Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sustainable Milk Container Debuts

Got Green Milk?

Ecologic Brands, a No Cal start-up, has developed a sustainable bottle for liquid products. It is biodegradable, compostable and recyclable. It will be available in local Whole Foods stores this week. I'm anxious to see their other product applications due out later this year. They're even talking about wine which puts a whole new spin on the "boxed " spirits market. Instead of accusations of being cheap, you can claim that you're just ecologically minded.

A+ For Sustainability & Green-Goodness
A++ For Design and Functionality

See the full story at

Friday, January 22, 2010

Insight from Ford Automotive leadership

I had the pleasure of attending one of California Lutheran University's corporate breakfast events. The guest speakers where Donald E. Petersen, Expert, Former CEO and Chairman of Ford Motor Company and James D. Power III, Expert
Founder and former CEO of J.D. Power and Associates. The topic was American Auto Industry and some of the questions centered around innovation.

I thought that an interesting topic for an American Auto maker but realized as the event progressed why it had been selected. It wasn't so much about what innovation had been done but more about the consequences of not innovating sufficiently. Now some of you may be scratching your head and asking yourself (and me) what does any of that have to do with sustainability or being green. Here is the bit I wanted to share with you. Donald Petersen (no relation to me that I'm aware of) made an interesting statement that does tie into Motherearthjewels mission. He said that the number one reason that America is so far behind other countries in innovation to produce and drive fuel efficient vehicles is because we've had such low gas prices. And, the reason we've had such low gas prices is because our government has always subsidized the industry. Had our government not subsidized gas, the way other governments did, then we would have been forced to develop more efficient cars and cars that used other fuels. He used the example of diesel. Our government (and the oil industry; which could be thought of as one and the same) did our country a huge disservice by subsidizing gas. This created a domino effect and was a contributing factor to the failure of the auto industry in the U.S. Well, I should say GM and Chrysler, Ford was the only one that did not take government bail out money. All of this begs discussion on a whole other topic but I'll leave that for you to explore on your own.

Another complication Mr. Petersen also explained was the industry standard for measuring and assessing an auto makers efficiency rating. The ackronym is CAFE. Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency. I was not familiar with this term or its meaning. The technical definiation is this:
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) is the sales weighted average fuel economy, expressed in miles per gallon (mpg), of a manufacturer’s fleet of passenger cars or light trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 lbs. or less, manufactured for sale in the United States, for any given model year. Fuel economy is defined as the average mileage traveled by an automobile per gallon of gasoline (or equivalent amount of other fuel) consumed as measured in accordance with the testing and evaluation protocol set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to Donald Petersen, this is a very complex and confusing method of measurement and only considers cars that are manufactured in the US. So if you are an auto maker that imports fuel efficient cars, but do not produce them here, it won't go into your mix. It doesn't matter if 90% of the cars you sell under your brand are high fuel efficiency; you get the lower rating. However, there are ways around it. For example; if you import mini-trucks and have them come in two pieces; the truck and the box for the back; then assemble them here; that will go into your equation. Like a lot of regulations, it usually starts out with good intentions but then people find the loopholes so it ultimately become ineffective.

I wasn't sure what I was going to walk away with when I attended this breakfast. All in all, it helped bring more clarity to the Detroit debacle. One thing I learned for sure is that because of ineffective regulation, inappropriate government subsidies and favoritism plus corporate greed; this country, and our planet, are now paying a very big price. Lessons I'd like to believe our regulators have learned from. Or not. The good news is that its not too late to fix the problem for the planet. There are more options for public transportation, alternative fuel and minimizing consumption. My neighborhood still has WAY too many monster SUV's but I'm also seeing an increase in hybrids and compact vehicles which is very encouraging. As for GM and Chrysler; time will tell.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Valentine's Day with a real heart; sustainable jewelry. i especially like the Okomido bracelet available at It made with twigs in chocolate shakudo (an ancient Japanese technique of alloying gold and copper)

California Wine Industry Establishes New Green Certification | News | News

If you are interested in supporting California wineries that maintain sustainable businesses you should read this article. The Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) is a new program recently launched to certify green business practices for wineries.

California Wine Industry Establishes New Green Certification | News | News

In the Trenches | ecofabulous

Its raining the proverbial cats and dogs here in LA which means my usually enjoyable evening walk with Mr Murphy (my Shih Tzu) is going to be a soggy and not so pleasant experience. That got me thinking about protective wear and various ways to keep dry without rain gear made from the usual, non-eco-friendly materials. I came across this trench and thought it was super fab. Its made with 100% recycled polyester and still manages to be breathable. (According to the manufacture, anyway). If anyone has personal experience I'd love to hear about it. There is a men's and women's though I think the men's has a bit more style.
In the Trenches | ecofabulous

Though it seems like there should be plenty of water after several days of pouring rain but the truth is we will still have huge shortages. After all, California is nothing more than a well irrigated desert. And if you step back from the local climate and look at the global condition; the picture becomes much more disturbing. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40 percent of the world — more than 2 billion people — have no access to clean water or sanitation. In this context, we cannot expect water conflicts to always be amenably resolved. That means instead of wars and fighting over oil, water will become the sacred commodity. The Financial Times of London states: "Water, like energy in the late 1970s, will probably become the most critical natural resource issue facing most parts of the world by the start of the next century."

