Sustainable Living: Born to Die Phones

At ExchangeMyPhone there’s nothing we’re more seriously passionate about than fighting e-waste; it is quite literally what we’re all about.  So naturally, nothing makes us smile like when others join the crusade.
John Rogers, lead material scientist and resident e-waste butt-kicker at UI Urbana-Champaign, has just wrapped up a project developing circuit boards, specifically for cell phones, that dissolve when wet and know to break down when they have become obsolete.  The project has appropriately been dubbed “Born to Die.”
So, what does cell phone expiration look like? Basically a slow withering away that Rogers likens to a dead plant drying up. So far, the largest challenge is ensuring that the devices to not perish prematurely; so other words, if you spill your tea your cellphone won’t dissolve on the counter-top.  Such cell phones would have a “use before” date just like edible commodities.
“We’re talking about electronics that are very specifically engineered to have excellent properties, time independent, until the programmed moment at which you don’t need the device anymore, and then is dissolves away…” Rogers says, “that’s the trick.”

We are incredibly excited to see where Rogers’ research goes and will be cheering on our new ally!

Sustainable Living: 5 Best Ways To Beat The Heat And Spare Your Wallet

Heat like the sort the East Coast has been experiencing has many different effects but perhaps the most ubiquitous is just how lazy it makes us.  No one wants to tackle insulating the attic when its 100 degrees outside, even if it would make your home significantly cooler.  So let’s take it slow.  Here are our top five small, simple steps you can take to beat the heat: guaranteed to make a difference you can fell but the environment and your bank account won’t even notice!

1. Got AC?  Let it sit around 78 degrees.  While you might be tempted to set it to “arctic”- running your unit at temperatures lower than 78 will not cool things down any faster or more effectively.  What it will do however, is force the system to work harder, use more energy and force you to pay up more at the end of the month.  Think of your AC as a baseline tool to be used in conjunction with other tricks.
2. Fan of a good fan?  Try placing one or two frozen water bottles in front of your fan, it is effective, low-cost and low impact.  But the best part?  You’ll never have that panic-stricken moment of “did I leave the AC blasting at home?”  Frozen water bottles aren’t just low maintenance, they’re no maintenance.
3. Sheets to the wind. This is one old wives’ tale that you can trust.  Plus, we love it because its so simple; just hang a damp sheet in front of your window and the sheet will cool air entering your home.  It is also a great way to dry your sheets when they come out of the wash as using the dryer heats up small homes quickly. Which leads us to…
4. Unplug your life.  Turn off any heat-generating devices: the dryer, the iron, the hairdryer, the toaster and oven.  Even small electronics, like laptops, when used frequently can generate heat that you may not notice to the touch but contribute to rising indoor temperatures.  A great excuse to put down the tablets and phones and head out to a barbeque!
5.  Spice. Hydrate. Repeat.  We all know that body temperature can also be changed from the inside out.  Heatwaves are a great excuse to order delivery (you can’t use the oven after all) from your favorite Thai, Indian or Ethiopian place.  It is no coincidence that cultures originating from sizzling parts of the globe typically have equally sizzling native cuisines.  The wisdom in spicing up your insides is that it generates sweat – activating the body’s natural cooling system. In terms of your liquids it is also important to keep very well hydrated and drink much more water than you normally would.  A simple glass of ice water might be the most effective coolant of all, though a cold beer with your spicy Mexican food is also advisable!

Cheers to staying cool this summer.

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: 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!

Sustainable Living: The Dirt on Footwear

sustainable living - OAT

When we talk about our carbon footprint maybe its time to get a little more literal, or, as OAT Shoes would argue, a lot more literal.  OAT Shoes is the force that is taking earth-friendly footwear to a whole new level: the soil.  Their shoes are made from 100% biodegradable materials which means that when you are done with your pair you compost them or even bury them in your garden!  But they don’t just hit the mark when it comes to sustainable living and materials, these shoes are hot.

OAT shoes

sustainable living

The simple, elegant and yet playful design is a departure from many style-sacrificing eco brands. Not here. Their fashion shows have even featured scantily clad models maneuvering wheelbarrows down the catwalk.  The centerpiece? A plant sprouting out of blooming shoe, pretty impressive. OAT is so fashionable in fact that the company walked away with the second prize at the Green Fashion Awards at Amsterdam International Fashion Week and have now branched out into bags and totes.

Blooming shoe - sustainable living

If, like most of us, you are just discovering the world of biodegradable shoes chances are you might have some footwear kicking around that just simply isn’t plantable but that doesn’t mean that you can’t recycle it.  For your fancy lady shoes you might consider transforming the prom experience of a girl in need by donating a pair to the Cinderella Project.  This non-profit aims to let girls in undeserved communities know “that they are not bound by personal or financial circumstances, and that the possibilities are endless for them.”

