Archive for April, 2012

The Earth Under Your Feet – Happy Earth Day!

April 22nd, 2012 No comments

Shoe companies are wising up to the fact that shoe manufacturing is decidely un-green. Some of them are making athletic shoes made from recycled materials or lighter-weight materials that reduce waste.

New Balance has made a shoe called newSKY made almost entirely out of fabric from post-consumer plastic bottles. Other than foam, small rubber components on the outsole and some water-based glue, the only material is the recycled fabric.

Usually materials like plastic and leather provide shape and structure for shoes, according to New Balance’s web site, but in the case of newSKY shoes, the heel was reinforced with strategic stitching along the back seam and a thicker weight of fabric. “When we doubled-up the material you don’t need any reinforcement because the material is doing it itself,” one designer said on the web site.

Nike is also trying to make its running shoes more sustainable, with a new manufacturing process that weaves synthetic yarn together with a knitting machine. The line of shoes, called Flyknit, consists of fewer pieces than other shoes. The amount of material wasted making each pair weighs only as much as a sheet of paper, producing 66 percent less waste than its Air Pegasus+ 28 brand, the company says.

For people who don’t want to buy new shoes, another way to be green is to repair what you already have. You can take your worn out shoes to the local cobbler or, if you own a pair of Cole-Haan shoes, that company will repair them for you. The company has a restoration program in which people can send in their worn pairs (for a fee) and have the soles, heels, tassles, stitching and hardware replaced. Allen Edmonds offers a similar “recrafting” service for worn dress shoes, ranging from simple heel replacement to complete restoration.

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Making Cardboard Green

April 21st, 2012 No comments

Let’s face it, we all have to ship stuff from time to time, regardless of how un-green it can seem. Aunt Martha will be disappointed if you don’t send her a birthday gift, and what about all that old stuff you can sell on ebay so that someone else can re-use it? People who feel guilty about the carbon they’re expending by shipping stuff can rest assured now: UPS is trying to make its business more sustainable.

For example, UPS calculates the carbon footprint of all of its routes and has determined that more right-hand turns are more sustainable. By doing so, the company has saved 10 million gallons of gasoline since 2004 and last year reduced the amount of fuel consumed per package by 3.3 percent. They also buy carbon offsets to fund conservation projects for customers that request carbon-neutral shipments. They use something called “cube optimization” to ensure that packages are no larger than they need to be. And they use environmentally-friendly packaging materials, such as corrugated cardboard, which is both easy to recycle and also comprised of recycled materials.

Speaking of cardboard… there’s a 9 year old boy in East L.A. who has turned cardboard boxes from his dad’s auto parts store into arcade games. Caine Monroy cut and taped up old boxes and converted them into games using other re-purposed items like an old basketball hoop, with the idea of charging kids money to play. He created a claw game — that arcade game classic in which you try to retrieve a stuffed animal with a claw — using a hook and string. He also created a soccer game using old army men toys as goalies. And as prizes, he set aside his old Hotwheels cars. Talk about re-use!

Unfortunately for Caine, he didn’t have any customers for awhile. But when a documentary film maker came upon his cardboard arcade and decided to make a short film about the young entrepreneur, things changed. The film maker created a facebook page and a flash mob ensued. His project generated so much news coverage, it even made the front page of Reddit. Check out to see the film about this young recycler.

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Boulder House Treads Lightly

April 11th, 2012 No comments

It’s one thing to leave a small footprint by shunning the McMansions of the 90s and early 2000s by occupying a smaller dwelling. But one Boulder couple took the small-house trend to the extreme.

Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller built a 125-square-foot home.

Not only is the size environmentally friendly, the couple built it using reclaimed windows, beetle-kill lumber, solar power and a composting toilet that contains peat moss and saw dust.

“You’d be surprised how well it works and how much it doesn’t smell,” Mr. Smith told Denver’s ABC 7 News.

So what can you fit in a space that 19-feet long, wall-to-wall? A sitting area, a kitchen, a bathroom and a sleeping loft that can accommodate a queen-size mattress.

The Boulder couple is part of a growing movement of small-home dwellers. The web site

features the tiny homes of other environmentally-conscious people like a man who built a 400-square-foot cabin for less than $2,000. Roof-top solar panels and a small wind turbine provide all the electricity, including the water pump, lights and computer. A propane tank that provides back-up energy for the furnace and stove saves money. His water comes from a well he drilled himself, while rainwater that he collects provides water for gardening. He raises chickens, rabbits and tends fruit trees. He has no house payments or utility bills.

A documentary called “Tiny: A Story About Living Small“, scheduled for release this spring, will feature the Boulder couple’s home and others like it.

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