Sustainable living: What’s All The Buzz About?

Posted on August 19, 2013 | eco-economy, going green, green innovation, green living

Once upon a time bees were the antagonists of our childhood summers – my, how things have changed. By now most of us know that bees are a vital player in our ecosystems. But they’re also in danger.

Buzzing bee armies are responsible for pollinating an entire third of human food but in the past thirteen years  the bee population has begun to vanish, decreasing by more than 30%.  The cause of this collapse continues to mystify scientists and hypotheses differ: the European Union blames harmful pesticides they are now mobilizing to ban, while the United States is pointing the finger away from human impact and towards parasitic mites.

Whatever the cause, bees need help and quick.

One of the most innovative, super-hero efforts to save the U.S. bee population is taking off, quite literally, at a Washington airport. Sea-Tac airport has reinvented a whopping 50 acres of what was previously unused space by giving it to bee keeper Bob Redmond for bee breeding.

And, if you though air traffic control was a big responsibility, try managing 18 hives and a half million bees single-highhandedly. Well, leave it to Bob! He says that what makes the airport the perfect home for the Flight Path Project is that it is a controlled area, one they can agro-tailor for optimal well be(e)ing.

But, does it work?  You bet. The airport is now home to 500,000 bees who fly 5.5 million times a day, 5,500 times that of the commercial flights from Sea-Tac.  If those aren’t the metrics of success we don’t know what is!

Sustainable Living: When Nerds Meet Nature

Love has moved online, and not just for personal relationships. The matchmaking potential for business romances (aka partnerships) is a burgeoning area in which savoy innovators, with a social conscience, are building new platforms.
Nerds for Nature are the superhero-cupids of this new frontier, an eclectic mix of techies, hackers, activists and environmentalists in the San Fransisco Bay area. They noticed that, while the non-profit industry stood the most to gain by harnessing the low-cost and high-impact power of new technologies, they were the most reticent and unsure how to do so.
Victoria Bogdan, a NFN member, recently told The Grist, “We thought, if we could bring together the tech-capable with the environmental professionals, and facilitate an exchange of ideas – just begin that dialogue – that would be something new”. So Nerds for Nature got to work, launching officially one short year ago at the Code for Oakland civic hackathon. And the sparks are flying.
So far, Nerds for Nature is facilitating matches through their widely successful Speed dating events.  They also run a BioBlitz meet-up in McLauren Park where nature Nerds, scientists, and amateur naturalists embark on a scavenger hunt of sorts to identify as many species as possible using the iNaturalist app to record their findings.  This is the new equivalent of dinner and a movie for industry dating.
We will be following closely to see what genius brainchildren Nerds for Nature can take responsibility for in the future!

Sandy and Sustainability: Defining Resilience

Summertime at the boardwalk: melting Popsicles, sea salt in the air, freckled shoulders, and long, sun-drenched days stretching into nights illuminated by arcade lights and the crack of a firework across the sky.

There a few scenes as quintessentially American, as East Coast, as New York.

The shore is a beloved piece of our identity and one of the reasons that the devastation caused by super storm Sandy was so painful.  The now iconic image of the Seaside Heights’ Star Jet roller coaster in washed out into the grey waters of the Atlantic perhaps best encapsulates the loss of joy and innocence Sandy inflicted: that which was sacred, larger-than-life, reduced to driftwood and debris.

The recovery process has been an arduous one for private citizens and communities alike.  For those on the shore the summer’s opening weekend, Memorial Day, was the goal everyone was striving towards, the light on the horizon. With summer now upon us, all their herculean rebuilding efforts finally on display! 

One of these most interesting acts of resilience has been the redesign of the system of lifeguard stands that dotted the New York coastline and were nearly all destroyed. City architects took this challenge as an opportunity to reimaging the stands and go above and beyond when it comes to sustainability as well as functionality.

A regular overhaul of this scope would take up to two years but this was an eight -month challenge from design to unveiling. The units were built in modules and each includes an office, public washroom and ample office space. Sustainability and flood resistance were at the center of the design. Therefore, the structures rely on solar heat, photovoltaics, and skylight ventilators, boast a net zero energy system and are elevated above FEMA’s most recent storm surge number. Nineteen new stations are now up and running.

