Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fixating on the Eco . . . Daily Trials and Tribulations

[Every day, everywhere I go, I think about my environmental footprint. I think about where things come from before they get to me (is this organic? locally-made? heavy with chemicals?) and where things go after I am done with them (does this café recycle? should I take this home and compost it? should I reuse this paper?) . One might even say that I am a little obsessed with mentally chronicling my eco-impact.]


Wednesday, February 27

I wake up with what seems like a hang over, although I know that I drank nothing alcoholic last night. As a matter of fact, I am avoiding alcohol nowadays (hard for an avid beer connoisseur), as I find that in my old age, too much yummy lager (even if its organic!) makes my face a bit saggy. I gaze in the mirror and imagine resembling some fictional, tee totaling aunt, with shapeless jowls screaming out for a nip and tuck way before it is time.

I linger too long in the VERY hot shower, feeling guilty for all the energy I am unnecessarily wasting (“I was perfectly clean 10 minutes ago,” I say to myself). But, the pulsating droplets are throbbing me awake and the water feels soothing against my skin (even though I know that the chlorine in DC’s water is drying out my skin more and more with every extra minute) . . . I can’t get out. The shower is where I dissect my dreams, plan my day, reminisce about a memory. I breathe in the scent of my Burt’s Bees Citrus & Ginger Root Body Wash and make a mental note to take a shorter shower tomorrow, but know deep down that it will probably not happen, so decide that this specific energy waste will go in the “necessary for sanity” column on my life’s list of eco-weaknesses.

I breakfast on one banana, one orange and one cup of organic black tea with turbinado sugar. I wonder whether it really makes that much difference whether they are organic, or not, for my body (although I know that it makes a big difference for the environment.)

I walk the dogs, picking up the poop with a biodegradable poopy bag. In reality, these bags will probably not biodegrade in a landfill at all (since the conditions need to be precise) and I contemplate not spending the extra money on them next time. But then I think, what if they do degrade? What if 50% of them end up degrading? Isn’t that better than nothing? or, am I being manipulated by marketing that is creatively seizing on my environmental sensitivities? I think about doing more research on the matter.

I bike over to the Big Bear cafe, a locally-owned coffee shop at 1st and R Streets, NW to meet good-natured Em from the Goodwill Fashion blog. I order a half-caf/half-decaf Americano. I notice the barista reaching for a paper cup and ask for a mug instead. She responds (not unkindly) that she will have to wash one for me. I thank her lavishly. Coffee is yummy. Fresh fruit tart is to die for. Em and I chat, plan, laugh. I bike home.

Since we don’t own a vehicle, I need to rent a car for tomorrow’s multiple vet appointments for the dogs. I try to take the bus and the metro as much as possible to the vet (usually squishing one of my dogs into a little dog carrier and making sure I bring the print out of the bus rules on dogs to show to the driver if he tries not letting me bring my dog on his bus.) But, sometimes, a car is a necessity. Esp. if your dog’s cardiologist is in Bowie, MD. Anyway, I usually rent from Enterprise on N St. because the company seems to hire people who have brains as opposed to all the other car rental companies who seem to hire . . . well, enough ranting. Enterprise employees are polite and prompt. As I am making my reservation on the Enterprise site, I notice a new item on the reservation menu. Carbon Offset” it says. A little round of “whoopees!” echoes in my head. Only $1.25, too! I click for more info: Enterprise Rent-A-Car is pleased to offer you the opportunity to benefit the environment by offsetting carbon dioxide emissions generated by a rental vehicle. For just $1.25 you can offset emissions produced by the average rental. The money will go to TerraPass to fund certified offset projects that work to remove carbon from the atmosphere. What's more, we will match these customer contributions dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million dollars. I have read about TerraPass - their slogan is "restore the balance". They do actual clean energy projects, they don’t just plant trees (which is kind of controversial when it comes to offsets). I love Enterprise even more.

