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.
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.
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…
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:
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:
The original piece on my original main man:
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….. 😉
In recognition of the passage of time and seasons, lets take a moment to admire this pumpkin with a heart on it …
Can you spot the pumpkin I am referring to?
Right there on the bottom row, right side, third pumpkin in. You see it?
Bingo!…a pumpkin with a heart-shaped “blemish” on it’s skin.
An Autumn Miracle, or the work of a garden gnome? Its tough to say…
Until recently, I believed the heart to be some sort of miracle, like the image of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich. What else could explain it? Well, then I stumbled upon a book about gnomes which illuminated a new possibility:
Perhaps this was not a “natural occurrence”, the “hand of God”, or “magic”, but instead the clever, whimsical handiwork of a garden gnome who had been living in the windmill on the property.
Gnomes are known to occupy windmills from time to time, and this pumpkin was grown in close proximity to a windmill, the one pictured blow in fact.
So it could very well have been a gnome.
It is my love of nature that inspires this next topic, please enjoy.
Zero Waste Living
As some of you may know, garbage is an issue close to my heart.
It all started in college. Yep, went to college, fell in love with garbage.
Its taken me a while, but this year I finally made it a goal to adopt a Zero Waste lifestyle. I am inspired by two ladies: Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home and Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers and The Package Free Shop, both women have written extensively on the topic of Zero Waste Living and rely heavily on glamour shots for advertising.
Aside from eliminating plastic utensils and straws (cept the jumbo ones for bubble tea) by switching to Geico…I mean To Go Ware and Simply Straws, I have two recent developments in my Zero Waste game I’d like to share with you in case you were looking for a nudge:
I bought a fancy dental floss called Dental Lace that is made of silk and comes in a refillable glass container. The idea behind this product is that the natural fibers are better for you to slobber all over and the refillable glass containers reduce the waste associated with plastic dental floss containers. I will continue using the fancy dental floss for these reasons, but will admit the floss breaks easier than what I am used to.
Most excitingly, and actually the whole reason for this post, is DIY toothpaste. I ran out of toothpaste and decided to make my own to elimiate toothpaste tubes from my waste stream. Using a recipe I found on a zero waste lifestyle blog called Trash is for Tossers, I am quite satisfied with this DIY alternative.
The recipe is simple:
2 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 10-15 drops mint or other essential oil
Tastes a little salty and does not froth, fluxuates between solid and liquid depending on temperature, but all in all, I’d say this toothpaste works great and is a suitable alternative to packaged toothpase. I put mine in a jar leftover from home-made jam my gramma sent me. Yummmm.
Now, go forth and brush!
P.S. For all you tap dancing enthusiasts out there, some tap dancing education for you: an interview with Brenda Buffalino, tap master, maybe the first lady to popularize ladies tap dancing in flat shoes as opposed to high heels (must fact check for you), founder of the tap school I am attending. Thanks Brenda! Follow link below for interview:
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.
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:
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.
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!
Note: moss is not 100% necessary. If you can’t find it outside, you can buy it at a craft store, or just skip it.
Now, let me explain:
Start with your ivy or twine and make a ring
2. Cover the ring with hay or straw, wrapping it as you go, handful by handful, with string or wire, tightly. Remember to secure the beginning and end of your wire wrapping. I usually tie it off or twist it around itself. You’ll figure it out. Remember, you are a great ape.
3. Next, if you can find some, wrap a layer of moss around that.
4. At this point, the wreath its pretty as is! Make a loop for hanging with rope or ribbon
5. Next, I’m so sorry made an epic fail and forgot to take a picture of this intermediary stage…take your hearty foliage clippings and layer them starting at the top, working down and counter-clockwise, while wrapping the stems with your wire or string…see how my hands are, that’s how you should layer the foliage. Keep it organized, it will save you a headache later, and try to avoid wrapping the leaves down flat, aim for the stems. This step requires some dexterity but it does not have to be perfect, because you will cover this part with your flowers and such…
6. Finally, use floral pins or unfolded paperclips (easier, cheaper, more accessible) to pin your nature walk treasures to your wreath. Remember symmetry generally makes things look good. Work on your wreath while it is hung up, stepping back every now and again to assess your work from afar. Don’t be too critical, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Go with your instincts.
7. And Voilá! A beautiful seasonal wreath.
Here, I added a bunch of felted ornaments for a very early Christmas display
Questions, comments, frustrations to vent? Did I make it seem too easy? Note I made my wreath over a period of a few days because I do not have the patience or attention span to do it all at once. Let me know how it goes if you make one! They make great gifts and grandma’s tend to love them.
Show me what you come up with, I’d be happy to see your take on the MacGyver Wreath!
I learned this style from my wonderful WWOOF hostess Rita in Berlin last fall. Credit where credit is due. Thank you Rita!