Tag Archives: Houston

Rocking a compost (when your thumbs don’t know green!)

We’re finally composting!

Anyone who knows me, knows that my thumbs are a color not even remotely related to green. Just ask my mom if I’ve ever watered her plants correctly or ask my dad if I did a “great job” mowing the lawn, summer of 2000. That’s why I am so excited and proud to be rocking my backyard compost!

I decided that a proper compost was the next thing we needed to implement in our daily routine in order to handle our family’s waste better and living a greener life. Reading zero waste blogs, by people who are like experts in the matter, inspired me so much to get this done!

For the longest time we’ve been all about reusables, recycling, bulk buying and BYO bags so my husband and I hardly ever took out the trash (I’m also an expert at turning leftovers into new meals). We were also letting living in Houston hold us back – so humid, so many possums we feared – would a compost work? But it was just us being lazy, dragging our feet, and making excuses! Fall 2016 – we got down to business.

Here it is. My soil factory!

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Made in USA Envirocycle tumbler compost bins

What do we compost?

A compost should consist of about 75% green material and 25% brown. The green is ALL the food scraps and grass (except meat and bones if we ever have that) and the brown is the paper towels, toilet rolls and dry leaves. I don’t pay too much attention to my compost “mix” at the moment. I am just filling it with kitchen scraps and watching it all decompose.

Why do we compost?

It’s important to compost because even the “natural” waste we throw in our kitchen bins cannot decompose in a landfill. All bio products need oxygen (air) to do so, and if none present, which is the case in landfills, all you’ll have is trash build up (that’ll last forever) causing methane emissions. Even if you use bio-degradable bags, food scraps will NEVER become soil in a landfill. About 20% of human methane (powerful greenhouse gas) emissions in USA come from waste decomposition!

The CO2 created in a compost is negligible in comparison and is part of a natural system of turning food into soil. After you’ve had a compost for a while, you end up with fertile, rich soil you can sprinkle in your yard or use to plant flowers or veggies. (Or even sell to hobby-gardeners who don’t compost themselves!)

How do we compost?

I am lazy. I need pre-made comfort. So, we use two tumbler type compost bins from Envirocycle. These little guys come pre-assembled, in a box, so the effort is minimal (hurray!). I got them online and yes, off course they’re made in the USA!

The Envirocycle compost is rust-protected, BPA free, and comes with a five-year warranty. Most importantly the design is small, modern-looking, possum free and easy to use, even for a garden disaster like me. We fill one up (for about 2-3 months), rotate the drum every 3-4 days, and then watch the trash turn to black soil, while we fill up the other. It came as a total surprise to me how fast the smell inside the tumbler goes from “trash” to the smell of the rich dirt I remember from playing outside in my childhood. Black gold. Thumbs up.

We also collect compost tea in the bottom of the compost, which we use as fertilizer for indoor plants. The large tumbler is $229 and the small is $169.(We bought the small one first to try the system, then added a second one when I figured out how I wanted to do it. The larger tumbler does roll a lot better than the small one does. Read more at Envirocycle.com.)

Inside, we use an air-tight Tupperware for collecting the greens and a large open bowl for the browns. We decided to just use containers we already had at home. Every few days, or up to a week sometimes, I empty them outside in the compost.

There are lots of ways to rock an eco-friendly compost bin and reduce kitchen waste; anything from fancy indoor compost systems like the Zera Food Recycler to classic outside worm bins. Search online, check zero waste blogs, and I am sure you’ll find a system that works for your family too.

If we can do it – you can do it!

Combining my two great loves: American-made fashion and stripes!

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know I have a special place in my heart for stripes.

That said, I haven’t bought that many new striped creations since I started shopping less, more sustainably and made in USA. There’s the Soft Joie dress, the Tart Collection dress and the second hand dress I scored in South Carolina to mention. Oh, and the striped hoodie from Marshalls and the Lularoe pencil skirt. However, not a single new striped t-shirt in three years?!

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I’ve got stripes.

Sad as that may be (erm, not really!) I do know where to go when I “need” a new striped shirt fix. I’ll look no further than super sustainable Amour Vert.

Amour Vert is basically the definition of a sustainable fashion company. Not only focusing on eco-friendly materials, keeping it American-made and zero waste; they actually plant a tree in North America for every t-shirt (or top) sold. So far they have planted more than 100,000 trees thanks to the sales of their made right here tees!

