Thursday, January 28, 2010

Matter of Trust is Collecting Hair Clippings for a Great Cause

About a week ago I was in need of background noise while editing my manuscript and I came across a marathon of Tabitha’s Salon Take Over. I mean no offense to the show but it was the perfect thing as I truly just needed something I could ignore. Of course a few episodes in my ears perked up at the mention of Matter of Trust and I had to immediately put my editing aside for a few minutes of research.

The organization collects the scraps of hair that are cut off and swept up into a garbage can then they take them and fashion them into mats.

Now, before I hear a ton of comments like ‘eeew, I don’t want a hair mat!’ let me explain what these mats are used for and why.

Turns out that human hair is quite adept at retaining grease and oil and it, combined with other fibers such as feathers, furs and wools that were all headed for the landfill, can be fashioned into hand held mats that are used to clean up oil spills all along waterways. Cool!

As their website indicates there are upwards of 370,000 pounds of hair thrown away by just the hair salons in the United States every day, that’s a lot of hair that could be turned into mats.

Phil McCoy is the inventor of the hair mat and he is asking for every salon in the US to sign up to send in their hair clippings to help assist in cleaning up the 2,600+ oil spills that happen in and around our waterways every year. They even suggest reusing the boxes that salon product was shipped in to do it. What a fantastic environmental idea!

The only snag is that right now the old warehouse location is no longer adequate and they are seeking a new space for donations to be sent in but they strongly urge salons to sign up anyway with an email address as they will contact you as soon as they are ready to begin accepting the boxes again.

Sometimes the best way to discover something new is diversion. I was really excited to discover this organization and I hope all my salon friends (including my own hair dresser who I will be alerting about this program when I next see her in a couple weeks!) take full advantage of this way to turn waste into treasure and help our water ways!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It’s Curtains for the Door Project!

The project to install doors is complete; I couldn’t be more pleased with the final look and functionality of them. Yesterday I posted this photo as a tease for how the before looked:

The opening on the nook that we call our bedroom is approximately 62” wide by 77” high and as you can see in the lower right corner there is a piece of furniture rather close to the opening so the traffic path is just wide enough for passing ability. This means we could not have a standard swing style hinged door so Matt and I began brainstorming a better solution.

Our final decision was to use bi-fold doors. There were a few reasons for this:

1. They are a cost effective solution (since this isn’t our permanent residence that is key).
2. Installation is relatively easy.
3. They will block light & noise as well as provide a greater sense of security.
4. They can come with us when we go if the landlord doesn’t want to keep them.
5. Minimal damage done to the homeowner’s doorway is easily fixable later.

We headed up to tax free New Hampshire for a day of shopping last weekend and picked up all the supplies we needed. Because the brown and copper leafed desk was going to be residing in this space, and also that I was intending to exchange the cranberry velvet curtains with a pair of green striped panels from another room, we decided on sage green paint and oil rubbed copper pulls.

Including the trim on the inside to finish the look and block the light from coming into the sides, the entire project cost us about five days to completely finish and in the ball park of $225 for materials. Here are the finished doors installed and functional! Only bit left is to paint the interior trim which I will finish up this week.

The look is much more streamlined than the curtains were and when left open, they don’t impact the traffic path at all.

These pretty pulls bring the look together well.

So what did I do with those cranberry colored velvet curtains?

Well they were the perfect compliment to our movie themed living room!

They instantly warm up the space, both visually and physically, by providing another much needed punch of color in a room which we are not allowed to paint.

The posters and movie themed pictures include: The Goonies, Memphis Belle, School Ties, Honeymoon In Vegas, Aladdin, Cinderella and Spice World (oh you better believe it!) plus around the space are tons of movie related items such as a Lord of the Rings statue, scene markers, movies and a copy of The Hobbit plus much more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Repurposing, Recycling, Refinishing, and More Projects

Good morning friends! I do greatly apologize for my time away but there have been quite a few projects going on over here and now that everything is done I’m really excited to share the final photos and stories with all of you!

I have never been a person to just toss a piece of furniture, in fact, most of the time I tend to keep pieces long past their intended life cycle. I recently refinished a desk where this was most definitely the case but it came out so well that it probably just gained another five years at least!

