Tag Archives: zero waste

New scarf, leftover fabric: A beautiful (birthday) combination

My husband got me this beautiful scarf for my birthday. A little bird had told him that I really, really wanted it. (Guess who!).

Birthdays are awesome. Especially so if you are on a one item per month shopping challenge, since a well chosen gift just doubled your monthly fun. (That’s me.)

Now, this scarf is very special. Not only is the New York designer who made it committed to American manufacturing, but most garments Tabii Just offers is sewn from scrap fabrics. Yes!  The most beautiful discarded yardage from American mills and designers that would otherwise end up in landfill (or maybe once in a blue moon be recycled/downcycled). A great way to reduce a garment’s carbon footprint!

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Due to the fact that fabrics are “leftovers”, quantities of some styles are limited and the exact fabric content is not always known. The most common threads made locally are rayon, polyester and conventionally grown cotton, so one or more of those most likely. I actually shot Tabii an email and asked, and the owner replied that my scarf is some sort of rayon blend. The ball hem is “new” and made ethically by artisans in Mexico.

As we’re talking about a piece of clothing made from scrap material, the rayon’s biggest eco-issue in this case becomes the microfibers released when washing, but I don’t really wash my scarfs a whole lot ;)

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Another way Tabii Just is focusing on zero waste is by making patterns and designs with minimal scrap and cut-outs. And of course, a scarf is actually the ultimate zero waste item since, well, it’s basically just a square of fabric!

I am super excited to spend colder fall and winter days in this scarf. Happy birthday to me indeed.

Tabii Just is a member of the Made in America Movement.

Five ways to eco-boost your day at the office (every day!)

As the kids are gearing up for school, adults are gearing up for going back to work after our summer vacations. Oh wait, some of us never left. Either way, it’s a great time to kick start some new, sustainable habits along with that new, hopefully better, fall wardrobe you’re about to show off.

Most of us spend just as much time at the office (or other workplace) as we do at home. Therefore, what environmentally friendly choices we make during working hours certainly matters!

Here are five easy ways to eco-boost your day at the office. EVERY day!

1. Ditch the disposables

Using disposable cups for office coffee and water is a nasty habit. There is absolutely no reason to add cups to landfill every day, because you’re too lazy to wash up. If your office has a dishwasher, all the better, if not, there is no shame in taking your cups home now and then to give them a deep clean. If you’re a stir stick fan, use that plastic piece of nonsense multiple times (or how does over 500 years in landfill before it degrades sound?).

Disposable water bottles don’t belong in the office either, since most offices have a water cooler you can use. And if not, ask your employer to invest in one (or maybe water filters for all kitchen faucets).

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Scarf + coffee mug = match made in office

2. Be eco-smart about lunch

Lunch is the one meal a day that you get to control 100%. No boyfriend, wife, family or friends cooking for you or suggesting what’s for dinner. Use this opportunity to eat vegan meals, or at least put beef and dairy on the “forever forbidden lunch food” list. Avoid places that use disposable dishes and cups.

Pack your lunch now and then too (in reusable containers) to save the car trip, napkins, unwanted straws, receipts and cash.

3. Trash belongs in the common area (not your office!)

If you have a personal trash can in your office or cubicle, ever notice how the trash bag is changed almost every night? Throw a banana peel in there and I guarantee you the cleaning crew will change the bag. This behavior wastes so much plastic! 100 employees, 220 workdays, that’s 22,000 (half empty) plastic bags going to landfill every year! Take your trash to a common area, like the kitchen. Bonus! You’re less likely to sit on your butt all day.

4. Turn that light off

Just because you aren’t footing the electricity bill doesn’t mean Mother Nature isn’t. Unless you’re working in a building powered 100% by solar panels – a turbine, coal plant or nuclear reactor somewhere is making energy for you. Turn off your office lights, bathroom lights, fans, heaters and electronics when you leave a space. Help your forgetful colleagues by turning off their lights too (hey, only when they’re not there!).

If you have access to the A/C thermostat, great, set it to a comfortable (higher) level to save the building electricity! Plus you and your colleagues don’t have to use personal space heaters (to warm those cold feet). [Reader tip!]

