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Best Time To Buy A Hybrid

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

Everyone knows the end of the year is the best time to buy a car. Dealers want the “old” models gone to make way for next year’s and manufacturers are clearing out dead weight – the models they don’t plan on bringing back – so incentives are often at their highest in December and into January.

But the nitty-gritty details you didn’t know (the ones the dealers don’t WANT you to know) – like, Saab is practically giving away its 9-7X SUV – are now available to anyone via the handy and extremely insightful Truecar.com.

The site, just a little over a year old, lists pretty much any detail you could imagine about car prices. Since Green Among Gray is all about helping save our environment, let’s focus on the good hybrid deals Truecar is highlighting: 2009 Saturn Aura Hybrid, $27,045, 20% below MSRP; 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid, $27,370, 17% below; 2009 Saturn VUE Hybrid, $28,905, 17%; and 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid (above), $26,900, 8% below.

Check out Truecar’s blog for the latest info.

2009 Green Among Gray Gift Guide

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

Welcome to the Green Among Gray gift guide, where you’ll find highly practical, outrageously fun and eminently eco-friendly gift choices.

Dec. 22
If you’re one of those who gets a thrill by surprising your gift-givee, look no further than our next selection: a mattress.

What could be a more surprising holiday gift than a mattress, after all (well, other than an alpaca)?

And what could be a greener mattress than the OrganicPedic, Organic Mattresses, Inc.’s chemical-free, fragrance-free and Global Organic Textile Standard–certified stack of snoozing pleasure?

At around $4,000, this is, admittedly, one of the higher-end purchases (and no, it’s not part of our Bonanza Box) you’d be making. But on the upside, if you can swing the 4 Gs, you shouldn’t have a problem ponying up the $50 to buy the amount of wrapping paper you’ll need to keep it a surprise.

Blum Naturals
Removing makeup can be harsh process. Why not do it with all-natural cleansers?

Blum Naturals, a new organic skin care line of towelettes, removes makeup in a gentle, environmentally friendly way.

Now I know there are a lot of products that make these types of claims, so I did some research. Blum scores really low (that’s good) on Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Safety Database. Plus my wife liked them. So there you go.

Blum Naturals towelettes sell for about $7 per 30-pack at all kinds of drug stores and organic stores, as well as online.

OneTribe Shirts
I, like a lot of people, aren’t as diligent as I probably should be about giving to charities. Making it easier for us, while providing some pretty cool shirts, is OneTribe.

This Colorado-based marketing company has paired with a sustainable shirt-maker to sell colorful, comfortable tees, then turn 50% of sales over to causes you can feel good about. Don’t look it as spending $39 on a shirt; look at it as buying a $19.50 shirt and $19.50 worth of good karma.

The tees are 100% organic cotton, printed with eco-friendly water-based inks, and in a sustainable pièce de résistance, are shipped in recycled cereal boxes.

Wear Your Music
For a 100% recycled gift option that’s 100% cool, go for a Wear Your Music bracelet. They’re made from the used guitar strings of artists from Avril Lavigne to Ziggy Marley.

A portion of sales are donated to charity, with many artists choosing to donate 100% of proceeds to the charities of their choice. Depending on which artist’s guitar you get your bracelet made from, they run anywhere from $50 (Yuto Miyazawa) to $500 (Eric Clapton).

Oil Gone Easy
You try to save a few bucks, and get the self-satisfaction of being a proactive DIYer, by changing your own oil. Then you go and spill it all over the garage, and in your typical short-sighted way, you don’t have sawdust to clean it up, so you’re left to swab with wads upon wads of paper towels, leaving a stain resembling a silhouetted Jesus (or a map of Eastern Europe; tough to say).

If this scenario sounds familiar, you’ll love Oil Gone Easy. This one-step product frees you from the headache that is a garage/driveway oil spill. You simply pour enough to equal the size of the spill directly onto the oil. That’s it. You don’t mop, swab, blot – nothing. You just let it sit there, and it does the work. It biodegrades the oil into CO2 and water, then dissolves naturally within 14 days.

It’s accredited by the EPA and is used to clean up major oil spills around the world, including the Prestige spill off Spain in 2002.

Oil Gone Easy runs about $20 for a 32-ounce bottle.

Dec. 17
Green Among Gray tends to aim the gift guide at the typical office-worker – which means items that won’t break the bank. But there are plenty of high-earners in the Captivate audience, for sure. If you’re among them, the next few days’ featured items are for you, Mr(s). Corner Office.

EcoloBlue Life & Energy’s Atmospheric Water Generators
The first time I heard the term, “atmospheric water generator,” I thought, “what the heck is that?” (When I say it, I get that Marvin the Martian accent in my head – you know, like when he says, “Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.”)

