Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Love Glad Rags

Way back in 1996 a friend's mom came to me with a flyer for Glad Rags, it talked about how using a cotton washable pad was good for the environment and saved women money... I politely read it with her (cause she was very enthusiastic about it) but secretly was like GROSS! It wasn't until I was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue in 2001 that I began to really question what my maxi pads were made of and how they might be effecting me & the planet. The first concern I had was the glue used on the maxi's to hold it in your panties, since glue has gluten & chemicals in it. Then I found out about the deodorizing chems added which had made one of my friends break out so bad down there she thought she had an STD till the gyno realized she was allergic to some of the new 'innovations' happening with disposable pads. She was cured of this as soon as she stopped using them. Of course then there's the issue of plastics, waste and bleached cottons and synthetics filling them up.
I remembered the Glad Rag flyer from way back and immediately got a box to try out. They actually smelled like nothing (unlike perfume-y throw away pads), they were made from organic cotton, the fabric was soft & smooth and there was no glue or creepy fillings. They snapped on really easy, didn't move around when I wore them and shockingly they weren't that hard to wash. I quickly overcame the gross out factor and became totally comfortable with seeing my own blood - something that is absolutely a bunch of brainwash cr@p many women (and men) are still taught today!
Learning to care for your glad rags may take a little trial and error depending on your situation. It's super easy if you have an electric washing machine and dryer, which will get them perfectly clean. But I didn't always have that and sometimes had to hand wash and hang dry...

Here's some suggestions to help make washing your pads easier :

1. Soak them first - This allows most of the blood to release from the pad and keeps staining to a minimum. Make sure to keep the container you soak them in very clean. (If you are feeling a wee bit hippy water your house plants with the blood water, it'll make them awesomely healthy!)

2. Use vinegar - Obviously you don't want to bleach the pads (dioxins are not good for your vagina), so if you take issue with some discoloring from the blood you can use vinegar instead! It totally works, it even takes out some of the older stains before you discovered it's magic. I use apple cider vinegar.

3. Boil them - Maybe you soaked them a day too long and you are afraid they are now funked out and don't want to shell out the cash for a new box? Try boiling them with some baking soda in a pot (that you don't use for food). If they still don't smell right after being boiled and washed, you may have to let them go... cause rank smelling germs and vagina don't mix. But at least you can rest at ease knowing the organic cotton will safely biodegrade into the soil with no ill effects.

Glad Rags might not be as convenient as a throw away pad, but reusable pads really are easy to take care of. They are a great alternative for women who want to use the diva cup but can't do to allergies to the material it's made of. And for those of us who want to keep some waste out the landfill, and keep chems & glue away from our precious V!!!!

PS - The average woman will use 16,800 disposable pads or tampons in her lifetime. Now that is way gross!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cleaning with Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Lemons

Isn't the pic above completely sick? That's my bathroom floor before getting the scrub down I am about to explain. In my defense I spilled charcoal on the already disgusting floor and let it rub into the badly manufactured faux tile crevices. (Note to all people about to install tile in their homes: DO NOT buy any type of tile flooring with tons of texture and tiny cracks, while they may look hot & earthy on the showroom floor it will forever gross you out in reality cause they shall never get fully clean again!)
I am pretty sure if my mom sees this picture above she will get an OCD migraine and dream of bleach fairies coming to sprinkle droplets of sterilization on the disaster I have let unfold below my feet...but no can do. This is a job that can be handled chem free with a box of baking soda, lemons and vinegar! Personally I love the smell of lemons and the baking soda makes a great scrub - I only break out the vinegar for the extra tough jobs since I try not to have my house smell too much like a souring hippy on a raw diet. ;) The exact ratio of what to use depends on what kind of mess you are cleaning up, but I follow the volcano rule : whateva' makes the best bakin' soda volcano will clean the floor the best.

