My Eco Week

Does it ever seem like all of your things need replacing, all at once? This week alone, I had to run errands for three different broken things! I’m feeling really excited that I was able to find a sustainable way to replace all three of them–here are some great resources for reusable and recyclable household products.

Soap dispenser

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Image from Rail19’s Etsy shop

I was getting tired of cheap, plastic soap dispensers, some of which were too gross to refill and others that were too poorly made to be reused. Enter Rail19, an Etsy shop specializing in glass soap/lotion dispensers and spray bottles. My favorite part is the recycled glass section, which has dispensers in various shapes, sizes, colors, and overall styles. For people searching to use the smallest amount of plastic possible, there are metal pumps, but those items tend to be more expensive ($15+). Since I’m all about saving money, I opted for a recycled glass bottle with a BPA-free, FDA-approved plastic pump for $11.50. Rail19 shipped quickly and my package arrived safely. I filled my bottle with some bulk liquid soap from Ocean State, and it has worked perfectly! Highly recommend.

 

Paper towels

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Photo by Josh Mormann on https://www.flickr.com/photos/noego/4610114040

I’ve been thinking about our paper towel consumption since visiting a family-friend and admiring her unbleached paper goods, including paper towels and toilet paper. We were running low on paper goods this week, which got me inspired to find a different solution. While I’m not in the position to be purchasing fancy toilet paper–it’s clearly not reusable, and I’d have to go out of my way to buy it–I started looking into reusable paper towel options on Etsy. And, once again, I came across my current favorite shop, Green Little Nest. I can guarantee that this won’t be the last time I mention Green Little Nest, mostly because I have purchased so many wonderful items from the shop! I love my reusable organic cotton facial rounds for applying daily toner and skin medication, and their mini-baskets are perfect for holding the cotton rounds and other little trinkets.

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Photo from Green Little Nest’s Etsy shop

Green Little Nest’s “Unpaper” towels are super absorbent, 11×11 inches square, and made from unbleached organic cotton. As with all of their organic cotton products, items become more absorbent with each wash (awesome!), and Green Little Nest recommends washing your items before their first use to enhance their quality. I ordered the single sample for $1.75, and it will have its pre-wash tomorrow morning. I’ll report back once I’ve had a chance to test them out, but for now, know that Green Little Nest has yet to disappoint!

 

Grocery bags

Easy Knit produce bag // www.deliacreates.com

Photo from deliacreates.com

There are many, many days where my entire outfit is hand-me-downs from a friend. I usually love these items so much more than anything purchased new, and as a result I wear them in quickly. So, in accordance with the ongoing theme of my week, a cozy pair of hand-me-down cotton leggings ripped down the seam (luckily I was leaving work when it happened, and avoided any embarrassment–phew!). I didn’t want to throw away good fabric, but the leggings were definitely irreparable. What to do?

Easy Knit produce bag // www.deliacreates.com

Photo from deliacreates.com

Somehow after moving in with my boyfriend, I abandoned my reusable produce bags. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have enough bags to carry the produce for two peoples’ meals; perhaps I just got lazy. Then, while food shopping last week, I noticed how often I pulled those little plastic bags off the reel, and how they got thrown away right when we got home. So with grocery bags on my radar and a pair of ripped leggings, I decided to turn my pants into mesh satchels for produce. Here is a super straightforward and helpful tutorial from Delia Creates. It’s possible to make these without a sewing machine, too! Hooray sustainability!

What are your favorite eco-friendly “replacement” products? Let me know in the comments!

Stay savvy,

–Kim

Free Shipping from Swap.com!

There’s nothing I love more than a good thrift store find. As a teacher, I keep my own stash of kids’ clothing in my classroom for muddy days and messy lessons. There’s no point in buying brand new clothes for my dearests, especially because I rarely get them back. Although sifting through the school lost-and-found often gives some options for my students in a pinch, we don’t always find the right size in the bin. It would ruin my day if a student is uncomfortable when learning because they were splashing in puddles or painting a mural! My kids have taught me that the most fun and rewarding things in life are often the messiest.

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From http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/photo-70783, CC0 Public Domain

When I discovered Swap.com, I was on a hunt for child-sized snow pants (living in New England, it’s impossible to get through the winter months without them!) I did not want to spend a fortune on new snow pants, but my local thrift stores didn’t have any in the right size. A little poking around brought me to Swap.com, the largest online consignment and thrift store. The webpage operates like any other online retailer, with helpful search filters and options to find exactly what you’re looking for. While I’ve shopped for children’s items only, there are “departments” for women, men, kids, baby, maternity, and toys and games. There’s even a clearance section across all of the departments, which is where I’ve found most of my purchases.

