Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Green Living: Maggie Hand Painted

We often think about the effects of waste and pollution on the planet. No one likes to visit a park and find trash on the ground, or see empty water bottles floating by in the pond. We think about the animals and plants that we want to protect. This is obviously a very important cause. But sometimes we forget that people are affected too, that there is a very human side to environmental problems. We are strongly connected to the earth. We are only as healthy as the air we breath and the water we drink.

No one knows this human side better than Maggie Miller, owner of Maggie Hand Painted. I asked Maggie to tell me why her life and her art has to be green.

'I'm a supporter of [the green] movement not just because it is important to our planet but because of the health implications...I have no choice but to create and live in [a green way] for health and personal reasons...I acquired an immune disorder which has debilitated me. It almost took my life [and] that was no [laughing] matter. For the past couple years it has affected my breathing, [given me] serious skin reactions [and] chronic fatigue. I could no longer paint or work with the materials I used to work with.'

'I had to change my home environment to 100% green in order to stay in my own home, change all my cloths to avoid skin reactions, and change how I created my art. I could no longer paint in oils and use all the products I was used to. [I] had to research green alternatives. I educated myself on green living; [particularly] green living for people with immune disorders- what they could and could not have in their homes.'

'Art was a big factor. People don't realize the gases [that] oil paints and varnishes release [in the air and] on your walls. So I decided to turn all of [my] art into a green process, making it accessible to all of my clients, especially those with immune disorders [like me].'

'Every material I use, [including] paints, varnishes, [and] fabrics have to be organic, recycled, [and] nontoxic because I cannot touch or breath anything that will affect my health.'

'My company is undergoing a complete green certification process, [all the way down to] my energy source. Once complete, I will receive my certification seal to be posted on my main website. [My materials are] all non-toxic, organic, or recycled. [Even] the paper I use is made [from] sugar cane.'

'My mission [is] to educate my clients about the green process[es] [I use in my art, and] the importance [of] supporting artists/crafters who create in [an environmentally friendly] manner. [It not only it helps] our planet, it helps [artists] make a living and supports our economy.'

'My plan for the future is to expand my product line and introduce a new eco-green linen line, and a soap line from my family's soap recipes. Maggie also plans on opening a store front...'It is getting crowded in my home studio and I need a place for designers to see my line of furniture, which I'm most know for. I have yet to list those on my Esty shop but you can see my furniture on my main website.'

Check out Maggie's website and her Etsy shop.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Libunnyfoofoo

Lets play a little game...I want you to think of your favourite accessory. It could be a lovely piece of jewelry, a tie, a bag, a scarf, whatever. Now, use your imagination and think of that accessory as having a personality. Is it bright and cheery? Funny? A diva? Or very sensible?

It's kind of fun to think of our wardrobe pieces having personality and character. Really, we wear our accessories as an extension of ourselves. We want to show our personality to the world through our favourite pieces. It may be kind of silly to imagine our necklaces and hair clips talking with an accent, or having a bee hive hairdo, but when we have a connection with our accessories we're more likely to value them- the materials they're made of, where they come from, and whose hands made them. With value comes respect. Respect for the hands at work, as well as the materials that came from the earth.

Keep our little game in mind as you read my interview with Erin Farmer, owner and creator or Libunnyfoofoo: Handmade, one of a kind, eco friendly headbands, head pieces, hair Bows, and hairpins. Erin is giving poor old, forgotten jewelry supplies a second chance!

'I'm trying to give some really cool vintage [supplies] (jewelry and trim) new life and keep [them] out of the landfills. Almost all my supplies are used, given, recycled, vintage, broken or unwanted in some way.'

'My mother is my biggest inspiration. As a little girl I would sit by her side as she crafted and [I would] look through a box of old buttons that I loved. At Christmas the tree was covered in garlands, strung from vintage necklaces, brooches and earrings as well as a new handmade ornament for every year. So that's where it all comes from.'

'Over the last two years, my father had become very ill and I had become unemployed. We set up some yard sales and one of the things left over was a bag with old jewelry and beads. I wanted to make something beautiful and useful that I could wear, but I'm not really into jewelry. Then I came up with the headband idea. Soon I had 30 headbands, more than I could ever wear and I set up shop.'

'I feel [that] everything sold today is so mass [marketed] at sterile. None of it has any soul and the marketing is so aggressive. You could make or reuse almost anything you can buy, it just takes effort and that's the hard part, even for me.'

'If I need something I try to think of a way to get it without buying something new. Freecycle, craigslist, and Ebay are a big help in this department...Recently I bought 17 pounds of junk jewelry off Ebay. Along with a ton of stuff I can use for my headbands, I got lots of beads and necklaces. [I've] been experimenting with upcycling and repairing the vintage necklaces and earrings so look for that in the next few months, along with more wedding style headbands for the spring.'

'I have the world's best husband and three loving cats that keep me going when I'm feeling down. Many thanks to them, for bringing my life such joy...As for my green live style, I live in a fantastically old 1917 house that I love. It has a huge backyard that we fill with vegetables and flowers and fruits every year. We do a ton of canning and are members of our local CSA. This year we are even keeping bees and have built a bat house to put up on the roof. In the basement we brew beer and sake and mead. My husband bakes the best bread. We have two big compost piles in the backyard and I am a heavy recycler.'

'What I love about Etsy is that every time you buy you are directly impacting another human being in a positive way. Everyone who has bought one of my headbands has also [brought] me hope and happiness. Just try to remember that feeling the next time you see something new and shiny and on sale [at a big box store].'

You can check out Erin's handmade head wear at her online shop, Libunnyfoofoo.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Betsy & Bess

Second chances are hard to come by, especially when marketers are pushing harder and harder for us to use it once then throw it away in the name of convenience, or heaven forbid, germs! So I'm always pleasantly surprised when I find a designer who puts the environment first and takes the time to reuse old materials, keeping them out of the landfill and full of love.

