Spotlight on Creativity: Saturday Etsy Series

This weekend I am moving into my new apartment, it is going to be wonderful and I am very excited but there is only one small problem! There is only one small closet. I am not quite sure you can call it a walk in (like they said in the ad) since it is built into the hallway stairs so for the first 2/3 of the closet you have to hunch over.  This might not be an issue for some readers who have a moderate wardrobe but I have lots of shoes, dresses, coats, purses….you get the picture, right? So I have been on the search for some pretty storage solutions, hence my etsy seller pick of the week – sewingmomma – the designer of beautiful storage bins/totes using a variety of recycled or vintage fabrics. She also makes gorgeous blankets and hand towels that will add to any home décor.

Sewingmomma is a mother of 4 and wife to a supportive husband who helps make her etsy career possible. Her profile says “I am so happy to be a part of Etsy. I spend hours on Etsy. Its so much fun putting yourself out there and having some people actually like it! I finally found a community that I have a lot in common with.”

All of her products are made to order, so her production time is between 2-3 weeks, but she makes the wait worthwhile letting you pick from over 50 fabrics which include some made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles, 100% organically grown cotton fiber and vintage fabrics. You can also choose a custom made size or any of the sizes she has listed.

I really appreciate any etsy seller who thinks about what she is selling from the beginning stages to the end when the customer opens up the package – Sewingmomma does just that. From the start of her design to the end of the process she is conscious of the materials she uses.  Any of her bins can be made more eco-friendly by choosing the bin’s interfacing that is made 100% from recycled plastic bottles. She ships the orders out in post consumer recycled poly bags.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces: for smaller products (books, DVDs, remotes) these would be great; for something a little bigger check this one out – I love the pattern.  And these dishtowels will look really cute in my kitchen.  Currently she doesn’t have any blankets for sale but I found this one in her sold items and might have to convo her to see if I can get one.

After finding this etsy seller, I am looking forward to getting settled and figuring out exactly how many of these I can get away with buying.

You can find sewingmomma on Facebook or etsy.

Posted by: Becca / follow my Etsy shop on Twitter

Bill Gates at TED2010: We Need Energy Miracles

Of all the speeches and talks I’ve heard on climate change, Bill Gates’ recent TED2010 talk was the most pragmatic and thoughtful.  Titled “Innovating to Zero,” Gates touches on our need to strive towards zero CO2 emissions.  Unlike other climate talks, which tend to either be full of hubris or broad reaching statements, Gates presented several clear ideas and equations for strategies that could potentially lead us to this goal.  His tone was optimistic but somber, admitting that there are many barriers (cost and regulation were among the highest) to things like carbon capture technology, nuclear energy and renewables growing into mainstream adoption.

I tried with no luck to embed the video from the TED website, but here is the link.  It’s worth the 27 minutes and kudos to Gates for presenting a more logical perspective in a time when extra snow in the DC area means there’s no such thing as global warming.  Sigh.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Live! from CEA’s Greener Gadgets in NYC

The Greener Gadgets Conference opens today in NYC at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center.  The conference will tackle all of the issues surrounding energy efficiency and sustainable design, from innovative advances in packaging and product manufacturing to end-of-life recycling solutions. It will also highlight ways in which electronics make a major impact by utilizing renewable energy in developing nations.

With panel discussions, networking and a design competition, the 2010 conference should be something to look forward to!

Green Life Smart Life founder Kim Lancaster will be speaking the “Green Living Begins at Home” panel with panelists like Sarah Krasley from Autodesk and moderator Sarah Rich from Dwell Magazine.  The panel description reads: Greening your life is an everyday process, starting with the place you begin every day. From building to remodeling, home automation to energy management, green living begins at home. Listen to experts discuss sustainable design strategies for urban and rural locations, creating plans for a home that is both high-tech and green.

I will be attending the event as both a blogger and moral support provider for Kim and hope to live blog and add updates & pictures throughout the show (especially during her panel at 10:40 am ET).

Check my Twitter feed for more up to the minute coverage as well: @ashleydano

5 More States Introduce Energy Efficiency Legislation

Earlier this year, California introduced a much debated energy efficiency legislation that would limit the amount of energy any television could consume as well as steps to ensure proper recycling of old sets. The legislation had many, including the CEA up in arms, explaining that the increased responsibility on the manufacturers would be detrimental to the industry.

Well, so far California legislators haven’t listened to the CEA’s warnings, and now five other states are jumping on the bandwagon and introducing energy legislation of their own.

Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and Wisconsin have all introduced new energy-efficient bills aiming to regulate TVs. The bills in Washington and Massachusetts include additional electronics components beyond TVs, including audio and video products.

The focus of these bills are similar of that of the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program: power consumption in standby mode.

A document supplied by the office of Massachusetts State Rep. Frank Smizik (D), co-sponsor of his state’s bill, indicates that “voluntary programs like Energy Star are valuable, but only reach some consumers.” It adds that it’s “designed to highlight the best 25 [percent] of products available” and that “minimum standards deliver much bigger savings by assuring that all purchases meet a basic level of efficiency performance.”

