Tag Archives: green

How to Have a Green Birthday Party!

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This year I was tasked with organizing Adrian’s first birthday party with his new school friends! Was I up for the challenge? I was! I had three goals:

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How did I handle each one?


The first goal was easy. FUN! After having attended enough boys’ birthday parties, I learned that the quickest path to fun for boys was simply being together. The more friends the better and I took complete advantage of that. Instead of renting a space that would require me to buy their food and products, we took all the kids to the park. Step One! A Park! Thankfully great weather in LA allows park parties easily until the fall.


Goal 2. VEGAN. The only challenge here was figuring out which of the many options I’d want to use to celebrate Adrian’s birthday! Vegan baking/sweets is a growing industry (even Ben & Jerry’s now has a vegan non-dairy ice cream)  and if you don’t live near a vegan bakery and/or you like baking (which I don’t) a quick internet search will pull up more than enough recipes to make any 8 year old happy. Meet the Minimalist Baker for example!  I went with Donut Friend here in LA because we could cut them up into smaller pieces for the kids, and parents, to try different flavors.


Goal 3. GREEN. Kid’s parties need things but not as much as we think. First, kids don’t eat much at parties. They play. Parents talk. So instead of setting up a buffet, I opted to do one salty food and one sweet food. Chips and Fruit. I cut up fruit that would keep – apples (soaked in salt for about 10 minutes to prevent yellowing), pineapple and melon – the night before and bought bags of chips, opening them one at a time to prevent waste (and we still have 3 bags left!). Also I elected to buy water in a container with a spout. This eliminated all the waste in juice boxes (and avoided the extra sugar which they didn’t need with donuts on the table!) and also offered us a place to wash hands and dishes. To that extent I used our own Dylan Kendall bamboo plates and bowls,* washing them halfway through the party with a reusable sponge. Was that inconvenient? Sure, for about 5 minutes. Compared to a lifetime of less waste in a landfill and a better planet for our kids? No contest. I make bamboo cups too but we needed the kids to be able to write their names on the cups so they could reuse them – to that extent I used PLA/Corn cups which I bought on Amazon.

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The last bit was the party gift bag. Oh, the party gift bag. I never liked the practice of giving kids more stuff they probably don’t need. This year I opted instead to send each family home with seed thank you cards giving families a fun activity to try together and maybe adding a bit more color and plant life to the planet!

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All in all the day was a huge success and I can proudly say we had very little waste! We recycled two water containers and tossed about 15 cups! Please join our newsletter or stay in touch to find out when the bamboo plates will be available here on our own site or at a store near you!


Photos by Miles Schuster

Designing Compassionate and Chic Floors

VEGAN FLOOR


Flooring is the aesthetic foundation of our homes. From hardwood, to carpet, concrete or rug-filled, our floors define the look and style of our homes and even say a little about us. Floors reveal whether we prefer modern and clean, warm and colorful and, now, if we are compassionate. Can we keep our vegan values in mind when we think of our home’s floors? Absolutely.

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Flooring Materials

Any number of materials can be used for flooring and many of them are vegan: Ceramic tile, concrete, cork, linoleum, hardwood, bamboo. All animal-free. (In the 1950’s polyvinyl acetate, or PVA white glues, became prominent in the market replacing glues derived from animal parts for wood bonding.) Even more exciting, a new generation of flooring is made from recycled materials or organically grown natural fibers and grasses. Carpet, however, is a more complicated choice.

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Carpet

The idea to put a woven floor covering on the ground probably dates back to earliest man in a pre-Neolithic era. But our most recent understanding of carpets developed in Central Asia and the Middle East several thousand years ago. Nomads needed more protection from the cold winters than sheep hide could handle. At the same time, a sense of design was developing and carpets were being made to bring that design, as well as color, into homes. The materials used for the warp, weft and pile came from the herds of goats and flocks of sheep that the nomads kept.* (Carpet Encyclopedia).

These carpets resemble what we in the United States refer to as rugs. However worldwide the word carpet is used interchangeably with the word rug. Both represent any textile floor covering attached to a backing. In the United States wall-to-wall carpet is what we commonly think of when we talk about carpet, while rugs are area-sized and laid on the floor.

