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

 

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Change for Chimps Year-End Update

Hola readers!

How long does it take to establish a tradition?

Well, I’m not sure if it’s quite a tradition yet but this year marks year 2 of this blog’s donation to the Jane Gooddall Institute. It’s also year 2 of this blog.

A little recap–Since starting, I have travelled across the country via greyhound, seen a complete solar eclipse, worked on a cashmere goat farm, explored The Big Apple, living in various sub-standard yet semi-charming communal living spaces, tried out a handful of odd-jobs, chipped away at creative projects, integrated into society somewhat, and honed in on the art of tap dancing.

It’s the first time in many years that I have stayed put for longer than a few months, which I must admit is a struggle for an idyllic, adventure seeking soul like mine. Mental sabotage aside, its been good to stay in one place, sit still, and focus a bit; good to observe the passage of time and seasons within and without; good to experience life on a continuum, get a taste of the “grind” rather than ramblin’ around from one storyline to the next. Its been a good period of reflection and developing focus. At least for now that is my feeling. Time will tell if I get squirrely again.

All in all, this blog has been helpful for keeping track of projects. I appreciate all of you who have been reading and following along. Special shout out of course to my Grandma Pat and maternal units who read my stories and provide feedback, also to the international readers: hello India! Hello New Zealand! Hello UK! Hello Berlin! Hello Israel/Palestine. I’m very stoked to be reaching such a diverse audience and really welcome everyone’s comments and input.

Looking back, last year I donated a forgotten amount to the Jane Gooddall Institute because it was the best option I could find to contribute to the cause of chimpanzee conservation, something I really wanted to do since I admire the work of Jane Gooddall and the conservation efforts she has inspired across the globe.

As a bonus, JGI sent me a story about one of the chimps at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabiliatation Center in the Republic of Congo. A nice touch which provided an interesting insight into chimpanzee behavior and emotions. Read the story here to see for yourself.

Luc
Luc, Chimp sponsored by junebugbayer.blog in 2018

That’s why I chose to donate again this year, this time using the funds I raised while street performing over the course of the year, a hard, yet joyfully earned $200 for JGI. Thank you New Yorkers!

Interesting to note, I made a whopping $0.08 off of advertisements on this blog in the same time period…I’d donate that too but WordPress doesn’t cut checks that small, so the pot will grow for next year…

Anyway, according to JGI, my donation will be doubled as part of their year-end fundraiser, so that’s $400 which will go towards replanting important forest habitats and restoring critical forest corridors that chimpanzees and other great apes need to survive. I say “my” donation but I’d like to note that I consider it “our” donation, since this blog has anchored my efforts, and you are a part of it all by reading.

That being said, I’ll elaborate on the impacts of our donation.

According to the JGI thank you letter, we are supporting programs that improve the health, education and livelihoods of the people in communities surrounding chimpanzee habitats whose future is vitally connected to the future of chimpanzees. Donations also support the Roots & Shoots program, which is equipping young people in over 100 countries to become the next generation of conservation leaders. Side note: The Urban Mining event I hosted this year was part of the Roots & Shoots program.

A big part of JGI donations go to the running of the Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Center in the Congo and providing medical attention to the chimps brought to their doors. According to a letter sent out by Dr. Atencia, the executive director of the Jane Gooddall Institute-Congo and head veterinarian, the sanctuary takes in chimpanzees rescued from poachers, saving them from being sold as pets or bushmeat. Chimps often arrive malnourished and injured and in need of urgent care. It costs about $7000 to care for one chimpanzee at the center per year, and they live about 60 years. Merp! Donations go towards formula for infant chimps, food for adult chimps, and lifetime veterinary care. Chimpanzees are endangered species, with an estimated 150,000 left in the wild. Once rehabilitated at Tchimpounga, under the care of a dedicated team of veterinarians and care-givers, chimpanzees are released into sanctuaries where they are protected from poachers and habitat loss. Here are three  examples of chimpanzees being cared for at the Tchimpounga center, made possible through our donations…