Perhaps the most moving detail is the city architects’ use of boardwalk planks that were salvaged from Sandy’s destruction. In a seamless integration of reuse and remembrance, the summers on the shore will always carry with them a piece of their essence and a token resilience.

Sustainable Living: One Nation’s Trash…

During these turbulent economic times, while many national economies are burning through bailouts and austerity funds, Norway has taking a different approach. They have opted to burn through something more sustainable: garbage.  Oslo, the country’s capital city, has long recognized the value of recycling on a municipal level and half the education institutions are heated by electricity generated by incinerated waste (no easy task in this chilly Northern city).
But, through this hyper-efficient model, Oslo has also encountered a unique problem: lack of trash.  It seems that the urban population simply cannot produce enough waste to meet the demand of a trash-based heating system.  The solution? Imports.
While most of the world’s countries pay to have their garbage exported (the U.S. for instance ships millions of pounds of e-waste to Africa each year), Norway (and other Scandinavian countries like Sweden) are doing the opposite.  So much so, that Stockholm competes with Oslo to get the trash of Norwegian border cities to convert into energy.
“There’s a European waste market — it is a commodity.” Hege Rooth Olbergsveen, the senior adviser to Oslo’s waste recovery program, told the New York Times, “It’s a growing market.”

However, these waste-to-energy programs have left some environmentalist questioning the true efficiency of transporting garbage from further afield as Norway establishes relationships with Leeds, England and perhaps later on, with garbage-rich Southern Italy and Spain. The carbon footprint of the journeys are sizable, not to mention the safety risk of incinerating waste from countries with less than stringent disposal regulations.

But, despite criticisms, one fact remains indisputable: there is real, viable, economic value in what we throw away. And, as the world of reuse expands, this reality only gains momentum.

How do you think the commodification of trash will change the landscape of the global economy? Share your thoughts with us here!

Sustainable Living: British Counter Culture and Reinventing The Café

Victorian hygiene is more likely to turn your stomach than stir your appetite, but just leave it to the wonderful minds in reuse to turn convention on its head.  Newly opened café, the Attendant, sits just under a bustling central-London street on the site of a Victorian-era public toilet.  The system of municipal WC’s was originally built in 1890s but has long lain dormant just below the city’s sidewalks.  For over fifty years the only reminders of the network were the decorative iron gates which flanked the toilets’ entrances above ground.

Sustainable living: The attendant

The reinvention of this unused space was two years in the making and special detail was paid to incorporating old fixtures in practical ways – the original Doulton porcelain urinals for instance, have become seating to match the original floor tiles.

sustainable living: Inside the attendant

The now bustling brunch and cake shop takes its name from the fact that it was, once upon a time, the post of the local restroom attendant who had an adjoining office.  His office has remained a workspace but of a reinvented variety; it is now home to the small cafe kitchen which, remarkably, keeps up with the breakfast time rush and demand for Gloucester Old Spot bacon sarnies.

Coffee in The Attendant

But 27 Foley Street isn’t the only address where reuse lives in London’s cafe-culture. In fact, all around London people are rethinking, reusing and reinventing the capabilities of the conventional coffee shop. Just look at Repair Cafés for example. These are free, popular meet-ups centered around neighbors sharing knowledge so they can repair and reuse almost anything: clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances and toys.

Sustainable living: repair cafe

The central aims of the events are twofold: to educate about Co2 reduction-potential in fixing rather than purchasing new items, and to bring together communities to support each other in a sustainable way.

At ExchangeMyPhone we love nothing more than great stories of people coming together over reuse.  Be it over a cup of coffee or a a broken blender, the experience is always better when it is a shared one and we are so lucky to get to be part of that experience with our users!

Do you have a creative way of brilliant way of bringing people together to spread the green? We’d love to hear about it!

The Giants of Iowa: Reuse, Re-rigged

The world of reuse is sometimes relegated to all things tiny: tiny homes, tiny devices, tiny art.  But in Iowa reuse is going not just big, its going gigantic, 8 stories to be exact!  That’s because in the middle of Iowa’s rolling farmlands there is, surprisingly, a mountain climber’s paradise where a number of unused grain silos have been converted into ice climbing walls.