But despite the technobabble-sounding name, AWGs are amazing – and amazingly practical – machines: They give you water from nothing.

Well not exactly nothing; they use whatever water is in the air. EcoloBlue Life & Energy’s AWGs extract up to eight gallons of water from the air with as little as 35% humidity.

Just think of all the plastic bottles that won’t get thrown out or have to go through recycling – heck, won’t even get made in the first place – if you buy one. (EcoloBlue says Americans waste 52,000 bottles every minute.)

So pony up the grand-plus one of these units runs you, and become the office hero.

Dec. 16
Funkoos Baby Clothes
If the tree hugger in your circle of friends is expecting, you can help the ‘rents-to-be set their little seedling down the green path by giving them the 100% organic cotton goodness that is Funkoos baby clothing.

These duds for the diaper-set are free of chemicals and pesticides and made in fair trade work environments, plus they feature enclosed embroidery, which (though I have no idea what it is) I’m told is next to impossible to find in baby clothes.

The company is also involved in charitable endeavors – it’s aligned with the internationally recognized One Percent for the Planet, a coalition that gives 1% to environmental groups around the world. Funkoos also says it’s in the final stages of setting up a program that will directly benefit women and children in the US (details coming soon, they say).

So protect your little papoose from the harsh stuff found in typical baby clothes – and show off just how eco-conscious your whole clan is – by going with Funkoos.

Funkoos items start at as little as $9 with their 40% off sale, going on through Dec. 24.

Dec. 11
Stocking Stuffers: Socks, Drinks, and Journals
Goodhew Socks
The most revealing thing I can say about these socks is that I’m not eager to strip them off at the end of a long workday. Typically my evening wind-down involves freeing my feet from the constriction of my socks (sorry if too much info there). But with the Goodhews, I actually want to leave them on. They’re the warmest-yet-breathable, most form-fitting-without-being-too-tight, could-pass-for-a-slipper sock I’ve ever had. They’re perfect.

Goodhew explains how they reach this perfection: They utilize spandex for the perfect fit, design flat toe seams for the utmost in comfort, and incorporate “breather” panels to promote additional ventilation.

But what makes them green? Goodhew products are constructed almost exclusively of natural materials, including fibers such as wool, bamboo and alpaca. The packaging is printed on recycled paper stock and is fully recyclable and includes recyclable poly bags, which reduces product weight and space in shipping.

Adina For Life

For a refreshing splash of something unique, nothing beats Adina’s line of USDA-certified organic juices (or, as they like to call them, “herbal elixirs”).

The company is the brainchild of the alternative-drink vets behind Odwalla and SoBe, so you know they know what they’re doing. From Blackberry Hibiscus to Pomegranate Açaí, you’re in for a treat, both to the taste buds and your body’s health.

In addition to its dedication to using only the finest natural products in its drinks, Adina has a delivery fleet of electric cars and a school bus converted to run on waste vegetable oil.

Barnes & Noble ecosystem

A nice little gift for the writer (or copious note-taker) in your life, Barnes & Noble’s ecosystem line offers green-minded journals across a variety of bright colors.

The 100% post-consumer waste, 100% made-in-America journals, planners and agendas come in brilliant blues, greens or pinks (as well as staid black if you need to stay in “office mode”) and run about $10-$17.

Dec. 9
Eco-Artware’s Cool Corporate Gifts
Want to (or feel the need to) buy for your office cohort or boss, and hoping to deliver something truly unique? Head to eco-artware.com, which offers gifts from recycled, reused and natural materials.

Like what, you ask?

How about cuff links handmade from authentic vintage typewriter keys?

Or a business-card case made from a recycled circuit board?

Or a clipboard made from a recycled aluminum Dept. of Transportation street sign? (Leave a comment below or simply send an e-mail to kscribner@captivate.com and you could win a free clipboard!)

Items run about $30-$50, so you won’t have to break the bank to leave a lasting (not to mention sustainable) impression on your workplace pals.

Eco-Artware also offers plenty of non-office-related choices, from wreaths made from retired street signs to bracelets crafted from old-school vinyl records. (“Houses of the Holy” wristband for that closet Led Zep fan, perhaps?)

Dec. 7
c. marchuska Fashion Line
Until somewhat recently, green fashion pretty much just meant T-shirts. But the industry is growing, and one of the best choices out there for true couture choices that are also truly environmentally friendly is c. marchuska, begun about a year ago by NYC gal Christine Marchuska.

I’m no fashion maven so I won’t attempt to get into the merits of the clothes from that angle. Perhaps it’s best if you just check them out for yourself. But I will indeed get into the green side of the clothes. And it’s actually pretty impressive how much the environment plays a role in c. marchuska’s decisions.