I know this after pic above might not say volumes of the power of baking soda, lem and vin mix but trust me, this is as clean as they can get ... well 95% as clean. I am sure if I unleashed my mom + a scouring pad on this surface it could get at least 5% cleaner! ;) xoxo

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leather Tanning 101

Although PETA may yack that I am writing about the different types of leather - the best way for us all to make earth friendly and health friendly decisions is to actually know what goes into our products. Leather is still a thriving huge industry that in modern times has become not only cruel but grossly toxic. I want to note that I am not 100% against the use of animal based products because it is part of natural tradition & survival throughout history, but because of the over population problem and unethical practices that have come along with it, I do believe that we need to take responsibility for reducing our use of junk we don't actually need. AKA- Are you an Eskimo... then maybe you don't need all that suede and leather!

1. Modern Leather Tanning: Cutting right to the chase, here are some of the synthetic chems used to tan the modern hide... chromium (VI or III), sodium sulphide, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, sulphuric acid, various solvents (which release volatile organic compounds), bactericides, paints, dyes, degreasers and surfactants. Reactions to chromium can cause such symptoms as gastroenteritis, shock, toxic nephritis, & perforation of nasal septum (really bad nose bleeds). That's some nasty stuff to wear against your skin - and luckily the EPA has some some standards (and oh, some exemptions) for the tanning process, problem is since the companies couldn't dump all the left over chromium & byproducts into the water and soil here they thought it was better to just move their facilities over to China, India, and other countries with less chem policies. Basically in summary these companies are assholes who really tan my hide by poisoning other people working for them, practicing animal cruelty and who want money more then the health of the planet - so don't buy into their toxic leather magic.

2. Vegetable Tanned Leather - I thought this type of leather was actually tanned with veggies (don't might be dyed with some), but actually veg-tanning is a process which uses the "tannins" from the leaves and bark of trees (like the oak or chestnut tree). It is considered the "truest" form of leather tanning although is gives a stiffer less soft end product, that is also not as resistant to water damage. It may have the reigning crown of the "truest" but it does not mean the only natural or oldest way. Vegetable tanned leather is miles away from being as toxic as it's modern successor, but still needs to pass the cruelty check on how the animals were raised & killed - not all hunting practices are equal. Interestingly enough I wasn't able to find a good resource for buying this type of naturally tanned leather, except for bird toys. (This is because the slightest chem exposure can kill a bird and I am sure modern tanned leather as described in #1 would easily kill your pet tweety.)

3. Brain Tanning: If you are vegan, vegetarian or have a weak stomach this one might make you throw up a little in your mouth so read with caution! This method is extremely rare and is not used in industrial manufacturing practices, it is for the DIY leather maker who wants to actually use all the parts of the animal they hunt - creating a lower impact and far less waste then any other method. I recently learned about this type of tanning in a survivalist book from the library - here is a summary of what takes place: 1.Soak the hide in untreated water for two hours if you keep the hair and two days to remove it. 2. Stretch the hide. 3. Warm up the animal's brains on a small fire, while continually smooshing it up into a thick solution. 4. Rub the brains into the wet animal hide until it becomes soft (do both sides if there's no hair).
Gross much? I don't know, but even though this may make me gag in reality I think it is the most natural and innovative way to use the resources already available and would create the least toxic end product possible. Brain tanning is also least likely to be 'cruel' since it is not done in a manufacturing & slaughtering facility.
Note: Sometimes also called "oil tanning", industries claiming to use oil tanning methods are most likely veg tanning and then infusing the skins with oil to make it weather proof. They are not using the traditional oil tanning method from heating the animal brain.
What do you think about purchasing or creating of leather products? Do you find that modern leather smells too chemically?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gluten Free Sushi Rolls

This is a quick, easy and completely void of any sushi making equipment recipe - I have loved sushi since I moved to Manhattan back in 1998 & discovered it at one of the many delicious vegan eateries throughout the island. I was so addicted to it that I'd show up at Fairway weekly for the goods made by the "sushi boy" (cute boy who's too young and makes one sushi and gives one free endamame beans from his pocket cause they have crush on each other). Ehem, anyway... here is what you need to make your own simple sushi rolls:
*cooked brown rice
*veggies (like avocado, carrots, cucumbers etc...)
*salmon (cooked) or tofu
*ume vinegar or grain free soy sauce (for dipping)
*nori seaweed (unroasted if you don't mind roasting it yourself!)

