Ecouture: Repurposed Purses

I just ran across this amazing purse made out of an old Carly Simon record! Being a fan of repurposed items, and an even bigger fan of Carly Simon, I had to share this amazing item. Check out Reinvented Vinyl for more amazing purses made from old records!

Front and back of the Carly purse. (Permission to use photo granted by Reinvented Vinyl.)

Green Updates: March 2010

With spring comes a few “green renovations” to 5 Seed that I thought you would like to know about.

Phasing out plastic lids

Currently, the Orange Cocoa Moisturizer is packaged in blue jars with black plastic lids. The lid situation was less than ideal, but I chose this jar because it was tinted, which protect the essential oils from light. However, I’ve decided to move to clear glass jars with metal lids, in an effort to phase out plastic almost completely. The metal jars do have a plastic inner rim to ensure a tight seal, but it is a very small amount compared to the black plastic lids, and these lids will last far longer than the black ones.

However, I am introducing a few products packaged in glass dropper bottles, and the tops of those bottles are made of plastic and glass. The plastic components of these bottle tops is far smaller than the jar lids, and the bottle and dropper top are reusable and will last a long time. The truth is, it’s a lot harder to phase out plastic than you would think!

Photo: Mountain Rose Herbs

Shipping boxes

Though I strive to reuse old shipping boxes whenever possible, I sometimes have to use USPS-issued Priority Mail boxes. However, these are cardboard and completely recyclable.

Shipping Tape

I’m excited to say that I’ll soon be using a paper-based packing tape whenever possible for shipping. There are times when I have to use the plastic tape, but hopefully, I’ll be able to cut down on that, significantly.

Castor Oil

Recently, a reader left me the following comment:

I was wondering if you’ve considered not using castor oil. Its extraction creates highly polluted wastewater due to the poison it contains, ricin…

This reader also sent a link for more information about this subject. I’m very concerned about this issue, so I spent two hours online researching it. However, I could not find a single news source to confirm or deny this. The site I was referred to mentioned a few issues with castor oil, and upon further research, I found these concerns quoted on numerous sites with no source cited.

At this point, I went to my supplier, Mountain Rose Herbs, for more information. I have been a loyal customer of this company for over ten years and have always found them to be fair, ethical, and green-minded. The castor oil I buy from them is organic, so there is no danger of GMOs, and when I asked about pollution and humanitarian concerns regarding castor oil production, I received this information:

We appreciate your concerns regarding our castor oil. Mountain Rose Herbs is deeply concerned with the welfare of the people who manufacture our products (so much so that we have instituted our unique Good Trade program, which offers better negotiation rights to growers, harvesters and manufacturers than those required for Fair Trade certification). We would never sell any product that required people to suffer ill health or any other adverse conditions in order to produce it, or that harmed the natural environment in any way.

Let me see if I can explain a little about what ricin is and how it works. If someone were to chew and swallow an entire castor bean, then the ricin released could cause injury. And ricin can be made from the waste (mash) left over from castor oil production, but since it is water soluble it does not partition into the oil itself. It would actually take a deliberate act to make ricin and use it to poison people. Accidental exposure to ricin is highly unlikely, except through the ingestion of castor beans.

So, you can see that just being exposed to castor beans, in the process of manufacturing the oil, would not expose workers to ricin directly. Just to be absolutely sure, however, castor oil manufacturers (including the ones we purchase from) do routinely test their workers for ricin poisoning. And we of course test the castor oil we receive from them before offering it to our customers–though again, any ricin residue would be in the mash, not the oil. And the mash is safely disposed of as potentially hazardous waste so that it does not endanger the water supply in any way.

I have to admit, I’m still on the fence about this. I believe in and trust Mountain Rose Herbs, and again, I’ve always found them to be an honorable business. So at this point, I will continue to use castor oil, at least until my supply has run out. I will continue to ponder this issue, however.

There are two things that give me pause: 1. The fact that I can’t find any documented evidence of pollution or harm to workers. As I said, all the websites I found regarding this issue repeated the same information (almost always verbatim) without citing a source. Where is this information coming from? 2. Castor oil has long been a staple in folk remedies, and I have a particular fondness for it. Though, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t toss it the moment I knew for sure that it was harmful to others or the environment – I would.

Anyway, as I said, I will continue to ponder this issue, and to search for more information.

Happy spring, everyone!

DIY: Shabby Skirt

I love browsing through fashion blogs and websites. Often, I’m inspired to reinvent my wardrobe with different layering effects, embellishments, etc. And the best part is finding ways to repurpose old, boring garments, or fabric scraps (which I always have hanging around). I found this great video on Christa-Taylor today, which shows you how to make a shabby skirt in five minutes. I doubt I could actually do it in five minutes, but it still looks like an easy, fun design that a beginning seamstress, like myself, could do easily. I haven’t yet tried it, but if I do, I’ll be sure to post about it. Check it out for yourself here.

Sorry for the lack of picture here. I wanted to embed the video, but it’s not “embed-able.” Nor could I find a picture that really captured the look of the skirt. If you decide to make your own, please let me know – I’d love to hear how it went!

