Zero Waste Strategies, Guitar-Tap Dance Collaboration, and Street Performing

Hello all…happy belated Groundhogs Day to all you ‘mericans and early Valentine’s Day to my fellow romantics!

Today I have some reflections on Zero Waste Living for you plus some tap dance related news and a bonus plant fact.

As some of you may know, I’ve been obsessed with garbage for a long time…see me and garbage through the years (cue love song: how sweet it is).

 

 

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I’m not sure what this fixation says about me psychologically–a topic for deeper exploration, I suppose–but I do know where this interest has led me, and that is to explore Zero Waste Lifestyle options in an effort to reduce personal waste production.

Its all about “baby steps.”

This year I experimented with a few different dental floss options (Dr. Mercola is the new favorite, works best, comes in cardboard container, thanks Mamãe), switched over to a new deodorant that can be bought in bulk and comes in a glass jar (Meow Meow Tweet), bought “bees-wrap” to replace saran wrap, or “cling-film” as our UK friends call it, and both invested in a reusable-collapsible to-go container design I’ve been playing with for years…and found one that gets the job done (Sea-To-Summit “Seal and Go Set”).

I also continued to use my To-Go Ware (bamboo utensil set), which I carry around religiously, also introducing metal straws to the mix, enjoyed the soft feel of cloth hankies to dab away tears and runny noses, brought my own totes and produce bags when grocery shopping, and went on with what is probably my 5th year of using the Diva Cup, a reusable menstrual cup which has enabled me to live pad and tampon free all this time. Not only has the cup prevented a lot of garbage and exposure to chemicals, but it as also saved a lot of time and money since I never have to buy pads or tampons anymore. Oh yeah, I also started making my own toothpaste using a simple recipe, eliminating toothpaste associated garbage which tends to be difficult to recycle and of course carry a reusable waterbottle so I don’t have to buy plastic ones on the go.

Apologies for all this talk about me, but as Henry David Thoreau, my historical crush put it:

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.” (Walden)

If you’re curious about any of the topics mentioned above, please ask and I’ll be glad to elaborate.

Reflecting on the areas I can still reduce waste, the first things that comes to mind are to-go cups (for coffee and smoothies/juices) and to-go food containers (for take-out and nuts).

Deeper observation is needed to further analyze my garbage footprint and see where improvements can be made.

What about you?

Food for thought.

Moving on, I wanted also to share some musical projects that have been happening.

Tap Dance-Guitar Collaboration

 

 

That was me and a friend playing around with time and sounds at the American Tap Dance Foundation. More to come!

In other tap dancing news, Gregory Hines, legendary tap dancer who was most prominent in the 1980’s and ’90s and know for collaborating with male ballerino Mikhail Baryshnikov among other things, has been honored by the USPS by being put on a postage stamp. Woot!

Here is a video from the dedication ceremony, held at Symphony Space in Manhattan last Monday. The dancers are Barbara Duffy, Michelle Dorrance, Mikela Lerman, and Ayodele Casel, dancing a piece choreographed by Gregory Hines.

 

As far as street performing goes, I wanted to write a little about that world of experience.

Street Performing in NYC

Metropolitan Ave Station, Brooklyn
Busking in Brooklyn

I have been doing this. I started last year and had the most fun dancing with my then-roommate, Martina the Ballerina. I find street performing to be a good way to work through the nerves of performing, receive feedback, and practice playing loudly, plus it give me somewhere to play other than my bedroom with less pressure than open-mics. When I street-perform (aka “Busk”), I either play guitar, acoustic or electric (acoustic is less cumbersome), or tap dance (either to recorded music, a metronome, or with nothing). The goal is to combine tap dancing and guitar, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet other than stomping out 1-2-3-4 beats.

Thought I’d have more to say about that but turns out no. Just wanted to introduce the topic.