So, back to the snow pants:  Swap.com had several pairs, and I bought two. Each was less than $10 and in excellent used condition. Next came several pairs of unisex sweatpants and an unopened 10-pack of children’s socks. I’m about to “invest” in some shorts, given that I had 3 pairs “borrowed” yesterday!

Not only are these purchases extremely inexpensive (think $4-6 for a pair of kids pants), they ship quickly, can be ordered from home conveniently, and encourage reuse and recycling of perfectly good clothing. As stated in their mission,

Our mission is to be the largest online consignment and thrift store in the world, helping our customers to be environmentally sustainable consumers while saving money on their favorite brands. We do this by making it easier than ever before to buy and sell pre-owned items from clothing and apparel to toys and games for men, women and kids.

While I have never tried to sell my items on Swap.com, it must be straightforward, given that the site has over two million unique items for sale. For information on selling your items, see this link. I just went through my summer clothes to get ready for the new season, so maybe I will try selling on Swap.com and report back on my experience.

If you’re ready to start shopping, you’re in luck–Swap.com is offering FREE SHIPPING on all items until tonight (Saturday, 4/29 at 11:59PM)!!! It’s the perfect opportunity to give Swap.com a try.  Just use this code at checkout: FS042829

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By Justinknechtel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you have a favorite thrift store or online re-seller? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Stay savvy,

–Kim

Big Brand Love: Marshalls

 

This is the first in a series of posts about my favorite “big brands” at which I can justify shopping. Looking good and being savvy are not mutually exclusive!

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Growing up, shopping at Marshalls became our favorite special trip when my Grammie visited. About twice a year, she would take my sister and I to a strip mall and let us literally “shop till we drop.” As I got older and understood more about the prices and values of objects, particularly clothing, Marshalls became even more magical. How, I wondered, could a successful store sell top brands for bottom-dollar prices? In order to understand the genius behind the TJX brands (Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Home Goods), I needed to research clothing production and pricing.

In the fashion industry, it is widely accepted that the largest expense for high-end companies is advertising and other marketing ventures. In fact, companies purposely raise their prices to appear more elite, which consumers fall for time and time again: “If it’s more expensive, it must be worth more.”

However, this is not the case, as the general price of goods, typically manufactured through outsourcing in Asian factories, depends more on the fabrics used than the name of the company. Take, for example, two shirts made out of the exact same fabric. They should cost about the same to produce, and would logically be sold for the same amount. However, as Julie Gerstein explains in her article for thefrisky.com, nearly identical cotton-blend t-shirts can range in price from $50.00 at Madewell to $1,520.00 at Lanvin (both are way too expensive, given that the average gross margins for such luxury companies are around 65%. Remember how people don’t have homes or food???). Consumers expect to pay more for Lanvin goods; consumers want to pay more for Lanvin goods; consumers are empowered to pay more for Lanvin goods. It’s a psychology that works for the designer labels.

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By gingerchrismc on https://flic.kr/p/ciih4W

Additionally, high-end consumers are more likely to stay with the newest “season” of clothing, purchasing more overpriced items and discarding of the “old” ones. Past-season items that do not get purchased are hopefully sent to outlets or warehouse stores, but are also trashed or even burned to avoid counterfeit (see this article by Lisa Henshall for leaf.tv on Chanel purse burnings to ensure that only the most elite consumers have access to the products).

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By Eric Pouhier (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

So, why is this important to know when considering shopping at Marshalls? Because at Marshalls, the same brand names are not reliably stocked or necessarily from the current “season,” nor are they intended to be. As Marshalls reports on their website,

We take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities, which can include department store cancellations, a manufacturer making up too much product, or a closeout deal when a vendor wants to clear merchandise at the end of a season…If you love it, grab it! We don’t hold replenishment stock in our back rooms and often, the store managers don’t even know what’s coming until they throw open the delivery truck doors! That’s what makes us so exciting to shop.

