Earth Tones

07/11/2011

Organic Eats Across the USA

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Cafe More often than not, summer road trips lead to hidden treasure - hole-in-the-wall finds that we stumble upon and immediately fall in love with. As July and August stretch out in front of you, consider hitting the open road and discovering your own new favorite spots, or check out some of these fun, organic dining finds that have us licking our lips:

Mighty-O Donut  - This delectable bakery in Seattle, Wash. serves up a dizzying array of donuts daily, using certified organic ingredients in small batches. Pick your poison (Cuckoo for Coconut, perhaps, or Cocoloco?) from behind the glass case.

Tara's Organic Ice Cream - With locations sprinkled throughout California, Tara's offers a pallate of pleasure no matter your taste. From flavors like Black Sesame to plain, old Pecan, the list is long and the end treat is always delicious!

Orlando Brewery - These "Fresh from Florida" craft beers are the best in the south and free tours of the brewery are offered Monday through Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Check out the taproom and sip on a sample of organic Red Ale or Blackwater Porter. 

Candle Cafe - This organic and vegan cafe fittingly calls the Big Apple home and focuses on delivering farm-to-table dining with a menu featuring specials like the Paradise Casserole and Minty Melon Cooler smoothie. Homecooked goodness with local appeal - and all available in the middle of NYC!

07/07/2011

The E-Bike Debate: Is It For You?

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This recent article in Sierra Magazine (Look, It's a Cheatercycle!) got us thinking about the pros and cons of electric bicycles, gaining in popularity - especially in urban areas - as fuel prices continue to climb. The power-assisted bikes, which store energy as you peddle and then return power to the rider as needed (cyclists can usually choose "low" or "high" assist settings) are a godsend when commuting to and from work on sticky, humid days, but to many cycling purists are known as lazy man's gear. 

We vote in favor of e-bikes, especially when they're used as an alternative to automotive transporation. Take, for instance, an urban professional who typically drives or rides the train into work. Switching to an e-bike, even two days a week, significantly cuts carbon emissions - and also gets you a decent work out at the same time (minus the sweat incurred on a traditional bike). In our eyes, it's a win-win! 

If you haven't considered an e-bike yet, now's the time to take a look at the latest technologies available. Companies like Pedego Electric Bikes offer a selection of electric options, or you can go straight to a manufacturer like Optibike (hand-crafted here in the USA) for a more limited, but custom selection. Prices range widely on current bikes, but expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 upward for a reliable and well-made bike. (Keep in mind the savings you'll reap if you're able to ditch your vehicle!)

Is an e-bike in your future? Or, have you already converted? Share your story or suggestions in the comments.

06/27/2011

Planning a Safe and Sustainable Safari

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As summer approaches, thousands of people will plan vacations to Africa, with a majority of them hoping to see jaw-dropping creatures like lions, elephants, and gazelles in their natural habitat. However, an increase in tourism means that the welfare of these animals may actually be compromised.


To help ensure that you're planning a safe - and sustainable - safari, heed the following tips:

  • Research a safari company’s background: Some tourism outfitters cater specifically to guests seeking a photo safari, while others specialize in hunting trips. Make sure an outfitter employs trained guides or naturalists who know the local rules. Many companies offer tours led by inexperienced individuals who lack the necessary knowledge to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience which doesn’t harm animals.
  • Find a safari outfitter that supports locals: Some companies use a portion of profits to support local programs like wildlife protection in community-owned conservancies, animal conservation outreach and education development, while also providing employment opportunities to community members. Opt for a philanthropic company, if possible.
  • Follow all park rules: Safaris provide a rare chance for tourists to get up-close-and-personal with wild animals. However, with this opportunity comes a great amount of responsibility. Off-road and reckless driving, herding, speeding or noise pollution from safari vehicles could disturb or even spook the wildlife, putting everyone in the vicinity in danger.
  • Don’t be a part of the problem: In the wild, even the smallest piece of litter could negatively impact the entire ecosystem of a region, so visitors must be extremely diligent throughout their trip. It's also important that when tourists buy local souvenirs, they confirm that trinkets aren't made from animal parts or indigenous wood.
  • Don’t turn a blind eye: Report any violation to the relevant wildlife authorities. Remember, animal mistreatment is bad for tourism and reflects poorly on the community, so it is important to voice concerns to the appropriate authorities. 