When I was a very young kid, about seven or eight, my dad made me a desk. It was a simple piece made of pine, with an interestingly shaped top that fit right into a corner, one large drawer in the center and three legs which screwed into the bottom. I have been carrying it around with me for all of these years because of its versatility.

About five years ago I painted it and a side chair (which I had acquired from my grandparents years before and was likely already twenty some odd years old) in fire engine red and spray painted the white ceramic pull with brushed silver then used it in my funky colored craft room. The color was good but the paint wasn’t and over the past couple years it had started to peel or chip off, including the pull. In addition to that I had a small table in there that I got for free out of the trash somewhere that was originally fake wood sticker over particle board. Here are all three pieces in my old sewing room (table in lower left corner just a glimpse of it):

With my experience painting, plus the desire to freshen up these pieces I decided to pick through some paint we had lying around and a project was born! I decided to utilize the chocolate brown left over from the free entertainment center project from last year so everything would come together much more cohesively.

I scuffed them all, wiped them down and brushed on two coats (no primer needed as there was already paint on all the pieces).

Then before applying the antique flat, water based, top coat varnish I got inspired to do a little leafing with some left over copper leaf I had from a previous client. I used a simple but decorative stencil to apply the leafing adhesive to three of the corners, around the pull and on the pull itself.

For the side table I purchased a piece of $0.98 hardware and Matt drilled the hole to install it. For the chair I utilized a piece of fabric that I already had to reupholster the seat (which goes perfectly with the palm tree area rug we have in our living room, score!). Here’s the final look of the other two finished pieces:

But these were not the really big project that we both took on over the past week. The biggie was finally putting a door up on the entrance to our bedroom. I’ll give you a little teaser with a before photo but come on back tomorrow for the full story!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ever Wonder What Can Be Done With Old Tires?

Yesterday, a friend of mine and fellow blogger Dennis, sent an email asking that exact question and I was curious what I might find within. Turns out there are some seriously creative people out there making use of this medium to create not only functional pieces like playground equipment but lasting impression art as well! I hope you enjoy this random sampling of amazing pieces and if anyone happens to know the artists of these very cool sculptures please let me know in comments, thanks & enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

“Have You Heard of Jason Castro?”

The other day a friend of mine emailed me one question: “Have you heard of Jason Castro?” Being who I am, I immediately Googled the name and discovered a singer with a pretty groovy vibe. Jason Castro was on American Idol season seven and hails from the Dallas, Texas area which is where my friend is currently living.

Now I have to admit, I never watch the show. Most reality television is not my scene and even though this show is about music, something I truly enjoy, the two night a week commitment is far more television than I am willing to dedicate myself to most of the time. But, listening to him on You Tube, I can see why this Texan gained recognition.

His voice is sweet and he plays a string instrument, plus he has one of those smiles that girls dig and he’s an unconventional pop star with extra long dreadlocks. The boy has a very easy going sense about him as well. In essence, he’s got that “something”. That something is an album to be released early this year and the following is a single, released last year and due to be featured on the album, Let's Just Fall In Love Again. I think you’ll enjoy its lighthearted vibe as much as I did. Thanks for introducing me to his music Dianna!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Eco Fashion Friday Feature thredUP Kids

One of the very reasons I have chosen not to have children is that those little buggers can sure be expensive haha! One item that will forever be a need and will definitely add up over time is clothing. How does a parent save money if there aren’t any hand me downs to procure from older relatives or friend’s kids? Or worse yet, what should a parent do with all of those clothes that their own child outgrew? They get on over to the thredUP Kids website, register and begin exchanging quality clothing in fabulous condition with parents all over the country that’s what!

What’s that you say? Exchange clothing with other parents? Why yes indeed and it could not be easier (or less expensive for the first 1,000 registrants!)

thredUP is a bold concept that has been working for adults for a little under a year now and was founded by three guys -- James Reinhart, Oliver Lubin and Chris Homer -- right here in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Surprised? I highly encourage everyone to check out their About Us section on the thredUP site to read the back story, its pretty funny.

So what does all this have to do with kids you might be asking?

