Houston is getting hotter by the minute with frizzy-is-my-style percent humidity. Most weekend afternoons are just better spent inside. Contrary to many places where summer brings people out of hiding, Texas Summer makes you beg for air conditioning.
What better time to catch up on some well made and important documentaries?
Here’s my ultimate summer watch list to boost your awareness and kick start some eco living habits for fall. (Woop – they’re all on Netflix)
Diet is everything
1. Cowspiracy This movie finally explained all the environmental impacts of animal agriculture and how devastating meat, especially beef, production is. I’m lucky I have a simple relationship with food and stopped eating beef and most meats cold turkey the same day I saw it. From what I’ve heard, it has had the same effect on many people.
2. Forks over Knives*
And here came the health side of a plant-based whole-foods lifestyle that I needed to complete my lose-the-meat-education. It also gave me the final inspiration to try and cut all dairy products out of my life. Now that’s harder, as it hides in a lot of things but it’s a work in progress. No more cheese, lattes and ice creams for me! Though yes, the veggies I’m eating at restaurants are probably sautéed in butter and the occasional tsatsiki does happen.
Consumption and corruption (go hand in hand)
3. True Cost This movie has been out for a while and most people know the damaging consequences of fast fashion by now, but it’s still an enlightening watch. It’ll open your eyes to some of the corruption behind cotton production (how Monsanto plays a part) and you’ll never buy Asian-made leather goods again (I hope).
4. Poverty Inc.
Just because you think charity is good, doesn’t mean it does good. Who profits the most from aid? Why is the western world so determined to keep Africa “poor”? This is a great and eye opening watch that made me take yet another look at my consumption behavior. You’ll most likely unfollow TOMS shoes on Instagram immediately.
The power that fuels our car and our plastic addiction
They’re pushing the agenda a bit for ethanol as the optimal fuel, which is highly debatable, but the big topic of the movie is this: why are we as a society completely controlled by the oil industry? It goes all the way back to the beginning of the oil-era and exposes the men who made the decisions that changed our world forever and caused unimaginable environmental destruction.
6. Trashed or Plastic Paradise
I wanted to include one on waste but I haven’t watched one in particular that really got me going “yes!”. I’ll mention two. Plastic Paradise: The great pacific garbage patch, which mostly focuses on the mythical garbage island in the pacific and trash in the ocean. The second one is Trashed in which Jeremy Irons investigates our wasteful ways as a society and the impact all our trash has on our health and planet.
Let me know what you all think of these films! And leave comments with more eco documentaries below, if you have the time :)
*There’s also a great Forks over Knives app ($5) packed with whole food, vegan recipes you’ll love.
It’s been quite a while since we picked up our first box of Eco Nuts at a Whole Foods Market here in Houston. I knew about the product after seeing it on Shark Tank, but had actually never run into it before. Immediately I knew we had to try it.
Eco Nuts. Despite the funny name, there are some serious benefits hiding within this little paper box of laundry detergent.
We’re talking about a detergent that is certified organic, biodegradable, non toxic, non-GMO, contains no dyes, chemicals or perfume, and is all natural.
See, the Eco Nuts are actually dried berries from wild trees that grow in the Himalayas. These trees are amazing! They love poor uncultivated soil and the soap (saponin) produced inside the berries are a natural pesticide.
So that’s all grand! But, how about the stain fighting and freshness power? And how do they work?
Using Eco Nuts is easy. The box comes with two small fabric bags, in which you put about five nuts, and throw in the washer with the load. The soap is inside the shell of the dried berries and the same ones can be used for up to ten loads. Once they become paper thin they’re “done” and can be composted.
Now to the important part; the effectiveness! Well, we’ve found that Eco Nuts are great for all our normal loads. That’s our cold and eco warm washes of office wear, undershirts, bras, jeans, sweats, linen napkins and blankets. The nuts provide a general freshness and the clothes feel clean.
For more serious stains, or hot (sanitizing) cycles of towels, sheets and cleaning rags, we still use Seventh Generation or other eco-friendly, biodegradable detergent. I’m a sucker for flower scented towels and the Eco Nuts honestly don’t pack the punch for deep cleaning and tough stains.