Vienna
Vienna was rescued from poachers in Niari in December 2017. Vienna fears abandonment after the trauma of being taken from his mother so clings to his caregiver Anotonette, who holds him tightly against her chest, which quiets him and makes him feel secure. Antonette spends 24 hours a day with him to make him feel loved and safe, and at night they sleep in the same bed. Once acclimated, Vienna will meet other rescued chimpanzees who reside on the main Tchimpounga sanctuary site.
George
George was rescued and brough to Tchimpounga sanctuart after being taken by poachers and sold into the illegal pet trade in Angola. George’s caretaker Chantal knows how to interact with him, providing him hugs, games, and attention. He will soon meet other caregivers and rescued chimpanzees to avoid being too dependent on Chantal, and they will help him to become fully adapted to sanctuary life.
Kabi
Kabi was brought to Tchimpounga sanctuary in May 2018 after being rescued from a group of poachers near a town called Mokabi. Kabi’s caretaker is Cristel, who spends 24 hours a day with him to help him heal from the traumas he experienced with the poachers.

Its pretty crazy how much individual care is required to rehabilitate a baby chimp. They are much like humans in this way, requiring a lot of affection and attention in order to develop into healthy, sociable creatures. Without that love, they generally do not survive. I’ve heard gorillas are even more sensative and prone to losing the will to live when separated from their mothers. Interesting.

Well, I’ve run out of things to say but I think we are creating some great positive ripples in this world folks by engaging with this topic. There are so many causes and creatures in need, it can be overwhelming and discouraging to think about where to start and what to do to help, but as Dr. Jane Gooddall says:

google image
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/29/c4/02/29c402dd45d3a544aa0a7418f194f670.jpg
google image
https://quotefancy.com/media/wallpaper/3840×2160/261327-Jane-Goodall-Quote-Cumulatively-small-decisions-choices-actions.jpg

I like the way she thinks.

google image
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/b5/6c/20/b56c200e3612bf89f62db178799f1bf9–wildlife-conservation-special-quotes.jpg

Also I’ve thought about this while wondering if chimpanzee conservation is really what I should be focusing on in light of all the other crises going on in the world:

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 5.12.55 AM
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/b5/6c/20/b56c200e3612bf89f62db178799f1bf9–wildlife-conservation-special-quotes.jpg

Ok ok, thats all for now, thank you for reading!

Happy weekend!

KB

 

 

Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 2

The Waiting

As soon as we all unloaded from the bus from Jordan and waited in another line to cross the boarder into The West Bank, I could tell something was up. There was tension in the air as we queued up to have our documents reviewed and to proceed across the boarder. It was taking forever.

A Palestinian man waiting behind me made disgruntled comments about how long it was taking for the officials to review another person’s documents ahead of us. I nodded as if I understood his sentiment, even though at that point I hadn’t witnessed any injustice. Beurocratic processes are notorious for being painfully slow everywhere, I thought, so I wasn’t that disturbed by the hold up. I did notice it was a Palestinian person the man was referring to, but again wasn’t sure if it was a coincidence or discrimination and didn’t have enough experience in the land to pass judgement.

Inching along, I finally made it to the counter to present my documents. The officials were Israeli, I came to find, which is strange since we were entering the West Bank, a Palestinian territory.

Technically the West Bank is part of Israel, so I suppose it makes sense to have Israeli government controlling the boarder, but its still a strange situation if you think about it. Usually when you cross into a country, the officials are of that country. Like I said, the land is technically Israel, but we were passing into Palestinian territory so it would have made sense to have Palestinian officials at the boarder. Just sayin’. Especially since the Allenby Bridge is the only border crossing point Palestinians can use to enter the West Bank.

If a Palestinian travels abroad, they are not permitted to fly to Tel Aviv and enter the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea side like Israelis and other human beings. They do not have the same privileges. Palestinians are only permitted to pass through the Alleby Bridge, which is only accessible by way of Jordan, so Palestinians are restricted in how they can travel abroad. Its a pain. They cannot go through any other border crossing point from the Jordan side either, which there are two of, one in the South via Eilat, and another in the North near the Sea of Galilee. No, all Palestinians have to come through the Allenby Bridge, where I was at the moment being described.

Its a bit confusing but I digress, when it was my turn to step up to the window and present my documents in order to pass through, I was surprised at the way the officials conducted themselves. There were two officials, young military women. The official took a long time to review my passport, passing it to her colleague and the two of them talking between themselves without cluing me in as I stood there, wondering what the issue was, waiting for further instructions. It wasn’t very human, but I suppose any country could have grumpy, jaded border patrol employees. I wont count that as a strike against Israelis, but its worth noting. They were not friendly.

