Spotlight on Creativity: Saturday Etsy Series

If you are going to be doing any holiday entertaining in the upcoming months, my etsy pick of the week, hopejohnson, would be a perfect shop to browse for some unique colorful ceramic dishes for your table.
Hope Johnson’s shop has bright one of kind pieces that range from dipping dishes to bowls. Everything is handmade in her home and ready to ship to yours.
This California designer has a background in graphic design and photography and is inspired by plant forms and organic shapes. Hope’s etsy profile says “functional pottery is a passion of mine, and I want my pieces to be used and enjoyed in the daily lives of my customers and friends”.
My favorite piece in her shop is this one – a plate perfectly sized for desserts or appetizers.  It measures 3/4″ tall, 6″ in diameter and is decorated with chartresuse and white matte glazes and a chocolate gloss glaze. The big bright leaves against the white plate will make any dish you are serving look great…maybe even mine.
Posted by: Becca / follow my Etsy shop on Twitter
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Abby’s Blog: What I want for Christmas

I was trying to think of what I would like for Christmas and I came up with a list for Santa.  I tried real hard to make sure they were green gifts except for the Easy Bake Oven that I really, really want this year!

I would like, a sock Monkey from Maggies Organics, I think that it would be the perfect stuffed animal to cuddle with.  I would also love a new art set from Stubby Pencil Studio, they have so many neat things.  And all of the art supplies are eco friendly made from some really neat stuff.  They have a sketch pad called banana paper and they even have crayons made out of soy!  I hope I get all of these, especially an easy bake oven that I can make cupcakes in!!  I think my little brother Max would love the washable markers and I know mom would love them too!

Posted by: Abby, Age 6

Disposable dinnerware is no longer trash.

I have to admit by the end of holiday dinners at my house I am exhausted, a huge thank you to my mother and mother-in-law for helping clean up all the dishes after Thanksgiving this year.  I was however scared at the thought of adding one more dish to the dishwasher so we used paper plates for dessert.  Afterwards when cleaning up I was disappointed with the fact that I chose to use them.  I get made fun of and even dismissed at the fact that I rarely ever use paper plates and napkins, except in the summer time when it almost seems unnatural to eat that grilled hotdog off of a glass plate and not a Dixie plate with the pretty summer motif that I so carefully selected.

I then decided on researching and finding affordable, tasteful, fully biodegradable disposable tableware.  There are so many products now and you are no longer limited to the overpriced set of four biodegradable products at whole foods that I really economically could not realistically afford with the large gatherings at our house, I would much rather run the dishwasher twice.

Branch is a great company that offers an array of products that are made from recycled materials.  They also have a huge selection of biodegradable dinnerware which is made from 100% sugar cane fiber.  They are unbleached and FDA approved making them a great selection for anyone’s next dinner party.  Branch also has a new line called Wasara which is made from 100% tree-free renewable materials (sugar cane fiber, bamboo, and reed pulp).  It is a very attractive and modern twist on the traditonal boring paper plate.

There are many other biodegradable, compostable and even recyclable replacements to the more common paper plate.  It is a wise choice for the environment as well as the consumer who gains the effort of recycling as well as a beautiful addition to any dinner party.

Some other great companies who make wonderful eco friendly disposable dinnerware are:

LetsGoGreen.biz

Primeware

ECO products

By: Kate Kiselka, Follow me on Twitter

The Christmas tree debate… real or fake?

I wondered if I had done something really wrong by cutting down my Christmas tree yesterday and decided to find out the truth, which is more eco-friendly, fake trees or real trees? And I was pleasantly surprised by what I found out.

Artificial trees have come a long way and do look more and more real every year, they have come a long way from when they were manufactured by a toilet brush company.  The only thing really missing is that beautiful pine tree smell.

Artificial trees are also cheaper when reused every year opposed to dishing out 50 bucks every year for a real one.  But there are some major drawbacks to that artificial tree, ones you may not have noticed.

Even though getting that chainsaw out seems to be the less environmentally friendly choice, it turns out it may be the greener choice.  Even though a tree is being cut down, it did provide years of carbon dioxide absorption rather than its fake counterpart which most likely released many chemicals into the air while being made, and most tree farms plant two or more trees to replace the one they cut down.

