Monday, June 29, 2009

Tuesday Series- The Eco-Elitist- It's getting hotter in here!

Friday, June 26th was a major day in the fight against global warming. The climate change bill, called the Waxman-Markey bill passed in the House of Representatives. The bill has 4 titles (or goals):
1. clean energy
2. energy efficiency
3. reducing global warming
4. transitioning to a clean energy economy

It focuses on clean and renewable energy (eg. wind, biomass, solar and geothermal), carbon capture and sequestration (helps to reduce global warming by capturing and redirecting emissions from fossil fuel producing plants into the ground), clean cars (biofuels and electric cars), and energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, transportation and homes. It also has a global warming pollution reduction program that has a goal to be at 83% below 2005 CO2 levels by 2050 by focusing on the greatest "offenders"- electric utilities, oil and large industrial companies. The bill will also help companies offset the extra cost in switching to cleaner energy sources. It will encourage colleges and universities to start programs promoting "green careers" and it encourages the exportation of clean energy technology to developing nations.

Whew! It is quite an amazing bill and one that we've been needing for a long time. No, of course, it's not perfect but what is? Surprisingly, some people don't like it. 212 representatives voted against this bill! Frightening, I know. And why? Beats me.

According to Paul Krugman's NYTimes Op-Ed column on Monday, titled "Betraying the Planet," a new M.I.T study has found that the predicted temperature increases are accelerating at a much faster rate than we once thought. A 9 degree rise in temperature at the end of this century is now considered a possibility in a business as usual scenario. To put things in perspective, Krugman points out that New Hampshire would have the climate of North Carolina, Illinois would be like East Texas, and heat waves would be quite severe across the country. Arctic tundras are defrosting, contributing even more carbon dioxide to the problem, and ice sheets are melting faster than expected. AAAAAaaaah. The sky is falling! And 212 representatives voted against it because it's not perfect or they don't believe in the problem. I don't get it. Should we do nothing?

OK, slow down, climate change is quite a serious problem and I know for many who are just trying to put food on their table, keep their jobs and get their kids off to school, it is quite an abstract problem and hard to swallow. And, I'm not trying to be a "doomsdayer." And, yes, these things are quite hard to really predict. But, what I do know is that the earth's atmosphere is changing and changing faster than we thought. Now, it's not just a matter of "saving our earth or the trees"- they are certainly important- it's also about saving ourselves. I've recently heard about an anti-global warming argument the people come before the trees and the animals and therefore we have to worry about the needs of the people first. But don't you think we are just slightly connected to all this? I think so. This climate change has a dramatic effect on our water supply, the food we eat and the landscapes and neighborhoods where we live and what about the severe pollution that is causing an onslaught of asthma especially in children? This is a people problem because we need what the earth produces- we need it for survival and we need the earth to be healthy and clean for our own health. And we need the earth and its awe-inspiring nature for our enjoyment and spirit. So, let's all support the need to move forward and fixing the mess that we have unwittingly created. We have the intelligence and the technology to make things better. This movement creates a whole new industry- one that is sustainable and can grow, one that is steeped in doing things better and helping our race in the long run not an industry that just tries to make things cheaper, bigger and faster. We can do so much better.

You know, it's getting hotter in here! Let's just all cool it and start fixing this problem!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Designer Spotlight: Dayna Decker- lux candles

Dayna Decker developed a keen sense of style and sophistication from her international travels as a Ford model. After mastering the art of perfumery in Gras, France, she decided to create a revolutionary candle which she calls the Chandel based on the word chandelle (the French word for candle). We fell in love with her "Botanika" collection of Chandels that are infused with fresh botanical essence and packaged in the most luxurious and chic box. The wax is translucent and poured into a hand-blown glass vessel. The wick is probably the most unique part of the candle. It is called an EcoWood Wick and is made from organic wood in a natural manufacturing process. The EcoWood Wick burns cleaner than a cotton wick. When lit, the flame is a tear drop shape and the sound is a faint and soothing crackling sound that fades after several minutes. They burn up to 40 hours. The look, sound, and subtle but luxurious scent is simply divine.

