Make neighbors green with envy

There’s a green movement that’s in bloom and more people are becoming interested in ways to shrink their environmental impact.

Individuals who want to implement a little Mother Nature into their own place don’t have to worry about breaking the bank. It can actually pay off, for them and the environment in the long run. Although renters can’t make changes to the apartment’s existing structure, they can make changes in their own living spaces that are environmentally friendly.

“People who rent have a real problem because most of the things that affect whether or not a place is green or not, they can’t do,” said Lloyd Alter, correspondent for the environmental blog

However, making an apartment more green really comes down to being a little more conscious of a few things like watching what is bought, used or brought into the apartment, said Jessica Mondo, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architectural firm.

There are even local stores like Greenmaker Building Supply Co., 2500 N. Pulaski Road, and resources like the Chicago Center for Green Technology, 445 N. Sacramento Blvd., that can help.

If a building’s landlord isn’t attentive to making sure things are running efficiently, there are things to check for, said Meghann Maves, a resource librarian at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.

Check for open cracks in the spaces between windows and doorways that allow heat to escape in the winter. Weather proofing strips are available at home improvement shops to solve the problem.

“Renters can be more involved by checking their appliances, see if they’re Energy Star or are being maintained efficiently,” Maves said.

Changing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, is one of the most important things renters can do, Alter said.

“Lighting is usually 6 to 7 percent of your utility bill,” Maves said. “By using CFLs, you’re saving money in the long run.” Maves said in order to get the most out of the bulbs, be sure to use the bulbs in “high-frequency areas” where they’d be on for long periods of time.

Plugging in gadgets, or “ghost energy consumers” like a cell phone charger, mp3 player charger or a computer into a surge protector and turning it off when not needed can also save a little on the electric bill, Mondo said. There are also things a renter can do to cut down on water usage. Switch out existing fixtures like shower heads or add a component called a retrofit handle for the toilet, which allows the renter to control how much water goes with each flush, said Josh Hirsen, a sales associate at Greenmaker Building Supply Co. The shop sells goods like environmentally friendly products for the home and garden, remodeling and building supplies.

Changing an existing shower head in the bathroom for a low-flow, oxygen-infused shower head aids in water conservation, Hirsen said. The bonus to these products is that the water pressure isn’t lost, but water is saved.

Furnishing a place can be fun, but knowing what that sweet chic couch is made from might not be worth it. Alter recommends avoiding purchasing cheap furniture made from particle board because it contains formaldehyde. Vinyl is another material to avoid, Alter said. Vinyl is made with chlorine, which Alter explained is a “bad greenhouse gas” made from oil. When vinyl is disposed of it emits harmful chemicals.

Instead of going for the new stuff, take advantage of thrift shops or look on websites like or on a free-cycle website to see who is giving away furniture for free that they no longer need, Alter said. The reason to buy used items is that new items, fresh out of the box are full of chemicals. By reusing old items, they have already emitted many of their chemicals, Maves said.

Even decorating can translate to being green. Greenmaker sells a line of paint called low VOC, volatile organic compound, whichdoes not have an odor like regular paint.

Another concern for renters is their indoor air quality. Mondo recommended opening the windows and letting fresh air in. A space’s indoor air quality can improve if plants are placed around the room, Mondo said. A good tip to go by is one house plant per each 100 square feet, Maves said.

It’s also important to watch what cleaning substances are used in the space.

“It’s best to buy products that say they are non-toxic, biodegradable or safe enough for a baby to be in an environment with. A bleach smell does not always mean clean,” Maves said.

Seventh Generation is a company that makes a line of eco-friendly household cleaners and recycled paper goods which are available at stores like Whole Foods, Walgreens and online. The products might cost more on the shelf, but the cost toward protecting the environment pays off.

“Being green does not have to be difficult,” Mondo said. “Just think smart.”

The Columbia Chronicle, September 17, 2007

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Toys that bypass the by-products

It’s time to leave the vegetables in the kitchen.

Camilla Taylor, a 26-year-old vegan artist living in Phoenix, calls making vegan sex toys her day job.