That said, we buy the gallon sized “regular”detergent and I don’t even know how long we’ve had the same one at this point! By using Eco Nuts for the majority of our washing, I estimate we’ll go thru less than one bottle per year, and with that we are saving a generous amount of plastic packaging (which was one of the most important reasons I wanted to test and use Eco Nuts.)
On a side note, ever since we switched to eco-friendly, biodegradable detergents over four years ago, our front-loaded washer never smells. I honestly believe that Tide (and other famous brands) make your washer smelly on purpose, so they can sell you their washer cleaning packets. Yup.
The current political climate is draining me. Stealing away my creativity to write. Making me doubt my belief in the power of good people. A belief this blog is heavily based upon. I always write an Independence Day post, but this year I just couldn’t.
After a painful spring of primaries it seems we are left with two less than desirable candidates. Two candidates without climate change on the agenda. One simply calls it a hoax, the other one endorsed by the Koch brothers, wants to continue fracking her way to poisoned water and methane leaks.
Of course it is not just that. There’s his racism, stupidity and the fact that he is completely unqualified. There’s her big bank sponsors, changing of opinions and lies.
All I hear people say is “they’re both so scary.” Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and foreigners say it. Friends, co-workers, people at dinner parties and in elevators say it. So, I keep thinking; how did we get here?
Mainstream media has been calling the Berniecrats “sore losers”. That’s fine, because I am.
Sore from hearing about the missing ballots, how the polling places were closing early and how there were long lines of people waiting to vote (but never getting to). And I must say I’m sore from being punched by statistics reporting that for every 80 minutes that corporate media talked about Trump in 2015, Bernie got 20 seconds.
Yet, Bernie keeps fighting. He’s going to the convention. You don’t have to agree with his politics to admire that commitment. I do though (agree and admire), and I want to fight like that for what I believe in too.
We the people might not be able to change who the presidential hopefuls are at this point, but right now we have a chance to speak out against the proposed TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).
The TPP follows in the footsteps of other unfettered free trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the Permanent Normalized Trade Agreement with China (PNTR). These treaties have forced American workers to compete against desperate and low-wage labor around the world. The result has been massive job losses in the United States (3,5 million jobs) and the shutting down of tens of thousands of factories.
Yes, I know, I always say our money is our vote and by buying American-made we can bring jobs back (and that’s true). However taking a stand and opposing the TPP, is an excellent opportunity to really fight for our beliefs. We have to end trade agreements that encourage outsourcing, threaten environmental laws, increase shipping transport, ruin the middle class and only make the business owners richer.
Read more about the TPP here, and take a stand here. Share the information and get more people involved.
Make me believe in the power of good people again.
(If you have a Trump sign in your yard or a Hillary bumper sticker, don’t bother leaving me a comment.)
It’s been a busy month and although I haven’t had time to blog as much as I would have like too, I’ve still found the time to buy one new item for myself. Amazing how that happens!
Actually, it was Hubs who discovered these amazingly artsy water bottles, we simply had to have, while reading an outdoors magazine. We could definitely use a few more bottles too, since we always bring water from home on the go. Why we bring? Because single use plastic sucks and it takes minimum effort to fill a bottle at home. The total volume of bottled-water sales exceeded 11.7 billion gallons in 2015, a statistic we will be no part of (and neither should you!)
Liberty BottleWorks is the brand and Washington State is the manufacturing place. Each bottle is made from recycled aluminum and is therefore lightweight and super durable. (It’s very important to support products made from recycled materials to show the industry that recycling makes sense, pays off and we want it!) In fact, it’s the only American made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.
The formed plastic mouthpiece seals with only a quarter turn and is spill free (even when purse riding) and BPA-free. We are actually really impressed with how easily the water comes up (with the sports version cap and straw). Quenching!
Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and I can confirm the packaging was completely plastic free as well. We bought our bottles over the phone and they came in the smallest box possible with no “extra stuffing”. The straws and caps we had selected shipped loose.
They give back by allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services and their policy of hiring US veterans first is what they call “positive discrimination” – I am ok with that!
