This morning, I heard news of the season's first major snowstorm coming to the Rocky Mountains and I thought, "Can winter be far behind?" We ask that a lot in Chicago — even in July.
A few weeks back, I wrote about ways to prep your living space for winter and the cold that's surely coming. This week, I turn my attention to eight ways you can get eco-friendly outside the home, doing battle (and having fun) with winter in a way that's not going to wallop Mother Earth. Just because it's white outside doesn't mean you can't stay green on the inside, and reduce that carbon footprint of yours to a size much smaller than a snow boot.
For the Ladies: Yes, Virginia, There is an Eco-Friendly Boot
I'm going to start off by complaining that the folks at California-based Simple need to show some love to the boot-wearing lads out there, too, because I'm about to turn all Green Dad with Envy. Their Simple Women's BRRlin Suede Boots ($72.99 with free shipping, a low by $3) feature a biodegradable sole and eco-certified suede uppers. Finding materials and processes that make Simple shoes sustainable is a called having a "Green Toe." I imagine other boots can't hold a soy candle up to these in terms of eco-friendliness.
Instead of Rock Salt, Use Magic Salt
It might surprise you to learn that rock salt, while organic, isn't environmentally friendly. Sodium chloride causes detrimental effects to water- and land-based ecosystems. Some states, including Vermont recommend abandoning the use of rock salt in favor of Magic Salt, a compound that is effective to -35°, and is much friendlier to the environment. Magic Salt starts as ordinary rock salt, but is treated with an agricultural byproduct of the distilling process, and is blended with magnesium chloride. Magic Salt works so well, and is more cost-effective than rock salt, that they're using it on the Garden State Parkway in my native New Jersey. Since it's only available via local sellers, you can also give the Perfectly Natural Solutions Eco Ice Melter 11-lb. Jug ($18.99 with $9 s&h, a low by $2) or the EcoTraction Ice Melter Granules 10-lb. Jug ($14.77 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $7) a try.
For the Kids: Wooden Sleds Slicked with Olive Oil
If you've been reading the Green Dad column, you should know by now to cast a hairy eyeball at anything made of plastic, which a) uses petroleum in its manufacture and b) takes about a zillion years to decompose if thrown away. Wooden sleds are definitely the way to go for winter fun, and you can't beat the classic Flexible Flyer 42" Steel Runner Sled ($71.99 with free shipping, a low by $7). As for greasing the skids, you can try all sorts of lubricants, but olive oil is perhaps the fastest and the best for the environment.
A Greener Snow Blower
I know that for some, shoveling snow is hazardous to heart health. And when snow buildup needs to be moved in a hurry, blowers can prove beneficial. But for most of us, using a blower over a shovel boils down to pure sloth. That said: if you're going to use one, at least look into models that are greener. Snowblower.com points out that while blowers create 25% of mobile-source hydrocarbon emissions, 4-stroke models and battery powered blowers can cut back on the impact. Using their research, the Ariens Amp 24" Electric Snow Blower is a highly-rated model that uses no gasoline. However, it'll set you back about $1,500. But if you live in a continual state of snow, it's definitely a sound investment in green living.
Great Green Gloves
I'm predicting that one of the "hot" fads this winter — and a holdover from last year — will involve USB gloves. These pictured USB Heated Tipless Gloves ($7.99 with free shipping) will keep you warm by the powers of USB. For those not tethered to their machines, try these Oakley Factory Gloves ($11.99 plus $6.98 s&h, a low by $13) on for size.
Put Your Hemp Hat On
Rawganique makes Hemp Ski Hats ($13 to $16 plus $6.62 s&h) that no one will ever guess are made from 100% organically grown European hemp and assembled sweatshop free. My vote goes to the way-cool hemp rainbow ski hats (pictured) for $16, which walk that fine line between hipster hempster and kinda-crazy cranium wear.
For the Dudes: The Ultimate Recycled Men's Jacket
Anyone who's braved a winter in Chicago, or in climates even colder, knows that spending a few hundred dollars for a coat is not a lot to ask if the thing lasts and keeps you warm. Green Dad is a big fan of Nau, a Portland-based company that's dedicated to sustainable clothing with an attitude. I already own one of their gnarly button-up sweaters, and now I've got my eyes on this Nau Men's Down Load Jacket, which blends recycled polyester with organic cotton and attaches it to a waterproof, breathable laminate to create a completely weather-proof product that looks svelte, toasty, and freaking fabulous. At $440, it ain't cheap — but Green Dad's lost count of the number of shoddy, bulky coats he's had to toss in Green Youth days, and those have likely cost him in total, much more. (Ladies, the female equivalent of this coat is priced right at $385 with free shipping.)
Green Shades, and You've Got It Made
You might think that cool shades with an ecological bent would be hard to find. But Revo makes several styles, including the very sporty and eye-catching Revo Thrive RE4037-03 Sunglasses ($149.99 with $4.95 s&h, a low by $53). These frames are made from 100% recycled polymer resins (nylon) for durability and earth-friendliness, and the polarization is ideal for fending off winter glare.
Front page photo credit: Play Outdoors