I had the chance to speak with one upcycle designer Elizabeth, creator of Betsy & Bess. I adore Betsy & Bess' shop slogan, "Eco friendly purses, handbags, and accessories, made from repurposed, upcycled, and recycled materials, down to the zippers, buttons, and pockets. Nothing goes to waste!" and I think Elizabeth's point of view is also very refreshing.

'I love working with any materials that need a second chance. At the moment I'm in love with wool.'

'I construct my items out of repurposed fabrics from used clothing and other textiles, as well as other found materials, such as belts and metal rings. I also reuse shipping materials and recycled paper products when sending my product to the customer.'

'I love the fact that my actions have a low impact on the environment, and I love helping others achieve that as well...My main philosophy is to reuse whenever possible...I do not use paper products (other than toilet paper, of course) in my home. If I could find a way to effectively reuse packing tape, I'd do it!'

'My mother taught me to sew as a child. My mother is a talented seamstress, and I would often help her with her projects, cutting out pattern pieces, covering buttons, standing perfectly still for what seemed like hours while she pinned a hem. It wasn’t until later that I really began enjoying the craft she had taught me and started sewing for myself.'

'I am inspired by designs that are practical and adorable. I think a purse should be functional, convenient, and also attractive. I always keep this in mind when constructing my bags. I also love vintage bags. I am inspired by their details.'

'When I’m not sitting at a sewing machine, you can find me teaching English as a Second Language to elementary school students. I also enjoy playing the piano, and have two wonderful, monstrous Dobermans whose company I enjoy immensely.'

Check out Elizabeth's full collection of eco-friendly purses, handbags, and accessories at Betsy & Bess. I personally love the Farm House lunch bag, featuring a handsome rooster, and repurposed from a place mat!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Canned Jewels

Can fashion accessories be inspiring? You bet they can! Phyllis Zuckerman, owner of Canned Jewels, not only turns trash into treasure, she's raising money for charity with her recycled creations. I'm so excited to share Phyllis' story with you. Her story is not only moving, it is a beautiful example that small things (like pop tabs) can have a big impact.

'I have two daughters with complicated medical needs. We have had to travel to, and stay at Ronald McDonald Houses in Hershey, PA, Chicago, Cleveland, Delaware and Cincinnati. One of the fundraisers for Ronald McDonald House is collecting soda tabs. We collect, our friends collect, and their friends collect.'

'Soda tabs aren't just for opening sodas. They are a major fundraiser for many non-profit organizations. Aluminum recyclers pay between 35¢ and 70¢ per pound based on the market price of aluminum. There are approximately 1267 tabs per pound. The tab of a beverage can is pure aluminum, unlike the rest of the can which contains an alloy of metals and paint.'

'...I wanted to do something with the soda tabs that was lasting. I started by making keyrings and eventually expanded to making bracelets out of the soda tabs and jump rings. I give a portion of each sale to Ronald McDonald Houses...The most I use is 28 tabs in one bracelet. Ronald McDonald houses gets 20% of the sale or $4.00. It is win/win for everyone!'

'My children inspire me. They have been through so much. My college freshman has Spina Bifida. We “forgot” to tell her that the doctors said she would never walk. She walks, drives, shops, etc...This summer she is going to be a lifeguard.'

'My high school freshman has a rare digestive disorder called Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis. It basically means her body is allergic to food. She gets an amino acid based formula through a tube in her stomach. That is how she eats. She is also hearing impaired and has tremendous joint pain. She misses weeks of school at a time, and still manages to be on honor roll. She plays softball, swims, and surfs.'

'[In the future], my husband and I would like to start selling at craft fairs...My life outside of Etsy is filled with more medical knowledge than some doctors have. Someday I hope to trade in all that medical knowledge for healthy kids, so I can create full time.'

Check out Phyllis' pop can tab creations at her online shop.These recycled creations are for a good cause.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Made by MJ

Here is the question I bet you're all dying to know....
'Can I be fashionable and still be eco-friendly?'
The answer? Emphatically YES! ...But it will take a little more time and work. You've gotta shop around, and you've gotta do your homework. Beware of products that sound green but don't deliver.

Bummer right? Well, sometimes it can be frustrating, I will admit, but it can also be an adventure! An eco-find is a beautiful thing. And when you know that good environmental practices went into making and selling the product your shopping suddenly turns into a treasure hunt!

I'm here to help on your hunt for green fashion and beauty. I spoke with MJ, owner of made by MJ, to find out what inspires her one-of-a-kind eco designs.

'I have always [been creative], both my parents are artists. MJ started out making bags as gifts but has now branched out, expanding her collection to include purses, totes, iphone/ipod and blackberry cases, cosmetic bags, and diaper bags, to name a few. I'm inspired by nature [and] love working with colourful [fabric].'

'I use upcycled and recycled fabrics as well as eco felt in all my projects...I just don't like seeing great fabrics getting thrown away just because they are slightly used.'

Now, eco felt is a really cool product! It's made from 100% recycled, post-consumer plastic bottles. I didn't even know that was possible before today. Hooray for learning.

In the future, MJ would love to create her one-of-a-kind bags, purses, and cases full time. You can help support this eco artists by checking out her online shop!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Green Living: Lindsay's Lovely Candles

When you see something as delicious as these cupcake candles, pictured above, it's hard to believe that the three R's (Recycle, Reduce, Reuse) went into their production. What I love about these cute little candles is that they show us that practically everything we do in life (even making fun purchases) can become a little greener. Cupcake candle, you inspire me!

I had the chance to talk with Lindsay of Lindsay's Lovely Candles, to hear how she makes her candles in an environmentally conscious way.