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My friend Mary Beth in her American-made Amour Vert shirt

Amour Vert’s specially engineered textiles and blended fabrics are crafted to be soft, flattering and long-lasting. They only use low-impact and non-toxic dyes. Mary Beth’s tee ($78) is made of 95% eco-friendly modal, with 5% spandex for stretch.

You will find a few, carefully selected other brands on their website as well. I am little bit obsessed with the skinny jeans from STRÖM, I must admit. I have never bought a pair of jeans online, so I am hesitant to jump in considering the slim chances that a pair of slim jeans will fit like they do on the model… STRÖM is actually a Swedish/American brand (like me!) with a denim based, sustainable collection, produced exclusively in the United States.

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Incase you were wondering, Mary Beth paired her Amour Vert tee with hand-me-down, Frye leather boots (a great way to reduce eco-impact from leather is getting it second hand) and a pair of Paige Verdugo Skinny jeans from Nordstrom. The “Arrow Bar Necklace” is from an Etsy shop called Layered and Long and the “Hammered gold necklace” is from Etsy artist Freshy Fig. The wrist band is bought and made in Savannah, Georgia by leather crafters Satchel.

Yes! She’s rocking an outfit entirely made in USA – just how we like it.

This was the forth and last post in my series focusing on American-made style! Of course, this topic keeps coming back to made right (here) – that’s kind of the whole point of the blog ;)

I am happy Mary Beth wanted to share some American-made brands with us and I love that they were all photographed in a few super neat Houston locations by our lovely friend Ashley.

I hope you want to check out post number one (about another t-shirt), two (discussing leather goods) and three (a guide to US-made shopping in suburbia) too, if you haven’t already. And finally, I hope you’ve been inspired to shop more made in USA style in 2017! :)

My ultimate guide to shopping ethical and American-made style (OFFLINE!)

For anyone starting out on a Made in USA shopping journey, finding places to shop and brands to trust can be overwhelming. I know when I first started out I felt quite discouraged for a while, as it was difficult to find American-made clothes.

A few years later, and a gazillion online shops later, I know where to go for my next “Made in USA fix”. Mrs. American Made, a style blog, has guided me to many brands, so has random Instagram browsing. The question still remains though, what are some physical stores where we can find locally made clothes, shoes and décor?

Online shopping is great for supporting small businesses and of course very convenient, but sometimes it’s nice to shop down the street, isn’t it?

If you are lucky enough to live in a place that promotes local, like Boulder, CO or Asheville, NC, you’ll have access to small boutiques, fair-trade markets, apothecaries, vintage shops or brand stores like PrAna and Patagonia and you’re off to a good start. (NYC residents probably don’t need this list either!) However, many of us reside in more of a “big-box retailer” region so I’m sharing my favorite stores with that in mind! Anyone can succeed and master American-made shopping (even in the suburbs ;))!

1. The BEST store for Ethical Fashion and all around browsing: REI

Yes, the camping and outdoors giant is our favorite place to go browse and try on new clothes! REI carries brands like United by Blue, PrAna, Toad & Co and many more small batch, fair-trade, natural fiber options. They’ve also got a massive selection of great quality, made in USA socks, from Sockwell, Smart Wool, Thorlo and more. You’d be surprised how many of the camping and hiking essentials are actually made in USA as well! Here’s the store locator.

2. The BEST store for affordable Made in USA clothes: Nordstrom Rack

Here’s where I score all the best deals on American-made fashion. I’ve found sweaters, tops, dresses, jeans, sweatpants, undies and more by digging through the store and the clearance rack. Anything from $60 Citizen of Humanity jeans (!) to $10 Hanky Panky underwear – they’ve got it. Ever thought you’d run into a jumpsuit, or romper, sewn in the USA? Well, my friend Mary Beth did. Succeeding here does require some energy as stores tend to be overflowing with options. Here’s the store locator.

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Mary Beth in Loveappella Romper, Made in USA, from Nordstrom Rack

3. The BEST store for high quality home decor and furniture: Crate & Barrel

I know it’s on the pricier side of things, but we haven’t bought anything at Crate & Barrel that broke or disappointed us. They’ve got lots of made in USA kitchen gear, decor and furniture, as well as beautiful glassware from Europe. We got our king size bed frame from there, it was built and upholstered in North Carolina and made to order. Here’s the store locator.

