Category Archives: Eco-friendly Travel

Vacation, vacation, vacation: dealing with the aftermath (+ back to blogging!)

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog lately because 1. Vacation in Europe with baby and 2. Vacation in Europe without wifi. Yes, there are still places without it! (I did manage to publish one blog post about my new eco-friendly bag which I photographed i Denmark. Check it out here if you missed it :) )

Now, when it comes to vacationing, or traveling if you will, dealing with the guilt of flying is always hard. This activity, which I always try to undertake responsibly (have a great reason to go, travel zero waste) and rarely, is certainly the most unsustainable thing I do. One return trip to Sweden in economy class adds 1.28 metric tons of carbon to my yearly carbon footprint which is a lot. So what to do?

The easy and obvious thing to do is to carbon compensate, which I can do directly thru KLM’s website when buying the ticket (more on that in this post from last year) and/or by planting trees at Stand for Trees. This trip I realized that I could actually “compensate more” by collecting items abroad for baby August to bring home with me. That’s only previously used items – otherwise no point!

You’d be amazed what friends and family are hiding away in closets and are dying to get rid of. Because the people “donating” to me are my closest friends, not only do they have things I want, like and need, but also aren’t offended when I say no (aka “why’d you buy that?”). Most importantly they feel great about giving, they don’t have to spend money to spoil our baby, and together we prevent waste and reduce new material being purchased.

In addition to friends’ used (perfectly awesome) stuff, I also got my hands on a few of my own childhood items (sorting boxes at dad’s) which thrills me so.

The CO footprint of each and every thing I collected probably can’t be found on google, however I know it takes lots of energy, oil, resources and chemicals to produce just one new plastic cup. 

I like lists, so here is one of everything we brought home with us for baby August’s current and future endeavors!

  1. Lots of clothes 
  2. A pair of shoes
  3. A teether that goes in the freezer
  4. Three reusable squeeze pouches for baby food
  5. 10+ Spoons
  6. Four Plates
  7. Eight Bowls
  8. Three Cups
  9. Two baby bottles (not pictured – in the sink!)
  10. Two cans of baby food (my friend’s baby never got to!)
  11. A reflector
  12. Mini flounder for bath time (mine from 1989!)
  13. 20+ Children’s books in Swedish and Danish
  14. Eight baby books
  15. 13 Mini (pixi) books
  16. Five puzzles (one not pictured)
  17. Bib that catches food
  18. Pear-shaped mold for playing in sand
  19. Soft toy reindeer (which baby loves!)  

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Long list right? All of these things aren’t need-to-haves perhaps, but most are! How much carbon would I emit if I were to buy all of these items new?

I’m not sure, but not having to do so makes me feel better about those long fossil fuel burning flights we took. And, it IS more fun to have previously loved things :)

Now, vacation is over, I’m back to blogging (some fun posts coming up!), enjoying my last few weeks of maternity leave and, of course, living it green in Texas.

Hand me down goodies for eco-baby – and we’re pretty much all set

I don’t normally travel to Europe twice in one year due to the heavy carbon footprint of cross-Atlantic flying, but this year it just happened that way. I had lots of reasons to go for a second time (while this bump is growing and showing).

Meeting my new nephew was the main reason for the trip, however inhaling the cold, crisp air, enjoying the colors of fall, eating lots of foods I’ve been craving and taking the opportunity to collect (yes collect!) loads of hand me down goodies from family and friends for eco-baby were bonus reasons.

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My mom’s vegan cinnamon rolls and fall colors at dad’s.

It’s amazing what the people we know have at home and are more than willing to part ways with. Frankly, they’re dying for someone to use their storage and basement items again. Many seem to have too many things they want to give you (maybe they over-shopped?), in which case I say let your inner minimalist guide you – it’s has to be ok to say no if you don’t want or need what’s offered. Someone else they know might need that exact thing.

I’m trying to keep baby-inventory as low as possible, but I have come to accept that eco-baby will need a few things like clothes, a car seat, a stroller, a place to sleep and diaper stuff. With this trip, the clothes part is already completely taken care of! My nephews’ 0-3 months baby collection is now mine to use, and as he grows out of 3-6 and 6-9 and so on, hopefully those clothes can be handed down to us too.