Lindsay got her creative start back in 2007. 'My sister had a great idea to start making soaps, candles, and body products for extra [money]. We made [just] about everything bath and body you could think of.' When it came time for Lindsay to move away from her sister, she wanted to continue creatively on her own. '[At that time], I realized what I was really good at, making candles.'

I can tell that Lindsay's creative juices get revved by making candles. She gets excited by new fragrances and inspired by upcoming holidays. 'Holiday's are my favourite. It's so fun to create [candles] let's say for Valentine's Day; I [experiment with] romantic perfume, or red and pink [colours].'

'I try to use recycled wax whenever possible...its fun to turn old candle [wax] into new and delicious smelling candles! [Also], I always reuse packing materials- bubble mailers, boxes, packaging. Not only is it easier on my wallet, but it's great for the environment.'

'I hope that [in continuing] to grow my business, I can find more ways to keep it green.'

From production to packaging, small business and large can take a cue from Lindsay's Lovely Candles by incorporating the 3 R's every step of the way.

Check out more of Lindsay's Lovely Candles, and additional crafts in her online shop.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Holistic View: And All That Was Left Was Love (Part I)

Sacred Tree, Nature Photograph- Treasures by Teala

Recently, I decided that I would start meditating. Like most things that I vow to practice regularly, I haven't been as diligent as I originally planned. When I do practice mediation, it is usually a very positive experience. I'm going to share one particular meditation session I had, in part to share with you the potential feel-good benefits of meditation, but also to (hopefully) inspire myself to take my meditation practice a little more seriously. Now I'm certainly no expert, I've never taken a class or read a book on meditation, so if you have some pointers please use this as a forum to share!

This will be a two part story. Here is part one...

I want to build myself up to meditating for an hour. It is on my bucket list (which I should share with you sometime, I have some funny things on my list) and I'm very goal oriented. I LOVE to cross things off lists. It's such a good feeling. I decided I would start meditating after yoga. Often, yoga sessions end in shavasana, or corpse pose. You lie comfortably on your back, arms and legs slightly splayed out, fingers naturally allowed to curl inwards, jaw unclenched, the breath flowing in to you. Although it is quite comfortable, it is a pose, you don't fall asleep in shavasana. Shavasana allows you to feel your body and absorb the benefits of your yoga practice. Once at the end of my yoga class, my teacher walked us through a guided meditation where we were to imagine our favourite tree, with a door. My teacher told the class to walk trough the door into a garden, leaving your past behind you.

I decided to repeat this guided meditation at home, after yoga. I began my meditation practice in shavasana with that same visualization exercise. I imagined my favourite tree, a willow tree. On the trunk of this tree, was a door with a lovely gold handle, which I opened. On the other side of the door was a beautiful, calm garden. Now my mind took over. I wanted to walk into the garden, but it was such a peaceful, serene, wonderful place that I didn't want to bring my worry in to the garden. So I took off my worries, like taking off a jacket, and left them at the door.

But I wasn't ready to enter the garden yet. I felt this lump of anxiety in my throat. I had more layers to take off before I could enter the garden. I let go of my doubts. I felt instantly lighter. But could still feel negative energy inside of me. I reached deep into myself and removed my fear and my anxiety. I let go of my pain and my anger. And yet more negative emotions welled up. I systematically scanned my body, ripping out nasty, angry chunks of myself with my fingers, throwing them on the floor.

The words sound horrific, but I wasn't filled with dark empty holes. The places where I had ripped out negative feeling beamed with this beautiful golden-purple light. I continued stripping away layers of myself until I reached my core- a soft, glowing energy. I had removed all the superficial layers of myself until there was only one thing left. My mind knew clearly what this basal entity was. I heard only one word from my inner mind- Love. When I stripped away everything negative, all that was left was Love. I was now ready to enter the garden.


The above photograph, Sacred Tree, is avaiable to purchase, along with additional original photographs and handmade jewelry, from my online shop, Treasures by Teala.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Trove Treats

When you think of the words 'recycled fabric', fashion and beauty may not automatically come to mind. But with a little creativity and some experimentation, Sarah Jeffery is able to turn materials destined for the landfill into delightful accessories that really make a statement. Sarah's shop, Trove Treats, is a living example that one person's trash can definitely be another person's treasure.

I asked Sarah about the creative process behind her recycled creations.

'I started creating on a whim. I had been collecting buttons and beads for a while [but had] no real intention of doing anything with them. Then one day I decided to make some bracelets out of [pieces from my collection].' Sarah had so many compliments on her bracelets that she started experimenting with different forms and styles.

'I use as many recycled materials as possible [and try] to incorporate at least one recycled aspect into each new creation...I love old buttons and beads, but have also grown to appreciate vintage, recycled, and new fabrics.' Sometimes [I find] great fabric [ from] clothing bearing stains or marks that make them useless in their original capacity...Old fabric scraps, buttons, and belt clasp are also great finds.'

'I believe that we can all [strive to] live [a] little bit greener...I use materials close to home as much as possible, and waste as little as possible, so that I am [reducing my carbon footprint]. If we make an effort to live slightly more sustainable lives, it [will be] good for the environment and economy!'

Sarah's travels have inspired her both creatively and in her efforts to stay green. 'I was in China last year...They recycle everything and even their street sweepers [use] brooms made from old branches and twigs, rather than industrially-made conventional brooms. [And] in Shanghai they plant 100 trees a day.' In the future, Sarah hopes to continue travelling to gain inspiration from different cultures and countries.

You can check out more of Sarah's creations in her online shop Trove Treats, her webpage, or her facebook page.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Definition Day: Ecosystem

Environmental Design- Jane Gardner

Eco, eco, eco...we are bombarded with 'eco'. Many products are now labeled 'eco-friendly' or 'eco-conscious'. There are eco-cities, eco-towns, and eco-tourism. In Canada there is even something called 'EcoLogo' which states that something is an 'Environmental Choice' (I honestly have no idea what EcoLogo's standards are). If you want to find environmental jobs in Canada you can browse ECO Canada.