5. Reduce, reuse and recycle

80% of office waste is paper, so being mindful about paper use is key. Only print when you need to, use both sides of the paper and collect all paper for recycling. I bet your office has a secure shredder bin or recycle collection bin, and if not, encourage (hmm, more like demand) that your employer gets one. Help your colleagues remember to recycle by setting up local paper collection trays in your specific work area. If you see a piece of paper in a personal office trash can (see point 3) give the person the evil eye. It’s effective.

recycling tray
Three people at work use my collection bin :)

That’s my list! I do these things every day and I promise it’s so easy! We can all make a difference while we’re on the clock. Quite the win-win.

Do you have more ideas on how to maximize our eco-friendliness at work?! Leave me a comment :)

Local is the new black (pair of shoes)

Yes. I bought myself another pair. A black pair for upcoming fall fashion.

In my defense, I did go through the entire list of Made in USA shoe brands on The USA Love List and did a google search before I committed to a yet another pair of Oka-bs.

Black Janey flats Oka-b
Made in USA “Janey” flats from Oka-b. Love.

The truth is there is just no beating the price ($45), the origin (made in Georgia, USA) and the comfort of these ballet flats!

The fact that they’ll recycle the shoes for me when (or if!) I’m ever done with them, just makes me feel so much better too.

This beautiful pair of flats are the Janey style in licorice (with grey pendant) and I am proud to say they were my one and only purchase in July. I’m rocking the 12 months – 12 items challenge.

Black Oka-b shoes LulaRoe pinstripe skirt
New ballet flats with my LuLaRoe (made in USA of imported fabric) skirt. Oh, and a plant.

To learn more about this company, read my other Oka-B posts: The first one. The second one.

Living it up (the eco-way) in New York City

Welcome to New York. It’s been waiting for you.

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.

Organic Soy Latte

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.

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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.

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My new Dirk Bikkembergs made in Italy sweater

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)
  • Carbon compensating my flights
  • Stayed at a local boutique hotel to support small business

I had an amazing time and I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the breaking the rules part.

Indeed, it was all waiting for me in New York!

Read about my previous eco-friendly work trip to California here.

Sweater+me photo credit: Shutterluv by Ashley.

Five cool(ing) ways to celebrate Earth Day!

Earth day 2016 is just around the corner, Friday April 22nd, and it’s definitely a day worth celebrating! Our lovely and diverse planet certainly deserves some extra attention. (Even though, in theory, every day should be Earth Day.)

Not sure how to celebrate?

Here are five earth-friendly ideas that’ll make a difference and hopefully kickstart some healthy and sustainable habits!

1. Do a “Zero Waste” day

Create awareness about our dependency on single-use-plastic and packaging by attempting to do a “zero waste” day! (That means you shouldn’t create any trash all day.)

Bring your reusable water bottle, coffee mug, a fabric towel and a set of utensils everywhere you go. Say no to the receipt, buy in bulk and bring your own shopping bags, produce bags and containers to the store if you need to go grocery shopping. No need for anything fancy, as long as it’s all reusable!

(If you must buy something packaged, pick metal or cardboard containers which you, of course, must recycle. Plastic is strictly forbidden.)

2. Go Vegan

That’s no dairy, no eggs and no meat for the day. Discover how nutritious and great plant-based foods taste and make you feel!

Keep in mind that butter and milk are in a lot of processed or cooked foods so read all the tags, ask questions at restaurants and dare to be “difficult” if you need to be. Indian, Thai and Mediterranean restaurants often offer good vegan choices.

(Yes, thank goodness wine is vegan, so go ahead and have that glass)

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3. Share transport, bike or walk 

Leave your car at home and take a ride with a colleague, friend or the local bus. Or better yet; walk or bike if distance and bike lanes allow.

4. Skip the shower 

Save some water and lots of chemicals from going down the drain by skipping the shower. I’m sure you can “make it” another day without… You might end up getting a new creative hairdo out of it! ;)

5. Plant a Tree 

If you’re feeling lazy and the four above are daunting – start with something simple like supporting a non-profit that benefits the planet! My favorite is Stand for Trees. For every 10 dollars you spend, you compensate 1 tonne of co2, support a forest community and they won’t offer a tacky gift or ask for your home address – no risk for spammy snail mail.

You can get involved and do good at EarthDay.org as well.

If we all did these thing everyday, imagine the cooling effect it would have on our climate! But for now, I am just challenging you to attempt them all, as well as you can, on Friday – I know y’all like small steps.

Yay! Earth!

Wipe that stuff off your face – organically and reusably

I don’t know about you, but mascara and eyeliner make my life a little bit more beautiful. On average, I use eye make-up six days a week, typically skipping it on either Saturday or Sunday, depending on our plans.