Real trees are natural, although some farmers use pesticides and fertilizers (buying organic is better).  Artificial trees are made from polyvinyl chloride or better known as PVC.  It is a non-renewable and a polluting material.  To make the PVC needles for a fake tree, manufacturers sometimes use lead and other additives that have been linked to many reproductive system damage in animals such as liver, kidney and neurological damage.  Some trees come with warning labels due to their lead content.  Not something I would want my cats playing under, never mind my nieces and nephews.

The disposing of the trees is also a huge factor on which tree to purchase.  A real tree can be recycled into woodchips and mulch; it is also 100% biodegradable, while the artificial tree is not biodegradable and is not recyclable.  It will permanently remain in the landfill FOREVER.

So from an environmental perspective the real tree is definitely the winner.  Financially yes that fake tree will bring you artificial joy for years to come but will forever pollute our planet.  So my advice to you is to visit your local tree farm, pick out that masterpiece nature has provided just for you and although somewhat painful, put those LED lights on, have some eggnog and temporarily enjoy the smell of a forest in your home.

National Christmas Tree Association – for some fun facts!

By: Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter

Unwrap less waste this year

My twin brother was onto something when he handed me a beautiful box he bought me for Christmas two years ago.  It was wrapped so beautifully in a pillowcase.  His craft for making everything funny was actually the greenest of gift wrapping that year.  I haven’t quite figured out his obsession with buying me some form of box every Christmas, maybe it is a hint that I horde too much junk?!  But he is always great at wrapping these huge and sometime just small and beautiful gifts.  The comic section of the Sunday paper, bed linens, paper grocery bags and even a T-shirt have been a staple to his gift giving for his entire life.

The same year he gave me that pillow cased wrapped box Americans threw away 78.5 million tons of packaging, making up one third of all solid waste in landfills.  A better choice this Holiday season is recycled gift wrapping to help lower that astronomical number of waste in our landfills.  Kevin made it appoint to recycle by using something he had and even asking for it back!  Wrapping can be as creative as you are.  Using the Sunday comics, an old map or even the pictures from your unused Calendar that hung on your wall stating that it was January all year long are just a few ideas.

If creativity isn’t your thing but you would still like to go Green during your gift giving there are so many options available.  You can always reuse gift bags and leftover paper from the year before.  Making your own is always an option but if not try buying ones made of natural fibers or recycled content is key to making your gift giving greener this year.

Paporganics’ is a great line of paper made from 90 percent post consumer fiber and 10 percent hemp that comes in holiday and traditional designs.  Hemp twine makes a great bow instead of the traditional plastic ribbon.  Paper Mojo is also a great alternative to tree free gift wrap/

The holiday season is responsible for a huge amount of greeting cards.  It’s a 10 billion dollar industry with 7.5 billion dollars being spent on holiday cards alone.  Try and make sure the cards you purchase this year are made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper.  Doodle Greetings is a great place to look for 100 percent recycled cards! Do what you can to make the holiday season a Greener time!

Posted By: Kate Kiselka,  follow me on Twitter

Support Your Local Shops and Artists This Holiday Season

The holidays are right around the corner and with that comes lots of holiday shopping. I am notorious for procrastinating and doing all of my shopping the week (or a day or two) before Christmas and I have vowed that I will not do that this year. I have also decided that this year I am going to give handmade gifts (don’t laugh – I make really cute stuff!), buy gifts at local shops or support my fellow etsy sellers.

Luckily for me to accomplish this, it isn’t too hard or painful.  I happen to live in one of the cutest towns I have ever visited – East Greenwich, RI.  I live right off Main Street and can walk to all the great restaurants and stores.  One in particular that is new this holiday season is Studio Main Street – it is owned by a group of girlfriends – each bringing their own unique personality and trade to the store.  This is a great place to find unique vases, mirrors or serving pieces – all at very reasonable prices.

On etsy I have one particular shop that I want to support for a couple of reasons – the store owner is local (East Greenwich) and her products are beautiful.  Awcombes store features brightly colored belt buckles on great quality leather belts.  I have had my eye on one belt in particular since the first time I saw it (hint hint hint for anyone needing gift ideas for me J).

