SunChips uses 14 week Compostable Bag

Frito-Lay SunChips are going to "do their part" to help the planet with their new compostable 10.5 oz chip bags.

The new bags are made with a polyactic acid (PLA), produced by NatureWorks LLC. The product line made from PLA is called Ingeo. PLA is derived from plants, and yes, some people still eat plants. Therefore, Sunchips gets two points for effort and decreased use of petrol-products, but minus one for decreasing biodiversity and using plants to produce non-edibles.

Furthermore, the plant in question here is corn. This brings a slew of political factors into the evaluation. Corn is subsidized by our government and is so cheap that it has made its way (as obscure ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup) into over 80% of our food supply. Yet corn farmers take up second jobs to afford insurance and feed their families.

Watch the bag compost in optimal conditions over 14 weeks.
See for yourself in this time lapse video showing the bag decompose

Thrift Store Review: The Soroptimist

Overall Rating:4
Location: 4
Organization: 3
Selection: 4
Cleanliness: 2
Price: 5

The Soroptimist is by far my favorite thrift store in my quaint hometown of Enterprise, Ore. The thrift store, located on Main and 1st Street, is full of treasures waiting to be found.

For being in such a small town the location is ideal, it is located in the middle of the town, right next to the public library. Although the store would be more successful in a larger town, it is always busy and is a perfect addition to Enterprise.

The store is organized to the best of its ability. The store is run by volunteers, everything there has been donated and all of the proceeds go towards community scholarships and grants. Because all of the funds generated are used to help others, the store makes use with what they have and many items are folded and set on tables rather than being hung on clothing racks or stacked on shelves. Soroptimist goes through inventory like you wouldn't believe and the women who volunteer work quickly to keep up.

The selection in the store varies greatly. There are clothes for everyone from babies to adults and probably even dogs. There are crafts, fabric, books, electronics, kitchenware and much more. The only thing that the store does not have is large furniture. The quality of the selection also varies from items that are well worn to items that still have tags.

The store doesn't smell the best and could use some deep cleaning, but it is worth bearing to find treasures that you can buy for only 25 cents. Yes, that's right 25 cents is the typical price of every item. Every once in a while a nice coat might cost 50 cents or a dollar, but you can't get a deal better than that. Sometimes Soroptimist even has bag sales where customers get a bag when they walk in and can purchase anything they fit in the bag for just a dollar.

One of my favorite things to purchase at the Soroptimist is holiday sweaters. Many of my friends have hosted ugly holiday sweater parties and at Soroptimist I can purchase a sweater for 25 cents, when they would cost $6 each at Goodwill. My dad found a satellite radio at Soroptimist. He purchased it not knowing if it would even work to discover that it worked great and still had a year left in its subscription. This is an item that would usually cost more than $100 dollars and he only paid 25 cents. On the right is a photograph of my friend Kelsey and me wearing 25 cent Soroptimist holiday sweaters.

Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women. For more information about the organization click here.

WSU did not kill the Electric Car

In 2006, Who Killed the Electric Car? debuted and raised quite a few eyebrows in regards to gas, cars and conspiracy. The Electric Vehicle (EV1) was a viable option for many drivers back in the '90s. Then it mysteriously was swiped off of the market place. Watch movie trailer here.

Now, The Electrical Vehicle team at WSU is competing to bring back the no-gas dream. Read the article from The Daily Evergreen.

Eco-Spirits Extremely Affordable

On a recent trip to the liquor store I came across 360 Eco Friendly Vodka. It was priced at $19.95 and I decided to give it a try.

The packaging includes a lot of useful information about the company’s environmental impact. It claims to be the first and only true eco-friendly premium vodka and has received awards in taste, quality, packaging and marketing. I am no vodka coinsurer, however I thought it was good and better than the similarly priced Skyy Vodka.

The store only had the regular 360 Eco Friendly Vodka, but after researching on the Web I discovered that 360 also distills cola and double chocolate flavors.

