Monday, November 29, 2010

Shopping in a Greener Wonderland

This past weekend, the Holiday Market in Union Square opened. There is a holiday market in Bryant Park, one in Grand Central and one in Columbus Circle, but this is my favorite as it has the most booths and I've been very lucky in the past finding fun, eco gifts.

I dragged John down there to help me go on my green expedition.

Or so he thought.

I really dragged him down there to give him ideas of what he could get me for Christmas.

I could barely contain myself as we made our way into the maze of red and white striped kiosks.

Hats, chess boards, hot apple cider and Turkish tiles. Nothing eco yet. Puppets, wooden cutting boards (not sustainable wood), ornaments. Zilch. Where were the green booths?

As we turned a corner, I saw a giant painting of a guy catching a wave on his surfboard. AH!

I grabbed John's sleeve and pulled him over there, almost tripping on a small child.

The painting was in a booth from She Hit Pause Studios. The photographer, Matt Schwartz, was there and I noticed he had several surfing paintings among other interesting pieces like a girl pulling a wagon full of record albums and one of bougainvillia flowers.

I struck up a conversation. Turns out, these weren't paintings but Polaroid photographs that he stretches and then transfers onto water color paper, creating a unique effect.

He travels the world and in between photo shoots, he grabs a wave (or two).

John and I looked through every one of his pieces and each one was more beautiful than the one before it.

It was hard to decide which surfing one I liked best. Was it the girl paddling out? Or the group waiting for the perfect wave with pelicans hovering above them?

I strongly suggested to John that one of them would be the perfect present. I figured I could let him decide as there should be some element of surprise!

As we were about to leave, Matt told me how he donated some of his work to a green school in Mexico and that he was hoping to volunteer there. I became instantly jealous. This is how I should be living my life. (

I thanked him, told him we'd return and we were on our way to discover the next eco booth.

We didn't have to walk far before we stumbled upon an old favorite, Engage Green. I found them several years ago and have many of their products, including my favorite make-up bag made from recycled paper and a messenger bag made from recycled plastic bottles. I was very excited to see their 2010-2011 line of products which included a very fun red backpack. (

I was feeling good, still high on the surfing photographs. At this point, John was overwhelmed by the sea of kiosks and I knew he needed a quick fix...of glühwein. This mulled wine is a German holiday specialty. Here in its non-alcoholic condition it was more like a really good hot grape juice.

My quick fix was from the organic chocolate shop called NibMor. The most amazing, delicious, creamy cup of hot chocolate you'll ever taste. I'm drooling just thinking about it. (

Down the aisle a bit was it's counter-part, MissTea. An array of organic teas that serve everything from the common cold to relaxing before bed. It's sold in simple glass jars that make for the perfect eco gift. (

As we made our way through, we ended our journey at Copa Soaps. Again, an old favorite, their handmade, all natural soaps smell incredible while give a gentle exfoliation and a fantastic clean. This time, we went home with Ginger Carrot. (
It was a successful mission and I got some great gift ideas for the wonderful people in my life.

As for me, I know the idea is to "reduce" but even a die-hard greenie like myself likes to open something on Christmas day. And what better present than a useful gift which supports a local artisan who is also respecting the environment?

I hope the glühwein didn't go to John's head and he'll remember what I showed him.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanks-greening!

When I was young, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays. It was always spent with my family (mom, dad, and Melissa), my uncle's family (George, Carol, John and Shannon) and my grandmother ("Babi" (pronounced Bobby) - Polish for grandmother).

After dinner, the kids would quickly exit the table. There were some serious games of hide and seek, Barbies or Star Wars but as we got older, the kids would head off to the movies to see the latest holiday release.

Every year, one thing was for certain...there would always be a good laugh.

One particular year, my mom had redone the house and took everyone on a tour, proudly showing off the new curtains she had just made for my sister's bedroom. After the tour, we made our way downstairs to the table.

By this time, everyone was quite ready for the turkey which had filled the house with that great Thanksgiving smell and had been sitting on the table just waiting to be eaten.