Going through all the baby clothes, I was happy and impressed to see that my sister had bought almost exclusively organic cotton items. There were also a few handmade items; a cardigan knitted by our mom and a jacket and pants set from Sewing for Seeds – a Swedish eco brand based in Stockholm, sewing small batch fashion from organic cotton or recycled fabrics.

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Stack of organic onesies, Burt’s Bees pjs and Sewing for Seeds jacket

My oldest and dearest friend had sewn a homemade baby resting pad for her daughter and told me it was one of the best accessories she had had.  It allowed her to put the baby down anywhere to sleep, with no risk of her rolling over or falling down. The baby supposedly feels very safe and calm in it, as the design is meant to remind her of the tight space in the womb. She said to me “I just don’t know what to do with it now”, so I volunteered to give it a new home. Homemade things are so special! And may I add that a baby lounger like this one, costs above $150 online? Check out Dock a Tot (also made in Sweden) and you’ll get the idea.

In addition to ALL that, I found some of my old books and my mom had saved my old baby blanket and some towels too, which I also took with me. I feel so lucky to be able to revive some of the 80’s things I used when little. How retro and eco-friendly is that?!

With all these items in combination with a few things local US friends have already handed down to me, we’re now in GOOD shape.

Note. In order to reduce my carbon footprint while travelling, I carbon offset more than the calculated amount that my flight emits thru KLM’s webpage, however, there’s no real eco-friendly way to fly. Read more of my thoughts and how I do international air travel HERE.

Living it up (the eco-way) in New York City

Welcome to New York. It’s been waiting for you.

At least that’s what Taylor Swift claims. As for me, ever since I found out I was going to the Big Apple for work, I was hoping that great vegan food, eco-fashion and new acquaintances would indeed be waiting. Guess what? They were.

The training I was there to take allowed me to be my most social self during the days and I made some great connections! In addition to all the fun I was having, several people in the class were into eating healthy and two were living plant-based, meaning green lunch choices for the group. Yay.

Finding vegan options turned out to be as easy as I had hoped. Finding plastic-free, zero waste vegan, a bit harder, though definitely possible. Let me tell you about some of the places where I ate!

Vegan, Organic and Zero Waste

The first night, after a long walk through the city, I had a well-made meal at Blossom (21st and 9th) in Chelsea. Friendly staff, fast service, nice setting. And, I got to eavesdrop on a seriously millennial conversation one table over, while watching the street action outside the window. Pretty sweet. Yes, that also applies the two glasses of organic riesling I had.

The best food of the trip was at Candle 79 on the Upper East Side (79th and Lex.). I started with empanadas, followed by a chick-pea cake creation accompanied by delicious broccoli and cauliflower in a curry sauce. It was excellent and I highly recommend this place. A reservation is probably a good idea, though I got lucky and was seated right away. By the window again.

Vegan on the go

Because sooner or later, all New York visitors will find themselves in midtown, near Times Square fearing that Olive Garden is their only lunch choice – I’ll tell you, it’s not. Fresh and Co. is half a block away on 48th street (between 6th and 7th avenue) and they’ll mix you up an awesome salad. Though delicious and fresh, my salads (Gaucho and Falafel) were unfortunately tossed and served in a plastic bowl (I didn’t have a reusable one). I did fill my own bottle with tea, no problem.

Organic Soy Latte

Anyone else appalled by the super sweet soymilk at Starbucks? Pret A Manger is a much better choice if you ask me, and they’re all over town. I had an organic, unsweet soy latte there and of course reusable cups welcome. This chain donates all their left-over food at the end of each day to homeless shelters and food programs too. Waste not, want not.

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On another eco note, I had four nights in the city and spent most of them walking around enjoying the scenery and the different neighborhoods. Why take a cab when you can walk, right?

One night while strolling down Highline Park, I suddenly had this idea to hit up Century 21 (the discount department store by World Trade Center). I hadn’t been there in years and was curious to see what made in USA or eco-friendly brands they might have (if any!).

