CategoriesGear

5 Easy Tips to Eliminate Single-Use Plastic

I’m doing everything possible to kill single-use plastic water bottles since around 2010. During that time, I’ve used everything from the latest stainless-steel marvel to a gourd that I hollowed out myself during an Aboriginal Living Skills School course.

During that time — nearly 10 years — I’ve kept a considerable amount of stuff out of landfills. And I’d like to do even better. So I started thinking about ways to use fewer throwaway products.

single use plastics
Some of the reusable bottles I’ve tested over the years.

Wait: Does this even matter?

Before I go any further, I’m going to address a point people bring up: Does using less single-use plastic do any good? Well, every item you keep out of a landfill is one less thing someone needs to order and buy in the supply chain. That is a statement of intent and a data point to decision makers that says "Hey, people are using fewer disposable items. What should we do about that?" As an individual, you aren’t doing much. Collectively, you’re changing society’s habits.

It’s exactly like in the early 80s when a few people decided they would wear seatbelts or quit smoking. And see where seatbelts and smoking are today? Anyone who argues this point just doesn’t want to change their habits to do something beneficial. End of story.




OK, moving on: I’ve mentioned reusable bottles, tumblers and the like here so I won’t go into more details about that even though bottles are a huge step. But let’s have a look at the rest.

Plastic bags are inevitable. Just do more with them.

I know many of us love re-usable cloth shopping bags. But once in awhile, you’re going to forget them. I’ve given plastic shopping bags a second life by using them to scoop cat litter, transport wet gym clothes and line small trash cans.

Some people even use them as packing material when they need to ship something – a good one for you eBay/Etsy types.  

Reconsider the single-use plastic straw.

First, do you even need a straw? Probaby not. But if you do, skip the paper in addition to the single-use plastic. They get soggy in a hurry. So far, my favorite non-plastic straws have been made out of bamboo. If you want to try a bamboo straw, drop in at Peixoto Coffee in Chandler, Ariz. That’s where I saw one for the first time.

And seriously, is there anything bamboo can’t do? Straws, clothing, food for pandas, even bicycles!

Pack your own utensils.

As the dad of a 4-year-old, it’s never a bad idea for me to have a few utensils in my car. I’ve stashed a few items from REI in my backpack for spontaneous snacks and meals.

single-use plastic
Is there anything you CAN’T do with bamboo?

This is also a great habit for travel. You’ll get some good mileage from a titanium spork or even reusable plastic camp utensils. There are also plant-based alternatives out there made from corn and — of course — the wonder material that is bamboo.

Buy in bulk.

Hit the bulk foods aisle of your grocery store. Fill it up using the vessel of your choice — Tupperware, re-used shopping bags or a decent cloth bag. (NOTE: My wife is way better than this than I am, and I’m noting this to give proper credit.)

There’s a huge chunk of packing material you’ll keep out of the landfill. A helluva lot less plastic and paper.  

Go easy on yourself in reducing single-use plastic.

These are just a few options. And give yourself permission not to be perfect. You’ll run into all sorts of situations where you fall short for one reason or another. But try to have more wins than losses and you break the single-use plastic habit.

What would you add to the list?

CategoriesGear

New Sustainable Clothing: Wama Underwear

Ever since I found a pair of Wayi bamboo underwear a few years ago, I’ve been all about sustainable underwear. Really, my whole sustainable clothing interest goes even further back – all the way to the time I tested the Tasc Performance line of bamboo workout clothes.

My underwear drawer also has its fair share of bamboo socks – and other random brands of bamboo underwear (including a few pairs I picked up at a market in Hanoi, which have a fit that’s a bit more banana hammock than I’d prefer).

And now, Wama Underwear has emerged as another sustainable clothing brand. But instead of bamboo, this underwear maker focuses on hemp underwear. I am a huge fan of of hemp clothing: I’ve already abused hemp shirts from Onno and Satori. My go-to weekend pants are the unbelievable (and sadly discontinued) INI Cooperative Escargo pants.

sustainable clothing
A peek at the factory that makes Wama Underwear.

Recently, Wama Underwear got in touch with me to send a few pairs of its boxer-briefs in for testing. They also threw in a cool little drawstring bag, which you can get free if you order a 10-pack of the briefs. The briefs are $24, but first-time shoppers will be prompted to get a 20 percent discount.

The price on the 10-pack is $200, and it’s not clear if the 20-percent deal applies to that price. They’re made from 53 percent hemp, with the remainder being organic cotton and Spandex.

They also come in versions for men and women.

Sustainable Clothing – Why Bother?

Before we go any further, let me tell you why I’m so nuts about sustainable clothing like hemp and bamboo. Both seem to get softer with time, and they are both awesome at resisting stink. This is doubly important if you travel and wind up wearing the same clothes for days at a time.