With a bit of make-up, comes a bit of make-up remover and, naturally, quite a few cotton rounds. All bought, used once and discarded in the process. As I have been looking into simple ways to reduce my waste lately, I decided to target cotton rounds – there must be reusable ones somewhere to be found!

By chance, when reading another sustainability blog, I stumbled across exactly what I was looking for. The solution to my waste problem: organic cotton, reusable eye make-up remover pads by Skin Deep Naturals. Where’s the purchase button?

As I am on a mission to shop local, I asked the company about origin, and I can confirm that these pads are American-made of fabric milled in the USA!

Now, let’s look at some of the benefits of the reusable rounds (I’ll be using acronym SDN), compared to conventional ones (like what you’d pick up at Target or ULTA).

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Reusable make-up remover wipes: Soft, fluffy & eco

SDN are made of organic cotton, where conventional ones are normally not. Organic cotton means fewer pesticides, fertilizers, happier soil and happier farmers. Overall, a better choice.

SDN don’t create any landfill waste, which means less methane emissions.

SDN saves energy. I’m not going to estimate how much energy it takes to wash the rounds in the washing machine. I mean, I just throw them in with the rest of the load. I’ve been washing them warm, hot, or in sanitize mode, depending on what else I am washing. The conventional rounds take a lot of energy to produce as the cotton is grown, harvested, formed and packaged for use in a disposable product.

SDN saves plastic! The store-bought rounds come in a plastic tube, whereas SDN came in a recycled cardboard envelope without any additional packaging. If you, like me, use make-up an average of six days a week, amounting to 312 cotton rounds used per year. 312 rounds not bought, means at least three plastic tubes saved, as they are packaged 100 rounds per tube normally. Every time you say no to one-time-use plastic you are helping the environment and making oil-moguls miss out on making another buck. This is a GREAT cause folks.

By buying SDN you are supporting a local, small, eco-friendly business.

SDN saves you money! Conventional cotton rounds cost between $1.50 and 4 dollars for a tube of 100, depending on the brand and quality. Let’s use $2.50 as the price for this comparison. SDN cost me $12 for eight rounds – that’s more than enough to sustain me between washes – versus a yearly cost of $7.80 for regular ones. Now, if you keep your SDN rounds longer than a year and half (which seems VERY likely), you’re starting to save money every time you wipe that junk off your face. Keep them for five years; you’ve saved almost 30 dollars. Ok, that’s not a fortune, but it proves a point that eco-friendly products can benefit both the environment and your wallet.

I do have one tip: wash them before your first use, as they tend to lint a little bit before they’ve had their first go-around in the machine.

Sold on this product yet, ladies? Maybe you want some organic facial cloths or reusable diaper wipes too? This is the time to wipe disposable wipes off the table!

Buy it ALL at SkinDeepNaturals.com

(You might be wondering how this purchase fits in with my 2016 shopping challenge? Well, these rounds were my only purchase in February! So far, I have spent $36 this year on two eco-friendly items, one per month, as planned. Yay.)

I first read about these at SustainableDaisy.com

Zero waste trip: Minimizing trash on the (business) go

I don’t consider myself a frequent flyer of any sorts. I avoid flying if I can; it’s boring, time consuming and adds to my carbon footprint, but sometimes duty calls.

In order to make the best out of a recent business trip and not just co2 compensate (which I always do at Stand for Trees – 1 ton per 1 domestic flight) I decided to attempt a zero waste trip.

Only about 56 hours of trip-time to handle, I figured this would be a great little zero waste outing. It’s a gamble on business trips because you cannot pick the restaurants or activities yourself, so it can be a waste trap, thus an exciting challenge. I brought these items with me, to help me out:

With my travel buddy in the terminal - ready to do this!
With my travel buddy in the terminal – ready to do this!

It started well, got my boarding pass on my phone and checked in at the parking garage with my credit card. Peets coffee in the terminal filled both my bottle with water and my mug with coffee. I did get a bran-muffin, which was baked inside of a paper type form. I took it with me on the plane, hoping to find a compost in LA.

I asked for my bottle to be filled with water once in air, and guess how they did that? By emptying a 12 oz aluminum can into it. What! Rumor has it that Southwest recycles, but I am not sure. I always see them throwing everything in the same trash bag. I decided to take the can with me so I could recycle it in the terminal. (Metal takes less energy than plastic to recycle, and can be recycled unlimited times, so at least not the worst material that could happen.)

