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August 2009

08/31/2009

Ecoventura Galapagos Expeditions: Greenest Cruises

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Sky The Galapagos is known for its booming ecotourism, but ironically, that tourism has added to the challenges and problems faced by those looking to restore and protect the island's native species and ecological balance.

But Ecoventura, an environmentally responsible expedition cruise line is not a part of that problem.  The winner of Conde Nast Traveler’s (CNT) 15th Annual World Savers Award in the category of Cruise Lines, Ecoventura has an ongoing mission to be the pacesetter for responsible tourism in the Galapagos Islands.

 

Ecoventura’s focus on improving conditions in the Galapagos yielded the company the highest score in the category of Cruise Line from the panel of judges. The company was noted as outstanding in four distinct areas:

 

  Education: For granting scholarships to Ecuadorian students interested in environmental and marine conservation.

  Poverty: For funding a micro-enterprise for fishermen’s wives helping convert a boat into a restaurant & boutique.

  Preservation: For operating the first hybrid power yacht in the Galapagos with solar panels & wind turbines that reduced carbon emissions by 10%.

  Health: For paying the salaries of physical therapists and sign-language teachers at a school in Galapagos.

 

For more ecotourism news, visit RTM's Earth Tones section.

 

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08/28/2009

New Car Review: The 2010 Toyota Prius

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By Thom Blackett
2010_Toyota_Prius_exterior_roadandtravel copy iPod. McDonald’s. Pampers. It’s hard to imagine this trio sharing any common ground. However, we’re betting that if you ask people to name an MP3 player, a fast food chain, and a brand of diapers, the majority of respondents will answer with these three names. Due to marketing and healthy sales, certain products inevitably represent their niche within the consumer marketplace. Serving that role for hybrid vehicles is the Toyota Prius, a funky yet functional fuel-sipper that has been redesigned for 2010.

 

Among the changes are styling tweaks, a more powerful Hybrid Synergy Drive propulsion system, and an updated cabin. That’s where you’ll find a spacious and expandable cargo area and generous accommodations for up to five passengers. We weren’t terribly impressed by mostly low-grade interior materials, visibility that was hampered by a spoiler spanning the Prius’s rear window, or buttons for the heated seats hidden below the center console. Conversely, we applaud features such as a touch-screen navigation system and a solar roof panel designed to keep the Prius cool on hot days. Front bucket seats are comfortable, and while there’s plenty of room for rear passengers, the bench is firm and the sloping roof limits head room. On the safety front, every 2010 Toyota Prius is equipped with antilock brakes, seven airbags, and stability control.

 

Out on the open road, Toyota’s redesigned hybrid is livelier than its predecessor, though low-rolling resistance tires make the ride a little stiff. Four operating modes are available to the driver, ranging from full-electric EV to Power, the former aimed at maximizing efficiency at very slow speeds and the latter making the Prius more responsive. Thankfully, the feeling of intermittent drag has been eliminated from the regenerative braking system.

 

All of that – and up to 51 mpg in the city -- comes with a base price of about $23,000, though a fully-loaded 2010 Prius will run you about $33,000. Personal choice will dictate whether or not pricey options are worth the added expense, but for us, that $10,000 would buy a helluva lot of Big Macs.  

 

Specifications

Test Vehicle: 2010 Toyota Prius IV

Base Price: $22,750

Price as Tested: $30,709

Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive System consisting of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, an electric motor, and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack

Transmission: Electronically-controlled continuously-variable

EPA Fuel Economy: 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway

Road & Travel’s Observed Fuel Economy: 44.3 mpg

NHTSA/IIHS Frontal Crash Ratings: TBA / TBA

NHTSA/IIHS Side Impact Ratings: TBA / TBA

Also Consider: Honda Insight, Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sedan

 

For more information visit toyota.com. To learn about other new models hitting the streets, check out all of our 2010 car reviews. 

 

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08/26/2009

Five Tell-Tale Signs of Green Wash

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Runsonmoney While greener is always better than not green at all, some companies make green claims that don't really mean that much, for the sake of increasing profit. While it's good that companies see eco-friendliness as a selling point, there's usually a lot more that they could be doing to be green. To avoid falling for green-washing, keep these common fallacies in mind:

1. Green product, dirty company: The product is not green if the production process isn't green. For example, efficient lightbulbs that are made in a factory that pollutes rivers...aren't really so compatible with the environment.

2. Irrelevant Claims: Many companies claim that their entire product is green by emphasizing the one small part of it that is green.

3. Best in Class: Some companies give themselves unwarranted kudos for being greener that the rest in a totally un-green industry.

4. Just not credible: Eco-friendly cigarettes? Making a product greener will not make it safe.

5. Jargon: Purposely using scientific language that most consumers won't understand.

(Source: BSR)

For more green news from RTM, visit our Earth Tones section.