Since I have a car and its freakin’ cold out, I decide that I will drive over to Sephora in Georgetown instead of biking or taking the bus (hey, I did RUN over to the car rental place in 34 degree weather!). I do feel a little guilty about this, but I decide that I will combine it with a trip to Whole Foods on the way back to stock up on groceries (there is only so much you can lug home on your bike every day).

I love Sephora. Even though they have been futzing with their set-up and there are no convenient or well-lit mirrors on the second floor now, it is still so much fun to go there and play. It seems so wasteful to use a make-up applicator once and just throw it away, but I can’t come up with any better idea about how to keep the process sanitary . . . I try not to use too many. I have always been a make-up girl. In 4th grade, when one of my classmates told me that my gold and purple eyeshadow concoction was ugly, I just chalked it up to a lack of creativity on his part. But I am frustrated with my relationship with makeup right now. Most make-up is filled with all kinds of chemicals. And the natural brands that are out there, just don’t work very well. Or they are so brand new that they are constantly changing their formulas. I was in love with an organic Juice Beauty tinted moisturizer. It was fairly transparent and just evened out my skin. But it only came in one shade, which, luckily, matched my tone. But, you can’t really penetrate the market with one shade. So they expanded. And instead of ADDING more shades, they got rid of my one shade and replaced it with two others. One of which was now too pale for me and the other too dark. I was so desperate, I bought the one that was too dark and thought that I could blend it really, really well and that no one would notice. Thankfully (sort of), it made my face break out – which, saved me from the worst make-up sin of all: wearing foundation or concealer that is the wrong color. After an hour of testing various options (and trying not to seem mortified when the saleswoman described one of the sections we were in as the “Chemical Section”), I reverted to my roots and went for a tinted moisturizer and AMAZING undereye concealer from Clinique, the “must-have” brand for all the cool girls at North Penn High School. (Thanks to Daddy Likey for the suggestion.)

With a quick stop at Sports Zone to look for a pair of sneakers (seriously, how does that store stay open? The employees all look – and act – like they are in a hip-hop video and there is no merchandise), I trot over to H&M and decide that I needed to find something to match my new-to-me vintage Paco Rabanne dress-coat that I just bought in Seattle. I have done research on H&M’s corporate social responsibility record and they do a pretty comprehensive job of being on top of their game. Of course, it is impossible to keep track of everything that happens in your supply chain, but they do significantly more than many other brands - like Urban Outfitters (which does almost nothing). I try not to buy anything made in China, but all the things I like are made there . . . (frown). Plus, I am disappointed with myself for not bringing extra bags for shopping. Although I have my super-compact Chico bag, I would rather use it for groceries. I guess I could use it at H&M and then leave the clothes in the car when I go into Whole Foods, but the salesgirl offers me the new “Fashion Against AIDS” paper bag and I think it would be a good keepsake to make into a book cover or something.

As always, Whole Foods is a frustrating experience. Not the actual shopping or anything - just the people. You know who I mean. The people who spend hundreds of dollars on eco-friendly products and organic produce only to stuff it all in a gazillion plastic bags (which they will, most likely, just throw away). I temper my annoyance by thinking that some people would say that even people who wear ugly REAL fur and use plastic bags deserve to eat healthy food, too . . . And at least they are promoting a transition to better practices. My mood is lightened by a young, very stylish, woman, who is carrying her groceries in a fantastic bag. She has everything: the coat, the hair, the “It” bag AND she brought her own bag for groceries! I wish so much that I had my camera. Next time.

Sweet and Dirty . . .

. . . just how I like it!

I came across this small fashion line of t-shirts today and totally loved it! The designer gets her inspiration from Paris flea markets and vintage embroidery. But, be warned, her embroidery is not something you should wear around your grandmother . . . even if it looks sweet from far away.