After deliberating and having another soldier come look over my passport, the officials directed me to a waiting area.  I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait or why. Apparently, I was not in the clear to pass through and I had no idea what made me suspicious. As I sat there waiting for the next step, the seats around me filled with Palestinian families. Eventually, Hanan came to meet me, as she was also sent to the waiting area for further review. I was glad to have met her, otherwise I would have been much more anxious and confused waiting there alone.

It was a half hour before my name was called. I went into an office with an Israeli man who questioned me about what I had been doing in Israel and what I would be doing next. In the end I think the questioning was related to my visa, as my re-entry into the the country from Jordan would result in my visa being extended another 3 months.

Since I already had a plane ticket out of Tel Aviv a few weeks later, it was a non-issue and I was allowed to continue through the boarder. Simple fix.

So I went through, first stopping to confer with Hanan. I told her I’d wait for her on the other side, not knowing how long that would be. And guess how long it ended up being, by the way….

7 HOURS.

Seven.

With no clue where I was, no idea where to go, and no gumption to set off on my own, I waited the entire time for Hanan to pass through, even though I barely knew her.

While I waited, I observed the people passing through. I had never been in a Muslim country before, save for Jordan, and was mesmerized by the clothing people wore, especially the women covered head to foot in black, with only slits for their eyes to see. I found it strange, but that’s just the way things are there.

Allenby Bridge Boarder Terminal

During my hours of waiting, two noteworthy things happened. First, I met a man from South Africa on his way to Mecca with a group of 13 others. I had never met anyone from South Africa before, and never met anyone going to Mecca, a pilgrimage I had learned about in religion class back in my Catholic School days. The concept had seemed quite mythical, but turns out lots of people really do that, including my new friend, the South African.

The man was wearing a funny little pillbox hat and a white linen tunic and was very nice to talk to. I sat with him for about two hours as he waited for his party to pass through security and collect their bags, one by one. I asked him about South Africa, the wild animals there (chimpanzees and monkeys, of course). He entertained my chimpanzee fantasies and gave me pointers about good beaches to visit, but I forgot all that information because I didn’t write any of it down. Eventually everyone in his party made it through security and they moseyed along, leaving me with my bags to wait in the figurative dark for Hanan to come through.

It had been several hours already and I was beginning to doubt if she’d make it through. Of course she would, but it was taking so damn long the worries began to creep in. I staved them off as I continued to observe the flow of people coming through.

The second noteworthy thing to happen was among the funniest scenes I’ve witnessed in this life. Funny in a peculiar and irreverent sort of way.

It went like this: I had my big backpacking backpack propped up in a corner and was sitting a bit away from it in observer mode. Then all the sudden a pair of devout looking Muslim folks laid down mats in front of my pack and started bowing to my backpack. Well, actually they were doing their prayer ritual in the direction of Mecca, but it looked like they were bowing to my backpack. I found it very funny and wanted to take a photo, but didn’t because #1 my camera was in my backpack and #2 that would have been oh so rude.

I’ll draw a picture and include it here someday.

Finally, after 7 hours of waiting, Hanan came through. She was surprised and glad that I was still there. It was dark out by that time and we took some sort of bus van out of the terminal to where Hanan’s parents were waiting for us. They had arrived hours before, not expecting to have to wait until 9 pm to pick us up. No one expected it to take that long.

In the drive to Hana’s parents house I gazed out the window into the night as Hanan’s father talked about life in Palestine. I got my first glimpse of the wall and learned that inconvenience and waiting are not at all unfamiliar to Palestinians living in the West Bank under the Israeli occupation, which is what the situation is, I was learning for the first time.

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

There’s a Gnome in my Pumpkin; DIY Toothpaste

Hello All, Happy Weekend and Happy Fall!

In recognition of the passage of time and seasons, lets take a moment to admire this pumpkin with a heart on it …

Magic Pumpkin of Berlin
HeART of Gatow –WWOOF Berlin, September 2016

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…

German Gnome, Gatow
German Gnome, potential windmill squatter and pumpkin artist

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.

Windmühle
Windmühle, WWOOF Berlin Fall 2016

So it could very well have been a gnome.

Oh nature.

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.

Lunchlady on Liberty
South Carolina, Golden Bear Cruise 2016

It all started in college. Yep, went to college, fell in love with garbage.