Early wall-to-wall carpets in the United States were woven from wool until the early 1800s when a young woman, seeking to recreate a quilt she had seen, sewed thick cotton yarn into unbleached muslin, then clipped the ends of the yarn so they would fluff out, and washed the spread in hot water to hold the yarns in by shrinking the fabric. This experiment gave birth to the first tufted carpet made from cotton. Cotton continued to dominate American made carpets for over a hundred years, after which carpet-makers across the world began to take advantage of new man-made fibers which could be woven more cheaply and were as durable and flexible as natural fibers. Fortunately for vegans, more than 90% of the commercial carpet produced today is made from synthetic fibers: nylon, polypropylene, and acrylics.

In addition to synthetic fibers, carpets have grown to include a wide variety of non-animal derived natural fibers including hemp, linen, and jute. Many environmentally friendly flooring companies have encouraged customers to return to wool as an organic, earth-friendly material but these companies overlook two basic truths: (1) Sheep do not like to be shorn. Industrial sheep shearing is barbaric and cruel. And (2) sheep farms, which can house many thousands of sheep packed tightly together, are a leading contributor to deforestation and long-term damage to the planet’s climate.

Most interesting are new materials made from recycled plastics.

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One of my favorite flooring companies is FLOR – FLOR covers your floor with carpet squares that can be arranged to perform like a rug aesthetically or to cover a room from wall to wall.  The fibers use to make FLOR tiles and the vinyl used to back the tiles exceeds the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus Standards for low Volatile Organic Compound emissions. The carpet industry continues to evolve and now produces new carpets from recycled worn-out carpets. Additionally, old carpeting is now recycled into a wide variety of products from railroad ties to roof shingles.

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Rugs

Rugs are a fantastic choice to add warmth to a home with wood, tile or concrete floors. Rugs can vary in size, shape, color and definitely material. For centuries, rugs were hand woven from wool and many, particularly rugs from the Middle and Far East, still are.

However, new synthetic materials offer a wide variety of fantastic alternatives to wool rugs, providing all the same texture and durability at oftentimes, half the cost.

Using the hides of animals as rugs is an aesthetic preference for many and luckily there are a number of ways to recreate the look with zero harm to animals.

Faux sheepskin and faux cowhide rugs are cheaper than animal hides and they have an aesthetic advantage of being easy to dye. If your room cries for the shape of a sheep skin, IKEA can respond for less than $20 with a fuzzy, warm and soft faux alternative. One of my personal favorites is a FLOR’s faux cow skin made from, what else? Floor tiles!

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Compassionate Bedrooms for Peaceful Dreams

SyntheticDown_LEADThe bedroom is the heart of our home, our most intimate space. The bedroom is the room that recharges us, holds our secrets, and provides refuge. No piece of furniture is as important as our bed, the bedroom’s centerpiece. For me, a comfortable bed is key to my bedroom and comfortable for me means soft and warm.

Yes, I am a fluff junkie. I want fluff to surround me. I want to cocoon in fluff.

Before I became vegan, and before I really figured out what was making my fluff fluffy, I had down duvets and pillows. I knew they were down because of the occasional quill that would pierce the cover but I did not make the connection that there was anything harmful in consuming down. I never thought about the ducks who provided the down, or that they were being raised on industrial farms.

When I was in grade school, I fell madly in love with the book Make Way for Ducklings. In the story the whole town of Boston comes together to help Mom Duck raise her eight ducklings. I loved this book so much I turned a shoebox into a lake and crafted eight little babies out of yellow clay as tribute. Make Way for Ducklings perfectly describes many of our childhood feelings during trips to the lake to feed the ducks — ooos and ahhhs when they spread their wings and seem to float above the water and smiles when we see ducklings trailing after their mothers. How do we reconcile our childhood nostalgia for ducks with down? We can’t.