In the fall of 2001 Don Briggs, a professor and climbing enthusiast, was helping a friend till his farmland in the municipality of Ceder Falls when he made a bet that he could scale one of the silos looming in the distance.  In the end, he won the bet and discovered that the most workable way to reach the peak was to ice climb it.

Briggs has now developed an intricate icing process by rigging hoses at the top of the structure which slow-drip downwards creating a semi-malleable wall of ice that changes depending on wind and weather conditions.

Since the silo opened for business it has attracted both beginners and experts alike and exposed a community famous for their flat farmlands to a taste of mountain life, close to home.  To learn more check out Silo Ice Climbing.

Sustainable living: Flexing your green muscles

If your 2013 workout resolution is proving a challenge why not consider ways to go green while you sweat? Today ExchangeMyPhone shows you how people around the world are finding ways to feel twice as good about exercising.

Bustling Hong Kong is known more for its smog than its sustainable living,  but that is beginning to change thanks to a green-savvy partnership between Wharton grad and entrepreneur, Doug Woodring and French inventor Lucien Gambarota.  These two put their heads together to found Hong Kong’s California Fitness, a revolutionary gym in which the energy burned off by exercisers is converted to electricity used to power the entire operation. As gym member Rita Wong puts it, “It’s very good motivation – you can watch yourself burning fat to turn on the lights.”

sustainable living at Hong Kong's California Fitness

According the President of California Fitness, Steve Clinefelter, “One person has the ability to produce 50 watts of electricity per hour when exercising at a moderate pace…if a person spends one hour per day running on the machine, he/she could generate 18.2 kilowatts of electricity and prevent 4,380 liters of CO2 released per year.”  Now that’s a work out with impact.

Sustainable living in Hong Kong

If you can’t get to Hong Kong for your green workout, why not just stay at home? At ExchangeMyPhone we are obsessed with re-use and multi-use innovations and were excited to come across Panorama. This carpet doubles as a convertible home gym and also replaces the sofa, the table and several other accessories in your living room. The secret lies in a series of handles and brackets – for fitness you just pull the handles to set the carpet in the appropriate position. According to the inventor, “The volume created enables to practice strengthening exercises or sit-ups, but is also conceived to rest after the effort. The central element allows to work on abdominal oblique muscles or the six pack, without hurting your back…The lateral element, which is harder, allows to practice many different fitness exercises, like push-ups or strengthening.”

sustainable living with Panorama
Of course the best way to get green is to get outside! It is scientifically proven that, thanks to our hunter-gatherer DNA, we are naturally inclined to get moving when surrounded by lush, green vegetation (a signal that fresh food is nearby). But there are other motivational benefits too, especially if you get solar power on your side. Welcome the LilyPad ardunio, a solar powered t-shirt created by Lingon at Instructables. The t-shirt design includes LEDs sewn in to the shape of happy and not-so-happy faces.  The more you sweat the happier your shirt becomes – another reason to get and keep moving.

sustainable solar powered t-shirt

Our sustainable travel recommendations – The Art of the Green Escape

Posted on February 18, 2013 | eco-economy, going green, green business, sustainable living

Coming off a long weekend and already craving another?  You’re not alone.  And thankfully, getting away doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg or generate a heavy carbon footprint. This week ExchangeMyPhone is bringing you some local, and sustainable, escape options sure to scratch you travel itch not far from wherever you call home.

Yogi’s Paradise
Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse is all about rejuvenation.  This Colorado farm-to-table bed and breakfast is complete with an organic retreat center, a community supported agriculture program/local food store and a gourmet organic restaurant that is considered a gem by guests and locals alike.  Weather you want to get muddy in the barn, begin a knitting project with Wyld’s home-spun yarn, or indulge in an on-site Swedish massage there is something for everyone in Paonia.  For yogis there is a special treat, a fully-loaded Asana schedule with a variety of teachers and varying approaches.  All this with a beautiful mountain backdrop.

organic Colorado farmhouse travel

Cowboy’s Kickback
Hacienda Corona de Guevavi in Nogales, Arizona is a romantic ranch that overlooks 36 acres of Santa Cruz riverbed.  The facade itself is a piece of art which boasts murals of indigenous Mexican scenes by the famous bullfighter-turned-artist Salvador Corona that has been meticulously preserved.  Daily diversions are sure to reconnect you with simple pleasures and include Western horseback riding, 265 acres of nearby lake water for swimming and fishing, exotic bird watching and 18 hole gulf course.  But the real treat comes after sunset: this particular area of Nogales is said to have some of the best star-gazing in the country and with a fire pit and your choice of dozens of patios, you’ll have the best seat in the house.

