Tag Archives: green

Gyms

Are they worth it?

I generally prefer to be in the great outdoors in northern CA and don’t like working out in gyms. However, I found myself trying out gyms in NYC because I visit often for work. I wanted to keep up my training in the dark winter months and rehab from an injury, with good, qualified trainers at the gym. I also wanted work on upper body and core strength training, to balance out my running and hiking, and join group fitness classes.

Many said gym membership is expensive, but I found myself spending more on a la carte group fitness classes (like yoga) per month vs monthly gym membership (unlimited classes + facilities). Plus, at the time of my sign up there was a special, offering to refund initiation fee. The key is to ask the club for any sign up specials, and your company/professional organization if they offer any gym discounts.

Here are the top three I tried that were close to where I stayed/my activities:
Equinox, NYHRC, The Clay

I did end up joining EQ (single club membership at PH) due to my personal preferences for:  a good range of HQ fitness classes, nice design (warm lighting, very clean, spacious, low key but energetic music, low key members, plants, quiet yoga space during shavasana, etc.), well-maintained facilities, professional staff , trainers and class instructors, no wait time for machines, eucalyptus steam room to clear my breathing passages, discount offer, and proximity to Hudson River park greenway, where I run-walk, etc. If you are on a budget and plan to use only one club, single club (vs all-access) membership is the way to go.

Less expensive options

If I didn’t need the facilities and equipment and only wanted to sign up for group fitness classes with a great number of choices, good for any of my US and worldwide travels (incl. Canada, Australia, etc), I would have signed up with Classpass. (Again email them inquiring about special offers before signing up at full price — they offered me a special right away just for inquiring.) If I just wanted no-frills gym equipment and no group fitness classes, I would sign up with Blink.

Month-to-month membership

This is not advertised, but check with the membership advisor of the gym if this is possible. Sometimes, especially if one is nice and professional about it, the staff will work with you on this. In my case, I visit NYC regularly for work and explained this to them. Due to my special case, I will be able to cancel my year “single club” membership contract without penalty, due to “relocation.” Of course, I will have to show proof of relocation and fulfill all the requirements to do so. Before signing any contract, be absolutely clear about the terms and conditions, especially cancellation and hold policies and fees. Ask questions, if you are unclear.  (Had I signed up with the Clay or NYHRC, the respective staff at these clubs were willing to offer me the same cancellation process.)

Contacts

To try any Equinox in the US, click on this referral link to get an invitation (free pass).

 

For questions on Equinox NYC, click on the referral link above or contact a membership advisor at (212) 243-7600, to try the gyms for free and sign up for membership. (Please tell the staff that RC Brillantes referred you. Disclosure: I do not work for the club, but I would receive a new member reward for a referral.)  Advisors based at the Printing House location can help you sign up for any location. The Highline location is described on the website as “green location designed by esteemed architecture firm Clodagh references the nearby art galleries and Meatpacking District. Environmentally sound details like power-saving lights, recycled glass and weathered steel breathe life into this historic corner of NYC.” Photos

I like that the philosophy is not only to train to be healthy, but also have a healthy environment to work out. It makes perfect sense as a regular feature of every gym. For me, if I don’t feel great working out in my gym, what’s the point?

For NYHRC (NY only), contact super nice, fellow runner-advisor Lenora at lhendley [at] nyhrc.com, visit website or call 212-220-0640 to get a free pass and sign up. NYHRC  has great saltwater pools (the only ones I found accessible in NYC) and recently remodeled most of their facilities. Recommended for swimmers.

Summary

In my experience, trying out four major chains in NYC, you get what you pay for. I did a fair amount of research in the past month (on the gym websites, Time Out, gym costs comparison, asking friends about personal experiences, etc.) because I do workout 4-6x/week, a significant time investment. I also take my health seriously, enjoy-train for amateur trail races in my free time, am recovering from injury, and thus want to work with qualified trainers who can guide me on safely on: building strength, flexibility, endurance, and injury prevention.