Cinderella project - sustainable living

For more practical, everyday shoes you might consider Soles 4 Souls.  The Nashville-based charity that has delivered over 19 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes to people in over 125 countries including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States. The non-profit also has a very strong disaster-relief force and coordinated efforts for the Asian Tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

At ExchangeMyPhone we love the idea of eco-equality for all which is why we admire organizations like the Cinderella Project and Soles 4 Souls and also why we make it our personal mission to provide free cell phone recycling for everyone!  At ExchangeMyPhone recycling is a right, plain and simple, and we are always humbled to find ourselves in such great company in the world of reuse.

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: Reuse Finds A Home In Furniture Design

With the concept of up-cycling having taken the world of interiors by storm, an interesting trend is emerging. Increasingly, sustainable living is a byproduct of a larger design intention: storytelling.  Furniture that is merely environmentally sound is taking a backseat to pieces which, endowed by their history-rich materials, provoke questions and challenge our beliefs about design.  Today ExchangeMyPhone features those leading the way in the burgeoning field.

The Historian
Los Angeles based furniture designer Stephen Kenn drew his inspiration for The Inheritance Collection from his grandfather, and the sense of duty and sacrifice of The Golden Generation.  His sofas, stools and loveseats made from one hundred percent reclaimed lumber, are suspended using recreated WW2 army belts and upholstered in fabric sourced from old US military uniforms.  The rusted buttons, embroidered names and the wear of the fabric create a tactical homage to those who have served in the armed forces.

The Inheritance Collection

Beside paying this respect Kenn’s second aim in creating the line is to build a truly local product.  He says that the relationships with the venders, carpenters, welders and seamstresses has evoked in him an even deeper connection to his community – a value literally sewn into his products. If you are interested in learning more about his process you can get a true insiders look here.

Stephen Kenn

The Agitators
Much like Kenn, Canadian lighting designers and founders of Castor Kei Ng and Brian Richer are not simply on a quest for sustainable living. Perhaps most central to their vision is creating household objects with a “sense of irreverence” (if you couldn’t tell from their head shots).  Their fire-extinguisher hanging laps, a staple of their line, are quintessential Castor: the duo are fascinated by the idea of turning the familiar and the mundane into a visual centerpiece.

Kei Ng and Brian Richer

Castor lighting

They accomplish this without changing the fundamental esthetic of the object but by simply re-framing it; “Keeping things simple and elegant is actually quite hard to do,” Richer admits.  Their burnt-out, industrial florescent fixture shades are a thought-provoking twist on original purpose of the object and ask the sort of philosophical questions Castor is known for provoking in their work. The invisible chandler, one of their best-selling items, is a further iteration of the same theme.


Castor hanging lights

The Diva of Demolition
In getting to know the stories behind up-cycled interiors it become clear that for most designers, art and their furniture are one in the same – making the leap from studio art to furniture production is a linear journey.  This is certainly true for Brooklyn sculptor-turned-craftsman Ariele Alasko who turns salvaged wood into geometric art.  Her most popular pieces include original headboards, coffee tables, and wall panels.  For Alasko, re-purposing her materials isn’t an eco-imperative, it is simply what makes sense for the warm, true-to-Brooklyn ascetic that defines her work. To see more check out her site!

Ariele Alasko

“I’m a builder, a fixer, and a do-it-myselfer. My favorite things in life are big tools, old wood, good pasta, and finding great materials in a dumpster. I grew up in California, and blindly moved to New York seven years ago when I was accepted into art school for sculpture. I instantly fell in love with the grungy part of Brooklyn, and within a month, we had moved into Bed-Stuy. I have lived in the same apartment for five years now, which has given me plenty of time to slowly “fix” a few things around the house: de-carpet stairways, tile in kitchen… you name it!”

salvaged wood into geometric art


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

Sustainable Living – natural remedies for the flu & common cold

It is that time of year, there’s no avoiding it.  People around the office and dropping like flies, tissues are a coveted commodity and the flu and cold seem nearly impossible to escape.  To help you pull through ExchangeMyPhone is here with a Monday morning edition of flu and cold fighting remedies that are not only effective and natural but, also far and away more inspiring than the ordinary drugstore solutions.  Our sustainable picks are sure to leave your body and your imagination feeling nourished.

