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  • How green is your dry cleaner?
  • One easy way to check is to ask if they use PERC or not.

It seems that dry cleaners have been riding the green wave in Houston this year. Countless dry cleaning businesses have recently rebranded themselves as being “eco-friendly.”

But as is the case with many “green” businesses, it’s important for the consumer to conduct independent research to determine whether or not those environmentally focused claims are true or more greenwashing. Here are three key questions that you should ask to determine if your dry cleaner is as green as it says:

Do they use PERC?

This is the big one: most dry cleaners use a cleaning solvent called perchloroethylene, also known as PERC. In addition to polluting the air and water, PERC is believed to be a human carcinogen, and inhalation of fumes can cause severe health problems.

Fortunately, several alternative methods exist — and they all leave your clothes smelling better and last longer than PERC does.

Do they recycle plastic and hangers?

Wire hangers are notorious for causing closet organization crises, and I would advise most gentlemen to transfer their shirts to wood hangers for storage. However, that doesn’t mean that you should throw those old wire hangers away.

Take them back to your cleaners, and they should recycle them and use them for other customers. A green dry cleaner should also provide a bin for you to recycle the plastic garment bags, just in case you don’t have recycling in your neighborhood.

Where’s the cleaning done?

Many dry cleaners operate storefront locations throughout the city, but the clothes themselves are often actually cleaned offsite. However, it’s best to try to support a dry cleaner that does its cleaning onsite. Not only are the waiting times reduced, but less gas is wasted constantly transporting clothes to and from storefronts.

If your dry cleaner is doing all of these things, then it actually is "eco friendly", even though the phrase may be absent from its name.

New Embassy Suites plans to keep it green — Ruggles Green — downtown

Foodie News

The new Embassy Suites Downtown has made an effort to stick to the eco-friendly example set by its neighbor, Discovery Green.

The 262-room hotel that opened in February is the first LEED-certified hotel in Houston's downtown, with a sustainable design, construction and operation as well as recycling, water and energy conservation programs.

Now the commitment to going green will extend to the hotel restaurant. CultureMap has learned that Embassy Suites is in serious discussions on opening a new Ruggles Green as a street-level lunch and dinner restaurant inside the hotel. Ruggles Green, an offshoot of Bruce Molzan's Ruggles Grill, is certified by the Green Restaurant Association for its recycling and conservation programs and use of sustainable products. There are already two Ruggles Green restaurants (in River Oaks and CityCentre) in Houston.

No word on when we can expect an opening. An official announcement about a new Ruggles Green in the Embassy Suites could happen as early as May.

Are you a Ruggles Green fan? Would it make the new Embassy Suites more of a draw?

  • A number of professional and consumer products were on display, like these CFincandescent bulbs.
    Photo by Dillon Sorensen
  • GE's Lighting Revolution truck was camped out at the Omni Hotel at Eldridge andI-10, in the heart of Houston’s bustling Energy Corridor.
    Photo by Dillon Sorensen
  • Power meters were placed strategically throughout the facility so that visitorscould monitor the efficiency of the new equipment.
    Photo by Dillon Sorensen

Making energy-efficient light bulbs more pleasing to the eye: Enter the LightingRevolution

GE on Tour

When it comes to “going green,” one of the first steps that many consumers take is changing out their light bulbs for more energy efficient options. It makes sense: eco-friendly fluorescent light bulbs often last longer and end up being less costly than their incandescent counterparts.

While every conscious effort makes a difference, however, the reality is that replacing the bulb in a lamp or two isn’t the key to preventing climate change or environmental damage.

But if architects, lighting designers and business owners take steps to implement cutting-edge lighting and electrical technologies into large-scale projects, a significant difference can be made. And this year, GE has embarked on the Lighting Revolution Tour with hopes of doing just that.

Recently, the Lighting Revolution truck camped out at the Omni Hotel at Eldridge and I-10, in the heart of Houston’s bustling Energy Corridor. The setup included demonstrations of various new technologies, some currently available and some still in development.

Most of the items on display could only be fully appreciated by someone truly knowledgeable about lighting, but members of the expert staff were still kind enough to give me a tour.

I was perhaps most impressed with GE’s efforts to develop new lighting management technologies in addition to new bulbs. For example, a new system of ultra-efficient fluorescent bulbs has been developed in conjunction with an automatic photo sensor that adjusts the light level based on the amount of natural light present in a room.

Some consumers find that fluorescent bulbs can make a room feel cold and industrial. However, GE has perfected the technology and created bulbs that don’t look excessively artificial. It’s no longer necessary to sacrifice aesthetics for eco-friendliness.

In addition to fluorescents, GE has been working to perfect LED light bulb technology. In recent years, GE has helped large corporations integrate LED and Fluorescent technologies into their operation. For example, the brand has developed lighting for WalMart’s parking lots and produce sections alike.