The vodka comes in an 85 percent recycled glass bottle and 100 percent recycled eco-friendly paper products are used in the labeling, packaging and promotional materials. The shipper uses 100 percent recycled cardboard. Environmentally friendly water based inks are used for printing of all materials. A program called Close the Loop was developed for the metal bottle closures with the purpose of enabling infinite reuse which reduces waste and conserves resources needed to produce new closures. The vodka came with an envelope with prepaid postage to return the closure.

The vodka is four times distilled through an energy efficient process, with every bushel of grain being fully utilized and nothing going to waste. The vodka is also five times filtered at a facility that has improved its eco-footprint measurably over the past five years. All grain is locally grown to significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption in transporting raw materials to the distillery.

According to an Eco-Audit with calculations based on research by Environmental Defense and other members of the Paper Task Force, the Earth Friendly Distilling Co. saved the following resources in the production of 360 Vodka’s labeling:

  • 193 fully grown trees
  • 82,766 gallons of water
  • 9,255 pounds of solid waste
  • 139 million BTU of energy
  • 18,052 pounds of greenhouse gases

Magic Soap

Have you ever wondered if the same soap you use to wash your clothes could be used as toothpaste and shampoo? Sounds outrageous right? Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap does just that, in fact, it has 18 different uses. The soap, which has been made for decades, is also certified under the USDA National Organic Program and Fair Trade.

Below is a list of just some of the soap's uses, according to the product Web site:

1. Always dilute for Shave-Shampoo-Massage-Dental Soap-Bath!

2. Peppermint is nature's own unsurpassed fragrant Deodorant!

3. A drop is best Mint Toothpaste; brushes Dentures Clean!

4. A dash in water is the ideal Breath Freshener & Mouth Wash!

5. Peppermint Oil Soap for Dispensers, Uniforms, Baby, Beach!

6. Dilute for ideal After Shave, Body Rub, Foot Bath, and Douche.

7. Hot Towel-Massage the entire body, always towards your heart.

8. Pets, silk, wool & body tingles head to toe - keeps cool!

9. 3 dashes in water rinse most Sprays Off fruit & vegetables!

10. 1/4 oz in qt H2O is Pest Spray! Dash, no rash Diaper-Soap!

All of Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One liquid and bar soaps are completely biodegradable and vegetable-based. They are made with Certified Fair Trade and Organic oils. Both the bar and liquid have 18 uses and there are no synthetic foaming agents, thickeners or preservatives in the soap. The cylinder bottles and paper labels used in the packaging are 100 percent post-consumer recycled.

Dr. Bronner’s is the number one selling natural soap brand in North America. Although I have never used it, I am eager to try it out. A classic bar of soap costs $4.19 and an eight ounce bottle of the liquid version is only $5.99. Not bad at all when you consider all of its uses.

Dr. Bronner must have been an interesting character. This is evident when reading the soap bottle label, and is demonstrated in a 2006 documentary, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox. Click here to see the movie trailer.

Thrift Shop Review: Paws-N-Claws Thrift Store

Overall Score: 3
Location: 4
Organization: 2.5
Selection: 3
Price: 3

Paws in Claws Thrift Store is a bit of a misnomer. To some, the name implies used pet goods. Although the product selection is not focused on pets, all of the proceeds go to the Humane Society.

The store has a good location for Vancouver area shoppers. It is just a few blocks off of SR-500, and it is near a Walgreens for those who like to bundle their errands. Altogether, Paws-N-Claws is easy to find on 3308 NE 52nd St, Vancouver, Wash.

The store occupies a medium space, but a multitude of goods create a cramped feel. Also, high shelving sections-off certain areas. This technique is good for organization, but increases the claustrophobia effect. Another negative atmosphere attribute was a distinct thrift shop smell - the worst I've smelled in a while.

If shoppers can overlook the surface qualities, the selection is varied with prices that are reasonable. More importantly, the benefits of shopping at Paws-N-Claws are two-fold: help the environment by reusing goods and help a furry friend!