4. The BEST store for American-stitched denim: Last Call by Neiman Marcus

Splendid, AG jeans, Paige, 7, True Religion, Eileen Fisher, J brand, rag & bone and several others – Last Call has most of these brands available at all times and the majority of their denim is sewn in the USA! You’ll also get a much better deal here than shopping at the mall or online. I am not the type to order jeans online – trying them on is a must. Even the same brand and style, to me, fit differently depending on the fabric and wash. Here’s the store locator.

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US-made Splendid denim shirt with Alice & Olivia jeans (+ wind in the hair!)

5. The BEST place to go browsing and spend all day: Premium Outlets

You might get lucky at Premium Outlets and get a good deal on made in USA items at New Balance, 7 for all mankind, Tory Burch (some jewelry is US-made!), Saks off 5th or True Religion. The downside is you might NOT and end up spending the whole day, only to find nothing but sweatshop made clothes at Banana Republic and Chinese leather bags at Coach… (don’t buy them!) It’s worth a try if you keep an open mind and if you’re in that “shop all day mood”. Here’s the outlet locator.

Phew! These are my top five! Which ones are yours?

Shopping Made in USA doesn’t have to be complicated just because it’s happening offline! Try it out, let me know what you find :)

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This is the third post in a four post series focusing on American-made style, featuring pictures of my friend Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our friend Ashley. Check out my previous posts in the series about an LA-made t-shirt here and a great read on domestic leathers  here.

A look at Patagonia (with thoughts from a not made in China shopper)

If you are a nature lover or environmentalist, chances are, you’ve got something from Patagonia in your closet. And rightfully so, they make good quality, practical clothes that last a long time.

I haven’t bought any new clothes for eco-baby other than two pairs of wool socks from Smart Wool and diapers (does that count?) and, as you may have guessed since I’m bringing it up: something from Patagonia. The rest of his fashion is all second hand.

I couldn’t resist this little tee though. It’s made in USA of fair-trade, 100% organic cotton (most likely grown in India or Turkey) and has a mason jar (the symbol of zero waste living) and a great statement “Live simply” on it. I found it at the clearance rack at Whole Earth Provision in Houston for only 10 dollars, so it was a pretty good deal too!

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Eco-baby’s only (so far) non-second hand tee.

Let’s talk Patagonia. A company that decided to donate all proceeds from their Black Friday sales to environmental organizations last year. A company that’s into preserving the environment, reducing their carbon footprint and has been ever since they started in 1973. They have a repair program in which worn clothes are revived, produce a line of sustainably dyed jeans and all their cotton garments are 100% organic (some of it grown in the USA). They also offer paid family leave and on-site childcare (to their US employees).

That said, it was just a coincidence that I bought eco-baby a Patagonia shirt. Come to think of it, neither myself nor my husband own anything from the brand so I can’t say we’re fans. Why, if they’re so eco-friendly and fair haven’t we supported them more?

Honestly, I have some issues with them. Mostly, it’s the importing from China thing.

Patagonia manufactures the majority of their garments in Asia and thereby (pretty much) all their merchandise sold in USA is imported from far away. Eco-baby’s little tee is the first thing I’ve ever run into that’s made right here (still from imported fabric!).

Why is this such an issue to me?

About 70% of crude oil pumped from our precious soil or ocean floor becomes diesel or heating oil. A large chunk of that diesel is used by shipping transports, you know those huge container ships constantly cruising our oceans with “stuff”. To limit further climate change we MUST stop importing the vast quantities of goods from the Far East that we currently do. It is completely unsustainable and harms marine life. I find it strange that an eco-company takes this lightly.

And while Patagonia may say that all their Chinese shops are fair and eco-friendly, I can’t help but wonder if they really, truly know. I haven’t yet seen a fair-trade stamp in their fluffy jackets or in their plaid shirts made in China. (The Indian fabrics and jeans are certified, but not the Chinese.) Where’s the stamp? And how do they know the factories are running on green energy?

My second issue is the heavy use of polyesters, and I am not the first one to bring up this issue with Patagonia. Fleece being a favorite of many outdoorsmen, one would think Patagonia would have come up with a 100% plant-based fleece by now, considering poly-blends are made from fossil fuel and release a ton of plastic microfibers into our waters every time they’re washed. Right?