But 'eco' is just a prefix. It's origin is the Greek word 'oikos', meaning house [1]. Eco, as we use it today, represents 'environment', 'nature', 'natural habitats' [2], so it is very valuable to understand the word ecosystem in our now eco-centric society.

ec·o·sys·tem, noun: A system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment; A complex set of relationships among living things and their habitat; an ecological community together with its environment, functioning as a unit[3],[4], [5].

So, if we break down ecosystem (eco + system) we have living things (animals, plants, bacteria) + non-living things (air, water, rocks, minerals, etc) interacting with each other. When I say interactions, I mean things like eating food and drinking water; finding and/or making shelter (a house), and competing with others for food, mates, and shelter.

Use your imagination to think of some interactions. I'm thinking of the bacteria in my gut digesting my breakfast, a bird eating insects on a tree, two squirrels fighting over nuts, rain allowing plants to grow and then fire burning the plants down (repeat cycle). The possible number and type interactions seem endless. Which is why understanding the extremely delicate, super-fine balance of ecosystems is so challenging. Let's all thank an ecologist (a scientist that studies ecosystems) for taking on such tough research!

Ecologists often use math to help them study ecosystems.

We can think of an ecosystem as an equation: The sum of all the interactions between (living things + living things) + (non-living things + non-living things) + (living things + non-living things) = ecosystem.

Now the math ecologists use is much more complicated than the simple equation I showed above. Ecologists often use computer programs to make models that try to simulate the interactions of living and non-living things. There are some free resources to help us study ecology:

The Open Directory Project and Google Directory have some pretty intense ecology software, probably useful for upper level university students and grad students. While LotsofLessons has teacher resources, activities, and games for K-12 ecology.

Thank you to Jane Gardner for the use of her original graphic design 'Environmental Design'. You can purchase this print as well as other graphic designs from Jane's online shop.

[1] Ware, R. K. 2007. The Meaning of "eco-". The Montrose Group. Accessed on February 18, 2011 from:

[2] Eco-. 2011. Accessed on February 18, 2011 from:

[3] Ecosystem. 2011. Accessed on February 18, 2011 from:

[4] Houghton Forestry Sciences Laboratory. What is an ecosystem? Accessed on February 18, 2011 from:

[5] 2011. Ecosystem. Accessed on February 18, 2011 from:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Heather Lair Designs

Textiles, they're everywhere. We are literally surrounded by them. Couches and chairs are covered in them, so are our bodies. Fabrics make our purses, pillows and blankets to name a few. Look around your room, now look at your clothes. I must admit, I never really gave textiles enough thought before. Someone had to grow a crop (like cotton), or raise animals (like sheep) for raw materials. Those materials had to be transported to a processing facility, usually a factory, to make fabric. That fabric had to be shipped somewhere else to manufacture goods like clothing and furniture. Then the finished products are transported to retail stores where we buy them and transport them home. Phew!

I did a little digging, and the textile industry is actually responsible for a large amount of air and water pollution. I'll definitely think about that the next time I'm wrestling with, 'Do I really need this t-shirt?'. So it was nice to hear from a textile artist who tries to keep her creations green. I spoke with Heather, of Heather Lair Designs, about the creative process behind her quilts, purses, cell phone and ipod cases.

'I have been sewing since I was in school. My first quilting project was a backpack from the book "The Great Noank Quilt Factory" in 1974.' Heather studied the history of textiles through the ages and around the globe and incorporates these techniques and materials into her award winning work. 'I am a textile artist. I am aware that the textile industry is one of the worst polluters in the world. I keep that in mind when I design my product line and use as much [recycled] fabric as I can.'

'Found and reclaimed fabrics are much more fun to work with. The designs for my purses have already been started by the tailor who cut the cloth for a sleeve, or lapel! I just re-work their creations.'

Heather feels good knowing that she is using material that would otherwise be going to the landfill. 'I always think about the amount of energy that went into the production and shipping of [textiles] before I get [them]. Especially the beautiful hand woven wool [from] jackets that I [repurpose] for purses. A farmer raised the sheep and kept them healthy to produce the raw wool. The dyers and spinners and weavers of the cloth, tailors and designers have all touched this very cloth that I am using!'

'...The jackets have been worn by their owners, and I often think, "Where have they been?". To Europe, the opera, weddings, funerals, classes, out for romantic dinners? If only the cloth could talk!'

You can find a work of textile art that speaks to you in Heather's online shop.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Green Living: You've Got Options Baby!

Frozen Hearts- Treasures by Teala

This is a topic that people don't really like to talk about. We tip-toe around this natural part of a woman's cycle. But no more! Yep, that's right, today I'm talking about options for menstruation.

Why? Because it is completely natural. There's nothing dirty or gross about it. And it's because we're embarrassed to talk about it that you might not have considered all the options available to you. I frankly think it is important to know your options so that you can make an informed decision. And for men reading this? Thank you first of all! I love all my followers & appreciate you! I really hope this topic doesn't make you feel uncomfortable. But I won't apologize if it does. Remember, the women in your life that you love all have, used to have, or will have a menstrual cycle. If you're a boyfriend, husband, or a father, don't you want to know the healthiest options available? Common' guys, I know you like that area, you should care about it's health too!

Fun fact: Did you know that more testing has been done on the effects of bleach (a known carcinogen) in coffee filters than in tampons? And think about where the tampon is going!

So, here are some options you might not have considered:

The Diva Cup: The Diva Cup (pictured left) is a reusable silicone menstrual cup. There is nothing to throw away, so you reduce waste, and save money. A one time purchase is ~$35. Believe it or not, the Diva Cup is over 75 years old!