While it's not specifically eco-friendly, it has given me some inspiration on how to brighten up some old summer tees with some embroidery . . . nothing says summer like some choice four letter words and birdies.

(Pictures link to designer website.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Patience and Internal Calm

I am an impatient person. I want to resolve it. I want others to get it. I want to hold it in my hand and then move on. I have a hard time with ambiguity, with questions that don't have answers. I seek answers actively, obsessively. But, instead of peace and contentment with the journey of discovery, I often feel anxiety. I really loved the following quote by Rainer Maria Rilke that I came across here:

"I beg you...to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer..."

Rent Some Wheels; Breathe a Little Easier

Hello there! I have been gone a long time, I know. Looking for a job has taken over my life - I am finally emerging after weeks of tweaking cover letters ("should I say 'managed' or 'provided leadership for'?") and resume editing ("if I can just find a way to shorten this bullet, I can fit it all on one page!") (phew.)

Anyway, moving on to the topic at hand: renting a car. I have always been a fan of Enterprise Rent-a-Car - not only do they come and pick you up at your house so that you can rent from them, their employees are the best I have ever come across renting a car (and I have a lot of experience renting cars since I have not owned a car in 17!!! years).

I swear, every time I rent from one of the other agencies, I encounter employees who not only could give half a crap about me as the customer, but are also poorly trained and dumb. Just stupid. And rude. Somehow, there is always SOME problem with my rental and no one can figure out where the car keys are . . . what happened to the contract . . . why all the available cars are on empty . . . whether this car is REALLY available for rent. UGH. It makes me bonkers. I want to yell really loudly, "For God's sake, people, can't you just TRY!!??! For, like, a second?"

But, Enterprise has always impressed me. I often end up chatting with the employees about interesting things and my rental always goes smoothly. So I was excited to learn about their Carbon Offset program for customers. They have a neat little video that explains how the program works and it is really affordable. For $1.25, I recently offset my one-day rental (to take my dog to his vet in Bowie, MD.) They also have the most fuel-efficient fleet of all the rental car agencies (this includes their other brands, National and Alamo) and the Taylor family, which owns the company, just invested $25M to research how to create fuels from renewable and plant sources.

So, if you need to rent a car, check out Enterprise - not only to avoid dumbass employees, but to feel better about your environmental impact.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Drink Cheap Organic Wine and Meet Nice People

So, I am totally bummed that I won't be able to attend this little shindig next week at Urbana since I will be out in Seattle, but I wanted to invite you all to go. Live Green is a DC-based organization that wants to hook up consumers interested in green products and the businesses that sell them (which could motivate more businesses to sell more green products and so on.) Stop by and tell them Maria at Righteous (re)Style sent you!!

Live Green Happy Hour

Join us on Wednesday, February 20th for some tasty organic wine, networking, and just plain fun with your fellow green DCers.

Why: Because it’s the middle of winter and you want someplace cozy to hang out while getting the latest news about Live Green. Glasses of organic wine for just $5 plus specially priced appetizers.
When: 6:30pm-8:30pm
Where: Urbana, the lounge attached to Palomar (a Kimpton hotel), 2121 P Street NW, Washington, DC. Call Urbana at
202-956-6650 for further details on location.
RSVP:
contactlivegreen@gmail.com

Kimpton Hotels and restaurants are committed to environmental responsibility, always introducing new products and practices to further their goal of reducing their impact on the environment. Click here to learn more about their
EarthCare program.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vintage/Consignment Haven: Eastern Market

Not all of us have the bucks to invest in the newest eco-fabric concoctions, which are thankfully becoming more available every day. Sometimes, we just want a nice piece to add to our fashion repertoire, without taking a second mortgage out on the condo, right? And even if we do have the funds to create a better world - one green couture item at a time - eco-fashion is still SO HARD to find. The designers put out small collections, which hit (very few) stores late in the season. And not all of us can live off of the widely available organic cotton t-shirts and bamboo wraps (as lovely as they may be!)