Share freezer space, reduce energy consumption at Main Market, Spokane

There's a new co-op in town, and it wields innovative green ideas that go beyond food. Main Market Co-op, Spokane offers a program for patrons to purchase a locker of freezer space in their store. Thus, people share the amount of energy needed to keep goods frozen. In store promotions for the concept claim that a co-oped freezer locker could greatly reduce or eliminate freezer use at home. The concept is designed for families who tend to buy frozen items in bulk.

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture is a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm so the farmland becomes the community's farm. Growers and consumers provide mutual support and share both the risks and benefits of food production.

With CSA, a farmer offers a certain number of shares to the public. Usually a share consists of a box of vegetables, but other products from the farm may be included. Interested consumers purchase shares, in advance, to cover the anticipated farming costs. Shares are also called memberships or subscriptions. In return these shareholders receive a box of seasonal produce each week of the farming season, but they also share the risks of farming, including poor harvests from things such as bad weather and pests.

CSA has become popular over the last 20 years. It is a great way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmers, according to the Local Harvest Web site.
Here are some advantages of a CSA, straight from Local Harvest:

Advantages for farmers:

-Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin

-Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm's cash flow

-Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

-Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits

-Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking

-Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season

-Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat

-Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

You can search for the closest CSA on the Local Harvest Web site, click here. There are six in the Pullman/Moscow area. For example, the Washington State University Organic Farm's CSA has 105 shares. The CSA averages 24 weeks starting mid-May and running through the end of October. A share costs $525 a season, but a half share is available for $325.

Eco-Grooming Products

As I was reading through The Daily Evergreen I came across an advertisement for Red Devil Grooming. It is an online retailer for affordable, organic personal care products. With a tag line "So Natural. It's a Sin." I knew I had to check it out.

There are only 11 products on the Web site, but they are extremely affordable in comparison to similar items. The products, which are aimed towards men, include shampoo, hair gel and body wash. Most of these items cost $8.95, with the most expensive item being a 3-pack of personal care items for $24.95.

The site is very well organized and links to a blog about men's grooming, a Twitter account and a place to sign up for the newsletter.

Red Devil Grooming's mission is to provide products to people that are good for the environment and the people who use them.

In 2009, the company was created in order to "...take the challenge of trying to save the world." The company sought to curb some environmental issues like eliminating the harsh chemicals used in grooming products and shipping products in eco-friendly packaging.

The planet is my friend because...

The audio player works best in Internet Explorer. If an audio player does not appear, click here to listen.

Thrift Store Review: Goodwill

Overall Score: 4
Location: 4
Organization: 4
Selection: 4
Price: varies

The Goodwill in Moscow, Idaho is similar to the Goodwill in Vancouver, Wash. and I'd wager that more than 2,300 Goodwill stores across the country are similar as well. Regardless, there are many consistencies that are beneficial to second hand shopping.

Located right off the Moscow-Pullman highway, Goodwill is easy to access and offers plenty of parking. The building is large and shoppers have plenty of space to peruse the well organized store. Only one area lacks organization: the knick-knack, dishes and kitchen shelves are not shopper-friendly.

Perhaps a mark of corporate standards, the Goodwill in Moscow is kept clean - it barely has that second hand smell! It has a public bathroom, a convenience not found in all retail stores.

The selection is substantial. Seasonal items such as snow shovels and coats are highlighted in the front area.There is a variety of never been used merchandise woven into the selection including socks and random items. This particular store boasts a fine array of 80's night apparel. A quality that is perfect for it's location between two colleges.

Price presents a key downfall for the store. The prices vary from less than $2 for a fancy blouse to more than $10 for good condition jeans. Coats and jackets throw the range even higher. Some are reasonably priced, others around $25 and others even higher. The expensive items seem better fitted for a consignment shop.

Altogether, it's a good place to go for thrift store shopping. As an added benefit, 84 percent of profits help fund Goodwill programs.