I’m curious to see if any of these concerns of mine will be addressed by Patagonia in the future. I hope so, but cheap labor and stay-dry fabrics sure are attractive for a global company.

In the end, what I am trying to say with this post is that although a company appears to be doing things properly, going beyond what is required by consumers and is by definition “green”, there may be policies that I, on my own eco-journey, don’t agree with. And just because I don’t want to shop everything a brand has to offer, doesn’t mean I can’t buy the items that indeed are made right (here).

There is no getting away from tag-checking! Every time. Every garment. Every brand.

You can check out Patagonia’s Global Footprint HERE.

Go GREEN in 2017 and save lots of dough (How eco-friendly habits can make a difference in your budget!)

Ever heard someone say “green living is expensive” or “not everyone can afford to be eco-friendly”?

Yeah, me too! But let’s face it – it’s just another excuse.

I can’t think of a better time than now, as Christmas is finally over and many credit cards are exhausted from holiday spending, to talk about all the ways one can actually SAVE money by going green.

First, let me get the expensive, green habits out of the way and out of our minds so we can focus on where we can save. I won’t argue that A. A locally made product costs more than an imported one, B. Organic food cost more than generic food, and C. An electric long-range car costs more to buy than a gasoline driven one*.

Phew, that’s done. Now, let those go and dig into these ten tips for how YOU can save money while doing good for the planet!

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  1. Start a Not Made in China Challenge.

Ask me – I know all about it! Start reading labels, say no to made in China and watch your spending go down. Significantly. No more impulse buying. No more gimmicks. THIS measure alone will save you so much money. Let’s be honest, the reason you have credit card debt is that you buy too much crap. Oops. I meant to write “unnecessary things”.

  1. Buy second hand.

A previously owned item will save you 50% to 80%. Take a baby-onesie from Carters for example; $15 at the store, $2 from the second hand shop. I find that nicely organized consignment stores work best for me, while the thrill of amazing deals at the thrift store excites others. Many of my friends in the eco-community use and swear by online stores like Threadup.com.

  1. Invest in a smart thermostat.

Reducing your electricity use by heating and cooling only when you’re home and it’s needed will save most households $130-$145 per year.

  1. Stop buying bottled water.

This eco-habit does not apply to Flint residents (May 2017 be the year your water crisis is finally solved!) and other communities with questionable water supply, but to the rest of us, with access to fine tap water. Just because you’re going on an outing doesn’t mean you need bottled water either. Just fill up containers you have at home! My husband and I took a nine-day road trip this fall and did not buy a single bottle of water. Bring, refill, reuse. Americans spend 13 billion dollars per year on bottled water.**

  1. Go for salad, not steak.

The filet mignon or bone-in-ribeye will be among the most expensive choices on any menu. At a steakhouse, you might be paying $35 for steak and only $15 for the chicken salad. Depending on your restaurant habits, you can save more or less money per outing by going green.

  1. Buy groceries in bulk, but know when not to.

The larger the packaging, the lower the cost per pound. You know you’ll finish that peanut butter, that mayo and that ketchup anyway, so buy the huge jars. This applies to pretty much all dry goods and body lotion too. Veggies, fruits, baked goods and meats on the other hand (foods that go bad!), should be bought with the utmost of care. You want to limit food waste as much as possible. The Natural Resources Defense Council has reported that Americans discard 40 percent of their purchased food every year, with the average family of four throwing away an equivalent of $2,275 annually. Yikes!

  1. Drive less.

If you happen to live close to a friend or colleague, i.e. if the opportunity is there, ride together! Of course if you live close to your work, and it’s safe to do so, biking would save you lots of money as well. (This one is tricky for me because Houston is dangerous for biking, and public transport is pretty much nonexistent, hence why we got an EV to reduce our impact from driving, but I still want to mention it.)

  1. Become a library member.

Read lots of books for free! It’s a pretty amazing service if you think about it. You can also get in the habit of borrowing books from friends, maybe start a book club where the only membership term is letting each other borrow books.

  1. Invest in a set of cloth towels and linen napkins.

Use every day, wash, repeat. You’ll save on paper towels and these items will add no extra laundry loads at all, just wash them along with the weekly wash. (Guests find linen napkins so festive too! They’re always impressed and the table setting looks much nicer than with paper napkins.) I’ve blogged before about how reusable make-up wipes save you money as well.