Unbleached Organic Cotton Tampons: Tampons are available that have not been bleached and do not contain synthetic fibres such as rayon or chemical additives such as binders or surfactants. And because these tampons are made from organic cotton, there will be no traces of pesticides or fertilizers used in industrial cotton farming. As with most organic products, these are generally more expensive than traditional tampons.

Reusable cloth pads: Made of machine washable fabric, these pads can be used again and again, so you'll save money and reduce waste. I've shown two examples of reusable pads. They come in lots of different colours, I just happen to like pink. The pad with wings is from Moms Craft 4 U, and the pad without wings is from lovely lovely. These shops are generously offering coupons to you readers interested in trying out a reusable cloth pad:

Moms Craft 4 U: Use the coupon code GIVEAWAY2010 at checkout for 10% off your purchase until Mar 31/10

lovely lovely: Use the coupon code 21century at checkout for 10% off your purchase.

Menstrual suppression: The final option? Well, that I'm going to mention at least...Don't get your period. There are several types of birth control pills that suppress monthly bleeding. Unlike traditional birth control where you take a pill for 21 days, followed by a seven day break (often there are seven sugar pills to keep you in the habit of taking a pill every day), pills that suppress menstruation are taken 365 days a year. The result? No menstrual period. This is an option you need to talk to a doctor about because it requires a prescription. As with any prescription, you should really do your homework before taking it. I don't know enough about it, I can't recommend it or advise against it. But it is an option women can consider.

So, I hope all these options give you something to think about. And if you're happy with what you use now, that's great too. It's your choice. The purpose of today's blog is simply to help you make an informed choice.

My inspiration for today's blog came from a wonderful episode of the CBC radio program 'Ideas' called Seeing Red about the cultural and historical perspective of menstruation. It's worth a listen! I especially LOVE the part where they read a poem about if only men had periods, so funny!

The photograph at the top of the blog post is one of my originals. It, along with a growing collection of photography and handmade jewelry are available for purchase from my online shop.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Green Living: Pretty Lovely Painting

Looking around my room, I'm wondering how many of the items that were bought from a big box store could have been made by hand, with love, from an artist in an environmentally conscious way. It's definitely something to think about.

I had the chance to talk with one recycle artist, Meli Anna, about the creative process behind her eco-friendly, hand painted key racks, coat racks, and writing journals.

'Believe it our not, I started painting with my little girl, now 5 years old...Just for the fun of it. [Now] I work with little businesses around my neighbourhood and I recycle their "waste". The great thing about recycling [is that] you [never] know what will come [into] your hands next. You just try it.'

'I think there is too much of everything in this materialistic world. But I also understand the desire of the spirit to create and [produce] something lovely.' The secret for Meli Anna is to fulfil her creative spirit by making lovely items for the home using recycled items.

'Nature really inspires me, birds in particular. Their peace and calmness is just adorable.'

In addition to her creations, Meli Anna just started writing a blog about spiritual book reviews. 'I love spirituality. I read at least a book a week about self growth, emotional cleansing, the cosmos, and different religions.'

'I think love is the most potent power. It enables you to do anything you dream of!'

Meli Anna's outlook on life is really refreshing. When I asked her about plans for the future, Meli Anna told me, 'No plan at all. I like [the] surprise...I don't think we really control our future...we just do what we are meant to do.'

You can check out Meli Anna's creations for the home in her online shop Pretty Lovely Paining, or follow her new blog here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meet a Scientist: Catalina Pimiento

This particular blog topic is very important to me. I know many scientists, it comes with the trade. I spent seven years after high school learning from, working with, and becoming friends with scientists. But most people never really get to know scientists personally. If I asked you to describe a scientist, you might picture 'a white lab coat, some sort of a beaker with bubbling liquid, wild hair, a white beard'....And I'm quite positive this type of scientist exists. But scientists come in all shapes and sizes. When I go into a classroom, I can tell my students are shocked to learn that I (a tiny young woman) am a real scientist (I get that question all the time, 'are you really a real scientist').

My dear friend Catalina (pictured right) is a scientist too (are you starting to wish you studied science instead?). The other interesting thing to know is that scientists have an extremely wide range of passions and interests. Scientists are really cool people. I am so excited to introduce you to some cool scientists, starting with Catalina Pimiento.

I asked Catalina to talk with me about herself, her science career, and her passion for Science Education.

'When I studied whale shark migrations for my undergraduate degree, I always felt like I was doing something important with my life; I was saving sharks. For my Masters degree at the University of Florida, I decided to change my focus and work with fossil sharks. [As] a paleontologist, I was discovering fossils and publishing in peer-reviewed journals. In order to predict the future of sharks, and comprehend their present, I had to understand their past. Again, I felt I like I was doing something important.'

But Catalina still felt like something was missing. 'I [discovered] that the missing ingredient was outreach. I needed to communicate my research to a broader audience.'

Catalina's idea came to her by watching her younger brother. 'I am a big fan of technology [and] I wanted to use the Internet as a tool to communicate science. I thought, children use the Internet much more than adults, so I decided to teach science to children using the Internet. '

Catalina envisioned a website that would engage children in science through fun, kid-friendly activities on fossil sharks. '...because I am a native of Colombia [and] struggled [to learn] English, I decided the site had to be bilingual (English-Spanish), so it [would be] appealing to an even broader audience.'

'I learned a lot [while designing the website]. In contrast to static, linear (read boring) textbooks, [the Internet can be used to teach science] in a dynamic way...which is closer to how science really works. This turns out to be more attractive and less intimidating to kids.' Catalina also learned that fossil sharks can spark children’s curiosity in science concepts such as biology, ecology, geology and paleontology. Additionally, the use of two languages gave more students access to science.

'By creating a bilingual, fun, kid-friendly website about my research, I found the ingredient that was missing in my life. For me, it was not enough publishing for the scientific community (which is very rewarding)...I desire to reach out to the general public, engaging the scientists, journalists, teachers and politicians of the future; the kids.'