I once wore a hemp t-shirt for a course at the Aboriginal Living Skills School. Despite sweat, river water, hanging around a campfire and various other stuff, the shirt didn’t stink at all after the course (I gave it a sniff once I got back to civilization and had a shower).

sustainable clothing
Thirty-six hours in that beige ONNO hemp shirt, and still no stink. But I was too low on calories to be as enthusiastic as Cody Lundin.

[UPDATE: The next few paragraphs are outdated because apparently US farmers now have the green light – no pun intended – to grow industrial hemp. Still, I’ll leave the paragraphs for context. It will be interesting to follow up on this in the future to see how many American crops have started planting hemp.]

Will wearing sustainable clothing save the planet? It’s one small choice you can make. To make a bigger difference, it would help if US farmers could grow hemp. But they can’t, as I summarized in an earlier post about hemp clothes:

They’re unbelievably comfortable and seem to resist all my attempts to make them stink while hiking, camping or traveling. Unfortunately, the U.S. government still prohibits commercial hemp growth for the moment – I suspect this is ultimately because the cotton industry and its lobbyists can’t handle the thought of any textile competing with its interests -- and I suspect the same people are behind the flat-out lies that equate hemp and marijuana (which is a subject for a different blogger to tackle). I wonder what the hemp farmers among our founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson would say about this.

Being able to source US-grown hemp would cut down on emissions from transit, which would help the sustainability cred of hemp. I can’t say I’m an expert in farming, but I wonder what rotating hemp in as a crop would do for the soil. I also am unclear on its water needs versus cotton or other textile-producing crops. But that would be an interesting bit of information.

Oh, Wama has an FAQ page that dives into questions about ethical sourcing and certifications.

Getting the Right Size

The president of Wama, Shakib Nassiri, gave me some fitting advice that I’ll pass along to you: The sizes seems to run a bit small. I’m 6’2 and about 185. He advised me to go a size larger than I normally would. So I ordered an XL instead of my usual L.

When the package from Wama Underwear arrived, I found that Shakib’s advice was spot-on. The fit was perfect.

sustainable clothing
Just in case you were wondering why there are no photos of me modeling the Wama hemp underwear … I couldn’t find my bearskin rug.

 

My first impression of the Wama Underwear was that the fabric had more heft than any of my bamboo underwear. They had a heavier weight that made me wonder if they would feel hotter or stiffer.

Nope. Once I put them on, they seemed to disappear. The fit was supportive without being annoying. Wama Underwear makes a product that is the polar opposite of some underwear that seems to have that one spot that pokes or feels to loose or itches.

Granted, I’ve worn and washed each pair just twice. It will take a few months of long-term flogging to render a definitive judgement. They’ll need to perform through the hot Arizona months. From the first impressions, though, my bet is that I’ll still like the Wama Underwear as much as I do right now.

Right off the mark, they fit considerably better than the Wayi brand I mentioned earlier, which doesn’t seem like a good choice for anyone familiar with squats or deadlifts! None of my undies from that brand gets the waist/thigh ratio right.

Rendering a Verdict

I wouldn’t mind a few more colors, but I suspect that will come in time. Personally, I’d also ditch any green leaf iconography. Hemp already has the perception problem being linked to marijuana, so I’d recommend that sustainable clothing makers stay away from the leaf symbols.

sustainable clothing
Women can have their cool Wama hemp underwear, too.

But on pure merit, Wama Underwear has a sustainable clothing winner. It’s a product that proves that sustainability doesn’t mean sacrifice – it’s better than any of the non-sustainable products I own. At this point, I recommend picking up some Wama Underwear if you needs some boxer-briefs.

They’re comfortable, and they’re a little something you can do to show your support for sustainable options. And that could be the catalyst that prompts more companies to offer greener, cleaner products. All of this can add up.

DISCLAIMER: Wama Underwear sent me two free pairs of boxer briefs and a drawstring bag. As usual, free stuff doesn’t equal positive reviews. I won’t recommend anything that I wouldn’t buy myself. And I always buy items that I recommend. 

CategoriesFitnessGear

Your Bike Frame – What it Says About You

bike frame
Muddy aluminum – the frame material of choice for the Average Joe.

I amazed a new mountain biker a few weeks ago. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t my riding that did it. It was a bit of trivia I shared – that you can actually buy a mountain bike frame made out of bamboo.

It’s a shocker for many, especially newer riders who think the old flavors of bike frames are aluminum and carbon fiber. I’ve made a list of bike frame materials I know about, and what they say about the people who ride them. Pitch in with your own in the comments!