Ok, last 2 things. I wanted to mention a novel product idea that I encountered last year at a craft fair. It was this guy:

Simmer Guy
Simmer Guy at American Feild Trade-show Summer 2018

Simmer is a tomato sauce that comes in smaller package than other sauces on the market. It is meant to be a solution to moldy tomato sauce, which often happens when a single person opens a jar o’sauce. Even though his packaging is plastic, I thought it was clever to address the issue of portion sizes and food waste in packaging. He also had great sample spoons made out of cardboard instead of plastic. If any of you are thinking about giving out food samples, consider these.

Non-plastic sample spoons
Plastic-free sample spoon, great idea!

Finally, a plant fact for you that I learned at work. Ficus, a common house-plant, is a fig plant! I didn’t know that but it makes sense.

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 12.23.26 PM

According to Tina DeSanto of The World is Your Dumpster, also my co-worker at Verdant Gardens, Ficus binnendijkii ‘Alii’ is more commonly known as Alii ficus or banana-leaf ficus. Originally from the Philippines and south east Asia, this tree was originally cultivated in Hawaii and has been in the industry about 10 years, the name Alii means chief in Hawaiian and ficus in Latin means fig.
And finally finally, a dream catcher I made out of plastic bags and odds and ends I’ve collected in the past few months from life and litter.
Garbage Dream Catcher
Garbage Dream Catcher
Thats all folks!
Stay groovy,
KB
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Right to Repair

January 19, 2019

West Village, NYC

 

Hello All!

Writing you today from the American Tap Dance Foundation with completely un-related E-waste news while Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire plays intermittently in one of the practice rooms, a silly choice for a kids tap class, but I digress…

Ever had a broken electronic device and wanted to fix it, but stopped because you heard something about how doing so would void the warranty or something like that?

Well, I’m here to let you know that there’s a group of people advocating for you so you can have the option to fix your own electronics without the risk of being disowned by your electronics manufacturer. Its seems silly that is a right we do not have (like the right to know if the food you buy contains GMOs), but its good to know some people are out there who care an awful lot and want to empower people to fix their own gadgets rather than being a slave to the manufacturers.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot ...

I’ve only just begun to research this topic and will write more as I learn more. To clarify why this issue is important to me and this blog, it is the connection between electronics and chimpanzees/gorillas–that is, our electronics are made with materials that come from chimpanzee and gorilla habitats in Africa. These habitats are being disturbed and degraded due to mining activity.  If we can re-use and recycle electronics, there will be less need to mine for materials in these habitats. So, lets do that.

For now, I wanted to just share the idea and a link to the Right to Repair website so you can look into it if you’re interested in learning about the topic or want to start fixing your own gadgets.

Earlier in this blog I talked about the concept of Urban Mining and a company called IFixit which provides tool-kits and free instruction manuals to walk you through fixing things like broken smart phone screens. Their goal is to encourage re-use of electronics and reduce waste.

Right to Repair
Right to Repair Manifesto

As usual, if you have any questions or comments I invite you to comment below. I’m curious to see if anyone has any input on this issue…

Pant hoot,

KB!

Sustainable Business Review: Made Line Jewelry – Fair Mined Jewelry

 

https://www.madelinejewelry.com/about/

Hello All and Happy Sunday,

On the subject of sustainable businesses which I’ve touched on in a few previous posts (Hand-made shoes and Fair Trade Electronics), I’d like to address a line of ethical/sustainable products we don’t hear about all too often–jewels! Specifically fair-mined metals and gemstones.

I learned about this subject from my dear friend Maddy who I met back in Catholic School, where our uniforms were burgundy and grey (Eew), but we still managed to look cute:

Saint Francis Uniforms
My only remaining evidence of the Saint Francis uniforms, honorably showcased by Amy even though it was Halloween and the rest of us gladly opted to swap for Halloween costumes, circa 2007

Always a crafty one, Maddy became a jeweler after studying design and metallurgy at SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design.

After graduating, she moved to New York to pursue the jewelry scene and has worked for several companies over the years while developing her own line of hand-made products which can be viewed on her website: Made Line Jewelry.

