Tuesday 27 December 2011

a green christmas fling

Happy Holidays everyone!

Okay, I'm a little late, but I'm still celebrating, and I hope you are, too.  I LOVE the holiday season, but of course it's also a time for extreme over-consumption and is the one time of year this recovered shopaholic still has urges to shop-till-I-drop.  I try hard to buy ethical, local, environmental and service-based presents for my loved ones, and this year I decided to get a bit crafty with my home decorations, too.

My initial inspiration was this gorgeous tree I spotted at Anthropologie in the US made of old sheet music (I sneakily took a pic on my iPhone in the store - along with a dozen other equally beautiful items!).

It cost $60 and I thought, "surely I can make this at home for a fraction of the price!"

Once safely back in Oz I went to the Salvos and picked up an old art book for $2 and then to the newsagent for pinking scissors for $6, and dug around my apartment for a base and a rod.

A reused round takeaway container is my base and the  cardboard sleeve on the
hanger is my rod.  I didn't end up using the glitter paint you see above.

I cut a round hole into the lid of the takeaway container just large enough to snugly hold the cardboard tube, and set to work cutting out pages of the book.

A week into the process I began to understand why the Anthropologie tree cost $60.  By the time I cut the paper from the book into varying size squares, put a hole through the middle and then went around the edges with the pinking scissors, I spent around 12 hours working on this project.  I also gave myself a blister from the scissors!
The project midway through completion - I used Christmas movies and music
to keep me inspired during the long process.
All grumbling aside, I really am thrilled with my completed book-tree.  I know I'll keep it for many Christmases to come, and it was fun to be able to figure out how to make it on my own with just a few supplies.

What do you think?

My next DIY project was much easier to complete.  I saw a cute wreath made of old newspaper on Eco Empire and knew I had to make one to add to my crafty Christmas. The instructions on the website were so clear and easy to follow, and I only spent a couple hours creating the entire piece.  

I used pages from old Peppermint and Frankie magazines that I'm no longer referencing - the pages are nice and sturdy, and I love the colour that comes through on the scrolls.  I embellished the design a little by using my pinking scissors to cut small strips of paper to completely cover the staples around the inner edge of the wreath, and the 'happy' in the centre of the wreath was a gift from the designers I work with during my day job - they handcrafted it out of wire.

And Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a few too many sweet treats!  Below is a picture of the baked goods we brought to Christmas dinner - homemade date pinwheels, fruit mince pies (the first time I tried these, I was thrilled with how they turned out!) and sandies.  

A sweet ending to my DIY Christmas.
I wish you all a wonderful festive season and look forward to sharing more green flings with you in the New Year!

xoxo Lisa

Friday 16 December 2011

a green american fling : part 2 : mexico

After leaving Hawaii I headed to Sayulita, Mexico, for my good friends Erica and Brooke's wedding.

I'll admit that I was fearing Mexico would be the least green of all my destinations.  I knew that I wouldn't be able to drink tap water and have to purchase bottled water (I suppose I could have purchased a portable water filter, but I didn't think it was worth the investment for only 5 days).  To lessen our plastic impact as much as possible we purchased the largest containers we could find (6 litres) and carried our usual stainless steel bottles with us during the day. Buying in bulk is always the greenest option as far as packaged foods are concerned, and as an added bonus the Bonafont bottles we purchased were made of 100% recycled materials - not too shabby!
Thanks to Mexipreneur for the photo
and the eco-stats on Bonafont.
While inside the small corner store I was pleasantly surprised to find a huge array of organic food products - more than my local Coles - including cereal, tortillas, juice, coffee, milk and a lot of produce.  So, good on ya, Sayulita, your organic food choices squashed my belief that this would be the least green portion of my trip (remind yourself why organic is better for the earth in my green wine fling post).

Also keeping us sustainable once we arrived was the very walkable town - no driving the entire 5 days we were in town. The 15 minute walk from our apartment to town was also a convenient way to get in some exercise to counteract all the delicious Mexican food and beer we'd been enjoying . . .

Thanks to some of the other wedding guests we found an art gallery that sold Fair Trade artworks from the local Indigenous community the Huichol people. The specialty of the Huichol are intricately designed beaded artworks, and we bought a few souvenirs for ourselves and family members - proceeds benefit The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival.