From that point on, I was on a roll! Lucky for me, during the two dinners and one lunch I ate with my colleagues (all had good vegan or vegetarian options), I only “produced” one paper napkin of waste (wrapped around the utensils – no choice).

When it comes to hotels, I realized that if you take the time to consider your options carefully before you book, you can make your low waste life easier by staying at a place that serves breakfast instead of the classic continental (wasteful) breakfast buffet. I lucked out again as my manager had decided we should stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, where they served breakfast on porcelain and offered bulk coffee, juice in glass jars and made-to-order food. Of course I had to skip yogurt and individually wrapped baked goods, which wouldn’t have been great choices anyway – dairy and sugar – so no loss!

Another hotel-tip would be to use the “Do not disturb sign” at all times! It saves energy, cleaning supplies, time for the crew, water and trash bags. Easy!

I've had this "ziplock replacer" for my liquids for 7 years. Now that's reusing.
I’ve had this “ziplock replacer” for my liquids for 7 years. Now that’s reusing.

I kept my bottle with me at all times and filled the mug with coffee in the hotel lobby. When my colleagues wanted Starbucks, I opted for ice tea in my water bottle. I also stopped at a gas station and filled it with water from a soda machine while on the road.

The trip was going so well, but took a sour turn at LAX airport, where I couldn’t find a single proper restaurant and all the food came pre-packaged or was served on paper plates! (I panicked a bit when I saw apples wrapped in plastic. Yuck.) I had to rely on coffee to fill me up (Starbucks in my to-go mug) and a banana. There were no compost bins in the terminal and the banana was non-organic but I thought it was better than something processed and plastic-wrapped.

Despite the LAX despair, this trip turned out to be a fun zero waste adventure! It totaled only 1 paper napkin, a banana peel, one muffin form and some receipts (needed for my company to cover my expenses anyway) for the whole trip. This was despite trying really hard to produce zero waste.

It is truly astounding how much our society promotes waste and one time packaging! Gross!

Bringing your own water bottle and to-go mug on trips in the United States (as everyone is so nice letting you fill up with free water here) is super easy, convenient, cost effective and saves so many one-time-use cups and bottles! Next time I’ll pack some emergency nuts and fruits – just incase another LAX situation happens.

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Two heroes in the middle, surrounded by the one-time-use losers

You don’t have to be a zero waste hero to make a positive trash impact! Every small change you make matters. Saving straws and cups when you’re out and about, never buying bottled water, always opting for carton instead of plastic (eggs, milk, juice, rice, pasta etc.) and bringing bags (also for produce) to the grocery store is a great start to help reduce plastic waste. The average American uses 300 to 700 one-time-use plastic bags per year! You don’t have to be part of those statistics. Take control of your environmental impact.

As for the WHY in all of this. I read lots of zero waste blogs and I am trying to live low waste. There is simply no excuse for single-use plastic. Our oceans are full of it, animals die with it in their tummies, BPA found in it is hormone-disrupting, it’s made from non-renewable fossil fuel (again you are making the fossil guys richer by buying) and practically never degrades.

Here are some good pictures from The Two Hands Project, to inspire you to go reusable!

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Read more here about how they encourage everyone to “take 30 Minutes and two hands to clean up YOUR world anytime, anywhere” to deal with the plastic pollution. Love that idea!

Read up on Zero Waste and find blogs here, at the Zero Waste Bloggers Network.

2 years on the challenge: Not made in China GURU – c’est moi!

2015 has been an amazing year! Not because anything particularly amazing has happened, on the contrary, but I have learned so much this year; by dealing with life’s ups and downs, making mistakes and frankly by researching a hell of a lot, looking for answers and watching documentaries.

2014 was all about “surviving” this challenge of mine, just avoiding the made in China traps and looking long and hard at what I actually needed to buy vs. what I wanted to buy. 2015, on the other hand, has taken me and the challenge so much further, turning me into a shop local champ and close to living somewhat sustainably (still have a long way to go!). Shopping not made in China is actually easy now!

During the entire year of 2015, I have participated in buying only these (very) few items made in China:

  1. Plastic frames for prescription eye-glasses for my husband (one pair of sunglasses, one regular pair)
  2. Two pairs of foot-friendly Merrell sneakers for my husband.

Isn’t that an amazingly short list?! Hurray! Glasses and footwear are two of few items, I consider “need to have” so I don’t feel too bad about my felonies! About the sneakers, he got two pairs from China and I got three pairs from Vietnam… so we both went sweatshop there. Anyone else come close to that low number? Take a look around your home, just for fun, to see where your new purchases were made!