I love Maddy’s work and feel so lucky to have a friend with the ultimate set of tools and skills to fix broken rings, earrings, and occasionally customize things like my late and ever mourned dog, Sparky’s collar, which she transformed into a pretty cool looking necklace that I now wear for obvious sentimental reasons. (Grammar/punctuation help, Grandma?)

The necklace, post Maddy’s handiwork; a simple transformation, thoughtfully crafted and well done:

Made Line Customized piece – Commemorative Dog Collar necklace

The original piece on my original main man:

Festive
Festive Sparky Wearing his G-chain collar

Needless to say, Maddy is awesome, especially because she is also promoting sustainability within her industry. Recall the Triple Bottom Line dicussed in a previous post, an emerging metric for evaluating business economics based on social, economic, and environmental impacts.

Using recycled metal in her jewelry, that is, metals repurposed from a range of products including old jewelry, electronics, and dental work rather than newly mined metal (all thoroughly cleaned and refined, mind you), Maddy is among a growing collective of ethical jewelers who are paving the way for a market of jewelry that is good for the planet as well as the people working to supply us with the raw materials. Its much like the Fair-trade electronics topic I wrote about here.

According to Maddy and others who use recycled metals, “the quality and value of recycled metal is exactly the same as newly mined metal, but using recycled metal is a great way to ensure that you aren’t supporting any mining practices that could have [detrimental] social and environmental [impacts]” (MadeLine Materials).

To give you an example, one side effect of gold-mining is Mercury contamination. Unfortunately, Mercury is often used during the refining process to separate gold from other elements. Because it is hard to filter out, local waterways often become contaminated by runoff, posing serious health problems for humans and the ecosystem at large.

According to Maddy, “Although there are a few alternatives to using mercury in mining, they are not widely known and the processes take much longer.” As a result, some small scale miners still opt to use mercury because it increases their speed and processing capacity. Gravity shaking tables and/or cyanide, are other options which also have toxic elements but can be neutralized and contained properly to prevent environmental damage. As explained above, mercury seems to be the simplest method and is not regulated despite the environmental and health impacts.

That is why it is important for us as consumers to support companies that follow ethical and environmentally sustainable practices, like Maddy’s company and other Farimined certified jewelers who buy recycled metals or metals from mining operations with mercury free processing. Through our purchasing (i.e. by altering demand), we send a message to the market about what products we want, and in this way we do our part to move industry standards in a sustainable direction.

Maddy also exclusively uses gemstones that come from reliable sources and discusses her “traceability ethic” here. Apparently there is a lot more to buying jewelry than I ever considered, and Maddy is working to make this information more widely understood. Hey, thanks lady!

Earlier this year, Maddy went with a group of jewelers to Colombia to explore the fair mined movement in action and to meet the communities supporting and supported by her jewelry work. The expedition was led by Fairmined, a certification label much like the “organic” label, which certifies gold sourced from “empowered, responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organizations” (Fairmined)

By opting for certified Fairmined jewels, ethical jewelers like Maddy can be certain their products are promoting well-run mining operations that promote the well-being of their miners, their communities, and the environment.

So, check out Maddy’s jewely! I think there’s some holiday sales afoot….. 😉

Made Line Jewelry

maddy mined
Maddy and her Columbian boyfriend on the Fairmined trip

 

Reminder to Switch to Ecosia

Hiking in Hana
Shades of Green in Maui

Ahoy y’all

This is just a friendly reminder, a gentle nudge, to switch from Google to Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees.

Here is a wonderful little documentary to explain why its such a good idea to jump on this bandwagon:

 

From an Art and Adventure standpoint, this is great because it’s helping chimps…and people…and showing how one person on an adventure can make an enormouslyawesomely huge positive impact on the planet through ripples (Thank you Jane Gooddall).

To make the switch and start making good use of your screen time on a global scale, all you have to do is go here, I think: https://info.ecosia.org/what.

Or search Ecosia on google for the last time and go from there.