The Mexican beach wedding was unbelievably beautiful, and the gorgeous bride and groom had considered the environment throughout their planning.  Nearly all the decorations for the wedding were reusable (and some reused or rented); some of my favourite green things were small terracotta drinking jars that would disintegrate after a couple of days, handmade necklaces for us bridesmaids (I wore my yellow Gorman dress that I purchased on my eco-shopping spree in Melbourne), and cloth napkins made from cloth from Etsy, which have come back to Sydney for future use, and locally-made wooden lanterns that were rented for the evening.
The beautiful bride and I (in my eco-dress, handmade necklace
and local bracelet).
A fantastic five days enjoying Sayulita, a fabulous wedding, and a greener week than I'd imagined  - adios for now, Mexico, but I hope to be back soon!

Beautiful wedding scene, you can see local, handmade
(and rented) lanterns hanging here.

Saturday 19 November 2011

a green american fling : part 1 : hawaii

I've recently embarked on a month's tour of my homeland to celebrate various occasions (a great friend's wedding, both my parents' 60th birthdays and Thanksgiving!) and while I'm here I'm hoping to explore the green side of the USA. (I know, I know, flying halfway around the world then hopping around the continent does not equate to green living, but I did offset all flights with Climate Friendly.)

First stop - Hawaii. 

First things first, I had an eco-chic bikini by Meadow, their gorgeous purple sparkle braided bikini, sent to my Dad's place - perfect fit!

You'd be forgiven for assuming Hawaii is a greenies' dreamland - miles of beaches, acres of rainforests and sparkling water teeming with wildlife surround these beautiful palm tree-filled islands - and I have fallen in love with the natural beauty of the islands.  But there is another side of Hawaii, a much less green side of these enchanted isles, and I find myself struggling with the disconnect.

For instance, where my Dad lives in Oahu there is no paper recycling (glass and plastic, but no paper - what?!).  In addition, despite the distance from the mainland, Hawaii has inherited American culture's obsession with larger-than-necessary cars and convenience foods (and all the packaging that comes with them).  Traffic in and out of Honolulu is notoriously bad, and at certain times of the day there are six lanes of highway traffic going in one direction.  And walk up and down any beach not associated with a major hotel resort and you will find so much rubbish you'll feel like weeping (well, I do anyway).

What's going on?  How can we flock to these magical islands and then leave them trashed? When will infrastructure catch up with development? Will it? There is a planned train line from Honolulu over to the west side of Oahu but it is plagued with setbacks and rumoured closures. Ridding the island of fast food restaurants seems an impossible feat, and it hardly seems fair to ask Hawaii to break their reliance on convenience culture when the mainland isn't doing it's share.

It's not all  bad news, though. In just one commercial break (in between NFL highlights) I saw one commercial for keeping oceans clean and another for supporting local produce growers, and at the end of the year plastic bags will be banned.  And while I was picking up some rubbish from Sunset Beach on Oahu's north shore my little brother (aged 7 years old) said to me What you find on the beach ends up in the oceans so they must be teaching schoolchildren environmental lessons.

Great steps in the green direction, but still a long way to go if we really want to keep these magical islands truly green.

Next stop - Mexico! I'll keep you posted.

Friday 28 October 2011

a green garden fling

Australian Ethical hasn't just given my super a place to grow, it's also influenced my garden to grow.  Included in their information packet were these adorable seed-sticks - I received a pack each of tomatoes, chillies and rocket.

Last year on whim I planted the chillies and within weeks I had a full plant and my cooking was 'spiced up' for months.  The plant went dormant over winter but as Spring sprung this September I saw new green shoots and thought to myself, "I'm really a farmer now!"

Bolstered by the success (and return) of the chillies I decided to step it up this year and planted tomatoes.

Once again I've been pleasantly surprised with how easy it has been to grow these plants from seed - have a look at the progression of my tomato plants over the past couple months:

Freshly planted seed sticks

4 weeks after planting

I transferred the seedlings at 4 weeks to larger containers.
We picked up these white buckets from the Manly Coop
(upcyled pots!) and I cut drainage holes into the bases.

