The luxe life, through green lenses, at NYC show | KEYE Austin - Green Right Now Austin News, Weather, Traffic KEYE-TV Austin - HOME
Sep 252009

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

Tesla Roadster

Tesla Roadster

Environmentally-sensitive lifestyles and luxury goods would not, to many of us, seem to go together very well. People who own billion-dollar yachts, for instance, aren’t exactly worrying about their carbon footprint.

But plenty of purveyors of high-end goods hope to fight that assumption. Gathering a few steps from Central Park at Manhattan’s Rouge Tomate restaurant Tuesday, a few dozen companies argued that you can have your lush life and save the planet, too.

Fashion models and a celebrity or two mingled with backpack-toting journalists at the event, but (no offense to the models) the sexiest guest never came in the front door: A Tesla Roadster was parked out front, inviting slack-jawed lust from passersby, right in front of a more modest would-be world-changer, the single-seat NmG from Myers Motors.

Both companies had representatives inside, as did conventional carmakers like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, whose bragging about the 20-something miles per gallon their newest models get sounded pretty underwhelming in light of the plug-ins across the room.

All the autos, though, looked like Earth-savers when compared to the dubious offerings of Greenjets, which is essentially a car-pool in the sky for those who would otherwise travel on private jets. Yes, sharing a plane with a dozen or more of your fellow upper-crusters wastes less fuel than flying solo, but a commercial flight is better still.

In other categories, displays without an obvious environmental link sometimes proved surprisingly compelling. Looking at the many jewelers in attendance, for instance, a skeptic might have rolled his eyes: Beyond donating a slice of sales to green charities, how did any of them help the world? Well, it turns out, some had a pretty good argument. Designer Alberto Parada, for instance, was passionate about the environmental impact of global gold mining (promoting a “No Dirty Gold” campaign that hopes to raise public awareness to equal the controversy over diamond mining) and was proud to say his collection exclusively used gold that had been reclaimed from discarded jewelry.

A plethora of beauty products were available for sampling at Eco-Luxe, from shea butter balms sold through Whole Foods to handmade soaps and a line whose cute packaging described it as “natural beauty for girls”.

Further up the pampering food chain were spas. All offered body treatments with exotic all-natural ingredients or low-impact aspirations, but some went further: Albany’s Complexions spa, which sounds like a much-needed oasis of calm for that politically fractious town, claims to be the state’s “first & only LEED Gold spa & salon.”

For more active recreation, the obligatory array of exercise water bottles was highlighted by one, from The Water Geeks, that did the filtering for you via a screw-in adapter — perfect for carrying around the countryside or urban jungle as you ride an enhanced bike that makes electricity from your pedal and braking action to give you an extra boost when the going gets tough.

Bonterra Wine

Bonterra Wine

And what’s the high life without entertaining? In addition to Rouge Tomate’s quite popular wholesome cocktails (the cucumber one with agave nectar was particularly tasty) were organically produced wines from Bonterra and Korbel and a slew of new flavored offerings from 360 Vodka. Choco-tini, anyone? (A helpful spokesperson at the 360 booth answered a question I’d had about their packaging: Turns out the bottle is “only” 85% recycled content because a higher percentage wouldn’t be strong enough not to break.) And for planning the party to go with all that booze, a designer from Celadon & Celery cheerfully showed off a beautiful “green wall” of succulents planted in materials rescued from a demolished playground.

All in all, the event was far from the greenwashing field day skeptics might have predicted. For every instance of weird aromatherapy or sighting of an evening gown made of cork, there was an entrepreneur who was clearly sincere about making goods that are both desirable and beneficial — or at least not harmful — to the world they come from.

True, almost nothing in the room could be called a necessity. But squeezing through the crush of magazine writers and eco-advocates who mingled, a visitor sensed (and sometimes overheard) a bit of relief that this was less an exercise in easing the guilt of conspicuous consumption than a step toward convincing high-end business that many of their customers care about the long term impact of life’s little pleasures.

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