Nogales hacienda

The City Mouse’s Compromise

LA farmhouse
The B&B getaway might not be up everyone alley and not to worry because we have something for those folks as well. Located in the greater L.A. area South Pasadena’s Artists’ Inn Bed and Breakfast is an old world farmhouse smack dab in the middle of modern day conveniences.  This once-upon-a-time egg and poultry farm was originally built in 1895 and retains much of the charm of its roots.  Nestled on a quiet residential street, there will be no trouble finding things to do as countless boutiques and locally-sourced restaurants are within walking distance. And the easy commute will be music to the ears of L.A. dwellers sick of being stuck behind the wheel: you can take the Metro Gold Line light rail from downtown L.A. and Old Town Pasadena, a stone’s throw from the inn’s front door.

Hands-on in Vermont
If New York City isn’t delivering on the type of winter charm you were expecting this year its not too late to get it…in Vermont! How does some snowshoeing, warm quilts and Cabot Cheddar sound? With the Green mountain Nation Forest’s winding trails nearby, cozy fireplaces and a full organic breakfast Liberty Hill Farm Inn is perfect for a family getaway.  The Liberty is a true family farm with all the trappings – home-cooked meals and four growing kids sure to make you feel right at home.  Your little ones will also have tons to do, especially with all the farm chores to choose from including: cow-milking, egg-collecting, and bottle-feeding baby caves.  Too cute to resist!

Sustainable Vermont farm

Liberty Hill Farm Inn

Making Valentine’s Day Sweet Again

Valentine’s Day puts many of us in a pickle. And it’s not just what to get, but but how to celebrate in a way that isn’t  harmful to the environment.  Bleached paper cards, imported flowers, conflict diamonds, unethically farmed coco products.  All the trappings of the holiday can leave a not-so-sweet taste in your mouth.  But it doesn’t have to! We are bringing you creative, green spins on the traditional Valentine’s Day gestures sure to make you feel good inside and out.

Gentle Greeting Cards
Bubby and Bean is perfect solutions to greeting cards that not only waste paper but also contain bleaches and chemicals along with your well-wishes.  All of their handmade cards are sourced from recycled paper, this one is re-purposed medium weight card stock.  These original designs below are, like all their creations, printed with archival inks. You can buy a whole set of their Valentine’s Day gems for only $20.00.

Flowers by Amy Merrick
Roses can not only be predictable but they are full of pesticides and must travel thousands of miles to reach most of us in chilly February.  But beautiful floral creations do not have come with a heavy carbon footprint attached.  Brooklyn florist Amy Merrick draws her inspired from the movement and texture often found in natural landscapes.  She pays the utmost attention to seasonally appropriate, locally sourced materials at every chance.  Her arrangements are anything but predictable and often incorporate seasonal fruits for an interesting and beautiful twist.

But why wait for someone to buy you flowers?  Just in time for Valentines day Amy is hosting a floral arranging class in her studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on Tuesday February 12th from 6:30pm-9pm.  Students will create their own valentine’s day arrangements using the finest of the winter season’s flowers- ranunculus, anemones, poppies, flowering branches, parrot tulips, fritillaria and a host of other beautiful greenhouse material.

PACT Apparel goes to great lengths to make sure their entire supply chain, from the growing and harvesting of their organic cotton to the final sewing are as clean and responsible as possible. Their signature socks are made at an eco-concept factory in Turkey powered by wind energy. Every facility PACT goes through is GOTS certified by the Control Union.  And, if you weren’t already sold, all PACT packaging is printed with vegetable based inks on paper made from FSC controlled wood in a factory powered by wind energy and the carbon impact is off-set by Climate Partner.