So if you were reading this and feeling sad about the corruption of fancy fashion lines, don’t fret! Marshalls’ got yer back. Instead of buying only brand new merchandise or having items manufactured for the store (they do have some globally imported home items created specifically for TJX stores), Marshalls finds product that needs a home and offers reasonable prices that still compensate the costs of production and resale. Which–as you know if you’ve been to Marshalls–can be extremely less expensive than buying the item as a “luxury” piece directly from the retailer (think 60% off plus clearance!). Same items and same production, but more reasonable prices and significantly less wastefulness.

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By Mike Mozart on https://flic.kr/p/nRfuzc

Leaving Marshalls, I feel good knowing that my purchases came from a store that values selling merchandise that already exists on the market, rather than creating new items to be marked up. Also, their headquarters is in good ol’ Framingham, MA–a “local” business!

What’s your favorite thing about Marshalls? Respond in the comments below!

Stay savvy,

–Kim

Current Fave: H&M Lyocell Jacket in Powder Pink

Last night, I was searching through my favorite lifestyle blog, The Everygirl, and I came across this super chic pink jacket from H&M.

 

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Image created and owned by H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB

I’ve coveted a light pink jacket ever since Lorelai Gilmore sported one, oh so long ago…

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While looking at the H&M jacket’s product description, I noticed the fabric was called “lyocell” and the item was tagged as being “Conscious.” This certainly peaked my interest!

Looking into this further, I discovered that lyocell is one of the most eco-friendly fabrics on the market. It is made from repurposed wood pulp and can be altered to match many different textiles, including suede, leather, and silk. Because of the (natural) chemical processes necessary to make the fibers, Lyocell is more expensive to manufacture than other eco-friendly fabrics like cotton, but it is naturally wrinkle-resistant. So at $49.99, a new eco-friendly jacket in the color of my dreams would clearly be a savvy purchase!

So, on to the “Conscious” label on the H&M site:

I’ve always been a huge fan of H&M for providing a full range of sizes at affordable prices, but I didn’t realize that sustainable practices were at the core of their mission. As stated on their website:

H&M’s business concept is to offer fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way.

Searching further, I came across my favorite thing on the H&M website (even more than lyocell pink coats!), the company’s sustainability reporting page. I was blown away by the transparency offered to the public, including all GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) sustainability reports, a Supplier Compliance list, and a Working Conditions statement.

The label of “Conscious” refers to a collection of clothing showcased for being produced in this excellent manner with sustainable fabrics (there are also menswear and kids Conscious collections). In H&M’s own words:

Conscious is the name for everything we do for a more sustainable fashion future. Hundreds of Conscious Actions – big and small, short- and long-term – are dedicated each year to make sure these commitments are put into practice. Our Conscious fashion collection is just one of the many examples of what we do for a more sustainable fashion future.

This all sounds well and good, but looking at the other pieces from the Conscious collections, I noticed that they were arguably more expensive than the lyocell jacket, to an unreasonable amount ($99 for a kids dress!). Therefore, since my jacket was clearly a bargain and a steal, how could I not buy it?!

Plus, H&M offers a Conscious Home collection, which is extremely affordable and offers a $4.99 organic cotton cat-printed tea towel. Sold!

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Image created and owned by H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB

Eco-friendly production from a company that values ethical working conditions and produces goods in all sizes and at an affordable price point–count me in! As per my routine, I’m off to my closet to find one thing to donate so that I can justify adding my jacket.

Stay savvy!

–Kim

(For a slightly more cynical perspective on H&M’s Conscious line, see this wonderful Quartz article. It’s not enough to dissuade me from the excitement of the pink lyocell jacket, but the author, Marc Bain, brings up some interesting points about the inherent contradictions of running a large chain and being sustainable)

Happy Earth Day! Giving Gifts Sustainably

Happy Earth Day! Since April 22, 1970, people worldwide have spent this holiday celebrating the progress we’ve made towards a more sustainable world and reminding us that the work is far from over. This year, the Earth Day Network has organized the March for Science in Washington DC (with cities around the country holding their own marches). The event includes teach-ins and messages from speakers such as Roger Johnson of the National Farmer’s Union and Bill Nye the Science Guy (click the link for an excellent interview with Nye from National Geographic). Join the excitement from home with this March for Science live stream!

 

All of this Earth-celebrating has inspired me to share about sustainable gifting. As my family knows, I am not one for wrapping paper. In fact, for Christmas this year, we were able to wrap gifts for both my and Andy’s extended families and friends without purchasing a single decorative item. Here are my hints and tips for wrapping gifts that should make all Earth Day celebrators proud:

1. Save your shopping bags

 

By Loicvdh4470 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

How great is it that clothing stores use paper bags instead of plastic? Make the most of your purchase by refurbishing its bag and tissue paper. If you don’t like the company logo, over it up with origami, a cute drawing, or stickers–or, better yet, remember that the wrapping is the least memorable part of a present.