Comment below if you make the switch!

xo KB

Some cool tree moments:

Heart of Hana
Heart of Hana, (See back mountain range, right side shadow) Hana, Maui 2011
DSCN5071
Fall in Queens, NY, 2017
IMG_0892
Windblon Tree n Me, South Point Hawaii, The Real Windy City
DSCN3443
Tree Panther, Capitola, Cali
IMG_1064
Polulu Road Tree, also Windblown, Big Island, Hawaii
DSCN3227
Sunrise over Mauna Kea but facing the Wrong Way
IMG_0919
Roofbend Tree, South Point Hawaii
DSCN2774
Fall Branches in Berlin, 2017
Slightly Obsessed
Red Tree, Santa Cruz
Jacaranda
Jacaranada, Santa Cruz

Going Ape for Fair Trade Electronics

Hello all and happy Memorial Day. I hope you’re feelin’ groovy and not too traumatized by my last post about turtle noses and plastic straws. Got a new topic for you, one that connects many dots for this blog and gives me mucho hope and confidence in a sustainable future for the us and the apes, who are one.

Fair Trade Electronics

So, you’ve heard of fair trade coffee, right?

And perhaps fair trade chocolate?

Yum!

But how ’bout fair trade electronics??

 

According to internet sources, and the lovely Jane Gooddall (see video), some very key components of electronics come from Chimpanzee and Gorilla habitat in the Democratic Repubic of Congo. Thats over in Africa–(great song), see map below, DRC is in red:

drc
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0e/Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_in_Africa.svg/1084px-Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_in_Africa.svg.png

 It is in this region that Chimpanzees and Gorillas roam wild and free, and where today, large and small scale (artisinal) mining operations are moving in to extract minerals like Cobalt, Tungsten, and “rare Rarth metals” including Coltan, or Tantalite, which are all used in the making of electronic devices.

People are moving into once uninhabited areas in order to make a living through mining–cant blame ’em for that, baby’s gotta eat. Unfortunately, however, an unintended consequence of this migration is habitat destruction and species loss. People even hunt Chimpanzees and Gorillas for eating or selling on the illegal pet trade and bushmeat markets. Sad. Look, this chimp is pouting about it:

chimpy
https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/chimpanzee

Here are some photos of these materials which are essential to the functioning of our electronics and represent much conflict:

Tungsten4_0616
Tungsten: https://www.fairphone.com/de/2016/06/20/fairphone-2-good-vibrations-with-conflict-free-tungsten-2/
coltan
Coltan, or Tantalite: http://www.thecoli.com/threads/lets-discuss-the-potential-of-what-is-the-democratic-republic-of-congo.402272/
cobalt
Cobalt: http://www.thecoli.com/threads/lets-discuss-the-potential-of-what-is-the-democratic-republic-of-congo.402272/

And a photo of a two different Cobolt mining operations, one industrial and one artisanal:

large scale op
Industrial mining site: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2017/06/07/on-site-visit-to-cobalt-mines-in-congo-april-2017/
small scale op
Artisanal mining site: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2017/06/07/on-site-visit-to-cobalt-mines-in-congo-april-2017/

To clarify, the difference between Industrial and Artisanal mining is the Industrial operations are organized by large, often foreign companies, while the Artisanal operations are conducted by individual miners.

There are issues with both levels of operation. Ultimately, not only is land and habitat being ravaged, or at least altered, through the mining process, but also people, child laborers included, are working under dangerous conditions for less than fair wages to supply us with these materials. Here is a video that explains the extractive/mining industry and the perspective of artisanal miners:

For me, the main takeaway from the clip above is from 1:44 til 3:14, a segment which reveals an artisanal Cobalt mine and a discussion with miners about working conditions and wages.

Because they are not part of a company or union, these miners have no representation on the market and often end up getting ripped off by buyers, most often Chinese companies, who buy at low prices and then make a profit, reselling the materials to electronics manufacturers at a 30% markup (statistic provided in video).