FIRST: Roast your nori seaweed over your burner till it turns brighter green and crispy, then lay it flat and place a strip if rice on a far end. SECOND: Layer your thinly sliced veggies. I lightly steamed my carrots to make them easier to digest, but you can use them raw too- which is especially good in the summer. :)
THIRD: On top of the veggies layer your protein of choice. The cooked salmon is really good, but for those who are vegetarian tofu and tempeh work awesome too.( Tofu is my favorite kind of sushi!)
I always over stuff my sushi rolls (sushi burrito?), so if you want a tighter roll just add a little less of each layer to control the size of the roll when your done. I am sorry to say, but this pic below of the roll (below) before it's cut into circles kind of grosses me out... remember the part in Caddy Shack when the little girl screams "Doodie, Doodie!!!" about the candy bar in the pool?!?
Ok... so moving right along, LAST: You'll want to have some water ready to roll the sushi tight and make the seaweed stick together properly. I used lemon juice and water for flavor, rubbing it evenly all over the roasted nori. Then once it's done like in the pic above, take a sharp knife and cut one inch sushi rolls (as shown below).
Sushi is best paired with a salty flavor for dipping it in grain free soy sauce or ume vinegar. An extra squeeze of lemon will give it some yummy kick too!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hot Organic Skivvies from Clare Bare

Clare Bare f-en rocks! That is as best I can say it, because every design she cranks out covers all the bases that hot comfy lingerie should. Elegant (check), Retro (check), Flattering (check), and Super Organic Handmade Goodness (check)!!!
First she blew us away with her affordable & adorable knickers, then topped herself with the punk rock & ultra sexy holiday sets (they include naughty eye masks!)... but her Valentines collection now available here is sweet as apple pie. :)

Check out the new organic bralette, her original organic bloomers design, and the upgraded organic bloomers with cute little fuzzy hearts on the back to accentuate each cheek.
I am in love...

On Sale! Valetines Special!

This adorable hand woven wool handbag is on sale at The Oko Box, marked down from $55 to $30! Indigenous Designs employs people from the most impoverished regions of the world, incorporating traditional crafting techniques with modern design - the results are perfectly earthy yet elegant pieces that won't be outdated.
The red color is perfect for the upcoming holiday! So here's a cute idea - fill this sweet little handbag with a few sultry goodies for Valentines... like a surprise pair of eco skivvies from Clare Bare and a pack of flower seeds that'll attract hummingbirds and butterflies. You can order all three of these gifts for $60 ... there's nothing more romantic then a little social justice, saving money and showing some love for the earth!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

7 Great Eco Valentines Gifts

To be perfectly honest the only person I ever really celebrated Valentines with was my mom, somehow early on I started a tradition of exchanging gifts with her because I knew that boyfriends would come and go. I love the idea of a holiday set aside for just for love, but the valentines consumerism has taken this heart filled day and manufactured it into a pesticide cut flower, polyester stuffed animal, and land raping chocolate giving frenzy. If that sounds a little hardcore, it's because in reality it is.
That is why is is essential to start buying green during days of celebration cause being sweet on the planet as much as your sweetie, is just... well hot!

Eco Valentines Gifts For Those You <3

1. Organic & Eco Lingerie - Once a tricky endeavour to actually find something saucy and eco all in one- now the problem will be which hot outfit to choose! Unbelievably playful eco designs from Enamore, Clare Bare, & On The Inside makes these smoken' gifts that will keep on giving back to you, I promise. From the simple lace trimmed cami top to the luxurious chemise, or racy pantie with naughty eye mask set - in sizes XS- XL with prices ranging from affordable to 'oh my gawd I just broke that bank'. Some designers make these items to your order, so you can discuss your special sizing requests!