The transfer is complete!  I also picked up basil and mint
(already started) from the garden centre, so I have two
tomato plants, a pot of mint, basil, and a combo pot of
basil and chillies. Yum!
At 7 weeks - those wooden stakes were claimed
from the neighbourhood cleanup (yes, I've been
rummaging through rubbish again, I love
creative re-use!). The basil, mint and chillies are
also thriving.

After only 7 weeks the plants are nearly a foot tall!  The plants are incredibly fragrant and the scent takes me back to childhood summers when we'd receive freshly picked tomatoes from family friends. I'll keep you posted on how the tomatoes taste later this summer, but based on the progress so far I'm feeling optimistic.

I was surprised at how much growing I can accommodate with a small amount of space.  As an apartment dweller it's easy to think that I can't have a garden, but even in a small patch of sun these plants can thrive.  Around my apartment block (we're a small-but-friendly block of four units) there are pots of herbs, tomatoes, strawberries and a lemon tree - we even have a rosemary bush growing in the front garden. I'm so happy to have neighbours who also partake in the joys of home gardening.

I don't think I'll give up my order with Lettuce Deliver just yet, but it's great to think I'll be able to supplement my produce purchases with home grown goodies.  My perceptions have definitely changed regarding growing my own food and I'm already planning what I have room for next Spring. Maybe some rocket? Or carrots? 

Have you succeeded in growing fruits, veggies and herbs in a small space? I'd love to hear what you've done!

Thursday 20 October 2011

a green super fling

I don't know about you, but nothing puts me to sleep quicker than talking about financial matters.  Don't get me wrong, I love money (and wish I had more of it) but topics such as mortgages, exchange rates, interest rates and the Dow make me start to yaaaawwwwwnnnnn. . . 

I have no idea how I ever finished my business degree.

Topping off my list of dull financial topics would have to be superannuation.  I know it's incredibly important but I'm also happy not to have to think about it too much.  In fact, I ignore it so much so that it took me over three years since learning about ethical super funds to finally transfer over to one. I'm happy to report that I am now a proud member of Australian Ethical Super.

Ethical super funds are run similar to regular super funds but they only invest in organisations that are sustainable socially, environmentally and economically.  For instance, Australian Ethical's list of benefits include:
  • Investing in companies with positive environmental, social and governance practices
  • Investments are chosen based on both strong ethics and solid financial performance
  • Transparency - you know what your money is funding. 

So my money will now be investing in companies that share my values and I'll still get good returns - thankfully it's not an either/or proposition as Australian Ethical returns are similar to non-ethical super funds - I was even able to invest some of my money in 'Climate Advocacy' shares.

To tell you the truth, I'm sort of embarrassed to be sharing this with you. I mean, I work for an environmental non-profit organisation, write this blog and am writing a book, and yet I paid no attention to where my super was going. Australian Ethical came to my office twice and convinced me both times to make the switch, but I was so lazy about it and never made it a priority. Even more embarrassing is the incident that finally tipped me over the edge: while glancing at my latest super statement I learned - horror of horrors - that I had been investing in BHP, Rio Tinto, Exxon Mobil and Shell. Ahhh! I try and live an ethical, environmental lifestyle and I'd unknowingly been contributing to a number of organisations that go against my ideals all because financial matters bore me.

I filled out my Australian Ethical forms the next day.

Signing up for an account was terribly easy, done online, and the most time consuming part of the process was locating a JP to certify my identification on my rollover form.  Sure, there was a bit of administrative homework, but now it's done and I feel a huge weight lifted and one step closer to leading a completely sustainable lifestyle.

If finances don't bore you to tears you'll be pleased to know that Australian Ethical is not the only ethical super fund so you can shop around; a few other ethical funds include:
So remember, even though super is compulsory, it doesn't mean you don't have a choice in where you invest your money. Invest in organisations that share your values, make competitive financial returns and it's a completely win-win situation (don't you just love it when that happens?)!

Thursday 13 October 2011

a green coles fling

Yep, you read that correctly, I'm giving Coles a shout-out on my green-living blog.

For years I've looked upon the retailer with near-disgust.  After all, they stock all the dreaded packaged foods in this country responsible for so much waste and unhealthy diets. They pushed out the independent fruit and veg shop in my neighbourhood last year and have a pathetic selection of organic produce. And why won't they just ban plastic bags already?

But we have recently kindled a flame.  It started innocently enough. Just a flirtation.