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08/25/2009

Why Organic? Green Grocery Shopping Simplified

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New food The whole organic food world seems so complicated and full of twists - each type of food seems to have it's own reason for being better-off organic. Sometimes the price just doesn't even seem to make sense.

The legal definition of organically grown food is that it is produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, artificial pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, feed additives, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs)." When you buy organic, you'll know you're reducing your potential exposure to synthetic pesticides," says Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group. "For some produce, we have found that even with washing it's difficult to remove traces of pesticides. Nonorganic strawberries, for example, can be washed 10 or 11 times and still show traces of synthetic pesticides."

A simple way to look at the whole organic food situation is to consider what you want the food industry to be like. When you think about where your apple or slice of cheese came from, do you want to imagine a big, polluting, degrading, chemical-using farm, or a smaller, more ethical and eco-conscious farm? Do you want to support farmers who grow your food with more natural processes or the big corporate guys who do whatever they can to make more, bigger, and "better" crops? These items may look superior, but are certainly not better.

An even more simple way to look at it is that because organic food is healthier, you'll feel better about eating it, and it tastes better. Once you start, you really can't stop. If consumers keep insisting on buying organic, soon bigger non-organic produce companies will be forced to go organic in order to survive.

That being said, there are some foods that you shouldn't bother buying organic - fair trade, maybe. You don't need to buy organic if it has a skin you don't eat - like bananas or oranges. Some important items to buy organic are dairy, wine and fruits that you eat whole.

For more green living tips, visit RTM's Earth Tones section.

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08/24/2009

Overdoin' It at the Beach: Be Green in the Sun

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Beach Yes, going to the beach seems like a pretty innocent thing to do - all it involves is laying around and enjoying nature. But many American beaches today are becoming threatened by pollution, and it's in part due to the oodles of people who swarm the beach daily, not considering the impact they leave behind. Here are some simple tips for keeping your beach trip green.

  1. Turn your beachside walk into a litter-picking adventure! Bring a litter bag and throw any trash you find in it - maybe you’ll even find some shells or other cool beach souvenirs! No, one man’s trash shouldn’t be another’s duty to clean up, but when people see you scampering around picking up after others, they may think twice about littering.
  2. Make sure you leave with everything you brought. Take home any containers and re-use them for storage, watering flowers, or another day at the beach (sandcastle making, much?).
  3. Use sunscreens that won’t harm anything (like coral reefs) when it comes off in the water. Brands like Caribbean Sol and Soleo Organics sell relatively inexpensive, ocean-friendly sunscreens.

For more eco-friendly lifestyle tips, visit RTM's Earth Tones Section.

 

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08/21/2009

Three Beautiful & Remote Eco-Lodges in the Americas

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Ecotourism isn't just about being environmentally friendly while travelling - it's also about travelling to see the environment. In fact, it's defined as environmentally responsible travel to relatively undisturbed natural areas in order to enjoy, study and appreciate nature. That's why these three remote lodges - seemingly far-flung but in reality impossibly close to the city - divulge eco-tourism at its best.

 

Verana: near Porto Vallarta, Mexico, Verana is embraced by mountains and surrounded by VERANA enchanting nature, providing a naturally luxurious once in a lifetime experience. Each of its 8 vibrant guesthouses were designed with their own character and blend with the landscape and environment. The houses have their own gardens and terraces for privacy, but are still close enough so you don’t feel all alone in the jungle. Its spa services and extensive list of outdoor experiences and activities make it the perfect exotic getaway – you’ll never be cooped up inside!

 

Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel: near the city of Manaus, Brazil, the Ariau is an architectural AIRU wonder – the only hotel complex at tree top level in the Amazon Rainforest, its towers are linked together by 4 miles of sturdy wooden catwalks, leaving the fragile ecosystem below undisturbed. Ariau’s dolphin excursions offer the chance to see the flesh-colored dolphins that are sacred in some cultures. Imagine making the trek from your treetop hotel room to a treetop restaurant – not for those who are afraid of heights!

 

Magic Mountain Resort: near Valdivia, Chile, Magic Mountain is a forest resort in a fairytale MAGIC MOUNTAIN mountain, settled naturally in the Hulio Hulio nature reserve. The cone-shaped building, with nary a right angle, has a waterfall flowing down the sides and is surrounded by natural forms of entertainment – like hottubs carved out of the trunks of huge trees. It is truly the setting, however, that makes this resort so special. Waterfalls, a volcano, a fully functioning food chain of wildlife, lakes and hot springs make the perfect grounds for outdoor activities.

 

For more eco-adventure ideas, visit RTM's Earth Tones Section.