What is an aspiring green fashionista to do? Go vintage!! Even Angelina Jolie (pictured), rocking a $26 vintage velvet dress to the premiere of "A Mighty Heart", would agree.

Luckily, there are many places in DC to buy vintage and secondhand fashions. My latest trip was to Eastern Market. Unfortunately, because of all the Wizard of Oz-worthy wind today, many vendors did not show up. But there were still plenty of options available. Plus, Clothes Encounters is always open - and a nice respite from the wind, rain, cold, heat on a trip to the Market. Check out the slide show below to see some of the items I spied at the Market today.

Some thoughts:

If you wear a 6.5 or 7 size shoe, RUN, do not walk, to Clothes Encounters and buy the brown boots I have pictured. They are the most wanted style this season (over the knee) and will surely be hot next winter, as well. They were absolutely perfect - to the point that I tried to squeeze my size 9 foot into them, thinking "but maybe . . ."

Clothes Encounters also has a great selection of other gently used shoes with names like Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Charles Jourdan, Burbery, Ferragamo - recognize any of those?

All the coats pictured were $30-$60. Amazing deal.

The Burberry suit was a soft, thick wool and a bargain at $250. Also from Clothes Encounters.

Easily fulfill your Spring season bohemian floral fantasies with the Moschino dress (sorry for the dark pic) - for the price of a cheap pair of shoes at Target ($45). (Clothes Encounters) As Miranda Priestly would say, "Florals? For spring? Ground breaking."

The Prada shoes are from a boutique that just opened on Georgia Ave. called Hibiscus. It carries new and consignment items with popular names and a very urban style preference. I plan on checking the store out this week and will post some pix. But, dude, the Prada satin heels were $95! and didn't look worn at all. They were my size, alas. But, I just don't have many an occasion to wear 4 inch heels. (Sniff.)



Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sparkly Vintage Valentines

As promised, here is a small selection of vintage sparklies from Ebay (just based on my personal taste, you know. You all might hate these).


Why do I like vintage jewelry?

Well, besides being a jewelry designer who loves all things sparkly, I like vintage jewelry because you can often find unique, one of a kind items at a manageable price. The craftsmanship is often superb on pieces that you can buy for the same price as a cheap Zales sparkler. Just like most luxury items, jewelry has suffered from the “democratization” of luxury, where quarterly profit margins have superseded quality construction and creative design. In addition, in many countries that manufacture jewelry for top brands in the US, child labor is often used (you know, small hands are better at making small things.) However, thanks to many efforts of large companies like Tiffany and Cartier, child labor may be on the decline (but who really knows?). Besides, buying used saves resources and keeps things out of the waste stream.

You don’t have to give up your love of objects to care about the world. But, you may want to consider that we already have enough objects out there to satisfy your every desire – we don’t need more new stuff.

Click on the images to be taken to the bid site. I have only included items from sellers with a very positive feedback and a money back guarantee.

Vintage French Pearl Stud Earrings in 18k. Last bid: $79.99.

Vintage 14k Gold Victorian Locket. Last bid: $15.50.

Vintage 18K Gold Amethyst Earrings. Last Bid: $127.00

Fine Estate 18K Gold Ruby Eternity Ring. Last Bid: $195.00

Victorian 14k snake ring. Last Bid: $22.22.


Estate Pink Tourmaline and Pave Diamond Filigree Ring. Last bid $24.00.

Vintage lab-grown Aquamarine with heavy gold shank. Last bid: $61.00

I realized when I finished this list that it is predominantly focused on rings. This does not, in any way, have to do with my desire for a certain left-hand sparkly . . . but, has more to do with my perception that rings are very sculptural - much more than other pieces (except maybe for brooches). At least that is how it has always seemed to me when I have made ring.

