Tom and I just achieved our long-held dream of acquiring a Honda Insight for my use (although at this moment, Tom is so excited about the car, he's driving me almost everywhere I need to go!). The Honda Insight is a marvel of alternative energy engineering. It is THE original hybrid gas/electric "Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle" (SULEV), on the market a few months before the Toyota Prius in the year 2000.
This was the third Insight we considered buying in the last four years. The first two were in poor condition, had high miles, and were priced too high. This one has low miles, is in excellent condition, and was priced right, so we sold my car in a heartbeat, and pounced!
When we first saw this Insight, the average fuel mileage since 2000 was 58.5mpg. Since then, Tom's been refining his use of efficient driving strategies) and increasing my training on same. This is a method of driving that helps you to increase your miles per gallon, no matter what fuel you use in your car, even gasoline. So we reset the mpg calculator, and . . . .
For the first few days of driving, we've averaged 67mpg around town, and we're looking forward to way reduced fuel costs. My previous petro-fuel-only car did about 1/3 of that. We loved our 300hp Audi, which we purchased on eBay, but had been looking forward to replacing it with an alternative fuel vehicle for almost as long as we've had it. The Insight has 56hp, and the electric system boosts its power.
One more thing about this amazing vehicle: it's all aluminum (so performs more safely in crashes than those of steel construction) and weighs only 1,900 pounds. The design incorporates sophisticated use of aerodynamics, and everything about this car is designed to increase fuel efficiency. The only problem is it is so light weight it doesn't trigger the stoplight at the corner where we leave our neighborhood, so I'm always backing up, going forward, backing up, going forward, until, at last the light is triggered! (2015, still having the same problem!)
This car is Low-Emission-Vehicle (LEV) certified by the EPA and
California Air Resources Board (CARB) Certified. We think we'll be very happy with this until an equally aerodynamically designed Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) enters the secondary market.
Our Sustainability Commitment
Crystal Realm is committed to reducing our impact on the environment at every opportunity. Tom and I work constantly to reduce the carbon footprint of our business and our home. Since our business is in our home, work on one impacts the other.
We're also committed to working with artists and vendors who exemplify ethical business practices and who work to reduce negative environmental impacts.
I'll start by outlining some of the practices that Tom and I have already put into place in our home/office. Then I'll describe the ethical and environmental practices of some of our most important vendors, including our world-class diamond supplier.
Crystal Realm Home/Office
1. Web-Based Business
By 2005, we had closed our three stores and gone totally web-based. Shopping online is a great way to reduce your energy use and ours. Instead of 200 people a day driving their cars to our stores, now you and our other customers order online. At most, 2 vehicles per day pick up all of our shipments and distribute them through existing channels of delivery.
2. Reuse, Reuse, Reuse!
As of 2013, we have completely eliminated inbound shipments packed with "peanuts," so we no longer have to reuse them. We no longer ship any gift items, so we no longer have to purchase peanuts of any variety, even the biodegradable cellulose ones.
The only vendor we work with that uses shipping peanuts is our toasting flute and wine glass maker. They ship directly to you on our behalf, so if you order these, you'll get some peanuts.
What few packing materials that do come our way, we reuse, of course!
The jewelry industry as a whole has large, usually negative, environmental impacts. We and our jewelers tend to work with companies that are actively mitigating these impacts. There are many initiatives in place that I will write about as time permits. For now, there are a few notes about some of our vendors at the bottom of this page.
3. Reuse Some More
Over the last three years, we've reduced our waste products going to the landfill or to recycling by about 80%. (2015 update, we have probably achieved a 90% reduction at this point.)
4. Buy Recycled and Reuse
We use recycled building materials at every opportunity. For painting, we use low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) paints. All our computers now come from a computer recycler. We have reduced our computer costs enormously, and we enjoy the latest in operating systems while knowing we have saved some computers from the landfill.
4. Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
By 2009 we had changed almost all our light bulbs to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL's) that use only about 7-13 watts, rather than incandescents that use 60 or more watts. The compact fluorescents not only used less energy, but they lasted many times longer than incadescent bulbs. Converting just one conventional light bulb to a compact fluorescent bulb can save you up to $30 in electric costs over its lifetime. But now it is 2015, and almost all of our bulbs are now ultra-efficient LED bulbs, even more energy saving than CFL's. Now the lifetime savings are much greater than $30 per bulb.
5. Reducing Fuel Use
Closing 3 stores and going totally web-based reduced our fuel use by two-thirds. Then we went further . . . Tom converted his pickup to run on waste vegetable oil. This is food-grade oil that's already been used to feed people, and it can be filtered and used to run a diesel vehicle. This is only a small-scale solution, but it works for now for Tom's truck and the folks in the few cooperatives we're in touch with. (We are opposed to the use of food crop land for fuel crops; the difference with waste vegetable oil is that it's already been used for food.)
6. More Energy Reduction
We've reduced the energy used by our swamp cooler by approx. 60% simply by covering skylights in the summer with garden shade fabric and doing the same with windows on the west side of the house. We've reduced our dryer use to zero by hanging clothes outside to dry during dry weather, which is almost all the time here in sunny Albuquerque, NM.
7. Eat Local!
This isn't really business related, but we are huge fans of locally grown food. We believe it is important to support local small farms by shopping at the local growers' markets. And this year (2012), we had our own harvests of apricots, grapes, apples, summer squash, chard, and heirloom tomaotes. Our chickens provide fresh, free-range, organic eggs, and our bees furnish us with the most delicious honey imaginable! 2015: Our backyard farm is still hopping with life, activity, and wonderful foods!
8. The Next Step
We've salvaged enough four inch foam insulation to reinsulate our entire house, including the roof; enough solar water panels to provide all hot water and to heat the house/office, and just need to find the time to insulate, restucco, and get the systems set up. Our 2-3 year goal is to also switch to photovoltaics for electricty production, so that we can run our electric meter in reverse. By the time we're done with our complete energy-reduction plan, we will likely have reduced our energy use by 90%.
Our Vendors' Commitments to Ethical Business Practices and Sustainability
Stuller, Inc., our world-class diamond vendor has published their commitments to ethical business practices from the mine to your custom jewelry item.
Please read the Stuller, Inc. policy.
Rio Grande Albuquerque
RGA is another long-time jewelry parts and tool supplier for Crystal Realm (since 1984. RGA has diligently worked on its supply chain to ensure that all of its product offerings are made in ways that are not harmful to the environment, that all are made under more-than-fair labor conditions, and that everyone in their supply chain receives equitable pay.
Gold mining is known now to be extremely harmful to the environment and very dangerous to its laborers. Therefore, ethically principled businesses are turning more and more to gold refineries that rely on reclaimed gold, rather than newly mined gold. We are committed to doing business with jewelers and suppliers who are committed to ethically sourced materials. We also now offer palladium as an important alternative to gold. A platinum family metal with the color and durability of platinum, palladium is priced more like gold. For palladium engagement rings, we mount the diamond or gemstone in a platinum setting, because most of our settings are not available in palladium. The exception is our new triskele princess-cut setting, now available on the Juliet puzzle ring.