DSCF1261

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:

Dental Floss

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.

DIY Toothpaste

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!

xo

KB

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcWIM6EWw2Y

 

 

 

 

Palestine’s Fine Excerpt: Peace in the Middle East Tea

Sunrise in Palestine

I learned about this tea recipe while volunteering at a goat farm in Jerusalem. The farm was within a village called Moshav Zafririm, which was probably once occupied by Palestinians but invaded/apprehended by Israel in 1948 when the country was established. Out with the old, in with the new it would seem.

Unlike in Hebron, there was not trace or retelling of foul play in this village.

Propaganda in Hebron

Israeli Propaganda

It was quiet and rather empty, with no banners or propaganda to be found, just an unmanned military check-point at the base of the village to ward off intruders. Unfortunately I have no photos from the village to share.

The tea on the other hand….

Peace in the Middle East Tea Recipe

This tea was made on a daily basis at the farm and we enjoyed it throughout the day, hot and cold. All the ingredients were picked at the farm or gathered in the nearby hills.

Today I drink it as a reminder of the crazy experience I had in “the Holy Land,” encouragement to continue telling the story, and nourishment for the soul.

Ingredients:

Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Citronella’ : Large citrus-scented leaves on a robust plant. Lavender flowers.

Sage “Culinary Sage”

Sage. One of my favorite culinary herbs and one of the herbs people have easy access to no matter where they are. Salvia officinalis – even the Latin name gives us an idea of the respect this Mediterranean beauty has earned. Salvia in Latin derives from the word salvere which means, “to save.” Historically, it has been used in many ways from a facial toner to a plague remedy, as well as drying up breast milk and easing a cough. Sage is a well-loved and well-used herb throughout the ages.

and

Mint (any variety will work)

mint grown in pot

Process:

Steep a few leaves of geranium, a bunch of sage, and a cluster of mint in hot water for any amount of time, add sugar or honey to taste (or not), and serve hot or cold.

Enjoy the pleasant pink color and floral taste of a tea that will sooth the senses, calm the mind, and bring peace to the middle east in your heart, which reflects the world. Enjoy with friends for greatest therapeutic benefits.

Cheers!

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

 

 

 

The Birds, the Bees…and the Bats: Rooftop Meadow Restores NYC Nature

http://www.kingslandwildflowers.com
Kingsland Wildflowers – Rooftop Meadow/Habitat Restoration Project in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Rooftop Meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn brings native species back to the city, but not where you might think…

Continuing the quest to find out what “sustainable living” looks like in a big city, I found myself this past Friday at Kingsland Wildflowers, a rooftop meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, right next-door to New York City’s wastewater treatment plant. See this surprisingly beautiful facility below:

Site for a Valentine's Day Date
Waste Water Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
View of Kingsland Wildflower native plants restoration Project
Rooftop Meadow View

I was very happy to learn about this project through this giant list of things to do in Brooklyn, which a friend shared with me on Facebook.

Friday was the first “Field Day” of the 2018 Season, an opportunity for community members to explore the roof and learn about the project.

I was particularly fascinated by the history of this site, which I learned from a knowledgeable bird-loving photographer who works for the NYC Audobon Society (go figure) and was at this event to dispense information and take pictures.

According to this man, the Dutch were the first people to settle this area in the 1850s and described it back then as a marshy, shrubby landscape much like the photo above. Today, that marshy environment no longer exists, having been replaced by concrete and buildings over the course of the last 150+ years. Now it looks like this:

150 years ago, these buidlings were not here
View from Kingsland Wildflowers overlooking Newton Creek and Cityscape

I was pleased to learn there is still a prominent waterway that runs through Brookyln and Queens called Newton Creek, which unfortunately was majorly polluted by an oil spill during the 1950s. Due to the buildings and the spill, the creek habitat has suffered and the native species that once inhabited the ecosystem have diminished.

Before it was polluted by the spill, the creek had been an important habitat for native plants and insects and was a stopping point for migratory birds and bats. After the oil spill however…not so much. Guess who was responsible for the spill by the way…. remember the Exon company? Exon Valdez ring any bells? Same company. But we didn’t hear too much about the Newton Creek Spill, did we? Curious.