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Down is the undercoating of duck, goose or swan feathers. Body feathers are also used for pillows, bedding and clothing. I suppose I believed that people just followed ducks around and picked up the molted feathers. Of course this is not what happens. Duck feathers are a commodity and industrially acquired. Down and feathers are acquired in one of three ways: (1) after the bird has been slaughtered for body meat and fois gras. The carcass is boiled and the feathers pulled. (2) Gathering, which sounds quite pleasant but really involves corralling hundreds of thousands of birds and pulling their molting feathers out at the same time which really often leads to …. (3) live plucking. Live plucking is the most profitable for farms. With live plucking, birds are forcibly plucked over and over, 6 to 7 times before they die from trauma or are killed for meat. This is done without anesthesia and often results in torn flesh and unbearable pain for the bird. Imagine having your hair pulled out over and over and over. Eighty percent of all duck farms are in China and the “production” of down is completely unregulated.

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What?? This is not what I imagined. But now that I know, how could I expect to have peaceful dreams wrapped in the pain and suffering of another? I couldn’t.

Thankfully there are plenty of alternatives to down with more arriving in the market at a rapid pace. In addition to being compassionate for animals, down alternatives don’t make you sneeze. In fact, most alternatives to down are far better for your sleep, as well as for the environment.

My favorite straight-forward down alternative is PrimaLoft®. PrimaLoft® is a form of synthetic microfiber thermal insulation originally developed in the 80s for the US Army and now most famously known for ski jackets sold by stores like Patagonia. And the good news now for vegans and animal lovers is that PrimaLoft® is also used in bedding and performs similarly to duck feather in its ability to regulate body temperature in your quilts. PrimaLoft® is a trade name and there are many other competitors now on the market. A perusal through the internet for synthetic down is quite eye-opening!

Your pillows? Throw away your down pillows and give your neck a break! To dress my bed I keep two overstuffed PrimaLoft@ pillows as front decorative pillows but for sleeping I tested a half dozen to find my favorite (a clue? the material is also edible). Depending on whether your preference is firm, medium or soft, the varieties of pillows range from bamboo to latex to gel. Please avoid memory foam for toxicity concerns. My bed sports buckwheat pillows, as I find the material gives my neck the most support. Because buckwheat pillows tend to be smaller, I layer them under accent pillows.

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Blankets. If you want to keep warm the old fashioned way and eschew anything synthetic, my best tip for keeping your bed chic and cruelty free is to use cotton blankets. As simple as that. Cotton blankets layer wonderfully, which is especially useful if you have children – the two or the four-legged kind. Bed layers make washing up spills and messes very easy. Because I am very sensitive to the abuse the planet takes to support industrial cotton farming, I look for either organic cotton, which is grown with less pesticides, or up-cycled cotton. Remember your favorite grandmother’s quilt? Up-cycled. Kantha blankets, found now in most home décor stores, are up-cycled saris turned into incredible, extravagant and very durable options both to add a bit of chic to any bed and support a small business, typically run by women, in India.

What to do with your discarded down bedding? Consider calling animal rescues or your local animal shelter to see if their pups and felines could use a little extra warmth. A beautiful testament to the tortured lives of ducks is to have their lost lives provide some comfort to another animal in need.

Sleep peacefully! Your bedroom is now considerably more beautiful and compassionate.

Are Your Cleaning Supplies Slowly Killing You?

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Stains, grime and fingerprints – a  detective’s best friends, my worst enemy. A clean house to me is a happy and healthy house. Streaks on my bathroom mirror, cat hair settling on the dining room table, cat hair on my sheets!– these are the things which keep me up at night. Pre-vegan I depended on Windex and Tide. I never questioned either the values of the companies who manufactured these products or the ingredients found in the products themselves. I trusted these companies in my belief that clean was clean.

Clean, though, is not clean. Clean can kill you. In fact studies now show that the air outside is less toxic than the air in our homes if we use commercial cleaners. I visited the site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and learned that “every 13 seconds a poison control center in the US gets a call about a possible poisoning,” and that “more than 90% of these exposures occur in the home. Poisoning can result from medicines, pesticides, household cleaning products, carbon monoxide, and lead.” So lets read that again: Every 13 seconds a call goes into to a poison control center and the number 3 reason for that call is household cleaning products. Woah!