I’ve had a lot of people read my blog this year, mostly because I have shared it on social media and people with curious minds have clicked my links. Nothing is more awesome than having someone say “You have made me think of that” or “Because of you I did this”. It means so much to me. I believe that most people want to do right, by each other and by the planet; they just don’t have the simple tools or the knowledge to do so – yet. I am really just trying to inspire while I’m constantly learning more!

2015 lookback

There was a time when mankind thought the earth was flat. There was a time when some people said Climate Change wasn’t due to human actions. Wait, oops, that’s now…

So that said, here’s a list of a few easy eco-changes I’ve made this year in addition to shopping made right (here):

  1. I’m now pretty much vegetarian (but I’m not putting a label on it). I made this change in order to save water, CO2, methane emissions, forests, and energy. Basically save the planet! (Yes, I saw the Cowspiracy movie!)
  2. Our household now has 10% solar & 90% wind powered electricity. Finally found a provider serving our area offering only renewable energy! Whooo!
  3. Cut my hair to shoulder length! I’d like to think I did it to save water, shampoo, and products, but I did it to look cute. Still, the savings are a bonus :)
  4. Stopped using my trashcan at work. I noticed the cleaning crew changed the bag every day, even if there was just a tiny thing in it. Now I walk 20 steps to the kitchen. Exercise! And that is 240 plastic bags saved, per year, for ONE person.

It’s 2016! I will keep blogging, keep bugging you all (yay) and keep my optimism and passion for the environment because I believe passion is contagious!

Remember; The Not Made in China Challenge is not just about China. It’s about knowing where your possessions came from, how they were made and how they affect our planet. We all need to process that knowledge and take it seriously. What you choose to buy or not to buy is your vote and your impact on the world market.

This is the NOT MADE IN CHINA CHALLENGE 2016! I am psyched for this year – is this the year I will have ZERO items on my China-felonies count?

Thanks for reading! Come back and visit :)

Another day, another award. Such is the life of an eco-blogger.

A very interesting thing about blogging is that there’s a “spam box” linked to the blog, which collects all the spam-comments that get posted. I, for one haven’t figured out what the spammers gain from commenting on blogs, but maybe there’s some cyber logic to it. I check my spam box from time to time, because sometimes a real, sweet comment ends up in there by mistake. Last week while browsing thru the “Go to this link to get more search hits” and the “I appreciate your writing, did you write this yourself?” (yes, I get lots of those!), I found the most wonderful not-spam-comment from a fellow blogger in there, I had been nominated for an award!

versaTo be precise, Home Grown Heaven, a smallholding blog I follow, had nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. The blogging community is wonderful that way, we support each other and get inspired by each other, and sometimes, if one is lucky, an award pops up. This is actually my second ‘win’ this year (bursting with pride), as No Need for Mars, a great Zero Waste blog I read, nominated me for the Liebster Award back in August.

Now, the rules.  The two awards work in the same way, you nominate a few blogs you love, share them on your page, thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog. So, first, very many thanks Mrs. Fairweather at Home Grown Heaven!

Before giving the Versatile Blogger Award to anyone, one must “Consider the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, and the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page”. That being the criteria, I’m much honored! I was given the award with the following motivation (made me so happy):

Made Right (Here) – Anna couldn’t quite believe that Chinese garlic was a thing here but it’s actually really hard to buy garlic not grown in China, which is ridiculous considering I live in Ireland. Her blog has encouraged me to think more about what I do buy and where it comes from.

Next, I should select 15 blogs or bloggers that I’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. Pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent! And nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.

This is really hard for me to do. I do read other blogs and enjoy browsing from time to time, but for a blog to make it to the top of my list it better be dang good. I nominated five blogs in the Liebster Award process, which you can find here. I don’t want to nominate the same ones again so here are my nominees (it’s not going to be 15, ok?):