Source: International Fund for Animal Welfare

06/21/2011

Green Cleaning with Garage Sales

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78457784 (1) When it comes to cleaning house, there's no more eco-friendly way to pare down than with a garage sale. The "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra really rings true here, and allows you to get rid of some of your own self-declared junk while snagging a few extra bucks along the way. What could be better?

If you're feeling pinched under the amount of "stuff" in your home, consider organizing a summer weekend garage sale - or team up with your neighbors to peddle your unwantables in a block sale. (The more the merrier!) 


For a lesson in Garage Sales 101, we turned to pro-marketer and garage-sale diva Ava Seavey, author of Ava's Guide to Garage Sale Gold, who offered up the following easy tips:

  • Have clear, simple signs. They should be double-sided, have arrows and clearly state the date and time.
  • Put an ad in your local paper.
  • Write everything down. (Just like dieting.) Do this before, during and after the sale. 
  • Tag everything, unless they're grouped with other things likely to sell at a set price. (You want to be focused on exchanging money during hte sale, not haggling.)
  • Put everyting on tables, laid out neatly, if possible.
  • Categorize like items together.
  • Feel empowered when you negotiate - don't be afraid to say no. Don't feel intimidated; maintain prices that reflect a product's real worth.

06/13/2011

Top 10 Summertime National Parks Hikes

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200410013-001This summer, why not kick off the flip flops and lace up some hiking shoes? Here in the U.S., we've got 84 million acres of stunning national parks just waiting and ready for you to explore. Not only are our nation's pristine parks an idyllic ecotourism destination - they're the ultimate in inexpensive activities!

If you're not familiar with the most sought-out trails, that's okay. Take a day or two to find your own favorite nooks, crannies and cliffs to call your own. Or, if you're eager to see what everyone is talking about, try one of these hot spot trails that are known for their nationwide popularity: 

  1. Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park
    Painted Desert Rim Trail (One mile round trip)
    This trail winds through the rim woodland and offers up various species of plants, animals and spectacular views.
  2. California: Yosemite National Park
    Wapama Falls (Five miles round trip)
    Taking you to the base of Wapama Falls, this trail passes two waterfalls and bounties of wildflowers.
  3. Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison
    Rim Rock Nature Trail (One mile round trip)

    A self-guided nature trail that's mostly flat and follows the canyon's rim. You'll catch excellent views of the Gunnison River.
  4. Florida: Canaveral National Seashore
    Turtle Mound Trail (.3 miles)
    Hike to the top of a 35-foot-high Native American Mound and choose one of two awesome views.
  5. Georgia: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
    General Bragg Trail (Five miles)
    Cehck out Georgia Regimental Monuments, Strahl's Brigade Tablet and General Bragg's Headquarters as you hike back through history.
  6. New Mexico: White Sands National Park
    Interdune Boardwalk (650 yards round trip)

    Easily accessible for strollers and wheelchairs, this walk offers vast views of wildflowers aplenty.
  7. South Dakota: Jewel Cave National Monument
    Canyons Trail (3.5 mile loop trail)
    You'll surely encounter limestone cliffs, ponderosa pine forests, deer, birds and bats on this trail.
  8. Texas: Big Bend National Park
    Dog Canyon Trail (4 miles round trip)
    Glimpse a narrow canyon cut between massive limestone layers on this medium-difficulty trail.
  9. Tennessee: Great Smokey Mountains
    Andrews Bald Trail (3.5 miles round trip)
    At 5,920 feet, Andrews Blad is the hightest in the Smokies. Enjoy breath-taking views of the southern mountains from the top.
  10. Maine: Acadia National Park
    Ocean Path Trail (4 miles round trip)
    Sand beaches and sea cliffs. Enough said, right?