In addition, the majority of all these household cleaning products in which we so confidently trust have been tested on animals – which doesn’t conclusively prove either positively or negatively that the chemicals below can cause “acute or immediate hazards such as skin and respiratory irritation, watery eyes, chemical burns, and even cancer.” Instead, even if the chemicals below choked, burned or flat-out killed a small domestic rabbit, cat or dog in lab tests, that chemical is still in the cleaner and could still poison your own pets or children.

Good grief.

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A brief but not exhaustive list:

  1. Phthalates:MOUNTAIN FRESH! LEMON SCENTED!” Phthalates often hide behind the word “FRAGANCE” in cleaning products (and is not on the label) and according to the CDC phthalates have been linked to asthma, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. That’s about it. Yum, that crisp lemon scent seems even fresher today.
  1. Perchloroethylene or “perc:”  Gets in bed with dry cleaners and spot removers – according to the EPA, breathing PERC for short periods of time can adversely affect the human nervous system.  Effects range from dizziness, fatigue, headaches and sweating to incoordination and unconsciousness.  Contact with PERC liquid or vapor irritates the skin, the eyes, the nose, and the throat. Breathing perchloroethylene over longer periods of time can cause liver and kidney damage in humans. Repeat exposure to large amounts of PERC may cause cancer. Why dry clean? Most clothes can be washed in cold water and isn’t your health worth a wrinkle or two?
  1. Triclosan: Disguises itself as “antibacterial” in liquid hand soaps and dishwashing detergents – promotes growth of drug-resistant bacterial, may disrupt hormonal functions, found in high numbers in lakes where it destroys natural algae. According to the University of Davis, tricolsan impairs muscle function and skeletal muscle contractility. Standing is so over-rated. Get rid of anything with the word ANTI-BACTERIAL in it…want a list? To name a few: Dial® Liquid handsoap and bodywash; Tea Tree Therapy™ Liquid Soap; Clearasil® Daily Face Wash; Dermalogica® Skin Purifying Wipes; DermaKleen™ Antibacterial Lotion Soap; CVS Antibacterial Soap, Ajax Antibacterial Dishsoap, Kimcare Antibacterial Clear Soap, Bath and Body Works Antibacterial Hand Soaps, Gels and Foaming Sanitizers.
  1. Quarternary ammonium compounds or “quats:” Makes your clothes soft in the dryer but has all the same health and environmental risks of tricolsan and according to the Chemical Safety Database quats cause skin and respiratory irritation and haven been found to be endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with hormone function within the body. Third, they are toxic to aquatic life, and our oceans are our life blood. Use Pine-Sol or Fantastik and a fish dies when you wash the product down the drain.
  1. 2-Butoxyethanol: Want your window cleaner to smell fresh? Add 2-Butoxyethanol. However according to the EPA, in addition to causing sore throats when inhaled, at high levels glycol ethers can also contribute to narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage. Simple Green and Windex are two offenders to definitely avoid.
  1. Ammonia: Having shiny home-decor bling and windows can also lead to chronic bronchitis and asthma. According to the NY Dept. of Health, ammonia is corrosive. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in the air causes immediate burning of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage or death. Inhalation of lower concentrations can cause coughing, and nose and throat irritation. Swallowing ammonia can cause burns to the mouth, throat and stomach. Skin or eye contact with concentrated ammonia can also cause irritation and burn. Windex! Mr. Clean …. You can smell ammonia when you clean, it may be tough on dirt but its terrible on you.
  1. Chlorine aka Bleach: Those cute little scrubbing bubbles are hiding many a toxin including chlorine which may be a thyroid disrupter. Chlorine also gets into the skin and lungs fast causing chest tightness, wheezing, dyspnea, and bronchospasm. Severe exposures may result in noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, which may be delayed for several hours. Clorax can be your best friend or worst enemy. Tread carefully.
  1. Sodium Hydroxide: Also known by its nom de guerre: LYE. Sodium hydroxide can cause severe burns and heaven forbid this stuff gets in your eye.  Sodium Hydroxide is extremely damaging to human tissue. Most often found in oven cleaner (try baking soda instead) and often has a big POISON mark on it – so don’t consume it.