Well the long and short of it all is that what has been working for adults is now something they are feeling out an interest in for kids as well and what is even cooler is that the first 1,000 members to register via this link will be allowed to exchange their first for free when the site launches in February! Score!

Not only upcycled, recycled, increase of the lifecycle and reused, but inexpensive too. Now how many parents could go for that? The really great news is that this service will be for boys and girls ranging in age from 0-12 so parents can begin exchanging as soon as their little one outgrows their very first size.

Obviously there are a few rules involved -- no stained or torn clothing allowed for starters -- and since this particular division is just in its own infancy stages there are more things to come but I can’t get over how cool a concept this is to exchange like new clothing that I think I might just sign myself up.

I especially recommend parents signing up that want to do their part not only for the planet but their own kid’s closet. Then sign up for yourself at the flagship site too. The only thing you have to lose is a pile of clothes you are bored with and the gain is a whole bunch of like new stuff you never had to set foot inside a mall to get.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Turn Off Your ‘Shift’ Key, America by Danial Orange

A friend of mine, Dan Orange, wrote a note titled Turn Off Your ‘Shift’ Key, America and posted it for all of his friends to read over on a social networking site. It is so well done and truly embodies the spirit of what we stand for here at GLR that I immediately asked permission to repost it in its entirety here. Dan said he would be honored so without further ado, here is something we should all keep in mind every day!

This is reposted just as it was originally written**

Dear poets and poetically-minded friends,

I conjured this up on my commute to work this morning. I'd love to get some feedback.

Turn off your ‘Shift’ key, America
by Danial Orange

if we turn off our ‘shift’ key, america
instead of talking @ people, we’d have to talk 2 them.

we’d be forced to see that hatred, fear and ignorance
are problems that exist within the US
because they really exist within us.

people in our nation’s capitals
would have to pay attention to our nation’s lowercases
living in lowerplaces, earning lowerwages,
with children exposed to risk at lowerages.

we’d place more value on =
and less on having +
if we turn off our shift key, america.

with ‘shift’ on, our thoughts are all $!
switch it off and we could be all 4 1
and maybe 1 4 all.

there’d be less emphasis on “I”
if we turn off our shift key, america.

**Photo taken my moi!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Global Warming Versus Climate Change

As you know, I live in the northeast US in Boston, Massachusetts. Our country, except a couple small pockets, has had an unseasonable cold snap in recent weeks, most notably places like southern Florida.

Online friends have posted photos of palm trees encrusted in ice, their own yards engulfed in the rare sight of frost and other odd occurrences due to this weather and although not all, some of these folks have accompanied these photos with statements like “So much for global warming huh?”

Actually, no. As a matter of fact the warming part of global warming has everything to do with the current state of affairs.

First of all let me define both terms, global warming and climate change.

Global Warming: An increase in the average temperature of the earth's atmosphere, especially a sustained increase sufficient to cause climatic change.

Climate Change: Any change in global temperatures and precipitation over time due to natural variability or to human activity.

Wait, so does that mean these two terms define the same basic thing? Well, sort of. They are not exactly the same, but one certainly can not occur without the other.

Here’s how I explained it to a friend who shared the photo of the ice encrusted palm leaves and who had also linked to an article indicating North Dakota had experienced temperatures at -52 degrees (with the wind chill), and she made reference to the ‘so much for…’ statement I talked about above:

It is actually BECAUSE of global warming this is happening...temps go up, water & polar ice shelf melts, more water is evaporated into atmosphere, less definitive line where the "cold" weather should be, more severe weather as more moisture falls from the sky :-(

That is in the simplest of terms, there are certainly loads of other factors and ways of explaining it, but the bottom line is that when the climate changes due to the overall temperature (global mean temp) increasing, a whole lot more extreme weather will most definitely be seen everywhere.

So what can we do?

One of the number one contributors to warming is greenhouse gas, sometimes referred to as CO2 but better known as emissions. Every time we turn up our heat, drive our car, run water, eat prepackaged foods, fly in an airplane, shop for new items and a plethora of other somewhat ingrained daily activities we are creating emissions. By focusing our lives in a more concerted effort to reduce our emissions we will all make a step toward a more regulated environment.

