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June 2009

06/30/2009

Bottled Water Doesn't Make Any Sense

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Q: What normally free product do Americans spend more money on a year than iPods and movie tickets?

 

A: Drinking water (bottled) - $16 billion annually.

 

Waterbootle Americans have a growing reliance on convenience and apparently they’re willing to pay for it. Though it may seem safer and easier to pick up a bottle of water at the gas station, or keep 24-packs of them stockpiled in your garage, this convenience comes with a huge price tag – especially when it comes to the resources wasted.

 

The Container Recycling Institute says that in the U.S., 30 million plastic water bottles are thrown away per day - 88% aren't recycled. But even if they were recycled, this doesn’t eliminate environmental guilt – tons of energy goes into producing and distributing these bottles, and then more energy goes into recycling them.

 

Production of the plastic bottles to meet our demand for bottled water takes the equivalent of about 17.6 million barrels of oil (not including the oil it takes for 37,800 18-wheelers to drive around the country delivering water every week). Around the world, bottled water consumes about 2.7 million tons of plastic each year.

 

While American tap water is among the safest in the world, Americans spend about $16 billion a year on bottled water. Meanwhile, one out of 6 people in the world does not have safe drinking water, and at least 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from bad water.

 

Quick fix: Get yourself a Kleen Kanteen or Sigg aluminum bottle for $20 and never worry about this again. The aluminum keeps water tasting awesome, and you can fill 'em up at any place that has a drinking fountain.

 

Check out more green news from RTM's Earth Tones Section.

06/29/2009

Environmental Documentary Review: Home 2009

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By Sara Hoffman

 

Home Home, the film that broke the world record for the largest film release in history, opened internationally on World Environmental Day in 2009 for free on YouTube as well as in theatres. The non-profit documentary by goodplanet.org President Yann Arthrus-Berthrand with epic visuals illustrates the planet's fragile state entirely from a bird's-eye view. Viewers see the impact humans have had on Earth's landscapes in the film's spectacular aerial scenes from more than 50 countries.

 

The omniscient narrator begins with a brief, but explicit overview of how the Earth was created. "Our Earth relies on a balance...a subtle, fragile harmony," states Glenn Close in the English language version. "The engine of life is linkage. Everything is linked... nothing is self-sufficient." By scientifically explaining well-known places' origins and environmental significance, the compelling documentary provides a relatable and all-encompassing view of our Earth.

 

Home is comparable to Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series only with more of a purpose. You may want to brew a pot of coffee, because falling asleep in the middle of it could only result in waking up feeling depressed. Though the facts can be scary (and the music doesn't help, either) the conclusion is uplifting.

 

It highlights the wonderfully forward-thinking acts of cities and regions that prove there is still time for change. Accomplishments of cities such as Freiburg, Germany, which is one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world; accomplishments like building wind farms and looking to the sun instead of oil reserves for energy; accomplishments like using moderation, intelligence and sharing to solve the problems of the world.

 

The fragile scenes of Home visually portray just how much the little things we do add up to affect the whole world - "the ecosystem has no borders" is a mantra from the film. What's important is not what's gone, but what remains.

 

Buy Home at Amazon.com.

 

Read more from RTM's Planet Driven or Earth Tones sections.

06/26/2009

Green Your Blue: Earth-Friendly Pool Care Tips

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Pooll By following four rules, your pool can be on its way to becoming a green oasis. But don’t worry, it’ll retain that sparkling shade of light blue all the while.

1) Combat water waste: It seems like a no-brainer, but make sure to keep your pool covered when you’re not using it. This will reduce the need for chemicals, and lower evaporation by up to 95 percent. Be sure to use one that you pull on and off manually, as automatic pool covers rely on electrical motors, which would increase your pool’s footprint. For extra credit, get a solar cover, which will help to heat the water as well! Another way to combat water evaporation is by planting shrubs and trees close to the water so they serve as a barrier from the wind. You can even refill your pool with captured rainwater to cut down on water waste. Also, make sure to check for leaks regularly, by marking the water line and checking to make sure it hasn’t decreased 24 hours later.

 

Check back next Friday for the next green pool tip!

 

For more information on eco-friendly recreation, visit RTM's Earth Tones Section.

