Eco-friendly packing – and how you can do it too

I’ve long been a supporter of eco-tourism and have tried (and many times failed) to be a fully-aware eco-traveler myself. In this world of technology and modern equipment, it’s sometimes hard to find your way back to the basics and just enjoy travel for what it is rather than enjoy it alongside all of the gadgets and gizmos that we’re buried under in this 21st century.

It’s time to rethink how we approach eco-travel, and that begins with our attitude and what we take with us. In many ways, what I’m providing for you here is my own wish list of eco-friendly travel gear that I’d like in my own eco-friendly travel pack. But more than that, it’s a reflection of how I’d like to see travelers shift their outlook on travel — from the self to the world.

So, let’s get packing, shall we?

When you’re eco-packing, you have to think about the materials. You want to avoid materials like vinyl and polyester (unless it’s recycled). Nowadays, lots of gear is made from organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and recycled plastic. Consider also how or if the fabric was dyed. Fabric dyes can be toxic and contain bad (BAD) chemicals like mercury, lead or heavy metals like cadmium or arsenic. Make sure your soaps and toiletries are small, made from the earth (all-natural), and biodegradeable. The chemicals in products can not only be hazardous to you but also contaminating for the environment! Throw it away, and it goes to a landfill, and then into the groundwater.

The first essential item is the luggage itself — a good, sturdy, eco-friendly suitcase or backpack. This technical hiking backpack from Lafuma is a keeper. It is made from hemp (65 percent) and recycled polyester (35 percent) and has a TPE coating that provides waterproofing without heavy metals. only the hemp fabric is dyed, avoiding another processing stage and reducing dyeing chemicals by 35 percent. If you prefer something with wheels, then this MLC wheelie from Patagonia is it. It’s made of 100% recycled polyester, and even has backpack straps just in case.

I’m a huge fan of the ultalight travel movement. That’s why I not only minimize the clothes I pack, but the lightness of those items. GoLite is my recent clothing company of choice. The company’s environmental focus is shifting 100% of its materials to identified Environmentally Preferred Materials (EPMs). Its current 2010 product line has over 50% EPMs by mass, and the goal is to use 100% EPMs by 2015.

I’ve also been a fan of Patagonia through the years. When you shop online, you can read about what each product was made from. You can even follow it’s eco-conscious blog, The Cleanest Line.

Okay, I admit it: I can’t travel without some electronics and eco-unfriendly accessories. BUT, even travel gadget carriers like myself can be slightly more environmentally responsible now by powering electronics using a solar charger. I recently purchased a Solio solar charger from Radio Shack, and I intend to carry it with me on my next trip to power all of my electronics. BONUS: If you buy a Solio charger with free gift-wrapping online, Solio will donate a Solio-powered LED light to a family in the world that lives on less than $1 a day.

For battery-operated electronics, consider using rechargeable batteries from USBCell. The batteries last for years and charge via any USB port!

There’s only one company I’ve come to trust when buying toiletries, and that’s Tom’s of Maine. All you really need is some toothpaste and soap — oh, and I guess the ladies should consider getting organic feminine products from Natracare.

So there you have it, guys: Gadling’s guide to eco-friendly packing. The great thing about the products I’ve mentioned is that they don’t break your bank, which proves you can travel green without spending a fortune. When you’re all packed and you set off on your next trip, don’t forget how to travel green. Think low environmental impact, and have a great eco-trip!

Gadlinks for Monday 7.27.09

A glorious Monday here in California! I hope you are all enjoying the last month of summer. Live it up — and maybe browse some of these travel reads while you’re at it.

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening!

More Gadlinks HERE.

Product review – Philips goLITE BLU light therapy device

In this product review, I’m going to introduce you to the Philips goLITE BLU light therapy device.

The goLITE is a portable bluewave light, designed to reduce the impact of seasonal affective disorder, or other disorders where your bodies clock is messed up, including jetlag.

I first became interested in the technology behind these devices when I picked one up at a Costco several years ago. Being the geek I am, anything with lights and buttons that claims to help make me feel better is always worth trying.

Thankfully, the positive effects of blue light treatment are not just another wacky technology sold in infomercials at 3am. The effects have been studied by the Mayo clinic, Nasa and the US National Institute of Health.

Subjecting yourself to blue light, stimulates your brain to create more Serotonin, which is what researchers believe to be the key to reducing winter blues and other mood and energy problems.

The blue light also suppresses the creation of Melatonin, which is responsible for our hibernation patterns.

Finally, researchers have also concluded that the blue light can help reset our circadian rhythm, which is particularly helpful if you are trying to reduce the impact of jetlag.
My first blue light device was from Apollo Health, and their products were apparently so impressive that electronics conglomerate Philips purchased the company. To me, the support from a large company like Philips also helps reinforce the claims made of how blue light can help you.

Let’s move on to the device itself – The new goLITE BLU is a small 5.5″x5.5″, 1 pound device with up to 10,000 lux of blue light. The device is powered by an internal rechargeable battery and has an LCD screen with touch sensitive controls.

The goLITE has a small removable stand on the back, which is held in place by a magnet. When you want to use the device, you simply place the stand in a small hole in the back.

The touch sensitive controls regulate the brightness in 4 steps, adjust the light therapy duration, and allow you to set the time.

One of the most interesting features for travelers, is the ability to wake to light. Imagine waking up in your hotel room to soothing blue light, instead of the roar of the wood grain hotel alarm clock. Of course, if light is not enough to wake you, you can also enable a soothing chime on the unit.

The goLITE comes with a nice carrying case, so it makes the perfect travel alarm clock. The internal battery should last for 4-5 treatment sessions of light therapy.

Of course, the big question is whether the goLITE BLU actually works. Since I am often stuck in my office for days at a time, and have to suffer through the 6 month winter of the Midwest, I’m happy to report that I often did see quite an improvement in my mood, especially on dull and dark days.

I’ve also packed my blue light in my luggage for long haul trips, and brief treatments of the light really did make the impact of jetlag go away quicker. If you want to learn more about the process of reducing the impact of jetlag using the goLITE, you can read the tips on page 16 of the user guide (PDF link!)

It could be the geek in me that responds well to gadgets, but I honestly believe the technology behind the product works as advertised.

The Philips goLITE BLU costs $279, and comes with a full 30 day guarantee, which should be long enough to see how well you respond to the product. The unit comes complete with a protective carrying case and a US charger. An international charger kit is available from Philips for $15.