cool product of the month: solar powered helicopter

once again, i’m writing about the cool product of the month on the last day of the month, but that’s okay, it’s still october, right? this month’s cool product is a fun little find for the little tykes in your life, a solar powered helicopter sold by estella nyc.

solar helicopter
solar helicopter

my wife left (and i do mean left) me and the boys for 4 days last weekend when she travelled to nyc for her 20th high school reunion. it was actually the first time all of us boys were left alone for that long (yes 4 days suddenly became a long time). i took the boys hiking in joshua tree, but i digress. one of the presents my wife brought back from nyc was this solar powered helicopter. it is a small simple wooden toy, with a propeller that has a small “solar panel” on top of it. while it is probably overpriced at $28 (don’t expect this thing to lift off the ground, the propeller just spins) but the smile and joy on my boys’ face when they hold it up to the light and the propeller spins is priceless….look ma, no batteries (it was at night when she got home). then when you take it outside it will spin because of the sun’s rays. it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

the idea that something can move and produce energy without batteries and, simply because of the sun, is a foreign concept to most 3 year olds (and maybe adults for that matter). the fact that jake can say the words “solar power” and have some kind of understanding, however small,  brings a smile to my face. this simple helicopter is a fun and easy way to introduce the concept of solar energy to the little ones. and with the holidays just around the corner…..

a plane for the santa monica flying museum

this just showed up at my office about an hour ago so i had to snap some pictures and post them here. it was delivered right outside my office door for the “under construction” santa monica museum of flying. it seems that fedex donated the 727 nose to the museum as there were a couple of fedex people there as well as a fedex photographer. maybe this could be the “COOL product of the month”.

cool product of the month: ecobags

with less than 15 hours to go before august ends, i’m finally getting to this month’s COOL product post. so here it goes; drumroll please……COOL product of the month for August is ECObags!ecobags

now i know this may not seem that exciting, especially since following that dramatic drumroll, but this is a very important COOL product. ECObags sells several sizes of reusable canvas bags. one of the first places i go to when visiting a website is the “about us” page, especially if i’m considering purchasing that particular service or product. incidentally, my own “about us” page at reside architecture is one of the most visited pages on my website so i’m not alone in my thinking. from the ECObags website, their mission is clear;

Ecobags Products, Inc. opened for business in 1989 with a simple goal; to produce quality bags at great prices so that “Reusable becomes a way of life.”

“reusable becomes a way of life.” Pretty smart and simple concept and one that more of us are embracing everyday. my wife and i purchased several ecobags about two years ago and have been using them religiously (assuming we can remember to grab them as we leave the house… along with two boys, sunscreen, stroller, ergocarrier, drink cups, diapers, snacks, shopping list… you get the idea). we always take them with us when grocery shopping to trader joes and many grocery stores will give you 5 cents (couldn’t find the cent sign on my keyboard so i had to spell it out) for each bag you bring in, not something we’ll get rich on but it’s nice to have the acknowledgment.

my favorite, the half size produce bag
my favorite, the half size produce bag

for me, where the ECObags really shine are the smaller sizes for taking to the farmers’ market. generally speaking, i do believe that people that take the time to go to their local farmers’ markets and support local farmers are concerned about their health and the health of the environment, agreed? then why oh why do i see so many people walking around with lots and lots of plastic bags to carry their fruits and vegetables in, only to get home and throw them away (or recycle). the answer to all of that is the half size produce bags. i love ours. we have about 10 of them and they are perfect for putting in 3 or 4 sweet potatoes or a handful of plums or peaches. we usually get approached once each time out to the farmers market by someone asking about the smaller size ECObags because “they are so cute.” we’ve probably saved using over 1000 plastic bags over the last couple of years. you can buy 5 of them for $13.00 so there really is no reason to not have these in your shopping arsenal. hopefully you’ll be as excited about your ECObags as i am, then you’ll tell a neighbor, and that neighbor will tell their neighbor, and that neighbor will tell their neighbor….

cool product of the month: caroma waterless urinal and dual flush toilet

watersense_logo_colorthis month’s COOL product is actually one company, two products. the company is caroma and the products are their waterless urinal and dual flush toilet. caroma is an australian company that has been dealing with drought issues for years and they are genuinely committed to the environment and helping the world conserve resources, namely water. you can click to read their eco-statement. you can also review several tutorial videos on their website as well.

i recently installed both the waterless urinal and the dual flush toilets in the westbourne project. H2Zero_2the waterless urinal is coroma’s h2 zero model and it really is a waterless urinal. it has a “bio-seal”, a one way air-tight valve to seal the cartridge from the drainage system. it also includes a special tool that allows for hands free periodic replacement of the bio-seal. the manufacturer suggests replacement every 9-12 months. this is a great product and it will save the homeowners 4800 gallons of water a year.

