even used. After much looking around, Sara found an Echo online. She had run around with a friend in one years ago and remembered it well. So we drove across the river, looked at it, and drove it.

But it was a manual transmission (5 speed)! I had not driven one in decades, yet I has owned two manual-transmission cars in my early car owning days. Our embarrassed sales guy had to call another because he couldn’t drive it to take us for a spin. I ended up taking it for a test drive anyway and it WAS like riding a bicycle — I remembered how.

Step 10. Buy it. We tried to haggle with the no-haggle dealership, but to no avail. But it was a good deal — excellent condition for a 2003; 63,000 miles, two owners. Most importantly it met my needs within my budget.

The Echo with it’s 4 cylinder, 1.5 liter engine gets 40 MPG, which is the amount touted in advertisements for the NEW Scion. Plus it’s fun to drive. It won’t win many races but has decent acceleration and handling. The windows are manual and there’s no cruise control. It’s not a status symbol in the traditional ways. Yet I like it and feel right about the decision.

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Re-Purposed Wood


Seeing a problem and finding a green solution is a great way to be mindful. Brian, a San Diego construction company owner did just that. He founded 8point8 , a reclaimed wood company that makes items from reclaimed wood that cannot be recycled because of nails. “As construction started to slow in 2008,” owner Brian explains, “and new Construction Recycling Regulations were coming into effect, I tried to put together a job-site recycling company. Nearly every material had its own recycling/reuse center except wood with nails, which was going to be the most expensive material to get rid of. After many experiments with different types of wood, aged Cedar turned out to work the best because of its low moisture content and natural resistance to rot.” Open to making any product that diverts wood from landfills, employing local craftsmen, and made in California. When I received my items in the mail, I was happy to see they were not packaged in Styrofoam packing peanuts, and companies like this who work towards solutions instead of ignore it, it is more than just re-purposed wood: it is re-purposed attitude.

See his shop at www.etsy.com/shop/8point8


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Precycle: Avoiding Excess Garbage

Precycling is the act of being more mindful on what items create excess trash and finding better ways to avoid it. With Earth Day fast approaching here are five easy ways to create less garbage.

Five easy ways to precycle:

1. Cloth shopping bags. My mothers favorite. Besides the great benefit of carrying more groceries and reducing the landfills, many stores (like Whole foods, Giant, Costco, Ikea and Safeway) are giving 5 or 10 cents back to every reusable bag you fill. According to the New York Times in 2002 Ireland created a plastic bag tax: the “Plas Tax”. At about 33 cents per bag, not only has Ireland created a 94% drop in plastic bag usage, but the tax has raised $9.6 million dollars for environmental and waste management projects. Now using a plastic bag has become comparable to wearing a fur coat or not picking up after your dog: it is just not acceptable anymore.

2. Tupperware. Prepackaged meals can often equal in weight of food and packaging. Likewise, fast food is loaded with trash that will end up in a landfill long after you’ve finished your meal. Using washable Tupperware to take lunch to work or school is more cost effective and a great way to precycle. Another benefit to taking fresh food to work is the nutritional facts are often staggeringly in your favor with fresh food and even the ‘healthy’ and ‘diet’ prepackaged food is often overloaded with sodium to make up for a low calorie count. Packing your lunch is good for your pocketbook, your wasteline, and your environment.

3. Reusable Water Bottle
. According to refillnotlandfill.org the demand for water bottles creates 60 million bottles produced A DAY and nearly a quarter of all bottled water passes international borders to get to you (that is a lot of wasted gas!). By purchasing refillable water bottles you can take a big step towards lessening the need for production and the mass amount of waste. The statistics about water are overwhelming, check back for an article dealing expressly with the issues our world faces on water.

4. Buy In Bulk, Shop Responsibly.
Purchasing items you use often instead of individually wrapped foods goes a long way to stop excess waste. Prepackaged snack foods are also more expensive and usually marketed towards children. Purchasing vegetables at local farmers markets (bring your cloth shopping bags!) is a great way to support the community and avoid senseless over packaging of grocery store goods.

5. Cloth Napkins.
Elegant, a great way to avoid excess garbage and a fun way to make meals feel more special. Cloth napkins are readily available anywhere, easy to make and set the tone for sustainability in a use-and-toss society.

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