 

 

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Green cuisine in Emeryville, CA

Urban Emeryville, CA became our new neighborhood a few weeks ago and I immediately set out to look for local places that serve organic and/or vegetarian-friendly food. There were only a few restaurants listed in the SF bay green business directory. I did some investigating, and was surprised to discover quite a few places tucked into a land dominated by warehouses, businesses, and former factory spaces converted into dwellings.

Organic and vegetarian offerings
Arizmendi bakery +  — A workers cooperative associated with the famous Cheeseboard pizza collective. Offers coffee, food and ingredients made with fair trade and sustainable practices. The rich chocolate cookie made with chocolate chips and a hint of mint was divine. (It happens to be vegan.) The bread made with cherries and dark Guittard chocolate is also recommended for chocolate lovers.
Cafe Biere — In addition to an extensive beer menu, Biere offers organic greens and food from local sources.
Manzanita macrobiotic restaurant — The food here was fresh, nourishing, and thoughtfully prepared mostly vegan fare.

Vegetarian-friendly places
(recommended by friends)
Wally’s Cafe — A tiny, hidden place serving Mediterranean food near the Bank Cafe. Yelp reviewers reported that a poster for the film “Wall-E” by Pixar hung on a wall, and that its employees frequented the place. (The company is a few blocks away.)
Hong Kong East Ocean — Mainly a special occasion banquet and Dim Sum place with a nice view of the bay.
Pamir Afghan cuisine — It’s in the Emeryville Public Market+
I’ve only eaten at Manzanita and Arizmendi so far. I look forward to trying the rest of the places on the list!

Caterers
Back to Earth +
Paulding +
Amiee Alan

Grow your own

Photo: J. Hanson, via flickr.com

Photo: J. Hanson, via flickr.com

Emeryville Organic Community Garden
I was told by a community member that she’s been on the wait list for years! I plan to sign up for a plot and wait patiently.

Beyond Emeryville: Recent finds in the East Bay
Berkeley:
Chickopeas
— Best freshest organic falafel I have ever had. Tasty salads too. The menu says: Chickopeas uses over 90% compostable utensils. Organic ingredients when possible. The menus are printed on recycled paper.
Thai Thai — Best Thai food I’ve tasted in the East Bay. Wild brown rice available. Fresh and organic. Take-out only. It is located in the Epicurious Garden building.
Berkeley Bowl West (BBW) market — “About one-quarter of the produce section is organic, with much of it coming from family farms.” Natural and organically raised meat too. Source:“Berkeley Bowl West Opens,” sfgate.com
Tofu Yu vegetarian and organic cafe — Located one block from BBW.
Note: Also see post reviewing Ajanta+ & Zatar+ restaurants in Berkeley.

Oakland:
Burma Superstar, Temescal — Most dishes can be made vegetarian upon request. When I visited, the food was lighter (less oily) and more delicious than the SF branch.

Kaiser Oakland Farmers’ market — I usually shop at the all organic farmers’ market in Berkeley, which was closer to my former home. I found the webpage for Kaiser Oakland organic farmers market, which is closer to Emeryville.

Bon appétit!

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+ Denotes places listed in the SF Bay Area Green Business Program directory. These “local businesses comply with all environmental regulations and take actions to conserve resources, prevent pollution, and minimize waste.”

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Smile high

She is quietly massaging my feet, re-balancing my energy points with her magic hands and organic lotion. I am reclining and looking, through orange color-therapy glasses, at the wooden angel hanging below the skylight, hanging in mid flight. Soft contemporary lounge music plays in the background. The woman to the left covers me with a soft fleece blanket and tucks me in.  Colorful, moving mandalas hypnotize me on the screen above as I lay relaxed with my neck cradled by a soft crescent pillow. Is this what first class feels like on Singapore airlines?