Animal by-products in cleaning supplies? The big one is animal fat which shows up in a couple of products – animal fat aka dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride (TALLOW) is used to make your clothes softer and is either impregnated into dryer sheets or added to liquid fabric softener. If you really have such unforgivable static cling and “stiff as a board” clothes try vinegar and a fabric dispenser ball. Animal fat also shows up in plastic bags to aid in their ability to slip apart –yes, animal fat. Instead just go to Baggu.com and get your own forever-use, never sticky bags printed with cute animals – save the earth and animals. Go Fat Free.

After having read all this, you’re asking: is there a better way to have a clean clean?

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Fortunately yes. Finding cleaning products which are earth and animal-friendly has never been easier. At least a half-dozen brands have crossed into the mainstream and are selling cruelty-free, non-toxic, biodegradable products at big box retailers such as Target. An internet search will quickly identify another few dozen boutique brands that can be mail ordered. And if you really want nothing to do with any of that, clean is as close as your last salad. The most basic and best cleaning products can be found multi-tasking in your own cupboard. What are these magic products? Vinegar, baking soda and lemons. And if you like scent, essential oils. Tea-tree oil is a magical anti-bacterial and lavender helps you clean calmly.

To be fair, I use a combination of both types of cleaning products. For my dishwasher and washing machine I shop for brands which are biodegradable, such as non-toxic liquid soaps, but for my countertops and sinks I do-it-myself because anything I want near my toothbrush I want to be able to also use to brush my teeth. Thank you baking soda.

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Sustainably-Grown and Animal-Friendly Flowers

FlowersDylanThe joy of flowers! A bouquet of flowers may be one of my favorite home accents. Flowers add color, convey secret (or not so secret) messages and a flower can be found to fit your every mood. I personally love flower arrangements in unexpected places. I discovered this accidentally after receiving a bouquet of lilies from a friend. Lilies are toxic to cats, but to my cats—used to eating kale right from my Farmers’ Market bags—lilies look like salad. Not wanting to be a part of kitty suicide, I moved the lilies to the top of my Elfa® shelves and discovered something really quite wonderful. Flowers as centerpieces are beautiful, but predictable. Flowers in unexpected places add real joy to a home, the joy we find in a good surprise.

 

Flowers, though, can be complicated.

IKEA_artificalFlowers

Artificial Flowers

Even though I live in sunny California where flower farms are found statewide, for most of they year I use artificial flowers in my home to achieve the same effect as real flowers. As an animal-loving person there are two things to be aware of when buying artificial flowers: What they are made from and how they are made. For hundreds of years, artificial flowers were made from silk and silk is an insect-derived material made from the cocoons of silk-worms. After cocooning, the worm and cocoon are plunged into boiling water to release the threads of the cocoon which are woven into silk. The worm dies. Luckily the use of silk in artificial flowers has taken a back seat to polyester, which became the fabric of choice in the 1970s and 80s. If you’re unsure whether your flowers are made from silk or polyester, simply check the tag as its illegal to misidentify a material on a label. However, less lucky for animal lovers is the practice of dipping the raw fabric – whether silk or polyester – into gelatin to stiffen the material for petal formation. Gelatin is a by-product of animal slaughter, obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones in water to create a multi-purpose protein-based thickening agent. Want a good way to make an artificial flower ugly? Dip the material in a dead pig. All is not lost, however. More and more manufacturers of artificial flowers are using Polyethylene-vinyl Acetate Emulsion (PEVA or PVA) in place of gelatin. What is this magic gelatin replacer? Elmer’s Glue. Tip of the Day? All of IKEA’s artificial flowers are animal-product free. Shop happy!

