editor's desk  |   links  |   green market  |   comment  |   earth maps   |   press  |   advertise  |   team  |   about  |   news room   |   greener advice

Monday, December 26, 2005

Diaper free...maybe baby

Not to put too fine a point on it but ever since Jeff Strasburg's report on the gDiaper we have had a "mess" of inquiries about this new dynamic spilling into the age old question of potty training and the modern baby. One of our readers sent us this link to Diaper Free Babies.org and, well, we thought we should try to get to the bottom of it; Here's our report on babies without diapers.

Diaper Free Babies was started by 2 moms, Melinda and Rachel, in December 2003 and has quickly grown to include chapters in 35 states and 11 countries. The organizers maintain that DF Babies is a natural solution to rearing stress free, well socialized and we assume competent humans who take an active role in their own potty training from a very early age.

The group uses a technique they call Elimination Communication or EC for short which basically asserts that from birth, baby feels what it feels and knows when it goes so why not make the most of those early-on opportunities to establish a parent/baby line of communication and get to know your inner baby. Those little squirmy movements and odd facial expressions or baby talk that are so cute are also babies' sign that something is going on down there. To the observant parent this should be a recognizable sign that it's time to spring into action.

When baby and parent learn to communicate in this matter it is a simple step, according to EC theory, to turn the process into an early learning opportunity and get baby to a safe place where it can do its business in comfort, secure in the knowledge that mom or dad is right along side approving every step of the way. Baby, mom and dad feel a sense of togetherness unencumbered by diaper checks and before long your little genius is accomplished beyond its months in this most vital of all human practices, the toilet.

The organization claims that baby is naturally meant to learn in this manner and in fact most societies, until recently, practiced close parental, communal supervision of the child's potty development. In villages and small towns adults and toddlers mixed routinely in open communities where small bare bums were the rule rather than the exception, whenever a little one started its peepee dance an adult was always there to insure that the choreography ended at the appointed place. Besides, says the group, bare bottoms are much more likely to produce a happy baby and at the same time all but eliminate that scourge of western civilization, 'diaper rash.'

DFB.Org offers mentoring, training support, community resources and some really cute photographs, we like it simply because it means more family togetherness and instantly reduces pressure on our land fills by a factor of oh, probably 100.

We'd love to hear from any parent or baby who has had first hand knowledge of EC training but please, don't feel obligated to send photographs.

By Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

Top of Page

10:45 AM

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Greener Earth Maps

Greener Magazine and GCB Press are pleased to announce our newest feature, Greener Earth Maps. In association with Google and Google Earth Greener Mag has developed an interactive mapping and imaging feature which will enable our readers to explore by map and satellite the places, events and news that impact our environment, our society even our daily lives.

Greener Maps will have links from our main page articles with features, images, and narrative that enhances the subject with even more in depth information and invites you to explore our planet or your own back yard in amazing detail. Our editors and guest writers will pinpoint the location of an environmental catastrophe or that new 'green roof' factory in your town as we report it, and you control the visual tour. Your world just became more interactive.

In weeks to come readers will be able to interact with Greener editors by posting directly to the mapping feature and report their own green news. So take a tour on Earth Maps and then write us today with the subject Earth Maps and join the internet's most connected green news team.

Top of Page

12:03 PM

Monday, December 19, 2005

On-line is greener?

On-line shoppers, generally criticized because they eschew the personal shopping experience for the sake of convenience, have a new found bragging right this holiday season, it seems on-line shopping is good for the environment.

Sighting a year 2000 study by the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions a private think tank headed by former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Energy, Dr. Joseph Romm, on-line retailers are claiming that ordering gifts over the internet saves energy as well as time and the frustration of over crowded stores. The study compared book purchases and concluded that the amount of energy used, “per book sold in traditional bookstores versus on-line retailer Amazon.com to be 16-to-1. Internet shopping," the study goes on to say," uses less energy to get a package to your house: Shipping 10 pounds of packages by overnight air – the most energy-intensive delivery mode – still uses 40 percent less fuel than driving roundtrip to the mall. Ground shipping by truck uses just one-tenth the energy of driving yourself."

Obviously, on-line retailing will continue to grow steadily in the coming years as more goods and services find virtual shelving space which in turn means traditional retailers face the challenge retailers have always faced, innovate or lose market share. As the internet spreads its influence so too does it make itself ever more user friendly and there may be a time in the not too distant future when small, local retailers will use the on-line path as readily as their brick and mortar store front. Those that do will be able to offer the best of both worlds, small specialty store charm with personal sevice to virtual shoppers as well as folks like me that would rather pick and browse our way through a tangible tangle of goods with all its smells, tastes and textures and yes, occasionally, crowded stores and rude clerks. Some of us no doubt will only shop Amazon when they build a store on Main Street - just keep it green please.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine Managing editor

Top of Page

10:32 AM

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Build a fire somewhere

editor's note: City Hippy mentioned this and we thought it was worth passing along. Oxfam has partnered with ReviewCenter.com to raise much needed funds for Mid Eastern Earthquake relief. Essentially you sibmit a product review to Review Center and if they publish it they donate £50 to Oxfam. We don't know how much 50 pounds is but it has to be more than we're used to being paid for writing and it's for a desperate cause. So publishers, build a little fire under your reviewers and help to benefit this important relief effort - it's getting very cold very fast in this stricken region.