2. Soy Massage Candle - Here is a candle that not only sets the mood with romantic lighting but also as it heats up and burns it turns into soy oil for massaging! An unscented version can be bought here at The Oko Box . "By using soy wax, you don't have the toxins you get by burning typical candles (you know the black junk that comes off of them) and you don't have the lead wick burning in your home that 99% of the candles use. The wood wick sets the mood with a gentle crackle while the melting wax transforms into warm massage oil, that can be lathered safely on your skin."
There are also soy wax massage candles that are scented from Babeland, which you can get here! "The melting wax, made of gentle, skin-safe soy, transforms into a warm, deliciously scented massage oil. Blow out the flame, drizzle the warm oil on your lover's body, and unwind with a massage as good for the body as it is for the soul." Comes in Chocolate Hazelnut, Mango Vanilla, Mojito Peppermint, Rice Flower, & Jasmine Ginger.

3. Eco Sexy Adult Gift Sets - Feeling like Valentines is a good time to experiment and get frisky? (You are probably on the right track!) Babeland has a growing selection of eco minded adult toys and kits made just for those who want to get an their earth friendly freak on. Gift sets run between $59 - $130 "Great sex just got greener, thanks to the planet-, body-, and orgasm-friendly contents of our Eco-Delight Kit. Make ‘conscience’ pleasure yours: slide onto the non-toxic, rechargeable deluxe Delight vibrator, get wet with organic flower-infused Naked Lube, indulge with a soy-based melting wax Massage Candle, and sheathe yourself in silky, vegan Mamba latex condoms (made by a Swedish non-profit). Even the packaging is good to Mother Earth—just plant the recycled paper studded with wild flower seeds and watch your pleasure blossom". Go to Babeland and put "eco" or "elastomer" in the search box for a full range of safe choices.

4. Flowers That Grow - I know traditionally that cut flowers are given, but those store bought bouquets are dowsed in pesticides and chems to make them bug free and long lasting. While I can be woo'ed with a handful of wildflowers from a field, there is something much more amazing about the gift of something you can plant and cultivate. A good metaphor for the reality of love! There is a funtastic and sultry selection of trees and bonsai at Organic Bouquet ranging from flowers & herbs to yummy edible fruit trees. You can also try your local organic farmers and nurseries for affordable & ultra eco choices.

5. Organic Cut Flowers - For those of you who love traditional romance and plan to show up with a big bouquet of flowers to go with that sexy organic lingerie, you can order organic cut flowers online here at Organic Bouquet or check out your local organic nurseries for the freshest selection.

6. Feed The Soul & Belly - It's not only about chocolate! Feed your lover's soul too by sharing organic fruits, romantic organic meals, or try the Lovers Gift Set from Diamond Organics. "Plump, sweet, hand-selected fruit, award-winning artisan cheese, a sourdough baguette, organic wine or sparkling juice, silky body lotion and 1/4 lb of fine organic European chocolate truffles all conspire to let your special someone know how much you care."

7. Something For Ya' Mama - Organic Clothing!!! Or peruse Viva Terra's ecological gift selection including home decor, robes, jewelry and beautiful pottery- perfect for anyone's mom!


Monday, January 19, 2009

DIY: Organic Fairy Costume

I know it's totally not Halloween... but in my home town of New Orleans an even bigger more flamboyant holiday is about to happen, MARDI GRAS! Growing up in the crescent city culture has given me a deep appreciation and maybe a little bit of an obsession with colorful, fun and sexy costumes- like the kind you see down in the French Quarter and along the parade routes. The native people of New Orleans will spend an entire year hand crafting some the most elaborate costumes in the world - stitching in every bead and sequin with great pride and love.

My Mardi Gras fairy costume is made of 100% organic cotton scrap fabric that didn't cost me more then $10 and although the project took some planning in my mind it only took one day to put it together! (Watch the How-To VIDEO on YouTube here, for more pictures and fun music...)