Catalina is currently working on a PhD in the Education Technology department at the University of Florida. She continues to combine research on fossil sharks from Panama with new technologies to bring the wonderful world of science to a broader audience. I for one, can't wait to see what her research team comes up with next!

Please check out the website Fossil Sharks in Panama, and be sure to share the link with your kids (and your friends who are kids at heart!)

Thank you so much to Catalina for taking the time to talk with me about her research. If you're a cool scientist please contact me! I'd be thrilled to feature you too!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Holistic View: Breathing into the Uncomfortable

Mandala Detail 2, by Petrus Boots- Art Unseen

I have been practicing yoga on and off now for the past four years. Let me tell you, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. It's not just bending your body like a pretzel (trust me, my body doesn't bend that way). There is a lot of mental work in yoga. If your mind is not focused on what you are doing in this moment, your whole practice suffers.

A lot of times my mind wanders while I'm doing yoga. I think it's only natural. When I'm holding a pose, I start thinking of the most mundane thoughts, like 'Ok, after this I'm going to cook dinner, then the dishes have to be done, I wonder if I'm running low on olive oil, I should check...' Then WHAM! My body starts to wobble, I start to tip over, and my whole pose is unravelling! My mind is in such over-drive mode all the time that I can't stop multitasking for a single hour. Kind of sad.

But last week I had this epiphany. I was moving from downward facing dog (pictured right) into a balance posture where my right knee was hooked on to the outside of my right elbow (go ahead, I'll give you a minute to try it out). My weight was forward, my body was tucked into a little ball, and the only thing my mind was thinking was 'This feels right' . This feels right. How strange. Scrunched there in that little ball, my body felt good, blissful even! It was like I was smiling from the inside. I knew right then that this 'right' feeling was how my body should feel in EVERY yoga pose I do. When your body is in proper alignment, even the most awkward pose feels natural.

So how do you achieve this in a lasting way? How can the actions you do (in yoga and life in general) feel like the right thing? How can the actions you take make your whole body smile? Well, I'm still working on that.... I think the key is focusing on what is happening now, in this moment. Not on the grocery list, the to-do list, your schedule. Focusing on the now is what's hard work. It's hard to stay focused for an hour, ensuring each pose your body moves into feels comfortable and natural. It's hard to appreciate the view outside of your window when you have a million things to do.

But I've found that when I really focus on what is happening right now, when I stop multitasking, that's when that indescribable blissful feeling comes over me. When I'm really paying full attention to the colours in the sky as the sun is setting, or really concentrating on aligning my body. It takes practice, and it definitely takes work, but it's worth the reward of feeling good, even for just a moment. It all starts with taking a deep breath, and concentrating on taking in this moment. You might just realize that slowing down, breathing deeply, and concentrating brings a smile to your face. And hey, you can't buy that kind of happiness.

*Plug alert* Just want to share one of my all-time favourite websites, Yoga Today. The yoga instructors are fantastic and bring happiness to my day! If you become member for free you can access a free class every week. I am in no way affiliated with this website, I just wanted to share a great resource.

Thank you to Stefanie of Art Unseen for the use of the limited edition remarque print 'Mandala Detail 2' by Petrus Boots. You can purchase this artwork, along with other fine art prints and originals at Art Unseen's online shop.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Definition Day: Greenwashing

FALL- Red Hydrant Press

Greenwashing. I myself am guilty of using this jargon. I have been known, in my lesser moments, to yell the word at TV commercials. But what does 'greenwashing' mean? Washing your clothes in natural detergents? If only!

green·wash, noun: A superficial or insincere display of concern for the environment that is shown by an organization; the practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs to deflect attention from an organization's environmentally unfriendly or less savory activities [1].

I'll break it down for ('environmentally friendly') + washing (from 'white washing', meaning to conceal flaws)

For example, fictitious company X tells you "We've reduced our packaging because we care about the environment. A smaller package size means more of our product can fit on one truck, reducing carbon emissions" Yay! Insert picture here of sun shining, some lovely trees, and a happy squirrel.

What company X didn't tell you is that their product contains several toxic while reduced packaging is nice, the product certainly isn't green.

There is an excellent podcast about green marketing on the CBC radio show The Age of Persuasion. It has some real examples of companies using greenwashing (I didn't want to get in trouble). It's straight forward with clear definitions and examples and I found it fascinating. Check it out!

Thank you to Alynn of Red Hydrant Press for the use of the limited edition linoleum print 'FALL'. You can purchase FALL and other fine prints on Red Hydrant Press' online shop.

[1], 2011. Greenwashing. Accessed on February 4, 2011 from:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Creature Feature: The Mudpuppy

Uploaded with

I love talking about the mudpuppy (Necturus Maculosus) because it is a very cool creature. A lot of people think it is a fish because of its aquatic lifestyle and body shape (and those are great observation to make!)...BUT do fish have legs?

The mudpuppy my friends is an amphibian, like frogs and toads, but not just any amphibian, it's a salamander!

Now, amphibians share a few characteristics (and there's always exceptions to the rule, that's just part of the fun!): slimy skin for one. The mudpuppy might look like some sort of a sea snake, but snakes are reptiles and all reptiles have scaley skin. The mudpuppy's a slimy guy.

2. Amphibians lay eggs in the water, and these are also slimy. They're covered in a jelly-like substance so they don't dry out. Reptiles on the other hand lay their eggs on land. If you put a reptile's eggs in the water they'd drown!

3. Amphibian in Latin means two lives. Most of us learn this in school- baby frogs (and salamanders) hatch from the egg as tadpoles with gills and live in the water, then they grow up and go through a special transformation called a metamorphosis into an adult that lives on land. Oh mudpuppy, you're a leader not a follower. Sure, your ancestors might have lost their gills and lived on the land, but not you! You just had to be different! Adult mudpuppies don't lose their gills. Why not? That's a good question. And I don't know if anyone knows the answer.