I'd run out of the Fairtrade organic tea I get from Oxfam and was desperate for a cuppa.  I couldn't get to the Oxfam shop so I popped down the road to the oh-so-convenient Coles to buy an emergency pack of tea.  And then, there amongst the Twinings, Bushells and Dilmah, I discovered Coles-brand tea that has been certified both Fairtrade and organic!
I promptly wrote Coles an email to thank the company for its growing commitment to the environmental cause and encouraged them to add more eco-friendly products to their store.

A couple months after discovering the tea I had a similar situation with organic cotton make-up pads (typically purchased from the health food store or Eco at Home). The health food store was sold out for a few weeks and I couldn't get to Eco at Home, so just like the tea, I popped down to Coles to get some non-organic pads to cover me until I could get the eco-brand.  And, voila! Coles now stocks Swisspers certified organic cotton pads - and they are even the same price as the non-organic.

The affair got really steamy a couple weeks ago when I needed clothes pegs  -I had a couple loads of laundry to hang and not nearly enough pegs.  I don't know where they go, probably to the land of lost socks and hair pins, but it seems I have to stock up on pegs about once a year.  Last time I purchased wooden pegs, thinking they must be better for the environment than those made of plastic.  Unfortunately they don't withstand the weather or frequent use, and were the first to disappear or break down.  As I entered Coles I still didn't know if I was going to buy more wooden pegs or buy the plastic ones in hopes they lasted longer, but instead I found these:

They're a bit alien-like, but I do appreciate the Aussie colours!

They were produced in the UK, so there is a travel footprint associated, but they are made of 93% recycled plastic and use no metal.  According to the back of the pack, making recycled plastic uses 70% less energy than making virgin plastic. They are also completely recyclable should I ever need to discard them. The pack also says they can withstand hurricane-strength winds - I don't know if I'll have to worry about that, but a few weeks in they are withstanding the sea breeze that blows through my garden.

Of course I love supporting small businesses and will continue to frequent the great specialty shops I've discovered along my green journey, but I also think it's incredibly important to support mainstream stores stocking green products.  I'm a firm believer that if these products are readily available people will purchase them, it's all a matter of convenience (and price), so I'm happy to support Coles by buying these certified (remember to ensure the products you purchase are certified organic, Fairtrade or recycled so you're not greenwashed) green products and encouraging them to do more.

So what are you waiting for?  Why not see what great green finds are at your local grocery store? I'd love to hear what you discover!

Friday 7 October 2011

a green fling lesson: patience : follow-up

Wouldn't you know it - 5 minutes after I blogged, facebooked and tweeted about my waning patience for eco-custom-mixed-paint I received a phone call from the fine folks at Eco at Home telling me my paint was ready to pick up.  Insert sheepish feelings here (and gratitude to the universe!).

So last Saturday morning I hightailed it over to Willoughby to pick up my paint so that I could spend the long-weekend refinishing my dresser.

The lovely man who had taken great care to create my dream eco-paint colour told me to brace myself for the bright colour I was about to see - I was so excited to see the beautiful blue!  It was probably more duck-egg than peacock, but still as vibrant as I'd wanted.  I picked up a paintbrush and stir-stick, and he provided me an instruction sheet (printed on beautiful brown recycled paper) for how to use my BioPaint.  I've used it before, and love that I can just rinse everything with soap and water, no paint-thinner required.

As he apologised for the delay he explained he had a 'painterly' week, spending the bulk of his time mixing custom-paints for a number of clients.  My hubby was with me and asked if it's the painters or designers who recommend green paint or if it's client-driven, and he explained demand is predominantly client-driven.  He said there are "a handful of architects out there who will specify eco-paints" but 99% of the requests are from the client.

He recounted an encounter he had the day before with a young painter who had come to the shop a couple times throughout the week. When he came in Friday to pick up a final can of paint he said:

"This is the first Friday I've ever worked that I didn't wake up feeling really sick."

To which the Eco at Home paint guru replied:

"Well, you don't really see any old painters around, do you?  It's too hard on your body to do this job for long, breathing in fumes from synthetic paints."

During the week the Eco at Home paint guru had also given a talk at the Greenpainters Association where he started the discussion by writing down a long list of health problems associated with VOCs including: brain and central nervous system damage, lung disease, skin disease and reproductive disorders.