06/25/2009

2010 Lexus HS 250h Review: The Future of Luxury

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By Sara Hoffman

 

Lexuz hs 250h The 2010 Lexus HS 250h nearly brings the fight between luxury and sustainability to an end. The hybrid features leading edge environmental technology combined with active and passive safety technologies and a copious of other lavish driver-friendly bounty. It is the world’s first dedicated luxury hybrid and the most fuel-efficient luxury vehicle on the market. With a combined city/highway fuel economy of 35 mpg, the HS 250h is the first to peg a new term: eco-luxury, for forward-thinking drivers.

 

The luxury of a car like the Lexus HS 250h doesn’t skimp on anything. To ease its impact on the environment, it offers EcoMode and EcoIndicator like many of the new hybrids today, as well as an infrared-reflecting windshield, which greatly decreases reliance on the air conditioning. The interior is partly covered in Ecological Plastic, which is derived from plants.

 

The Lexus HS 250h comes loaded with many new and ground-breaking safety features. The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control & Driver Monitor uses radar to detect certain obstacles in front of the car. This technology can measure and maintain a pre-set following distance from a vehicle traveling ahead. Lane Keep Assist is an innovative new feature which helps keep sleepy or distracted drivers in their chosen lane by using cameras to detect lane markers. It provides a gentle nudge on the steering wheel when the driver begins to drift.

 

Using Destination Assist, drivers can preload locations like restaurants, addresses and businesses online using their own computer, and then send them to their Lexus’s navigation system. Though the fully-loaded navigation system might seem like a driving distraction, Voice Command helps allow drivers to focus more on the road ahead. Drivers can also use the Voice Command system to control many functions of the audio system, heating and air conditioning, using commands such as, “Make it cooler,” “Let’s find XM channel 46,” “Show me Japanese restaurants,” or “I need a gas station.”

 

Lexus console The ride is smooth, quiet, and comfortable, as one would expect from a Lexus vehicle. The navigation system – complete with a Remote Touch system controller conveniently located in the front-center console, is the main focal point of the interior. This small but joystick-like controller is the finishing touch on a vehicle brimming with high-tech toys. Anyone looking for the “next big thing” will love this car. Pricing starts at $34,200.

 

For more information on the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, click here.

 

To view RTM's 2009 Lexus New Vehicle Model Guide, click here.

06/24/2009

Be Earth-Friendly by Spending Time Outdoors

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Asians picnicing One of the best things we can do to live an earth-friendly lifestyle is to simply appreciate the beauty of the natural outdoors that still exists. It’s easy for environmentalists to get burnt out from the weighty environmental issues and daunting predictions of the future. We often become so determined to make a difference that it’s hard to appreciate the fact that things aren’t so bad just yet. De-stress by taking the time to engage in the simple and light-hearted pleasures that we’ve forgotten about. Get children involved in your plans to put an end to “nature deficit disorder” in children:

  • Take a hike, or wander through an outdoor shopping area
  • Go berry-picking
  • Name shapes in clouds
  • Take a "moon walk" through a neighborhood, trail, or beach
  • Enjoy the island rain feeling offered by the summer heat combined with the wet of the rain - don't be afraid to go outside in it!
  • Camp out in the backyard!
  • Make a daisy chain, blow a grass whistle, or skip a stone
  • Go on a scavenger hunt: Try geocaching or letterboxing
  • Make your own picnic outside, or opt for a place with an outdoor patio when dining out

When you get back to the digital realm, post your wildlife or nature story on the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Watch journal.

For information about healthy living and the outdoors from Road & Travel Magazine, click here.

06/23/2009

Eco-Friendly Road Trip: Take the Guilt out of Driving

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Carpool Even though your car's going to log way more miles than usual, road trips are actually a pretty efficient way of travel. Think of it as a really long carpool - by packing a bunch of people into one car, the group as a whole uses less resources. Want to make your trip even greener?

·         Skip the drive-through – idling wastes gas and your money, produces emissions, and is bad for your car (it increases overall engine wear). In New York City alone, idling cars and trucks each year produce 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide, a new Environmental Defense Fund report shows.

·         Rent a hybrid or vegetable oil powered van.

·         Try not to speed – every 5 mph you travel over 60 mph costs you roughly an extra 20 cents per gallon.

·         Try to eat locally, or use a green restaurant guide.

·         Stay at campsites if possible, or at hotels that are making an effort to go green.

 

For more road trip advice, visit RTM's Travel Advice & Tips Section.