Make the Light Switch

If every household replaced three 60-watt incandescent bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, the pollution saving would be like taking 3.5 million cars off the road.

According to Energy Star, Americans saved $1.5 billion in 2007 by switching to Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). The energy saved could light all of the homes in a city the size of Washington D.C. for over 30 years.

Energy-saving CFLs use one-quarter of the energy to produce the same amount of light. This means lower electricity bills and millions of tons less global warming pollution. In the summer they will even lower cooling bills because they do not burn as hot as incandescent bulbs, in fact, they product 75 percent less heat.

In addition to being more energy efficient, Energy Star bulbs last 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.

In order to make the switch, the Environmental Defense Fund recommends:
  1. Start with one bulb in one room to be sure that it gives the kind of light you want.
  2. Know your wattage. Look for a CF bulb with one-quarter the wattage of the incandescent bulb you are replacing (i.e. CF 15-watt bulb replaces an incandescent 60-watt bulb).
  3. Check the shape and size to make sure that a CF bulb will fit in your lamp or light fixture.
  4. In order for a CF bulb to work with a dimmer, it needs to be designed for it, so read the package.
  5. Look for the Energy Star label, these bulbs are the most energy efficient.
  6. Dispose of old light bulbs properly. All fluorescent lights contain traces of mercury so they need to be recycled when they burn out. To find a location to recycle your old bulbs click here.
  7. Check to see if your utility company offers rebates for using energy-efficient bulbs.

Food for Thought: The Meatrix

If you eat meat and/or live in America, you must watch The Meatrix. A parody of the Matrix movies, The Meatrix I, II and II&1/2 shed light on factory farming, the dairy industry and processing factories. The videos are only a few minutes long, can entertain all ages and have a heavy dose of facts.

Is your meat real or are you living in the Meatrix?

Thrift Store Review: Closet Transfer

Overall Rating: 4
Location: 4
Organization: 4
Selection: 4
Cleanliness: 5
Price: 3

Closet Transfer is a trendy consignment store and a great addition to a college town like Pullman.

Although the selection only includes men's and women's clothing and accessories, they have a great collection that includes brand names like Seven for All Mankind, Coach, Banana Republic and Fossil. With brand names like this, the store is sure to become a popular destination for 20-something college students.

Closet Transfer is conveniently located at 242 E. Main St. in Pullman, which is the perfect location for getting a lot of foot traffic. The store is spacious, clean and neatly organized by clothing type and color.

But of course with bigger names, there are bigger prices. Items are priced at about one-third of their estimated original price. This means that most items in the store range from $10 to $30.

People are encouraged to bring in their gently-used items for consignment. The clothing needs to be clean, pressed and on hangers. Items need to either be currently in style or vintage. For jewelry, earrings need to be on a card to help keep them in pairs. The store is seasonal so it will only be accepting winter clothing through February.

Consignors receive 50 percent of the sale price of each item sold. Items are consigned for 60 days, at which time the consignor has the option to pick up any unsold items as well as a check for the items sold, otherwise unsold items will become property of Closet Transfer and a check for items sold will be mailed.

Listed below are the store hours:

Monday- 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday- 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wednesday- 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday- 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday- 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday- 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday- 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

-Reviewed by Holly Luka and Erica VanNatta

Energy Audit

Want to make your home as energy efficient as possible?A great way to make your home more efficient is to get an energy audit. You can assess how much energy your home uses, learn what measures you can take to make it more efficient and discover ways to save money.

An audit can help you pinpoint where your home is losing energy and can determine the efficiency of your home's heating and cooling systems. It also may show you ways to conserve hot water and electricity

There are two ways to do an energy audit. You can do one yourself or hire a professional energy auditor. Visit the U.S. Department of Energy for more information on Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits. For information and tips on professional audits click here.

In Washington, Puget Sound Energy encourages customers to use energy as efficiently as possible. They have an online tool in which you can get customized cost-saving recommendations and you can look into grants and rebates that can work for you.