It's easy to feel overwhelmed; I know I do. I found these tips on Gaiam Life website. 10 easy ways to save water. I've added my comments next to each recommendation and welcome your thoughts as well.

1. Install low-flow showerheads, taps, faucets, and toilets. According to the Albuquerque Water Conservation Office, older faucets use between 3 and 7 gallons per minute, while low-flow aerators reduce flow to 1.5 gallons per minute. Likewise, a low-flow toilet can reduce water used per flush by 30 percent, from approximately 5 gallons to 1.6 gallons.
ME: I have older faucets and would agree that they seem to use more water. All the more reason for me to replace them with improved, newer models.

2. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, shaving, washing your hands, or rinsing dishes or vegetables. Each minute you have it off saves at least 3 gallons. In the shower, get wet, turn off the water to lather, then turn the water back on to rinse. To make this easy, some low-flow showerheads have levers to temporarily stop the water flow.
ME: I've been doing this my whole life. I don't think my Mom was as concerned with the environment as the water bill when I was a kid but this is etched in my brain. Its a very easy and painless way to save water and money.

3. Fix dripping taps and leaking toilets by replacing washers and worn parts. A faucet drip or invisible leak in the toilet will waste up to 15 gallons of water a day, or 5,475 gallons a year. To check for toilet leaks, add 10 drops of food coloring to the tank. Wait 15 minutes. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak.
ME: I'll have to take a closer look at my plumbing.

4. Place plastic jugs filled with sand or stones in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water it uses per flush. Don't use bricks, which can flake off inside the tank and interfere with the toilet's operation.
ME: Good idea. I'll try this and let you know the results.

5. Wash only full loads in both the dishwasher and washing machine, or set the water levels to accommodate smaller loads.
ME: Again, not sure if it was conservation of energy or cash driving this behavior but grew up with this maxim.

6. Use biodegradable (phosphate-free) detergents and soaps and re-use dishwater in the garden. If you want to make an even greater impact, consider plumbing your house to a gray-water system that collects water from your sinks, washing machine, baths, and showers for irrigating (check your local water regulations first).
ME: I have been really good about purchasing phosphate-free laundry detergent. I tried a couple varieties phosphate-free dishwashing detergents but was not thrilled with the performance. I'd be grateful to hear about any you've found that work.

7. Use mulch and shade netting to reduce evaporation in your garden. Mulch helps the soil stay moist, and as an added benefit, reduces weeds, which are water gluttons. Water only when plants wilt or when it's difficult to push a screwdriver into the soil.
ME: I haven't used mulch but do use bark which helps with absorption and evaporation. Not as eco-friendly as mulch but better than nothing

8. Xeriscape. In arid regions, plant trees and shrubs that thrive on normal rainfall. Look for a nursery near you that specializes in native plants.
ME: My garden is about 50/50 with plants that are indigenous to the area, primarily succulents, so require minimal water. I know from the sustainable classes I've taken plus my own personal reading on landscape design; this is a very smart approach for the environment and the success of your garden.

9. Plant densely in your garden. According to Howard-Yana Shapiro in his book Gardening for the Future of the Earth, the denser the vegetation, the more water is stored in what he calls "productive biomass," meaning food plants.
ME: This one is new to me but makes sense. More reasons to visit the nursery. :-)

10. Eat less meat. According to the U.S. Geological survey, it takes 2,607 gallons of water to produce a single serving of steak and 408 gallons for a serving of chicken. A handful of almonds requires only 12 gallons to grow, rice needs 36 gallons, and lettuce and potatoes need only 6 gallons each.
ME: We've all seen this statistic many times. It saves on green house gas emissions, saves water, conserves land plus much more. I know this is a HUGE sacrifice for a lot of people but there are so many non-meat options out there now its less painful now than before. For those net yet hooked on TJ's (i.e. Trader Joe's) you'll find lots of good choices there.

If you want to read more on #10; here is a good article at Vegetarian Guide

For the "green" tot in your life. I really like this trike both for its eco friendly construction but also for its cool, whimsical design.

I came across this while searching out eco friendly products. I thought is was adorable and wanted to share it. I love the elegant yet whimsical design. This makes the traditional red, metal trike pale in comparison.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Looking to help California get more green

In the beginning

Sustainability means different things to different people and there is plenty of gray. "Going Green" isn't as straight forward or easy as you might think. How do you know what companies and products are really "green" and not just greenwashed? What option do we each have as consumers, businessmen/women, parents, students, artists and caring members of the general population? Are there small changes we can be making right now? Are their products that are truly better for the environment than others. Does it make a difference what clothes you wear, paint you use on your walls, plants in your garden, car you drive, food you eat, where you shop and the TV you buy? What about green jobs, law, policy, opportunities? How are they are going to impact the business climate? How do you cut through all the BS and find the core of what really matters. I'm hoping this blog will help some of us do just that. Yes, both of us as this is both a platform to disseminate information, share and serve as a catalyst for self discovery and education. And because I have a deep love and appreciation for art and design, I'll have an extra focus on how sustainability is influencing the creative scene as well. Based on the experience, discovery and readers feedback the focus of the blog will be refined as it progresses. For now, its all about being Green~ And we know, "It ain't easy being green"