The man with the protruding sci-fi glasses to my right sticks a metal instrument in my mouth and painlessly yanks my temp bridge out.  Yep, I’m at the office of the dentist — the Transcendentist, the “first dental office to be certified as a green business.”

I am offered Bose noise canceling headphones.  The Dr. uses a high-pitched instrument to shape my new bridge.

My journey to the green dentist
I am the neo-vegetarian who ate jawbreakers and pop rocks as a child, who found out too late that brushing plus flossing everyday is recommended. I had many visits to various serious, unsmiling dentists. Scenes from the film Little Shop of Horrors took over my brain preceding every visit. I often avoided going for years, even for a yearly check up (not recommended).

Last month, my bridge broke while I was eating a sticky turnip cake at the Slanted Door. I tried to put it into a napkin with subtlety in front of my date. For the rest of the meal, I attempted to be graceful as I tried to eat only on one side of my mouth. I realized that after four years it was time to find a new dentist. I also needed to replace worn-down fillings. Friends sent me some very good recommendations and I interrogated all of them and some holistic dentists with a set of questions about their customer service, costs and green practices.

Since there was extensive dentistry work to be done, I hoped for the best professional, empathetic, and gentle care. The sound of a dentist’s drill alone made me tense. I dreamed of a dentist’s office with a nice environment and “good production value” (perhaps this is because I have worked on film sets). Through research, Berkeley Parents Network, and an article in Yoga Journal, I found my new dentist.

What is a green dentist?
The past couple of times I mentioned my new, green dentist to friends, they all gave me funny looks. Yes, laugh all you want, but I get perks like a massage and herbal tea when I go to the dentist.  I too was skeptical before I went for my first visit, but wanted to at least try it out.  They asked me, what makes a dentist “green?” The office received green business certification from the government’s Bay Area Green Business program, and like other participating businesses following criteria set by the program. In fact, the website lists all kinds of green businesses and practitioners such as attorneys, chiropractors, economists, landscapers, real estate agents, and mannequin vendors.

“General Practices
1. Monitor and record rates of water and energy usage and solid and hazardous waste generation.
2. Provide three on-going incentives or training opportunities to encourage management and employee participation.
3. Inform your customers about your business’ efforts to meet the Green Business Standards.
4. Assist at least one other business in learning about the Green Business Program and encourage them to enroll.”

The program’s website lists these general practices for participants, and also gives specific instructions for these practices.

The doc is a member of the ADA, is a DDS, and uses conventional anesthesia. What is not conventional is that his practice has a “commitment to environmentally sound business practices.” The website lists eco-dentistry practices, including “digital imaging (not traditional x-rays), which means 75 to 90% less radiation for our clients.”

Moreover, the doc’s short biography reads like a movie:

“Dr. Fred fulfilled a life-long dream of studying with a meditation master in India and moved to the Himalayas. While there, he created a Western-style dental clinic and until late 2000, served as personal dentist to a renowned Indian guru and provided dental care to clients from around the world…” [excerpt]

One day, I’ll ask Dr. Fred jokingly if enlightenment improves teeth. (I really am curious.) Better yet, if he doesn’t mind me asking, how were the teeth of the guru?

It is the end  of the appointment. I still feel the masseuse’s hands on the energy points of my feet (though they are no longer there). It’s like the way they feel after a good acupuncture session. The masseuse has covered my feet with a soft blanket. The doctor is checking his work and asking me how I am feeling since he installed my new bridge. I still feel the discomfort when work is done close to nerves — like visits to any other dentist. However, at this office, I definitely feel pampered and more relaxed during and after each procedure. I rinse at the sink where I am provided with an herbal mouth rinse, homeopathic arnica, and a soothing hot towel on a bamboo plate to freshen up.

On my way out, I drink an elixir in the reception area. The reception area feels more like that of a CMT than a DDS. There are herbal tea offerings, natural light, soothing music, and reading selections such as the book Meditative Spaces. I wave goodbye to the yoga pants-wearing staff, and the Iron Goddess of Mercy statue behind them.