The brand also has a social mission. This Spring, PACT along with Whole Kids Foundation and Indiegogo are teaming up to help build urban sustainable gardens across the U.S. that provide increased access to healthy food and communities to really experience how their food is grown.  The company donates 10 percent of underwear sales to organizations that help protect the planet.

Guilt-free Cupcakes
Winter Vallie soaps are a mother-daughter, home-made, labor of love.  And the soaps smell as yummy as they look! All their products are crafted with skin-loving oils, butters and cruelty-free products.  The price tag doesn’t hurt either; like the $8.00 cupcake bathbombs, a thoughtful Valentines Day gesture that doesn’t come close to breaking the bank or your healthy 2013 resolution.

Organic Chocolate
Sadly, there’s a not-so-sweet side to one of the world’s most beloved foods: chocolate.  Chocolate production destroys rain forests, spreads toxic pesticides and has been known to exploit children workers.  But there are alternatives.  Restoring the chocolate eating experience to its sweetest potential both in flavor and integrity is Divine.  The organization bills itself as the world’s only Fairtrade chocolate company.  It is 45% farmer owned, providing farmers with a share of Divine’s profits and a stronger voice in the cocoa industry.  All Divine’s products are produced in Ghana, Africa. Now that’s a product that tickles your taste buds and calms your conscience, there’s no better deal than that!

From Mainstream to Macabre: 5 things you never knew you could recycle

1. Crayons
Though it might have been a while since the Crayon was your preferred writing instrument it is still big business in the United States.  In fact, 60 tons of petrol-based wax is generated daily in crayon construction! CRAZY CRAYONS was founded by LuAnne Foty and started as a deposit box in the entryway of a supermarket nearly two decades ago.  It is now a nationwide service that has collected over 88,000 pounds of unwanted crayons.  These crayons are melted down, sterilized and hand poured into non-toxic CRAZY CRAYONS.

unwanted crayons

Crazy crayons

If you’d like to recycle unloved or broken crayons and send them here.  If you’d like to order some 100% recycled, non-toxic you can do that here. The clam shell box they are packaged in are a super green bonus, made using 100% renewable agricultural resources.  They also have a signature swirl crayon guaranteed inspire the little artists in your life.

2. Credit Cards
Finally, that gift card with a balance of $3.50 you got from aunt Janice has a place to live other than your wallet.  Much like prescription drugs, even when credit cards or gift cards are expired we hesitate to dispose of them perhaps because we don’t know exactly how to go about it.  The good news is that plastic cards are recyclable and can be sent to processing services like EarthWorks! Earthworks has developed a system in which scrap polymeric plastics are recovered, reground and recycled into plastic sheet material which is used for manufacturing new plastic cards.

EarthWorks! credit card recycling

If you are feeling crafty, there are also several DIY projects in which you can put old cards to new use.  We love the idea of rocking out with reused guitar picks!

3. Coffin Couch
A little more esoteric than the previous items, coffins are nonetheless posing a waste problem.  This is because (and caution this is not for the faint of heart), funeral parlors must, from time to time, move bodies from one coffin to another.  The original coffin then becomes a bio hazard, both unusable and unsellable, and finds a final resting place in a landfill.  That is, unless, the funeral directors donate the coffin to California’s own Coffin Couches. They take the caskets, clean, remove and replace the interior and then add legs. A macabre man’s perfect sofa.

Recycled coffin couch

4. Trophies
Everyone knows that it isn’t wise to rest on one’s laurels and what better way to do this than clearing out some of our childhood trophies.  After all, parting with your MVP second grade tether ball medal won’t make you any less of a champion.  The Maryland-based LAMB Awards and Engraving company has recently spearheaded a trophy recycling program and are now accepting old and dusty metallic accolades.  They pair any matching trophies that are donated to charities and those remaining are broken down and their parts are reused. What a great way to keep on winning!

trophy recycling program

5. Dentures
There’s those dumpster diving to uncover treasure in the trash and then there’s the Tokyo trailblazers who go denture diving, finding wealth where others only can’t imagine.  The Japan Denture Recycle Association was founded in 2006 and has recycled 30,000 dentures.  Half the profits go to UNICEF and the organization has already benefited hugely thanks to denture recycling, to the tune of $176,500!

We have a feeling the Tooth Fairy might be the angel investor behind this project!

Japan Denture Recycle Association