First I made a paper pattern to cut out the bodice with - make sure to measure your chest, waist and hip for this. After cutting out the bodice measure the length of the back and front bottom portion, so that you can use this to guide the length of the fairy skirt.
The skirt will consist of layered scraps cut approximately the same size each, then sewn to a long thin (1 inch wide) strip of fabric. This will make it easier to attach to the bodice after your done.
I wanted my costume to be extra dramatic by making matching wrist bands and a neck band- you can sew them in the same exact fashion as the skirt above! I didn't make any kind of clasp to close them, but just tied them onto myself since it blends into the scraps.
The back part of the bodice can be made into a corset top which I added a few inches of extra black fabric to the back middle - this is so you can tighten or loosen your costume as you put it on, or if you change weight (cause I want to enjoy this one for a long time!)
To add the corset ties, I cut tiny holes and used a safety pin to run the "laces" through. The laces are just stretched organic jersey cotton fabric.
Lastly I made two tubes open down the front for my legs and repeated the lacing pattern, in order to create faux boots!!! Cute!
This last pic is my 'in character' interpretive fairy pose! ;)
Good fairy or bad fairy? You decide.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reason # 159 Why I Belong In the Woods

Cause this is a picture of me back in 2005 when I actually did live in the woods, and as you can see from the evidence surrounding me I attract loads of cats, I let my gardens grow so wild it would violate city ordinance and I slip into a hippy look with ease. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why Does Some Eco Fashion (literally) Stink?

I have alot of customers at The Oko Box who have varying degrees of chemical sensitivities. One of the main reasons I got into selling organic & eco minded fashion was because I wanted to not only contribute to lightening the chem load of consumerism but also for reasons of health. I personally could not tolerate mall clothes anymore because of the chemical fabrics, chemical dyes, and then more chemical finishings used to keep the colors bright like formaldehyde- then the use of child labor and unfair labor activities in other countries. The whole fashion industry had spoiled it's creative flare with me, by allowing their ethics to be flushed down the toilet with tons of chems poisoning water and soil. It has gotten to be a giant footprint with bad health implications.
So, I can't help but be a little disappointed when I have purchased organic fashion that smells of chemicals, perfumed soaps, incense or some other not so organic smell. I have had this experience numerous times when ordering eco clothing online, and found many dropship items are especially prone.

The following will be a guide for those trying to navigate your wardrobe towards the healthiest (least stinky) options:

1. No Dye - Of course we all super de duper love colors, but no dye will always be the healthiest option when paired with organic cotton. Hemp, bamboo, soy and tencel all go through a chem processing of some sort therefore making more impact on the environment, and possibly not a good choice for the extra sensitive.

2. Natural Dyes - These are the second best option and will include colors made with clay, indigo, bilberries, black walnut hulls or some other naturally occurring substance. These don't carry a chem smell and are not to be confused with low impact dyes (which I will explain next) - although their impact is very low!

3. Low Impact Dyes - As much as I love the idea of low impact or fiber reactive dyes they are still chemical based. Low Impact dyes have less of an environmental effect because they are made to react with the clothing fibers in such as way that the fabric holds more dye making less run off into the environment. So where they may be less toxic to soil and water and even less nasty to your skin, they still contain chems and heavy metals that are needed to create color and have a smell that can reflect that. For those with chem sensitivities low impact dyes may or may not work - they tend to be OK after a few washings but some people can not tolerate this type of dye especially when paired with the fabrics which require more processing such as the hemp or tencel.

4. Fabrics - Organic cotton remains to be one the purest fabrics besides the very expensive peace silk. While bamboo, hemp, tencel and soy are more eco minded then chem fabrics such as polyester blends , nylon & spandex - they still go through some heavy duty chemical processing. Hemp in particular is one which can either be heavily processed with harsh noxious liquids in order to spin it in a fiber faster, or a slower less toxic process can be used such as the processing stages at Ecolution. Bamboo is so silky soft, fast growing, and easily cultivated but uses some nasty chems to spin it into a fiber - same with soy and tencel, except tencel claims to use less toxic and 99% recyclable liquids.

5. The Smell Of Storage - This is an issue which is most difficult to navigate because each warehouse or storing facility is handled differently. I have purchased organic clothing that was discounted at Bluefly and Tobi which are online stores that carry mostly regular fashion and some eco fashion on the side... the organic items will be stored with the piles of out gassing chem dipped clothing and usually will come smelling like it. (My experience with Bluefly was far better then the eco item at Tobi). This is to be expected... but what I don't like is to buy organic clothing from an organic designer only to have it come stinking like cheap perfume or incense. I was recently disappointed to find that some of the dropship items sent out by designers through The Oko Box had been returned and smelled horrendously perfumed. My advice for those looking for organic clothing to come scent free is to call the store first and check with the owner about which items are dropship and which are stored as inventory, and the condition in which they are stored. Each designer literally carries it's own scent and own quality of how pure and organic it really is. There is alot of diversity to this and takes quite a bit of trial and error.

