A Laptop Sleeve to Love from GreenSmart

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The Saola Tahoe laptop cover from GreenSmart will cushion your laptop with a stylish and eco-friendly fabric.

The Saola Tahoe laptop sleeve from GreenSmart will cushion your laptop with a stylish and eco-friendly fabric.

Like you (I’m making an assumption here, but it’s a fair one since you’re reading this website), I hate the idea of billions of single-use plastic water and soda bottles going to waste, littering our waterways and landscape. It’s about time someone figured out a way to put those discarded bottles to good use. GreenSmart has done just that with a rugged and cool-looking laptop sleeve.

I was intrigued, though frankly a bit skeptical, when I received an offer of a laptop sleeve made from recycled water bottles. But I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived — and I remain delighted. I’ve been using my GreenSmart laptop sleeve daily since July, and it’s been amazingly durable.

When I say durable, I mean it’s withstood several plane trips and lengthy road trips, and traveled back and forth to the office each day in an overloaded computer bag for more than six months. Frankly, I’m hard on both my laptop and my computer bag. It’s not that I’m careless, just that I tend to carry way too much on every trip — including my daily commute.

One thing that makes this sleeve stand out is that it has texture on the outside and a soft, cushioned interior. A pattern of bumps spread across the exterior fabric makes the sleeve easy to grab. (There’s probably a designer’s term that sounds far more elegant than bumps, but they are bumps, so there you have it.) This has been a lifesaver on occasion when I’ve almost dropped my laptop. The bumps give the thing traction and make it easy to hold onto. Not so with the laptop sleeve I purchased before I got this one; that one is smooth and slippery — not the best combination for a person like me who’s always rushing from one place to the next.

The workmanship on this GreenSmart product is superior, and that opinion is coming from a finicky seamstress. I love to sew, and I know when someone’s given an article serious attention or when they’ve been slipshod in putting in a zipper or turning a seam. This is quality.

The sleeve I have is designed to fit snugly on my 15-inch MacBook Pro. I’ve never had an issue with the zipper, which works perfectly every time. Best of all, the zipper goes all the way down on one side, giving full access to the laptop from one end, if you carry it in a backpack or just prefer side access. I also think the color is cool, but if you’re not as fond of blue as I am, you can choose other colors and even other designs.

Here are more facts about GreenSmart, courtesy of their press contact:

GreenSmart’s products are designed to be green from concept, through materials development, to execution. The company’s variety of bags are made from toxin-free Neogreene material, as well as 100% recycled plastic bottles.  In fact, they even include the number of plastic bottles used on each bag! Another fun fact is the company names many of its products after endangered animals, and in their support, GreenSmart donates 10% of its profits to non-profit organizations helping to create a greensmart planet.

If you’re looking for a great gift for anyone who carries a laptop, a tablet, a backpack, or a messenger bag, I highly recommend GreenSmart. Or, buy something for yourself — you’ll have a rugged, durable case; look cool carrying it; and feel good about saving the world from all those discarded bottles.

To learn more about these inventive green products, go to the GreenSmart website. There’s a whole lot more to GreenSmart than just one laptop sleeve. And from what I hear via the company founder, Tom Larsen, be on the watch for even more “new products coming out in the form of shoulder bags, messenger bags and other cool bags targeted at younger buyers (college) as well as a couple of new styles of laptop sleeves and covers.” Cool is getting even cooler.

Julia Wasson


Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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The Fine Print

Blue Planet Green Living received a complimentary sample of the product reviewed in this post. No other compensation or incentive was provided. Our policy is to review only those products we feel merit overall positive comments. If we do not like a product more than we dislike it, we do not review it. We are not influenced by free products and provide our honest opinions. (Oh, and we often beat them up a bit first, so we can see if they’re really as rugged as they’re touted to be.) For more information, please visit the Policies tab on the top navigation bar.

SoyClean – Nontoxic Cleaning Products Made from Soybeans

When a friend told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) about a line of nontoxic cleaning products made from soybeans, we were intrigued, but skeptical. It seemed counter intuitive to use soybeans, which contain a high percentage of oil, to clean glass, carpet, and laundry. We requested a few sample products to try, and we were impressed by the results.