“[Saying I make vegan bondage gear] is a pretty great party opener. I have a great lead up, and then I’m a real disappointment to everyone because there are no crazy sex toy parties.,” Taylor said.

Taylor, a seamstress, is the sole employee of, an online vegan sex store that specializes in selling high-quality faux leather or “pleather” products and other vegan-friendly bondage gear for those who like to mix pleasure and pain into their sex lives.

“To most people, if you talk about a dildo harness it makes them giggle and it makes them uncomfortable and they make a joke about it. I’m comfortable; I make [them] every day,” Taylor said.

More and more vegan sex products are becoming available online and in sex shops.

The majority of people who buy these products are vegans who abstain from using animal products and do not eat meat, dairy or any animal by-products. Some concerns are making sure there arent any animal products in their food by reading ingredient labels and staying away from clothes made out of any animal-derived materials. But when it comes to one-on-one or self-on-self fun, the worry extends.

“The instant image of a vegan sex toy is a cucumber or something, but I think most people get it after the joke subsides,” said Furry Girl in an e-mail interview. Furry Girl, who did not give her real name, is the owner of and three other vegan adult Web sites.

Just like some products aren’t marked specifically vegan, vegan sex products might not be either.

“When I first became vegan, I didn’t even think about things like toothpaste, different toiletries or even condoms,” said Daniel Peyser, author of Dispatches from Hell: A Vegan’s Guide to Love, Sex, Relationships and Other Social Tendencies. “You might not know most condoms aren’t vegan, and in some cases, sex toys [aren’t] as well.”

Peyser said vegans don’t lead completely different love and sex lives than non-vegans. Vegans who decide to use vegan sex toys use them as an “extension of their basic level of compassion.” Even though vegans abstain from using and consuming animal products, it doesn’t mean they can’t be into using bondage gear, he said.

“It’s the same reason I want [vegan] toothpaste to be similar to toothpaste. I need toothpaste,” Peyser said. “For some people, they need bondage gear.”

In Peyser’s book, he tackles some of the issues regarding vegans, relationships and sex. Peyser, a vegan, wrote the book after getting out of two long-term relationships with other vegans. He wasn’t sure how to handle getting back into the dating scene.

“The vegan thing makes it like hell,” he said. “There are so many questions, having to worry about restaurants and meeting people. In some instances, telling them you’re vegan [is] like the kiss of death.”

For vegans though, at least for Taylor, it’s not about the way it tastes or feels, it’s about the way it’s made.

“You can’t really make bondage gear out of hemp and make it look sexy because the aesthetic is so well-engineered,” Taylor said. “It is so hard to disengage in that.”

Taylor’s faux leather products are made from high-quality pleather called Lorica, imported from Italy. It’s smooth like leather on one side and has the feel of suede on the other.

Most people wouldn’t realize it’s not leather, she said. She said she has received a few e-mails from customers who thought they were duped into buying real leather. Her products don’t smell like leather, but they’re easy to clean, she said. Her products are even dishwasher safe.

The availability of vegan sex products is increasing.

Furry Girl said she has seen a steady rise in her sales since opening her shop online in November 2004, which she said tells her “she’s onto something.”

Furry Girl said she thinks more quality sex shops are starting to label their products like lubes, lotions and oils as vegans. OMy is a vegan lube that is most widely available, she said, but if it was at “a run-of-the-mill” novelty shop online, the ingredients probably wouldn’t be listed to see.

Early to Bed, 5323 N. Sheridan Road, said they sell more Condomi condoms, vegan-friendly condoms, than any other vegan product.

Although products online are marked as vegan, Lee Jacobs, a sex educator, said if shopping at the store be sure to ask for the list of vegan products available.

“The thing is, the vast majority of sex toys are low-end junk sold for novelty use only. There’s no way to even find out what’s in them since their “jelly” material is a hodge-podge of plastics and other ingredients that are anyone’s guess,” Furry Girl said.

Her favorite vegan product is Tantus Silicone, which is made out of “high-quality medical-grade silicone.”

The Columbia Chronicle, April 23, 2007