If you are chemically sensitive or have sensitive skin and need to discuss a particular eco designer's stink rating with me , please feel free to contact me through e-mail (found under my profile), comment on this blog or find further contact info at The Oko Box - and ask me any question you have!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Crazy Crooked Trees

The way trees grow in order to survive has inspired me for a long time - reaching for the light, overcoming disease, growing back after being repeatedly chopped down, & being home to tons of bugs and critters! These pictures were taken by me a few years ago in Marshall NC (my favorite place on earth) - this group of pics below are of the most crookedest trees eva' ! These guys have alot of swirl action, making their crooked-ness really graceful and beautiful.

Growing sideways...and up again!
And then backwards...
This very last pic below is the winner of the best crooked tree I eva' saw... growing completely sideways then making a perfect 90 degree angle (or some geometrical number) turning to reach straight up for the sun!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Can't Afford What You Need? Make It!

One of the benefits of an economy collapse is having a mass scale realization that maybe we don't need as much as we want, and many things we do need can be handmade! Of course you can't make dollar bills cause it's against the law... but there are many other ways to save money and be creative. I truly believe that with industrialization and the mass manufacturing of everything we use that people don't feel as useful or inspired, causing some of the depression that has swept the nation over the last 20 years. Being creative is a basic need for emotional and mental health - and making not only crafts but things which are functional in our lives gives a sense of purpose and pride. A biological fulfillment you just can not ever get from shopping at walmart or the mall.

If you are feeling intimidated because you feel like you don't have sewing, crocheting, or building skills - Don't fret! The cool thing about having the Internet is that there are hundreds of tutorials for FREE on you tube that will show you just about any skill you could ever want to learn. Want to learn to sew a button on your shirt go here, want to learn to french braid your hair go here , want to build a cob house go here, or crochet a scarf go here. There are also instruction books in the library (for those who can actually learn from a book, unlike myself who needs to see real people do it). If you do have a little extra cash you can pay for classes or join groups... take a look in your local paper & you'll see right away there is a group or guild for just about any skill you can dream up!
When you are poor or eco minded (or both) and you don't want to D.W. (do without) then the inspired choice is to D.I.Y (do it yourself)!
;) xoxo

Sunday, January 11, 2009

DIY: Making Natural Rope

My friend Bort came by yesterday and taught me how to make rope from the Yucca plants in my yard! Making natural rope is not hard once you get the hang of it- it's just a magical formula of twisting it the right way and oh so tightly... and you will pick up speed as you go along.
You can use the Yucca plant to make some really strong rope, but there are tons of other trees and foliage you can use such as the poplar tree. In the pic below Bort is cutting some of the dried leaves to make strips that will twist into rope...

Once you have your dried leaves you will want to rub it down over your fingers to 'break up' the fibers, then make strips by pulling pieces as shown below. You can pull bigger pieces if you want thicker rope, and small pieces for dainty rope.

To begin your piece of rope you will need two long strips that you pulled from the plant, holding them together evenly.
Then twist the two strips together tightly as shown above... but keep twisting the small segment between your fingers tighter and tighter... Till it starts to buckle and forces itself to make a loop.
Hold your loop between your fingers, and then begin to twist the two strips furthest away from yourself. Twist them AWAY from yourself (this is crucial and does something magical which I can't explain)...

Take the little twist and cross it over towards yourself, then repeat the twisting & crossing over and over.
You repeat this pattern until your rope is done. When adding in new strips, simply twist them into the existing rope very tightly and continue on. My rope shown below had several pieces twisted in and is still super strong!!! :)
It can hold rocks!!!! Yay Baby!
Thanks to Bort, pictured here swinging from a tree vine - for being so patient and teaching me this awesome skill.