But even if you’re just looking to revamp the lighting in your residence, it’s important to consider eco-friendly options.

  • Rick Ehrlich keeps about 8-12 electric cars on the lot of his EaDo dealership.Houston Electric Cars has both highway ready and non highway ready vehicles, newand used.
    Photo by Dillon Sorensen
  • The interior of Rick's Zenn, which estimates costs him about two cents per miledrive.
    Photo by Dillon Sorensen
  • A summer electricity bill for Houston Electric Cars. "It costs less than fortycents per night to charge one car," Rick explained.
    Photo by Dillon Sorensen

Before Leaf, Volt or Prius, Rick Erhlich's all electric car dealership wasbuzzing

Driving Green

If you’re anything like me – or the average Houstonian, for that matter – you do a lot of driving. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average Houstonian drives 36 miles per day. Houston is a fantastic city, but it does have its downsides, and chief among them is urban sprawl. It’s no secret that driving is necessary in order to get anywhere in town.

Unlike New York or Chicago, Houston is also lacking in pubic transportation infrastructure. The METRO Light Rail is a great first step, and I look forward to its expansion. But until that happens, most Houstonians will continue to rely on their automobiles for daily commuting.

Enter Houston Electric Cars. “It doesn’t make sense to talk about green living without addressing the No. 1 cause of pollution in America,” said owner Rick Ehrlich as he showed me around what he bills as "Houston's first all electric car dealership."

The average American family produces 10 to 25 tons of pollution per year just from vehicle exhaust. In fact, vehicle exhaust makes up the majority of most Americans’ carbon footprint. According to Ehrlich, “Families can lower their pollution count easily by trading one gas guzzler in for an electric car.”

In recent months, there has been a lot of talk about the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, and other new electric cars that are now available in select regions. But electric car technology has been around for almost twice as long as gasoline powered vehicles, and cars are available now at Houston Electric Cars that are much less expensive than the Leaf. In fact, the cheapest model at Houston Electric Cars costs $1,975.

Erlich took me for a ride in his personal Zenn, which weighs about 1,360 lbs. While the small form factor may make the vehicle unsafe for highway driving, we had no problems zipping around the streets of EaDo, where the dealership is located. He estimates that the Zenn costs him about two cents per mile drive. “There are no moving parts, and the only things that require maintenance are the tires and brakes.”

As for charging time, it takes about eight hours to go from zero to one hundred percent.

But I was still skeptical: Doesn’t it cost a lot of money to charge one of these things? And doesn’t electricity generation still depend on the use of fossil fuels?

“I keep around 8-12 electric cars on the lot, and my electric bills are generally around $50-$70 a month, depending on the time of year,” Erlich explained. He then proceeded to pull out his Green Mountain Energy electric bills to prove his point.

“Texas has more windmills than any other state in the country, and so consumers who want to power their cars with clean electricity can switch to Green Mountain without incurring many additional costs. And even if you charge your car with a ‘dirty’ electric bill, it’s cleaner than the cleanest hybrid.” He also explained that solar charging units are dramatically decreasing in price.

After losing his job several years ago, Rick opened his dealership, which originally started as a Zenn franchise. Since then, he has expanded his offerings and made it his personal mission to teach people that electric cars can work for everybody, due to their extremely low cost.

Houston Electric Cars also offers full electric car conversion services and sells hybrid to plug-in hybrid kits. With one of these, owners of hybrid vehicles can convert their cars and not use any gasoline.

Rick’s vehicles may not be ready for cross-country road trips, but they are perfect for those who just need an efficient vehicle to get around town, and a fantastic way to truly go green.

Trashing Texas: On the list of America's 25 Greenest Cities, Houston gets thrownaway

Toxic haterade

It's easy for everyone to be a green fiend on Earth Day. But now that the 24 most eco-hours have come and gone, it's time to find out who's the greenest of them all.

Ever the pioneers of list-making, the esteemed Daily Beast has culled a comprehensive catalog of America's 25 Greenest Cities. It includes some relatively predictable locations around the country, like San Francisco, Seattle and Albuquerque, N.M.

But with inclusions such as Las Vegas and Tucson, Ariz. — cities smack dab in the middle of the desert, the very existence of which wouldn't be possible without a tacit acquiescence that squandering resources is completely legit — we're obligated to call this compilation into question.

Oh, and did we mention that Houston didn't even break into the Beast's top 25?

We now give you full permission to peacefully protest with picket signs constructed from recycled materials.

In sussing out the greenest metropolises with 100,000 inhabitants or more, the Beast made determinations based on four areas of analysis: Whether residents truly thought and behaved green in their daily lives, how many residents recycle, the average weekday trips residents make on public transportation and the percentage of homes heated by solar energy.