Source: National Park Foundation

06/09/2011

How to Make Your Greens Even Healthier

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Produce It’s picnic season! When you’re packing up your bounty of healthy (and hopefully organic!) fruits and veggies for an afternoon snack or side dish, you’ll want to abide by these simple rules to avoid prevent eating contaminated food. It’s hard to believe, but Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by harmful germs each year!

Health eating starts at the supermarket. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends picking produce that isn’t bruised or damaged—and making sure that any pre-cut items (like lettuce or apple slices) are either refrigerated or on ice.

When you get home and into your own kitchen, take extra precautions by following the below rules.

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after touching produce
  • Cut away damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating
  • Gently rub produce while holding under running water (there’s no need to use soap or a produce wash)
  • Wash produce before you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable
  • Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present
  • Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage

Once you’ve sliced and diced, you’re all set to prepare your food. Stumped on healthy ideas? Scour your favorite cookbook for all-natural options or visit sites like the Food Network’s Healthy Eating recipe section or the Eating Well website.

(Source: FDA) Also, visit Earth Tones on Road & Travel Magazine.

06/08/2011

Safe and Sustainable Sunscreens

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Sunscreen Beachy vacations are a summertime must, and so is slathering up with sunscreen. We wanted to know which sunscreens work best, which are dangerous to our health, and what other options exist for protection agains harsh UVB and UVA rays.

In a recent Consumer Reports Health study, two products stood out among the rest—Target’s “Up & Up” Sport SPF-30 and Equate Baby SPF-50. Each of these provided excellent protection against UVB rays, and “very good” protection against UVA radiation, which can cause slightly more harm to our skin due to deeper-penetrating rays. In addition, they’re also both devoid of retinyl palmitate, a antioxidant that animal studies have linked to increased risk of skin cancer. (Yes, a sunscreen that could potentially lead to skin cancer!) The shocking truth is, most sunscreens contain this ingredient, along with others known to cause adverse health effects in animal studies, like oxybenzone, nanoscale zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

What a mouthful, huh?

Consumers, however, shouldn’t rule out natural sunscreens made by brands like Aveeno, California Baby, Soleo Organics and UV Natural, most of which can be picked up at your local drugstore.

In addition, there are extra steps that can minimize your exposure to the sun. Consider a broad-brimmed hat, tightly-woven clothing or an umbrella to stick in the sand. Better yet, pop a tent for adults or kids to crawl into when they need a break. Most importantly, if possible, avoid being outside during the mid-day hours, when the sun is directly overhead and its rays are the strongest. For more information, Consumer Reports Health.

Visit EWP Blogazine's partner, Earth Tones, for more eco-friendly tips.  

06/07/2011

Farm-to-Table Getaways in Colorado

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Organic-farms Locally-driven lifestyles are sweeping the nation and today, people want to know where their food comes from and that it’s sustainable. This summer, why not delve into fresh agricultural offerings with an experiential vacation? Across Colorado, travelers to get their hands dirty and enjoy the fruits of their labor on farm and ranch stays. Travelers can take part in organic cooking and butchery classes; cultivate crops; herd cattle or bison; and actually take part in the development of a farm or ranch.

The authentic experiences not only open the eyes of the everyday urban warrior, but fill the stomach! What better way to escape?

Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse (Paonia, Colo.)
Known for its commitment to locally- grown food, Fresh and Wyld maintains its own veggie gardens, chickens, goats, berry patch and heirloom apple trees to feed its guests. The Inn serves communal-style home-cooked meals and also offers organic cooking classes, butchery classes, farm school classes and heritage farm art workshops.


Mesa Winds Farm (Hotchkiss, Colo.)
A 36-acre farm, Mesa Winds produces USDA Certified Organic peaches, apples, grapes, raspberries, asparagus, vegetables and honey. Visitors sleep in rehabbed "picker cabins" and are welcomed to lend a hand with the farm work and dine on organic food fresh from the farm. Orchard camping opportunities are also available.


Smith Fork Ranch (North Fork Valley, Colo.)
A private luxury ranch Smith Fork Ranch offers fly fishing, horseback riding, hiking and a unique farm-to-table experience. The ranch has a garden farmstead that provides the majority of the vegetables and herbs for the ranch meals; they also raise free-range chickens that provide farm fresh eggs. The ranch also offers guided and unguided local farm and winery tours. 

