Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Big Dorks Love Gnomes

I love quirky, handmade items. I also love gnomes. So I can't help but be totally excited about these little "weefolk" doors being sold on Etsy. How cute are these little doors? So, um, yes, they are totally unnecessary. I see this point. But, you must remember, I do have a bit of a shopping habit. Therefore, I would rather indulge my little compulsion by buying a handmade item, than something plastic made in China that is sold at Target. Plus, c'mon, these are so damn cute. Just admit it.

Check out more versions at Wee Folk Outfitters and give your gnomes a home!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dalai Lama Calls for Action on the Environment

Last week I sat outside for several hours in the unseasonable heat on the West Lawn waiting for the Dalai Lama to emerge out of the Capitol after he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. The Medal ceremony was shown on a large screen outside. I have to be honest, it sickened me to no end to see the Dalai Lama sitting next to George Bush. A man of such conscience and peace, sitting next to a war-monger. However, this was actually the first time that a sitting president has met with the Dalai Lama in public (pissing China off to no end).

Anyhow, it was amazing just to be so close to His Holiness - in fact, it moved me to tears when the crowd (including my cute dad who was on the phone with me at the time) started chanting "Long live the Dalai Lama! Long live the Dalai Lama!"

His Holiness made a point of talking about the environment in his remarks. Here is a portion of what he said:

"Since you have recognized my efforts to promote peace, understanding and nonviolence, I would like to respectfully share a few related thoughts. I believe this is precisely the time that the United States must increase its support to those efforts that help bring greater peace, understanding and harmony between peoples and cultures. As a champion of democracy and freedom, you must continue to ensure the success of those endeavors aimed at safeguarding basic human rights in the world. Another area where we need US leadership is environment. As we all know, today our earth is definitely warming up and many scientists tell us that our own action is to a large part responsible. So each one of us must, in whatever way we can, use our talents and resources to make a difference so that we can pass on to our future generations a planet that is at least safe to live on.

Many of world's problems are ultimately rooted in inequality and injustice, whether economic, political or social. Ultimately, this is a question of the wellbeing of all of us. Whether it is the suffering of poverty in one part of the world, or whether it is the denial of freedom and basic human rights in another part, we should never perceive these events in total isolation. Eventually their repercussions will be felt everywhere. I would like to appeal to you to take a leadership role in an effective international action in addressing these problems, including the huge economic imbalance. I believe the time has now come to address all these global issues from the perspective of the oneness of humanity, and from a profound understanding of the deeply interconnected nature of our today's world."

Full transcript here.

Green Style in Adams Morgan!







(MORE Pictures to come.)

Last Friday, I attended the Hoopla grand opening celebration. Hoopla is a little boutique in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood that sells environmentally-friendly, locally-designed and fair trade clothing, art and decorative items.

Hoopla used to be located at Barracks Row, but has recently made a new home on 18th street in Adams Morgan. Hoopla is a wonderful gift boutique. It has a variety of quirky, unique and beautiful items meant to soothe your spirit, while assuaging your conscience. It also has a good selection of clothing made from eco-fabrics or in non-sweat shop conditions (many of the clothes that are sold in the US are made in sweatshops with atrocious conditions - read more here).

Only a few years ago, environmentally friendly clothing mostly consisted of either scratchy hemp dresses that your “artistic” Aunt Gladys wore on special occasions, piled high with turquoise necklaces, or outfits that only your cousin Jed (who followed Phish for about two months too long) would appreciate. However, over just the last two years, many young designers have entered the market, seeking to design clothes with a lighter environmental footprint. Lucky for us eco-fashionistas. Many of the styles at Hoopla would look totally at home in the latest issue of Elle. One line that was particularly engaging was Grace and Cello. The dresses, tops and pants were made from sumptuous fabrics (organic cotton, bamboo), cut in modern, current silhouettes. Another line – with an enjoyably unusual name, Sworn Virgins, had a lovely trapeze shift dress that had the weight and feel of a top-line vintage piece (another words, like they don’t make them anymore). Your author wanted to try them all on – if it wasn’t for the unseasonable humidity. (But not to worry, Aunt Gladys, Hoopla has some lovely outfits for you, too!)

Cosmos and mojitos made with organic cocktail mixers were being served in the back room where a local artist was showing her series of Goddess-inspired paintings, while an Appalachian lap dulcimer entertained the guests with its distinctive sound. The pouring rain gave us a good excuse to postpone our departure and we continued to mingle with the like-minded Washingtonians late into the evening.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reduce Waste, Protect Bloggers - Use Sippy Cups!

There are weeks where I have to valiantly try to not turn my blog into the “whyIhatedc” blog – but its hard. Most Washingtonians’ general disregard for the waste that they create makes me want to vomit (often), frankly. For instance, take this family that is currently sitting next to me at the Big Bear Cafe (my only salvation from writer's block) with their two year old child. The child, like the rest of the family, is holding a disposable cup, which is filled with water. As most of us know, there is a 99.9999% chance that this child will, at some point in his cafĂ© patronizing experience, launch this cup of water at some unsuspecting person trying to spend a Sunday morning writing intelligently wry prose for her blog. Why would these people not bring a sippy cup? They all have them – most likely 3-4 sippy cups displaying all kinds of colorful shapes or characters – at home. The design is key: the lid stays on, protecting unsuspecting female writers from water attack. But no. The cup is launched. The water soaks the floor, missing my computer by millimeters. The cup is thrown away and a new disposable cup is procured for the precious small human being with which to practice his pitch at the next innocent patron. Save trees, reduce landfill waste, protect bloggers . . . use sippy cups, people!!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Reduce, Reuse, Relove

One of my favorite clothing companies, Preloved, has an incredibly simple eco-sensitive idea – make new clothes from old clothes. According to charityguide.org, the average American disposes of 67.9 pounds of clothing and rags each year. “Collectively, Americans discard two quadrillion pounds (that's a two with fifteen zeroes!!) of used clothing and textiles into the landfills each year . . . although almost 95% of used clothing is reusable or recyclable.” In addition, manufacturing clothing from scratch uses more resources and creates much more environmental waste.