Kurt Brannian, marketing director at SoyClean. Photo: Joe Hennager

Kurt Brannian, marketing director at SoyClean. Photo: Joe Hennager

We were even more impressed to learn that SoyClean products are environmentally friendly, nontoxic alternatives to many harsh chemical cleaners and solvents. We interviewed Kurt Brannian, Director of Marketing, at the SoyClean warehouse and distribution center in Brooklyn, Iowa. When we arrived, he told us, “We’ve got a variety of different products, everything from Paint Stripper to Grill Cleaner to Penetrant and Lubricant to Cutting Fluid. The overall theme is soy-based, nontoxic, and biodegradable. It’s safe for the user, safe for the environment.” Then he took the cap off of a bottle and extended it to us to smell.

BRANNIAN: What’s the first thing you think about when you think about paint stripper? It’s opening the lid, and then stepping back a little bit because you know those fumes are going to come right out at you. If you get in too small of an area, it can about knock a person out. That’s one of the neat things about our SoyClean Paint Stripper: There are no toxic fumes.

BPGL: This is paint stripper, but there aren’t any fumes. It smells milder than our dish soap!

BRANNIAN: Whenever someone comes by, I’ll have them take a sniff of the Paint Stripper,” That’s something you usually don’t tell friends to do. It’s kind of amazing that a product with no toxic fumes will remove multiple levels of paint. And that’s due to soybeans — something that we pretty much take for granted here in Iowa.

BPGL: I’d assume from the name that soy oil is the base of all of the cleaners. Is that straight soy oil, or do you add something to it?

This non-toxic paint stripper takes finish off wood, but won't hurt your skin. Photo: Joe Hennager

This nontoxic paint stripper takes the finish off wood, but won't hurt your skin. Photo: Joe Hennager

BRANNIAN: It’s actually soy methyl ester. That’s the base of the Paint Stripper, the Grill Cleaner, the Penetrant and Lubricant. The Wood Sealer is more of a raw soy oil. For the metal working, we don’t have that here on site, but that’s going to come from specialized soy beans that have high oleic and low linoleic acid content. You might think it all comes from the same thing, but, really, there are significant differences.

This is an evolution and an ever-improving process. Just straight vegetable oil wouldn’t give you that great cutting fluid that they use with the premium properties. It took a lot of tests to find out which soybeans would lead to the best cutting oils and fluids.

BPGL: What’s a cutting fluid?

BRANNIAN: Here’s a simple explanation: You’re cutting or machining metal, where metal is on metal. You have to cool that, or you’re going to ruin your tools and the product you’re working on, because it will get too hot. For example, GE Jet Engine in Canada is dealing with titanium, the toughest stuff you can find. So they use our soy Cutting Fluid because soy has natural performance characteristics that make it work better to cool the metal than traditional cutting fluids do.

BPGL: Do you sell your Cutting Fluid in 55-gallon drums or in small quantities for home use?

Soy methyl ester, the base for many of the SoyClean products, is stored in huge drums until ready for mixing. Photo: Joe Hennager

Soy methyl ester, the base for many of the SoyClean products, is stored in huge drums until ready for mixing. Photo: Joe Hennager

BRANNIAN: Drums and totes and things like that. It’s in our industrial product line.

BPGL: Are SoyClean products organic?

BRANNIAN: No. They aren’t organic, in that the majority are made using soybeans grown in regular fields. But you have to remember that SoyClean is not intended to be consumed.

BPGL: Yet, you can use SoyClean Grill Cleaner on the grill where you cook your food. I understand the Grill Cleaner has gotten a lot of publicity on both coasts. What’s the story?

BRANNIAN: A television station in California did a segment on our Grill Cleaner a number of years back. They gave some out for viewers to use, and the people were really positive. I don’t know what a TV commercial costs, but if we’d spent $50,000 or $100,000, we couldn’t have come up with anything half as good as having the people who were actually using it show it on their grills.

BPGL: You got some good publicity with the Wall Street Journal, too, we hear.

BRANNIAN: Someone from the newspaper called and said they were going to be running an article on grill cleaners for that grill season. So we sent them a sample, and they tested it out. It wasn’t very many days later when they had an article up. It was pretty neat. They ran a comparison of a variety of grill cleaners and we were the only non-toxic grill cleaner. It ended up that they liked ours the best. Their article said, “In a recent test, we found the most natural product [SoyClean BBQ Grill Cleaner] worked the best. This soy-based product cleaned just as well or better than the less-natural ones, and didn’t have the noxious odor.” That report was in the Wall Street Journal on June 21, 2007.