In a fifth area, negative points were awarded to cities where people admitted that environmental issues weren't of any interest to them.

Taking all of the above into consideration, Houston got tossed to the curb, like, well, yesterday's trash. As did every major city in Texas, for that matter.

Oh dear. Where do we even begin? Sigh.

Being excluded feels a bit like a slap in the face (OK, so maybe just a swat on the arm, but still), considering the Bayou City was bumped from the list for the likes of notoriously earth-conscious cities like, um, New York and Lafayette, Ind.

We kid you not.

But you know what? No biggie. We're going to take the Beast's biased bulldozing with a grain of organic salt. Fast Company thinks our cowboy-culture-meets-urban-sophistication motif is most excellent, and we're only lovin' on our city more and more by the minute. There's nowhere else to go for Houston but green.

So there.

Putting green cleaning products to the test: Traditional isn't necessarilybetter

Organic Scrubbing

If cleaning your house has you gasping for fresh air from the noxious odors, there are alternatives. A squirt of soap in a bucket of water can do the trick, but how do you know which products won’t harm your house or your body?

Many household cleaning supplies are filled with chemicals and have strong odors, making them bad for your body and the environment. If a product claims they have “green standards,” what are they talking about?

There are many factors that make a product “green,” like biodegradable packaging and not containing petroleum, but many products still claim they aren’t toxic to the environment. Organic products are not highly processed, are composed of organic ingredients including vegetables and oils, and do not use synthetic materials. How do you help yourself distinguish what is quality, affordable and actually works?

CultureMap did the leg work so you can feel good about the elbow grease you’re giving to your home.

First, a few basics and do-it-yourself tips:

  • Remember to keep your windows open to let the fumes out. Especially if you have animals, give them some fresh air while you’re cleaning too.
  • Baking soda and vinegar mixed with warm water is the simplest at-home cleaner that works just about anywhere. Fill a spray bottle with your mix and get to work scrubbing. Add a scent like tea tree oil or peppermint oil for a bonus clean smell.
  • Skip air fresheners and boil cinnamon with cloves, or bake cookies. It will replace the smell of a cleaner in no time.
  • Leave shoes by the door so you don’t bring in dirt, pollen, and dust. It also means less cleaning up if you aren’t dragging dirt through your house.
  • Re-use rags and not paper towels to minimize paper waste when drying your counters or floors.

Green cleaning products:

  • One popular brand is Dr. Bronner’s. Its products are certified under the USDA National Organic Program, and certified Fair Trade. To get started, try the Magic Pure Castle Classic Soaps line. Some reviews show the products are best as body, hair and hand soap, but the liquid soaps can be diluted in 18 different combinations for a variety of cleaning purposes.
  • Shaklee products have been on Oprah’s Favorite Things list three times, and also featured in Real Simple magazine for its stellar performance. Its claim to green fame is that it was the first company in the world to obtain climate neutral certification, resulting in zero impact on the environment. Shaklee's H2 Organic Super Concentrated Cleaner is an all-purpose cleaner for windows, counters and literally anything. A 16 oz. bottle will also last a long time as it's recommended to dilute just two ounces with a bucket of water, or a few drops into a bottle for small surface cleaning, like a stain or scuff.
  • Green Works cleaning supplies are part of the Clorox family, but this line specifically focuses on using more natural ingredients. Its products are plant and mineral based and use biodegradable ingredients. Its all-purpose cleaner is 97 percent naturally derived, with coconut as the primary ingredient. Preservatives, fragrances and dyes make up the other three percent, but Green Works' website says the company is researching ways to make the three percent natural.
  • Method home cleaning is another company with green practices. The products on its website list all ingredients and an explanation of what each ingredient does. Method claims to value the health of its customers by using materials that won’t irritate skin, and the company uses natural, local and renewable ingredients. The all-purpose cleaner comes in fruity flavors like Clementine and French lavender.

Many companies are making efforts to be green. It isn’t easy (or cheap) for a company to “green” its processes, and many of these products are more expensive than the generic competition. Shaklee is only sold online or through its own distributors, but the others can be found in regular grocery stores, Target, or even Lowe's.

Just like organic fruits and vegetables, you are investing in your own health. Treat your home like your body and clean it with the right ingredients.

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Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

Alt-rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers heading to Houston for 2023 North American tour

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.

Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.

Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.

Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Fan-favorite, wood-fired Houston pizzeria quietly opens in the Heights

enough (pizza) to love

A popular Houston pizzeria has opened its second location in the Heights. The Gypsy Poet has begun a quiet soft opening in the former Fegen’s space at 1050 Studewood St.

Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.

Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.

Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.

The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.

The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.