We all filled our plates, eager to dig in.

But even as our stomachs cried out for the food, the key was to create the perfect first bite.

A little turkey, a dollop of mashed potatoes, a taste of the green bean casserole, a bit of cranberry sauce and finally, a dip into the gravy.

Our forks quickly found their way to our salivating mouths when my mother said...

"If anyone's is cold, let me know".


And then my grandmother lifted her plate from the table and announced "Well, mine is!"

We all looked at each other and held up our plates as well.

I miss those days very much, especially now that my mom, Sheila, and my Uncle George are no longer with us.

Back then, our turkey wasn't organic, our vegetables came from cans (that I'm sure were coated in BPA) and our milk wasn't from grass-fed cows.

Today, if my mom were still with us, I'm sure I would be saturating her brain with information on organic foods, locally grown foods, BPA's and anti-biotics...and she would soak it up like a sponge.

This year, I will be spending my Thanksgiving with John's family in Tarrytown. His mom, Maryann, has informed me that their turkey will be organic along with organic veggies!

Here are some things that you can do to green up your Thanksgiving:

1. Buy only as much as you need and carry it home in your reusable bags.

2. Recycle what you can.

3. Choose an organic or anti-biotic free turkey. (Local turkeys are the best!)

4. Choose as many local and organic fruits and vegetables as you can (and if you need to use canned food, look for BPA-free cans)

5. Use real plates and utensils instead of paper and plastic and wash them in the dishwasher which uses less water.

and finally,
6. Give much thanks for the people around your table. Cherish each one of them.

I would like to give my deepest thanks to all of you. I love your comments and your willingness to take this green journey with me every week.

Have a Happy (and green) Thanksgiving!

Picture Notes:
-Mom on our trip to Ireland, one month before her last Thanksgiving.
-The Marshall Family Thanksgiving Day table.
-John in front of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Earth Balloon - Thanksgiving Eve, 2007

Sunday, November 14, 2010

America Recycles Day!

Today is America Recycles Day!

Your most likely are aware that our landfills are overflowing. Overflowing with objects that can take 500 years to decompose. Overflowing with food scraps that give off methane gas (more potent than carbon dioxide) as they decay. Overflowing with trash that finds its way into our rivers and oceans killing our marine life.

But you can help! Every item you leave out of your trash makes a difference.

We're all familiar with the easy stuff -- glass, aluminum, plastic and paper. But what those odds and ends that you're not quite sure what to do with? What about those things you didn't know could be recycled?

For instance...

Have you been throwing away your old eye glasses? "Recycling" those bottle caps? Trashing those ripped socks?


There is a place for all those just have to know how to find it!

Old Electronics - Look for an e-waste event in your area. Google "e-waste recycling" with the name of your city and you will get a list of recycling centers and events in your area. E-waste is usually limited to computers monitors, printers, scanners, fax machines, copiers, routers, hubs, modems, TV's, VCR's, DVD players, A/V equipment, cell phones, pagers and PDA's.

Eye glasses - The Lions Clubs collect used eye glasses then clean, sort and distribute them to people in need in developing countries.

Old Clothes - We all know you can take your old clothing to Goodwill or Salvation Army, but what about those socks where you can now see your beautiful little pedicured pinky toe? The t-shirt that has so many holes, it woudn't be fit for a lazy Sunday lying on the couch? Cut them up and use them as rags around the house. They're great for dusting and wiping up spills.

Old Towels and Sheets - Donate them to your local animal shelter. They wash and use them in the animal's cages. Some shelters will even take old t-shirts.

Brita Filters, Yogurt containers and all #5 Plastics - Most recycling programs don't accept #5 plastics because it's too expensive to recycle them -- but Preserve does. Preserve is a great company that makes razors, toothbrushes, plates, utensils, collanders and other products from #5 plastics. Click here to find your nearest Gimme 5 recycling box.