A few minutes into browsing, I saw an Italian-made sweater by a designer I had never heard of before and decided to try it on. Instantly, it felt like mine. It fit just right and felt super comfy. Sold! Although it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I said “eco-fashion” and it didn’t really follow any of the rules I set up for this year’s shopping challenge, I still had to have it. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart and break the rules a little.

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My new Dirk Bikkembergs made in Italy sweater

I hadn’t prepared much for this trip, however I still feel like I managed to make simple, eco-friendly choices throughout the visit. Like what, you say? Well, like:

  • Enjoying vegan, organic food (the most eco-friendly, low carbon diet)
  • Not using the hotel bath products (saving plastic)
  • Not asking to have my sheets and towels changed every night (saving water, energy and cleaning products)
  • Managing my drinking water, so there was no need to buy even a single water bottle (saving plastic and money)
  • Carrying my new Italian sweater in my reusable bag (saving plastic)
  • Walking or taking the subway instead of riding in taxis (less pollution)
  • Carbon compensating my flights
  • Stayed at a local boutique hotel to support small business

I had an amazing time and I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the breaking the rules part.

Indeed, it was all waiting for me in New York!

Read about my previous eco-friendly work trip to California here.

Sweater+me photo credit: Shutterluv by Ashley.

You can take me out of Europe, but you can’t take Sweden out of me (an eco-friendly air travel post)

KLM is my favorite cross-Atlantic airline. Not only can we afford the economy comfort seats (4″ more leg room, a bit more recline and a quiet cabin) but the connection in Amsterdam is usually a breeze (knock on wood) and year after year they earn the award for most environmentally friendly airline. Do I appreciate the fact that I can calculate and compensate the CO2 emissions of my flight immediately as I book it? Yes!

First, the contribution made to the “CO2 ZERO program”, as KLM calls it, is directly and fully invested in various sustainable energy projects. On top of their agenda is development and use of bio-fuels, which they estimate can lead up to an 80% reduction of CO2 emission when used on a large scale.

Interested? Take a look at this informative video about the work they’re doing and why! (Another animated one ;))

KLM reduces their energy consumption by the use of lightweight materials on board, fuel-efficient operations and improved engine cleaning methods. And although their tea and coffee cups are 100% biodegradable and the majority of the food is sourced sustainably and locally, the onboard meal service needs a total re-do, if you ask me.  The meals in coach are still served in single-use plastic packaging which, in addition to the food waste, adds up to an incredible amount of garbage for each flight. Reusable dishes, fabric towels and compostable materials (for disposables) shouldn’t be that hard to do. We also need to see the vegan meal become a standard option on all flights. Let’s not settle for the classic “Do you want the meat or the pasta swimming in cheese?” anymore!

The aviation industry is responsible for about 2-3% of the total CO2 volume caused by people. To be honest, I am surprised the number is that low! Compared to all transport, the contribution from aviation is 12% where cars and trucks come in at a combined 74%. Fun fact: Some of the newer planes, Airbus A380, Boeing 787, ATR-600 and Bombardier CSeries aircrafts, use less than 3 liters or 0.8 gallons of jet fuel per 100 kilometers or 62 miles (per passenger). This matches the efficiency of many modern compact cars (and is actually more efficient that many American SUVs).

In collaboration with Delft University of Technology (in Holland), KLM is working on the development of an aircraft they call the “CleanEra”, which will be 50% more efficient and produce 50% less noise. The expectation is that this aircraft could be flight-ready already 2025.

In this global world we live in, I realize we cannot function without air travel. We all use it from time to time and I don’t think electric planes or cross-ocean super shuttles are happening in my lifetime (but I’d love to be proven wrong – Elon Musk, hoping you will do so!) so it’s super important to me that the airline I choose to travel with, do what they can to promote sustainability!

Where are we heading? To the motherland.

Green pine trees, cold fresh air, family, recycling bins in every corner and the best potato salad and candy in the world awaits (nope, not being subjective at all) in my home of Sweden. It was recently named most sustainable country in the world, 99% of trash is reused, recycled or used as bio-fuel, and Sweden aims to be completely fossil fuel free by 2050. No wonder I became an eco-activist ;)

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Don’t forget about me and the blog while I’m gone! Thank goodness for pre-scheduled posts!

