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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Air Date: Week of

There's a touring Ecological Exposition, or Eco-Expo, and it's an opportunity for the conservation minded to find holiday items that focus on reused and recycled products. Reporter John Carroll recently went shopping (with Living on Earth producer Deborah Stavro,) and found a number of items that green money can buy.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Commentator John Carroll likes to take jabs at the folks who try to sell us stuff, and we've often aired his skeptical views on how merchandisers put the environmental spin on their products. But what about goods specifically designed to be environmentally friendly? We sent John to an Eco-Expo, where the latest green gifts for the holiday season were on display, and here's what he found.

(Milling crowds)

CARROLL: For those who think communing with nature is the ultimate gift, there's probably nothing more suitable than eco-friendly outdoor gear.

SALESPERSON: We manufacture and market high performance, environmentally oriented backpacks and apparel.

CARROLL: And what's good for the environment about them?

SALESPERSON: Well, the backpacks are made by weight out of 90% recycled materials, PET, soda bottles, old car tires, milk jugs, that kind of thing, and they're essentially completely recyclable, so they can be sent back through again.

CARROLL: We're looking for holiday gifts. Anything stand out from your collection?

SALESPERSON: I think our Alpine Classic, which is just a wonderful pack for, like, day hiking or a book bag for students, that kind of thing.

CARROLL: And the prices on those?

SALESPERSON: The Alpine Classic backpack is $59 and the pop-top fleece pullover is $79.

CARROLL: Great. And the name of the company again is?


CARROLL: After a long day of clomping around in the woods or trekking through a convention center, who wouldn't appreciate a little something for those aching muscles? At one booth, we found some very soothing gifts for all those hiking enthusiasts on your list.

SALESPERSON: The microwave pads are filled with a very dense field corn and covered in cotton, and with about 4 minutes of heating in the microwave you get about a half an hour of heating pad, or if you have a sore muscle and you want to put some ice on it you can stick it in the freezer and it's -- of course using the microwave is environmentally sound. It uses a lot less energy. The eye pillows and the neck rolls are covered in silk, and the eye pillows are filled with flax seed and you put them on your eyes and it forces your eyes to relax just from the gentle weight. The neck rolls are filled with buckwheat and can be adjusted for comfort, and are all natural fibers.

CARROLL: And what are the prices of those?

SALESPERSON: $14.95 up to about $34.95.

CARROLL: For the neck rolls. And what about the microwave?

SALESPERSON: The microwave bags are $15.95.

CARROLL: And the name of the store?

SALESPERSON: The Green Planet.

CARROLL: In a pinch, that field corn in the microwave pads could also double as an hors d'oeuvre at parties. Of course, holiday parties mean dressing up, so distinctive jewelry always makes a welcome gift.

SALESPERSON: I make paper bead jewelry, and they're made from old magazine paper or used computer paper.

CARROLL: Okay, why don't you show us how this works, how you turn paper into something that looks just like a glass bead.

SALESPERSON: Sure. I start with a strip of paper, a triangular strip of paper that's cut from a magazine. And I put a little bit of glue at the tip. Then I put this between the two-needle drill that I have, and I roll it into a bead.

(Sound of the drill)

SALESPERSON: And the interesting thing about this is I can adjust the bead by pushing it up and down and create a different shape. Like this one is a teardrop shape. Then I put this on the wire and dip the whole thing in a water-based polyurethane for 5 to 10 times, and when it's finished these beads are completely waterproof. They are as hard as wood. They are as smooth as glass. And a lot of people just won't believe that they're made from paper.

CARROLL: Well if you look closely enough you can tell that they are. They're really quite amazing.


CARROLL: And the name of your company is Paper Bead Jewelry.

SALESPERSON: Actually it's Minerva Creations.

CARROLL: Finally, since we have our own gifts to buy, we made a timely stop to check out some highly unusual clocks.

SALESPERSON: We have a nice line of clocks. Two varieties: the ones you see here that are in red, green, purple, and black, are from a material called Environ. And that's 40% recycled newspaper and 40% soybean. And it was developed by a 12-year-old girl for her science project. She put soybeans and newspaper in a blender, baked it in the oven, and her dad was impressed and brought it to the local university extension service and the Department of Agriculture eventually gave them a grant for $500,000. And now it's a full-fledged company making panels.

CARROLL: It almost looks like marble.

SALESPERSON: It's very similar to marble. They call it faux granite look. As opposed to the foam materials it's not painted on, it's solid throughout. The other clocks we have, 3 different styles, are recycled from shipping pallets, and about anywhere from 40% to 50% of the hardwoods in the United States are used to manufacture shipping pallets. And they come in oak and maple and birch and cherry, wood that you wouldn't normally associate with shipping pallets.

CARROLL: Well, they make a handsome clock. And the prices on these?

SALESPERSON: The retail prices for the wood mantle clocks are $19, and the enviro-mantle clocks are $25.

CARROLL: And your company again is?

SALESPERSON: Is Green Tech Incorporated.

CARROLL: Maybe we should hook up that 12 year old inventor of Environ with a few other government departments. She could probably crank out a soybean-based B1 bomber that the military could eat rather than fly. Failing that, here's hoping your holidays are as bright as she is. For Living on Earth, I'm John Carroll.



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