The proposed legislation in Massachusetts, “An Act Relative to Expanding Energy Efficiency in the Commonwealth,” includes the following regulations:

  • Compact Audio or Shelf Systems — These “shall not use more than 2 watts in standby-passive mode for those without a permanently illuminated clock display and 4 watts in standby-passive mode for those with a permanently illuminated clock display …” 
  • DVD Players — These “shall not use more than 3 watts in standby-passive mode …” 
  • TVs 58 Inches and Under— In tier one, TVs “shall use not more than (0.20*screen area (inches[squared]) + 32) watts in on mode and no more than 1 watt in standby-passive mode. On and after January 1, 2013, televisions shall use no more than (0.12*screen area (inches[squared]) + 25 watts in on mode and no more than 1 watt in standby passive model …”

Each of the legislations vary a bit, but the underlying message is the same. A/V manufacturers need to step up to the plate and begin to develop technology that is energy efficient. There are a handful of manufacturers in the CEDIA industry who have begun to take these steps, but not nearly enough.

As these legislations begin to pass (and they will), it opens a whole set of problems for specialty retailers. They will be forced to sell lower margin, direct to consumer products instead of the better quality, better margin products made by most of the CEDIA channel.

 Something must be done. Manufacturers can’t fight energy legislation forever. We all know standards have to reflect the times. The question is will manufacturers rest on their laurels and only sell product where there are no legislation and pray that it will continue to be profitable, or will they step up to the plate and make the necessary changes to grow into the next century? Only time will tell.

To read more on the legislation, click here.

 Posted by: Lauren

Video of Pacific Garbage Patch Astounds

VBS TV (but posted on went on their own video quest to show the Pacific Garbage Patch. If you aren’t familiar, take a minute to read the overview and then a few more minutes to watch the video. I know many of you have seen this before, but when the anti environmentalists get out their bullhorns and yammer on about how we aren’t destroying our planet, the urge to shove plastic bottle caps down their throats is stong and sometimes overwhelming.

The Garbage Patch is located at a natural collecting point at the center of a set of revolving currents called the North Pacific Gyre. The middle of the Gyre is more of a meteorological phenomenon than an actual place: a consistent high-pressure zone north of the Hawaiian Islands that, combined with the extremely weak currents, helps keep the ocean surface as placid as lake water.

Trash has been sucked into this area from the encircling currents for as long as the Pacific’s existed, but up until the last century this process ended with the refuse safely biodegrading and being reabsorbed into the food chain as nutrients. With the advent of plastics, however, the Garbage Patch has transformed from a fertile feeding ground to the oceanic equivalent of a desert.

You can join the movement, sign the petition to clean up the North Pacific Gyre.  Join the cause on Facebook.

posted by Kimberly Lancaster | Newscaster

Uncommon Goods is Looking for Uncommon Designs

Uncommon Goods is one of my favorite online shops – they sell everything from recycled tile mirrors to organic scarfs to beautifully crafted recycled wine bottle glasses.  Their tagline, “find anything but ordinary” is a perfect way to encompass the offerings.  I am on their weekly mailing – which is how I stumbled upon the You Goods contest.

You Goods is a contest that seeks new product designers with vision but without tools or money to fully pursue their goals.  Uncommon Goods wants to hear about these ideas and will select one lucky designer to have their product made and sold on the website.  The winner also gets $500 and an all expense paid trip to NYC to meet with the team to discuss their product idea (trip courtesy of Jet Blue)

For contest details & rules, check out the You Goods page on the website.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Abby’s Blog: Being a Kid, Building a Wind Turbine

My mom found this cool website called and they had a whole “How-to” build a wind turbine for a classroom or science project, and I thought it was cool. I thought I’d share, cause everyone should know how.

Before building a wind turbine for a project, we recommend that you have a working knowledge of wind energy concepts, so that when you test your turbine, you have a basic idea of which variables to test. Please take a look at our “learn about wind” section. This section has tons of information on wind turbine design, blade design, electricity and power output, wind meteorology, and much more.

Building your own wind turbine from scratch is not a simple task! You first need to make a list of the parts and materials that go into making a wind turbine. We have compiled this list to help you get started. Many of these materials are available at the Kidwind shop, but creative, unique designs are always encouraged!

Electrical Materials: You might need to do some basic soldering to connect wires to motors. The multimeters and alligator clips are used to hook up the measuring devices. Understanding the electrical output can be confusing, but you can learn more about it here >>.

Building Materials: This list depends on what types of windmills you are going to build. If you are all going to build similar models then you can keep it simple. If you are looking for lots of variability then you can open things up.

  • A Hub to attach your blades to your generator
  • Balsa wood, PVC pipe and fittings, dowels, plastic cardboard, fabric, building “junk”
  • Gears, pulleys, tinker toys, k’nex, legos
  • Construction tools hammers, small saws, scissors, exacto knifes, glue guns, PVC cutters
  • Safety goggles

Other testing materials: (not required but sure are neat!)

Don’t forget that you can find most of these materials in the KidWind Shop. Check out the Science Fair Kit and the Gears and Motors Kit if you want the basic materials to build your own turbine.

posted by Abby, age 6 1/2