Use throw blankets, sweaters and fuzzy wool socks if alternative energy is not an option in your home. Plan so errands are done in bulk and closer to home on the same day to reduce the number of times you start your car. Try to work from home one or two days a week (this not only reduces driving but energy use in the office as lights and heat remain off or lower than average). Turn off the water while brushing teeth, only flush every other time, or drink filtered tap water to help conserve water resources. Shop at a weekly Farmer’s Market for local and organic produce (if that isn’t possible due to geographic location [like me], try to shop for regionally grown in-season produce) instead of buying prepackaged foods (something had to be run to create all that packaging right?). Take a train for your next trip or if you absolutely must fly be sure to get on a full flight and sit in coach as opposed to a private plane.

But most importantly spread the word! It is only by education that we are able to fully understand the meaning of a word or phrase so if someone in your life is blowing off global warming as ‘not real’ because of the frigid temperatures and record snowfall in their area, educate them! The more the word spreads the faster we can find ways to fix it.

Photo credit: Gary Braasch, Chicago, Illinois 1995, World View of Global Warming

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fairway Independent Mortgage in Boston Goes Green

Most of you have heard Matt’s name in and around these parts for the better part of fifteen months now so I suppose it is high time I formerly introduce him to everyone. Matt is a senior level guru of all things mortgage business. A few months ago he was hired to work at the Boston branch of the national company Fairway Independent Mortgage.

When he came home during his first week and explained that their office was attempting to go almost completely paperless, not only was I shocked but greatly encouraged! I knew it was time to talk to some of the people in the know so I was put in touch with a couple of lovely ladies at Fairway who went way above and beyond to get me the most up to date information on the Green efforts of the Boston branch.

After reading through this article I found there was nothing more to add so I am reprinting here in its entirety. Huge thanks to Beth and Lisa for your quick turn around and amazing job on this!

Taking a Pass on Wasting Paper

When it comes to industries traditionally burdened with mounds of paper, few come close to the mortgage industry. The amount of written client communication and required documentation for processing a mortgage can be cumbersome. From loan origination through post-closing, the mortgage industry has historically depended on paper: copies of pay stubs, bank statements and insurance policies right through to the actual delivery of loan documents. According to Xerox Corporation, “in any given year, the industry generates more than six billion new pages of paper – equivalent to a paper stack over 370 miles high.” Perhaps this is the reason closing a home loan is often referred to as “passing papers.”

Trends are shifting, however. The Boston office of Fairway Independent Mortgage Company has invested in a leaner, greener way to run its office. Branch Manager David Lazowski has put systems in place to dramatically reduce the amount of paper used in the process of obtaining a home loan.

“There’s simple technology now available that allows us to electronically scan, safely transmit and save the documentation we need to process a loan,” says Lazowski. “Not only does it give us the opportunity to operate in a way that is more thoughtful of our use of natural resources, it saves money, time and physical space, and provides for improved workflow.” In addition to the environmental impact and cost savings of using less paper, fewer printer cartridges are necessary; mailing costs and related fuel consumption are also reduced.

The system is called Encompass 360, an internal imaging and document capture system, part of the loan origination software used by Fairway Independent’s Boston office. It allows documents to be sent to the borrower and faxed back directly to the company’s computer system. They are then easily saved in a client’s electronic folder and safely emailed to the underwriter. The only documents that are printed are those needing an original signature as required by law.

Matthew Shon, Fairway’s Senior Processing Lead, says that the company’s use of paper is reduced by about 80% overall. “Traditionally, a loan file might contain an average of 500 printed pages; we can get that down to about 100. Some of those printed pages we are required to shred, so we send them to a company that recycles the paper – two containers of shredded paper, and we’ve saved a tree.”

Why is this so important?

Trees absorb carbon in the atmosphere, yet cutting down trees contributes to carbon emissions as a result both of the machinery used in the process and the work of transporting them to a paper mill. Making paper at that mill consumes even more carbon, and then the paper is transported again, using more carbon-based fuel.

And consider this: the cost savings to a company by using fewer consumable products like paper, printer ink and electricity can be substantial. The savings generated from producing less waste can help a company to be more competitive.