Zapata Ranch (Sun Luis Valley, Colo.)
A 103,000-acre authentic working cattle and bison guest ranch, Zapata borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Owned by the Nature Preserve, vacations at the Zapata Ranch revolve around learning through experience, about real ranch life and the great outdoors. Zapata prepares meals with their grass-fed bison and beef and locally grown produce.     

(Source: Colorado Tourism Office)

06/06/2011

Day & Night Rainforest Adventures

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Take Eco-friendly Tours through Costa Rica’s Rain Forest

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sensitive multi-sport lodge set on a 165-acre private preserve in the undeveloped Pacific Coast of Southern Costa Rica. The Lodge embraces conservation and harmony with the natural environment and caters to travelers interested in enjoying ecotourism, nature, adventure and sports. Tours and activities are conducted in the most safe and respectful manner possible.

Playa Nicuesa Lodge - Cabin
Playa Nicuesa Lodge - Cabin

One of the many eco-friendly ways adventurers can experience Playa Nicuesa is through nocturnal and early morning adventures into Costa Rica's largest intact lowland tropical rainforest finds guests of all ages immersed in a symphony of screeches, cooing & croaks.
 
For the animal watcher and rain forest lover, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge offers excursions in search of elusive Osa Peninsula-Golfo Dulce fauna, such as crocodiles, poison dart frogs, eyelash pit vipers, bats, kinkajous, mapaches, peccaries and more.

[Full Story]

06/01/2011

The Carbon-Friendly Commute: Bicycling

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Bicycling to work 

Biking to work may not be the most practical option for all of us - especially those of us who wear skirts on occasion, or need to drop the kids off at daycare - but it remains an option. If you're one of the brave few who strap on a helmet daily, we've provided a reminder round-up of safety tips to keep in mind. 

And for those of you who have never even considered biking to work, give it a second thought. With gas prices skyrocketing, it's a sure way to save some cash and get a good workout in at the same time! 

1. Be bike safe (and smart)
Just like you would tune-up your car before a trip, take stock of your bicycle and take time for proper maintenance.  For more tips, visit the League of American Bicyclists.

  • Wear a helmet
  • Check the air pressure in both tires; know what pressure is best for your tires and your terrain
  • Pack a portable pump and extra inner tubes or a patch kit so you are ready to fix a flat
  • Know the bicycle safety and traffic laws for your area 

2. Turn your bicycle into the ultimate commuter
Forgo the racks or panniers and opt for a lightweight trailer like this one from BOB.

  • Easily attaches to your bicycle’s back wheel
  • Has a low center of gravity to keep weight off of your bicycle frame, which means better bike handling
  • Tracks with your back wheel, which means it’s easy to navigate your commuter route
  • Provides plenty of storage capacity for all of your gear, plus anything you need to pick up along the way

3. Dress for commuter success
When commuting by bicycle, be prepared by anticipating changes in weather and wearing comfortable clothing. These factors can make or break an enjoyable commute. 

  • Dress in layers made of breathable fabrics.  It may start out cooler at the beginning of your morning ride, but you’ll warm up quickly and may want to shed layers
  • If your ride is longer, consider wearing bicycling shorts
  • Don’t forget to tie down your right pant leg – your drive train can easily chew up loose fabric
  • Shoes should be sturdy with rubber soles to provide traction on pedals

4. Map your ride
Find the best bike route and get mentally prepared using Google's Bicycling Directions. Even take a virtual ride before you go.

5. Pack up essentials
Take a few minutes and consider what you’ll need to make it easy, convenient and fun:

  • A change of clothes or shoes
  • A travel set of toiletries such as deodorant, hair brush and cleansing body-freshening wipes to transition from the bike lane to the office setting
  • Pack your lunch and snacks to maintain energy throughout the day

For more earth-friendly transportation ideas, visit our Road & Travel Magazine partner, Planet Driven.

(Source: BOB Gear)