Zero waste trip: Minimizing trash on the (business) go

I don’t consider myself a frequent flyer of any sorts. I avoid flying if I can; it’s boring, time consuming and adds to my carbon footprint, but sometimes duty calls.

In order to make the best out of a recent business trip and not just co2 compensate (which I always do at Stand for Trees – 1 ton per 1 domestic flight) I decided to attempt a zero waste trip.

Only about 56 hours of trip-time to handle, I figured this would be a great little zero waste outing. It’s a gamble on business trips because you cannot pick the restaurants or activities yourself, so it can be a waste trap, thus an exciting challenge. I brought these items with me, to help me out:

With my travel buddy in the terminal - ready to do this!
With my travel buddy in the terminal – ready to do this!

It started well, got my boarding pass on my phone and checked in at the parking garage with my credit card. Peets coffee in the terminal filled both my bottle with water and my mug with coffee. I did get a bran-muffin, which was baked inside of a paper type form. I took it with me on the plane, hoping to find a compost in LA.

I asked for my bottle to be filled with water once in air, and guess how they did that? By emptying a 12 oz aluminum can into it. What! Rumor has it that Southwest recycles, but I am not sure. I always see them throwing everything in the same trash bag. I decided to take the can with me so I could recycle it in the terminal. (Metal takes less energy than plastic to recycle, and can be recycled unlimited times, so at least not the worst material that could happen.)

From that point on, I was on a roll! Lucky for me, during the two dinners and one lunch I ate with my colleagues (all had good vegan or vegetarian options), I only “produced” one paper napkin of waste (wrapped around the utensils – no choice).

When it comes to hotels, I realized that if you take the time to consider your options carefully before you book, you can make your low waste life easier by staying at a place that serves breakfast instead of the classic continental (wasteful) breakfast buffet. I lucked out again as my manager had decided we should stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, where they served breakfast on porcelain and offered bulk coffee, juice in glass jars and made-to-order food. Of course I had to skip yogurt and individually wrapped baked goods, which wouldn’t have been great choices anyway – dairy and sugar – so no loss!

Another hotel-tip would be to use the “Do not disturb sign” at all times! It saves energy, cleaning supplies, time for the crew, water and trash bags. Easy!

I've had this "ziplock replacer" for my liquids for 7 years. Now that's reusing.
I’ve had this “ziplock replacer” for my liquids for 7 years. Now that’s reusing.

I kept my bottle with me at all times and filled the mug with coffee in the hotel lobby. When my colleagues wanted Starbucks, I opted for ice tea in my water bottle. I also stopped at a gas station and filled it with water from a soda machine while on the road.

The trip was going so well, but took a sour turn at LAX airport, where I couldn’t find a single proper restaurant and all the food came pre-packaged or was served on paper plates! (I panicked a bit when I saw apples wrapped in plastic. Yuck.) I had to rely on coffee to fill me up (Starbucks in my to-go mug) and a banana. There were no compost bins in the terminal and the banana was non-organic but I thought it was better than something processed and plastic-wrapped.

Despite the LAX despair, this trip turned out to be a fun zero waste adventure! It totaled only 1 paper napkin, a banana peel, one muffin form and some receipts (needed for my company to cover my expenses anyway) for the whole trip. This was despite trying really hard to produce zero waste.

It is truly astounding how much our society promotes waste and one time packaging! Gross!

Bringing your own water bottle and to-go mug on trips in the United States (as everyone is so nice letting you fill up with free water here) is super easy, convenient, cost effective and saves so many one-time-use cups and bottles! Next time I’ll pack some emergency nuts and fruits – just incase another LAX situation happens.

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Two heroes in the middle, surrounded by the one-time-use losers

You don’t have to be a zero waste hero to make a positive trash impact! Every small change you make matters. Saving straws and cups when you’re out and about, never buying bottled water, always opting for carton instead of plastic (eggs, milk, juice, rice, pasta etc.) and bringing bags (also for produce) to the grocery store is a great start to help reduce plastic waste. The average American uses 300 to 700 one-time-use plastic bags per year! You don’t have to be part of those statistics. Take control of your environmental impact.