I exchanged e-mails with c. marchuska CFO & COO Brooke Bresnan. She sums the company’s approach up nicely:

What eco-friendly fabrics and methods do you use in your clothes?
The Jen Dress [for example] is crafted from a bamboo fabric blend. We favor the use of the bamboo plant because it grows quickly and does not require the use of pesticides to thrive. Thus, our fabric is grown organically without the use of harsh chemicals that harm the environment. Many people do not realize how harmful the cotton industry is to the Earth because of the use of pesticides. In addition, bamboo is chopped down and not picked, like cotton, thus, the soil is protected and can easily reproduce bamboo season after season, rather than requiring the use of crop rotation. Bamboo fabric has been growing in popularity because it has many unique properties and is more sustainable than most textile fibers. Bamboo fabric is deliciously soft, light and strong, has excellent wicking properties, and is to some extent antibacterial. Many people that have allergies to fabrics like wool and hemp do not have any allergic reactions to bamboo.
Additionally, c. marchuska is proud to manufacture domestically, specifically in New York City. Not only do we want to support Americans by providing jobs, but also, we feel more confident that the United States legal system requires manufacturing plants to cut down on waste and dispose of it appropriately, thus reducing our carbon footprint and supporting America.

Why is sustainability important to you?
Sustainability is important to us for many reasons. Most importantly, producing versatile clothing that can last through different trends and seasons in order to produce less waste is essential. Women are always going to want to look good and feel confident in their clothing. c. marchuska aims to provide her customer with versatile pieces that can be worn to the office, hanging around the house, or for a night out on the town. The ability to dress up or down with different accessories to be able to stay fashionable for season after season is our first priority. Building your wardrobe with classic pieces that last is essential for staying true to the sustainable fashion mantra of producing less waste, not to mention on your bank account!

Are there any green partnerships you might be planning on in future?
Christine and I are very involved in charitable donations and volunteering our time. We actually met in April 2008 while volunteering for the Safe Horizon Junior Council. Safe Horizon is the nation’s largest victim services organization and we are very committed to the cause. We continue to support the cause that brought us together by donating a percentage of sales to the organization annually. Furthermore, we donate product to charities around the U.S., including The Nature Conservancy, www.kiva.org, Young Women Social Entrepreneurs, and Pet Helpers of Charleston, South Carolina.
Additionally, we have several green partnerships, including the online site ecosumo.com, hair product brand KMS California and makeup brand ELF Cosmetics. We are looking into partnering with Go Green Expo and have also worked with green companies such as Tarte and Yes To Carrots in the past. We are always interested in helping other worthy causes, so don't hesitate to contact us with suggestions.

c. marchuska will also be participating in The Greenshows as part of Eco Fashion Week in New York City in February 2010 to unveil the new Fall/Winter collection.

For truly fashionable, truly green clothing choices, c. marchuska’s the way to go.

Dec. 4
Blooming Easy
With all the different ways to “go green,” perhaps it’s best to start with what generated the term in the first place: plants. The purest way to be eco-conscious is simply to plant something.

But if you’re like me, the whole planting/growing/not killing of the process isn’t simple at all. I need all the help I can get.

That’s where EasyBloom comes in. It’s a device you place anywhere you want to grow a flower, plant, vegetable, herb or tree, and it collects information like light, humidity, temperature and soil conditions to tell you the best thing to grow in that place.

It’s the perfect fool-proof gadget for the fledgling (or flailing) green-thumber. And I thought it could be especially helpful for Captivaters, who often live/work in the city and are looking for easier ways to bring nature into their small spaces.

I haven’t tried out EasyBloom myself yet, but there are many positive reviews out there, including this one from the Cheap Vegetable Gardener. Seems like a can’t-miss present.

For more options, check out last year’s gift guide.

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Kyle Scribner is a born-again nature freak who also happens to be an editor at Captivate Network.

You know that exhilarated feeling you got as a kid when you would go down to the pond to catch frogs? It never really goes away; it’s just dormant. So I'm here to slap a mix of facts and borderline balanced opinion on you, to poke a stick at the nature freak slumbering in us all and maybe get him to once again come out and play.

And we might even learn a few things about the environment as we go.


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About Green Among Gray

How do you commune with nature or become part of the solution to the environmental crisis when you're trapped in a cement-and-glass, gas-guzzling, power-sucking, emissions-spewing metropolis 8 hours (or more) a day? How do you go 'green' in a world of gray?

Actually, there are plenty of ways, and Green Among Gray aims to show high-rise inhabitants how they can help ease the load on the environment and on their minds by exploring natural oases, conservation tips, and other ways to stay green while working in the concrete-built world of the big city.

Look for short updates on the latest environmental news along with periodic longer features on specific places and events that allow big-city workers to get close to nature.