Electric space heaters have been around for a long time. I remember an ancient enameled version from my uncle's cabin by the lake which routinely cranked out enough heat to both dry our winter boots and put a warm glow to our cheeks.

Historically, electric space heaters have been more expensive to operate than combustion space heaters, but they are the only unvented space heaters that are safe to operate inside your home. Although electric space heaters avoid indoor air quality concerns, they still carry hazards of potential burns and fires, and should be used with caution. For convection (non-radiant) space heaters, the best types incorporate a heat transfer liquid, such as oil, that is heated by the electric element. The heat transfer fluid provides some heat storage, allowing the heater to cycle less and to provide a more constant heat source.

Today however a new breed electric space heaters designed as elegant home remodeling fixtures the electric fireplace has revolutionized the industry with an out of the box, do-it-yourself project that can bring added heat to your home as well as a touch of designer decor.

We examined products from three of the leading manufacturers and came away with some slight variations in form, function and technology but overall the process of making the old electric heater into a fashionable, safe and efficient replacement for the fireplace is very much a shared technology. Dimplex, which possesses the patent on the fire display feature is perhaps the best known manufacturer and dominates the market offering a bewildering number of options for custom finishes and style combinations as well as control features and filter functions that put it well out in the front of the pack. The other brands were Napoleon and Heatilator both of which make superior products and provide a generous list of options and features as well.

The fireplace heater features a small fan which pushes air over glowing red electric elements, out through a grill and into the room. The amount of warmth generated varies among manufacturers and models, but customers can expect around 4500- 5000 BTUs of heat from an average unit which starts at about 1500 watts; enough to maintain a 10x12 room comfortably warm. A BTU (British thermal unit) is approximately the amount of heat required to raise a pound of water 1 degree. The heat is controlled with a thermostat which increases or decreases the amount of electricity used by the heating elements and produces more or less heat accordingly. Space heaters use electrical resistance heating elements and, therefore, can be expensive to operate as the sole source of heat in a home. The new fireplace models however allow the user to turn off the heat when not required while leaving the flame on for aesthetics.

The flame effect developed for these newest breed of electric heaters is provided by 2 or more lamp sources. One lamp varies its brightness intermittently to create a glowing ember effect while another lamp produces a patterned flickering flame projected onto a glass sheet suspended midway between the glazed opening of the fire box and its back wall. While most agree that the flame is not entirely realistic it does mimic the orange red flames of a cozy fire with mesmerizing effect.

The thing to remember when considering an electric fireplace is that while the unit, no matter who the manufacturer is, will provide heat and ambient light safely to any indoor environment it is not going to be an efficient source of heat compared to whole house gas or electric systems. What these new breed of space heater fireplace units provide moreover is an aesthetic and warming interior element. There is nothing more comforting than a warm fire on a cold night and the security it brings to home and hearth.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine Managing editor

Top of Page

5:08 PM

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Green as a Baby’s Bum: gDiapers

Anyone's who's cared for an infant at some point knows they're cute, lovable, and… messy. While diapering a baby is a given, the environmentally-conscious parent or caregiver finds him/herself faced with two unpalatable options for accomplishing the task: cloth diapers, which can be reused, but require massive amounts of water and energy for laundering, and disposable diapers, which are more convenient, and perhaps more energy efficient, but create tons of waste that takes centuries to decompose. Jason and Kim Graham-Nye, the husband and wife co-founders of the recently launched gDiapers, hope their third option catches on with the sustainability crowd: a flushable, compostable diapering product.

For both of the Graham-Nyes, gDiapers is the culmination of "searching high and low for a business that made meaning and money," according to Jason. He started out as a stockbroker in Tokyo, and then returned to his native Australia to teach Japanese. Kim spent her twenties in the developing world, both as a volunteer in Mexican orphanages and as a UN AIDS researcher in Zanzibar. On her return to Australia, she founded a telecommunications company that she eventually sold to Sprint. After meeting, dating and marrying, the couple even wrote a book together (Great Dates: A Romantic's Guide to Sydney), and launched a boutique event management company. Despite the Graham-Nyes' success in making both money and meaning, they continued to find that having one seemed to mean sacrificing the other. After discovering a company in Tasmania that made flushable diapers, and using them on their own child for six months, it occurred to both Jason and Kim that they may have found their dream business opportunity. In a period of two and a half years, the couple bought the international rights to the product, moved to the United States to start up, and officially launched the company on November 29 : "940 days from finding the product in Sydney to selling it in the US," said Jason.