So get started now. Print less. Recycle more. Turn over that note paper and write on the other side. We can all be inspired to take a pass on wasting paper, and find ourselves making a difference in the world.

About the Boston branch of Fairway Independent Mortgage

Located in heart of downtown, the Boston branch of Fairway Independent Mortgage provides financial solutions for professionals, their clients, individuals and families to assist in accomplishing their goals. The corporate umbrella that is Fairway Independent Mortgage provides the Boston branch with the systems and the culture to service their clients with the best and most current financial tools available. The company is a unique blend of personalized care and attention with the know-how and support of a larger, well established company

Not only is the company culture Green, but the mindset of employees within the corporation is one of care and compassion. Matt has truly discovered a home with these folks and since they are such an innovator in the industry, he can go to work every day knowing his Greenie wife will not cringe when he comes home!

Keep spreading the word Fairway that trees don’t have to suffer for a mortgage anymore. Hooray for saving trees, hooray for innovation!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Redefine Christmas, For Every Occasion

For the past couple years my Mom has been both giving and receiving charitable donations as gifts for Christmas. Not only has it helped all of us to pare down the stuff we receive at that time of year but it makes us feel great to know that we are helping out another who truly needs it.

This year I had asked her to locate her favorite charity who’s mission was to keep music in schools. Sadly she was unable to find something so specific that was not regionally based (and outside of our own country at that) so instead she donated to the Surfrider Foundation; considering I love the ocean and music about equally it was a great choice!

For Matt a donation was made to the National Parks Association and it made us both feel pretty great to realize that both land and sea were taken care of this year.

My aunt replied to the email my mom sent out thanking her for her generous gifts and mentioned the organization Redefine Christmas. Apparently these folks have been getting a lot of press as of late as their message and thought is the exact same as my mom. Fantastic!

Partnered with and Changing the Present, the folks at Redefine Christmas help provide links to so many different charities there is surely one to fit every single person in all of our lives.

Many of you might be thinking it is odd that I am commenting on a Christmas charity just after that holiday has come to a close but I say no way! Let’s consider all that is coming up -- Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Passover, Independence Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, heck I bet there are holidays in a calendar year that people celebrate that I’ve never even heard of! What better way to show someone how much they mean than to give through them to someone truly in need?

I pledge this year to be the year of charitable donations, no fancy gift wrap, no expensive and newly created items that may or may not ever be used. No, instead for all of those holidays and more, this year is the year I give generously in other people’s names!

Who’s with me?

Thanks for the festive photo and the inspiration Mum, you are truly a pioneer!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

eco.kid: It's not you, it's me...

Hi all...Melissa stepping up to review a product Jenn threw my way.

When Jenn received a shampoo and conditioner from Australian company eco.kid, she promptly handed it to me because I have the appropriate test subjects: kids, that is. I'm always on the lookout for kid-and-environmentally-friendly personal care products, so I was more than happy to take them on.

The shampoo, Prevent, couldn't have a much more appealing profile: Its heavy-on-the-organics, hold-the-nasty-stuff formulation comes from naturally-derived and renewable ingredients (though I guess that could be said of anything that comes from plants, right?). It contains essential oils that smell pretty good, but are a turnoff to lice (that's what it prevents). So does its companion conditioner, Nourish. Sorry to be bringing up vermin, but parents know lice are no joke, and any products that can help to lessen the chance of an infestation get big points. At least, if they clean adequately.

Do they? I'd say yes, but with a caveat. One of my sons was showering on his own and came in, after finishing up, with hair that felt and looked kind of loaded down with residue. I had to send him back for further rinsing. The other two, who were in the bath, were all lathered up, and I rinsed...and rinsed...and rinsed...and you get the idea.

The shampoo came out, after the kids were sufficiently waterlogged, but I have to say, that amount of rinsing isn't likely to be popular with kids who don't appreciate being drenched from the top down (and mine don't). And it does beg the question how many extra gallons of water would it take to get a proper rinse? (Not a problem in the bath, so much, but kind of an issue in the shower.)