And Ebay is definitely not the only place to get vintage jewelry. Almost any locally-owned jeweler will carry estate and vintage pieces - just ask. There are also many places on the web that sell amazing antique, vintage and estate fine jewelry. Here are a few others:

The Tiny Jewel Box
, a Washington favorite (though a bit pricey)
Silverman Galleries, based in Alexandria, is one of metro DC's longest established antique shops still under original ownership
For more DC sources, check out this article at Washingtonian.com.

Fay Cullen, an on-line source for beautiful rings
Marlene Harris Collection, a more affordable option than Fay Cullen. Great collection of brooches.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Is Your Love Sustainable?

MySpace Valentine's Day Banners

Ah, Valentine's Day. I have mixed emotions about this holiday. On one hand, it is clearly a manufactured holiday, even if it might have some historical context. In our mass-produced modern times, such a holiday is often just another excuse for vacuous consumerism (and the high-interest credit card debt to go with it). On the other hand, Valentine’s Day gives an opportunity for busy lovers and partners to stop and – at least for one day – make a point of appreciating their other half. But wait, you may say, people should be appreciative of each other every day. Alas, many folks are not that forthcoming with their emotions – Valentine’s Day, through the mainstream acceptance of goopy lovenothings as well as the widespread pressure to just do something, forces many people out of their shells and into the nearest store to procure small delights that will somehow, in some, less verbal way, communicate their undying devotion. So there it is. Buying some thing is often much easier than communicating the often complex feelings of love and commitment – especially in words. Especially face to face. How does one average person even come close to being as creatively romantic as the professionally written scripts everyone encounters on the glowing box (aka night time TV)??? Such pressure. I really can’t blame them. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

But, how does one shy lover show his most intimate feelings without being forced to cave in to the mass-produced, pollution-releasing, lame “same-old”, most likely imported and made in a sweatshop, Valentine’s Day pressure?

I am glad you asked. Here are some ideas:

1. Make some sh*t with your two little hands: One of my most favorite V-day gifts came when my boyfriend, frustrated as all hell about the general pressure to buy something for a random day in February said, “I would rather give you something I made myself every day for a year, than be forced to buy you something for Valentine’s Day.” So, he proceeded to make me one little heart every day for . . . well, okay, it only lasted a week, but it was awesome. One heart was a little paper sculpture. One heart was made from bulletin board push pins stuck into cardboard. One little heart was ripped carefully out of colored paper. And so on. Who cares if its lopsided or doesn't really resemble what you wanted it to - your lover will appreciate the effort. And you know, if they don't, well, they are probably a superficial awful person anyway, so this might be a good time to run away as fast as you can . . . I kid, I kid - we are all different - scroll forward for more ideas.

But just in case you were excited to buy some glitter and Elmer's, here is some handmade inspiration from Etsy (click on image to buy, if you just can't see yourself gluing!)

2. Offer favors (of all kinds): Be they sexual, sensual, of the mop and vacuum kind or the ever pleasurable (at least for most people) rub your feet kind, little favors go a long way to extend one day in February into at least a few weeks. Just make sure they are reflective of your knowledge of the person (i.e., don't go near their feet if they hate that). For instance, (and this is just a totally random example, I swear) your partner doesn’t like to walk the dogs late at night by themselves, offer to walk a few nights a week together. You can handwrite your favors in coupon form, on random pieces of paper thrown into a jar or even as a list that can be checked off on the refrigerator.

If you really want to spend some money:

3. Buy an experience. Whether it’s a day learning how to rock-climb or salsa dance or cook, or a night at the theater, pick something you will enjoy doing together. You can pick something new or something you haven't done in awhile. [For all you parents out there, how about surprising your partner with a baby-sitter (not in the Jude Law sort of way!!) – hire a nanny and whisk your lovey away from the kids. Check out sittercity.com to find someone in your area.]

Check out these local options for an experience worth the money you will spend:

Rock-climbing at SportRock.

Cooking Lesson at Lebanese Taverna.


