Newsletter: Saving the planet, with Lego bricks and miniature shampoo bottles


I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, with a look today at being nicer to Mother Earth.

A couple of recent developments merit highlighting. One involves Legos, the greatest toy ever invented. I’ll get to that in a moment.

The other involves the little bottles of shampoo, conditioner and soap found in many hotels. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation this week that does away with the convenient but environmentally unfriendly personal-care items.

The bill — Assembly Bill 1162 — takes effect in 2023 for hotels with more than 50 rooms. Smaller establishments have until 2024.


Hotels that fail to comply with the law face a $500 fine for the first violation. All subsequent violations would result in a $2,000 fine.

This law doesn’t apply to hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, prisons, jails and homeless shelters.

Some hotel chains — including Marriott and Holiday Inn — already have announced moves to replace little shampoo bottles with refillable dispensers. California is building on such initiatives and creating a level playing field.

The Personal Care Products Council, an industry group, opposed the bill. It said businesses would be hurt. In fact, they’ll still be able to sell their products to hotels. They’ll just do so in more sensible containers.

From plastic grocery bags to plastic straws, California has been out front in trying to reduce some of the biggest forms of pollution, especially in rivers and oceans. A crackdown on wasteful shampoo bottles might seem like a modest gesture, but every little bit counts.

Meanwhile, the good people at Lego Group had their own flash of inspiration. Realizing that many families have boxes of old Lego bricks stashed away — or, worse, throw them out — Lego announced a pilot recycling program.


Dubbed Lego Replay, the program makes it easy to donate old Lego bricks to nonprofit groups that assist kids. Just visit to download a free UPS shipping label. Lego will sort and clean the bricks, and get them to where they can do some good.

“We know people don’t throw away their LEGO bricks,” said Tim Brooks, Lego Group’s vice president of environmental responsibility. “The vast majority hand them down to their children or grandchildren. But others have asked us for a safe way to dispose of or to donate their bricks. With Replay, they have an easy option that’s both sustainable and socially impactful.”

Added benefit: You won’t step on old Lego bricks with your bare feet any more.

Now then, here are some recent stories that caught my eye:


Inland inequality: Income inequality isn’t just a problem on the coast. While cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose have become poster children for the gulf between the rich and the poor, the wealth gap has also hit hard in Bakersfield.

Up in smoke: The owner of two California marijuana dispensaries wanted to post pictures of weed on Instagram without running afoul of the social media app’s rules. So he hired engineers to create an Instagram without rules, where users could post what they wanted without fear of censorship from moderators. The results have not been pretty.

Fear of flying: After dealing with months of canceled flights and route changes due to the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, airlines will soon face a new challenge: convincing passengers to fly on these jets again. Here’s how they’re going to try to do it.


The rise of Juul: How did vape-maker Juul go from a small start-up to a dominant player, essentially this era’s big tobacco? Bloomberg tells the story.

Fashion journalism’s future: Who needs a glossy fashion magazine to tell you what celebrities are wearing when there are teens on Instragram running “closet accounts,” which, according to the New York Times, painstakingly detail each and every garment worn by the stars and influencers?

Let me know what you think of the newsletter. My email is, or you can find me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Also, tell all your social media pals to join the party.

Until next time, see you in the Business section.