Friday, September 23, 2005

Riding Rita: Outer bands Hit soft Near Lake Livingston

11:01 pm - We are in between bands and the wind is down here. In fact, it is so quiet we can hear the crickets and the treefrogs cgirping - but we still have a steady wind in the treetops, about 20-25 mph. Lower down near the ground it is quiet, and the rain is still just sprinkles. Occassional heavy gusts. We are watching firefighters try to contain a fire that is consuming three historic buildings in Galveston at the corner of 19th street and Post Office. These buildings are just a block from the Strand, the historic district of old galveston - they do up Mardis Gras there each year, but not as good as new orleans.

Judy is using this time to sleep upstairs before the big winds hit us in a couple of hours. The cat, Einstein, is busy palying with his toys and hiding under the ottoman, Cooked some of the food since the power will go out soon. In Houston and the near areas at least 95,000 people are without power so far. A fresh report out from the State of Texas says that Houston is drained of gasoline, and they are requesting that evacuees stay away until the Harris county Judge gives the okay to come back. More than 2.7 million people were evacuated, and the traffic was so bad that the is no gas anywhere in the evacuation flow zones, no motel/hotel rooms, and a lot of these folks had to be taken into hastily set up shelter sites. My wife's work, Sam Houston State University, is one of those shelters that have taken in stranded motorists, housing them in the coloseum. They have already told Judy tht she should not report in until Tuesday. Nothing left on the store shelves in east Texas. Many people died waiting in traffic while evacuating, 100 degree heat and no shade, reports of 31 hours trips, one bus exploded into flame and killed 24 rest home evacuees on oxygen near Wilmer, south of Dallas. Amazing. More later if possible.


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"I'm not green, but I could be," reads one. Others have similar messages printed on them, "My Bag", "Use Me and Re-use Me".

Since the Chinese government issued its June 1 ban on free plastic bag handouts, retailers in China have found themselves in the midst of a "green" phenomenon.

They're anxious to turn fashion-conscious customers into eco-aware shoppers.

Under the new regulations, free plastic bags are banned and shopkeepers are required to charge shoppers for plastic bags. The prices vary, but range from 0.2 yuan ($0.03) to 1 yuan ($0.14) depending on the size of the bag.

But, a plain bag is far from satisfactory for the China's fashion-conscious - and this mindset is pushing the country towards a "green revolution" in the closets.

"It is cool to carry a simple colored eco bag to go with my Levi's jeans and sneakers," says 21-year-old Huang Min. "It is a direct way to contribute to environmental protection. And, it is a popular vision for saving the planet."

The Beijing college student wears her new eco bag proudly on her shoulder. It is an important part of her outfit - and has a statement to make.

Eco bags are increasingly being seen as fashionable as more and more celebrities appear on "green issue" magazine covers with the reusable bags matching their outfits.

"Going green" appears to be a growing trend. Stars as big as Madonna have even dazzled "green-oriented" magazines. The artist was chosen to dazzle the cover of Vanity Fair's third annual May 2008 Green Issue.

As environmental issues spill into the fashion world, the "green shopping bag" campaign seems to be a win-win solution for all those involved.

Companies can adopt the bags as a brand-building tool. Consumers see it as an iconic statement against throwaway plastics - which have previously been given away in the billions annually. The "green movement" has been seeping on to fashion runways and marketing strategies - so why not on shopping bags and totes?

Muji, a Japanese lifestyle store established nearly 30 years ago, launched its own version of "My Bag" when it opened its first Beijing store in Joy City this March. The simple yet stylish bags made from linen and cotton threads have sold well over the past few months in the capital, according to Muji staff. Initially, they sold bags ranging from 5 to 100 yuan, but now they only have bags priced from 24 to 100 yuan remaining.

"People of different ages love the bags because they are light, simple and convenient," says one of the shop's workers Chen Weimi.

"To reduce waste and conserve resources, we encourage our consumers to use 'My Bag'," says the store's manager Akita Toru.

Other well-known international brands are also striving to set the eco trend in Beijing. Diesel, Marc Jacobs and DKNY have also released low-priced eco bags made of organic cotton.

And, apart from the big international names, young designers based in Beijing are also working on the green bags.

"Young people in China are aware of the environment and want to do what they can to protect it, especially when it is becoming a trend," says 30-year-old designer Peng Haofeng, from Yunnan province.

Together, with two other friends, the three opened a green-themed store, Kidults, or Tong Huo in Chinese, last November on Dongsi Street. The company aims to promote the green fashion concept among the Beijing people.

According to the store's marketing manager, Gou Chenglong, many people were unaware of the eco bag concept when the store first opened last year.

"People, especially the older generation would not accept the idea because they didn't think about the simple green bag value that much. But, half a year later, more and more people here are becoming aware of the eco-bags or eco-fashion trend, especially when the government issued the ban on plastic bags at supermarkets in Beijing. It is a good start."

With handmade pictures on them, the bags look trendy and self-expressive. The bags generally contain no dyes and are known for their creative trims and decorations made from wood or bamboo.

"The price is normal and acceptable for students and office workers," says 26-year-old Zhou Fei, as she rifled through the bags at Kidults ranging from 15 yuan to 100 yuan. "I am a frequent buyer of green bags and T-shirts."

"It would be fashionable to carry beautifully designed cloth bags rather than monotonous white plastic ones down the street."

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