2. Use the news

From http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Bundle-Stack-Newspaper-Old-Newspaper-Jute-Rope-1853667, CC0 Public Domain

No matter how many times I contact my local ad and periodical agencies, I can’t seem to get rid of junk mail. Around holidays, make a collection of your weekly periodicals, and use them for wrapping paper. Some people prefer to stick to the comics and funnies, but a cute add for pet supplies has the same effect.

Pro tips:

3. Use pretty fabric scraps, scarves, and ribbons

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From https://pixabay.com/en/scarves-polka-dot-floral-colorful-91349/, CC0 Public Domain

As part of my most recent move, I went through all of my accessories and set aside those I hadn’t worn in years. This included lots of scarves and other fabrics with festive prints that were plenty useful but no longer my style. Taking inspiration from concepts such as LUSH’s Knot-Wraps, scarves serve a double purpose: Reusable wrapping and a thoughtful gift, all in one!

4. Collect extras from the community

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From https://pixabay.com/photo-76536/, CC0 Public Domain, Editorial Use Only

I am obsessed with online yard sales on Facebook. It’s super easy to find your local sale and join the group, and I wish I had started earlier! Around holidays, birthdays, and other festive gift-giving times, check your local page to see if any wrapping supplies are up for grabs. Some people will even give you stuff for free! Just make sure you never give your personal address and meet in a public place for pickup.

5. If you must buy paper, either go to your local dollar store or support a local business

Here’s where you decide if you’d rather be sustainable economically or environmentally.

If you don’t have the time or materials for the above recommendations, or you really just want to wrap your presents with regular wrapping paper, you have two good options.

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From https://flic.kr/p/cQiSXd, CC 2.0

First, you could buy supplies at your local dollar store. Chain gift stores charge much more for wrapping paper than it costs to be made. And whatever the quality of the wrapping paper, its entire purpose is to be torn off and disposed of, so buying gift-shop paper is akin to literally throwing away money. Instead of throwing away $5-$10 per roll, throw away $1. However, buying from larger, chain stores without knowing how their products are made is not always an environmentally-savvy situation.

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By Etsy Brand Design Team (Etsy.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Your other option is to support small and local businesses by purchasing your wrapping supplies on Etsy. You’ll be spending more money, but at least you know exactly where and to whom your money is going. Generally, smaller retailers have a smaller carbon footprint.

Pro tip: Check out this list of festive holiday paper from Etsy, brought to you by The Neotraditionalist. Many of the shops have non-holiday items for sale, too!

6. Remember, the gift inside is what’s important, not the wrapping

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From https://pixabay.com/en/book-gift-cord-gold-cord-golden-1667828/, CC0 Public Domain

‘Nuff said.

Stay savvy and Happy Earth Day!

–Kim

Featured image by { pranav }https://flic.kr/p/bAAXTs, CC 2.0

Is Composting Possible Without a Yard?

15826268_1194931773917980_2031620751903862066_nFor my first post, I’d like to give a shout-out to Bootstrap Compost. Bootstrap is a door-to-door composting company that serves the Greater Boston area, allowing apartment-dwellers without much space to make informed decisions about their food waste. Simply put your kitchen or garden scraps in your 5-gallon Bootstrap bin, leave your bin out on pick-up day, and voila–bicycling compost fairies perform their pick-up magic! Billing is automatic, so you never have to worry about forgetting to pay. Additionally, each Bootstrap member is allotted 5 pounds of compost annually, which can be delivered for their own gardening use or donated on their behalf to a local community garden. It’s a win-win!

My boyfriend and I are  family of two that eats mostly produce and other compostable matter. We opted for the twice a month pickup plan–there are weekly or biweekly service options–we have never completely filled our Bootstrap bin! For $8-$10/week, it is completely worth it.

If that wasn’t tempting enough, Bootstrap also offers pickup service for your business, restaurant, or private event, including weddings. You can bet that I’ve already planned them into my future wedding expenses!

For more information about this community-centered, budget-friendly, environment-saving composting genius, visit Bootstrap’s website at bootstrapcompost.com.

Stay savvy!

–Kim

Photo from Bootstrap Compost’s Facebook Page