We chose our 4 favorite fragrances (see image above) in the 6 0z size. Clockwise, Indigo in a beautiful box adorned by a hydrangea has essences of apple, plumeria, muguet, ozone, white wood and musk. Clementine in an orange orchid box is a velvety citrus scent embellished with sweet woods comprised of orange flower, Neroli, honey, black tea and cassis musk. Yasmin, in a box with a beautiful pink orchid is a lovely spring scent that is comprised of blooming jasmine, lotus, rose, white woods and sheer musk. Leila, the white flower box, is made up of grapefruit, dewberry, lemon flower and amber musk- fresh and simply wonderful.

Dayna Decker candles will create that calming ambiance that we are all looking for right now! Light a candle, grab a book, run a bath- give yourself a day off. Now through July 1st, enjoy 20% off Dayna Decker candles, use coupon code: dayna.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Series- The Eco-Elitist- 5 very easy tips

Welcome to the Tuesday Eco-Elitist series. Today, I have 5 very easy tips that will help you do your part towards producing less trash and consequently creating a better, cleaner environment!

1. Try the un-paper towel- check out Athena Create's shop on Etsy. She offers these wonderful fabric clothes that are absorbent and dry quickly. She explains that paper towels are terrible because trees are cut down and the pulp is then bleached (with nasty chemicals) to make something that you will use once and discard. The chemicals then leach into our ground water in the landfill. This is a habit that I also need to break. I do use many paper towels so I'm looking forward to receiving these and changing my bad habit also. You can also save money by adopting the un-paper towel into your lifestyle. See the towels here:

2. Switch to reusable coffee cup sleeves-Starbucks sometimes puts the corrugated cardboard sleeve on your coffee without asking. Give it back to them, send a message and use a reusable one. I just try to have one in my purse for when I get a coffee. There are so many fun ones on Etsy. Try Jenny Wanson's Shop, fabric one below:

Or, I love the "burlappy" ones from A Green Sleeve, also on Etsy.

3. Cut the picnic waste by: bringing reusable plates, cloth napkins, casual utensils and melamine cups to your outdoor picnic or concert at the park or day at the beach. There are so many fun melamine plates and cups that go straight in the dishwasher that there is really no need for paper / plastic utensils for a small gathering. We just received a bold and colorful picnic set from French Bull which has everything you need. See picture above. We also sell great melamine plates from Thomas Paul. We get compliments on these every time we use them. They are chic, useful and great for kids as they are shatterproof and quite durable. They clean in the dishwasher beautifully!

4. Use reusable bags for your produce: I've talked about why plastic bags are so bad in other Eco-Elitist posts. Click on this link here if you missed it. Reusable Bags is a great website that provides excellent information on how you can do your part to help the environment and they sell wonderful products at great prices. This is an image from their site for produce bags. They are stronger and won't create moisture- they let the produce "breathe." Have you noticed the moisture that is created in your plastic bag of corn if you let it sit in the bag for a day- it's not nice. Give these bags a try! Just click on the photo.

5. Extra Credit- use a reusable coffee mug: I know I just proclaimed the benefits of the coffee sleeve or cozy but if you are really ambitious and get your coffee at the same place everyday- then bring your own mug. You can buy travel coffee mugs in most coffee stores and grocery stores these days. Often corporations hand them out as gifts. This one below by DCI is fun. It is a porcelain coffee cup made to look like a paper one. Quite clever! Just tell them to fill it up!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