Bottle Caps - This is another one of those things that most recycling programs don't accept. Aveda will take them off your hands and turn them into new caps for their products. And sometimes, if you get a nice sales person, they'll reward you with a free sample or neck massage!

Finally, I've found that Earth 911 is an excellent resource for all your recycling questions and needs. And I recently found this website, "A Million Ways to Go Green" which has a page dedicated to the most important things to recycle.

So before you go to bed tonight, as yourself "What did I recycle today?" Whatever it was, you helped to Keep America Beautiful!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

America Recycles Day - Monday, November 15th

Old Electronics. Paper. Plastic. Aluminum Foil. Old Pots & Pans. Plastic Bags. #5 Plastics. Old Clothes. Old Towels. Old Sheets. Used Brita Filters.

Collect them all this weekend and I'll tell you how you can particpate in America Recycles Day on Monday, November 15th...take the pledge!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Plastic Sandwiches and Drumsticks

When I found out there was going to be a green event at Biz Bash (the yearly special events expo for event and meeting planners) I felt like banging on a drum. Literally.

Fortunately, this turned out not to be a problem.

A group of percussionists were promoting their business at the expo. They would come to your place of business and lead you in some sort of rhythmic activity. It seemed like it was Stomp meets The Office.

They handed out drumsticks to everyone who came by and invited them to play on chairs, drums or whatever was in their path. It was fun. It was cool. But I couldn't wait for the green session.

Or so I thought.

It was called "Do You Measure Up? The New Measurement Standards for Green Events." Not the sexiest title, but hey - green measurement standards are my favorite kind of measurement standards.

I arrived early to get the best seat, eager to absorb all of the innovative green concepts.

The head of the conference came in to introduce our speaker and mentioned that because it was a green event, all their presentations would be available as downloads only . . . no paper handouts!

The speaker stepped up to the mic. She was from Wisconsin. "Oh, good" I thought. Wisconsin must be green, with all its mountains and cheese.

Then she began speaking. In initials. CMP. MPI. ISES. These were the certifications and organizations for event planners.

I began to get twitchy in my seat. This was not interesting. What about the measurement standards?

"Event planners all over the world are moving towards greener events."

Yes! Here we go.

She said London's Olympics would be the greenest ever. Canada was creating an official green certification process for event planners. And the U.S. was doing . . . nothing.

She then thanked us and left the stage.

That was it? The greenest thing I had experienced since getting there was the carpet.

I moved on to the showroom which was filled with caterers, florists, and entertainers. There had to be something green in there.

The first caterer I stumbled upon was the DJ Caterer. This was a guy who played music while serving BBQ pork sandwiches on non-recyclable CD jewel cases. I gave him credit for his creativity. I hesitated as I took the sandwich and wanted to give it back when I realized how wasteful this was going to be, but I had already touched it. So I took the jewel case and tucked it in my bag and recycled it when I got home.

Lunch was next. A plastic container had a sandwich wrapped in plastic, plastic forks wrapped in more plastic and several plastic condiment packets. I don't know which had more plastic, the sandwiches at lunch or the sandwiches on the DJ's CD boxes.

As lunch ended, I watched as all this plastic was being thrown away. Trash cans full of brochures, lunches, food. It was their own mini-landfill.

To take a break from it all, I went back to the percussionists. They were a great group and a lot of fun.

After they gave you the drumsticks, you could keep them as souvenirs. Or you could throw them in the trash. Which is where I saw them. Dozens! Drumsticks that could have been left for others or donated to someone who wanted them. But these drumsticks had been tossed aside like . . . toothpicks.

My head was spinning and I started to see spots. Not green ones. These planners were all buying into this wasteful culture.

I left feeling disappointed. But rather than be defeated, I went back to the office (with my drumsticks) and started pounding out my own plan. To reduce waste, incorporate recycling and bring green awareness to our events.

I realized that you don't need a green measurement standard event to go green. It would have been nice, but if you use a little creativity, like DJ Wasteful Plastic and Pork did, you can always measure up.