That 940 days contained plenty of ups and downs as the couple built their business in a new country and business culture. Without a US network, funding proved difficult. The Graham-Nyes approached angel investors, but discovered that both consumer goods and sustainability didn't match the tech-heavy objectives of this group. Despite these challenges, the couple succeeded in attracting investors from Australia, recruiting a top-notch team to the fledgling company, and even striking a deal with Whole Foods to sell gDiapers in an entire region. The new business has attracted press attention from local media in the company's home city of Portland, Oregon, and even a Portland city councilman has blogged about the company and the environmental advantages of its product.

The company's whirlwind startup period hasn't deterred the Graham-Nyes from staying true to the Australian expression "fair dinkum": "…being genuine and real with everyone you encounter." For gDiapers, this demands, first and foremost, "staying true" to children and their needs. The company has established a child-friendly culture by encouraging employees to both bring their kids to work and to take time off to care for them, and by establishing a child development center onsite. The company keeps to its mission of social responsibility by working with China Labor Watch to ensure fair treatment of workers at the Nanjing, China, mill that creates the "g Pants" portion of the gDiapers product (the "flushables" are made in Ohio). The company has submitted its product to the National Sanitation Foundation for testing the product's flushability, and is halfway though "cradle to cradle" certification by MBDC. The company's website contains a wealth of material on their product's environmental impact, as well as more general information on waste disposal, composting and "the Great Debate" over disposables vs. cloth diapers. In a business that's definitely "messy," gDiapers is working to create a product and company that "lighten the load" of child-rearing.

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg
Guest Columnist -- Greener Magazine

Top of Page

12:08 PM

Friday, December 02, 2005

Changing the World One Cup at a Time: Higher Grounds Trading Co.

When most of us pour that first cup of coffee in the morning, we're concerned with shaking off sleepiness in preparation for the day ahead. For Jody Treter, the co-founder (with husband Chris) of Higher Grounds Trading Company, that morning "cup o' Joe" carries economic, social and environmental implications. While the big brands like Millstone (a division of Proctor & Gamble) and Starbuck's have rolled out Fair Trade-certified products designed to demonstrate social and environmental awareness while maintaining a multinational business model, Higher Grounds is a small company with a big vision: according to Treter, "We want to operate as a revenue source for groups working for systemic social and environmental change in the United States and in coffee-producing countries. I think it's important that our company act as a conduit of financial resources to civil society groups." Clearly, this isn't the typical mission of an up-and-coming entrepreneur, but then Higher Grounds isn't a typical company. As Michigan's only 100% Fair trade coffee company, Higher Grounds' commitment to a "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit is not a marketing gimmick, but a means of getting more of us to think about the people and resources that contribute to that morning caffeine fix.

Treter's own concern over the economic and social implications of the world's second most-traded commodity (behind oil) goes back to an atypical college activity: an "alternative Spring Break" trip to Tijuana, Mexico in 1997, where she not only met her future husband (a fellow student at the University of Cincinnati), but also started to become aware of the darker side of free trade: "We learned about border issues, migration, the orphans that being left behind, and the economics that contribute to these dynamics." Jody and Chris found a common interest in peasant rebellions in Southern Mexico, and four years later found themselves married and heading to Chiapas to "witness the struggle firsthand."

Higher Grounds was born from the Treters' travels in Mexico and their desire to make a livelihood out of their passions. Like many entrepreneurs building a company around a social mission, they encountered plenty of resistance and misunderstanding. Treter remembers a SCORE counselor with a background in the oil and gas industries: "Both Chris and I got the feeling that [he] didn't completely understand our mission as Fair Traders who would shut down the business before paying a lower price for our coffee." Banks were similarly confounded, and despite a solid business plan, the couple had to seek initial financing from non-traditional sources ranging from a micro-finance program to "family, friends and fools." Started as a home-based business that contracted out roasting of the green coffee beans purchased from Mexican co-ops, Higher Grounds has grown into a separate location ("an old log cabin that once served as the offices of a hardwood mill") with its own Primo drum roaster (Chris now serves as "master roaster"). The couple has sold the coffee at fairs and farmers markets, and now lists an impressive roster of Michigan cafés and shops that carry its coffee.

Despite the company's growth, though, Higher Grounds has remained committed to its initial concept of a business devoted to supporting progressive environmental and social action. Composting, reuse and recycling are regular elements of doing business, and the company purchases its electricity from renewable sources. Jody and Chris lead regular delegations to Chiapas to further educate interested people in the hardship underlying coffee farming, and now buy coffee from farmers in Nicaragua, Columbia, Sumatra, Ethiopia and Peru. Even as revenues increase, Treter envisions the company as "a vibrant business valuing employee participation, transparency, family needs and distribution of profits to a variety of systemic change groups around the globe." If Treter has her way, we'll all recognize the social and environmental impacts of that morning cup of coffee, and use it as a means of creating a more just and sustainable world.

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg
Guest Columnist -- Greener Magazine

Top of Page

12:02 PM