Many of you who are reading this might not have the great selection that I have in my town but etsy is a great place if you want to still try to shop and support local people.  When you go onto the site you can search by your town or state and have it shipped right to your front door.  What better way to spend your holiday money then supporting a fellow resident or a nearby shop.  It will brighten your holiday spirit and those close to you as well.

Happy shopping!

Posted by: Becca

Rhode Island Locavore Holiday Weekend

The Rhode Island state flag. I'm all for hope.

The Rhode Island state flag. I'm all for hope.

My wife and I had a friend from our hometown of Philly to visit at our current home of Wakefield, Rhode Island, this Fourth of July weekend. Excited to show her around, we decided to have a full-fledged Rhode Island locavore experience.

In our previous existence, we were strong supporters of small urban businesses. As relatively new residents of the Ocean State, we are now always on the hunt for cool things to support in our new, albeit much more rural, community and region. Our one regret is that we have to drive so many places here, as opposed to walking or taking public transit, which is so convenient in Philly.

So with that caveat, we embarked in our car for some adventure and to patronize our state’s businesses, which, with a 12.1 percent state unemployment rate and climbing, can really use the support.

Our strawberry haul!

Our strawberry haul!

On Friday, we headed up to Schartner Farms in Exeter, where I had my first-ever strawberry-picking experience! It was really incredible to pick food out of the ground that we would eat later that night and throughout the weekend. The three of us left with a five-pound basket of absolutely delicious strawberries, for which we paid about $11. Strawberry season is almost over, and blueberry season is almost here, so we’ll definitely be heading back soon for more berry goodness.

On Saturday, we crossed the Jamestown Verrazzano and Claiborne Pell bridges, taking in some stunning scenery as always, and headed to Aquidneck Island to visit Newport Vineyards in Middletown. newport_vineyardsWe tasted five wines each and got a tour of the winery for only $9 per person! The tour was informative; we learned a lot about how the wine was made, from the vine to the barrel to the bottle, and we also learned some interesting facts about the local climatological conditions that make this region such a great place to grow tasty wines. Of course, I had to take home a couple of bottles. I was partial to the Blaufrankish and Rochambeau. My wife also couldn’t resist the Rhody Coyote Hard Apple Cider. This paragraph from the winery’s web site says it all:

Newport Vineyards was originally planted in 1977 on a hill overlooking Rhode Island Sound with the goal of producing fine wines and as a way of preserving beautiful agricultural land from rapid development. Aquidneck Island is blessed with one of the most desirable farming areas in the country, if not the world. This extraordinary micro-climate is created by a combination of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream to the south and the moderating effects of Narragansett Bay. These conditions provide a long, cool growing season ideal for developing complex flavors in wine.

Champlin's is not kidding when it says its seafood is right off the boat!

Champlin's is not kidding when it says its seafood is right off the boat!

On Sunday, we headed due south to Galilee for a visit to one of our favorite feeding spots, Champlin’s, where we devoured fish and chips, oysters and smelts. All of it was fresh off of the commercial fishing trawlers that dock right near the restaurant!

To drink at Champlin’s, I enjoyed a couple of refreshing Narragansett beers. The original Narragansett Brewing Company was founded in 1888 in Cranston, where it eventually became New England’s largest brewery, employing many thousands over the decades. narr3jpgHowever, the original brewery closed in 1981, at a time when regional brewers were rapidly going out of business in the face of intense competition from the monolithic national brewers Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors. Since those dark days, regional and craft brewing has thankfully come back into vogue, and in 2005, a local team of investors acquired the brand in the hopes of restoring it to its former glory. Currently, the brewery is headquartered in Providence but contract brews its beers in New York and Connecticut. The company’s goal, however, is to open a brand-new brewery in Rhode Island, and it is lobbying the state to accomplish just that. We’ll support them any way we can.

In our view, there’s nothing more patriotic we could have done this weekend than support local businesses. We hope you’ve been doing the same, and if not, maybe it can be the theme of your next holiday weekend!

Posted by Joe Paone