Luxury is going green. From eco-friendly five-star hotels to designer clothes made with organic fabrics, it seems we can't get enough of these higher-minded -- and often higher-priced -- goods and services.
Environmentalists are critical of the green spending craze, arguing that sustainability means living more simply and buying less. But if consumers aren't ready to stop splurging on luxury products, why not support earth-friendly practices along the way?
Here are some suggestions for green spenders:
Impress your dinner guests with designer
-- they're not just one-of-a kind, they're also recycled. Her "Rehabilitated Dishware" collection, made with re-glazed thrift-store ceramics, includes saucy dishes with images of pinup girls, and more demure handiwork with butterflies and sparrows over pastel backgrounds. Plates range from $34 to $59 each, available at New York's Clio, Los Angeles' Zelen and other home décor stores around the country.
Scent it right. Candles made from soybean oil are greener than candles made from paraffin, a byproduct of petroleum, because they come from a renewable resource and support soy farming. They also last longer and produce little or no soot. Portuguese soap and candle maker Claus Porto's soy candles exude fragrances like pear sandalwood and burn for 70 hours. Sold at
organic towels use 100% organic cotton, grown without the use of toxic pesticides. The processing is also toxin-free: no dioxin bleaches (studies have shown that exposure to dioxins at high doses can cause a number of adverse health effects) or chemical dyes. The spa-quality Turkish towels have 900 grams per square meter (conventional towels have between 300-400 gsm). Bath towels cost $58.
300-thread-count organic cotton sheets are finished without harsh chemical softeners or bleaches. A queen size set costs $188.
Wear something old, something new. Sustainable label
employs Alabama quilters and seamstresses to make unique and edgy embroidered dresses and T-shirts from recycled and organic fabrics.
Natalie Chanin, who co-founded the brand Project Alabama back in 2000, is a pioneer of socially conscious fashion. Her new brand includes a $120 gray organic cotton corset top with stitching details, and a $450 striped silk and cashmere tank with coral appliqués. Sold at Barney's New York and
Make a statement with denim.
women's and men's jeans are made with certified organic cotton from Turkey, Peru, Africa, India and the U.S. The New York-based label works with manufacturers that participate in responsible processes, from the fabric mills, to the cut and sew facilities. Jeans sell
Tread lightly with eco-friendly shoes, like
Dogwood leather boots for men, which meet The International Organization for Standardization's environmental standards.
Seventy percent of the sole is molded from natural latex harvested from the Hevea tree. The company recently launched a Garment Recycling Program, urging customers to return their used baselayers, fleece garments and organic cotton T-shirts to be recycled into polyester fabric for new clothes. $130.
On the Road
Stay powered with a solar bag. Juice Bags, made from recycled or biodegradable materials, are equipped with solar panels to charge cellphones, iPods and other 12-volt devices. The stylish beach tote has a canvas exterior and a flexible solar panel made up of 52 solar cells, with a built-in car lighter adapter socket. You just plug your device into the adapter, the same way as in a car. When sunlight falls on the Juice Bag's solar panel, it generates electricity.
Get a green room. Many city hotels are taking cues from eco-lodges, introducing energy and water conservation programs, recycling and other earth-friendly practices.
, an award-winning, environmentally responsible chain of hotels in the U.S. and Canada, uses nontoxic cleaning products, has recycling bins, and honor bars with organic food. Find more green hotels around the world
. The site lets users narrow their search by options such as water conservation or green education programs for the staff.
Groom naturally. Eminence Organics travel kit includes a sweet red rose cleanser, rose-hip and Maize exfoliating masque, stone crop masque, apricot whip moisturizer for day and naseberry cream for night. The Canada-based line uses herbs, fruits and vegetables organically grown on a Hungarian farm powered by solar and wind energy.
Paola Singer is a free-lance writer based in New York City. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and Hemispheres magazine.