The miners, who often enter a mine and stay in there for 2-3 days at a time, feel they are not receiving fair pay, especially considering the profits other people are making off of their labor, the price of finished electronics, and the rate of electronics consumption worldwide. They would like to be paid fairly. I can dig it.

Fairphone

Now, I’m not sure if “fair trade electronics” is an official term, but the concept is there, and leading the way is a Netherlands based company called Fairphone.

Fairphone, founded in 2013, is pioneering the movement towards fair-trade electronics by changing the industry from the inside, providing an ethical alternative to all other cell phones on the market, the Fairphone.

fariphone
https://shop.fairphone.com/?ref=header

Through painstaking research and partnerships with organizations like the Dragonfly Initiative, who advise businesses in the “extractive industry” on sustainable purchasing, Fariphone has made an effort to purchase from with “Conflict-Free” mining operations that do not use child-labor, who pay their workers fairly, and who strive to reduce their environmental imapct.

Although Fairphone does not boast to have a 100% fair phone, they are working towards that goal and at least provide a “fair-er” alternative to other smart phones on the market, creating a demand for fair electronics. Their goal is to promote “positive social and environmental impact[s] from the beginning to end of a phones life cycle” by incorporating long lasting design, fair materials, good working conditions, and promoting reuse and recycling (Fairphone Goals).

So, thats about all I’ve got to say about that. Fairphone is paving the way for all electronics to bear the Fair-Trade certification. If you are considering a new smartphone, consider Fairphone and help build the movement.

I also wanted to mention the importance of recycling E-waste. According to a video I saw on facebook, only about 15% of electronics are recycled. That is not very much. Considering how much work goes into extracting the materials that go into our electronics, considering that little children and chimpanzee are suffering in order to bring us the latest version of the Iphone, the least we can do is make an effort to discard our electronics correctly, ie make sure they are recycled, not junked in the trash. There is actually gold in our electronics, are we really going to throw gold into the garbage?! Times, they are a changin. Those 49er gold-miners must be rolling in their graves.

Now, I realize electronic waste recycling is not easy or convenient. I don’t know of any city that provides municipal electronic waste collection, so that leaves it to you and me, the consumers, to go the extra mile to bring our electronic waste to an e-waste recycler. That takes effort, I know, its annoying. But its our responsability, and perhaps the price we have to pay for all the work that goes in on the front end to bring us relatively cheap electronics (considering the labor and environmental costs that go into production).

Ok, off the soap box.

Recycle your electronics. Don’t let me find them on the ground or I will make art with them.

Waste
Ground Score E-Waste Art
E-waste Art
More ground-score E-waste art

Cheers to progress, peace, and love, and a happy day to you,

KB

Inspiration to give up plastic straws for good: Turtle Noses

Hello Dear Readers,

I saw this video a few weeks back and have been wanting to share because I found it so…striking, but hesitated because its pretty icky. If you needed a reason to forgo plastic straws, here you go. Now when I see plastic straws, I think of this clip.

Warning, this video contains “harsh” language and nauseating content.

 

Here is another disturbing video with a turtle with a plastic FORK stuck in their nose. Forking fork fork this is not acceptible folks.

https://www.earthtouchnews.com/environmental-crime/pollution/first-a-straw-now-a-fork-turtles-are-choking-on-our-plastic-trash/

On a positive note, in my recent travels to California, I learned that San Francisco has banned plastic straws and many other cities are hopping on board. Woo hoo! We are evolving.

And in Texas, I ate at a restaurant called Youngbloods which provided straws only upon request, and those straws were paper straws, which worked quite well. If you own a food establishment or use straws at home, check out AARDVARK straws for an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws. Amazon sells them in smaller quantities.

Paper Straws
Paper gtraws, great alternative to plastic straws.

 

Another alternative to plastic straws, if you like to use straws regularly, is metal or bamboo straws. Here is a link to The Package Free shop, based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which provides a variety of reusable products, including a few different re-usable straw options.

Now, I haven’t found any of those big straws used for smoothies and my beloved bubble tea (see below) but I will say, they are quite re-usable and rinse-able. Just takes a bit of habit shifting to remember to hang onto your straw and bring it when you know you’re going to get a drink while you’re out. I am working on that. Takes diligence, man.