John Derian- a piece of art, a piece of history

New pieces to Orange and Pear

John Derian rented his lower East side studio to sell his witty and old-world decoupage back in 1994. Then he said, "Hey, if I sell a plate a day, that will help pay the rent." His line is now highly sought after and his store is ultra-cool and eclectic. You can get lost in his eponymous store and feel like you've traveled to India, Morocco or just back to the 19th century anywhere in the world. He has been collecting images, letters, books- anything that inspires him, focusing on 19th Century ephemera, for over 20 years. There is a lot of wonderful decoupage out there but John Derian's is different. He has an eye for the beautiful, graphic, colorful, witty, odd, macabre and dark. He often places images on top of old letters- I love this technique- it makes the image less perfect or pretty if you will - it adds a bit of curiosity and interest. He appeals to any sensibility with his work and displayed all together and it represents the many moods, emotions and experiences that we all have. He is now selling to more than 300 stores in the U.S and Internationally and has been acclaimed by Vogue and Elle Decor. He still has a studio in NYC where he hires a small staff of artisans to help with his production in addition to a small wholesale staff. He just recently designed a melamine line for Target, helping to launch his name to households other than the "artsy set." What I find fun and interesting in selling his work is that he chooses the images that interest him and you can choose a piece that resonates with you- that sparks a wonderful memory, makes you laugh, or just looks beautiful in your home. His plates can be hung, or displayed on easels. We offer the hardware for hanging and can help you find easels. His pieces can be used for entertaining (just wipe clean- do not submerge in water). They make wonderful birthday, hostess, housewarming and wedding gifts. Their appeal is timeless and has lasted for over 20 years and should last for many years to come.

His sealife and ship images are signature to his line.

We love his shell plates- they are beautiful as individual gifts and fabulous as a wall series, hung all together.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I never get tired of . . . 70s modern design- Alexander Girard

These are all available from Urban Outfitters at great prices!
1st row: love pillow, bouquet wall art
2nd row: paper dolls wall art, moon pillow

I just received an email from Urban Outfitters (love that store!) about their new collection of home products designed by the late Alexander Girard- I love seeing great design that easily attainable to everyone. I have always loved his work and this just reminded me of how much I love it so I thought I'd write about it. I love the colors, the whimsy, the boldness. I also love how the images connect with each other so organically. His designs looks retro and new at the same time. Girard was born in NYC in 1907 to an American mother and French-Italian father. He was raised in Florence, Italy (not bad, huh?). He graduated from the Royal School of Architecture in Rome. He is most well-known for his textile designs and his work with Herman Miller. He also created fabric designs for George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames. He and his wife, Susan Girard collected a wide array of folk art, toys and textiles from all over and can be viewed in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Museum of International Folk Art. He is probably most well-known for his sun images which can be seen all over including La Fonda del Sol 1961 restaurant in NY and FLOR rug tiles.

All these pieces are manufactured by House Industries (a great company that also sells modern design products and terrific fonts). Some of these are no longer available but I absolutely love them all! Check them out.
1st row (l to r): memory game, animal puzzle
2nd row: nativity scene, block puzzle

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tuesday Series- Eco-Elitist-Smock Paper- from bamboo!

Welcome to the Tuesday series called the Eco-Elitist. I must apologize that I have been quite remiss about updating my blog. I was on vacation last week in Cape Cod and it was just too hard or perhaps I was just too tired to update my blog daily. What it is about vacations? I immediately hit "relax mode" and can't even stay awake past 9:30PM and then it takes me a whole day to get my life back in order when I return to "real life." I always have to do a gizzilion loads of laundry and dig out my car which is currently still caked with sand, candy, goldfish and other odd syrupy, sticky substances - evidence of all that I did to keep the kids quiet on the 5 hour car ride. Oh, did I mention that the DVD player broke mid-trip? Aaaah, memories.

Anyway, today, I'm going to multi-task and do an "Eco-Elitist" post combined with a "Designer Spotlight" post because it has been a few days since my last post. I'm going to talk about Smock Paper. They are one of my favorite stationery lines aesthetically and ethically. Smock Paper was the first print shop in the U.S to offer stationery on luxury bamboo paper. Why bamboo you ask? Although most should know by now, Bamboo is 100% sustainable. It is the fastest growing plant in the world without fertilizer or pesticides and requires very little water to grow. Bamboo also takes only 3-5 years to mature to a harvestable height versus 10-20 for most softwoods. And I bet you didn't know that bamboo puts out 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees and absorbs 4 times as much carbon as hardwood! Bamboo can also detoxify water because of its high nitrogen content and it even improves the quality of the soil. So, in sum, bamboo is a great material because harvesting it doesn't hurt the land or habitats in the vicinity and growing it doesn't ruin our ground water with chemicals. In fact, growing it helps our air and soil quality.