Ecouture: Gary Harvey’s “Trashion”

Repurposing clothing is a great way to update your wardrobe, save money, and protect the environment. If you have your doubts, check out these works of art, made from old clothing (and in one case, newspapers!) by Gary Harvey. (All images are from the Gary Harvey Collection.)

Made from 28 army jackets.

Made from 42 pairs of Levi’s 501 jeans.

Harvey says: “Jeans are one of the most hardwearing garments, originally designed as a work uniform, and made in a fabric designed to last years. Since the transition from ‘work-to-wear’ fashion, jeans are often discarded for the latest silhouette before the end of their useful life.”

Made from 21 laundry bags.

Made from 30 copies of The Financial Times.

Made from cans, bottle tops, and candy wrappers.

Now, we’re not suggesting that these are garments you could or should wear on the average day but it just goes to show that you can repurpose anything into something fun and fashionable if you are creative enough!

True Beauty: Joy

Since I ask so many people to contribute their stories about when they felt the most beautiful for our True Beauty posts, I thought I would add my own story.

My boyfriend and I went to Paris last spring – a place I have wanted to visit since I was a little girl. Just being in France made me happier than I had been in a long time. On our fourth day in the city, we had finally mastered the Metro, and had spent more than ten hours running around, visiting every tourist attraction I had wanted to see for so long. We had survived a two-hour downpour that soaked us to the bone, walked more than ten miles, and by the time we settled down for dinner in a Greek Pizzeria  at 9:30 PM, we were exhausted, sweaty, and exhilarated.

Taken at the Jardin des Tuileries, a few hours before our dinner at the Greek Pizzeria.

In the middle of devouring my plate of French fries and Margherita pizza, my boyfriend looked up at me and said, “I have to take a picture of you.” I asked why and he said, “You’re glowing. I’ve never seen you so happy. And you look so pretty in your shirt with that scarf, and your glasses. You just look beautiful.” My first thought was to object, as the eyeliner I had smudged on at 6:30 that morning had long since been wiped off, and my hair was flat from being under a hat all day. Then I realized that I had never heard my boyfriend say I was “glowing,” and it was a profound moment. I realized that my joy was radiating out of me, and it was that joy that made me look beautiful.

The picture my boyfriend took at the Greek Pizzeria.

Good Seed: Mirasol Farms

At 5 Seed, I don’t make many moisturizers, and those that I do make are typically solid. I also don’t make bar soap, or a few other popular bath and body items. Because of that, I’m always looking for these kinds of products to recommend to people who want to use them.

I recently encountered Mirasol Farms located in River Falls, Wisconsin, on Etsy. They have a beautiful line of bath and body products, and I wanted to feature a few things I don’t offer. Check out their story here, and their products below. (The photos are linked to the items.)

And my personal favorite: upcycled soap!

Chemical-based breath mints or natural breath freshener?

Breath mints and chewing gum are good at freshening the breath. Unfortunately, they come in the form of a potentially hazardous chemical mixture of dyes, preservatives, flavorings, and artificial sweeteners. Polyvinyl acetate is found in gum, and its “parent substance,” vinyl acetate, was poised to make it onto the list of banned toxins in Canada two years ago, due to its potential link with cancer in lab rats. The regulators backed down under intense pressure from gum manufacturers.

Chewing gum and mints also often contain other suspected carcinogens, and other suspected disease-causing chemicals including aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame K, and butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA). Click here for more information.

Further, because of its chemical composition, gum is non-biodegradable. And don’t forget the waste generated by the gum wrappers thrown away every day. It may not seem like much, but imagine how many wrappers and chewed-up gum wads are left in trashcans, on sidewalks, and along the roadside every single day. It all adds up.

How can you freshen your breath in a manner that’s healthy for you and Mother Earth? Carminative seeds are the answer. I have been using carminative seeds as a breath freshener for two years now and can’t imagine going back to the artificial flavor of breath mints, or the jaw pain from chewing gum for hours.

Kiss Eat Exhale is a mixture of organic fennel seeds and organic caraway seeds. Simply grab a pinch from the tin, chew, and swallow. The taste – sweet, earthy, and licorice-y. Fennel tastes a bit like black licorice, by itself, while caraway seeds have a fresh, distinctive flavor. If you have ever had rye bread, then you have encountered the delicious flavor of caraway seeds before.

Here’s the best part about these seeds: Their health properties extend far beyond just freshening the breath. They aid in digestion, prevent bloating, and relieve intestinal gas. (Be sure to have these handy on your next date!) Additionally, fennel and caraway seeds can help ease respiratory ailments including asthma and bronchitis, and other health problems, including IBS.

So go ahead. Kiss. Eat. Exhale.

Please note this information is not intended to diagnose or treat any ailment. It is for educational purposes only.

True Beauty: Feeling the wind in your hair

I’m proud to feature my Little Sister, Megan, in one of the True Beauty posts. Megan and I were matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters (a wonderful organization) in January 2004, and though she no longer lives in Oregon, we still correspond on a regular basis, and I count her and her family as some of my closest friends.