As for the WHY in all of this. I read lots of zero waste blogs and I am trying to live low waste. There is simply no excuse for single-use plastic. Our oceans are full of it, animals die with it in their tummies, BPA found in it is hormone-disrupting, it’s made from non-renewable fossil fuel (again you are making the fossil guys richer by buying) and practically never degrades.

Here are some good pictures from The Two Hands Project, to inspire you to go reusable!

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Read more here about how they encourage everyone to “take 30 Minutes and two hands to clean up YOUR world anytime, anywhere” to deal with the plastic pollution. Love that idea!

Read up on Zero Waste and find blogs here, at the Zero Waste Bloggers Network.

In celebration of my sister’s wedding anniversary: The story of her perfect dress

Today, it has been 6 years since my beautiful sister got married to her handsome husband. It was the most gorgeous, sunny day. And though it’s a day we will always remember (naturally) this story is really about when we went shopping for her wedding dress. See, I am taking a break from my eco-blogging (sort of) today to instead write a little something for her.

PICT4955Like so many times before; we had been saving and planning for our “New York sister get away”, for a while. We’d been taking notes on which coffee shops to try, which Broadway show to see and had been trying to find out where in the world the Manolo Blahnik store really was (It’s so hard to find!). However, the really exciting part about this trip was that we were going to shop for a wedding dress for my sis and a maid of honor dress for me!

It was May of 2009, wedding set for September 19th; we had plenty of time and plenty of optimism to find that perfect dress. The only question was; where do we begin?

It looked so easy on Sex and the City, but for two sisters in the city, not so much. We had no idea where to go. We figured you can’t just show up at Vera Wang like Charlotte (who can afford it!?) and we didn’t even know the names of any wedding dress stores. Strolling down 5th avenue and looking up at the second floor windows with gowns on pale mannequins wasn’t helping either; we didn’t even understand how to get into those places.

We decided to just start at the department stores; they have wedding sections! They do (I think) but none that you just walk into. We looked around the party dress departments for white, long dresses at Macy’s, Saks, Bloomingdales and even Bergdorf’s (I remember it was super fancy and sterile in there). Sales assistants we ran into, and told what we were doing, kept telling us how late in the game we were. “September? Oh wow, you better hurry!” What? We had four months, surely they must be mistaken!

We realized quickly that midtown and 5th weren’t working out for us. So the day after; new area and new spirit. Let’s go SoHo. And yes, that’s where it all came together, in a little bridal studio called Nicole Miller. Two tourists walk in on a day when no one had booked a fitting, and one awesome consultant (with seriously big hair!) let us in without an appointment! She must have fallen for our hopeful-and-lost-non-locals-look, and figured she had to help us out.

My sister was looking for a fitted, simple gown with a mermaid feel to it; which is basically all of Nicole Miller’s dresses. She tried a few, one after another; they all fit her perfectly (she has the perfect shape for dresses). They were all priced around 700-1200 dollars, which was right in line with what she could and wanted to spend.

PICT4964In less than an hour she had decided on her dress, not really any alterations needed (of course – perfect shape); form-fitted, mermaid feel, in an off-white, metal threaded fabric. Priced at 800 dollars, and made right there in New York City.

What a high! How did that work out so quickly?! Her wedding dress packed up nicely in a paper bag, not too heavy to carry around on her shoulder, so we took it to lunch – isn’t that amazing?

We had a great lunch, we were so excited, and we talked about the Manolos she was about to buy to match the dress and what the heck the maid of honor was going to wear (me!).

My sister hadn’t decided what color she wanted on me. The wedding wasn’t all planned out yet, but she knew she wanted it to feel like a fall wedding with warm reds, oranges and earth colors. We continued to explore SoHo, and randomly found Foravi.

We didn’t know what they might have, but as if it was meant to be, they had two Nicole Miller dresses in the same fabric as my sister’s wedding dress! One red, one earthy green; one size 4, one size 6. I could squeeze myself in to the red 4 (the fabric is very stretchy and hugging), but it was just too tight and the color was too sexy. The green dress fit perfectly and had the right cut, length, feeling and color for the upcoming fall wedding. It was 400 dollars, and as you guessed, made in New York! Sold!