06/22/2009

Country Inns & Suites Makes Conservational Changes

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Since more than a third of travelers are keenly concerned with green travel, many suite hotels are making measures to accomodate guests' forward thinking. So when Carlson Hotels conducted it's guest survey and discovered that 56% of guests actively seek environmentally friendly products and services, with 52% saying they would participate in programs to help reduce or offset the hotel’s carbon emissions, they decided it was time to make big changes.

Carlson country inns and suites With the introduction of their comprehensive "Green Guide", entitled "Practical Guide to Greening Your Hotel", all 5 of Carlson's five hotel and suite brands will focus on specific issues that can have immediate impact on the environment and surrounding communities. Reducing, recycling and reusing solid waste, reducing the use of harmful chemicals, conserving energy and water and improving indoor air quality are major components of the hotel brand's new educational tool. The book has been distributed to all Carlson hotels, including Country Inns & Suites, which are an enonomical option for family travel at a wide range of fun destinations.

For more info about eco-friendly resorts and green travel, check out RTM's Earth Tones Section.

06/19/2009

Offsetting Your Carbon Emissions

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Carbon emissions You don’t have to own a hybrid to be interested in protecting the earth from dangerous greenhouse gases. Everyone doesn’t have the same lifestyle, so the same things won’t fit in to all of our lives. Some people find it most convenient to partake in carbon offset programs. If you’ve ever wanted to try it, here’s what you need to know.

Programs like MyClimate offer carbon offset services that allow users to calculate their personal carbon emissions – based on automotive transportation, flights, or even office energy consumption – and then neutralize their impact on climate change by purchasing credits toward certified eco-friendly programs. The money that you donate goes to local communities or businesses to help fund more environmentally-friendly development options. Similar sites, like Carbon Fund, Native Energy, and Terra Pass, donate to projects that are third-party certified.

Many regional electric companies are now offering “green certificates” that are available for consumer purchase and work toward developing renewable energy. Check with your electric/gas service to see whether or not they offer similar solutions. If not, plead your case for a consumer program.

 

By taking action now, your donations have more impact than they will later. If you don’t have the cash to give, go outside and plant a tree.

 

To continue reading about carbon offsets, click here.

06/18/2009

Top 10 Environmental Travel Blunders

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Tourist couple Just because you're an awesome environmental steward at home doesn't mean you can let those green habits fly out the window while you're on vacation. Avoid the top ten environmental travel faux pas, even when you don't have another care in the world (the guilt will getcha later if you don't!):

  1. Littering 
  2. Purchasing illegal souvenirs or food produce
  3. Wasting water in destinations which face shortages (such as Spain)
  4. Leaving lights on
  5. Leaving air conditioning on in hotel rooms when you're not there
  6. Purchasing mineral water in plastic water bottles when the hotel provides drinkable water for refills - please don't be that person
  7. Standing on (killing) coral reefs - it takes approximately one hundred years for one inch of coral to grow
  8. Disturbing wild animals by getting close to take a picture
  9. Throwing cigarette butts on the ground
  10. Failing to take advantage of recycling facilities where offered

(Source: responsibletravel.com)

 

For more eco-friendly travel strategies, check out RTM's Earth Tones.

06/17/2009

Exercise: A More Sustainable Approach

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Yogaer Gyms are huge energy consumers, with their gas-guzzling treadmills, water-wasting facilities and pools, and TVs that are always on. Sure, there are ways to make your gym workout greener, like going to cardio classes instead of using cardio machines, biking instead of driving to get there, or bringing your own towel. But these efforts seem meager in the big picture, and if you're already paying for a gym membership, shouldn't you allow yourself to use everything they offer?

The best way to have an entirely green lifestyle is to forgo the gym and use your own body weight instead of equipment for resistance. Run distances outside instead of in place on a cardio machine, use workout equipment at home that doesn't need to be plugged in, and go swimming in a lake or local pool. Especially now that it's summer, bringing workouts outside will be beneficial not only to the environment, but will lighten your bills and give you an appreciation for your surroundings.

Liberating yourself from the habit of going to the gym everyday will come in handy when you're travelling, as well. You won't even have to think twice about where your workout will take place when you're out of town. 

Bonus: If you want your workout to be green from head-to-toe, recycle your old shoes with Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program, opt for organic workout apparel, and use a refillable water bottle.

For more travel workout tips from RTM, click here.