Smock takes their commitment to the environment a few steps further. The only use vegetable-oil-based and low-Volatile-organic compound inks (VOC). They use low VOC and citus based solvents. They recycle their photo chemistry, film, paper offcuts, and photopolymer printing plates so that empty ink cans and old rags are kept out of landfills! They recycle and compost their office waste. They use recycled packaging materials and reuse the packing materials and corrugated cardboard that they receive from their suppliers. Their retail packaging is biodegradable, tree-free, and petroleum-free.

Hold on- there's more! They also work to reduce our carbon footprint. They are entirely wind-powered through Native Energy (like us) and they are working with the Conservation Fund’s Go Zero program by “zeroing out” their business’s carbon footprint by planting trees. They even offer bus passes to employees to encourage public transportation usage. Also for their employees, they subsidize 20-week Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships with a local organic farm, because they believe their food shouldn't have to travel 1,500 miles to reach them! Amazing!

They donate to environmental charities such as 1% For The Planet and they partner with American Forests, a very old and terrific organization that helps slow global warming with the planting of trees.

Yes, they are amazing but their product is also beautiful and is quite hard to find a company that has both attributes- trust me I look! They got together with a 500 year-old European mill to create this bamboo paper and it is gorgeous. It's soft, thick and luxurious and letterpress looks especially elegant on this paper. And Smock Paper has this incredible talent in choosing the most sophisticated and elegant colors to use in their chic designs. By sending a beautiful card by Smock Paper, you are not only supporting a great company that is smart and innovative but also going in the right direction in producing products without harming our earth.

Now through June 30th, enjoy 15% off Smock Products, by using coupon code: smock15. We know you'll be pleased!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday Series- The Eco-Elitist- The Idling Myth- Just turn it off!

In the Tuesday Series - The Eco-Elitist (which I call myself "with tongue-in-cheek") - I try to offer suggestions on how you can be smarter and more eco-friendly in your daily activities and purchasing. I'm in no way perfect. There are some activities that I religiously do like recycling, bringing my own bags to the grocery store (I really just hate plastic bags), using compact fluorescent bulbs and disposing of harmful stuff (electronics, batteries properly) but there are so many things I can still do to make a difference.

Like idling. Oh, it's a bad one. And we all do it- a lot. According to the Hinkle Charitable Foundation, "Americans waste 3.8 billion gallons of gas by voluntarily idling their cars." Thanks to the development of suburbia, we are all in our cars all the time- running errands, shopping, getting coffee, going to the bank, school, dry cleaner and commuting. We are on highways and "urban sprawl" going from strip mall to strip mall. Uggh. How many traffic lights to we stop at on a daily basis and how many hours do we sit in traffic- idling? Too many to count. In hybrid cars (I got to try one out recently when I rented a car), the engine actually stops after a few seconds of idling to save gas- it's a little odd at first but it's quite cool and so smart. Now, I'm not suggesting that you shut off your engine at a traffic light or on the highway if you have a conventional car because you really can't do that but there are plenty of times you leave your car running when you could just shut it off.

Let's talk about idling first.

1. There is no need to "warm-up" your car- modern cars today are quite efficient and do not need to be warmed up in the morning for 10 minutes as once thought (unless you are in zero degree weather but that is certainly not the norm). It is actually better to drive a car to "warm it up" because it gets the catalytic converter, the engine and other parts of the car moving and "warm" if you will.

2. Starting your car does not hurt the battery or use more gas than idling- there is a myth that each time you start your car again you waste more gasoline then if you leave it idling. This is false! Modern engines do not operate well when they are idling mode. According to Hinkle, there is a 10 second rule, it is better if you shut off the engine- it's better for the car. Restarting your car does not damage or "wear-out" your battery. In fact, "idling an engine forces it to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that, over time, can degrade the engine's performance and reduce mileage." Too much idling can hurt the important components of your engine (such as the cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems. According to the California Energy Commission, "Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption."

