Versalette convertible travel garment will revolutionize your packing list

The Versalette convertible travel garmentWhen you’re living out of a suitcase, the less items of clothing you have to pack, the better. That’s the thinking behind The Versalette, a convertible garment from {r}evolution apparel that easily goes from a shirt to a skirt to a dress to… well, basically anything you can imagine. For a female traveler with a packing list of basic white tees and khaki cargo pants, it’s a dream travel piece. Plus, it’s ethically and sustainably developed.

The Versalette launched as a project on Kickstarter in mid-November, and within 14 days it was fully funded. As of Monday morning, $38,120 had been pledged from 470 backers, and the project still has another two weeks to go.

{r}evolution founders Kristin Glenn and Shannon Whitehead are travelers themselves, and they met while living and working in Australia. After several months of friendship, they separated and embarked on their own adventures, traversing five continents independently. But they kept in touch, and in mid-2010 they reunited in the United States to pursue an idea: a minimalist clothing line for female travelers.

Kristin and Shannon traveled to Central America with the goal of working sustainably and ethically to bring their line to life. There, they came face to face with the challenges of incorporating sustainability into a fashion item’s supply chain. But one year, many lessons, and lots of determination later, they’re closer to launching the line, and their story has resonated with travelers and style-setters across the web.

Their goal has also evolved to encompass something much larger than what they initially set out to accomplish: to create nothing short of a revolution toward minimalism and sustainability in the fashion industry.

The Versalette is currently in production and will be made in the USA using 100 percent recycled fabric. Kristin and Shannon have identified 15 different ways to style the item, including as a dress, shirt, skirt, scarf, purse, hood, and more. Really, what more does a female traveler need?


[images via {r}evolution apparel]

Great Lakes Brewing: Saving the planet one beer at a time

At a recent farm dinner I attended, a multi-course meal of farm-fresh, organic ingredients was paired with beers from Great Lakes Brewing. As we dined and drank, we were treated to an informal lesson on brewing from owner Pat Conway, who also gave us the lowdown on the many greet initiatives that Great Lakes has undertaken in an effort to be environmentally responsible while producing top-notch beer. It’s a philosophy that the company calls a “triple bottom line” – a mission to run an environmentally and socially responsible business while still turning a profit – and it seems to be paying off.

The Cleveland, Ohio, brewery opened in 1988 as the state’s first micro-brewery and has been growing, and racking up awards, ever since. The Dortmunder Gold, one of the brewery’s first beers, was originally called the Heisman. After it won a gold medal in the Dortmunder category at the Great American Beer Festival in 1990, the New York Athletic Club noticed that the Heisman name was be used and requested it be changed. Other beers are more fancifully named and reflect the brewery’s location in the Great Lakes Region. There’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, honoring the boat that famously sank in Lake Superior; Eliot Ness, named for the man rumored to be responsible for the bullet holes in the brewery’s bar; and Burning River, a nod to the infamous burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969.

But what makes these beers so special, aside from the quirky names and indisputable quality (each has won numerous Gold Medals at competitions around the world), is that they are produced using so many green and sustainable methods. The owners, brothers Pat and Daniel Conway, say they take a full-circle approach to reduce waste and make the company more efficient. This approach has filtered down to all levels of staff, and dictates the methods used in all aspects of the business.

The brewery’s delivery truck and shuttle bus run on recycled restaurant vegetable oil, and they require that the trucks used by their distributors do the same. All cardboard, glass, aluminum, paper and brewer’s barley is recycled. Newsletters, napkins, and menus are printed on recycled paper, all beer packaging is done with unbleached “eco-carton” and Pat says they even go so far as to re-use the blank sides of printer paper for internal documents. The brewery cooler features skylights and sensors to reduce electricity used for lighting, and the cooling system brings in cold air from outside in the winter to reduce the amount of energy required to keep the temperature constant.