  1. The Delicate Tension. I discovered this blogger (Liz) when she shared a trailer to a wonderful mini-series about people working in Cambodia’s garment industry. Reading her content; he words are full of passion, wit and joy. Whenever it has been a while since she’s published a post, I miss her blog in my feed. She writes about slow fashion and shares the amazing custom garments she sews and her up-cycled fabulous thrift store finds.
  2. Forage and Forge. A bit of zero waste, a bit of homegrown, a bit of philosophy, a bit of homeschooling. All with wit, smarts and excellence. The tag line for this blog is “Sustainable living in Suburbia” and aren’t we all trying to master just that?
  3. Home Grown Heaven. Yes, the blogger who nominated me is actually one of my own favorites. It’s a dream of mine to one day grow my own food and have a few chickens running around a house with solar panels, on the country-side . This blog is inspiring, hopeful and well written. Maybe I can home grow too?
  4. Made in USA blogs. Not that anyone writing articles on this subject impresses me with their heartfelt writing (not that kind of blogs), but since I am on a mission to shop local, it’s a must to stay updated on this topic. There’s Made in USA News, which collects stories from different outlets about stateside manufacturing. There’s the Simply American blog whose library of brands and posts is extensive, and there’s the Clothing Made in USA blog, focusing on just that.

I hope you take the time to check these blogs out. (Since I only managed to list a select few, looking them all up sounds like a manageable task ;))

Utah in the air. Happiness in my heart.
Utah in the air. Happiness in my heart.

Finally, I must tell the person who nominated me 7 things about myself.

  1. I am having a hard time starting this list, despite the fact that I love to talk about myself.
  2. Some days I draft a plan in my head of how my husband and I would make our escape from the Walking Dead, should they be closing in.
  3. I’ve had so much Washington State Riesling this year, I am currently having a hard time drinking any dry wines.
  4. My best vacation ever was a 9 day road-trip in Arizona and Utah, with my husband in 2014, visiting the National Parks.
  5. English is my second language.
  6. America’s overconsumption is what inspired me to start this blog.
  7. My celebrity crushes are Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, judge (with the best accent) on the X Factor UK and Prince Ea, vlogger, planet promoter and mastermind.

Two awards in one year, and a blog that keeps growing (very slowly but still!). I love writing and I love that people are actually reading about sustainability! One can be nothing but grateful for support like the type Home Grown Heaven has shown, by giving me the award. Thank you! I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present!

And on that note – Happy Holidays everyone!

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree… when disposable beats reusable

It’s that time of year again when we all start talking about Christmas. Christmas plans, Christmas wishes, Christmas time off from work, Christmas weight gain, Christmas spending…

My husband and I don’t do the gifting every year and we probably have less than 10 Christmas decorations, but I actually love this holiday! For me, it’s all about cooking, listening to music, being all around cozy and drinking spiced hot wine (“Glögg”). Favorite Christmas album? Destiny’s Child’s 8 days of Christmas. Sassy harmonies combined with jingle bells – sign me up! (And give hubby a pair of ear-plugs.)

It's the real deal.
It’s the real deal.

Now, let’s talk Christmas trees!

Did you know that the most eco-friendly choice is to buy a real tree each year, instead of buying and reusing an artificial one?

A Swedish nonprofit I follow, the Nature Protection Organization, published an article about it last year, which is where I first read about it.

Before your go “hurray” and head on over to Wal-Mart’s parking lot, there are a few constraints to consider. You need to make sure your tree was grown sustainably, preferably organic, and comes from a nearby, healthy forest (or farm). You’ll probably have most luck shopping with a small vendor or straight from the owner to assure that you’re getting a happy tree.

The tree should then be cut and composted, used for heating (if you have a high efficiency furnace) or collected by the municipality for use as heating material or be composted, large scale, when the season is over.

Unless someone in the family is allergic, a real tree is also a safe choice for your home.

Taking a closer look at the option, an artificial tree, there are several (obvious) reasons as to why this type of tree is worse for the environment than the real one. First, the artificial, plastic Christmas tree was transported here from far away; most often from China, may have been manufactured un-ethically and generally contains chemicals.  It comes wrapped in plastic, inside a cardboard box with ink on it (waste!). And when it’s time to get a new one, should it get old and worn, it’s not recyclable and ends up in landfill (waste!). Even if you use it for as long as 10 years, a real, locally grown, sustainable tree, should still be better.

There’s an exception; if you already own a plastic tree, of course, using that one again is the best choice!

We had guests for Christmas last year so we said yes to the mess of decorating our house (a little). We went with a real tree, obviously, which we picked out at the local farmers’ market. We decorated it with homemade paper decorations, popcorn string, Mardi Gras beads, the few ornaments we already had, and the main attraction was a colorful string of lights from Taiwan. I’ve never been into the multi-colored lights but it was the ONLY box of lights I could find not made in China! See, this challenge is forever pushing my boundaries of style.