 

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08/20/2009

Eco-Friendly Beauty Tip For A More Efficient Shower

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Shower Here's just a quick little tip to apply next time you want to cut down your shower time and beauty product use. Keep in mind that while buying organic shower products such as natural soap bars or Lush products is green because you're supporting eco-friendlier companies, buying less products is the greenest and least consumerist way to go. The fewer products you buy, less packaging is thrown away, and fewer chemicals go down the drain and risk contaminating water systems. Even if you recycle all your containers, it still takes energy to transport them to a recycling facility and to complete the process of recycling.

That being said, try doing double duty with one product next time you're in the shower. After you've shampooed and rinsed your hair, and applied conditioner, don't be so quick to rinse it out. For one, you can avoid using shaving cream by using the leftover conditioner on your legs. Plus, you can use just about any conditioner to do a deep-conditioning treatment if you leave it in for long enough. Just squeeze the end of your hair lightly so conditioner rubs off in your hand, and rub it into your legs before shaving. Then rinse the remaining conditioner from your hair and continue your normal shower activities. In a pinch, or if you don’t use conditioner, you can do the same with shampoo - both products will soften the hairs and help the razor glide over your skin. It’s even better if you can turn off the water for this period before you need it to rinse. Happy eco-showers!

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08/19/2009

Is Car-Sharing for You?

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Zipcar If you don't live in a city or on a college campus, car-sharing may not be for you... just yet. Check this list of all car-sharing services to find your area and which car-sharing company you may be able to use. But if your area doesn't offer car-sharing yet, it doesn't mean you shouldn't know what it's all about. Rather than focusing on higher fuel-economy, car-sharers focus on driving sparingly. Zipcar, the biggest car-sharing company, claims that each and every of their 5,000 Zipcars take 15-20 personally-owned vehicles off the road.

People who frequently use car sharing tend to sell their own cars eventually and start using alternate modes of transportation, like biking and walking. Car-sharing is also ideal in place of a second family car. It's healthier, because you'll have to walk to the car parking spot to pick up your car, and walk or ride your bike more often to compensate for not having your own car to drive everyday. some people are even competing in a challenge: the Low Car Diet by Zipcar. It's also very convenient that car-sharing programs allow you to request a certain type of car - get a convertible on the nice days out, a truck for moving day, a hybrid when you're just driving around getting stuff done.

Car-sharing helps to reduce highway congestion, and has a ripple effect - less road damage, less construction, less need for more parking infrastructures. Finally, the savings are exponential. Not owning a car means not paying for insurance, parking, gas, payments, or maintenance. You can rent a car by the day or by the hour, and rental plans include insurance, maintenance, parking, gas and some mileage.

For more earth-friendly information, visit RTM's Earth Tones Section.

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08/18/2009

Ethical Accessories and Practical Gifts All-In-One

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Kern pics luggage tag copy 2 One enchanting little thing about exploring a foreign country is shopping from local vendors - finding a little memento that could only be found in that specific region is like taking a piece of your curiosity home. That's how Jenny Krauss discovered and fell in love with artisan groups in Bolivia and Peru. The women in these groups live in unsafe or unstable households, but support themselves by creating goods like embroidered belts and bags, dolls, and other accessories. Not only are these goods beautiful, they are entirely fair trade and support women who very much need an income.

The very durable and long-lasting luggage tags, belts, pillows, and bags are perfect for a last-minute small gift, because they are universally pleasing. Who would want to return something that was handcrafted by Peruvian and Bolivian women in need of money to support their families? And for those situations where you're not sure if a gift is expected, the fact that buying from these markets is such a good deed will give you the go-ahead to go gifting-crazy.

Read more about ethical fashion in RTM's Earth Tones Section.

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08/17/2009

Trash Track: A High-Tech Garbage Odyssey

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Trash-1-enlarged Now that consumerism's under scrutiny, where and how a product is made concerns many consumers. There is similar concern about where a product ends up when we're finished with it, a question whose answer is quite obscure. So MIT researchers began a trash tracking program in New York City and Seattle, to monitor the patterns and costs of urban disposal and create awareness of the impact of trash on our environment. This revealing study allows volunteers to watch over their everyday throwaways - like a disposable coffee cup, for instance. These volunteers allow their garbage to be electronically tagged with special wireless location markers, which create visual mock-ups of the item's journey.

"The study of what we could call the 'removal chain' is becoming as important as that of the supply chain," the lab's associate director, Assaf Biderman, explains. "Trash Track aims to make the removal chain more transparent. We hope that the project will promote behavioral change and encourage people to make more sustainable decisions about what they consume and how it affects the world around them."

Trash Track was initially inspired by the Green NYC Initiative, the goal of which is to increase the rate of waste recycling in New York to almost 100 percent by 2030. Currently, only about 30 percent of the city's waste is diverted from landfills for recycling.

(Source: MIT)

For more environmental news, visit RTM's Planet Driven Section.

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