RainForrestCert

Fair-Trade Flowers

A rose is a rose is a rose said Gertrude Stein. A rose is also part of the $8 billion annual domestic cut flower business. Flowers are big money, and not all flowers are cut equally. Flowers are sourced from flower farms and most of the world’s flowers are grown in the Netherlands, Kenya, Tanzania, Columbia and Ecuador. There are U.S. flower farms but they are not at the scale found in the industrial greenhouses and farms overseas. Many international flower farms and greenhouses are not audited. Workers at overseas industrial flower farms may be exposed to dangerous pesticides, long hours, little pay and unclean working conditions. However, before we boycott all overseas flower farms, we should remember that flower farms are huge economic engines for developing countries. Money from flower farms is used for community development initiatives such as schools, clean water and hospitals. Flower farms are also critical to bee health. Buying flowers from bee friendly farms (marked BFF) supports healthy bee populations by providing colonies adequate food and space to reproduce. The solution is to pay attention to the flowers you buy. Look for indications on the sleeves of the flowers that they were sourced via FairTrade Standards. This means they adhere to the international protocols monitoring the cut flower industry which both protects the natural environment and workers’ rights. A few of the symbols to look for are: the FFP of the Fair Flowers Fair Plants initiative; the FSI from The Floriculture Sustainability Initiative; or the frog from the Rain Forrest Alliance group. I like to buy flowers from my local farmers market but if you don’t have a market near you, check out your local florist and ask questions. The more we request ethically sourced flowers, grown either locally or internationally, the better the world will be.

Pets_Flowers

Pet-Friendly Flowers

If your cats are like mine, they absolutely cannot resist flowers. A spring bouquet to them must seem like Elaine’s “big salad” from Seinfeld because I have seen my cats literally scale walls in their desire for a tulip. Amusing on the one paw, dangerous on the other. How many times have I found a disembodied petal with bite mark evidence next to a pile of kitty throw up? Too many times for comfort. So while cats can and should eat some greens (kale and spinach are particularly good for cats), attention should be paid to the flowers you bring home as some, quite literally, will kill your feline friend. Dog owners take heart. Dogs tend to be less interested in cut flowers but they also tend to blindly consume anything in their path. To be on the safest side, there are many lists online of flowers and plants that are toxic to our companion animals. Or you can always try my suggestion of putting your flowers in interesting and unusually high spots. Just be aware that kitties magically develop suction-cup paws when you are asleep.

 

 

My Obsession with Animal-Free Fashion #fashionablyvegan

Fashion and Vegan


I have to confess I held on to my leather shoes. I gave up leather in my home and in my accessories: wallets, purses and jackets — fifeteen years ago, when I turned 30, but I couldn’t give up my shoes. I was a shoe junkie. The higher the heel, the happier I was. I held on to them for decades — bringing them to my trusted cobbler (Best and Fast in Los Angeles, Sam is a shoe genius!) for repair year after year. I held on to them because they were beautiful and I loved them. I justified wearing leather shoes the same way most people justify their choices: I refused to think about what leather really was.

Then I woke up and I knew I could no longer innocently forget. And once you make that choice, you can’t go back. Leather is not a material. Leather is skin. I wasn’t fashionable wearing leather. I was compromising. I thought others might want to see how easy it is to find a style that works for you and is 100% compassionate which is so much cooler.

The shoes are Guess, the jacket is Alberta Ferretti, the top is Stella McCartney and the pants are GAP. #fashionablyvegan

Vegan Happy Homes and Flowers

Sustainable Flower Shopping


The joy of flowers!


A bouquet of flowers may be one of my favorite home accents. Flowers add color, convey secret (or not so secret) messages and a flower can be found to fit your every mood. I personally love flower arrangements in unexpected places. I discovered this accidentally after receiving a bouquet of lilies from a friend. Lilies are toxic to cats, but to my cats — used to eating kale right from my Farmers’ Market bags — lilies look like salad. Not wanting to be a part of kitty suicide, I moved the lilies to the top of my Elfa® shelves and discovered something really quite wonderful. Flowers as centerpieces are beautiful, but predictable. Flowers in unexpected places add real joy to a home, the joy we find in a good surprise.


Flowers, though, can be complicated.