This year, it may just be the two of us for Christmas and we haven’t decided if we’re having a tree or not, yet. If we are, we will do a style-repeat from last year since it was such a looker!

What do you think? Artificial or real?

Picking out the tree. Notice the wonderful "Christmas weather" #Houston
Picking out the tree. Notice the wonderful “Christmas weather” #Houston
Making the popcorn string took a long time!
Making the popcorn string took a long time!
Wow, look at them classy lights! Ella & Ben are very cute though, and I spy American made New Balance sneakers in the background.
Wow, look at them classy lights! Ella & Ben are very cute though, and I spy American made New Balance sneakers in the background.

My Swedish (speaking) readers can read the article HERE.

The best butter is Booda’s – spread the goodness

It’s finally fall, my favorite Houston season. And even though I love that crisp feeling in the morning, it is that time of year when my hands get really dry due to the colder, dryer air. It’s time for some beauty on the blog!

What you put on your body, goes in your body, right?!

Introducing the Booda Butter daily moisturizer. Handmade in Washington State with lots of love, this butter doesn’t contain anything I can’t pronounce. It’s simply made of organic shea butter, certified organic and unrefined coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil and Fair Trade organic cocoa butter – delicious! It is, as you can see from the list of ingredients, vegan and cruelty free. I imagine it is also extremely low waste thru production, since it is 100% plant based (compost!) and made in small batches with raw ingredients. All this goodness is wrapped up in a reusable tin can.

Booda is ALL natural. And I love his little face!
Booda is ALL natural. And I love his little face!

Personally, the butter is a little bit too rich for me, in order to use it on my entire body. So, that’s why I use it as my luxury, super soft and smoothing hand cream. Mmm, smells like chocolate cake in here! My first can has lasted forever by now; it takes a very little amount of butter to give my hands a quick spa day.

Booda Organics also offers all-in-one soap bars (which fit inside the old butter tin cans for storage), and lip-balm (I actually use my butter on my lips sometimes too). The source of water used in the soap process is filtered from a nearby spring, and leaves no residue of chemicals, chlorine or fluoride in the finished product.

This is beauty simplified, honest and safe. For all of us challenged in the d-i-y department; this is pure bliss.

Love it!

Halloween – The scariest holiday of them all! Boo!

Despite the fact that I love orange, Halloween is my least favorite American holiday. I’m not even sure that, per definition, Halloween can be labeled as such. The reasons for my dislikes are simple.

First reason: The amount of merchandise people buy is an outrage considering the length of time they will enjoy it. Halloween is ONE day. And yes, it’s all imported, low quality China crap. For someone on a shop local mission – this is pure horror.

Made in China at its finest: Happy
Made in China at its finest: Happy “Neewollah” y’all! Thank you Martha Stewart; great call.

Second reason: Sugar overload, with a side of processed, for all little kiddos – need I elaborate?

Third reason: Candy wrapper frenzy. Individually packaged, small pieces of candy – that must be the most wasteful way of using plastics in packaging. These wrappers aren’t being recycled (not sure they can be?) and some of which will get lost outside trick or treating and end up in our lands and waters. Pretty much any zero waster’s worst nightmare.

No, I ain’t joking friends; this rant is dead serious.

I did hear a few of my friends saying they were reinventing old costumes this year; using big brother’s old outfit for little sister, which is definitely a good way to reuse and save money and help the environment! Here’s another idea to save; since you find sustainability and mindfulness so scary, why don’t you dress up as environmentalists? It’s easy. Just wear your normal clothes, hand out fruits and veggies as your treats, and mind your waste.

On a lighter note, we got invited to a pot-luck on Saturday, no costumes necessary, just good ole’ fall fun (yay!). Since I am refusing to buy anything even remotely related to this eco-terrifying “holiday”, a garden pot-luck is the perfect way to celebrate!

I’ll be wearing my favorite orange outfit and I can’t wait to try some pumpkin soup. If the time is right, and the crowd is right, (I’ll be the judge of that, thank you!); I’ll probably rant a bit about my Halloween-dislikes too. Happy Halloween; Anna-style.

Boo!

Now that’s what I call an eco-friendly ballet flat!

I need to write some more about the navy blue ballerina flats I added to the LookBook last week. Why? Because they are quite special!

okabporchThe reason I got new shoes in the first place, is that I finally came to terms with the fact that my old, navy blue Keds really had to be demoted to yard shoes & CVS runs (sob, sob), and with that leaving an opening in the hallway for new, blue shoes. I wear a lot of blue to the office, navy and dark blues are my favorites and I love pairing dark blue jeans with blue flats.