There's really nothing else to say, is there?  Please take care of yourselves when you catch that renovation bug and use low-VOC, plant-based paints.  You'll be amazed at the difference in how you feel and at the similarity of the end result.

Now, what you've been waiting for - the big reveal of my final product.

I'm really happy with my bright new dresser!

Friday 30 September 2011

a green fling lesson: patience

Over the past few years I've learned a lot of greenie lessons - what can be recycled, what VOC stands for, to beware of greenwashing, how to make my own cleaning products - but by far the hardest lesson for me to learn has been patience.

It's also the one being tested right now.

I'm not sure if you've noticed but we live in a culture of convenience.  Between fast food, smart phones, tap-and-go credit cards and the ability to outsource everything from our laundry to our dog-walking, we can generally get what we want when we want it and don't have much inconvenience in our lives. The idea of waiting for something we want is practically foreign.

Being the somewhat spontaneous individual that I am, I've had to practice relinquishing my 'right' to purchase exactly what I desire precisely when I crave it.  Overall I've adapted to taking the time to research eco and ethical credentials of my purchases. I've waited for my eco-swimsuit and bamboo iPhone cover to arrive in the mail, I've embraced drying my clothes on the line and even sought out eco-friendly hair salons. But this week I'm wavering.

Here's the situation: a couple years ago I found a dresser on the street that was in perfect condition (well, until the hubby dropped it while bringing it into the house and a chunk of wood came flying off).  I eco-painted it a shabby-chic whitewash, finished it with antique knobs and welcomed it into my beachy bedroom. 

I was never in love with the final outcome, but left it for awhile until I came up with a better plan - which I did about a month ago. I decided I would paint it a vibrant peacock blue (similar to the below image) to add some colour to the room and set off our newly acquired Aboriginal painting.

photo via the-chic-life

I found a shade I liked from the huge array of paint samples at Bunnings and a couple weeks later took the paint chip to my favourite eco-homeware store so they could mix the colour from eco-paints (plant-based with low-VOCs; I've tried both Volvox and BioPaints before with good results).  It's not guaranteed this vibrant colour can be matched with natural pigments, but I couldn't imagine not at least trying to achieve what I wanted the eco-way.

The friendly, helpful shopkeeper told me it would be one day before he could play around with the colour; it's now been one week and one day, and two phone calls later he still hasn't tried to match the colour.  I really wanted the paint before the long weekend so I could tackle this project over a few days, but it's looking less and less likely by the hour.  To add further inconvenience, the store is only open 9-4 Monday thru Saturday, and is not easily accessible by public transportation so I have to set aside a couple of hours to drive to the shop and back. 

Bunnings and Dulux are only 15 minutes away on the bus and looking more attractive by the second.

I know compared to plenty of world issues this is not something to get overly worked-up over, but I am irritated.  It's a prime example of how it's not always easy being green and demonstrates how far the environmental movement still has to go if we're to motivate the masses.  And, of course, it's a huge lesson in patience.

Personally speaking, it's not the concept of climate change I'm struggling with, or even the value of using plant-based paint over petroleum-based paint on only one piece of furniture, but I'm fighting against my very Western, consumer-convenience-cultured self - she wants what she wants when she wants it - and she can be pretty feisty; if I don't get a call from my eco-paint store soon, she's going to win. 

Will I last?  Or will I cave and buy the petroleum-based paint at Bunnings?

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

a green gala fling

On Friday night I attended 'Dining at Sunset', a benefit organised by one of my friends to raise funds for Sunrise Orphanage in Nepal.  Australian Emma Taylor co-founded Sunrise with two friends in 2005 after volunteering in a Kathmandu orphanage the previous year; it was their vision to establish an orphanage to provide a loving, nurturing and safe environment for Nepalese children in need. Today Sunrise supports over 70 children in the orphanage and also runs scholarship programs and community training and development centres to support the larger Kathmandu community.
Emma Taylor opening the evening
This dinner (and similar events in Melbourne and Adelaide) was held to generate funds to build Sunrise Children's Village.  The village will incorporate a permanent home for up to 100 children (they currently rent facilities and are forced to move on average every 18 months), a training and development centre and a school, which will serve both the Sunrise children and the wider community.  Last year I read the incredibly moving book Half the Sky and the number one recommendation in the book to reduce female poverty and extremism is education; Sunrise is a perfect example of a charity putting that principle to work right now.  I felt honoured to attend this dinner and even more so to have a few words with the charming Emma herself (who is missing her kids terribly after two weeks in Australia!).
The beautiful setting at Doltone House - inside 6 Star
Green Star - Office Design v2 workplace6
As if all of that wasn't enough to encourage me to support this amazing organisation, the new Children's Village is designed to be environmentally sustainable and self-sufficient. Below is a pic of the draft plan including solar panels, rainwater collection tanks, a natural toilet system and organic gardens included amongst the meditation rooms, sports and activity areas, school and dorms.  Local materials, resources and labour will also be used and assist the local economy whilst instilling a sense of ownership among the people.  It is Sunrise's intention to provide a model that can be replicated in other communities.