Artificial Flowers


IKEA_ Artifical Flowers Decor


Even though I live in sunny California where flower farms are found statewide, for most of they year I use artificial flowers in my home to achieve the same effect as real flowers. As an animal-loving person there are two things to be aware of when buying artificial flowers: What they are made from and how they are made.


For hundreds of years, artificial flowers were made from silk and silk is an insect-derived material made from the cocoons of silkworms. After cocooning, the worm and cocoon are plunged into boiling water to release the threads of the cocoon which are woven into silk. The worm dies. Luckily the use of silk in artificial flowers has taken a back seat to polyester, which became the fabric of choice in the 1970s and ’80s. If you’re unsure whether your flowers are made from silk or polyester, simply check the tag as it’s illegal to misidentify a material on a label. However, less lucky for animal lovers is the practice of dipping the raw fabric — whether silk or polyester — into gelatin to stiffen the material for petal formation. Gelatin is a by-product of animal slaughter, obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones in water to create a multi-purpose protein-based thickening agent. Want a good way to make an artificial flower ugly? Dip the material in a dead pig.


All is not lost, however. More and more manufacturers of artificial flowers are using Polyethylene-vinyl Acetate Emulsion (PEVA or PVA) in place of gelatin. What is this magic gelatin replacer? Elmer’s Glue. Tip of the Day? All of IKEA’s artificial flowers are animal-product free. Shop happy!


Fair-Trade Flowers


RainForrestCert


A rose is a rose is a rose said Gertrude Stein. A rose is also part of the $8 billion annual domestic cut flower business. Flowers are big money, and not all flowers are cut equally. Flowers are sourced from flower farms and most of the world’s flowers are grown in the Netherlands, Kenya, Tanzania, Colombia and Ecuador. There are U.S. flower farms but they are not at the scale found in the industrial greenhouses and farms overseas. Many international flower farms and greenhouses are not audited. Workers at overseas industrial flower farms may be exposed to dangerous pesticides, long hours, little pay and unclean working conditions.


However, before we boycott all overseas flower farms, we should remember that flower farms are huge economic engines for developing countries. Money from flower farms is used for community development initiatives such as schools, clean water and hospitals. Flower farms are also critical to bee health. Buying flowers from bee friendly farms (marked BFF) supports healthy bee populations by providing colonies adequate food and space to reproduce. The solution is to pay attention to the flowers you buy. Look for indications on the sleeves of the flowers that they were sourced via FairTrade Standards. This means they adhere to the international protocols monitoring the cut flower industry which both protects the natural environment and workers’ rights. A few of the symbols to look for are: the FFP of the Fair Flowers Fair Plants initiative; the FSI from The Floriculture Sustainability Initiative; or the frog from the Rainforest Alliance group.


I like to buy flowers from my local farmers market but if you don’t have a market near you, check out your local florist and ask questions. The more we request ethically sourced flowers, grown either locally or internationally, the better the world will be.


Pet-Friendly Flowers


Pets_Flowers


If your cats are like mine, they absolutely cannot resist flowers. A spring bouquet to them must seem like Elaine’s “big salad” from Seinfeld because I have seen my cats literally scale walls in their desire for a tulip. Amusing on the one paw, dangerous on the other. How many times have I found a disembodied petal with bite mark evidence next to a pile of kitty throw up? Too many times for comfort. So while cats can and should eat some greens (kale and spinach are particularly good for cats), attention should be paid to the flowers you bring home as some, quite literally, will kill your feline friend.


Dog owners take heart. Dogs tend to be less interested in cut flowers but they also tend to blindly consume anything in their path. To be on the safest side, there are many lists online of flowers and plants that are toxic to our companion animals. Or you can always try my suggestion of putting your flowers in interesting and unusually high spots. Just be aware that kitties magically develop suction-cup paws when you are asleep.