Aluminum – You’re everyman, a card-carrying member of Average Joe’s Gymnasium rolling into work with Dockers and a pale blue shirt. Sticking out, making a statement? Not for you. Keep it real, keep it cheap, keep it real cheap. Your aluminum bike frame is common and functional. You won’t feel guilty about replacing it when the bell tolls for it.

bike frame
Bamboo – it looks cool. But not as cool as the rider thinks he is!

Carbon Fiber – Just put a revolving door on your garage: You’re going to ditch your carbon fiber frame soon – probably as soon as your brand of choice releases a new version that’s 21.2 grams lighter. You’re all about going fast. You don’t ride: You only train and race. When you go wild at parties (the few you get invited to), you share a bottle of Michelob Ultra with five friends.

Steel – Your bike sleeps beside you on your ratty futon You boast about how long your frame can last, about how any welder can fix it, how smooth it rides. You’ll shed tears when the $300 custom paintjob on your latest handmade, fillet-brazed wonder gets scratched. But you never bat an eye as your car drops parts in its wake while rattling down the freeway.

Titanium – Custom steel is not exclusive enough for you. So you tracked down a bearded Ukrainian recluse who used to weld ICBM fins to whip up a titanium bike frame for you -- back in 1993. You’re still riding it, and it looks just as good as the day you bought it. Too bad it doesn’t have disc brake tabs or suspension-adjusted geometry.

Bamboo – Well, hello, Mr. Fancy Pants! You’re bicycling’s Bono, cruising smugly on your very pricey, sustainably grown bike frame. You’re saving the world while oh-so-gently scorning those who lack the bank account to save the world like you do. You just better hope a panda doesn’t start munching your frame while you’re inside the local coffeehouse sipping a shade-grown, fair-trade caramel latte made with non-GMO soymilk.

 

 

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CategoriesFitnessGear

Merino Wool/Bamboo from tasc Performance: Review

Me and my Merino wool/bamboo shirt at the Tromsø Midnight Sun 10k.

Winter is coming.

That’s not my favorite quote from A Game of Thrones. It’s just a fact, and it makes me happy after another Arizona summer and quasi-autumn that lasted about 4.7 days.

Truth: I haven’t been cold since I was in Norway. And even then, I wasn’t all that cold. Sure, Norway is chilly for an Arizona dude even in the summertime. But I also had a few items from tasc Performance to keep me warm. The folks at tasc Performance sent some of their new long-sleeve merino wool/bamboo fiber shirts for testing.

I started the Midnight Sun 10K (which really start at about 8 p.m.) in one of them. I used another as a base layer for hiking the Bessegen Trail in Jotunheimen National Park. I’d reach for one of them anytime the rain started to fall or the wind started to blow.

There’s a base layer of Merino wool and bamboo from tasc Performance under all the other puffery.

This is the first time I’ve used a technical shirt with any wool in it. Here’s what I thought of the new tasc Performance gear.

  • They take up no room in a pack, yet are still warm.
  • They look damn good.
  • I’d prefer to wear them as a second layer. I didn’t wash them beforehand, and they were a bit itchy to my skin. Soon, it will be cool enough for me to try them now that I’ve washed them.
  • I love the wrist gaiters. Slipping my thumb into one pulls just enough of the sleeve down to cover my hands a bit. Great for wearing gloves.
  • Be careful with those cool gaiters. I shoved my hand in with a little too much authority and yanked a bunch of stitching out.
  • The Merino wool doesn’t get soaked very easily. It seems to repel light drizzles. Is it just me?

Over the last year, tasc Performance has become my go-to brand for exercise apparel. If you want to something more comfortable than tasc, you’ll have to do as the ancient Greeks did and hit the gym in nothing but olive oil. The Merino wool adds a new element to the bamboo lineup. It’s not as soft yet. But warm? You betcha. It’ll get loads of action this winter, no matter where I go. And we’ll see if the itchiness abates.

CategoriesGear

Review: tasc bamboo athletic wear

tasc performance
Kettlebells – a great way to sweat enough to test the tasc Carrollton T.

Bamboo fiber athletic gear is one of my favorite finds of the last year. I ran across the brand then-known as Thriv at my local Sports Authority. I added several bits to my collection before Thriv changed its name to tasc Performance.

I reviewed my original shirts and shorts and tasc performance took notice of my comments. They sent me some of its latest gear (the Blaze LS crew, Carrollton t-shirt and Sideline shorts) for a Wandering Justin review back in February. Here’s what I found:

tasc Bamboo Blaze LS Crew

This is pretty much a long-sleeve version of the short-sleeve relaxed-fit t-shirt from my earlier review. It’s great for the cool winter months, or as a base layer for skiing or other winter sports. The snow was too pathetic this year for me to test it skiing, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t be up for the job. I had no concerns about the fit or the feel based on my previous bamboo athletic gear experience. You can expect it to be comfortable and to wick sweat.