4. Shop Local. Enough said.


But wait, you say in a panic. What if Valentine’s Day is when I usually give my most beloved something sparkly – sapphires like the shimmering blue depth of her eyes or rubies as red as the soft skin of his kissable lips . . . Being a recovering jewelry designer myself, I am especially sensitive to this dilemma. But fear not, although precious metals and gemstone mining are two very destructive industries, you can still shower your beauty with gemstones a-plenty. Just buy vintage! (You were waiting for me to say that, weren’t you?) There are so many places to get one-of-kind, affordable treasures. As always, I go to Ebay. (Hint: Always buy from a source that offers a money back guarantee and has a positive rating.)

I'll highlight some vintage sparklies in my next post, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out the Washington Post's ideas on showing your lover AND the planet some love on Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Style Will Save Us. Or, the Green Glam of NY Fashion Week

It's New York Fashion Week. I almost completely forgot, y'all. Busy as I am applying for jobs, doing my taxes, planning our "consignment and cocktails" event, trying to adopt a dog and putting my condo on the market . . . But, really, all that is NO EXCUSE. However, I was saved from my own ignorance by a comment left this morning that mentioned the FutureFashion™ show held last night to open fashion week.

In this event some of fashion's top designers - Behnaz Sarapfour, Bottega Veneta, Boudicca, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Derek Lam, Diane Von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Doo.Ri, Doro Olowu, Giambattista Valli, Givenchy, Isabel Toledo, Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs, Marni, Martin Grant, Martin Margiela, Michael Kors, Moschino, Narciso Rodriguez, Ralph Lauren, Rodarte, Rogan, Stella McCartney, Thakoon, Threeasfour, Versace, and Yves Saint Laurent celebrated FutureFashion™ by "creating garments that were made with sustainable materials that included sasawashi, piña, bamboo, organic cotton and wool, corn-based fibers, recycled fibers or fabrics and biopolymers". (from Fashionwindows.com)

Said Barneys’ New York fashion director Julie Gilhart:

“It’s just the way it should be. It should be more luxurious. It’s more luxurious to really think about where your fabric comes from, about the impact of it on the environment, and about fair trade and labour issues. All of that is super important!” (via Vogue.com)

I couldn't have said it better myself! Did you know that some of the top luxury brand names (i.e., Gucci, Prada, Burberry) manufacture their products in similar sweatshop-like factories used by Wal-Mart? Oh yes. According to a new book by Dana Thomas, How Luxury Lost its Luster, and a NYTimes article she wrote last year, "
For more than a century, the luxury fashion business was made up of small family companies that produced beautiful items of the finest materials. It was a niche business for a niche clientele. But in the late 1980s, business tycoons began to buy up these companies and turn them into billion-dollar global brands producing millions of logo-covered items for the middle market. The executives labeled this rollout the 'democratization' of luxury, which is now a $157-billion-a-year industry."

So maybe sustainability will introduce a new "luxury" back into the fashion business? Where how a piece was made will be just as important as the logo on it. Great kudos to all the designers who participated in this event!!!

Why promote the use of sustainable fabrics in fashion? Here is the answer from EarthPledge, the sponsor of the event. (You've read similar on my blog before.)

25% of agricultural pesticides are used on cotton, causing major water pollution, chronic illness in farm workers, and devastating impacts on wildlife. In the United States, cancer rates in states that produce cotton are significantly higher than in neighboring states that do not. The acidic chemicals used to process synthetic fabrics find their way into our rivers and streams, lowering the pH and destroying ecosystems. Materials such as bamboo and hemp are faster growing, more durable, and more renewable than conventional textiles.

I have been searching high and low for images of the designs that I can post, but there are only a few out there and they are not labeled with the designer. I am sure they will be available in a day or two and I will post or link them. (The intro pic is of a design that Derek Lam did for the 2005 FutureFashion event. It is made from hemp and silk. Lovely.)

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