My husband doesn’t get enough credit on the blog for his environmental efforts and his participation in the not made in China challenge. We make a good eco team, as I’m all about planting trees, reducing waste, eating plants, shopping local and buying less, while he’s all about electric vehicles (read Tesla) and ending the empire of fossil fuels once and for all.
Funny enough, we’re almost half way through 2016 and the only clothes he has bought since 2014, are two pairs of jeans and some motorcycle gear, while I have bought what feels like tons of outfits. Hmmm. Finally he needed something new.
We bought his previous (made in China) Crocs in 2012, long before the challenge started, and they’ve lasted almost four years, which is not bad actually. As for the replacement, naturally we wanted made in USA, and I suggested trying a pair from Okabashi.
With a zero waste production line, their clogs are recyclable, vegan-friendly, latex-free, dishwasher safe and come with a two year warranty.
I will admit, they’re not the sexiest pair of shoes I have seen, but when are clogs ever awesomely hot looking anyway? Fortunately, these “Copenhagen Clogs” have proven to be much more comfortable than the Crocs, with a massaging insole, ergonomic foot-bed, good arch support and anti-slip sole. That’s the important stuff.
All for the price of 19 American dollars. Makes it kind of hard to justify importing a pair, doesn’t it?
The amount of noise in the ocean has doubled each decade since the 1950s.
Why? Because of us (of course).
Noise from human activities is blasting through the ocean constantly. A sound signal created in the Indian Ocean can travel all the way to the coast of Washington State, as sound travels much farther in salt water than it does on land. So whenever there is noise under water, there is no getting away from it (unless you want to jump ashore).
Marine mammals depend on their hearing for many of life’s most basic functions like foraging, finding a mate, avoiding predators, communicating, and navigating their way through the vast waters. All these activities are affected when we introduce noise into the ocean. When their own sound waves used for communicating are disrupted, whales, dolphins and orcas go silent, which can cause, among other issues, young mammals to get separated from the heard as they can no longer hear their mom’s call. Although, this is happening in virtually every ocean basin on the planet, it’s especially serious in the northern hemisphere where most human activities occur.
There are three major contributors to ocean noise.
1. Commercial shipping transport
Commercial shipping is the leading contributor to low-frequency ocean noise worldwide. The noise from engines, propellers and breaking of waves is constant as there are thousands of container ships at any given time on our oceans. Did you know that for example 97% of all clothing we buy in the US is imported? We import so many things from China that container ships often go back there empty.
2. Oil exploration using seismic surveys
Oil and gas explorers use seismic surveys (shock waves initiated by an air-gun blast) to produce detailed images of the various rock types and their location beneath the ocean floor. This information is used to determine the location and size of oil and gas reservoirs. These high-powered air guns blast compressed air about every 12 seconds for weeks to months at a time. (Of course the oil industry denies the serious impact of their methods. As with all oil activities, it’s perfectly safe and great.)
3. US Navy high-intensity sonar-training exercises
It works pretty much the same way as the seismic surveys, except the Navy is looking for foreign threats under the surface, not oil reservoirs. A low frequency active sonar device sends a pulse of energy through the water (a sound wave) that reflects off of objects so they are detected. They’re also testing weapons and explosives under water.
Whenever I blog about environmental threats, I always try to share some ideas on how we as citizens of the world can better the situation. Sure, awareness is key, but actions are what changes things. We can’t rely on the industries to change their behavior, they’ll always put dollars before the environment, and that’s that.
Isn’t it kind of obvious how we can reduce shipping transport? Exactly, we need to stop importing everything. The threat to marine life caused by shipping was actually one of my biggest reasons for starting the not made in China challenge in 2014. We can all do our part by focusing on buying locally made products and locally grown food (all you have to do is read the tag). We can also simply buy less. If something is imported from far away, and you don’t need it, leave it.
The shipping and transport industry has a huge responsibility too, naturally. Other than redesigning the ships to create less noise, simply traveling at lower speeds would reduce the noise level significantly.
If ships traveled slower and we reduced our imports from far away, we would use less heavy fuels to power shipping too, which brings me to our next action item.
I am of the opinion that we need to keep it all in the ground, and that most certainly applies to off-shore reserves as well. We need to use less, and with that search less.
