Ideas for holiday giving – try going Fair Trade this year!

Fair Trade logoWith Christmas and Chanukah around the corner, it’s time to get that shopping list together and get going. To find the perfect holiday gift, why not go Fair Trade?

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A coffee maker that lets you connect with the Fair Trade grower

Coffee roasted

Americans love their coffee. Just look at any metropolitan area and you’ll see java places abounding. But with the high cost of our favorite brew, many of us are turning to ways to make it ourselves.

Those of you who’ve followed my work for a while have seen me feature various new crowdfunding ventures. A new one just launched today on Kickstarter I think could be exceptional if it’s funded.

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Wake up and smell the coffee with this portable espresso maker!

Uniterra Nomad 3Espresso lovers know the pangs of missing their favorite hot beverage while they enjoy the great outdoors. Hiking, boating and RVing are rarely convenient to having an espresso machine around.

UniTerra’s Nomad, a portable espresso machine, will change that.

This small, take-anywhere, eco-friendly coffee maker is in its final days of a Kickstarter campaign that ends early this Wednesday. To learn more about it and see how you can get one, go to

Starbuck’s continuing search for “the” recyclable coffee cup

Starbucks is on a quest to find the perfect recyclable coffee cup

For those of you who are new(ish) to this blog, two years ago I wrote about a pilot program that Starbucks embarked on in New York City to recycle their coffee cups.  Last year, their shareholders nixed the opportunity to increase their recycling throughout all their stores nationwide.

The Seattle-based company has continued its efforts, however, to find the perfect recyclable coffee cup. But so far it’s proved to be an elusive treasure.

With a goal of introducing this innovation in 2015, the stumbling block remains the cups´ polyethylene liner. considered a contaminant by the waste industry in the paper recycling process.

Starbucks has initiated pilot projects to give their used coffee cups a second life

Starbucks isn’t alone in their quest. At their recently convened Coffee Summit at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),  a number of their competitors including McDonald’s were present, along with Action Carting Environmental Services Inc., the solid waste management company involved in Starbuck’s New York pilot recycling program.

“What is the silver bullet,” said Jim Hanna, Starbucks Director of Environmental Impact. ” What is the perfect material out there that we can make this cup out of that will make this cup recyclable?”

Not surprisingly, Starbucks quickly discovered that there is no quick, easy solution. So the coffee purveyor initiated a number of pilot programs as part of their quest to give used coffee cups a useful second life.

It’s a worthy goal. If the solution is found and its cost is within reach, this would mean the diversion of hundreds of tons of used coffee cups from landfills. As Americans continue their love affair with coffee – whether it’s driving out of their garage to go across town or walking down to the corner to get their caffeine “fix” – finding a real workable solution to this issue would make a real difference.

Unique space-saving gadgets for our on-the-go lives

Double Shot is a French Press & double shot coffee mug all-in-one

Americans love their coffee. From Starbucks to Peet’s, the sheer number of coffee specialty places are astounding.

Americans use 23 billion coffee cups every year. The average office worker goes through around 500 disposable cups each year, but the large majority of “hot cups” aren’t made from recycled material, and they’re rarely recyclable. That means those billions of cups – with their synthetic, petroleum-based lining – end up in our landfills, to last for hundreds of years.

Planetary Design – an innovative Montana-based company that’s committed to preserving and perfecting the little things that make life more enjoyable – has created several high quality solutions.

For more on these sleek-looking and oh-so-useful products, see

Reusable mug mimics a throw-away

coffeeAccording to a joint study by the Environmental Defense Fund and the  Pew Charitable Trust, Starbucks goes through 1.9 billion coffee cups every year.

Coffee roasteries across the country increasingly face the same issue – how to provide java lovers their morning “fix” in something that keeps the brew hot, keeps costs down and doesn’t harm the environment.

Innovative British designer James Burgess came up with a classy solution.

The “I am Not a Paper Cup” is a thermal porcelain cup that’s an exact-looking replica of the take-out coffee cup. It comes complete with a silicone snap-on lid that helps prevent spills.

Instead of adding to the landfill, says Burgess, the witty, iconic design turns an everyday disposable coffee mug into a long lasting, valuable product you want to keep.

I am not a Paper Cup

"I am not a Paper Cup" - enjoy your java and help the environment too

Made of double-walled porcelain with a hollow cavity in-between each layer, at first glance it almost fools you into thinking it’s a regular toss-type coffee cup.

“I am not a Paper Cup” provides excellent insulation for your drink – hot or cold – without taking on the drastic temperature change of whatever’s inside like regular paper or porcelain cups do. No more burning hands while drinking scalding coffee!

This super useful cup is microwavable and dishwasher safe. The silicone stopper at the bottom of the cup also prevents water from leaking into the cup while you’re washing it. Both the lid and mug are rated to withstand temperatures up to 230C. or 446 F.

Testing out this mug, I was surprised at how well it kept my tea hot. Normal porcelain mugs don’t work half as well. And the flexible lid really sealed tightly.

Silicon was chosen because of its flexibility, said Burgess, so it would tightly grip the ceramic cup, creating the best possible seal while help retain the drink’s heat. Also, he said, “it retains its shape well and comes it lots of cool colors we could try out.”

The sipping hole is a bit smaller than normal but that also helps to prevent spills. About the only thing I can say negative about this is that it holds around 10 ounces versus the larger size I prefer.

Cleaning the lid’s a snap. Soak it in boiling water with three lemon wedges until it’s clean. And don’t use detergent on it. The manufacturer says to use toothpaste to wash it – yet another save for the environment.

“Use (the mug) for your daily coffee,” says Burgess, “so that it can make a difference, no matter how big it is.”

You can find this eco-friendly mug on a number of websites, including, Amazon, and, though it’s more expensive at the last site. You can purchase a package of two replacement lids on Amazon. The mug costs from $10 to 16.95 and the lids run under $7.00.