BPGL: Can you leave your Grill Cleaner on the grill, or should you wash it off prior to cooking?

BRANNIAN: You want to wash it off. Spray it on, then let it set for 5 to 15 minutes. If you’re doing normal maintenance, you can take it off right away. But some people never clean their grill except once a season. In that case, you probably want to let it soak, and then just rinse it off. The Wall Street Journal reporter said to me, “You mentioned that you should rinse the Grill Cleaner off. The funny thing is, that’s not in the instructions for any of the toxic grill cleaners that we tested.” Think about that. That’s kind of scary. I hadn’t really thought about that before.

SoyClean workers will fill bottles in the Brooklyn, Iowa, facility. Photo: Joe Hennager

SoyClean workers will fill bottles with this machine. Photo: Joe Hennager

BPGL: Have you ever heard about anyone accidentally ingesting any of your products?

BRANNIAN: Not a person, but a dog. A customer has put some SoySeal Wood Sealer and Waterproofer in a bowl to use outside. I don’t know if the doorbell rang or the phone rang or what, but she went inside. While she did that, the dog came and lapped it all up. When she came back outside, she was pretty horrified. So she took the dog to the vet. We heard about it few days later, after she went back to the place where she purchased it. She told them that the dog had a little tummy ache for a while, but he was just fine.

We find that our users do things that we tell them not to. For example, we tell them, “Don’t use the Paint Stripper on clothing. It might make the colors run.” We’ve had more than a couple people tell us they had clothing with gum or paint on it, and they were “going to throw this shirt away anyway.” Then they tell us, “The SoyClean Paint Stripper was the only thing that got [the gum or paint] out.”

We had a lady tell us her dog fell into a bucket of paint. I’m not sure if she didn’t know about it when it happened, but the paint was dry on the dog by the time we sent some Paint Stripper out to her. It cleaned up the dog, good as new. If we hadn’t sent her some, what would she have done?

BPGL: Without the SoyClean, it probably would have been a long time before that dog shed all its paint-covered hair. And that brings up a question. Can consumers buy your products in stores?

BRANNIAN: Traditionally, we haven’t done a lot of retail. That’s only recent. Our business has been commercial, industrial, educational, universities, cities, factories, and the like. Only recently, we’ve been able to tell that the attitude of the consumer has become more proactive. You could actually see it change, or hear it change, where people are wanting to do the right thing by using eco-friendly products, more and more.

SoyClean display showing several products and samples. Photo: Joe Hennager

SoyClean display showing several products and samples. Photo: Joe Hennager

So, retail wasn’t something we’ve done in the past. But now, because we’ve had people saying, “Hey, you need to get this out here; we’ve got to have that product,” we’ve recently started getting into some retail locations. A lot of what we have found is maybe a little bit counter intuitive: You’d think, we’re so close to the earth here — the soil and crops are so close to us — that we would be leaders in that. But we find that the East and West Coasts have led the charge. I’m painting that with a broad brush, so that’s maybe a little bit unfair, but that’s something we have noticed.

BPGL: When Joe was comparing green cleaning products to the toxic competition, in most cases, the toxic cleaners cleaned more easily. It takes a little extra effort when you use the various natural cleaners to get the same level of clean. Even with your SoyClean Bathroom Tub and Tile Cleaner, it took a little more scrubbing than with the toxic cleaners.

But what was so great — amazing, in fact — was that the SoyClean product had an exceptionally gentle smell. None of the other “natural” products were nearly as gentle. The large corporate “natural” cleaners even made me gag. We’re firm believers that natural cleaning products are better for people — especially for babies, children, and pregnant mothers — but they obviously aren’t all created equal. Still, how do you deal with comments about the extra effort it might take to use your nontoxic product?

BRANNIAN: A lot of times we’re working with a big commercial or industrial client, and they have one use as opposed to a multi-use product. We can make the product stronger and more concentrated. Of course, the cost goes up for them, but we can work closely with that client to meet their exact needs. As far as the ready-to-use version, like the retail version, I don’t have that conversation that much.