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There you have it. Two out-of-towners, went to the fashion capital of the world, without a plan or any appointments, and came home with the perfect pair of dresses. We sure proved those sales assistants wrong! How lucky were we to find matching, made right there wedding fashion?

skor manoloAnd; yes, we found the Manolo Blahnik boutique finally, and my sister got her white satin, open toe, rhinestone-buckle, Sedarby pumps. Price tag; same as her dress (yes, really!) I was lucky enough to have bedazzled (60 dollar) shoes at home, matching her style of shoes and my new dress.

Foravi is still in business and still focusing on providing hand-crafted, responsibly-produced, and aesthetically powerful clothes.

Nicole Miller still makes wedding dresses in New York City, and they are still reasonably priced. Don’t count on getting in to the SoHo studio without an appointment though! (Unless you know how to pull off the hopeful-and-lost-non-locals-look, and even so, it’s a gamble…;))

The girls may not have been locally made, but the dresses sure were. I love that every garment we buy has a story, and it starts long before we get to wear it for the first time. We have the power to decide what kind of stories the clothes we buy should have, from cradle to grave, not just from purchase to grave. And I love the story of these two dresses.

To my sister – the best sis and the most beautiful bride I have ever seen. Thanks for always letting me be part of your stories, and of your clothes’ stories too. Happy anniversary!!

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Gorge!
(Yes, I was blond at the time!)
(Yes, I was blond at the time!)

Locally owned and organically grown – that’s the Colorado way

We spent Memorial Weekend in Colorado. More specifically Boulder, Estes Park and the beautiful Rocky Mountains National Park. Wow, it’s so pretty! And for someone living in Houston, it was a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively speaking. Seeing all the vintage shops, locally owned boutiques and organic restaurants on Pearl Street, and joints (no pun intended) like Kind Coffee in Estes Park, was a welcome change to all the BIG Picture1chains I see here in the big city.

Kind Coffee turned out to be an awesome little hut with lots of nice-to-have things that caught my attention, in addition to their organic, fair trade, yummy coffee. I ended up getting a Yay! Earth! magnet I got to take home. Because that’s how I feel: Yay! Earth!

Even the weather was better than expected. We had prepared for IMG_5102rain, rain and more rain, and sure, we did get some, but also saw some beautiful cloudy skies, snow (!), and had a full day of sunshine on Sunday while hiking (and getting lost in the snow).

My new Smartwool socks did their job with excellence; I wasn’t cold or wet at any point. They are knitted in USA of imported yarn.

As you can see I’m also sporting my American platypus water bottle and organic Prana head band. The rest of my gear is imported (North Face hiking shoes, Columbia jacket), not from China though, and it all worked as intended and kept me dry and warm all weekend.

I love leaving the concrete jungle we call Houston. It gives me hope for the world.

Platypus, Prana and Alberta Falls
Platypus, Prana and Alberta Falls
Colorado scenery
Colorado scenery

Lake Powell Resort – the most awesome place

During our road trip in the Grand Circle last month, we did get to try a few hotels along the way in addition to the backcountry campsites we stayed at. We always like staying a local hotels instead of the big chain ones. It supports the local communities we visit and normally leads to new discoveries, excellent food and a better night’s sleep.

We spent one night at the magnificent View Hotel in Monument Valley National Park on the Arizona-Utah border. They had American-made towels (yay!) but unfortunately their complementary body lotion and shampoo were made in China, with eco-something in the name. Of course, being on a not made in China challenge, I don’t see how made in China and eco go together. Other than that, I must say the room was excellent. The restaurant served up some interesting well-made, Native American inspired food, which we got to enjoy with non-alcoholic beer.

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The View Hotel

The Lake Powell Resort (beautifully located on the lake) must be the most eco-awesome place ever. They had dispensers for the soap instead of little bottles (so did Hotel Blue in ABQ), a recycling station in the room, compostable plastic cups made in USA from recycled material and self shutting balcony doors to preserve energy.

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The menu in the resort lounge informed us that all ingredients used were locally sourced whenever possible. The food was good, the view even better.