Anyway…

Today, the Creek is a superfund site, which means the US Government recognized the extreme environmental damage that had occured due to the spill and set up a fund to fix it. That is how the Kingsland Wildflower project is receiving its funding. Exon was sued for damages, and the proceeds of the lawsuit are being used to restore the nature that was damaged by the oil spill. Since space is limited, and people are smart, this project was developed to provide a home for native plants, insects, and animals that once thrived in the Newton Creek environment.

Kingsland Wildflowers is a wonderful project that exists soley to give back to the Earth. The project began a few years ago and is already proving successful. Data is being collected to show the increase of native species both at the creek and on the rooftop. Today, this is one rooftop with about 1/2 acre of space where plants and grasses have been planted. The concept is that the rooftop is replicating what would have existed on the ground if the building were not there. Imagine the good that could be done for the planet if more rooftops were like this in the city. The benefits would be great, species would have a home, maybe bees would start coming back, plus, what a pleasant escape for people it would be, and is. My short visit to Kingsland Wildflowers reminded me of the nature I have been missing while living in a primarily human and concrete environment. I was reminded that there are birds other than pidgeons passing through in their seasonal migration, that there are insects other than bed bugs and flies, and that this whole city used to look so different, that its waterways had so much influence on the ecosystem, that it is an ecosystem today!

Anyway, I could go on and on but I wont. For now I just wanted to share a great project and hope for the future with everyone.

Lots of Love,

Kelly B

Rockaway view 9/11 tributary park
Friggin’ plastic bag

Apes and Palm Oil: How YOU can save orangutans with your groceries

Hello All,

Back when I was at the goat farm in Tenessee, I took an online class taught by Jane Gooddall through a program called Masterclass. The class was about conservation and chimpanzee behavior and was a-ok. If you’re into chimpanzees and want to learn about conservation through a fireside chat-like series with Jane Gooddall, I’d highly recommend this class.

The main highlight for me was being able to connect with other ape enthusiasts through the class’ forum. I even bought a painting from one of my classmates, a New Zeland based artist named Deborah Moss. The piece I bought is similar to this one:

painting by Deborah Moss
Mixed Media Painting by Deborah Moss https://www.deborahmossart.com/recent-works.html

One really cool thing about Deborah Moss is her business model. In honor of my purchase, Deborah planted a native tree, an act which supports ecological health and gives back to the planet. Oh so nice! For me, you, her, the bees…and everyone!

In case you are curious, Deborah planted a Kowhai tree which is native to New Zeland and produces yellow flowers, which birds and pollinators love. See below:

Kowhai Nat Geo
New Zeland Native Kowhai Tree, courtesy of https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/kowhai/

So lovely. Thank you Deborah!

Now, for my main point:

Apes and Palm Oil: How YOU can save orangutans with your groceries.

Through Masterclass, I was also able to connect with Mandy Lee, an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher from Taiwan who had some interesting knowledge to share about apes and palm oil plantations. I was able to find out a little more through a personal interview.

Reforestation project in Malaysia
Mandy Lee Reforesting with APE Malaysia

Interview with Mandy from Masterclass

First let me start by summarizing the issue surrounding Orangutans and Palm Oil. For a more in depth explaination, please visit The 12 Days of Peatmas.

Here is my brief explanation of the situation at hand:

Orangutans, the gingerest of the Great Apes, are native to Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests. Besides zoos, this is their only home in the whole wide world. See map below:

Indonesia and Malaysia
Indonesia and Malaysia https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/peatmasday2/indonesiaandmalaysia/

Orangutans spend most of their time up in the trees, which is why deforestation is so threatening to their survival. No trees=no food+no home for orangutans, and no home=no more orangutans. Easy math.

biosprit-subventionen-indonesien
Orangutan Refugee https://theirturn.net/2015/04/02/sustainable-palm-oil/

So, why deforest the only place in the world where Orangutans live?

Two words:

 PALM OIL

dun dun dun…..

Palm Oil comes from Palm Oil Nut Trees, and is an ingredient used in an ever increasing percentage of food and cosmetic products on the market today. Over 50% according to most sources.

Below is a display of some common products containing Palm Oil. For a more comprehensive list, click here. Then, check out this page for a list of sneaky Palm Oil synonmyns that you will also find on food labels (eg. Palmolein, Octyl Palmitate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Elaeis Guineensis).

products containing palm oil
https://rctom.hbs.org/submission/from-chocolate-ice-cream-to-deforestation-in-borneo/

My hope is that you will use this information to make informed decisions when you are grocery shopping and avoid products that contain palm oil for the sake of conservation. I’m saying bye bye to Nutella for this reason**tear**

So, palm oil is in everything, what’s the problem?