Now you might think of your gasoline usage and argue that you can’t get an electrical car or improve your car situation in any way. All right, I hear you (you’ve told me a thousand times). There are still many things you can do to reduce oil use, like carpooling, using the car with the best mileage when both cars are available (most American households have two), using public transport, biking or walking.
Changing your electricity provider to one providing only renewable energy also makes a huge difference. Many eco systems, not just under water, suffer from the consequences of oil and gas exploration (spills, seismic surveys, pollution, pipelines) while, contrary to popular belief, wind power turbines aren’t really a threat to anything in nature. In fact, wind turbines are only responsible for 0.01% of bird fatalities (the main killers are buildings and power lines).
Then there’s plastic. Plastic is made from fossil fuel, you know. Every straw, every cup, every wrapper, every bag, every utensil, every net is made from either crude oil or natural gas byproducts, resources we’ve pumped out of the ground. And although plastic never degrades naturally (that means it lasts forever), the majority of Americans treat it like it is a disposable item. Since scientists predict there’ll be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, reducing plastic use also helps marine life in that they don’t swallow it (leading to hormone disturbances or death) or get entangled in it (leading to suffocation or serious handicaps).
Lastly, it’s not easy for us normal folks to stop the Navy from doing high-intensity sonar-training exercises under water. That said, we can sign petitions that forces the Navy to use more whale-friendly technologies (like magnetic sensors and passive sonar) and we can support organizations fighting to regulate the Navy’s activities and what areas they’re allowed to operate in.
If only one person decides to take action, sure it’s just a drop in the ocean. However, if we all take responsibility, imagine the difference we can make! And the amazing thing about noise pollution is that the second we stop making it, all the pollution is GONE.
I recommend watching the documentary Sonic Sea (trailer below) that inspired this post and learning more about our oceans at NRDC.org (Natural Resources Defense Council). You can stand up to ocean noise by signing up here.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a new roadmap last week for addressing ocean noise, under which NOAA would finally begin to manage it, though there are no concrete plans. Read the roadmap here. (The public has until July 1 to comment on it.)
Sustainable fashion is having a moment. A major moment.
And by moment, I don’t mean a sudden reduced consumption trend in the fashion industry or an upswing of people digging through thrift stores for hidden gems instead of buying new clothes. I mean it’s having a “Come buy this because it is sustainable”- moment.
Don’t get me wrong. We are definitely in need of companies doing things right, making it right here, picking the right fabrics in regards to environmental impact, paying the right salaries to the right employees and so forth. However, the question still remains, how can fashion be labeled “sustainable” when we’re constantly encouraged to keep shopping?
I have two concerns in particular.
I fear that the fashionistas are still buying all their cheap H&M clothes, sexy Victoria’s Secret bras and convenient Gap basics, only now they’re adding another cool dimension to their outfits with a sustainable item. In other words, they’re shopping more. “Look at me, I’m so trendy and this bag is handmade in USA of recycled hemp. #SustainableFashion”
I suspect that the sustainability interest stops with the fashion. And by fashion I mean what we show off using our bodies. I doubt that the sustainable fashion people also stopped buying I-phones, plastic China-made toys for their kids, made in Pakistan rayon work-out socks and imported Christmas decorations.
It can’t only be about sustainable fashion. There has be more to it.
Sure, fashion is a start, but how does one justify slave-labor-made decorations from China when it’s suddenly UNTHINKABLE to buy a sweat-shop-made shirt from Bangladesh? Sweat shops make other things than clothes, you know.
And there has to be less. Less stuff.
A made in the USA top you’ll never wear is not a sustainable purchase, even if it is made responsibly down the street of eco-friendly materials. No one (except the industry) will applaud you for buying it.
We can’t buy things because they are sustainable, ethical or made locally.
First, we have to decide what we need (or, let’s be honest, want) and then we have to make sure we pick an ethical, made right (here) product. That is sustainable shopping. Yes, it takes effort. Yes, it takes responsibility. Yes, it takes awareness. Yes, at times we will fail (that’s ok).