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Eco-friendly Lake Powell Resort

The resort also had a big gift shop with lots of cool locally made stuff and Native American art. Most of the items were nice to haves, not need to haves, like the magnet I decided to take home. It reads: “The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives”. If only more people thought about empowering and taking care of the place they live instead of draining it from its resources!

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Made in USA magnet!

Speaking of magnets, 10 years ago I swear all magnets I saw and bought when traveling around this big country were made in USA. Now, you have to really look for them. It feels wrong to me, shopping for souvenirs made in China in an American national park gift shop.

Can something imported even be classified a souvenir? I think not.

Burr, it’s cold in here (Camping gear part 3)

We finally got to try all the camping gear!

Like I’ve blogged about previously, we had been shopping a bit for our 10-day road trip in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. My main goal was to buy good quality, American made products, and I was excited to try them all, finally, in real camping-life.

Spending the night in a tent in Arches National Park, Utah, in March was maybe not the best idea. It got quite cold for this “glamper”. Burr. It was 32F outside, we were backcountry camping on a rock (literally), and woke up in the middle of the night freezing. Ice cold.

That said, my Western Mountaineering sleeping bag did do a good job. Rated at 35F I couldn’t expect it to be super warm at 32, right? Bonus points for being super lightweight and easy to carry in its very small stuffing bag. One could argue I should have worn more clothes, but I don’t think it would have helped.

The Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads were ok for both me and my husband, but the rock (again) was just too damn hard. The sleeping pads didn’t stand a chance making us believe we were in our Tempurpedic. At least they were easy to fill (blowup), lightweight and did block the cold quite well.

The saviors of the night were the toe warmers. Love those. Also our camping light was Taiwan/USA made and did a good job, with an adjustable lamp you can use standing or clip onto your tent. Luckily we didn’t need the Montana made bear-pepper-spray at any point.

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The platypus foldable water containers did get a little smelly from time to time. The lid closes really tight and I assume dirty hands made it smell. I would probably stick with classic Nalgene (made right here of course) for water, unless weight and storage space are key factors (like they are when backcountry camping).

For documents we had waterproof (US made) Loksak folders and they sure did the job keeping wallets, maps and tickets dry. Not that it was very wet in the desert.

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Arches National Park. Survived a night of rock-sleeping.

America the beautiful – it sure is. We spent most nights in hotels which I must tell you all about. I will share it next week so check back in!

 

Shopping for the outdoors (Camping gear part 1)

We decided to go to one of those we-sell-anything-even-remotely-related-to-camping type stores, to buy camping gear for our upcoming trip to the Grand Circle.

We needed a lot of things, since we hadn’t been out camping together before. We spent quite a while in the store and I must say we did pretty well. We bought Platypus water containers (folds up) and Therm-a-Rest mattresses and pillows – all made in USA. I also picked up a new US-made yoga headband from PrAnato keep my ears warm. See how remotely related to camping that item is?

The big problem was the sleeping bags. They were all made in China. North Face, Sea to Summit, Marmot, you name it. Prices varied a lot between brands, from $150 to over $300, but the funny thing was that the tags inside that said “Made in China” and described the item looked exactly the same. So all brands make their sleeping bags in the same place? A super-size sweat-shop factory for sleeping bags!? Probably! No sale. Irritated hubby.

When we got home I decided to search the web a bit. It didn’t take me long to find the cool site of Western Mountaineering, makers of down sleeping bags in California.

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The next day we hurried over to Whole Earth Provision (Western Mountaineering lists retailers on their webpage) and I chose a $360 blue, shiny, fluffy sleeping bag made in the golden state. I had to take some money from my savings account but it was worth it. Oh the joy!

I tried it out on the bedroom floor when we got home. It’s mummy style so it made me very warm, very fast. Let’s just hope it works during the upcoming cold nights in Utah too. We’re hoping to do some back -country camping. We shall see and I’ll let you know.

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*PrAna’s webpage is hard to navigate in terms of which products are US made. I picked up my headband at REI. PrAna seem to be focused on organic, fair-trade products and stand by their goods. Overall I think it’s a good company, though I doubt many items are US made.