This article originally appeared in Vegan Lifestyle magazine issue #18 and is available at iTunes http://goo.gl/rDCtRK

Cliff Belts: All Tree, No Cows Involved

Cliff Belts

I’m magically in love with these belts. I was looking for a good non-leather belt that wasn’t stiff or prone to shredding to sport my favorite Heidi Abra belt buckles when I learned about Cliff Belts.  Cliff Belts are made from sustainably harvested cork. Cork is the outer layer of the cork tree which is harvested without killing or  harming the tree. Once harvested, the bark grows back. Renewable, sustainable, greener for the earth to process and absolutely 100% cow free!

Cork wears with age like leather so in the time I’ve had the belt its only gotten better, kind of like my favorite bottle of wine. Oh. So maybe thats why I like cork belts so much.

Flowers: Faux to Real and the Ugly in Between.

ArtificialFlowerswithCopy

I love flowers! I love how they brighten a room, or tell someone you love them wordlessly… but I was stuck reconciling my love for flowers and the damage I believed flower farming did to the planet. My first solution was to stick to artificial flowers which didn’t appear to be harmful to anyone and definately not my cats who viewed real flowers as salad. Then I learned, take note, that most artificial flowers, while no longer made from silk (yay!), are made from sheets of polyester dipped in gelatin to stiffen the fabric. UGH! I think gelatin is a terrible, terrible product never mind the argument that it uses the “whole animal.” Gelatin is the skin, bones and connective tissue of slaughtered horses, pigs and cows. No, thank you. Want a fast way to make something as pretty as a faux flower ugly? Dip them in the connective tissue of a pig. However I’m happy to report that IKEA, whose flowers are pictured above, uses Polyvinyl Acetate Emulsion a/k/a Elmer’s Glue. Thanks IKEA!

But for those of us who love the real thing I wanted to understand what flowers are “should” or “must buys” — after all, flower farms are important to bees and bees are very important to us!– and how to recognize those flowers. I put together this video sharing what I learned, check it out. I think you may be surprised about the many benefits of shopping for flowers!

Finally I decided that, while I love flowers I also love my cats, and most of the time, flowers in my house really meant upset kitty stomachs. What flowers could I buy that wouldn’t hurt my kitty’s stomachs or even kill them! After some searching, I found a great list of “do not buy” flowers on First In Flowers. These are pretty common flowers which are NO GOOD for your furry friends! The site has photos on each flower name if you don’t know what they are so definately check it out. For more videos on animal-free, animal and earth friendly flowers along with other happy homes topics please SUBSCRIBE to my new YouTube channel Dylan Kendall Home and Living! If I get 500 subscribers I get my own URL 🙂

Flowers and plants that cause upset stomachs
Agapanthus
Amaryllis
Aster
Baby’s Breath
Boxwood
Cala Lily
Carnation
Chrysanthemums
Clematis
Cyclamen
Daffodil
English Ivy
Freesia
Gladiolas
Holly
Hyacinth
Hydrangea
Kalanchoe
Peony
Morning Glory
Poinsettia
Pothos Ivy
Scheifflera
Tulip

Flowers and plants that cause organ damage
Azalea (in small amounts)
Cardboard Palm
Crocus
Foxglove
Juniper
Lily

and lastly flowers that can KILL your beloved companion furry friend!
Azalea (in large amounts)
Cyclamen
Delphinium
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
Foxglove
Lantana
Larkspur
Mistletoe
Oleander
Rhododendron
Sago Palms

Biodegradable Poop Bags, Not Just For Pups

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Everyone loves these bags and by everyone I mean every dog owner I know. Fido and you are out walking, enjoying the green scenery, Fido drops a little one and you get the satisfaction of knowing you are cleaning up after your furry friend without damaging the planet. BUT what about the cats! I’m so surprised every time a cat loving friend comes by and comments on my use of these bags to clean up litter that I thought:  time to bring this to the publics’ attention! Yes, we all know that clumping litter is terrible for the planet but if you have finicky furry ones like I do and a few of them you’ll soon discover that Whiskers won’t touch corn litter and even if she did corn litter can not handle the bombs the little fluffy things can leave behind. Enter in the biodegradable poop bag. This bag truly is “pennies per poop” (thats the company’s registered trademark) and can hold a lot of clumpy cat litter. At least we can feel better about not leaving plastic trapped litter bombs in our land fills.