Now before unfairly condemning the product to a lukewarm review, I hopped onto eco-kid's website to see what they had to say for themselves. If I understand correctly, the reason the shampoo works a bit differently is that it doesn't use detergent action -- it works more like dry cleaning. I don't know if that fully explains it, but it seems like it would account for the shampoo not behaving like a more traditional, easy-rinsing product.

Other points to note: These are not "tears-free" formulas. The company explains on its site that products containing essential oils will unavoidably sting somewhat, so users will need to watch out for the little ones' eyes. Also, these products are not formulated to remove build up from styling products, so if your tykes gel up, think twice.

I did try the conditioner, as well, but here, I'm a bit out of my element. I have all boys, and their hair is typically no more than a couple of inches long, so conditioning and detangling aren't a major concern for us. Nothing bad to report, other than the aforementioned need for repeated rinsing.

I don't know, maybe that's just the price of products that don't contain all those unwanted chemicals...anyone have any feedback on that? Products you've tried that aren't quite such a project to rinse out? As I said, both Prevent and Nourish have great-sounding ingredient lists, and both smell pretty good, too. The company's heart appears to be in the right place, so I want to like their product, too -- but I just don't feel it, at least until I know I have to be prepared to settle for hosing the kids down like they were rioters!

So for now, I'll go with a relatively neutral three leaves (I'm feeling more like 2.5, but wish I could give it a this is my compromise).

California Knows How to Party, Green!

When we first arrived in the desert region of Palm Springs for Christmas I was completely blown away by the number of enormous vehicles on the road. It seemed for miles the only things I saw were Hummers, Suburbans, Minivans and a slew of other SUV’s. I started to wonder how the emissions in this country were based on standards set by this state.

Where were the Smart Cars? How come there were not more Hybrid vehicles or even things like Mini Coopers all over the place? It was shocking!

Here in the northeast Smart Cars took off like wild fire because parking and accessibility is always at a premium in our very congested region of the country. Sometimes even my Corolla just can’t squeeze into the only available street space and there is an old saying in Boston “Grab the first parking spot you see because it will also be your last”. Unless you go to a garage this mantra really does ring true.

Anyway, my hope that California would blow me away with its eco consciousness was starting to diminish as we rode the freeways in our rental Hyundai Accent and all manner of (as Matt & I sometimes refer to them) Earth Stompers zoomed past us getting only 15 or so miles to the gallon.

We hit a drug store so I could pick up some body lotion (man is it ever dry in the desert! Even drinking 102 ounces of filtered tap water every day wasn’t cutting it on my sensitive skin!) and suddenly my faith in the Green efforts of my favorite state in the union were restored as there were two of these spaces right next to the handicapped spaces in the CVS parking lot in La Quinta:


Now I’m not at all sure if this is something all of the CVS stores out there do as this is the only one we visited but this was a great sign; both literally and figuratively of course!

Suddenly I started to notice that the sea of mountain sized vehicles parting to reveal that the lower emissions and Hybrid type vehicles were simply hidden behind them. They were there, just not in the droves I see back here. Yet.

But this sign is not at all something we have here so it was encouraging to watch innovation take shape. Way to go CVS in LaQuinta for thinking creatively and encouraging a Greener lifestyle for your patrons!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who Is Recycle Moe?

Thanks to one of our Greenies, Michaela, I was introduced to Recycle Moe, a very funky and fun company that creates unique products from 100% upcycled materials.

The company is run out of Moe O’Hara’s hometown of Burlington, Vermont where she enjoys spending her time creating items such as reusable coffee bean/grounds bags, mini spiral bound books with floppy discs for covers, innovative coffee cup sleeves with an attached clip so it will never be too far from a purse or briefcase and a whole slew of other cool items.

Moe not only showcases her awesome goodies on her website but she has a shop on Etsy where the bulk of her items for sale are baby bibs created from fused plastic shopping bags. And they are really cute. In the Vermont area? Recycle Moe items can also be found in twelve brick and mortar locations (and one in Rhode Island too). Check out the Shop link for a complete list.

Her prices are super reasonable (bibs come in at just $15) and shipping is also pretty low. I definitely suggest checking out Recycle Moe next time you’re looking for a creative, handmade, upcycled and unique gift for the quirky and fun Greenie in your life!