From the moment our escape-the-States-before-the-careers-and-babies trip started, my intended and I spent a lot of time talking about toilets. At Orion (an excellent progressive mag), Nicole McClelland describes her international experiences of six months of variable lavatories in Sitting Pretty. By the end, while still committed to a more ecologically sound waste disposal system than the western W.C., she also finds that the Australian method of just watering the lawn wherever one happens to be, to be a tad on the relaxed side. The article also has some generally useful information about composting toilets, alternatives to toilet paper, and how far is too far. [GT]
The next class of hybrids will knock the stuffing out of the current generation by allowing the cars to be plugged in to establish serious charge, and only use batteries for very short hauls - yet still get 100mpg (that's around 40 kilometers per liter, depending on conversion - no matter how you slice it, it's a round double what the Prius gets now). Prepare to Plug in for 100-mpg Hybrids describes some of the obstacles facing the new technology, the good news that existing hybrids will be able to convert over for around £6000, and could plug straight in to regular mains power instead of requiring all-new charging stations. Toyota has also announced they'll start working on their own PHEV. The bad news? The usual hangups and time involved to get a new green tech to market. [GT]
The Fiat Panda is basically as small as a four-seater gets while still being viable. What they're pushing now is their fuel-economy, in a slightly convoluted but basically funny ad indicating that having a more fuel efficient car actually makes a better planet by providing less funding for anti-social groups in the Middle East. Whether you buy that Osama gets a cut of every petrol fill-up, the idea that there are unexpected ramifications of your consumerism is worth considering. [GT]
Given the chance to pay the same for a greener car versus a regular car, would you? Green Tomato Cars offers you precisely that in London: a Toyota Prius at regular-car-hire priceOr, if you're looking for work, Green Tomato Cars is hiring - gentle on your breathing, driver. While the cars do cost more up front, the operating costs are lower, which allows Green Tomato to work out the difference in the long run.
You needn't go somewhere far or exotic to have a relaxing weekend: trip up to north Shropshire to spend some decidedly old-fashioned time at Fordhall Farm. Chemical-free for 65 years (yet not certified organic; they're working on it), all their animals are free-range and they make their own organic ice cream. If you're short on plans for the 4 & 5th weekend in November, you can sign up to volunteer there as a hedgelayer - "another great weekend of hard work and fun". A great opportunity to be tired from actual work, as opposed to simply doing work that makes you feel tired. [GT]
It's so dashed logical that a ferry should be powered by sun (which it's in fully half the time) and wind (which it's in nearly all the time) that Hornblower Yachts is teaming up with Australia's Solar Sailor to do exactly that. Costing between 3 and 4 million pounds each, they'll emit half the pollutants of a conventional ferry and start operations in 2008. The solar power comes from a central wing (which also functions as a sail) which is covered with solar panels. If the wind gets too high, the wing folds up, and the ferry goes back to diesel power. [GT]
Are we already thinking about next summer? If we want to go to Organic Tuscany, I suppose we'd better, since three of the 14 weeks are already full up. For 1100 € one gets a week in a quiet area of Tuscany, fully organic meals, and all the cooking classes you can stand before you have to let your belt out a notch. (Actually, there's plenty of exercise too: horseback riding, swimming, and lots of walking tours.) [GT]
Garbo vanted to be a lone-ah, and she might have found happiness had she lived in the age of the Bluevelo velomobile. Built from super-light carbon fibre and aluminum, they're human-powered, single-seat three-wheelers intended to replace your car for commutes or non-gargantuan shopping trips, your snowmobile or motorcycle for cruising, and your feet for when you want to go somewhere but also want to sit down with a cuppa. It's curious, given they're Canadian, that they specifically mention it being a usable winter gadget - though they are near Toronto, which has less winter than, say, Tuktayuktuk. They're each individually constructed so the price varies, but it tends to be between £4500 and £5500. [GT]