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The Transcendentist can be found in Berkeley, CA near the Claremont hotel and spa.

To find a green business in the San Francisco bay area, visit the Bay Area Green Business program website
“Over 1,000 businesses and public agencies have been certified since 1997.”

If you have a green business program website and directory in your region, or green business shout-out, please share it in the comments section.  I have been unable to find a national or worldwide directory of green businesses on the web.

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Investing, bombs, booze, butts

Have you heard of the Vice Fund?

Profits and Principles, a fascinating article published in the Guardian in 2008, and the 2006 Forbes article Roll of The Dice describe the fund. Daniel Ahrens is co-founder of the Vice Fund.

Proinsias O’Mahoney of the Guardian reports:

“Unashamedly unethical, its founder, Dan Ahrens, even wrote a book entitled Booze, Bets, Bombs and Butts based on its favoured sectors – alcohol, gambling, armaments and pornography – which traditionally have all been excluded from ethical funds. The fund has outperformed the S&P 500, an index of America’s 500 largest firms, in each of its five years of existence and is ranked in the top 2% of US funds.”

On the flip side, there is socially responsible investing.  While researching retirement funds, I came across the concept of socially responsible investment (SRI), which was very appealing to me. What is socially responsible investment?

In the Bloomberg article AHA Fund Beats Rivals With `Responsible’ Energy Picks, Sree Vidya Bhaktavatsalam and Christopher Condon write:

“Socially responsible funds seek to profit without investing in companies engaged in activities they deem ethically reprehensible or detrimental to the environment, with each fund setting its own criteria. “

The controversy over how “ethical” is interpreted in relation to funds is described in the article.  “More people are putting their money into ethical funds. But many might be shocked to learn how it’s being invested.”  Read the complete article Profits and Principles. Other articles on personal investing and SRIs are:

Five Great Green Funds from Kiplinger

Shareholder Shout-out from National Geographic’s The Green Guide

Mutual Interests: Finding Your Way To a Greener Retirement from National Geographic’s The Green Guide

A related article from the Wall Street Journal is Obama Sells Investment With Link to Sudan. It briefly talks about how the Senator transferred his retirement money in that fund to Vanguard’s FTSE Social Index Fund.

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Who is Thimmakka?

We ate at Ajanta Indian restaurant in Berkeley last night with our friends Dan and Allyson. Ajanta serves dishes made with organic and sustainable ingredients. I ordered my favorite dish, Methi Machi (with mahi mahi instead of catfish) along with brown basmati rice. The light red sauce is cooked with dill, spices, onion, garlic and ginger. Yummy. The menu had a sticker on it saying Thimmakka certified green. According to the website:

“When you see Thimmakka’s seal posted proudly in any restaurant, be sure to make a note of it; these restaurants have been certified as green businesses through their efforts to produce less air pollution, reduce the costs of health care and landfill fees, consume and create less waste, and avoid the use of toxic chemicals.”

That was the first time I heard of Thimmakka. I wondered what the difference is between this organization and The Bay Area Green Business Program.  The Thimakka web page History tells the story of an Indian woman by that name who planted lots of Banyan trees, and more:

“…Thimmakka designed its green restaurants program (then known as GER – Greening Ethnic Restaurants) to meet the constraints of the limited resources and the diverse language and cultural barriers of restaurant owners and workers.”

Both sites have lists of businesses they certified.  Ajanta is listed as a Green restaurant on the Green Business Program site too, along with Zatar, our friend Dani recommends as the best middle eastern restaurant in the area.  Zatar offers organic fruits and veggies in their meals, according to its site. We will definitely try that resto next!

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Welcome to the Green cloud

This is a place to share thoughts and exchange tips on stepping lightly on the earth and Green living. Your comments are welcome.

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