  1. Explore local areas.

Instead of hopping on a plane to see another city, stay close to home and explore your own area. Travel does wonders for our souls, I agree, but a three-day-weekend getaway to Hawaii will be more stressful than rewarding. Fly with purpose and explore locally if your weekends are open. Camping will save you money too, versus checking in at a hotel.

That’s my list! How do you save money by being eco-friendly? Or how do you plan to do it in 2017? Let me know!

With that, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Let’s make it a green one.

* Since the market is still limited, there are way more “cheap” gasoline cars available to buy than electric ones. An EV will however, save you “gas money” over time.

** The average water pitcher filters 240 gallons of water a year for about 19 cents a day. Put in perspective, to get the same amount of water from bottled water would require 1,818 16.9-ounce water bottles a year – at an average cost of a dollar a bottle, that’s $4.98 a day. https://www.banthebottle.net/bottled-water-facts/

The unthinkable happened. But we, we will never stop fighting for what’s right

I had prepared a completely different blog post for this week. It was about hand me down items for eco-baby since I figured I wouldn’t feel the need to post anything about the election. Hillary would win, all the polls and predictions said so, we’d all be ok. There wouldn’t be anything to write about on an eco-blog like mine.

I was wrong.

And you know I don’t like being wrong.

Around nine pm on Tuesday I had a sudden, uncomforting feeling that she wouldn’t win. I had struggled all day not to cry (maybe pregnancy hormones made it worse) and at that point there was no holding it back anymore. The entire evening became a blur.

Frustrated with the reporting, I went to bed, but woke up in the middle of the night. Someone was honking and screaming “Woooooo!” outside. Living in Texas, I knew what that meant.

The anger and sadness I felt at that moment is hard to describe. I didn’t know it would hit me so hard. Like a punch to the gut. Like an overwhelming wave of grief and loss. He had made America hate again.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Hillary’s. Sure, she’d get the job done, and I agreed with her on most issues but she didn’t have my heart like Bernie did. But this election, for me and for many others, especially women, was never about her. It was about defeating the person who threatened our democracy. The person who offended pretty much everyone (except white middle-aged men). The person who said he doesn’t believe in climate change and that he’d defund the EPA. This person, who so clearly knew that the only people stupid enough to vote for him were the Republicans, that went on to win the election.

Darkness won.

As friends, family and the eco community have posted, tweeted, texted and supported each other throughout this horrible day of 11/9, I am somewhat uplifted by their love and comforted by the fact that Hillary did win the majority of the population’s votes. Yet I am, like so many of us, left wondering; where do we go from here?

I’ve always known the answer to that. I knew it already at nine pm last night.

We keep fighting. We hope and work our hardest to elect a progressive democrat as president in 2020. We support and protect our friends who represent the minorities of this country. We embody equality. And we keep focusing on making the world a better place.

We keep reading up on climate issues. We vote for plastic bag bans. We support the Native Americans standing up against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We sort our trash. We recycle. We eat vegan food. We drive our hybrids and electric cars. We shop small.

No matter how hateful he is, he cannot take our passion away from us. Our passion will not only inspire change, but it is and will fuel the entire economy of this country. We are the future.

Thank you to all who voted against him. Thank you Bernie Sanders – You’re the classiest.

Ending with a quote from Hillary today.

“This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

I’m hooked on these utility hooks!

Just in time before the weather turns drop dead hot and all the mosquitos south of Maine come to spend their summer (dining) in Houston, we had a chance to tidy up a bit in the yard. Among other things, we hung our ladder, a bike and a few cords in the shed.

How did we do it? The Elfa system! Mostly made in Europe, this is a great option to the made in China selections at Lowes and Home Depot, which for me is a no-can-do.

You may have already noticed that Elfa has completely taken over the smart storage section of the Container Store. Well, it is actually owned by said American chain since 1999, but headquarters are still in Sweden. I will admit that the Container Store people always attack us when we browse, trying to sell us all the smart and awesome Elfa stuff. It’s so tempting! Good thing is, as long as you don’t need (or fall for) the full walk in closet re-model, it’s just as affordable as the next well-made utility hangers and hooks.

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The hooks we bought ($14.99) are made in Poland and the quality, size and functionality is superb! They were very easy to mount and came with the needed screws. (The ladder is an extension ladder by Verner, made in our backyard, Mexico.)

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I’m super excited about the not made in China tidiness. Not so much about the mosquitos to come.