BPGL: One other thing that happened was really odd. When I used the Adhesive and Mastic Remover to take a sticker off a new credit card, it seemed to damage the front of the card. The card’s not shiny anymore. What happened?

BRANNIAN: Basically, it’s kind of amazing that a product that won’t hurt your skin will actually break down plastic. We always recommend that you try a small test area on whatever you’re going to use it on. It does break down some plastics and paint and things of that nature.

For example, we use a specific type of bottle that we know will work with our products. Someone sent us some other bottles to try, so we tried one out and filled it with one of our products. We turned around to clean something, then turned back around, and it was already starting to seep through that plastic bottle.

BPGL: In just a few seconds?

BRANNIAN: It was probably more like a few minutes. But it wasn’t terribly long.

BPGL: We heard a story from one of your customers about using the Adhesive and Mastic Remover to remove SuperGlue from a desktop.

BRANNIAN: Right. The customer told us that he had tried quite a few things to get some SuperGlue off a desk he had leased. I gave him a bottle of the Adhesive and Mastic Remover and said, “We haven’t tested it for that specific use, but check it out.” So he took it back and then emailed us right away. He said, “That worked great!”

The SoyClean marketing team: Beth VanDerzee, Kurt Brannian, and Reed Clayton. Photo: Joe Hennager

The SoyClean marketing team: Beth VanDerzee, Kurt Brannian, and Reed Clayton. Photo: Joe Hennager

BPGL: We’ve both tried several of your products. Joe likes the glass cleaner best. It takes a while as you work it around on the glass, but it’s really a beautiful cleaner. Julia liked the rug cleaner really well, too. In fact, of all the samples, the only one we had any problem with was the using the Adhesive and Mastic Remvoer on Julia’s credit card. We should have followed your advice and tested it on a small area first.

We obviously haven’t tried all your products yet. How many different kinds do you manufacture?

BRANNIAN: We have about 30 household and commercial products. An easy way to categorize the products is: cleaners, sealers, solvents, lubricants, release agents, fluids, and oils.

BPGL: Do you have contracts with various farmers to grow the soybeans just for you?

BRANNIAN: We don’t directly. For our beans, we don’t have to have that, because it’s not going into the high-pressure, high-temperature environment that cutting fluids go through. I don’t know the details, but there are special soybeans that are grown for the cutting fluids. They’re all grown in the US, by the way.

BPGL: Do you distill the oil from the beans, or does someone else do that for you?

BRANNIAN: There’s a process called transesterfication. We don’t do that here. We get the oil after it’s gone through the whole processing.

BPGL: Say you’re making the household products. What else goes into the bottle besides soy methyl ester?

BRANNIAN: It depends on the product. The Diesel Fuel Additive, for example — that is going to be straight soy methyl ester. Basically, what that is, when you think of biodiesel, this is the bio part of it. And then the diesel is separate. We don’t produce biodiesel here, we just have the additive.

The Penetrant and Lubricant is going to be another one where there’s not a whole lot besides soy methyl ester. In other products, we have some other additives, like preservatives and things of that nature.

The SoySeal Wood Sealer and Waterproofer is kind of a neat product. That one doesn’t use the soy methyl ester. It’s a raw, soy-oil based product.

The SoyShield Wood Sealer is made with methyl soyate and recycled polystyrene — Styrofoam peanuts and other, similar products. That’s a whole other example of being environmentally friendly. We wouldn’t have anticipated going into it that you could actually recapture polystyrene and have another added benefit. Disposing of used polystyrene has been a real problem. It sits in landfills for decades without breaking down. Now, in our SoyShield Wood Sealer, the polystyrene combines with the methyl soyate to make a solution that can be used to seal lumber and make it waterproof. The biodegradable methyl soyate helps the polystyrene penetrate the wood. The soyate dissolves in about a week, leaving the polystyrene deep inside the wood to protect it.

BRANNIAN: Whatever you have to clean, just know that now, thanks to advances in the study of soybeans, there are very effective non-toxic alternatives. We don’t have to settle for the traditional products that often contain toxic chemicals that are dangerous to children, pregnant women, and pets – to all of us, really. Using soy-based products is a pretty simple way to make our planet a safer, cleaner, and a more sustainable place to live.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)