In sum, when you voluntarily idle your car for really no reason, you are wasting gas, emitting harmful CO2 into the air (which causes pollution, health problems and global warming) and you are hurting the performance of your car.

So, when you are in the fast food drive-thru, bank teller lane and it looks like it is going to be more than 10 seconds. Turn off your car.

When you are on your phone, waiting to pick someone up or running errands, and it's going to more than 10 seconds, turn the car off.

When you are dropping something off, reading something, looking at the view and it's going to be more than 10 seconds. Turn off your car.

Even better, don't sit in drive-thru lines. Park and walk in. You might get a little exercise and will be doing your part to reduce carbon emissions!


Read this great article for more detailed information:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tea- it just always makes me feel better

I'll be driving up to Cape Cod with the girls to see my Dad and Stepmother on Wednesday. They live in Wellfleet- a wonderful town that is still rustic and quaint and surrounded by the most beautiful beaches you've ever seen- all established as National Seashore and relatively untouchable (thanks to Jackie Kennedy). They decided to retire there about 4 years ago and have never looked back. They have fully immersed themselves in this smart, tough and quirky community where the dental hygienist becomes Patsy Cline at night, the electrician sells eggs and the secretary to the historical society has a great guitar CD. If you've read John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, Wellfleet is quite similar- full of colorful and simply terrific characters.

Where am I going with this? Good question. Well, my stays in Wellfleet are always full of lovely rituals such as: drinking my morning coffee outside with a view of the bay (while learning about the local birds), evening jazz and a glass of wine, dinner in the "garden", trips to the: beach, Kettle ponds, local bakery, fruit and vegetable stands and plenty of reading (which I don't do enough of at home). One ritual I always look forward to is "tea time." My stepmother is South African and tea is a serious thing. The teapot gets put on the stove several times a day (and often is forgotten about)- luckily with no major consequences. My favorite is the afternoon tea (at roughly 2PM). In my opinion, a lovely cup of hot tea (even in the hot sun) and of course a piece of toast or biscuit is just pure pleasure. It is soothing, relaxing and energizing at the same time. It forces you to sit down and sip. How often do we do that? I'm not diligent enough to do this at home but when I do (like a few minutes ago), it just always makes me feel better. Yes, you can buy tea anywhere and in all grocery stores. But a really good cup of tea must come from a canister of good quality loose tea- it just tastes richer. We looked at many brands of tea for our store and decided to go with Le Palais des Thes because of how they run their company. They source their product directly from the growers. They visit the plantations regularly, allowing them to ensure excellent working conditions, respect for the environment and fair trade practices. We also think their packaging is quite chic and can adorn any kitchen beautifully.

Tea has been consumed for over 2000 years for enjoyment and health benefits. Scientific Research has shown that tea can help lower "bad" cholesterol, aid in digestion, prevent cardio-vascular disease and help prevent cancer.

The Emperor Shen Nung, the father of Chinese medicine and farming wrote in his Medical Book that "tea relieves tiredness, strengthens the will, delights the soul and enlivens the sight."

So, why do I think tea makes a great gift? Typically most people drink tea but will not spend the money on the "good stuff" but really enjoy receiving it. Gifts that can be consumed are often much appreciated- especially for those who already have "everything." We also sell the muslin bags to make your own tea bags- it is so easy! Giving tea is giving a gift of relaxation (and good health). A canister of loose tea along with some lovely bath powder and a good book says "relax, you deserve it" or "take some well-deserved time for yourself." Don't you know people who need a little "me time" and much needed "r and r?" Send them some tea.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Let there be light.

top: Roost Mercury glass votives
2nd row (left to right): Roost chiseled votive, Roost milk glass votives
3rd row: (left to right): Roost square and round galvanized metal lanterns, Roost etched glass votives

I love summer. I love the weather, the fresh food, the crickets, the fireflies, the music festivals, Shakespeare, the beach, fireworks, s'mores. . . OK. I'll stop now. I really love eating outdoors. I can, however, do without the bugs. So, I made sure I had a great selection of votives and lanterns for just that purpose. Candlelight outdoors is not only helpful in shooing (is shoo a verb?) the bugs but also creating that awesome ambiance.