Yes, it is worth it. It has to be. #SustainableEverything
At least that’s what Taylor Swift claims. As for me, ever since I found out I was going to the Big Apple for work, I was hoping that great vegan food, eco-fashion and new acquaintances would indeed be waiting. Guess what? They were.
The training I was there to take allowed me to be my most social self during the days and I made some great connections! In addition to all the fun I was having, several people in the class were into eating healthy and two were living plant-based, meaning green lunch choices for the group. Yay.
Finding vegan options turned out to be as easy as I had hoped. Finding plastic-free, zero waste vegan, a bit harder, though definitely possible. Let me tell you about some of the places where I ate!
Vegan, Organic and Zero Waste
The first night, after a long walk through the city, I had a well-made meal at Blossom (21st and 9th) in Chelsea. Friendly staff, fast service, nice setting. And, I got to eavesdrop on a seriously millennial conversation one table over, while watching the street action outside the window. Pretty sweet. Yes, that also applies the two glasses of organic riesling I had.
The best food of the trip was at Candle 79 on the Upper East Side (79th and Lex.). I started with empanadas, followed by a chick-pea cake creation accompanied by delicious broccoli and cauliflower in a curry sauce. It was excellent and I highly recommend this place. A reservation is probably a good idea, though I got lucky and was seated right away. By the window again.
Vegan on the go
Because sooner or later, all New York visitors will find themselves in midtown, near Times Square fearing that Olive Garden is their only lunch choice – I’ll tell you, it’s not. Fresh and Co. is half a block away on 48th street (between 6th and 7th avenue) and they’ll mix you up an awesome salad. Though delicious and fresh, my salads (Gaucho and Falafel) were unfortunately tossed and served in a plastic bowl (I didn’t have a reusable one). I did fill my own bottle with tea, no problem.
Anyone else appalled by the super sweet soymilk at Starbucks? Pret A Manger is a much better choice if you ask me, and they’re all over town. I had an organic, unsweet soy latte there and of course reusable cups welcome. This chain donates all their left-over food at the end of each day to homeless shelters and food programs too. Waste not, want not.
On another eco note, I had four nights in the city and spent most of them walking around enjoying the scenery and the different neighborhoods. Why take a cab when you can walk, right?
One night while strolling down Highline Park, I suddenly had this idea to hit up Century 21 (the discount department store by World Trade Center). I hadn’t been there in years and was curious to see what made in USA or eco-friendly brands they might have (if any!).
A few minutes into browsing, I saw an Italian-made sweater by a designer I had never heard of before and decided to try it on. Instantly, it felt like mine. It fit just right and felt super comfy. Sold! Although it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I said “eco-fashion” and it didn’t really follow any of the rules I set up for this year’s shopping challenge, I still had to have it. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart and break the rules a little.
I hadn’t prepared much for this trip, however I still feel like I managed to make simple, eco-friendly choices throughout the visit. Like what, you say? Well, like:
Enjoying vegan, organic food (the most eco-friendly, low carbon diet)
Not using the hotel bath products (saving plastic)
Not asking to have my sheets and towels changed every night (saving water, energy and cleaning products)
Managing my drinking water, so there was no need to buy even a single water bottle (saving plastic and money)
Carrying my new Italian sweater in my reusable bag (saving plastic)
Walking or taking the subway instead of riding in taxis (less pollution)
I showed up at Fleastyle Houston a couple of weeks ago in a (made in USA) tank top, old jeans and a pair of sneakers. It hadn’t crossed my mind that an event with “flea” in the name would be a dressy one. But, apparently when there are vintage items and locally made products on display, you should be wearing your trendiest outfit, preferably combined with a few select pieces in light brown leather and high heeled shoes. Acceptable hairstyles include perfect curls, long waves, a high bun or braids. Unwashed hair in a ponytail? Don’t even think about it. (Oops!)
Despite not looking quite the part of someone interested in vintage style, I did get to talk to a number of local vendors and craftswomen about the products they had to show and sell. If not pre-owned, most of the goodies were made right here in the Lone Star State.
Time to finally put together a list of some made in Texas fashion (on my made in Texas blog). Right, y’all?