My best explanation is that a long time ago, there was one freak salamander who had a mutation which made him never lose his gills. And he was very successful and made lots of baby salamanders. These baby salamanders also had the mutation to keep their gills as adults, and they were successful too, that's why they're still around today. (have I lost everyone yet?)

The other neat thing about mudpuppies? They bark. Yep. Don't quote me on this, but I think that's where they get their name from. Male frogs croak to attract mates and tell other males 'this is my territory', well mudpuppies communicate too, and it sounds more like a bark than a croak.

If you want the hard core biology behind these beasts, I invite you to check out the Tree of Life's description of mudpuppies (lots of cool scientific details!)

I also think it is a great idea to explore the Tree of Life web project. What's with the branches that go to two different places? What's at the root of the tree? Who are your relatives? It is so a nerdy kind of way.

Frog life cycle image from 2010. Accessed on February 3, 2011 from:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Totally Unique Treasures

I have heard that antique stores are the ultimate sustainable business...nothing new, only old stuff. Joking aside, in an age when everything is designed to be single use and disposable for convenience (another blog post for another day), there is something innately attractive about vintage and antiques. They have a presence, a history, a story. They are romantic and elegant.

I spoke with self proclaimed "Ultimate Recycler" Laura (aka Laura Da Goddess), of Totally Unique Treasures. Laura designs one-of-a-kind jewelry and accessories using vintage and reclaimed supplies. Her motto, 'Saving the Planet, One Accessory at a Time'.

'I try to use [supplies] in my creations that other people would just throw away. My absolute favorites are copper and stones. I have a large quantity of copper wire that was left over from the rebuilding of my father's church after [hurricane] Ike. They were going to throw away all this great solid copper wire, so I took it.

I combine reclaimed jewelry pieces with the copper to create affordable and Eco friendly pieces that would have otherwise been lost forever. I do add new goodies to some pieces but most of my work is done with reclaimed pieces of jewelry. I love to turn junk into jewels.'

Laura has accumulated more vintage and reclaimed supplies than she could use in two lifetimes. So, she sells these supplies to other recycle artists to keep perfectly good materials out of the landfill.

Laura also creates custom jewelry and artwork from her clients' inherited or vintage pieces.

'I have had a lot of calls lately for this type of work, as a lot of people are leaving jewelry and keepsakes to their descendants these day. Items that are of sentimental value, but things that [people] may never wear or have no clue what to do with. This is where I come in. I make a beautiful and lasting art piece so that you have something to remember your beloved relative by. [In turn] everyone can enjoy and revel in your history as well.'

Check out Laura's beautiful creations and supplies on her Etsy shop, here.
Get in touch with her via:
facebook- personal page & business page
Or follow her on twitter

Monday, January 31, 2011

Food Issues: The Avocado Dillema

anywhere but here- MONKEY CHOW

Living green sounds so holistic and natural; it would be easy to assume that it is in our DNA to make good choices for the planet. But sacrifice doesn’t come naturally, especially when the things you are asked to sacrifice are delicious!

I’ve been hearing the “avocado debate” in the news a lot lately. Experts on sustainability are advocating that consumers buy local foods. Transporting food from other continents increases carbon emissions, causes food to lose nutritional value, and does not support local farmers. The message is clear, “If want to be a conscious consumer, give up your avocados”.

Why did they have to pick such a buttery, rich, melt-in-your-mouth, tastes good in everything fruit? In my household we eat about two avocados a week- I use them to jazz up Mexican dishes, salads, and wraps.

...Now I find out my menu is part of the emissions problem. But what is the solution? I don’t think an avocado tree would be too fond of our Canadian winters; and asking me to quit avocado cold turkey would be like telling my dog there’ll be no more walks. There has to be a happy medium, a way to have your chocolate avocado cake (yes this cake really exists) and eat it too.

My solution might sound like a cop-out, I still buy avocados because I love them. But I try to compensate for this uneco-friendly purchase. I borrowed my philosophy from Bob Greene, Oprah’s personal trainer. He said that it’s what you do 80% of the time that counts. Now, he was referring to diet and exercise, but I think this idea can be carried over to other aspects of daily life- like grocery shopping. Go ahead and buy avocados, oranges, olives, or whatever produce you crave that just doesn’t grow locally. The solution is to compensate for these purchases by trying to fill the other 80% of your shopping bag with local ingredients. I'm especially lucky to live in Niagara, where we have a wide variety of produce, meat, cheese, wine, and artisan bread at our doorsteps.

What grows locally in your area? Challenge yourself to buy seasonal local foods and you might be surprised by the culinary combinations you create; like an apple and avocado salad with creamy Camembert cheese. mmmm.

Need a little push to incorporate local foods into your meals? Take the Veggie Village Pledge: “use locally grown produce in at least one meal a week for a year to help reduce my/our carbon footprint”.

Want to learn about the 100 mile diet challenge? Listen to Deconstructing Dinner’s free podcast “100 Mile Diet/Local Food Strategies”

Thank you to Aaron Kovalcsik of MONKEY CHOW for the use of his limited edition art print, 'anywhere but here'. This artwork, along with original hand made art and prints of robots, aliens, monsters, frazzled tech, little creatures and more are available to purchase from MONKEY CHOW's online shop. Check it out!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Holistic View: I think I'll go for a walk outside

Under a Sky Full of Stars- Whimzwhirled

Our cold snap here in Southern Ontario has passed, warming up to a balmy -4° C this morning. So I'm going to suit up and go for a walk. I'll need a few winter essentials: long underwear for starters, wool socks, a sweater, winter coat, scarf, hat, mittens, and since I'm feeling really ambitious, snow pants (you never know when you'll suddenly have an overwhelming urge to make a snow angel).