As the date of the gala approached of course I'd been thinking about what to wear.  I was tempted to rent another fabulous frock, but instead I opted to put the money I'd have spent on the rental toward solar panels at Sunrise Children's Village, and dug around in my wardrobe for something appropriate.  One of the best things about being a recovering shopaholic is the range of quality pieces remaining in my closet.  I pulled out an oldie (but a goodie) and styled it a little differently than I have before so I didn't feel like I was wearing 'this ole thing' again. (This was also great practice for Buy Nothing New month coming up in October!)

On the left (apology for the fuzziness!), 2007, long hair down and long bling necklace. On the right, hair pulled up, black tights, red lipstick and shorter bling necklace; I also wore my black Gorman Tencel bomber jacket for part of the evening. Four years on and I still love my Flame dress by Willow, and with its timeless, flattering design I suspect it will remain a favourite for years to come. (My hubby is wearing the same suit in both pictures as well - totally unplanned coincidence - he also re-styled the suit with short hair, glasses and a dark shirt and tie.)

Okay, I admit it. There were some incredibly beautiful and trendy women at the benefit and I experienced the slightest twinge of jealousy of their 'so hot right now' dresses.  But surrounded by friends and having a great time eating, drinking and dancing the night away in honour of the beautiful Sunrise children, I really didn't dwell on it.  I still felt like my glamorous self in a fabulous dress.

Feeling inspired? Donate and support Sunrise Children's Association.

A side note on transportation - even in my fabulous frock and sparkly stilettos I took a ferry, then a train, and finally a bus, to get to the gala dinner.

My sparkly shoes look even prettier on a dingy train!

Thursday 8 September 2011

a green aussie fashion fling

As seen on The Vine

These days you don’t have to farewell fashion in order to become a greenie; check out five of Australia’s hottest (and greenest) labels.

As seen in Peppermint
SOSUME may just be the antithesis of fast fashion. Dedicated to style and sustainability, the designers of this forward-thinking collection have meticulously selected sustainable fabrics to create modern, sophisticated pieces certain to last many seasons in your wardrobe.  Preferred fabrics of the label include organic wool, raw silk, micro modal (made from Beech trees), Tencel (Eucalyptus trees) and Lyocell (Oak and Birch trees).  The collection’s draping shirts, vests and tops are incredibly soft to the touch, and any chemicals required to create the soft fibres are used in a closed-loop process, ensuring no chemical runoff into land or waterways.  SOSUME’s business operations are sustainable, too, with a commitment to carbon offsets, use of recycled paper and boxes, and soy inks for printing.

The capricious and distinctive designs of Gorman have captured the attention of Australian women since 1999, with environmentalists also paying attention thanks to the label’s strong commitment to sustainability.  Since it began Gorman has reduced garment packaging by 90% and now uses recyclable packaging materials like LDPE when required.  In addition to energy-efficient lighting and great recycling practices, the company also uses 100% accredited green power and has hired an environmental consultant to work with the label both in Australia and in its overseas manufacturing facilities to lessen the label’s environmental impact. Gorman has even been known to give discounts to customers who ride their bikes to the store.  In 2007 the label launched Gorman Organic, which features fabrics sourced from certified organic or sustainable farms and treated only with non-chemical and/or closed-loop processes.