This company is all about them totes and weekenders. Every bag is handmade in Austin and materials are locally sourced whenever possible. My favorite is probably the Texas State tote, made with hand-printed natural cotton canvas, veg-tan leather and brass rivets. So cute! Another cool thing is that Newton partners with a division of the Austin-based Multicultural Refugee Coalition, Open Arms. A non-profit organization assisting them (and other companies) with producing locally made items while empowering refugee women through living wage employment. Prices range from $30 to $250, depending on the style. I wish I needed another tote bag.
This Houston-based fashion brand is catering to all the wonderful men in our lives. Yes, there are bow-ties made from recycled hemp, vintage handkerchiefs, handmade American leather key chains and organic cotton pocket squares ($32). All made right here from domestically sourced, sustainable materials. Very hip(ster).
Folksie is small-batch-fashion for women, men and kiddos, with straight lines, somewhat somber fabrics and a touch of country twang (check out the vests!). All of Folksie’s pieces are handmade in Dallas, one by one, and most are made to order. I’m not sure this brand is for me personally, however the men’s aprons ($95) are pretty darn awesome.
Gracefully rustic leather bags in the 100-200 dollar range, is what Hatton Henry offers. Each wallet, tote and clutch is handcrafted (here) in Houston. I’m not sure where the leather is from, but I must say the bags are beautiful. This designer is apparently into helping homeless mutts get better lives too, doing so by donating a percentage of every item sold to a Houston rescue program. So, if you’re one of those people who claim to be an animal lover, yet somehow can justify wearing leather – here’s a brand for you ;).
Texas style cuffs and bracelets, handmade in Austin, that’s Leighelena’s thing. Every type of leather (alligator, python, lizard, ostrich) wrist wrap you can think of – they’ve got it. The leather is Italian (I asked) and unfortunately the few vegan options I saw at Fleastyle didn’t feel quite right. I know, I know, this is Texas, there will always be lots of leather, I’m just saying I like more options! The buckle designs are really neat and unique to Leighelena. Priced from $20 and up.
And no, thanks to my shopping challenge, I didn’t get myself anything. Just browsing. Being sustainable.
All pictures belong to the brands. No ownership intended.
Though I have never visited, I think I really like Canada. Their prime minister seems more than capable and most of my favorite HGTV shows are shot there. And when it comes to products, well, I’ve had my Canada Goose jacket for eight years now (still going strong!) and I can’t deny that we really like maple syrup (especially if aged in a whiskey barrel) at our house.
But here’s something else from Canada that has caught my attention recently; super nice rain boots from Kamik.
My friend just got a pair for her son that they both love so far. They’re sturdy, made in solid quality synthetic rubber with removable comfort felt insoles, and obviously waterproof (that’s kind of the point). She paid about 30 dollars for the kids’ style “Stomp”, while most women’s boots are around $60.
I’ve run into Kamik boots at DSW and West Marine before, but the best selection is, not surprisingly, online on their website. (Oooh, polka dots!) Shopping there also makes it easy to check which boots are indeed made in Canada and which (few) are not.
Most of the styles are 100% recyclable and just like (my favorite brand) Oka-B takes back their worn shoes for recycling, Kamik gladly accepts their old boots back for that same reason. But before you go that route, they suggest that if you think your boots have a little kick left in them, you should just buy new liners and keep them going a while longer. Recycling is, as always, our last resort after reuse, repurpose, reinvigorate, relove and regift. Speaking of liners and recycling, their so-called Zylex liners are made from 77% – 97% recycled water bottles. Pretty good.
I do have one little beef with them. They have separated the boys’ and the girls’ boots into two different pages on their website, which I find very unnecessary and 1950s like. Kids should be allowed to pick their rain boots based on interests and color preference, not automatically be put in a gender box suggesting that girls like pink strawberries and boys like black. I for one would have loved the boys’ navy blue rain boots with coral soles. That’s like my perfect color combination!
Kamik’s men’s (or women’s!) game and work boots are built in the USA and range from $130 to $180.
My friend took these beautiful pictures of her son making a splash and having a blast in his new boots. In Houston, we’re never short of puddles to play in and thanks to Kamik, we’re never short of made right (here) rain boots either.
Browse boots here but check your local stores first to save packaging and trucking :)