Great Lakes works with local organic farmers to serve only the freshest food in their restaurant. Currently, 60% of their food supply comes from local and organic sources, though Pat says they are striving for 100%. They recently contracted with an Amish farmer who will provide the kitchen with meat from animals that graze on the brewery’s own barley waste. Spent grain goes to a baker who makes pretzels and beer-bread served at the restaurant, and another local farm uses brewery grains to fertilize the organic mushrooms they grow and then sell back to Great Lakes for use in entrees. Other organic waste is fed to worms. In a process called vermicomposting, the worms turn the waste into fertilizer, which is used to grow herbs in the brewery’s garden. Even the low-fill beers (beers that aren’t quite filled to the top by the bottling machinery) are saved and used for sauces, salad dressings, and soups. The low-filled Edmund Fitzgerald Porter bottles are used by a local ice cream shop to make chocolate chunk ice cream.

The brewery’s outdoor beer garden is also eco-friendly. Rather than let the space go to waste during Cleveland’s bitterly-cold winters, the Conway brothers decided to cover it with a retractable canvas roofing, packed straw bales into the walls for insulation, and added a fireplace to warm the space. They were using wood logs for the fire, until one employee had a bright idea. Instead of composting the spent cinnamon sticks used to make the Christmas Ale, why not compress them into logs to fuel the beer garden fireplace? The result of all these features is that, even on the coldest days of winter, it costs just $8 per day to heat the beer garden.

The result of all these sustainable efforts is staggering. Great Lakes Brewing, a $25 million business, has zero waste bills. Pat says he looks at waste removal as “waste opportunity” and is always searching for new ways to make the business green, and keep it growing. But the brothers aren’t just pocketing all that profit. The company also contributes to the community. Every year they participate in the Great Lakes Burning River Festival, which raises awareness and funds for environmental cleanup in the Great Lakes Region. An environmentally responsible company that gives back to the community and makes delicious craft beer – I think we can all cheers to that.

If you can make it out the Cleveland brewery, in addition to dining in the brewpub or enjoying drinks in the beer garden, you can take a guided tour of the brewery facilities, attend “beer school” to learn all about the brewing process, or enjoy a multi-course Brewmaster’s dinner paired with beer. You can also find Great Lakes beers in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Nextworth pays cash for old gadgets, helps being green

As more and more people upgrade their devices once or even twice a year, thousands of products sit unused in drawers and boxes.

Nextworth thinks it has found the perfect solution to take those products off your hands and correctly recycle any gadgets that have no value.

The service pays cash for many recent gadgets, but really old products without any resale value will get very little, or nothing.

Those gadgets without any value can be sent to Nextworth for for free, and they will make sure they don’t end up in landfills.

I took the service for a spin, checking what they’d be willing to pay for a variety of gadgets. A Nokia 1006 is worth $6.06 to them – a similar phone sells on Ebay for just $14 (minus the exorbitant fee’s Ebay will charge you, making the final profit about $11).

A Blackberry Curve 8900 is only worth $43.00 to Nextworth – about $200 less than an Ebay or Craigslist sale you net you.

That said – removing the hassle and risk involved with selling online is certainly worth something. By using Nextworth, you don’t have to worry about non-paying buyers, or other scams.

The whole process is very easy, and their web site makes the trade in or recycling process as painless as possible. Once you have found your product on their site, you describe it as accurately as possible, print a prepaid shipping label, and drop it off at the post office. About ten days later, they’ll cut you a check (if the product is indeed as you described). For products with no value, the process about the same, without the check part.

For some products the price offered by Nextworth may seem a little insulting (would you sell your 16GB iPhone 3GS for $270?), but others are very reasonable, and their free shipping and offer to recycle any gadget for free make it a very green service.

Cool Outdoor Gear Made From Recycled Materials

gearIf you think enjoying Mother Nature also means being kind to Mother Nature, then you’re probably the kind of person who be into sustainable outdoor gear.

Outside has a great round-up of recycled, salvaged, and renewable gear that doesn’t sacrifice on performance. Made from things like beech trees, coconut husks, hemp, and recycled plastic, the gear includes shirts, shorts, shoes, and bags. Happily, the gear is all priced similarly to “traditional” gear.

Considering in excess of 44 trillion beverage cans and bottles have been littered, landfilled, or incinerated this year alone, every bottle that we remove from the earth is a good thing. Why trash it… when you can wear it?