Unfortunately for orangutans (and other species), the fertile soil and climate of the rainforest habitat provides excellent growing conditions for palm oil nut trees, which look like this:

Palm Oil Nut Tree
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/295478425525656633/

Coupled with the inexpensive price of land in Indonesia and Malaysia, this makes orangutan habitat an ideal location for palm oil nut tree plantations, see what was once  a dense patch of forest, now cleared, below:

Palm Oil Nut Tree Plantation
Oil palm plantation at the border of intact forest. Jambi – Indonesia, 2011. ©Center For International Forestry Research/Iddy Farmer

Fueled by a desire to make major moo-lah, farmers and large corporations (like Nestlé)* have thus begun to buy up and develop large expanses of orangutan habitat, clear-cutting and burning existing forest to make way for palm oil nut tree plantations without a care in the world for environmental impacts including habitat and species destruction. Bravo industry. Love the short-sighted, linear thinking. Just great.

Luckily, there are some companies taking strides to promote “sustainably harvested palm oil,” partnering with farmers who engage in less destructive growing practices. Unfortunately, according to some sources, the regulations are difficult to enforce and not 100% trustworthy.

Similar to the Organics label, this is a matter of trusting the government and regulatory agencies to do their job…which we all know is like trusting your brother to flush the toilet after #2…sometimes he does it, sometimes he don’t.

Regardless, if you are buying a product containing palm oil, look for these labels, for at least these companies are making an effort to be perceived as sustainable and furthering the movement, one would hope:

Green Palm Certification
Green Palm Certification https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/peatmasdayseven-2/

 

RSPO
Sustainable Palm Oil Label https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/peatmasdayseven-2/

*For the record, Nestlé has taken strides towards sustainability after some “bad press” exposed their destructive Palm-oil related practices. You can read all about their newfound sustainability efforts on their website. Keep in mind this is information Nestlé is writing about itself.

And now, a little about Mandy Lee, my Masterclass-mate, the inspiration for this article…

At 30 years old, Mandy, a freelance translator and English teacher in Taiwan, was feeling the push to “do something meaningful” wither her life and decided to pursue a lifelong passion for wildlife by volunteering with APE Malaysia, which she found via online research.

Through the 28 day program called “Orangutan Encounters,” Mandy split her time between working on enrichment activities for rescued Orangutans at Zoo Negara, learning about their incredible intelligence and behaviors, and planting trees at the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Borneo.

During her time at the zoo, Mandy had a bandage on one of her fingers and had an amzing interaction with one of the orangutans, who recognized her finger as being hurt and kissed her own finger while pointing to Mandy’s. If that is not a symbol of empathy, a true sign of intelligence, I dont know what is!

At the Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary, Mandy’s group helped plant trees to restore land that has been damaged by Palm Oil production, ensuring a home for orangutans and other unique critters now and into the future.

Me and my teamates at the project site
Mandy and fellow volunteers in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Reforesting for Orangutans (photo provided by Mandy)
Organizing Saplings for Tree Planting
Volunteers organizing saplings for tree planting (Photo provided by Mandy Lee)

 

What a wonderful and meaningful way to vacation! Thank you for sharing your story Mandy!

The following are links to more information about Apes and Palm Oil, provided by Mandy:

APE Malaysia Volunteer Program

http://www.apemalaysia.com

Palm Oil Consumer Action

https://www.facebook.com/PalmOilConsumerAction/

Orangutan Project

https://www.facebook.com/projectorangutan/ 

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)

https://www.facebook.com/sunbear.bsbcc/?ref=br_rs

I also wanted to note that after her volunteer experience, aside from becoming more conscious of palm oil and avoiding products that contain it, Mandy has been inspired to live a more sustainable lifestyle. She has given up plastic straws and switched to re-usable food wrapping products like bees-wrap, replacing the need for single-use products like saran wrap. So cool Mandy, way to go!

Ok, that’s about it for now. Let me know if you have any questions or comments! This is a deep issue and I’d be happy to explore the topic more.

I will leave you with a photo: me, bundled up at the beach in New York in March. Miss you, California!

The Rockaway
Beach attire in New York, Spring 2018