Good food. Great conversation. Some great wine. Aaaah. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday Series- The Eco-Elitist- Amazing Subaru

With so much negative news about GM and Chrysler and American car companies in general, I thought it was time in my Eco-Elitist series to talk about Subaru- a car company that does amazing things. I rarely hear or read about them in the news. Yes, a car company that does good things. It shocked me too when I heard about it but the story is incredible. For those of you who are frustrated that so many people are just too set in their ways to change or say that it just cost too much money or it is just too difficult, go this link, scroll down to the middle of the page and click on link that says "Video: Learn more about the Subaru Plant." It's a comprehensive overview of why the American Subaru plant is so incredible. It will bring tears to your eyes- I know I'm a bit weird. But really, check it out. When I hear about truly innovative ideas that encourages change to tired, old systems that also saves resources, creates less waste AND saves money- it just about makes me cry. What is so cool about the video is how excited, positive and more importantly proud the workers at Subaru are to be a part of such a terrific initiative.

Subaru of America is a "wholly-owned subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd." of Japan. They are headquartered in Cherry Hill, NJ. The American subsidiary markets and distributes all-wheel drive Subaru vehicles, parts and accessories.

The Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana (SIA) is a zero-landfill waste facility. Zero. Yes, I said Zero. The trash that you put in your garbage this morning after breakfast is more than they send to a landfill in a year. Nothing from this manufacturing facility goes into a landfill. If they cannot recycle it, they reuse- again and again. Watch the video- it's incredible. You see them discussing what to do with their kitchen grease and shredding tires for the "flooring" of playgrounds. Every year, SIA recycles 99.3% of excess or leftover steel, plastic, wood, paper, glass and other materials. What's left is shipped to Indianapolis and incinerated to help generate steam. In 2006, SIA recycled:
  • 11,411 tons of scrap metal (13,142 tons in 2007)
  • 1537 tons of cardboard and paper
  • 963 tons of wood
They calculated that these savings are equal to conserving 31,040 mature trees, 31,572 cubic yards of landfill space, 711,631 gallons of oil and 10,759,000 gallons of water! Whew!

In the video they mention that by being smarter about they way they cut and use steel, they have reduced the number of steel coils they purchases by 425 coils. Of course, steel producers consume a lot of energy (while emitting harmful CO2). They calculate that by reducing their steel consumption, they saved enough energy to power 2233 homes! In the video, they also talk about packaging and ways that they can reduce or reuse it (styrofoam and plastic packaging is one of my biggest pet-peeves). They have organized a system that allows them to separate and organize all the styrofoam pieces in bins to then be returned to Japan to be used over and over again. Pretty smart, huh?

Now, if a $1.2 billion dollar facility that will produce roughly 165,000 cars this year, with over 2700 employees can achieve these amazing goals. We can send our cans, paper, glass and plastic to the curb to recycle, can't we?

Another note, since 2003, Subaru has been producing Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV) which meets California's Super-Ultra-Low-Emission vehicle exhaust standard. "Gasoline vehicles meeting these standards can have even lower emissions than hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles." Subaru cars are also U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified SmartWay Vehicles and are honored in the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide located at"

And, they also ran a "Share the Love" campaign from November 24th to January 2nd that allowed consumers to donate $250 of their car purchase to one of 5 charities. They handed over checks that totaled $4.6 million dollars to these 5 charities that included: the National Wildlife Federation, Meals on Wheels Association of America, Boys and Girls Scouts of America, Habitat for Humanity and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Yes, we just bought a Subaru Outback (in Jan 09) and chose the National Wildlife Federation. I must admit I made fun of my husband's choice at first since I know he has a secret desire to live in Vermont to hike in the summer and ski all day in the winter (Subaru is the car of Vermont). An outdoor Vermont life is certainly not a bad life of course (and maybe he'll fulfill that dream one day) but the more I learned about Subaru, the more I loved what they stand for and what they've accomplished. In America, we have so many choices when we purchase something, it feels so good to know that one's money is supporting an excellent company.