I saw a picture on twitter of an Oka-B Lilly ballet flat and thought, “Wow, how can those cute, made in USA, ballerinas only be 45 dollars?” I had to investigate.

As it turns out, there’s more to this brand than meets the eye. First, all the shoes are actually made of plastic, which is fully recyclable. If you are not comfortable putting your shoes in the recycling bin when you’ve worn them out; send them back to Oka-B and they’ll recycle them for you. Second, they’re all made in Georgia by a team that stands by their product enough to offer a two year warranty. Warranty on shoes? That’s awesome! There are women’s flats, wedges and sandals in a variety of styles and colors to choose from.

Five minutes into surfing their website, I found that Oka-B is the daughter company of Okabashi shoes, who go by the same concept of made right here, vegan, recyclable, ergonomic, easy clean shoes, but offers another set of styles; including flip flops, sandals and clogs for men and women. Both Oka-B’s and Okabashi’s manufacturing process is virtually waste-free since scrap material is recycled into new products. It’s local manufacturing combined with zero waste; made in USA at its finest!

Now, last, but most definitely, not least; let’s talk about the box in which my “Sapphire with Navy Knit Flower” ballet flats came.

OKa-B new

Oh, goodness. It is quite possibly the most beautiful shoe box I have ever seen! I paid 35 dollars for my shoes (I found a 10 dollar coupon code on okabashi.com – yay) and that included this magnificent box.

Shoes fit true to size and they are comfy! The fact that they’re plastic happens to be a great bonus for someone living in monsoon land, also known as Houston, Texas.

In a few years, after I have reused, reused and enjoyed, should they get worn out; I will definitely recycle them! The box on the other hand, is staying with me. For EVER.

[LINK to Oka-B]

Back at the Rack for something Splendid

Funny enough, just a few days before I bought these cool pants, my friend had texted me about Splendid. She asked if I knew the brand, and I said no, and she said they may still be making most of their stuff in USA, so I said I would look into it. I added the brand to my imaginary “must-check-out-this-brand-note-book” immediately. Turns out, they are not all made in USA anymore, but do fabricate in Cali still.

You know what happened next; I was at the Rack and found this pair of sweats in my size in the clearance section! MSRP $128, I paid $32: that’s how I like it.

splendid

This was a particularly awesome shopping experience because it was a zero waste purchase! I said no to the bag, and the store offered to email me the receipt meaning no print was needed. Also, I had parked my car where I had an errand close by and ended up walking all the way to the Rack (in 100 degrees) and back: reducing start-stop emissions!

I swear I am not on an endorsement deal from Nordstrom Rack. For real! I just find so many amazing deals there that I keep blogging about them.

Comfy, cool and my favorite color. Win.

This week’s impulse purchase: A few tons of CO2 and some trees

Have you ever experienced the mysterious ways your friends like things on Facebook?

What I mean is this: Post a picture of yourself in a new dress, tag it #MadeinUSA #OutfitILove and get 25 likes, five comments and 100 views on the blog. Post a link to a relevant article on land destruction (so sad) or animals being saved from captivity (yay); get two likes, no comments, no views. (One of those likes being from my husband.)

So when I came across this video and shared it and no one seemed to care, I figured I’d share it here too. Maybe a few eco-conscious followers will watch it :)

I didn’t know who Prince Ea was before I stumbled upon his important message. He is saying EXACTLY what I want to tell people who seem to not have woken up yet. We have one planet.

Favorite Quote: “What ever you are fighting for; Racism, Poverty, Feminism, Gay Rights or any type of Equality – It won’t matter in the least, because if we all don’t work together to save the environment we will be Equally Extinct.”

No matter your cause; saving wildlife, planting trees, cutting back on meat, shopping sustainably, living homemade, committed to zero waste, driving electric… One way or another, you have probably implemented these changes in your life with an intention of doing better for our planet. And the thing is, once you start walking down one eco-path, you quickly embrace another. Why? Because they make sense.

Thanks to all the bloggers who inspire me to walk new paths! And, of course, thanks to Price Ea who made me make an impulse purchase (I hardly ever do!) in order to save some trees :)

trees

Must give cudos to Stand for Trees for not asking for my home address or offer to send me some sort of “thank you gift”. Above PDFs in an email, was all I got and wanted.

Got some money burning in your pocket? Donate here to plant some trees and support clean air and lives:

Stand for Trees