Lane Palmer Green
Born out of a desire to create environmentally minded fashion, Lane Palmer Green’s collection of clothing and accessories was launched by mother-daughter team Lane and Adele. Inspired by European summers, the collection is modern bohemian chic, innately fashionable and kind to the planet.  Sustainable fabrics are used throughout the collection including hemp, organic cotton, recycled PET (plastic bottles) and vegetable tanned kangaroo and parrotfish leather.  The team apply their sustainability values to all aspects of the label, from carbon offsetting flights to the manufacturing process of the swing tags, and it’s hard not to appreciate their candid admission: “We are not perfect, but we are certainly trying to practice what we preach.”  Here’s looking forward to more seasons from this feminine, ethical collection.

Funkis range of clogs, clothing and homewares are inspired by the designers’ Swedish background, including strong design aesthetics and environmental responsibility.  Currently working toward carbon-neutral status, Funkis has a number of sustainability initiatives already in place including use of 100% accredited green power, no plastic in garment packaging, plantation timber used in their clogs (along with vegetable dye-treated leather), and a range of organic cotton clothing and fabrics.  The collection is also designed to operate on-demand, ensuring minimal extras and waste.  Encompassing sustainability into all aspects of the collection, manufacturing takes place only in Sweden or Australia to ensure good working conditions and fair wages for people involved in the production of Funkis goods.

If you’re seeking unique, sustainable accessories then look no further than Melbourne-based Elk. The label creates jewellery, textiles and knitted apparel using only the finest, sustainably sourced, natural materials from around the globe.  Elk’s bold wooden jewellery is a standout in the range, and the wood used in its production is offset by a tree buy-back scheme.  The designers work directly with independent manufacturers to guarantee safe and fair working conditions and ensure efficient, low-waste processes, while also bringing us beautiful pieces made with traditional techniques from cultures around the world.

Thursday 1 September 2011

a green sample sale fling

Can you be a greenie and a fashion lover at the same time?

I hope I'm living proof that you can, and with labels like One Teaspoon it's getting easier all the time.

The other day I dragged myself to the OT sample sale to score something from their Salvage range to refresh my summer wardrobe. My eco-fashion curiosity had been piqued recently when I heard about OT's line of upcycled denim, so when Missy Confidential alerted me to the warehouse sale I jumped at the chance to get some Salvage at a discount.

The things I do in the name of research.

The very chic, very clever folks at OT scour the globe for pre-loved jeans (only 1 in 8 pair make it through the strict quality tests) then pull them apart and re-stitch them into the hottest shorts, jeans and minis on the market.  No additional colour or chemical treatments are made to the denim, only the occasional distressing or detailing. And though each piece is truly one-of-a-kind they are all totally One Teaspoon (read: extremely covetable).
The colours and detailing all vary because of their pre-loved nature.

I hot-footed it to opening day of the sale and less than two hours after the doors opened the place was already buzzing. Scores of the Northern Beaches most stylish were hunting through racks of denim, maxi dresses, knits, swimsuits and tees, feverishly seeking out the best fashion bargains. I couldn't help but feel overcome with nostalgia for simpler days when my only warehouse sale concern was whether I'd find my size, and had to remind myself that just because the prices were amazingly low didn't mean I could buy whatever I wanted (and yes, I wanted); I was here for recycled denim only.

These large black tags hung from each Salvage item helped focus my attention.

I found a selection of Salvage shorts and skirts in my size and worked my way into the crowded group changing area.

As I huddled with the other fashion-lovers I felt a twinge of jealousy toward their carefree shopping attitudes.  It was hard to see all the gorgeous tops, dresses and non-recycled denim being modeled by my fellow shoppers knowing that I wouldn't be buying anything *new* today.  I felt I was betraying my fashionista-sisters by only buying one item so tried on my options as fast as I could. (I admit I was thisclose to buying a cropped tee because it was totally *now* and only $15, but put it down because it wasn't even organic.)

I stayed strong and walked out with only one pair of Salvage shorts - after waiting in a queue twenty people deep - excited that my purchase left both the environment and my wardrobe better off.

All in all I had fun revisiting the scene of many fond fashion memories. Though my resilience was strongly tested, it was fantastic to be shopping amongst my fellow fashion-lovers and find eco-fashion by a mainstream label.  I only hope more labels take OT's lead and create upcycled, recycled and eco-fabric fashion so we can all (easily) be eco-fashionistas.

Now bring on summer!