Much as I detest mashing in a Christmas post before even Halloween, you can bet the VegiVentures Christmas House Party will book up fast, so you'll want to get in on it now. Going from 23 December to 27 December, they're promising "traditional and creative events" or you can just "relax and toast your toes in front of the log fire". Christmas itself boasts a four course vegan/vegetarian dinner with organic wine. It's a fairly small event, so if your idea of Christmas doesn't involve a dead bird, call for details at 01760-755888, or email email@example.com. [GT]
Nestled in 250 acres of moor and creek, Botelet Manor Cottage is in the rustic green shadow of the Neolithic Hill Fort of Bury Down. There are cottages for rent as well as rooms in the farmhouse, fresh eggs, preserves, seasonal organic vegetables, and the option to either cook your own or have vegetarian or fresh fish dinner in the farmhouse with vintages from the cellar. But lest you think this is a typical organic bed and breakfast, they also offer aromatherapy and reflexology to get you completely re-tuned up during your stay. Weeklong cottage rentals start at £270 (ranging up to £760 during winter hols) and rooms start at £30. [GT]
The space travel itself, offered by Virgin Galactic, probably has all kinds of environmental issues in regards to the fuel burned, but the interior itself is designed to be incredibly inert - a dream vacation for anybody with chemical sensitivities. However, the eco-aspect comes in in that it is a travel company owned by Sir Richard Branson, who pledged all his travel profits to fight global warming for the next ten years. So if you have a spare $200k USD lying around, you can spend it knowing you get to go to space, and the profits stay with the planet. [GT]
Related stories: Sir Richard Branson pledges £1.6bn for global warming | Friday's Ecotourism: Go Differently - to Thailand, to see the elephants | Friday's Ecospot: Liquid Therapy at Moonbeach Retreat, Egypt
Made of wood, alloys, glass and rubber, the Mercedes-Benz "Recy" would be 100% recyclable and look good doing it. It assumes excellent weather (though if you can afford it you may be able to conjure up sunshine) since it has no roof, nor even a convertible top. It's a top contender in a competition for the Los Angeles Auto Show to provide vehicles made of recyclable materials and "make the vehicle and its driver experience a deep feeling with the environment and help protect it". [GT]
The word from ecorazzi (via the Drudge Report) was that the Governator was giving up his Hummers - but alas, it's been comprehensively debunked at SFGate. Schwarzenegger was the first civilian to have a Hummer, and near single-handedly popularized the gas-exploding road-eaters. There is a hydrogen-powered Hummer, but Schwarzenegger doesn't own it: General Motors does. He said he was going to convert his fleet over to hydrogen entirely, during his election campaign two years ago, but this seems to be a broken campaign promise. (It has been known to happen.) So it goes. [GT]
Fancy a trip to Thailand? India? Cambodia? Shall I keep going with this luscious list? It's okay, it's all ethical. Go Differently is an ethical travel service specializing in the aforementioned plus Bali, Bhutan and Laos. Opportunities range from tailor-made tours exactly to your specifications to homestays with a local family all the way to "voluntourism". For instance, you can do a 1-4 week volunteer stint with the elephants of Thailand. See the feedback. [GT]
GuyotDesigns makes a pile of semi-obvious, semi-enlightening pieces of gear which are nominally intended as part of your hiking kit, but which are ergonomic enough that you want to use them every day.
The Gription, for example, may not look like much at first: it's a splashguard for your wide-mouth water bottle, and at £6.50 each, it may cost more than the bottle itself. However, it's so intelligently and beautifully made, with an omni-handled grip (my lefty John had no problems using it) and it makes you realize just how unpleasant all bottle shapes are; the narrow necks are too narrow and the wide mouths do indeed splash. It's incredibly easy to use, as it should be, and the handle is sturdy enough that you don't feel uncomfortable shackling it to your kit. It's also very easy to wash - no problems with trapped bacteria - and keeps the water in the bottle fresher longer, which is important as I tend to forget my water container in the car and have it go rapidly vile. Which brings us to the container itself, the Guyot bottle, which I also love. (And then their trendiest gadget, the Firefly, about which I am much more reserved.) More after the jump.