Plastic Straws
Big plastic straws can be re-used, an easy way to reduce plastic waste if you can remember

Sometimes I add one of those straws to my To Go Ware bamboo utensil kit so I have it when a straw moment strikes.

Re-usable Bamboo Utensils, alternative to plastic
Great re-usable alternative to plastic utensils, a straw can fit in there too…. https://www.to-goware.com/product-repeat-utensil-set-141?color=cayenne

Love the bamboo utensils by the way, haven’t used many plastic utensils since I got mine 4 or 5 years ago.

Well, that about sums up my thoughts on plastic straws. Something I’m really noticing these days as I’m making an effort to live a “Zero waste lifestyle” is how proactive I need to be when ordering food. For example, on a recent flight I ordered a tea and received not only my cup of tea, but also a plastic cup with tea-accoutrements in it, including…dun-dun-dun….a little plastic stirring straw. I saw it and instantly got hit with the turtle-nostril image. Whabam!

Moving forward, I’m training myself to ask questions about packaging before I order food. It is a work in progress. Now the mission is to figure out a way to phrase things without coming across as self-righteous, annoying, or doom and gloomy.

Any advice?

All the best,

Kelly B

Photo booth
Shout out to Amanda and non-photoshop photo editing. Much love y’all!

 

Sustainable Business Review: Hand-made Shoes in Austin, Tx and the Triple Bottom Line

“Howdy y’all”
I hope this note finds you well. I started writing you this message during a visit to sunny Austin, Texas a few weeks ago, where I was delighted by songbirds, artsy storefronts, and a new food concept: the breakfast taco (not pictured because I ate mine too fast).

One business I was particularly impressed with is a store called Fortress of Inca which sells sustainably produced shoes, handmade in Peru.

The “S” word

“S” for “Sustainability” and “S” for “SHOES!”

These words together pulled me into the store like I was caught in a lasso.

DSCN5609

Admittedly my first thought upon seeing the shoes on display, a variety of funky oxfords with cut-outs, was to wonder if they could be converted into tap shoes. The answer is probably, since these well-constructed shoes all have nice leather soles, but as I perused the store and chatted with the owner and a few employees, I learned a bit about the business itself, which left me inspired and eager to spread the word about another creative, sustainably-minded business.

Here are those cut-out oxfords, potential tap shoes:

And a bit about the shop:

Fortress of Inca was born 10 years after Evan Streusand, founder of the business, went on a wonderlust adventure throughout Peru and bought a pair of handmade boots along the way. Upon his return to the States and as time went on, he noticed the shoes lasted forever and realized he wanted to make those shoes available in the US.

Evan wanted to create a sustainable, ethical business, so took strides to do his research, connect with like-minded people in Peru, and create a business that benefits the triple bottom line*: people, the planet, and pocketbooks, rather than simply generating profits.

Triple Bottom Line
The Triple Bottom Line is a way to measure a company’s success in terms of sustainability. Wheras the conventional bottom line measures economic profits, the triple bottom line takes into account social and environmental factors as well to create a more rounded assessment of a businesses “bottom line.” https://www.tools4management.com/article/the-triple-bottom-line-a-study/

Fortres of Inca, a small retail shop located in South Austin, works with several small shoemaker companies in Peru who use sustainably sourced materials (rubber, leather, and wood) to make their shoes. Workers enjoy excellend working conditions and are paid fairly, with benefits like social security and health care.

While their shoes are not the cheapest on the market, Fortress of Inca shoes fairly reflect the actual cost of their products in terms of the triple bottom line. Consumers pay more, but at least that is not at the expense of the people who make the shoes and our environment. This is a fair and sustainable pricing structure and business model that I hope more business will come to adopt.

Check out the Fortress of Inca website for more information about the company and its products, or stop by the store if you’re in the area!

DSCN5602

Ta ta for now,

Kelly B