I LOVE this mini plastered with black sequins

The shorts are longer than they seem and totally flattering - but
still really good motivation to keep up my yoga!

Thursday 25 August 2011

a green swap fling

Clothing swaps have to be the eco-goddess' gift to recovering shopaholics - new clothes at no cost and no carbon footprint. 

I've participated in a few swaps at work and among other things I've scored a now-favourite sundress and comfy harem pants perfect for my writing days.  So when I spotted an ad for the next swap hosted by The Clothing Exchange (as part of the NSW State Library's On Sale! exhibition) I quickly jumped at the chance to attend a swap hosted by these pioneers of the swap trade.

The last swap at work was only a couple months ago, and since I've generally cut down on my shopping over the past few years I really had to dig around for quality pieces that I no longer wear.  I managed to find a pair of Michael Kors metallic strappy sandals and a Saba dress, both in good condition and both in need of a new owner - they're so beautiful I've just grown tired of them, and they deserve better than being hidden in a dark closet.

When I checked in at the swap (check-in lasts about 45 minutes while the volunteers examine everyone's goods and then hang up the accepted pieces on Green Hangers) the volunteer looked baffled when she confirmed "only two?" and then handed me two buttons, my currency for the evening.  Swappers are allowed to trade up to six items and plenty of them come armed with more than six in case some of the pieces don't make the cut; my two items were a pathetic attempt compared to the seasoned swappers in the room. The exchange rate for items is exactly one for one - one button equals one item - and no value is placed on designers or style because, as they put it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The racks were starting to fill as I waited to check in - who wouldn't want to
shop at this chic store?

Patient swappers waiting to exchange their clothes.

As I waited for the swap to start I could feel the excitement building as swappers plotted their attack on the racks.  This was a reasonably small swap, I'd guess about 100-150 people, and I can't imagine what the atmosphere must be like at some of the larger swaps (Clothing Exchange has hosted a swap of 1700 people!).  The room continued to fill, as did the racks of clothes, and there were swappers of all ages, sizes and even genders (though 99% of us were women).  As the rules of the swap were announced - including a coin toss decision if two swappers grabbed an item simultaneously - everyone pushed to the front to enter the 'store' that had been set up on tables and wooden racks where items were separated by category. 

The swap started and it was mayhem!  Swappers crammed in between racks, rushing around with their arms full of clothes, frantically deciding between this maxi sundress or that velvet blazer.  I had played it all wrong - I'd been so busy chatting and observing the scene that my friend and I found ourselves at the back of the pack entering the swap, and most of the racks were quite bare by the time I got to them. For awhile I even took post outside the fitting room hoping some good rejects would be tossed back onto the racks. 

Savvy shoppers abound - yep, there's a fella in amongst the ladies.

I had fallen in love with a skirt during check-int - red cotton with tape-measure ribbons in green, yellow and blue running around the bottom hem - but it was gone by the time I got to the skirt rack.  Later I saw the skirt in another swapper's arms and my shopping-jealousy kicked in - I needed that skirt! In my friendliest voice I asked her to let me know if she decided she didn't want the skirt because I loved it so much. She was lovely, but I was rejected; she had won it in a coin toss and I was the third person to ask her for it.  Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but that skirt was desirable to many of us.

I ended up with two new additions to my wardrobe at the end of the swap (which only lasted about 25 minutes, impressive effort swappers!) - one vibrant peacock top and a cute cotton skirt - definitely no brand names but I really didn't mind.

Truthfully, I grabbed the skirt just because I had a button to spare. It's too big for me so will require tailoring; if I don't get around to it I'll just bring it back to the next swap. My friend ended up with five new pieces - including a fabulous black and white sundress and a great floral number that will look amazing with black tights and should easily work in the office or out and about.  We were among the last to leave, and I was impressed with how few items remained on the racks (the remaining pieces will be donated to Red Cross and Fitted for Work).

One lone shopper remains - I met her during check in, a Clothing Exchange
regular, and apparently very patient. She loves swapping because "It's a
great way to clean out your closet, get new things and it's good for
the environment" - well said!

Thanks Clothing Exchange for a great night!  I'll be back at your next swap, and you can bet I'll be waiting at the front when the swap opens with my plan mapped out.  Who knows, maybe that red skirt will even end up back on the rack?