the dual flush toilet is coroma’s caravelle and gives you the option of 2 types of flushes. flush #1 uses .8 gallons and flush #2 will use 1.6, a normal amount for a low flush toilet. Caravelle-One-Piece-mdfrom my understanding, a homeowner would be using flush #1 a majority of the time, so there would be substantial water savings there as well. when i combine the waterless urinal and dual dlush toilets installed in the westbourne project, the homeowners would be saving more than 7000 gallons of water per year. now, that may not seem like a lot, but water is a precious resource and every little bit helps. i’d say saving 7000 gallons a water a year without really doing anything different, is a good thing.

i’m going to be on the level with you here. you wouldn’t necessarily install these products to save money. because water is so cheap (that’s another topic) the return on investment is many years. the caravelle sells for about $750 per toilet versus $100 for a home depot toilet and $500-$600 for a nicer one piece low flow toilet. the waterless urinal will cost about $750 and the bio seal kit will cost about $115 once every twelve months. BUT, these are not  products you purchase and install to save money. you buy them to save a very precious, finite resource…fresh water.  a little bit can go along way. if a family of 4 can save 15,000 gallons of water per year,  imagine what that would mean if a these were installed in every home in your neighborhood. assuming 100 houses, that would be 1.5 million gallons of water saved per year. 1000 homes could save 15 million gallons of water. now that, is pretty COOL.

cool product of the month-kohler karbon faucet

this month’s cool product is kohler’s karbon faucet. this is a very cool kitchen faucet that is unlike anything we have seen before. also hats off to the kohler marketing department as they have done a great job at marketing this product. they have a video on the website and you’ll see advertisements for it in the major design magazines.karbon-faucet

i’ve chosen to highlight the karbon faucet this month because we installed it in the westbourne project. we purchased it several months ago and i’ve been curious ever since we received it. i couldn’t wait to get it installed. it’s a heavy and substantial piece of “machinery”. it has an articulating arm that allows it to pivot and swivel in several configurations. it can also fold up to a compact little unit when not in use. a bit of a novelty? maybe. but it is a nicely, thought out, designed piece. it becomes more than just another kitchen faucet and will make a statement on any countertop and in any kitchen.

the karbon faucet comes in a variety of finishes, my favorite being the titanium which no longer appears to be an option. they’ve recently added more colors including gold, bronze, and black handles. whichever style you choose, it’s sure to be a conversation piece when you have that party and everyone ends up in the kitchen, you can say “oh, have you seen my faucet?”

cool product of the month – sigg cups

siggthis month’s cool product is sigg cups. yes they sound like you can by them at ikea right next to the dunkfurr or lack but they don’t seem to be there…yet. why am i deciding to feature the sigg cup and why is this a cool product? well, i’m glad you asked.

reason #1. unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock the past year, you’ve probably heard about the plastic bottles being made that leached bisphynol-A. i didn’t read enough of the hoopla to really find out what bisphynol-A really is, but i figured when they throw in the word “leaching” in there, it can’t be good. my wife is especially hypersensitive to this kind of stuff since we have two little boys (my nalgene bottle has served me fine for 10+ years but that’s another story).  we had made the switch to sigg cups long before the plastic scare last year, which brings me to…

reason#2. we drink a lot of water in our family, and i mean a lot. it is pretty much the only thing our 2 1/2 year old drinks with the exception of almond milk at school. he keeps trying to get us to give him some coffee but so far we have resisted. we knew by using a re-usable water bottle, we’d be saving a lot of water bottles from ending up in the landfill. I started looking around for cool re-usable bottles, ones that would be special to us and ones that we’d take the time to take in and out of our cars/home/office on a daily basis rather than toss in the back next to the baby wipes and strollers. i stumbled upon the sigg cups and read a lot about them, everything good as far as i could tell. they are an aluminum bottle with a special leach proof liner. on top of that, they have cool designs and frankly just look cool. one of the competitors, kleen kanteen just doesn’t quite have the cool factor. my wife, jake, and i each have 2 sigg cups so we always have a clean one to take with us (or when we leave one in the car and are too lazy to go out in the morning to get it, just grab the other. in fact, since we actually have 4 sigg cups between my wife and myself, i’ve been known to collect 2 or 3 in my car before remembering to bring them all in. in fairness to my wife, she does the same thing).

sigg has a great website that allows readers to read all about their products and the company. they also have an environmental message and is a member of 1% For the Planet, donating 1% of their worldwide sales to protection of the environment. sigg cups are available online as well as rei and whole foods. i’m sure more retailers will be selling them in the near future as they are really catching on. they have several designs to choose from and some very cool colors. they also have kid sizes too although we quickly found out that our son, jake, wanted the bigger size like us.

a sigg cup justs makes sense. for the environment and for your health. i remember when we used to buy the arrowhead or crystal geyser bottles, we could end up with a lot of empty bottles in the backseat in the course of a couple of weeks. now we don’t do that anymore, and that’s a good thing.