Preloved, a Canadian company, offers affordable, one-of-a-kind designer pieces made from gently used clothing and other items (such a bed-sheets). According to Treehugger.com, Preloved’s Spring 2006 collection included 7,000 lbs. of recycled bed sheets, 30,000 sweaters, thousands of t-shirts and hundreds of pounds of jeans.

All I can say is WOW!!

Find Preloved in the Washington DC area at Nana boutique, 1534 U Street, NW. Last time I was there, they had lovely cashmere dresses that were to die-for soft and each one was totally unique. No more worrying about someone else wearing your outfit at a party.


Also:

For a really informative article (with pictures!) on the environmental impacts of the apparel industry, see “Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry” in the online version of the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Secondhand Choice, First-Class Style

Living in a high-income metropolitan area really has its benefits . . . especially when it comes to buying secondhand. There are many that expound on the style virtues of buying vintage – for home and closet. But most of them miss the environmental value of buying secondhand. Buying used does not only provide you with unique style points, it also:

Saves natural resources**: Buying used reduces the use of virgin materials like the wood in your sofa, the cotton of the upholstery, the wool of your sweater, etc.
Keeps stuff out of landfills: Landfills are a poor use of land and a potential source of groundwater contamination. They also releases of methane and other gases. Often, landfills are located in under-served, minority communities promoting issues of eco-racism.
Saves energy: Enormous amounts of energy are required to make products and to process materials for products. The less new products you buy, the less energy is needed.
Prevents pollution: All manufacturing processes use water and release wastewater and air emissions into the environment.
Saves money: Used products are often less expensive than new ones, leaving more mula on the table for healthy organic produce, trips to the beach or another pair of vintage boots from Ebay (hee hee).



** Info from: http://www.p2pays.org/recycleguys/why.asp



Great stuff on DC Craigslist RIGHT NOW (Pics are links)!

Solid Cedar Shelf Unit ($50) - beats Ikea veneer any day
A handcrafted bench for the hallway ($200 - half off retail)
Nice lines for a small table and how can you beat 5 bucks!!
And if you really do have an Ikea fetish ($80 - half off store price)








“Um, I’m, not sure”, or, brief thoughts on the Green Festival in DC

I have gone to the Green Festival every year since it first started in DC four years ago. It really is an amazing effort by Co-Op America to expose everyday Americans to green, compassionate and fair trade options in everything from insulation to skirts to chocolate to laundry detergent to energy to . . . more products than you can shake a dollar at.

Of course, locating these festivals in urban centers that are traditionally more progressive is kind of like preaching to the progressive choir. However, it still surprises me when so many “progressives” know very little about the options there are out there to make changes in their everyday living. Perhaps it is especially apparent in DC – where people work on policy changes, but commit very little of their personal time to living their ideals. As I like to say, in DC, even the environmentalists don’t recycle. (Case in point: two people in my neighborhood's cafe with Green Festival "Staff" shirts, both carrying paper cups. Um, every hear of reusable mugs? That shit drives me nuts!!) In any case, urban centers offer more of a welcoming (read: paying) audience to the festival promoters – it is a business (albeit, non-profit) after all.

It has really been amazing to see the consistent growth of the products aisle each year. More and more companies are tipping their toes into the commerce of green, hoping to cash in on this latest trend while living up to their own personal ideals. Business still gets a bad rep in many enviro circles – but the festival is showing that it’s still about the economy, stupid.

One thing that struck me at this year’s show, besides the increasing numbers of useful products, is that the booth occupants were surprised when I asked them more than perfunctory questions about their products. "I'm not sure" was a popular answer.

“So, do you know much about the disposal of the toxic chemicals that are used to process the bamboo pulp into cellulose for fabric production?”

“Under what conditions is your laundry dryer sheet biodegradable in 21 days?”

Sigh. Some had answers. Some didn’t. One bamboo t-shirt manufacturer said that the toxics question was raised for them for the first time at the festival (what??!) and that they needed to look into it. I don’t mean to disparage any of these entrepreneurs – I am sure they will look into the questions that were raised. I am sure they will adjust harmful practices. But the surprise in most of the booth occupants’ faces when I raised various issues just shows me that most people were not asking them much outside of: “does this t-shirt come in other colors?” And here is my conflict – perhaps that’s good. Perhaps the incorporation of green products into mainstream shopping habits is what needs to happen. Perhaps people need to just know organic cotton=good. But I worry about a lack of exploration of the reasons of WHY organic cotton is good. And the fact that buying a lot of stuff that you don’t need (even if it is green or fair trade), is still not good for our future.

But, you know what? With all my conflicted musings, I still had a great time. I had great conversations, met interesting people, ate yummy food, heard Jim Hightower and Ralph Nadar bash the Republican administration and was inspired that other people seemed to care as much as I did. And then I returned to my DC neighborhood . . . and realized that the green movement has a long, long way to go before it reaches my neighbors and all the people like them across the world. Sigh.

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