Influenza Rx Sorbet
Sick? Why not sorbet your symptoms away? According of Jeni Britton Bauer, the genius behind the Ohio-base company Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, taking your medicine does not have to involve puckered mouths and tortured taste buds.  In fact, according to Jeni sugar shouldn’t just help the medicine when it can be the medicine itself. She drew her inspiration for this now famous sorbet from a heated-up cough syrup concoction of whiskey, honey and lemon juice that her mother and grandmother used to make.

Here are her instructions from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home for 1 generous quart of her famous Influenza Rx Sorbet:

2 cups fresh orange juice (from 5 to 6 oranges)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
One 3-ounce packet liquid pectin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 to 4 tablespoons Maker’s Mark bourbon (optional)

Combine the orange and lemon juices, sugar, honey, and ginger in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.
Add the pectin, cayenne, and bourbon, if using. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cold.
Freeze the sorbet just until it is the consistency of very softly whipped cream. (You can eat it now, if you wish; otherwise, proceed as directed.)
Pack the sorbet into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Elderberry Syrup
With high levels of vitamins A, B and C, black elderberries are help to both prevent the flu and speed in recovery.  Elderberry syrup is available at any organic market and can be easily ordered online for about $15 for an 8 ounce bottle (adult dosage is typically around two table spoons.)  It has become particularly popular among parents nursing children with the flu because it is very portable (no need to refrigerate) and has a much better taste than many flu-easing syrups out there.  It is also relatively easy to make in your own kitchen. No wonder Elderberry Syrup has been called nature’s Tamiflu.

Pour boiling water over 1/2 cup of dried elderberries, let liquid steep for 25 min.
Strain the berries
Bring the liquid to a steam not a boil (otherwise it will taste bitter)
Once it has reduced by half, let cool
Add 1/2 cup of honey

The Killer
The juice-cleanse mania may prove to be a passing phase but Liquiteria‘s aptly named cold zapping beverage, The Killer.  Made with fresh green apple, ginger, lemon and a boost of Immunity Now, The Killer works best when consumed at the first signs of a cold, spicy ginger- lemon combo get to work immediately clearing sinuses and letting easy and symptom free.  For those who want to take cold-fighting to the next level there is also The Killer XX, building on the original recipe by adding an double serving of lemon and ginger as well as a helping of cayenne.  And with free delivery you don’t even have to worry about leaving the comfort of your place when you aren’t 100% because The Killer can come to you!

Fresh Garlic & Honey Tea
Vampires are not the only evil things that garlic protects against, the healing herb is also well known for busting the immune system and guarding against contagions especially during the winter months when may of us have comprised defenses. The best way to take advantage of this herbs medicinal and preventative properties is by drinking fresh garlic tea.
Peel 2 to 3 cloves of fresh garlic
Lightly crush them with the side of a knife
Add garlic to 2 cups of water and bring to a boil
Lower the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes
Strain the garlic and allow the tea to cool
Add raw honey, a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper and a dash of lemon juice

Sustainable Living – small homes making a world of difference

The compact housing movement has been a buzz phrase dominating both design and sustainable living literature for years now. There are small house awards, organizations, a documentary, coffee table books and thousands of blog posts. But believe it or not, there is still something different to be said for minimalist structures that doesn’t have to do with hip urbanites on a space diets! Small homes have now moved into the forefront to community rebuilding efforts, most recently in disaster-stricken Haiti.

The types of homes making a mark are known as Earthbags, a name derived from the building blocks of the structures: earth, manure or concrete-filled sandbags that stack securely, essentially like Lego, to make construction an cinch. Though Earthbags have taken on many shapes the original prototype, developed by Iranian-American architect Nader Khalili, has a distinct beehive shape. The houses have become infamous also for their surprising strength. Earthbags are fire, flood and earthquake resistant, they also stand up to violent surroundings (a sad reality common among disaster zones where many struggle to procure bare necessities long after the event itself) and are blast and bullet resistant.

Spearheading the proliferation and production efforts in Barriere Jeudi, Haiti is Konbit Shelter. “A group of artists, builders, architects, and engineers, who, after the January 2010 earthquake, asked ‘how we could use our skills and resources to directly assist another community in a time of crisis?’ Konbit Shelter is a sustainable building project with the objective of sharing knowledge and resources through the creation of homes and community spaces in post earthquake Haiti.”

One of the huge advantages of the project is that it is ongoing and provides secure employment for many locals (as much as a third of the budget goes towards the salaries of the workers) while also equipping them with the construction knowledge to build their own homes at a very low cost yet with quality materials. Thanks to a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign (raising over $30,000!) the organization will be back on the ground this spring to break ground another community building. Keep tabs on the progress at Konbit Shelter’s site and blog.