Photo used with permission.

I asked Megan to describe what makes her feel most beautiful, and to share her feelings on what young women/teenagers can do to look and feel their best.

I feel beautiful after having a shower, then going on a bike ride. The wind blowing through my hair, drying it, feels amazing.

A healthy thing for teenagers to do, in order to be beautiful, is to exercise regularly. To attain a fit body. Because typically you feel better when you’re healthier, exercising will fix that.

Thanks, Megan!

Dreading It

If we’re talking about hair, we might as well cover it all. But before I continue, I want to assure you that I don’t think dreads are the only eco-friendly hair style! If you have been considering it, however, read on.

I don’t want to write about how to dread your hair here, as I have never had dreads. Describing the process should be left to the people with experience. However, I do want to discuss the spiritual and green aspects of dreads. (Yes, I said spiritual.)

Anne Lamott (photo: Jo Anne Hertz / ITVS)

Let’s start with Anne Lamott. First, if you haven’t yet read her books, go pick them up. They’re amazing. All of them. (And no, I’m not receiving compensation to say that!) Anyway, in her early work, she details her frustrating relationship with her hair – curly, frizzy, and a daily zap of her self-esteem. Her solution? Dreadlocks. Super tiny, adorable dreads. She chronicles her journey into dreadlocked hair here – a hilarious and insightful read if you have the time. One of my favorite passages:

A few weeks later I saw “The Shawshank Redemption,” where, at the end, Tim Robbins escapes from prison via the sewers, after serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. He emerges from the pipes into a rushing rain-swollen river, and he staggers through the current with his face turned towards the sky, his arms held up to heaven as the rains pour down.

I sat in the movie theater crying until it occurred to me that if I were the prisoner being baptized by torrential rain, half of my mind would be on how short my bangs were going to be after they dried.

I went home and I called Marlene. “Okay, baby,” I said. “I’m ready.” The next day she and her dreadlocked teenage daughter came over to my house with a little jar of beeswax…

The transition was apparently scary, anxious, and soul-shaking, as I’ve heard it can be for many people. It challenges our perceptions of ourselves. It rebels against our culture’s definition of beauty. It can even stir up judgments and stereotypes – especially from others. Lamott made it through this process and came out on the other side feeling like she had embraced her true self.

They’re so cool: each dreadlock is different, has its own configuration, its own breadth and feel. It’s like having very safe multiple personalities. It’s been two years and they are growing past my shoulders. Sometimes I wear them up, sometimes down. I wake up most mornings looking fabulous. I used to look at people with normal white people’s hair, and their bangs always stayed long and they got to hide behind the satin curtain, and I was so jealous. But now my bangs are always long, too. I peer out at the world from behind my dreadlocks, as through a beautiful hand-made fence, in every kind of weather and every kind of car. I remember Nora Ephron saying a long time ago that she was one of those women who was gaining her looks, and it turns out that I am one, too. It was a long time coming, and I have to say, it is incredibly sweet.

Years after reading Lamott’s journey into dreads, I found myself a regular visitor at The Organic Sister – another dreadlocked mama. I remember reading her one-year “dreadiversary” post and being fascinated with the insights she had had during the past year of her dread journey. I highly suggest reading her posts on this subject, especially if you want to dreadlock your hair. She gives very detailed tips on what to do, and would be a wonderful resource. Even if you don’t want to dread your hair, these posts are very interesting, and I think anyone going through any transition in their appearance can relate. (And read her thoughts on no-poo here. Yay for no-poo!)

Tara, aka "The Organic Sister" (Permission to use photos graciously granted by The Organic Sis, herself.)

I even noticed that one of my favorite food bloggers, Sara Janssen, has dreads. I’ve been reading her blog, Happy Foody, for quite some time. Imagine my surprise when I saw a picture of Sara on The Organic Sister’s blog documenting a visit between the two families! It turns out that Sara has two other very enjoyable blogs that I highly recommend (Happy Janssens and Walk Slowly, Live Wildly), and her posts on dreads are yet another fascinating peek into this process.

So dreads: eco-friendly? Sure. You won’t need to wash your hair as much, won’t need more “stuff” in the form of combs, brushes, and styling products… All of that is wonderful.

But I think the best thing about dreads (if you are considering them) is the journey of realization that each woman takes. Realizing one’s freedom to look the way they want to look. Surrendering to the natural inclinations of one’s hair. Seeing true inner and outer beauty shine back in the reflection of the mirror.

Ecouture: Repurposed Shrugs

At 5 Seed, we love clothing that’s been repurposed. It’s far more eco-friendly and ethical to refresh your wardrobe with repurposed clothing, rather than buying it new, and putting your money behind companies who use pesticide-ridden cotton, and foreign factories to manufacture their garments.Yes, some repurposed clothing came from that same source, but it’s always a good idea to reduce our contributions to such a harmful system by making fewer purchases of brand-new clothing.

Check out this gorgeous shrug made from an old cotton/spandex t-shirt by Found Object Fashion (a good seed!).

Copyright: Found Object Fashion