I love winter walks for a few excellent reasons. First, my dog is the funniest in the snow. He dives right in, and always FACE first. He bounds, making him sort of look like a rabbit hopping through piles waist deep. And after his burst of energy he eats big mouthfuls of the white stuff (which automatically reminds me of being a kid, I used to eat snow all the time. It was delicious!)

The second reason I love winter walks is that I love to see the first signs of spring poking out-this is a great activity for kids by the way! Take your kids for a walk today (or pretend you're a kid, I won't tell) and play a game with them, 'I spy....Mother Nature Edition'. Notice the birds that are out, are they different than the birds you see in the spring and fall? What do their songs sound like? Notice the trees, are they really dormant? Or are they starting to bud, getting ready for spring's blooms. Notice the tracks in the snow, do you know what kind of animal made those tracks? A squirrel? A rabbit? A dog? If you're really lucky maybe a deer? Nature is out there, whether you live in the country or the city. You just have to be a detective (also fun to tell kids).

Third, going for a walk outside is good for you in so many ways! If the 'I spy' game doesn't have you grinning from ear to ear, maybe that feeling of connecting with nature will. Exercising, especially outdoors has been shown to improve mood, concentration, and boost your immune system [1-3]. My own anecdotal evidence- I love it when my students come inside from recess. They are much more quiet, focused, and ready to learn after they had some good ol' play time outside.

Thank you to Janice Sean of Whimzwhirled for the use of the her original hand built and digitally altered art collage 'Under a Sky Full of Stars'. This artwork, along with over 100 stunning original art collages and gift cards are available to purchase from Whimzwhirled's shop. Check it out, you'll be blown away!

1. Plante et al. 2007. Does Exercise Environment Enhance the
Psychological Benefits of Exercise for Women? International Journal of Stress Management, 14:88–98. See the article
2.O’Brien et al. 2011. Outdoor Education, Life Long Learning and Skills Development in Woodlands and Green Spaces: The Potential Links to Health and Well-Being. Forests, Trees, and Human Health. 343-372.
3. 2011. How Does Exercise Benefit the Immune System? Accessed on January 29, 2011 from:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Definition Day: Sustainability

Twig Couple II- Fric de Menthol

Ah sustainability, that word gets thrown around a lot. Sustainable development, sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy, sustainable cities....Sustainability may be the new 'green', and I'm sure we all have a vague understanding of what the word means, but personally, I think understanding the true definition is very important. Because if we're all striving for sustainability we should have a clear definition to follow.

I first heard that confusing word, sustainability, back in 2005, in a conversation with a friend at the University of Guelph. The details of that talk are long forgotten, but I still remember the feelings of embarrasment when I had to stop my friend mid-sentence and admit 'I don't know what sustainability means'.

sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty, noun: The social and environmental practices that protect and enhance the human and natural resources needed by future generations to enjoy a quality of life equal to or greater than our own [1].

Comes from the root sus·tain, verb: to support, to endure without giving way, to keep from giving way, to supply with food, drink, and other necessities of life, to provide for [2].

Sustainability is composed of three or four parts, depending on who you ask: the environmental, economic, social, and cultural components. Sometimes, culture is left out, but it is especially important to some groups, including First Nations.

I like to think of these four parts as the pillars, or foundation upon which sustainability is built. If one one of the pillars is weak the whole system falls out of balance/ equilibrium.

So, sustainability is about more than protecting natural ecosystems. When we strive for sustainability, we are striving for a future that is able to balance the needs of the environment with the needs of humanity, including financial needs, infrastructure, government, and cultural heritage. Sounds pretty fantastic right?
Sustainability is indeed a lofty goal, but it is a journey we must embark on together if we want to achieve the planetary balance and harmony that sustainability strives for.

So how did I do? Did I leave out an important point? Still have questions? Please join the conversation on sustainability.

Thank you to Fric de Menthol for the use of of their original illustration 'Twig Couple II'. It, along with many more illustrations, prints, and postcards are available to purchase from Fric's online shop. Please check it out.

[1] US Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. Accessed on January 28, 20100 from:

[2] 2011. Sustain.Accessed on January 28, 2011 from:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Hi there, my name is Teala, and I decided to start writing this blog because I was tired of browsing the magazine rack and thinking 'there's nothing here for me' optimistic, fun-loving, tree-hugging, adventurer with a passion for living things.

...Well that's an oversimplified version of the story. The truth is I'm tired, a bit overwhelmed, and a little confused.

I'm tired of being bombarded by advertising for 'so called' green products.

I'm overwhelmed by all the doom and gloom about our planet and the environment in the media.

And I'm confused about making green choices. What does 'green' mean anyway? And what about eco certification? Is it better to eat local or organic? What's better: upcycled, recycled, reused, repurposed? Phew!

So here's the plan- we're going to tackle this mountain of sustainability together! One itsy-bitsy baby step at a time. Because that's how change happens, at the roots, with a tiny seed, a small gesture, a positive intention. Come along for the ride. My goal is to make environmental education both easy and fun, because learning every day and making smart choices should make you feel good!

I'm going to talk about food issues, green choices at home, eco fashion and beauty, green marketing (and green washing), and green heroes in our communities.

And what are my credentials? I've got a Master's in Biology with a minor in Science Education (which means I can read the latest scientific literature and explain it to my boyfriend in plain English). In school, I was criticized for being too colloquial in my scientific writing, but one professor encouraged me to write popular science (so here I go). My expertise is bringing science education to the community. I work for a not-for-profit, teaching science to elementary school children. I'm passionate about involving youth in environmental education, especially amphibians and reptiles. I'm also a nature photographer, which basically means that I can't get enough of nature. I live, breath, and dream biology so it comes out in my artwork too!

I'm excited to start this adventure with you, but I need your help! Do you produce a green product? Are you pioneering a green project in your community? Are you living that elusive holistic lifestyle? I'd love to feature you on my blog! So get in touch with me!