This one is still going strong in the winter of 2020.

Carrollton T

This tasc performance t-shirt is perfect for the warmer months. I ran this shirt through the ringer of CrossFit and kettlebell workouts, and it was a perfect workout shirt. I tested the antimicrobial/anti-odors that’s one of the bamboo selling points: four consecutive workouts in the same shirt, no washing. It only started to smell ready for a wash after the fourth workout … and don’t take my word for it: I used my wife as a smell tester for this review. What a lucky girl! Conclusion: This is a flawless workout t-shirt.

And they last a long time. As I’m updating this in December 2020, both of these shirts are going strong.

Sideline Short

One of my few complaints about my earlier Thriv/tasc gear centered on the shorts. They didn’t have pockets, and they had that annoying built-in underwear. I loved the feel of the fabric, but I felt like the shorts needed to address these two points. Wouldn’t you know it? The latest tasc bamboo shorts have pockets and ditched the mesh underwear. Great!

But there’s one little hiccup: The Sideline shorts reach below my knee. I like my shorts to be a touch more out of the way. I imagine some people must like them longer; maybe tasc can mull the idea of a shorter version, more like its Ace Short. Still, the Sidelines are the first shorts I reach for at workout time.

As if 2020, I wore these shorts so much that they were worn out a few years ago.

Final Thoughts: tasc Bamboo

Here’s what you can conclude from my review: tasc performance has kept things the same where they need to, and made strides to near perfection in others. From the non-performance side, you also get athletic gear made with sustainability in mind. To adapt a phrase from George Costanza, I’d drape myself in tasc bamboo athletic gear if it was socially acceptable.

As of December 2020, I’ve retired two pairs of my tasc undies and one pair of shorts. Everything else is still pretty solid.

tasc Performance could use some Twitter followers. Get over there and find out more!

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CategoriesFitnessGear

Gear Review – Tasc Performance

I have a reflex action every time I see someone sporting those oh-so-trendy Lululemon workout clothes -- a shake of the head. An eyeroll. A muttered-under-my-breath exhalation of "sucker."

Go to any yoga studio or CrossFit gym, though, and you’re sure to see people who paid upward of a hundred clams for the privilege of sporting that omega logo on their workout duds. Why they’re so willing to shell out when there’s a company like Tasc Performance, I’ll never know.

I picked up a bunch of Tasc’s bamboo gear during a blowout sale at Sports Authority -- back when Tasc was known as Thriv (neither name is very good, but I think Thriv fits the eco-friendly vibe better. Clearly, this company needs hard-core, visionary branding consultants.).

Here’s the deal: Bamboo fiber is allegedly less stinky when exposed to sweat than my typical synthetic gear. And it’s soft – like polish-your-camera-lens-with-it soft. I ran a wide range of gear through the ringer -- two fitted t-shirts, two pairs of gym shorts and a pair of fitted boxer-briefs. I didn’t pay more than $20 for any single item (on-sale, but retail prices were still reasonable).

All were ludicrously comfortable. And yes, I noticed that I smelled far less worse when wearing Tasc gear. Here are a few observations about each item.

Hybrid fitted SS Crew – The sleeves are a bit long, coming slightly below the biceps. But that’s no big deal. Perfect performance and fit for yoga, CrossFit, running -- just about anything that breaks a sweat. I can’t think of a single improvement.

Shorts – Off-the-charts comfort, but I want the exact same shorts with two changes: Lose the built-in underwear, and add pockets. Getting rid of the undies means they’ll pair well with the Ventilate compression shorts. Other than that, these are very close to perfect.

Ventilated compression shorts – I wish all my underwear fit this way. But I noticed immediate wear in the meshy area up-front. Nothing should develop a hole by its second use, so some quality control should be high on Tasc’s list.

Other stuff to note: Tasc’s website is a touch clunky; I’m hitting items in the drop-down menu that don’t seem to take me anywhere. The company could also improve and focus its social media efforts: Tasc needs to interact, not just talk about its products. Social media sells me on organizations. A strong social media can encourage me to try a product that I can’t otherwise get my hands on -- the unexpected find of cool bamboo stuff at Sports Authority was fortunate happenstance on both our parts. But I think Tasc needs to work the social media hard to get its name out there more. Especially vital since Tasc sells on its website.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing some pants for hiking and some for yoga, along with socks. This bamboo thing is for-real, and what body part needs anti-stink support more than our feet?

Tasc could use some Twitter followers. Get over there and get them talking!